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Friday, January 27, 2006

Playing Chess Openings


According to Aaron Nimzovitch, it is imperative to get your pieces out as soon as possible, and castle into safety. Any piece left behind on its original square, is out of play, and may as well be off the board. This means opening with either the King's pawn at e2, or the Queens pawn at d2. Opening with the King's pawn, (e2-e4) immediately opens up the light square Bishop, and the Queen's diagonals.

Since the Knights can only go to fewer possible squares, and the Bishops can go to several possible squares, it's recommended to get these pieces out first before deploying the Bishops to a committed square. The Knights are strongest within the center, as they control more squares, so, Ng1-f3 is a natural following opening move, which attacks the center pawns, and prepares for a Kingside castle. Remember the old slogan, "Knights on the rim, are grim." One should be careful NOT to bring out the Queen (before deploying the rest of the minor pieces) too early in the game, as a skillful player can easily trap the Queen, or develop his pieces with tempo, as he attacks the Queen. It seems that many new players, once they have learned the quick Scholar's Mate, (1. e4 e5, 2. Bc4 d6 3. Qh5 Nf6 4. Qxf7#), attempt this with more experienced and skilled players, only to find themselves quickly getting into hopeless lost positions, getting their Queens trapped, forked, or even falling into checkmate.

Having said that, several well documented opening traps help illustrate some of these concepts. The first is the well known "Noah's Arc" trap, which arises in the Ruy Lopez after 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 a6, 4. Ba4 (4. Bxc6, the "Exchange variation, followed by 4. ...dxc6, 5. Nxe5 is very bad for White as 5. ...Qd4 threatens both the Knight at d5 and the pawn on d4, which forces White to play 6. Nf3, and after 6. ...Qxe4+, 7. Qe2 Qxe2+, 8. Kxe2 Bg4, Black has the advantage, being able to O-O or O-O-O.), 4. ...Nf6, 5. Nc3 (these days, 5. O-O is in fashion, when Black has the choice of 5. ...Nxe4, or 5. ...Be7, which prepares for a Kingside O-O), 5. ...d6, 6. d4 b5, 7. Bb3 (7. dxe5 is a sharper line) 7. ...exd4, 8. Nxd4?? (This natural looking recapture loses a piece to...) Nxd4, 9. Qxd4 c5 10. Q(any) c4, and White's light square Bishop is trapped.

In the Exchange Variation, as mentioned above, after 4. Bxc6 dxc6, if White plays the apparent safe and natural 7. O-O, Black still has 7. ...Bg4, and if White attempts to challenge the pin, with 8. h3 he is defiantly encountered with 8. ...h5, daring him to take the baited Bishop with 9. hxg4 hxg4 10. Nxe5 Qh4 with checkmate next move. In this line, Black piles up on the Knight on f3 with Qf6, and further disrupts White's pawn structure, making it difficult to advance the doubled pawns in the endgame.

Another amazing position which occurs very often in play, (which also demonstrates that Bishop pins on the Queen, don't always work so well), but is overlooked, arises in the following (which can arise from many different openings): 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Nc3 d6, 4. Bc4 Bg4 5. d5 Nxd4? (this natural looking recapture looks good, but fails to) 6. Nxe5!! (attacking the Bishop on g4 twice, as well as the Knight on d4, but most players see the free Queen and take the bait, "sink, line and hooker" (as one slightly dyslexic chess club player once said) with 6. ...Bxd1, and White now has the spectacular finish with 7. Bxf7+ Ke7, 8. Nd5#. There are several variations of this trap, some involving Black pushing the a or the h pawns instead of developing his pieces, and preparing to castle into safety.

Author winkensmile Peace. ;)

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