What is the Colle System?

The Colle System is a sound, solid, chess opening strategy for White named after Edgard Colle, a Belgian chess master who played it regularly. However, Colle was not the only player who used the system. Several world champions used it in the early 20th century, sometimes even when defending their title against other former (or future) world champions.

There are two versions of the Colle System. The Colle-Koltanowski is shown to the left, below the picture of the cover. George Koltanowski championed it for sixty years, so his name was deservingly attached to the system in the 80s.  It is considered easier to play and not as ambitious as the Colle-Zukertort, which is shown in the upper-left corner (and featured in the video below). This second variation is named after Johannes Zukertort, who played Steinitz in the first official world championship match. In recent years, Grandmaster Yusupov (who at one point was one of the five strongest players in the world) has played both but the Zukertort variation has been far more frequently (and successfully) used by strong chess players than the Koltanowski variation.

The video below shows how the Colle-Zukertort can bind and then dismantle Black. More information on this chess opening philosophy, as well as tons of free downloadable excerpts, can be found at www.zukertort.com.


The Colle-Koltanowski (or "c3-Colle") typically aims to open up the center and either gain an advantage there or utilize the powerful Bishop on d3 in a direct kingside assualt. Playing the C-K gives you the opportunity to use the "Greek Gift" sacrifice, Bxh7+, more frequently than any other opening in all of chess. In fact, that sacrifice is sometimes called the "Colle sacrifice." If you are interested in playing this variation, I recommend Richard Palliser's recent manual Starting Out: The Colle (Starting Out Series)

The Moment of Zuke: Critical Positions and Pivotal Decisions for Colle System Players
treats important, tough, strategic and tactical questions players of both systems face.

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