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Chess Lesson for January 24th – 2014

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Chess Lesson with FIDE Master Dennis Monokroussos

Many view the tremendous depth of chess opening theory as a curse, and while I probably wouldn’t agree I certainly understand the feeling. There’s a major tournament underway in Holland at the moment, and one game finished in a draw after 35 moves, and the player who had the black pieces had prepared the whole game on his chess set at home. He didn’t have to find a single move on the chess board!

Even your humble author had a blitz chess game tonight that followed theory for 33 moves, and I have occasionally won games that were largely if not wholly the result of preparation.

The thing is, it isn’t even a matter of trying to trap one’s opponent or win “cheaply”. If one plays a normal, logical chess opening, then chances are others will play it too. The position will lend itself to certain plans based on the pawn structure, potential weaknesses, relative king safety and so on, and then those plans will be tried. If they work, then the other side will look for ways to meet those plans or to avoid them earlier, and brick by brick theory develops.

So what can we do about this? We can give in and study, and there is value to this – particularly if one is learning what’s important about the position rather than memorizing a series of moves by rote. But we can also look for byways. Some people do this to the point of eccentricity, but
that’s not necessary. It’s enough to find our way to a decent position where we can just play. Maybe we’re only equal with White or slightly worse with Black, but as long as it’s nothing serious and we understand what we’re doing, we’ll be fine.

Take for example today’s chess game. White goes down a backwater of opening theory, drags his opponent into a tactical swamp, and comes out the victor. Black could have done better – but he had to do better on his own. I will offer some annotations of this game next week, but for now I offer the game as an exercise. My suggestion is that you start after White’s 6th move and analyze the game one move at a time through Black’s 14th move. Write down all of your analysis (or enter it into a computer, but don’t use a chess engine and shut off all the move-suggestion features), and don’t assume that if your suggestions weren’t played that you got it wrong. They might have!

After Black’s 14th move White has a forced mate, which he executed to perfection of the board. Try to find the whole thing on your own, ideally from move 15.

How you do isn’t so important; that you give it a try is!

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