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Openings and Scattered Thoughts

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Chess does not change. It is the player who changes. And perhaps this can be seen and even analyzed from a psychologicl point of view. Chess is a wonderful tool to self-examination. Chess is your Mind in action. This is why I think that in the matter of our game, the sum of the parts is greater than  the whole itself. Don’t believe it?

In CC you do not need to memorize openings. (This is one of the differences in relation with OTB Chess). CC players use books, magazines, databases personal notes , etc. Another difference (and there are many) is that CC players may have several games in progress at the same time. And a third difference would be that there are no professional players in CC. But there are World and European Champions, there are GMs and IMs, and so on. All of us struggle to maintain and improve our ratings, try to become IMs or GMs, etc. Different people, different approaches to Chess, different motivations, different personalities, different reactions to victories and losses…

In the particular matter of openings, I suppose there are several approaches too: there are players with a clear idea of the openings they want to use and , consequently, they employ them on a constant basis with the adequate update, and there are players who like using different openings depending on their mood at the time of starting a new tournament. Some players prefer complicated openings while others try to avoid long, involved variations and prefer getting out of the book (databases) as quickly as possible.

In my case (the one I best know…) I have played different openings/defences during my CC practice. At first (28 years ago) I used the set-ups I was using for OTB Chess: 1. e4 , the Sicilian  and the Nimzoindian/Queens Indian/Orthodox . As soon as I became more and more interested in playing CC, I began to use those other openings that had attracted my attention when studying GMs’ games: the English, the King’s Indian Defence and the Sicilian. Shifting from the English to the Queen’s Gambit is a natural step, so for a long time, I became a CC 1. d4  player (while for OTB Chess, 1.e4 kept on being my main option. (I remembering reading an article in a Correspondence Chess Bulletin in which the matter of the first move was discussed no databases/computers yet-.The author defended that since CC and OTB Chess were so different, the openings should be different depending on which king of  game you were going to play. ) All opinions should be respected.

Today, in 2014, we do not use stamps and postcards to play CC (there are events still arranged under that formula though, but the major part of today’s CC is played through the Internet). The amount of information is immense and most of the players can have access one way or another to it. (I still remember how over 30 years ago some games were published months after they had been played and this if they were published, with professional OTB chessplayers trying to get as many local and foreign Chess magazines as possible to try to get information about the latest TNs’… On those days “the Soviet chessplayers” were feared like the plague: they seem to be factory of new players and unknown opening novelties found by the players themselves, their trainers or even some obscure player in a remote region to be used in their games against the rest of the world. -In this respect , when I was a boy I read the following  story: Before the Candidates’ Final between Petrosian and Fischer in Buenos Aires 1971, Petrosian had to play against V. Korchnoi. A relatively unknown player, the then Candidate Master V. Chebanenko, found a TN in the Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian. He left his finding in a sealed envelope  that had to be given “to the winner of the Petrosian-Korchnoi match”. A wonderful example of loyalty to true Soviet principles! -Another version states that , in fact, the novelty 11…d5! had been found by Suetin -Petrosian’s second- and kept secret for nine years But aren’t nine years too many years to run the risk of other people, even Fischer himself, finding this move???)

To me, Chess -apart from many other things-, is also a self-psychological tool. I mean I try to understand myself through Chess (once again let me recommend GM Rowson’s books and Abrahams’ “The Chess Mind” among many others). So, today I still continue using different openings as White while as Black my all-time hypermodernistic approach has changed perhaps not towards full classicism but to a more eclectic approach (in short: these days I prefer seeing my Pawns on the centre than seeing my opponents’ ones with me trying to attack them from the sides…) So the Sicilian in its various forms keeps being my pet defence against 1. e4, but against 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3 I prefer a more classical approach, avoiding extreme defences like the Benoni or the Grünfeld. Even the Nimzoindian/queen’s Indian are being substituted by set-ups with the move …d5 (Orthodox or Ragozin, for instance. BUT WHY?

Another important matter concerning the differences between OTB Chess and CC is that in CC you never see your opponent. So, is the human being ready to accept a fight when the fighters cannot see one another?. Then,don’t we try to apply analogical processes to a strange situation because our mind needs some guidelines to act?. If so, how this process is done?. Once again, what I am writing is only my personal experience but after nearly 30 years playing CC I have noticed that the rating of the players involved is the first red thread everybody tries to follow. (The second would be te outcome of previous encounters with the same opponent). Since I do not want to state certainties, I will put it down in the form of questions:

When you are playing against some opponent with the SIM,IM or GM title, haven’t you noticed s/he never accepts a draw offer unless the position is absolutely drawish ? The same when your opponent is 40/50 or more ELO points above you. Isn’t it? 

When you meet that same titled player or the one with more ELO points that you and in a first encounter you had made a relatively easy draw as Black, if you have to play against him again, hasn’t it happened to you that s/he changes his opening for another perhaps more complicated one? (These days I m playing -as Black- against an opponent above me in the ranking. I had played before against him and in a Najdorf I had got an easy draw as Black against his 6.Be2 variation. This time I knew he was not going to play 6. Be2… And in our game he has just played 6. Be3 (!). The thinking process is clear: “I have more ELO than my opponent so I’m better than him. This time I will play aggressively to smash him because I’m better:”)  How many assumptions does this way of reasoning contain???  But “assumptions” both in Chess and life can be absolutely devastating: they are related to analogies and suppositions, and , in my humble opinion, they may lead you to a parallel non-existent world, especially when you continue linking one assumption after another to justify or explain your decisions. (After all, ratings are comparative evaluations, games have to be played and there are many circumstances surrounding the players and the process of playing Chess. In 1972 Fischer nad never beaten Spassky : some draws and three clear victories for Boris could have been considered  a terrible handicap for the American…)

When one takes something irreal as real, then the consequences derived may be also very real. And curiously, this seems to work only for bad consequences…

As time has been passing by, I have become an absolute relativist concerning Chess.Chess is so complex that every game always shows a sort of  a rather unstable balance. This is why games continue being won and lost. No matter if you are aided by a computer. In the end the computer find moves because the manufacturer has added an evaluation element.  In the end again, you have to play one move in a position and this implies analyzing, evaluating, using your intuition and experience, using your ability to anticipate your opponents’ threats/ideas, and so on. BUT all ths take place into your mind. Can we be sure the process we are using are correct????

(In the meanwhile, the human being keeps playing Chess throughout the world. Isn’t it wonderful?)


Kraemer and Zeppler. Mate in four moves.



Written by QChess

September 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

The Opening, Once Again…

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If you are a CC player, the following may sound familiar. You start a tournament and , in general, only a few perfunctory words with the first move and that is all. Supposedly, “Amici Sumus” and so on, but the real scenery is that of a crude battle to beat you while you try not to be beaten and to beat them . From time to time one of your opponents respond continue sending messages and sometimes a good friendship starts. I have been discussing the matter of the odds White pieces/Black pieces and one thing is the (false) impression one gets and a different one the real fact. In my humble opinion the odds White/Black is 50/50. I would even concede a 52/48 to those who so strongly advocate the White side. This would lead us to a wider discussion under the heading “Why We Lose at Chess”. (By the way, one of the best explanations on this is in Abraham’s book ” The Chess Mind”). Many people prefer the white pieces -I don’t clearly know why, they will know…) perhaps because they can set the pace of the game by playing their favourite first move?. In my case, and perhaps due a strong influence on Nimzowitsch’s part, I consider the black pieces as strong as their white counterparts: my opponents may be glad to play 1. e4.Then I find it fascinating to play my Sicilian or some other defence I like. They may plan a closed game with 1.d4, but then I enjoy myself looking for new subvariations in the Nimzoindian, the Benoni the Orthodox or the Grünfeld. And if they play the English I find a lot of delight keeping them guessing after 1…Nf6 (Will I play a defence like the above mentioned making them play a Queen’s Gambit or will I torture them with 1…c5 and the myriad of symmetrical possibilities?)

So it is not a matter of being white or black but a matter of choosing the right opening, the right subvariation and analyse the lots of end-positions those subvariations lead to. Here is where we lose!: I am convinced that most losses are because we blindly follow theory and what is worse, statistical assessments given by chess programs. Then we see that a variation is assessed as advantageous to Black and we play it without analysing the end-position. Statistics are not the truth but a comparative truth : games are not won by themselves: you have to play moves, accept risks and take decisions, and it is in this process that your games are won and lost .If the opening line lead to a dead  position or what is worse, to a position in which only your opponent can improve the it, then you are lost. No matter what statistics say. Moreover, bear in mind that a 99% of the lines included in databases appeared in OTB games,not in CC ones. Apply final-result statistics (without any analysis) to CC may be devastating. And yes, everybody does it, and I do it too… 

Fischer became a deadly chessplayer when he realized the potentiality of the Black pieces (of course among other factors), and Tal said that when theory said Black was equal, that meant Black was already better. So I advocate a change in our mental state too: stop thinking that “with black you have to defend and stop white’s attack first” and that kind of rubbish: prepare your openings, play well and white will not have any attack except that coming from the black side.

Yes, I know some player may be considered a sort of “white-piece player” and you have heard that over-repeated statement of “win as white and draw as black” etc. But  we are talking of super-professional chessplayers playing in superprofessional round-robin events. They know that winning with White + drawing with Black with some victory -as black -too was enough to win a 99% of the events they had to play in. OTB Chess ideas do not work in today’s CC official tournaments (today all CC official events show a high number of draws due to the way of playing by using chess programs). In today’s CC events you cannot say “I’m going to win all my games as white and draw all my games as black”. Why?.- Because we are not playing OTB Chess, things do not work that way and this is 21st century CC…

Take for instance KARPOV: in Chess many things are written, many people read ithem , many people believe them and many people start repeating them becoming a sort of clichè statement repeated and repeated as if it were an absolute truth… But are they true by merely repeating them “ad nauseam“?. No. Karpov have won hundreds of games as Black. You can see how he won with the Sicilian -Paulsen/Taimanov, the Spanish as Black, the Caro-Kann, etc. But many people associate him with the “win-as white-draw-as-black-approach”. This is not true. Don’t believe everything you read. Find the facts, analyse them and make your own opinion, but always based upon facts.

Now perhaps you would like to find a mate in three in the following composition by Zigman (if it shrinks, click to enlarge. Position in Forsyth notation too.)


(8 – 6P – 8 – 1K6 – 1P6 – kN6 – prp5 – 2B5 )


Written by QChess

December 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

Changing One’s Openings

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Concerning the matter I am going to write about I think there are -at least two types of approaches and so of CC players since  I am mainly speaking  of CC – in relation to one’s opening repertoire: those who hardly ever change their openings and those who change them in search of new horizons , for the sake of experimenting after a painful defeat or due to an attack of sheer boredom with the line(s) they are using. All in all, some players may change their openings forever while others may change them for a time. After that period, they come back to the use of their favourite set-ups. Korchnoi said that when a player works to change his openings was because he was progressing. (Korchnoi’s opinion…)

Apart from this,I have mentioned two basic facts for which one may decide to go for a change. In general in CC you are playing several games at the same time, so you may have the same lines in many of them, especially as Black. It may happen that you get bored or that you start losing those games… It is normal that in the next tournament you try to play something different.Or not. But it may occur. Even OTB players do that: Karpov has played 1. e4 /1. d4 and 1.c4 as White. As Black he has tried the Sicilian (Kan or Taimanov), the Petroff,the Caro-Kann and 1…, e5/ in general. Of late, he has even played 1…,d5 against 1.e4 in blitz games. Spassky played 1.e4 and 1.d4 with he same degree of dexterity while as Black he opted for 1…e5 or the Sicilian against the KP and played different systems against the QP. Fischer nearly always played the Najdorf but had the Alekhine as a useful standby ,-OK, for a bunch of games :)-. He used more systems against the QP: the KID, the Grünfeld, the Benoni, the Nimzoindian and the Semi-Tarrasch. This is why GM Soltys wrote that “Fischer’s problem with his favourite Black lines was different: by the mid-1960’s he was too strong for some of them”.

Some lines are so much played that new ideas for and against are constantly appearing and if you want to play them you must keep abreast of the latest theory. Others become two tame, too drawish that are abandoned till someone discovers fresh new ideas. This is how opening theory developes in Chess. Years ago the Caro-Kann was one of my favourite defences. Then the 3. e5 variation (played already by Tal, for instance in his matches with Botvinnik) re-appeared and for a time many people had to put the black side in the freezer.. Najdorf players may remember the 6. Be3 craze and all the uproar around: a sideline suddenly became mainline… And so on.

And there is another small detail: why do you start losing with the line you know so deeply?. There is no clear answer: perhaps you “lose the grip”, start playing by inertia, stop updating it in the belief that with your knowledge nothing can happen to you,… If so, then it is high time for a change. Nevertheless our computerized age has provoked a curious effect: everybody seems to take statistics as a sort of Holy Writ. People label the openings accordingly and only play those with the best statistical ratings, despising the rest. So, only a few really try to breathe new life in old set-ups. This happens at GM level too, of course. So openings like the Pirc, the Alekhine, to mention only two of them are not played or analysed. But look: several years ago nearly nobody in the Chess elite played the Scotch until Kasparov arrived with new analysis and voilà, the Scotch became a sign of distinction. What would have happened if he had chosen  the Latvian Gambit or the Ponziani or…? Food for thought.

(I must insist that in this matter CC and OTB are poles apart: in OTB games the player must rely upon his/her memory. Mistakes are common in the opening and in the middlegame (the clock plays its role, pieces cannot be touched, etc. In the meanwhile, in CC today highly specialized at least in the ICCF- the players can consult any type of material and they can move the pieces and see the final positions of every line in their analysis. Even though, there are mistakes in CC too including clerical/transmission ones : you send the wrong move to the wrong opponent due to many reasons every CC player knows…, and games are lost and won either because your opponent knows more or better theory than you, you fall in positions with  no threats, different options and choose one which leads you to a worse position, etc. Sometimes I tend to think that in today’s CC you lose more games than your opponents win you, but this is a personal , psychologically biassed appreciation… More food for thought.) 


Written by QChess

December 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Posted in CHESS, Openings

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Panic on the 2nd Move

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Today, a position for a game played in Moscow in 1961. White (Muchnik) to move.The Black side was played by Estrin. Sharpen your combinative skills. Solution after text.


Basically, there are many types of correspondence chess (CC) players. We have those who prefer concentrate upon a few games, those who prefer having many games in progress, those who keep a balanced profile concerning the matter, those who prefer unrated friendly games, those who play for rating and norms, etc. And concerning the opening we try to play always the same openings or those who like testing new openings, trying new possibilities, and so on. If you like playing many games sometimes you may find it boring to have twenty-five 1. e4 -games or twenty Sicilians/ QGD, for example. So you decide to play 1. d4 in a bunch of games and the Grünfeld or the QID in another bunch of them. I have always thought this is very good: you have to study new openings, you find different fresh positions, you are widening your Chess knowledge.

The problem begins when in serious games you do the same and one day you realize that if the first move sets up the pace of the game ,the second move -mainly as Black-  may be a source of doubts! : 

“My opponent has played 1. e4. I will play my Sicilian: 1. e4 , c5/ 2.Nf3 :to your desperation your doubts start: 2. …d6, 2…e6 or 2…Nc6? .The type of game these three moves may lead to you are absolutely different! Suddenly you remember you have lost your last three Najdorfs, so 2…, e6 -but do I want to play a Paulsen???. And if 2…Nc6 I may land in a Paulsen, a Taimanov, a Scheveningen or a Sveshnikov …

My opponent has played 1. d4. OK. If I play 1…d5 it is clear my idea is far from trying Indian systems. If I play 1…Nf6/ and he plays 1.c4 I can play : Indian systems, QGA, QGD, even irregular set-ups.. So: 1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4 and by the time this move reach you you-have-doubts-because-you-have-won-or-lost-with-this-or that-defence-so-you-.idea-was-to-test-a-Grünfeld-but-perhaps-it-is-better-that-Orthodox-you-have-played-so-many-times-and so on. So you don’t know what to play whether 2…,e6 or 2…g6 , you leave this game for the week-end but what usually happen is that in the week-end you still don’t know what to do because you are trying to convince yourself  -with rational arguments- of what may be a matter of taste… In friendly games this is not a problem: you try new openings and that’s all. But in ICCF games with ratings at stake…beware: a CC game may last many months (not an afternoon and tomorrow I will play a different opponent, etc). If you choose “the wrong option”, you may be compelled to play positions you do not like for many months, and eventually you may lose that game. And during those months, every time you set up the damned position to choose your move, an odd feeling of stupidity may be hovering over your head…

In Chess every move matters: the first, the second, even the third move (yes, the third one too: 1. d4, Nf6/2.c4, e6/3.Nf3 and now you have a lot of options again leading to completely different types of game: from a Bogoindian to a  Benoni or a wild Volga Gambit ), may decide the fate of the game not because they are bad, but because a wrong decision may keep you feeling uneasy with the game for months.

W.:  Tal (1)

B.: Pasman (0)

Riga 1953

1. e4, c5 /2. Nf3, d6/ 3. d4, cxd4/ 4. Nxd4, Nf6/ 5. Nc3, a6/ 6. f4, e5/ 7. Nf3, Nbd7/ 8. Bd3, Bd7/ 9. 0-0, 0-0 / 10. Kh1, b5/ 11. a3, Qc7 / 12. fxe5, dxe5/ 13. Nh4, Nc5/ 14. Bg5, Qd8/ 15. Nf5, Bxf5/ 16. Rxf5, Nfd7/ 17. Bxe7, Qxe7/ 18. Nd5, Qd6/ 19. Qg4, g6/ 20. Raf1, g6/ 21. h4!, Kh8/ 22. R5f3, f5/ 23. exf5!?, Qxd5/ 24. fxg6, Rxf3/ 25. g7, Kg8/ 26. Bxh7, Kxh7/ 27. Rxf3,Ne4!/ 28. h5, N7f6/ 29. Qg6, Kg8/ 30. h6 Ra7?!   (30…, Nh7-Koblentz)/  31. Kh2!, Re7/ 32. Rh3!, Nh7/ 33. Rd3, Qa8/ 34. Qxe4!, Qxe4/ 35. Rd8, Kf7/ 36. g8Q, Kf6/ 37. Rd6, Kf5/ 38. Qg6, Kf4/ 39. g3, Ke3/ 40. Rd3, Qxd3/41. Qxd3 Black resigned. 

The solution to the above position is:  1. Rb3, Qa1/ 2 f6, Bxf6/ 3. Bxg7!, Bxg7/ 4. Bh7, Kh8/ 5. Rxa1, Bxa1/ 6. Be4!, Bg7/ 7. Rh3 winning



Written by QChess

October 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm


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(Please remember my main aim is not to teach or preach, but to entice the reader into thinking on his/her own. Sometimes we read something which acts as a trigger, making us realize that a change in our point of view may help to throw new light into an unsolved -so far- problem.- The author: QChess.-)

When we started playing Chess I guess all of us had our Chess idol. Even when many years have passed, players still have their beloved admired predecessors. It is well-known that even the greatest chessplayers have had their admired ones. I have written that Karpov liked Capablanca, Kasparov and Spassky ,Alekhine, Fischer mentioned Steinitz and Capablanca… Others cite Tal or Petrosian or Keres, or Botvinnik,or Lasker or Nimzowitsch and so on “ad infinitum”. Most players try to “play like them” adopting his/her idol’s set of openings.

The problem is: given the quick development of Chess theory ,can one still try to play with the same weapons Fischer, Botvinnik etc. used? And what about trying to use Capablanca’s openings or Nimzo’s lines?. I have tried to do so simply to see how many of the opening variations used by those genius are today surpassed by new opening discoveries (please remember that my field is that of Correspondence Chess, where engines are used). So, perhaps in OTB Chess you can still use opening variations used by Tal, Fischer etc. and win. But not in CC. Today’s Chess books on openings are dangerous weapons because they can become out of fashion in a matter of weeks… Of course, this did not happen in the past. 

Some (important) people say that “today everything can be played”, and that “if this or that opening had been played by Karpov or Kasparov it would have become absolutely fashionable”. As a declaration of intentions this is a good try… My experience is quite the opposite: Kasparov and Karpov did not play this or that opening because for one reason or another it was too weak (to say the least.) One can accept it or not, but in my opinion there are the following types (approx.) of openings:

1.- Good, sound, time honoured openings (Most lines in the Ruy Lopez, Sicilian, Queen’s Gambit, etc)

2.- Good openings out of fashion today (let’s mention the Italian, for instance)

3.- Dangerous openings to play (The Budapest , Latvian or the Albin countergambits)

4.- Unsound openings. (I will not mention any of them to avoid hurting some of the  readers…)

(Please bear in mind groups 3 and 4 do not mean that if you play those openings you are going to lose automatically…).

In my case, and due to my own defects as a chessplayer, I have realized that it is much better for me to remain in groups 1 or 2… (One of my last experiments out of these groups was playing the following in an official ICCF Master class event. I was Black and wanted to “surprise” my opponent: 1. e4 , c5 2. Nf3, Nc6  3. d4, cxd4  4. Nxd4,  d5 (one of Nimzo’s ideas!). My opponent played following the scarce theory available , avoiding Nimzo’s games ,playing in a rather classical way and making the position explode on my face : 1-0. (You may say, “Alas QChess, perhaps the opening had nothing to do with your loss, etc.” : Believe me: that was not the first time I tried to make such experiments: nearly all of them sent my Chess laboratory in flames. It did have to do with the opening…)

Well, if it were so, why do we continue buying and studying books with the games played by the geniuses of Chess?. I suppose because we do not buy them to serve as opening manuals… In fact what we try to do is to learn HOW THEY THOUGHT, how they played the middlegame, how they set up middle/endgame problems and how they managed to solve those posed by their opponents. And this is how, sometimes rather subconsciously, we train our brains for Chess. Once this is established, we may attempt to play like our idols, though perhaps we will not be able to exactly use their opening lines as our main lines today. Nevertheless, I understand that the more we admire a chessplayer, the more we prefer playing his/her favourite openings because one will always try to reach positions similar to those reached by the player one has studied.

And this has to do with a concept I have written about in another post: that of the “possible playable positions”. It is not necessary to go back much: If you compare the end of the sixties and the seventies (20th century, Fischer´s time + the beginning of Karpov´s one) with today, you will see that the number of possible playable positions has expanded like the exponentially. It is easy: take an opening book written in 1975 and another written in 2013 or a database!- and compare the new possible variations and subvariations that have appeared since then… In some cases, the game may have been main line there and today may have disappeared or considered as an inferior subvariation…

The conclusion is that you can play your favourite’s chessplayer openings, but do not expect playing all of them as mainlines because new moves are being introduced constantly. As I have written above, apart from this, the most important idea is that of trying to understand your favourite’s player style and way of thinking. This is also  an important part of what we know as “Chess training”. Good luck and persevere, persevere,persevere.

Now have a look at the following game.Shirov had already played this line and you can find the game in his books:

White: M. Sion (0)

Black: A. Shirov (1)

Leon   ( Spain) . Master T. (Cat. 14), 1995

1. e4 , c5 / 2. Nf3 , d6 / 3. d4 , cxd4 /4. Nxd4, Nc6 / 5. Nc3, Nf6 / 6. Bc4, e6 /7. Be3, Be / 8. Qe2, a6 / 9. Bb3, Qc7 / 10. 0-0-0, 0-0 / 11. Rhg1, Nd7 / 12. g4, Nc5 / 13. Nf5, b5 / 14. Bd5, Bb7 15. g5, Rfc8!? 16. Rg3, Ne5 / 17. Bxb7 (better seems 17. f4), Nxb7/ 18. Nxe7, Qxe7 19.Bd4, b4 / 20. Na4, Nc4/ 21. b3, Na3/ 22. c4, bxc3/ 23. Nb6, Nb5/  24. Bf6, Qc7/ 25. Nxc8, Rxc8/ 26. a4, e5/ 27. Qa2, c2/ 28. Rd-d3, Qa5/ 29. Reg3, Nc5/ 30. Rd5, Nc3/ 31. Qxc2, Nxd5/ 32. exd5, Nxb3 33. Rxb3, Qe1/  White resigns.

(This event was won by GMs Michael Adams (Eng) and Evgeni Bareev (Rus)


Written by QChess

August 4, 2013 at 7:46 am

Weird Ideas Concerning Normal Openings

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Among the many different Chess openings, there are some which, by some reason or another, lack the favour of the leading GMs.

If you read the opinions expressed by some GMs., it transpires that there are some openings (in this case, some defences) that are very comfortable for White and so very uncomfortable for Black. One of these defences is the Pirc and its sister system, the Modern. Nevertheless, this defence was played by, among others, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Nunn, Timman, Speelman (when the so-called “English Chess Explosion took place, this defence had its renaissance and was played by many English GMs who also produced books and magazine articles galore). The Pirc was played too, in the 1972 and 1978 World Championships (by Fischer and Korchnoi). It has never been favoured by players like Karpov or Kasparov though.

Another defence with a similar fate is the Alekhine. Of course you will always find GMs who have played it even as their main weapon (GM Alburt, for example), but this defence made a spectacular appearance when Bobby Fischer employed it against Spassky in the 1972 World Championship  match.

Other defences which may have been popular many years ago to nearly fall into oblivion now (I’m speaking of OTB top GM level) are the Dutch, the Volga Gambit, the Benoni, the Budapest Gambit, the Old Indian, the Latvian Gambit. Chess has changed, the chessplayers’ approach to Chess has changed too, fashions have also changed…

You may argue that the same can be applied to other openings like the Scotch (once favoured by Kasparov), the King’s Gambit, The Vienna, the Italian, the Four Knights and so on, And you are right.

I have thought a lot about this matter : are they really so inferior/bad??. . And what could be the cause of such effect?
(A curious fact is that in CC there has been a multitude of “thematic tournaments”  where all the players had to play the same opening/defence).I don’t know whether after the intrussion of the engines (“GMs” Fritz, Rybka et alii) this fashion continues because I have never been interested and I have never played in this type of events, but the characteristics of CC were and perhaps still are ideal to investigate apparently forgotten lines or simply less-played ones. And one of the debatable points is if  OTB GMs have ever studied CC games…).

As for the above-mentioned  “cause of such effect” I ,as ever, do not want to make definite statements. So some ideas, questions, suggestions,…

1.- Are there really bad,unplayable openings/defences?. Are openings like the Latvian Gambit  ( 1.e4 e5   2. Nf3  f5 ) , the Albin Counter Gambit  (1. d4  d5  2. c4  e5 ) , the Center Game  (1. e4 e5  2. d4  ed4  3. Qd4: Nc6 ), the Danish Gambit  ( e4  e5  2. d4 ed4  3. c3 ) , the Queen’s Pawn Counter Gambit   (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3  d5  ) really unplayable or really bad? (Note: bear in mind that there are different levels in Chess: what can ve valid for the strongest of GMs cannot be the same for lower levels. And the contrary is also possible)

2. Perhaps what happens is that they have not been analysed in depth… Once Kasparov devoted his time to the Scotch it seemed as playable as the rest, but then it fell into oblivion at very high level…

3.- Are there openings which due to the middlegames they lead to, only offer equality as White (so a very comfortable game to Black) or even an advantage to Black?

4.- Are there defences that allow White a freer hand and may easily lead to a huge White advantage either because Black static features cannot be easily exchanged for dynamic counterchances or because they give White too much space or too many developing tempi?

5.- Karpov “hate” the Grünfeld and once stated he would like to make it disappear  it forever from practice (perhaps because he got fed up with Kasparov’s Grünfelds in their never-ending encounters?). But at the same time he has never played the Benoni, the King’s Indian, the King’s Gambit, etc.. Then people say that that openings do not suit his style …

6.- If everything is so, now we should ask ourselves which is the ideal opening and defence, and the decide by ourselves. In this moment our style (approach to Chess) enters like the ghost of Hamlet’s father…

7.- Some defences seem to lead to too cramped positions with lack of dynamic chances (for instance some varations in the Benoni in which Black plays …e5, or the Old Indian 1. d4 Nf6/ 2. c4 d6/ in which Black does not play …g6).

8.- Some set-ups may allow the opponent a quick liquidation of forces taking all the dynamism out from the position.Other str-ups lack the possibility of provoking liquidations creating positions very hard to exploit.-Chess is very difficult to play, very difficult to understand and it is cannot be defined with strict rules.  It’s a vast infinity of exceptions to changing concepts)

In other cases the openings/defences imply the sacrifice of a Pawn and the ensuing positions do not offer clear compensations with the present state of Chess theory.

Apparently, having a particular style does not justify the use of openings labelled as dubious, and more among the elite.

But if we descent to club level I think most of those openings may be valid and useful. Sometimes players tend to neglect the study of them and though difficult to play if your opponent knows them, badly played by him/her may offer you good chances to get a good middlegame positions. I know of many club players who use these little tactics …

(As ever, please remember this is only my opinion. Every idea has counterideas, shades, etc. For instance, I have always been attracted by the Pirc. In CC I have played it on and off.In some cases I found no problems at all.In other cases I realized some lines need a whole reassessment and fresh new analysis. It’s a pity Kasparov didn’t had a try at it!).

The following game is a very complicated fight: some draws are more interesting and instructive than some decided games.

W.: B. Gelfand  1/2

B.: J. Speelman 1/2

Linares (Spain) 1992

1. e4 ,d6 (Yeah, a Pirc!) 2. d4 , Nf6  3. Nc3, g6  4. f4, Bg7  5. Nf3, 0-0  6. Be2,  Na6  7. e5, Nd7  9. 0-0 , c5  9. Be3, cd4  10. Qd4, b6 11. Rad1, Bb7  12. Qd2, Nde5  13.ed6, Qd6:  14. Qd6:,  ed6  15. Bd4, Bh6  16. g3, Nc7  17. Bf6, Rfc8  18. Rd6: Nd5  19. Rd5:, Bd5:  20. Bb5, Bb7  21. Be8:, Re8:  22. Kf2, Nc7  23. Bd4 , Bf8  24. Re1, Re1:  25. Ne1:  (White is a Pawn up. Between super-GMs is this enough?. No, things are not that easy because if no errors have been made the ability of a GM to defend a difficult position is astounding. Here GM Speelman has the Bishop-pair.What follows is absolutely instructive:) 

25. …,f6  26. Nd3, Kf7  27. Ke3, Ke6  28. Ne4, h5  29. h3, a6  30. c4 , b5 (the side with material advantage has to exchange pieces. The defending side has to exchange Pawns)  31. b3, bc4  32. bc4 , Kf5  33. Ndf2! (preventing the exchange of more Pawns), … a5  34. Nc3, Ke6  35.Nfe4, Kf5  36. Nd5 , g5  37. Nef6: (White things that with a second Pawn the victory is at hand, and it is not. Much better was 37. g4!)

37. …, gf4  38. gf4 , Nf6:  39. Nf6:, Ba6! 40. c5 , Bc5: 41. Nh5:, Ba3  42. Ng3 , Kg6  43. Bc3 , Bc4  44.Ba5: , Ba2:  45. f5 , Kh6  46. Ne4, Be7  47. Kf4, Kh5  48. Be1 , Bd8 49. Ke5, Bc7  50. Kf6, Bd8  51. Kg7, Bb1  52. Nd6, Be7  53.Nc8 , Bf5:  54. Ne7: ,Bh3: 55. Ng6, Kg5 56. Draw.

W.: G. Kasparov  (0)

B.: J. Speelman (1)

London 1989

1. d4  f5 (A bold decision. The Dutch is a complex line. Used by World Champions and top-GMs it appears and disappears from practice)

2. g3 Nf6  3. Bg2 g6  4. Nh3  Bg7  5. c4  d6  6. d5 0-0  7. Nc3 c6  8. Nf4 Bd7  9. h4  Bh8  10. e4 Na6  11. h5  g5  12. Ne6  Be6:  13. de6  Ne4:  14. Be4:  Bc3:  15. bc3  fe4  16. Bg5: Nc5  17. Be3  Nd3  18. Kf1  Rf3  19. Rh4  Re3:  20. Qg4  Kh8  21. h6  Qf8  22. Qg7  Qg7:  23. hg7  Kg7: 24. fe3  Rf8  25. Kg1 Rf3  26. Rf1  Rg3:  27. Kh2  Rf3  28. Rg1  Kf6  29. Rh6  Kf5  30. Rh7: Ke6:  31. Rg-g7  Ne5  32. Re7:  Kf6  33. Rb7:  Re3:  34. Rh6  Kg5  35. Rd6: Rc3: 36. Rb3  Rc2  37. Kg3  Ra2:  38. Rd4  Kf5  39. Re3  Ng4  40. Re-e4:  Rg3  41. Kh4  Nf2  42 Rf4  Ke5  43. c5  Rh3  44. Kg5  Re3  45. Ra4  Nh3  46. Kg4  Nf4:  47. Ra7: Ne6 / and White resigned.


(P.S. Don’t miss the next four post due to appear in July!)


Written by QChess

June 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

White or Black?.- Black and White!

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Have you solved this mate-in-two-move problem??. Here is the solution:

The only possibility to reach this position with a mate in two moves is if Black last’s move had been … f7-f5/ (!!). (So perhaps you were thinking that these problems start with White on the move… Well, this is so ,but since problems have to show possible, legal positions these positions come from some previous position… and as White first move must be legal nobody says that move could not be “in answer to a previous Black’s move” – lateral thinking!-)

This position could not have occurred on its own because it would be illegal -but for a previos Black move. So, White’s first move is 1. g5f6: e.p.  g7f6: 2. Nf6: mate !

This problem contains a tale: in Chess, don’t give anything for granted. Don’t think in a linear direction. There may be roundabouts, backwards manoeuvres, waiting moves, and so on.



Chess has several topics repeated ad infinitum and ad absurdum as if they were some sort o “Holy Writ”. One of them is that which states that “White has the advantage because  s/he plays the first move”. This implies many pre-judices : White has to attack/Black can only defend, etc. One of the facts given is that statistically speaking the White pieces win more games han the Black ones (I  call it “the statistical fallacy”).  Before continuing, let me recommend you the book “Chess for Zebras” by GM. Rowson. In my opinion, he is one of  today’s the most lucid writers .   To show my idea, I will list some thoughts:

– Statistics do not win games, points or matches: they only show tendencies.

-Even same or similar ELO rating ( again we should exclude  top level GMs) does not mean same Chess ability, less possibilities of making mistakes,same degree of knowledge). (GM Rowson says that even games played by  GMS are full of mistakes, after all -I add- OTB Chess has a powerful and very dangerous component: the clock)

-The Hypermodernists, the Soviet Chess School and many individuals (Nimzowitsch, Botvinnik, Fischer, Adorjan, Tal, Kasparov …) have defended /investigated the aggressive recourses at Black’ s disposal. Please consider that many opening discoveries by the Hypermoderninst were for the Black side: Alekhine, Grünfeld, Benoni, King’s Indian, Nimzoindian etc.defences).

Then came the Soviet Chess School immense theoretical contribution in the above + the French, the Sicilian, the Dutch an so on. Bobby Fischer made giant strides when he realised that Black could fight for a victory and began to work on an aggressive repertoire as Black.

-Many chessplayers seem to be labouring under a sort of 19th century mental attitude: “White must play to win, Black must defend, so as White I should win and as Black I could lose or make a pathetic draw”.

-Different chessplayers have different attitudes and goals.

-Many people began to speak of a curious “attitude”:  ” To win as White and draw as Black  = victory in tournaments”. (Simply: try this is at any ICCF event and you will see what happens: you will not be able to win all your games as White and will lose many as Black…). Apart from this, nobody knows how to do it.

-Chess has many levels of confrontation: what may be relatively valid for the strongest 10 or 15 first world GMs may not be valid for the rest of GMs , IMs and average players. (Remember there are GMs with 2400 ELO points…, not all GMs have 2700…, O.K.?  -A chessplayer gets it if  s/he  fulfils all the requirements to receive the GM title. Then he may lose many rating points but he keeps the title forever. I remember that during the 60’s at least this was not so.)

-Many things written in books and Chess magazines are written/said by top level players in a given situation. (What Kotov wrote in his age could not be totally valid  today.)

GM Rowson theory of “Ceteris Paribus” and his idea that winning at Chess may have to do more with one’s skills/abilities even the particular mood the day of the game than with information and statistics should be engraved in gold.

-Today, in an age of ultra-dynamism, the possible starting gap (if any) between White and Black is less and less wide.

-It is not the openings alone, today’s defensive technique has nothing to do with the same in any past period of time.

-Chess is a confrontation between two chessplayers, not between two statistical approaches. (Karpov has won many top-level games with the Caro-Kann an opening considered tame and drawish by many “experts”.)

-I am biassed towards the Black pieces because when I began to study Chess I was very surprised to see  how many games Nimzowitsch was able to win as Black… As White I have a main 1st move, and two useful stand-by ones. From time to time I change that 1st move so as to let it “rest”, play new positions and refresh the old, mechanical  ideas.

Even now,playing as Black seems exciting to me:   “what if my opponent starts with 1. e4? -Shall I play a Sicilian, or perhaps a Pirc, or better a Modern, or a Cao-Kann, even the Alekhine can be a useful idea… And if he plays 1. d4?- Perhaps a Nimzoindian against 3. Nc3 or the Queen’s Indian if 3. Nf3. But I have also played the Grünfeld and The Benoni? Shall I take risks then?. And against 1. Nf3 I have those systems + 1. …b5 .- If not, I have the uncommittal 1. Nf3 , Nf6 -wait-and-see policy-“. And so on. These and others are some of the thoughts I entertain when I am Black.

In OTB Chess players try to refine their repertoires trying to avoid theoretical novelties. Some GMs have relatively short repertoires, others can play a variety of systems. In CC the many players are trying to find computer-proof systems -if any-  while others try to play sound systems without caring for their opponents programs. Good positions are good positions, and this means that now I have become less and less speculative: in today’s CC games any sacrifice -of a Pawn or a piece- must be positionally and tactically sound: you cannot expect your opponent to make an analysis mistake “because-the-position-will-get-so-wild-that-in-the-end-he-will-have-to-take-some-risk-on-his-part”, as if in CC this was already difficult in the past, today, with the computer, this is, simply, suicidal. And all in all, sacrifices are possible because not all Chess is clear-cut tactical. Chess programs are too strong, all right. But I am convinced there is particular field you can catch them on the hop. The problem is how to provoke such positions one time after another (and it is not in the field of opening gambits -“Fritz and Friends” know everthing about it-.)

Before including some games, let me say that in Chess you are playing against an opponent. No statistics will help you find the best move. So, work on your repertoire , play confidently  but, above all, try not to make mistakes: leave them to your rival!.


W.: Kotov  (0)

B.: Tal (1)

Riga 1958

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 Bg7  4. g3 0-0  5. Bg2  d6  6. 0-0  Nbd7  7. Nc3  e5  8. e4 c6  9. h3  Qa5  10. Re1  Re8  11. a3  ed4  12. Nd4: Ne5  13. Bf1  a6  14. Bd2 Qb6  15. Be3  c5  16. Nb3  Be6  17. Nd2  Nc6  18. b4 Ng4!  19. hg4  Bc3:  20. Rc1  Bg7  21. Nb3 Rad8  22. Nd2  Qc7  23. Rb1  Ne5  24. Be2 b5  25. cb5  ab5 26. Bb5: Bg4:  27. Be2 Qd7  28. Bg4: Ng4:  29. Kg2 h5  30. Bg5 Bd4! 31. Re2  f6  32. Bf4  g5  33. f3  Nf2  34. Rf2: Bf2:  35. Kf2:  gf4    36. gf4 Qa7  37. Qb3  c4  38. Qe3  Qe3:  39. Ke3: d5  40. Rg1  Kf7  41. Ke2  c3  42.Nb3 de4  43. Rc1  ef3  44. Kf3:  Rd3  45. Kf2  c2  46. Nc5 Rd2  47. Kf3  Re1!  48. Re1:  Rd1./   White resigned.

W.: Olafsson (0)

B.: Miles (1)

Las Palmas 1978

1. c4  b6 2. Nc3  e6  3. d4  Bb4  4. e3  Bb7  5. N1e2  f5  6. a3 Bd6  7. d5  Nf6  8. Nd4  0-0  9. de6 Ne4  10. Qc2  Nc3:  11. Qc3:  Qf6  12. ed7  Nd7:  13. Bd2  Nc5  14. Nf3  Qg6  15. h4  Ne4  16. h5  Qg4  17. Ne5  Be5:  18. Qe5:  Rae8  19.  Qh2  Nd2:  20. Kd2:  f4  21. ef4  Rf4:  22. Qg3  Rd4  23. Kc3  Qg3:  24. fg3  c5  25. Kb3  Re3  26. Ka2  Bc8!  27. Rh4  Bg4!  28. Rc1  g5  29. hg6  hg6  30. Rc3  Rc3:  31.bc3  Rd2  32. Ka1  Bd7  33. Rf4  Kg7  34. Rf3  Bc6  35. Rd3  Rf2  36.  Rd1  Ba4  37. Re1  Kf6  38. Bd3  Rf2:  39. Rf1  Kg5  40. Rf3  Bc2  41.  Bc2: Rc2:  42. Rf7  Kg4  43. Ra7:  g5  44. Rb7  Kg3:  45. Rb6:  g4  46. a4  Rh4  47. a5  g3  48. a6  g2  49. Rb1  Rf2  50. a7  Rf8                  51. Kb2  Ra8 / White resigned.

W.: Beliavsky (0)

B.: Karpov (1)

Linares 1992

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  e6  3. Nf3  b6  4. g3  Ba6  5. b3  Bb7  6. Bg2  Bb4  7. Bd2  a5  8. 0-0  0-0  9. Bc3  d5  10. Ne5  Qe8  11. Bb2  dc4  12. Nc4:  Bg2:  13. Kg2: Qb7  14. f3  Rd8  15. Qc2  Nc6  16. a3  Be7  17. e3  b5  18. Nce2  Na7    19. Ne4  Ne4:  20. Qe4:  Qe4:  21. fe4  c5  22. a4  cd4  23. ed4  Nc6  24. Rd1  Rab8  25. ab5  Rb5:  26. Rd3  f5  27.  ef5  Rf5:  28. Nd2  Rfd5  29. Re3  e5  30. Nc4  Bg5  31. Re4  ed4  32. Re6  Nb4  33.  Rd1  Nc2  34.  Kf3  Rb5  35. Rd3  a4  36.  h4  Bf6  37. Ke4  ab3  38. Rb6 Re8  39. Kf4 Rb6:  40. Nb6:  Be5  41. Kg4  Bc7  42. Na4  Re3  43. Re3: de3  44. Kf3  Bg3: / White resigned.

Written by QChess

May 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

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