Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Four New Moves That Will Make Your Opponent Melt

The one thing that no one can miss as they pass through the check out line at any grocery store in America (and Europe, and probably everywhere else) is the profusion of "women's" magazines that practically block the aisles. Running a store and marketing a magazine are both highly developed sciences, so you know that women are buying these things, People and Cosmo and Us and Soap Opera Digest and Self and Health &tc. by the millions--if not, they wouldn't be there.

Now, I'm the kind of person that likes to observe things like this and notice the little details, the ones that most of my fellow citizens, wandering in a half-daze through their lives and the check out line while chattering on their cell phones or staring at the Cosmo cover cheese cake, don't.

Things like moves.

The check out line mags are just full of moves. "Six moves to flatten your tummy," four moves to tighten your, err, buttocks as "bikini season" approaches and, most emphatically, three-four-seven-eleven moves that will, variously, leave your man panting for more/keep your man close to home/make your guy adultery proof/have your guy wrapped around your little finger for life. Cosmo seems to be the ultimate guide to these "moves," with each and every issue promising some variation on the ultimate sex moves your guy will worship you for.

This has gone on for years, and it occurred to me one day to ask just how many separate and distinct "moves" are anatomically possible that don't result in grievous bodily harm? Are women actually shelling out four or five dollars monthly for 300 pages of glossy non-biodegradable advertising and reading about the same limited set of sexual acts over and over? On the available evidence, I would have to conclude...sadly, yes.

Which brings us to the chess portion of today's post: Are you, Dear Reader, shelling out your chess playing/study time for the same limited set of opening moves, over and over? Do you consider yourself a "d4 player" or an "e4 player" who is somewhat uncomfortable outside his/her repertoire? If you answered "yes," here are four moves that, for the amateur, are well worth pulling out from time to time to give your games the spice of variety and perhaps even throw the opponent off psychologically, resulting in a gain of clock time and more importantly an open battle and a lot of fun playing chess!


1. f4 and 1. g3. These moves are pretty rare in tournament play, at least in my experience, especially 1. g3. Internet blitz games will bring out the occasional opponent who opens this way, but that's when you're Black. All the "authorities" say that 1. f4 "weakens the king's position" on move 1 or some such schlock, but it also tells the opponent you're an aggressive player who will try and blow him off the board if given the chance. A lot of Blacks will respond 1. ...d5 and now we have a Reversed Dutch Defense. I'm not going to analyze lines here, but in general I don't go for the Stonewall formation (f4-e3-d4), I like 1. f4 d5 2. g3, the Reversed Leningrad Dutch! Now Nf3, 0-0 and pretend like you've got a kind of super-King's Indian! An attack on the kingside is almost always called for! Also, if 1. f4 c5 2. e4 and you've got an aggressive system against the Sicilian Defense on the board. Against other moves like 1. f4 Nf6 you're almost guaranteed to be in a position that's out of both players' "books" within a few moves, which is the whole idea.

1. g3 is a move that has almost never been played against me in nearly 30 years of chess. Lots of people play 1. Nf3 and follow up with g3 as a way into the King's Indian Attack, but just very, very few people seem to want to allow 1. g3 e5, which is the move that really gives the opening independent significance. I think a lot of Blacks are actually a little afraid to be this "independent" and go in for 1. g3 d5 or 1. g3 Nf6 after which White can go for the Reti-English-Chameleon or 1. g3, 2. f4! (see above). 1. g3 is very flexible and kind of says to Black, "Go ahead, try and knock it off!"

(UPDATE 07/30/08: Taking my own advice, I played1. g3 in a few blitz games on FICS last night and blew the opposition off the board in two of them with a raging kingside attack!)


1. c4 b6 and 1. Nf3 c5. These moves are perfectly respectable "main lines" in many ways but against below-master opposition I think both can be good surprise weapons. 1. c4 b6 tempts White to follow up with 2. d4 and 3. e4, something that most "English" (1. c4) players are not all that comfortable with. If White doesn't seize the opportunity to get aggressive and just develops quietly, Black will also develop comfortably and just aim a lot of force at the e4 square. If White does seize space Black must play to undermine and destroy the big center, again with emphasis on controlling e4. A Bb4 pin will be effected if allowed. All in all, Black has to have the right attitude--excessive timidity can see Black's Bb7 buried and the rest of his position uncomfortably cramped. Not for the faint of heart, perhaps, but a nice change of pace for those who are looking for adventure.

1. Nf3 c5 as (again) mentioned here, is only suitable if Black is comfortable in the Open Sicilian, but how many 1. Nf3 players are aiming for the Sicilian? Answer, none. The first good feature of this sequence for Black is that 2. d4 is already neutralized, and that's where a lot of 1. Nf3 players would like to head, a Queen's Gambit or other form of Queen's Pawn Game without allowing the Budapest, Albin or other counter gambits or opening adventures. Black must be prepared for the Symmetrical English after 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 but that is hardly likely to make one quake in one's boots; also in that case, one can try to reach a Tarrasch Defense formation for Black with e6, d5 and Nf6 in some order, even if White holds back on d4.

None of this is offered as a panacea of any kind, but I recommend you try some of this stuff in blitz games to start out; psychologically, these moves will give you some edge in many games; against the less prepared you'll often gain some time on the clock, and if you run up against a speed specialist who knows all the "right" lines the worst you should come out with is equality, since none of these ideas are that really far out.

As always, any reader's thoughts and, especially, critiques are appreciated.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Links and Things

A few new blogs have appeared in the chessosphere and their authors have taken the trouble to let me know about it--or, in certain cases my Sources have informed me of developments:

RT Solo checks in with Chess and Stuff.

"My name is Todd. I like looking for chess-related stuff on the Internet and happened, one night, to come upon a blog called "chess confessions" that was talking about "zombie chess"! It was so funny I had to check out more posts on the blog and eventually discovered there is a group of chess bloggers who call themselves the "Knights Errant" (a Don Quixote reference) and subscribe to a method of chess improvement called the Seven Circles, espoused by this guy Michael De La Maza in his book Rapid Chess Improvement. The method involves going over large segments of tactical puzzles daily until you've mastered them, then moving onto the next segment, or Circle, of puzzles.

I was intrigued and studied up on the author MDLM and his proponents and detractors. It struck me as funny that some people took all this stuff so seriously and got into really heated debates about the matter. I haven't decided whether I am going to try the Circles, but I did decide to start my own chess blog!"

Score one for Blue Devil Knight!

Also recently joining the chess blogging world is hiddenleaf and his Chess Chronicles.

"Just another chess blog about a pawn wandering to the other side of the board."

Finally, my friend and OTB foe from the Reno Chess Club, Eric Shoemaker, has rechristened (or redefined) his blog again, now Man of the West, formerly Pale Rider formerly Opening Laboratory formerly Best Games formerly...I don't even remember all the names, but this time Eric, please, if you're going to change things at least leave the old archived posts up. The world has lost a lot of interesting material!

I'm putting up these links on my sidebar list and moving some of my old friends who haven't posted in a long time to a new "On Hiatus" section. If you get back to posting let me know and we'll relocate you. If you're new to the chess blogging scene, though, don't forget to stop in to the blogs on hiatus, some of them have a lot of great content, but their authors are just a little busy with so-called "real life" right now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

LEPers II, Rd. 3, LEP-RLP 0-1

Testing, testing--will this be my ChessFlash debut?

Yes, it works. Thanks Glenn Wilson! I need to make some adjustments, but I'm glad to get this done the first time

In the game, well there are quite a few big errors, most of LEP's moves 13-18, which leave me with a clear rook-up win, and my 27th, 29th and 33rd, which almost give it back...oh well, I'm 2-1 with a chance to make the final. I love the LEP tournaments, thanks Donnie!

(UPDATE: Actually I'm only 1-1 in my section, and my schedule has not been conducive to getting in the remaining two games...apologies to Wang and Takchess, I'll be in touch to try to get our games played).

I do really like one move I made in this game, 8. ...e5! which looks like a loss of time, but seizes space. It's like I'm playing White in a main line King's Indian, and he has the extra move c3. I'm not saying it's "all that" but it was an original thought (for me).


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on the "Reti-English-Chameleon" Opening

Grandpatzer got me thinking with his recent post Reti Opening: Rare Bird? He writes:

I updated my file of personal games, and it's approaching 6000 games (mostly ICC). I did a quick search, and only 6 games had Nf3, c4 and g3 as the first 3 moves for white. I did a search of my 3.4 million game database and it only came up about 12000 times...so maybe 3x as often as it does for me, but still pretty rare.

transformation commented:

i only have 1,000+ out of 3,900 of my internet games with this opening. :)

Part of my comment was:

As to when it's a "Reti" and when it's an "English" well, after say, 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 we still don't know! People like dk (transformation) who play this a lot have subtle and devious minds.

I remember that the late Edmar Mednis wrote a good deal about this in his book Strategic Chess: Mastering the Closed Game, which I recommend as a well-annotated collection of instructive games that do not begin 1. e4. The only problem is that the book mainly takes a sophisticated strategical approach more suited to GM chess than the sturm und drang of chess at my level. There's lots of sophisticated discussion of move orders, wherein 1. c4 can become an English, a Reti, a Queen's Gambit, a Dutch Defense...and 1. Nf3 can become all of those, too! And maybe a King's Indian Attack, or even an Open Sicilian (1. Nf3 c5 2. e4!). Anyone for a Reversed Benoni?

Now, every player needs to figure out how to meet this "complex" in a way he's comfortable with, but my approach is based on "taking what ever White gives" which is generally what Black has to do in any opening. Thus:

Against 1. c4, 1. ...e5! As Mednis explained, this is why a lot of players try to get into the English via 1. Nf3. Don't let 'em! Seize the central squares White didn't, put on the pressure from move 1 and see if Black has a really well worked-out approach. Of course if he's a true "English player" he will, but I think this is the move that puts the most pressure on. Another approach that I've had some success with is 1. c4 e6 and my next Black moves will almost certainly be d5, c5 and Nc6 if allowed, playing a Tarrasch Defense formation whether White goes eventually goes d4 or not. Of course, this is only good if you're comfortable with the Tarrasch as Black.

Against 1. Nf3 I personally play Nf6 and leave almost all options open (except the Dutch Defense) but again, d5-e6 is a universal prescription, if you're not afraid to play the Black side of the Queen's Gambit. After 1. Nf3 Nf6 I'm ready to play a King's Indian formation whether White gets in d4, or not. And if you're a Sicilian player, 1. Nf3 c5 "prevents" 2. d4 (it's harmless, anyway) and just aim everything at controlling the d4 square.

Finally, those (timid or devious?) souls who play 1. g3 or 1. b3 should be firmly met with a center-pawn push, quick development and hopefully a good thrashing on the king-side. Of course, that ideal scenario doesn't always happen but I feel that these moves don't put much pressure on Black, and since we're talking about below master-level games I don't think you're going to run in to a lot of positionally sophisticated players who can turn these moves into an edge without Black doing something seriously wrong.

That's my two cents on meeting the "Flank Openings" and I'd love to hear reader's thougts on how they deal with them.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Summer Doldrums

I haven't written a thing for over two weeks, here or at Eternity Road or anywhere. I've noticed a trend in that regard, with a lot of my favorite chess blogs rather inactive since the hot weather hit.

After I dropped playing late-night endurance chess at the Reno Chess Club I didn't have the same killer drive to write about and study chess, though I have played a couple of interesting games in the Tournament of the LEPers II. Last night I defeated Donnie, the Liquid Egg Product man himself, in a nice slugfest where I put the clamp on as Black against his King's Indian Attack, won a whole rook and then almost gave the game back when he threw the kitchen sink at me and I ran a little short of time.

The games in this tournament are played at G/15 + 30s/move, an excellent time control in my opinion, but I have been making the same kind of mental mistake that I sometimes made in the 30/90 G/60 time controls I was playing at the club--when time starts to get short but not really desperate, for example 10 minutes for six moves in the 30/90, instead of taking a minute or two for each move I rush out move 25 so I won't find myself with mere seconds at the end, and move 25 turns out to be a blunder. Saving a few minutes for after the blunder is not very effective! Last night I had around two minutes, plus the 30-second increment and was a rook up; all I had to do was take around 30 seconds a move and be cautious, but when I didn't see something pretty quickly I moved a knight where he could have just captured it! He missed that one, but hit me with a different combination that won some of the material back.

So that's something I need to work on.

I never wrote about it at the time, but in my first round game against Ivan of Getting to 2000 a couple of weeks ago I also had what was probably a winning position, it was complicated, but then some disturbances happened around the house and I made a bad move and resigned. One of the advantages of playing at a chess club is that you don't have to see your family during the game--or, if they did start talking to you, the rest of the club members would throw them out...ahem. Luckily, the family and I have worked out an arrangement that will strictly apply during all tournament games in the future.

Chess bloggers who have "gotten stuff done" recently include Likesforests, chessloser, Blunderprone, and the aforementioned Ivan (personal reports at the links), who played in the World Open in Philly over the 4th of July weekend. Here they are as listed, from left to right:

(photo credit Ivan)

Apparently all but Ivan had a plus score, and as you can see Likesforests took home a trophy for 5th place in the unrated section.

I wish I had been there too! I've not quit tournament chess, and I will be around for some of these future big events. In the meantime I look at these photos and pine...

(photo credit Likesforests)

I will post games soon. Really. I need to get back to Glenn Wilson's ChessFlash and get it set up! I need to get out my old games and share some of the best (and worst) as promised. I need to link to the excellent Likesforests on the sidebar and clean up the outdated stuff there. I need to get back to studying tactics and master games.

I also need a vacation.

Well, at least I wrote something today, even if it was just a disjointed patchwork of links to other people and had no coherence or theme whatsoever. The first step to chess master is learning how to mate with king and queen v. king. The first step to getting the blog back to something worthwhile is throwing something up on the wall.