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Your Questions Answered 9/14

  • IM Silman
  • | Sep 14, 2009

[Ed: this week, our daily columnists [may] have secretly traded columns. From this Sunday through Friday, read all the columns, and guess who wrote which. Mail your guesses to dpruess at chess.com. A couple prizes will be awarded at random to those with 6/6 correct answers.]

[This article was written by GM Julio Becerra]

Dear Mr. Silman,
I have three questions in regards to chess.
(1) Right now my rating is around 1685. I found that I have problem with chess calculation. I could not calculate lines as far as players below my rating. How can one improve their chess calculation? I found
selecting candidate moves very difficult (i.e. which one is better?)
(2) I have been playing the Sicilian Scheveningen defence for four years. However, I have faced many defeats when one sacrifice their bishop (lying on c4 or b3) on e6, or sacrifice one Knight for 2 pawns
on b5. Can you suggest ways to stop these sacrifices or ways to use these sacrifice to black's advantages?
(3) I also faced the Sicilian Prins variation (e4 c5 Nf3 d6 d4 cxd4 Nxd4 Nf6 f3!?). Then my opponent will set up a Maroczy bind and it is hard for me to get in d5 or b5 breaks. Do you have any suggestions on
how to counter the Prins variation?

Thanks for your time. Looking forward to the 4th edition of How to Reassess Your Chess.

Simon Ong


   1. According to my experience when I began playing chess, two of the books that helped me a lot in my calculation skill were 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate and Win at Chess by Fred Reinfeld. There you can see all the typical ideas for the middle game. Also to get good at calculations there are other important things. Like be confident in what you see at the board. And one of the problems that we face a lot is the concentration during the game. After you finish those books, try to play games and to be focused on your position, and you will see how you can see more variations. When you play with players that have a lower rating than you, try to play your best all the time, because sometimes the players of low rating play even better than a Grand Master! Something that a lot of people do during the game to realize what move is better is to write down the move they think of first. Capablanca said that usually the first move you think of is the best!
   2. The best way to stop the sacrifice of the bishop on “e6”, is to play Nbd7 before you develop the Bishop to “e7,” and then Nc5 taking the strong light-squared Bishop on “b3.” It is so important to do this before Be7, because then “g7” is unprotected and he can get three pawn for the piece and attack. About the sacrifice on “b5” frequently when White only has two Pawns for the piece it is not enough compensation. But this is dangerous when White also can take the “d6” Pawn like in the famous source game Bronstein-Najdorf, Buenos Aires 1954.
   3. Although the opening selection almost always is a matter of personal preference, I can recommend in the Prins variation the follows sequence:

      I'm a beginning - intermediate level chess player. My rating on the tactics Trainer is around 1100 and chess mentor approximately 1500.
      I see some of the tactics and going to the Chess mentor I see some of the moves, but not all. I can beat the beginning chess game pretty consistently to the point of no problem. I don't play that level anymore. But I can't get by the medium level. Good openings, but I lose it in the middle game.
      I'm not sure the method of study to get better at chess. Is it just memorization of openings or patterns or is there something more intuitive?
      I'm not sure how to proceed, can you suggest a method?


      Many ways lead to Rome, my dear Marc, but in 90% of the cases in your level your principal work is: tactics, tactics and tactics! Forget about the openings, develop the pieces and play fundamental chess. The other 10% is basic chess endings! Then you will see how to quickly improve your chess. I can recommend to you CT-Art 3.0 electronic or book version, from Max Blok. This is among the bestsellers of Chess software!

Dear Mr. Silman,
      In one tournament game I played recently, the game traded off to a rook vs. 2 bishops endgame, each with several pawns on each side so that material wise it was even. In general would you say the two bishops or the rook was more powerful in this type of endgame?
      -Chess.com member Doomclaw

      In this kind of endgame almost always the pair of Bishops (alias the little Queen!) is too much for a Rook alone! Of course, in chess the pawn structure and King security is very important. It is a bad business to trade two Bishops for a Rook. As an example, I want to show you one game played by me with this material constellation.


      Lazy people (or people with children like me without time) are playing the opening "Colle System" for white, its "universal system".
      But what can I play for black? You now also a all-purpose opening for black for people without time?

     Dear Dirk:

      I cannot lie to you, my dear Dirk: with White it is easier to find a schema and play many moves automatically, but with Black your opponent can play e4, d4 or c4, therefore you need to look for something adequate to your style, because as Black there is no schema like White with the “Colle System.”  Although I don’t recommend studying irregular openings, you should see some games with Spassky Black against Petrosian, from the World Championship of 1966. There Spassky played as Black something like this: …d6, e6, b6, g6, Bg7, Bb7, Nd7, Ne7, etc, etc, etc,…


  • 5 years ago


    i dont know if g6 ,d6 or e6 are good openings for black . in my last games i lost with them and i didnt had a chance . i think e5 or c5, a central pawn,  but not a gambit opening are much better for beginers or advanced, for 1600 - 2000 rated players the g6 or e6 can be better, i know,but only with a good shape a good form, beeing carefull .thats my opinion.   

  • 6 years ago


    tactics and position and your good

  • 6 years ago


    There are players who take every recommendation made here very seriously. May I request every one not to make offhand suggestions without offering specific concrete variations? If suggestions are  too general and vague  they are misunderstood and the value of their idea is lost to the reader who would otherwise have benefited from such advice.The least one can do is to provide links where more games and lines can be found.

  • 6 years ago


    The system Mr. Silman is talking about "Spassky played as Black something like this: …d6, e6, b6, g6, Bg7, Bb7, Nd7, Ne7, etc." is the Hippo!vsolimine says and then u 0-0?I ask it because i usually play knight to f6 when i castle but know it is on e7.Should i castle or not?

  • 6 years ago


    I have a game in my blog played with hippo for anyone who is interested.

  • 6 years ago


    About Colle:There are two different ways of playing it.One is to develop bishops on d3 and b2. This is the Zukertort System. The other is to build a stone wall with d4,c3,e3,Bd3,Nf3,Nc3 and prepare an advance in the centre with e4.When it happens, the bishop on c1 acquires sudden force. So Black has to restrain White from making this advance effective.

  • 6 years ago


    The Colle System is perfectly playable for club players which the vast majority of chess players are...

  • 6 years ago


    As black play the Hippo. You can play it against anything.

  • 6 years ago


    I am thinking that GM Becerra did this one.

  • 6 years ago


    Dear aansel,

    Thank you for the clarification.

  • 6 years ago


    Sounds like GM Becerra.

  • 6 years ago


    pruess you wrote this didnt you

  • 6 years ago


    Mr "Silman" did answer Dirk's question. It was not about the Colle system but about a universal system for Black against any of White's opening moves. The answer was a Hippo/Hedgehog like formation which can pretty much be played against anything though the move order that Black employs is important as it is different depending upon White's strategy.

  • 6 years ago


     Dirk asked a question about the Colle System. This was never played in the World Championship1966. Spassky employed the move order …d6, e6, b6, g6, Bg7, Bb7, Nd7, Ne7 in games 12 and 16.The first was akin to Old Indian Defence and the second to Modern defence.


  • 6 years ago

    IM dpruess

    A couple of these questions were quicker to answer, I think that's why "he" answered more this week.

  • 6 years ago


    When did Silman start answering as many questions anyway?

  • 6 years ago


    Yup, definitely not Silman!

  • 6 years ago


    Definitely not the Silman!

  • 6 years ago


    The system Mr. Silman is talking about "Spassky played as Black something like this: …d6, e6, b6, g6, Bg7, Bb7, Nd7, Ne7, etc." is the Hippo!

    I used to play it and I can say that the best coverage of the system is in a book titled "Tiger's Modern".  It is only one chapter, but it is by far the best coverage of the Hippo I have ever seen...and I have seen a great deal.

    Mr. Silman, thanks for the articles and your books.  I am a big fan of your books and recommend them to all.

  • 6 years ago


    If you want a universal system play the modern defence.

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