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roland_l 142 ( +1 | -1 )
A dilemma ... Okay, so as an intermediate player, I've wanted to avoid playing openings that may be super common to other players. I've found myself attracted to such openings as:

Scandinavian
Alapins Defense
Budapest Gambit
Evan's Gambit
Kings Gambit

...openings that you can kind of 'control' from the very begining, hoping that my opponents wouldn't know much about these less common openings, and then I could get an advantage early.

Okay, so here is the dilemma. It seems in Ruben Fine's book on openings, and in my studies and reading from many other sources, that the majority of these openings are 'inferior' in nature. IE .. playing against strong opposition, its' much harder to find advantage with these, and some even say that with openings like these you are 'hamstringing' or setting yourself at a positional disadvantage from the get go.

I would love to hear some opinions about this from more advanced players, because I hope one day to be playing at a high level. If, for example, the Evan's Gambit has been doomed to be inferior (say, because of the discovery of the Lasker Defense) is it worth my time and effort to explore these kinds of openings deeply? Should I not just embrace the Ruy Lopez and the Sicillian and the QGD (obviously a few of the most common openings) and forget about trying to win with these others????

What do you think?
peppe_l 100 ( +1 | -1 )
IMHO I am not a strong player but here are my two cents anyway...

"I would love to hear some opinions about this from more advanced players, because I hope one day to be playing at a high level. If, for example, the Evan's Gambit has been doomed to be inferior (say, because of the discovery of the Lasker Defense) is it worth my time and effort to explore these kinds of openings deeply?"

IMO tactics, endings and (general) positional principles are way more important and before you reach VERY high level (FM? IM? GM?) it isnt worth your time to explore ANY opening deeply.

"Should I not just embrace the Ruy Lopez and the Sicillian and the QGD (obviously a few of the most common openings) and forget about trying to win with these others????"

Why? By playing lots of different openings you learn chess. For example by playing Kings Gambit you learn about development, piece play and compensation for material. When it is time to spend more time for openings you can always switch to Sicilian, Ruy Lopez or QGD.
ibeben 85 ( +1 | -1 )
Re: A dilemma Hey Roland!

You make a nice dilemma there! As fellow intermediate player I suggest you should know at least the main lines of for example Sicilian and Ruy Lopez. With the sicilian (as white) you mostly have the choice of playing a rather forced line and doing the same tactics, so you dont have to learn much theory.

To answer your qustion of the playing the less common openings...
It is not a bad idea to learn some "strange" lines, I know quite a few just as a surprise. Last week I saw someone losing (with black) from the evans gambit in under ten moves. Obviously not learnt his theory....

Still, when you are not a very good player (eg. 2000+) your opponents probably cant find the advantage of your strange opening choices.

Hope to be of any help :)
regards,
Ibeben
joydivision 125 ( +1 | -1 )
A dilemma indeed Way back when I started playing chess on a more serious level I studied all main opening lines. This helped me in preparing against average players, but I got stuck when people started using openings I was unfamiliar whith. I found out, at last, that my opening knowledge was based on knowing which move to make in a certain opening line instead of understanding why I should make that move. From this point on I have not spend much time on openings anymore, but focussed on knowledge of the game itself (development, attacking, defending, tactics, making a plan, weak pawns, etc. etc.).
Now that I have some idea what move I should make I spent some time learning strange/refuted/not-well-known opening systems. My idea behind this is that when there is less theory to learn both players are left with their own creativity to end the game in their favour.

My advise to you is to keep on playing openings you find attractive and try to develop your chess skills. Unless you meet an opponent with deep knowledge of the opening your playing, you are likely to have a fine game.
peppe_l 103 ( +1 | -1 )
joydivision Great post!

I too believe main reason why people find rare opening lines so annoying is lack of general chess skills. Is there any logical reason why (1.e4 c5) 2.b3 variation (or Alapin etc) is more difficult to handle than main line Sicilian? Lots of players learn openings by heart and switch to "autopilot" after 10-15 memorized moves. But there is no "I will choose Sicilian Dragon, my opponent is going to castle long, then I will play Rxc3 sac and mate his king" - one has to be ready for crazy tactics, slow maneuvering, endings, and so on! Supposedly closed French can become open. Supposedly positional Caro-Kann can become tactical. No matter how well prepared you are, there will always be different types of positions where you cannot rely on memory/pattern recognition. You have to THINK and play chess...



"Last week I saw someone losing (with black) from the evans gambit in under ten moves. Obviously not learnt his theory...."

Or tactics? :-)
ibeben 18 ( +1 | -1 )
re: peppe_I No, it wasn,t tactics, I assure you....it was right out of the book!
Both players are rated 1800+!

It was a double attack or something like that, I can't really remind the game...but I can get a try out if you like?
bonsai 61 ( +1 | -1 )
I really wouldn't worry too much about whether some author thinks a certain opening is "inferior" - unless they can offer a really convincing way of playing against it (and even then you might want to look into a recent book dedicated to that specific opening and see whether there's an antidote there).

Some variations of the Scandinavian are definitely quite fine for black (or so I believe), the Evans Gambit has been played on occasions by GMs etc., so as long as you actually enjoy playing these openings (and have success with them), just play them.
wulebgr 31 ( +1 | -1 )
Well... Reuben Fine is dead. Furthermore, he did not always get things right while still alive. Nevertheless, his trilogy, well-worn, gathers little dust on my shelves.

As for the King's Gambit. Anand was able to draw against it a few years ago, but I grow tired of losing to this "inferior" opening.
wulebgr 116 ( +1 | -1 )
I might also say ... that the King's Gambit is fairly popular at intermediate levels today, and that anyone who has played a few games against almost any of the software programs out there has faced the Scandinavian.

In fact, I've seen the Scandinavian played so often in internet blitz that I find myself in the endgame almost as soon as I realize the game has started. Some advocates of that opening are fond of a couple of tricks, but I doubt these work very often, as they are pretty easy to spot (unless your opponent doesn't realize that the queen on a5 can move to h5).

As already noted, tactics prevails more often than opening theory, except among top players who almost never miss anything in tactics. Play everything and often. But don't expect any opening to give you the advantage of surprise. For example, anyone that has played more than a few bullet games at Chessmaster online has faced the Orangutang opening, and you might be surprised how often someone brings out the Volga Gambit or the Polish Opening in reply to 1.d4. Reuben Fine didn't even know these opening existed, for they did not in his day.
i_play_slowly 61 ( +1 | -1 )
I Joined Scandinavian Anonymous I was immediately drawn to the Scandinavian because of the element of control. I had some fun watching a couple of players freaking out--the opening can have shock value.
*
But I found that element of control to be all too fleeting. If the opponent is cool under fire, he shortly gains control of the centre, then it's his game. All too often I'm the one who gets the shock. Interestingly, I set up Chessmaster 9000 to play a few games starting with the Scandinavian, and all three victories were victories for White--no ties. So I tend to think that masters who win with the Scandinavian win despite the opening, not because of it--and that goes double for the Nizowitsch Defense.
roland_l 56 ( +1 | -1 )
Good posts ... ... I completely understand that one shouldn't emphasize opening study over tactics, strategy, endgame etc....

BUT ...

You've GOT to choose openings to study and play. This is the context in which I'd like to keep this discussion if we could. If I'm black and my oponnent opens with 1.e4 .... I've got to decide what I want to do. Try the sicillian, french, caro cann, Scandinavian, Pirc, Ruy etc. etc.? Do I want to invest a bunch of time in one over the other? Try to completely master 1 to begin with? Stay away from certain ones? More ideas would be very welcome ...
peppe_l 19 ( +1 | -1 )
The way I see it Without sufficient general chess skills/understanding (tactics, strategy, endgame), one cannot "master" any opening. Memorizing lots of lines helps very little, of course.
joydivision 32 ( +1 | -1 )
Standard opening for black If you WANT to choose an opening system for black (against almost all openings for white) choose the the Modern set up (1 ... g6; 2. ... Bg7. 3. ... c6). This will be good against most openings for white AND there is not a lot of theory to study AND if you know how to win with this opening set up, you are likely to have learned something about playing chess.
i_play_slowly 89 ( +1 | -1 )
Standard opening for black? When joydivision says, ". . . if you know how to win with this opening set up, you are likely to have learned something about playing chess," the big word is "if." Although I tend to win many more games as Black that I do as White (don't ask me why), I was repeatedly overrun whenever I played the Modern. I put it in the same category as the Scandinavian and the Nimzowitsch. In my opinion--it is merely an opinion--people win despite using these openings, not because of them.
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Instead of trying to learn an opening with which other people are unfamiliar, I would suggest learning an opening with which you 'click'. Build on your own aptitude rather than your opponents' lack of knowledge, which, in any case, is impossible to predict. Esoteric openings are for tournament players who research each other ahead of time and want to out-psyche each other at game time. Unless you are in that league...
joydivision 67 ( +1 | -1 )
RE: i_play_slowly The idea with the hypermodern openings is that you give away the centre for a while in order to attack this centre later on. Most players who lose with hypermodern openings forget to attack! If you are a passive player who tries to sit and wait on what your opponent is doing you will probably lose. But if you know when to attack you will have a fine game with equal chances.

The Scandinavian opening is not really my piece of cake. I dislike moving my queen a lot in the opening. But the Nimzowitsch is a good opening for black.

People never win because of an opening. They win because they have the better plan or tactics!