Sunday, June 24, 2007


Just play 1...d5. If it's true, and it is, that openings don't really matter at my level, why shouldn't I play the Scandy and be done with all this flippin' theory? It's driving me crazy, as my last post attests.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should choose an opening repertoire you can grow with, like the sicilian. 1...d5 is not very solid IMHO

6/24/2007 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GMs play it, so it has to be solid. Since I'll never even "grow" to be an IM, I think I can relax. I'm just sick of e5 for now. Scandy has so much less theory it's ridiculous.

But I appreciate your sentiment. I would not play the BDG for that reason (even though it is fine at my level).

6/24/2007 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

(apologies for the length, but I had an 'aha' moment on this recently, and wanted to share):

My feeling about how/why/when I study openings is -- and, for years I was the poster-child for the kind of player Heisman is admonishing in the NN series: class-A knowledge, class-D results -- efficiency is only one element of my choice in what to study. Enjoyment and interest play at least as big a role in what I read, and I don't want to lose site of that in my quest to get better at chess.

I recently suspended all efforts at building a true repetoire, beyond learning from my mistakes. Now, if I dive into openings its with an eye toward understanding the goals of the various systems (reading Fine again!) or finding simple main lines that lead to reasonably-sound positions with lots of tactical opportunities (if they are going to beat me, it won't be because I misstepped walking the knife-edge or because I pussy-footed around until I blundered a piece -- its going to be because they out-danced me in the mine-field).

Thus my repetoire (such as it is): (as white) playing e4 exclusively; further playing for the danish exclusively against e5 and the simplest tactical lines I can find to all other black responses to e4. As black I'm remain a bit more focused on fundamentals: 1... e5 to 1. e4 and (currently) just winging it in the QGD -- under the theory that if I don't understand the complexities of things like the Ruy Lopez or the d-pawn openings, the people I'm playing at my level probably don't either -- but meanwhile, I'll learn something more about defense than by playing some grossly unsound gambit as black.

But, when I feel myself drawn back to reading opening theory/variations (or planning, pawn-structure, endgames, etc.) I just go with it as long as its enjoyable. But, as soon as I start feeling like I *have* to memorize some opening-variation, I remind myself that lack of opening knowledge is not what's preventing me from being a class-A rated player -- practice, repetition, rock-solid tactical vision and mental discipline are.

So, my advice: study opening theory/try new openings if/when you find it interesting or enjoyable, but not because you feel you have to, and (with no disrespect to R&SGN) choosing between openings you can grow with, or that allow you to ignore the opening altogether is a false dilemma. Given what I hear you saying, I'd worry about finding ones you can use to really practice what you are studying (i.e. tactics).

In short: If it isn't fun, why do it? If it is, who cares if its efficient as long as it isn't actually undoing your efforts to be a better player. Beyond that you are learning how to punch so pick openings that get you into fights.

6/24/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

bibup: thanks for the comments. I think you have a very sound approach. Right now I'm really enjoying trying out various ways to fill in the large chasms in my opening knowledge, but I already feel myself wanting to pull back some and get back to what is really important (and do the 'learn from mistakes' method).

6/24/2007 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

I'm with rise and shine. Try playing 1...c5 with the help of the book shown on the right. Or... You could try playing 1...c6 with the help of this book.

6/24/2007 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Dutch: umm, yeah, ..c5 is a great way to avoid having to learn a ton of theory :P

I checked out that Caro-Kann book, almost bought it, but ultimately the Scandinavian seems more fun. Show me the refutation of the Scandy and I'll play the Caro. In the meantime, I think it will be fun to get both of us off book quickly so we can play some chess, and I'll be able to focus on tactics, endgames, etc instead of opening preparation!

6/24/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

bibup, thank you. this is outstanding. i am hopefull that when and if you post, that i get to see it one day. such depth of perception and good sense. thank you.

dutch, thank you for this article. i of course know of chessville, but realize i need to get there more often.

i dont play the sicilian--ever!--except in those god awefull situations where im on the black side against the English opening and have inexplicably transposted (while i play the English 30% as white alternating with d4 70%, i hate when this happens to me! thinking, how did i let this happen!) but do meet the nimzo, albiet rarely at club level. most go for benonis or QGA, or QGD.

i play 1. ... c6 80% and am most appreciative for the reference (20% french) there, also.

warmly, dk

6/24/2007 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

I never said the Scandinavian is a refuted opening. But there are enough ways for White to deal with it succesfully. It doesn't score all that high percentage wise. But by all means, go ahead and play it. But if it's non-theoretical you're searching for, some Scandinavian lines are probably just as theoretical as say a Sicilian O'Kelly variation. Not every Sicilian variation is all that theoratical, you know? The Taimanov is also a pretty good option. It will offer you more winning chances then the Scandinavian will do.

6/24/2007 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

What i meant to say is that not every Sicilian variation is that hugely theoretical as the Najdorf.

6/24/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger HardDaysKnight said...

"Can you not play without the crutches of theory? They have intimidated everyone with their "innovations". Or take their standard comment somewhere on the 22nd move: 'The usual continuation here is...' In my day there were no such comments. It simply never occured to us to analyse an opening to the 20th move. That's a problem for a computer, not a human being." -- David Bronstein, The Sorcerer's Apprentice

6/24/2007 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Theory is the death of chess ;-)

6/24/2007 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

I started to type something longer, but I'll try to be more brief.

First: do you have Chessbase? that makes opening preparation a lot easier, and could save you money on opening tomes if you're an addict.

Try to choose main openings that result in many different pawn structures, rather than openings such as the french, caro-kann/scandinavian, dutch, dragon , KIA that are more stereotyped in their pawn structures. Beyond that, try to look at the board with an empty mind and ask yourself what move you would like to play. If the backbone of your repertoire is "playing the moves you like, except where you've learned and understand that they suck" you'll be better off in the long run.

If we strictly interpret the "opening" to end after your pieces are out, rooks connected and you've castled, the Ruy isn't really mindboggling. The first 9 moves are pretty logical. It's all the other 1.e4 e5 deviations that you have to worry about. Still, after playing this for several months now it's not so bad.

If you look at your games objectively, you'll probably find that it's not opening theory that's costing you the most, so why sweat it? Play sensible opening moves, check after the game where you left theory and what you'd play again, and move on. If there's something blitz is good for, it's acclimatizing to your openings.

I think I'm going to have to finally get around to that opening preparation post I've had kicking around in my head for weeks.

6/24/2007 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger HardDaysKnight said...

Grandmasters book for specific opponents and what they play; booking only makes sense if you know what your opponents play; at the patzer level (mine), the games are not (generally) published, you don't know what they play,so it doesn't make sense; you end up studying lines that you will rarely, if ever, face.

Let's do the math; suppose I want to use my Chessbase 2004 big database and construct a Black repertoire against d4 according to Karpov (I know call me crazy). So, I get all his games as Black and create a book (voila! the entire process takes 15 seconds). This book tells me that he faced d4 478 times. Now, for each ply let's select the move with the greatest number of games: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Bg2 c6 8.Bc3 ... At this point, there are only 15 games. Let's see, 15/478 = 3% This means that Karpov, against d4, arrived at this position once every 33 games. If the same statistic holds for me, I'll only play this position once a year.

Sometime back, I decided to play the Dragon, and bought Edward Dearing's wonderful book Play the Sicilian Dragon. Among other variations, I studied the Yugoslav Attack. Have I ever faced the Yugoslav Attack? not in a tournament, once or twice in Blitz. At this point, I've forgotten most of what I studied.

At the club, I book for specific opponents; for example, against the Scandinavian player recently, I booked a few hours before the game, and it got me through the opening and into a playable middle game. But it can also backfire. In my last game, I booked for a guy who I thought was going to play the KID exchange; turns out, over a year ago, he switched to the Bird's. So, my booking was wasted.

Conclusion: don't book to any depth unless it's for a specific opponent.

6/25/2007 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

Just because an opening has a ton of theory doesn't mean you have to know it all to beat weak club players.

Play whatever is FUN and makes sense to you.

Studying opening should be vehicle for learning chess in general. EG, Dragon-Yugoslav is a great laboratory for learning about pawnstorm, compensation, attacking, exchange sac, etc... DOn't learn opening in a vacuum.

6/25/2007 02:31:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Some of the most opinionated comments on posts over the past couple of years have come from people talking about openings (the comments for this post have actually been pretty mellow, nobody getting too uppity yet).

It's sort of funny, as usually a good percentage of the comments in such threads are making the point that openings don't really matter. But then they also say why opening X is just a disaster and you will go to hell if you play it.

During this period of futzing around with blitz, futzing around with my opening, I'm having fun playing the Scandy. We'll see if it ends up in my rep. I'm a patzer, so it doesn't matter. The fact that I actually am trying to come up with something I like can only help me. It will make me like chess more. If the only way to play was to play the French, I would quit chess.

Perhaps the key trigger for this shift is that I don't like playing the Ruy as black. I've struggled with it for over a year, and fuck, I just don't like any of these positions. They all involve making too many concessions. That's why I love to play the Ruy as white, and will continue to do so. Black just has to STRUGGLE to end up with equality. I am not a masochist, so I'm sick of doing that with Black.

I think a lot of the old school chessers still carry over some of their biases from the pre-computer generation, when the Scandy was thought to be a weak opening (as you can find in Fine's book). But so was the Ruy Exchange and others. Fashion is not objective. Objectively, the Scandy is a perfectly sound opening played by upper-echelon GMs. If you disagree, then you are not being objective. Go Fritz it: compare some lines to lines that come up with any line in the Ruy. You will end up with a very small advantage for white in the top lines.

So I'm not gonna listen to claims that it isn't sound: it is. If, in addition, I happen to like it a lot (I don't know yet), that should seal the deal.

But wait, there's more. Another major consideration is "how much time will I have to spend on opening preparation?" With the Scandy it is a fraction of the time with e5. When prepping for an opponent, I don't have to worry about two knights, scotch, ruy, KG, etc etc etc.. I have spent a lot of time preparing for those specific systems against specific opponents, and two weeks after playing them I have forgotten it all. Well, I'll have a lot less of that. Now they'll have to worry about how they will respond to my Scandy. They will be in my house.

And that's one way to pick a rep that I will grow into well. If I ever get to the point where the theory becomes important, I don't want to have to deal with the reams associated with the Ruy etc.. I'll be too busy with my real job! THis is one I will be able to grow into in the sense that I won't end up having to spend 10 hours a week keeping up with the latest variations once the theory is important in my play.

I give myself a 50% chance of sticking with the Scandy as a long-term life partner in this marriage. 30% chance of Caro-Kann, 19% change of going back to e5, 1% chance of playing the Sicilian.

I'll never play the bloody French.

6/25/2007 03:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Everything is played one time or another by "upper-echelon GMs" as you call them. Even the Philidor ;-)

6/25/2007 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

So far I haven't heard any actual arguments, but just bald assertions that the Scandy is suboptimal.

The Scandy is for those who want a fun and open game, where black doesn't have to prepare for radically different systems, where black forces white to work within black's comfort zone, where the game switches from opening theory to real chess quite quickly, and which provides roughly equal chances for both sides (the latter according to both the best computers and the best players in the world, both of whom would kick any of our asses at chess).

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6

Your move.

6/25/2007 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

RE:billup's comment

"further playing for the danish exclusively against e5"

Now here is a man's man!

Re: Scandy
The scandy's not a bad choice. I tried it out for a little while but missed all the varied games that come from playing e5 against e4.

As white, I do love to play against a bad scandy player who goes pawn hunting. Then it's becomes a trap the queen tactical exercise .

6/25/2007 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Zweiblumen said...

I also recently gave up on playing e5 because there's just too many different things to know as black. I also play the Scandinavian now. For a long while I was trying to learn the Nf6 lines (there's a good series at by Bill Paschall that covers them in some detail) but I've recently switched to Qxd5 and Qa5. Playing Nf6 lead me into some very sterile positions where I had no idea what the plan should be, or even what the imbalances were. The Qa5 lines are more well known, but also seem to be more dynamic.

However, I'm considering going back to e5. I play online on FICS and there is a strong Polish player there that I've befriended and he admonished my opening choice. Basically he told me that if I couldn't give a good explanation of why d5 helped me then I shouldn't play it. He said the plan of e5 is simple: if you can ever play d5 without a major cost, you have equalized. Period. Don't worry about Scotch,Spanish,Italian or anything else.....simply play developing moves and look for d5.

The simplicity of it is tempting, but I don't think it can ever work for me. I know that my opening knowledge is more than I need for my level, but I think it would be a mistake to discount the comfort factor. I want to be comfortable in the lines I'm playing. I want to see the same kind of position in game after game and learn how to play it. Once I'm a better player and more able to assimilate new positions, I'll branch out.

The biggest problem with openings, for me, is that my general idea of where the pieces go in the first 10 moves sometimes keeps me from looking for or seeing tactics in that stage of the game. It's a big problem, and one I'm trying hard to overcome.

Speaking of openings, did you see my post from last night? I was discussing a position you may have seen in some of your books about the bishop's opening....

6/25/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger funkyfantom said...

IMHO, bibup has made a very intelligent post. Sounds like a great person to play a bunch of games with.

6/25/2007 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger funkyfantom said...

BDK- One other thing: the fact that you hate the French so much makes me think that it might be interesting for you to play it, just to explore the psychological issues there.

One thing might be that it is natural to be annoyed be a white pawn at e5 which prevents your knight from getting to f3, its normal post.

Learning how to overcome and transcend this issue is probably a very empowering and liberating thing.

6/25/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger funkyfantom said...

Another thing occurred to me. If White in the Scandinavian, pushes instead of taking, you are essentially playing a French with the major bonus of not having the queen bishop locked in right away.

A French player would be SUPER comfortable in this kind of position.

So there you go.

6/25/2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

If the Scandinavian is what you enjoy, you're job's done. A few questions:

1. What is the idea behind 2...Nf6? Why do you consider this the best move in the position?

2. What do you play after 3.c4?

3. What do you play against 1.d4?

6/25/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

I know you're kind of set in the scandy at this point, and that's not a problem (especially with Nf6, although in the Queen takes line, Qd6 is fun also), but you could consider the Petroff also. I know it has a reputation of being boring and drawish, but there are some very tactical lines and some decent opening traps for black. That way you can play 1...e5 and not cower in fear from the ruy. You might actually find that many players as white avoid the ruy also and go with italian games, or four knights.

6/25/2007 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Thomson said...

GP: frankly, I'll probably play Qxe5. The Nf6 version is funky though, and I was just being a dork. I don't know anything about the Scandy, really, and will be reading about it and playing it some the coming couple of weeks. I don't know the general plans for black, etc etc.. Like I said, me and Scandy are just dating for now. I'm not committed. I just want to have some fun, play the field.

One thing I'll likely do is continue to play e5 against opponents who play the scotch, bishop's, guico, as I like black in those positions. For those who play KG or Ruy, I'll play the Scandy. Scandy default most likely, as probably 50% of my games are Ruy when randomly selected (as black).

FF: yes, I have noticed that it can transpose into an advance French that is supposed to be very good for black, to my great dismay.

DD: note that the Nf6 variation can easily transpose, for black, into the Caro-Kann. Perhaps you should use the Scandy as a transpositional weapon! :P

6/25/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Zweiblumen said...

After 1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6 3. c4 black plays c6 and offers a gambit, though it's better for white to decline the gambit with 4 d4 and transpose into the Panov-Botvinnik Attack variation of the Caro-Kann.

6/25/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

BTW: I've never understood why there's so much hate for the French out there. I like to play it from both sides. White gets space advantage and action on the kingside; black gets to play against white's center and advance on the queenside. Fun. You don't hear "I hate the King's Indian" as much, but it also tends to feature pawn chains, locked center and play on both wings.

I've switched to 1...e5 to broaden my knowledge, but it'll always be my first love.

6/25/2007 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Thomson said...

I don't know why I hate the French. It is objectively a very solid opening for black. Pehaps it's because I hate seeing it as white.

6/25/2007 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Okay, if it's the Scandinavian you want, i would like to recommend this DVD.

1 .e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. c4 *your move ;-)

6/25/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Play the French!

6/25/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DD: it is on the way: I ordered it yesterday. I think he recommends the Qxe5 - Qd6 variation, which is on my list of possibilities.

J'adoube: Maybe I will. Maybe I will. I should up the probability of the French to 0.5%, and reallocate 0.5% to the Sicilian.

Seriously, though, J'adoube: doesn't it require tons of preparation against white's main systems?

6/25/2007 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

Well, we're getting way off topic here, but I can't resist talking about the French (even though I try to dissuade people from adopting it) I would have to say that 1...e6 is WAY easier to play than 1...e5 or 1...c5. Any respected opening is going to have theory, but at least the French strategy is relatively straightforward, Nimzowitschian attack-the-pawnchain stuff. The devil's in the details, mind.

And remember, at lower levels no one knows the theory anyways. For example, I see Bb5 played against the French all the time. Objectively it sucks and gives me a fine game, but I've probably only equalized and still have a long road ahead. I really don't need to know that much theory, and I rely more on the bajillion games I've played in the opening.

Now, I'm not recommending the French, mind, but it's solid, it's fun and both sides have quite a choice of options to follow. I have a feeling that a lot of the White players that hate the French play the Exchange Variation, which Tal labeled a Crime Against Chess. You're not intimidating any French player worth their salt by playing that.

6/25/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger hisbestfriend said...

Andrew Martin's DVD on the Scandy is fantastic. It will help you with that opening, and make you wish for more of the same on other openings. And oddly, I have yet to assay a single scandy since watching the DVD. Who knows.

On the Ruy, 20 years ago it is all I played as white, I just felt very comfortable with the positions, and I understood it well enough that I didn't mind playing against it with black. What I hated was the Sicilian in any form.

Nowadays I have given it all up for Bc4 and playing some old school chess. I play the Evan's gambit in the Giuoco Piano.

I play slow chess against unknown players with 1.Nf3. What can I say, I am a Yaz fan.

My son plays Nf3 as white, and e5 courageously as black. I play him much harder than most do against e5 so it works out well for min.

And lastly, the french, I never understood it as black, as white I always felt that I had a win when I played e5. Somehow I could just feel my ego flooding the board. Back in the Power Queen Days, and when I played using my old Pentium 200 on ICC I played very well against the french. Because of that I had absolutely no desire to play it as black.

But I am now finally running into kings gambit and other games with early f4 as white. This opening WAS in complete disrepute in my day, now I am going to have to go learn it.

6/27/2007 02:02:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

Everything is playable below master, as they say, so why not just go with what brings you joy? But the main lines with 2...Qxd5 have never really thrilled me that much. I think if you really want to have fun with the Scandinavian, you should consider the Portuguese Gambit (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4!) which leads to great fun for Black in my experience and will teach you a lot about development and tactics. Of course, White can always stop this with 3.Nf3! (as I discuss in a piece titled "Anti-Portuguese"), or with 4.Be2 which leads to calmer play (as recommended in "Chess Openings for White, Explained"). But you will get lots of great rip-roaring attacks in a number of lines against less careful opponents.

Another way to play the 2...Nf6 lines is described in the piece "Skandinavian Gambit" at Leonid's News Archive, which is worth a look.

If you want to have fun, 2...Nf6 is the way to go....

7/02/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger rpd said...

Bonjour m'seur

J'aime votre blog mais....
je ne comprends tu pas
a jouez au defence francais c'est tres bonne pour blanc et noire

(peut-etre tu est fou- Scandy??? -oh la la et pa! tres mauvais.....
tu est enfant terrible -lol!)

-If I could only play it and write and speak it too- (it's so romantic, aesthetic and earthed. The boulevards,the fine food and wine et al......).
D'accord bon chance with all your chess and openings!

7/13/2007 09:05:00 AM  

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