If you are reading this article, I will assume that you’ve read parts 1, 2 and 3 of “Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings” which will fill you in on the elements needed to be understood for you to play openings really well, even with little to NO knowledge of theory.
This article will attempt to give some examples and make the three elements of good opening play we learnt (Rapid Deployment of Forces, Control of the Centre and King Safety) gel together and stick in your mind.
I’ll also give a list of bad habits which many learning (and some stronger players too!) players tend to develop. You can use it as checklist of shit not to do!
Required Reading (Chess Strategy):
If you hope to get the maximum instructional value out of this post, you’ll study the previous “lead ups” to it which are:
- Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings (Part 1)
- Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings (Part 2)
- Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings (Part 3)
Once you have the above fundamental building blocks fully understood, you’ll be ready to integrate the ideas, plans and methods you see in the games I show you here.
So… Chess is a very fluid game and we can’t just make sweeping statements like “Rapid Deployment is more important than King Safety“, or “If you Control the Centre, they’ll never be able to attack you anyway!” because the level of importance of each of these elements is constantly shifting based on the position on the board.
Massive generalisations and sweeping statements like the above (as well as classic B.S statements such as “doubled pawns are bad!”) are some of the most damaging and misleading advices given to beginners.
Also, sometimes one advantage in an area might cause the opponent’s position to deteriorate to such a level that another advantage takes precedence.
Here’s an example.
BrendanJNorman vs AVJ1965
In the game given below, black plays the opening creatively and ambitiously with a pawn sacrifice (8…g5) attempting to get some attack based on the cooperation between the Bb7 and the Rg8.
I applied the maxim which I believe Nimzowitsch gave us which said;
“An attack on the flank is doomed to failure if your opponent stands better in the centre”
I proceeded to place pawns on e4 (14.e4) and c4 (16.c4) and build a massive advantage in Central Control.
I focussed on maintaining and building this advantage for the next several moves until his attempts to free himself (my imposing central roller, was making him more and more cramped) weakened him so that his King Safety suffered and I (like any alert player) then switched to attacking his king directly.
This is called “transformation of advantages“.
Black did grab an exchange with 20…Ne3, but in that type of position material means little.
Soon my Control of the Centre advantage was completely replaced by the advantage in King Safety as the central files opened up and my opponent was caught in an mating net.
Lessons from this game:
- An attack on the flank is doomed to fail if your opponent controls the centre.
- A pawn avalanche can make space for your pieces (25.Nd4).
- When the enemy king is in the centre, prevent him from running away (29.Bf5!)
Here’s the game.
Playing through that game, we can clearly see all the elements in place, right?
Now that guy was around 2000 ELO and simple obedience to our three opening laws is what allowed me to win such an smooth game.
In any given opening position your mind should be juggling these ideas of Central Control, King Safety and Rapid Deployment and you should have an inner monologue going on something like this;
“Hmm, which of the elements I learnt from Brendan applies in this position? Should I challenge his centre yet? Maybe I’ll just bring my bishop out… Actually, better castle…King not so safe.”
Something like this.
At first this process will be conscious and you’ll need to force yourself, and then eventually it will become completely automatic as you integrate the knowledge as a part of your quick “scan” of a position.
Be disciplined and go through this process and you’ll be rewarded with a lot more quick wins.
Bad Habits Beginners Make in the Opening
- Excessive pawn moves which contribute little to our 3 essential goals. Pawns moves in the opening are strictly for a) bringing bishops out and b) occupying the central squares.
BrendanJNorman vs bletxa
In this game, black (a 2100 player) wastes a LOT of time on unessential pawn moves (6…c6, 7…a6 and maybe even 12…c5 being primary examples), instead of deploying the pieces on his queenside.
White on the other hand (me 😎 ), uses only pawns moves which serve a purpose (occupying the centre and releasing my bishops) and even when black tried to challenge white’s central control with 12…c5 and 13…cxd4, I didn’t even bother to recapture the pawn.
I instead launched an attack on the open f-file which was created by his greedy win a pawn (10…Nxf2) and broke through pretty quickly.
Perhaps he could have defended somewhere, but its not so easy when you’re under pressure as we learnt in this post.
Lessons from this game:
- Don’t waste time on useless pawn moves in the opening.
- Even if you’re “winning” material (10…Nxf2), don’t do it if it opens lines (like the f-file in this game) for your opponent, and you’re too behind in development to defend against an incoming attack.
So not too many pawn moves in the opening…check!
Not to useless many pawns moves
- Opening lines in the centre (to free a bishop, claim the centre or whatever) before castling can be done safely in a lot of cases, but in practice is very dangerous. Until you become skilled in opening play and experienced with our 3 opening aims, make sure you castle first.Here’s an example of this in practice.
BrendanJNorman vs BenjieEsquejo
In this game, my opponent plays quite well until move 7 when he plays 7…e5 and decides to open up the centre (with the aim to liberate his bishop on c8).
Although uncle Stockfish might not see any danger in this move (at first at least), for a human player (i.e not tactically perfect like a computer) to play the position which results is not easy.
I’d definitely say that playing 7…0-0 (castling first), followed by perhaps 8…e5 would be safer.
How did I attempt to exploit it?
If I’d just played a limp move like 10.c3 allowing my opponent to castle immediately, then all of his previous play would have been justified.
Therefore, I chose the aggressive approach and sacrificed a pawn with 10.f4!? Bxb2 11.Rb1 Ba3?! (11…Bc3 is better) 12.e4 creating an immediate crisis (threatening e5) and gaining strong practical attacking chances.
In the game my opponent was prevented from castling and his King Safety dropped to 0 and my pieces stormed toward his king. Remember, 1. Stop Castling and 2.Tear the centre open and find the helpless king.
Lessons from this game:
-Its safer to castle before making “freeing” moves in the centre/opening lines.
-If taking a sacrificed pawn/piece, calculate everything.
Does that make sense?
Sorry guys If today’s post seems a little “scattered”. 🙂
Its been a big day offline, thats all.
But I wanted to get this out to you by tonight (its about midnight here in China)
The main points I wanted to make were that in the chess openings you only really need to pay attention to those 3 little things we learnt, yet even higher rated players neglect them and develop bad habits.
If you really integrate these ideas you’ll do great! I believe in you and look forward to hearing of your crushing victories! 😉
Final Actions Steps:
- Restudy all 4 articles in this series (and play through all the sample games)
- Study my “How to Master any Opening” post.
- Play daily (or as many days as you can spare time) standard games (more than 15 minutes on the clock) online and pay very conscious attention to what you’ve learnt from all of these lessons. After the games, print them out and analyse the openings very carefully (without a computer) and check all of your moves against our “3 goals” above. I’m confident you’ll be shocked at how well you seem to play.
Good luck friends, I look forward to hearing from ya. 😎