International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that Chess.com readers have about the game of chess.
If you want to ask Andrew a question, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and next time your question could be featured! Please include your real name and your chess.com member name, but you can ask to remain anonymous if you wish!
Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers...
Raymon Hello Andrew. I am a grade 10 student in highschool from Canada. I would like to become a Grandmaster when I grow up. I have some questions:
Are there any chess programs you recommend which I could use to practice chess?
Are there any good books that you recommend?
Are there any special schools where I can learn to become a grandmaster?
Hi Raymon,There are many chess programs which can help you with your game. I use Fritz and Rybka, but that is my personal choice. Each of these programs allows you to play with them on different levels and they help you to improve by explaining your mistakes. There are more books on chess than most other topics, so again this will come down to a question of taste.
Students of mine have found books by Jeremy Silman to be of particular use to them in getting better. If you are into puzzles try the 'Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book' by GM John Emms. Look for books which are well-written and explain things clearly. Avoid books with huge amounts of analysis because they just don't get read.
The path to Grandmastership is long and hard; there is no simple way unless you have phenomenal talent. However, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from hard work, whether you make it or not. The best school to learn about chess is the school of actually playing tournaments and analysing your games carefully after each event. You should go over your games YOURSELF first, making notes and then check these notes afterwards using an engine. This is time-consuming, but I assure you it is the most effective way. After that you can get coaching and advice on your conclusions from a stronger player if you wish. This long and winding road is not for everyone.
From Chess.com member Chinunt Hi Andrew. What do you think is the the best line of the Chigorin for black? Thanks.
Hi Chinunt. I presume you mean the Chigorin Queens Gambit.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6!? Black bombards the center with his pieces. This is a controversial procedure because by leaving his pawn on c7, he will find it difficult to develop his queenside. My own view is that this is not an opening for the average player; it is difficult to break out and the positions reached are often totally unorthodox.
3.Nf3 [3.Nc3! is my preference and Black was smashed in the following recent miniature. 3...Nf6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Ne5 dxc4 6.Nxg4 Nxg4 7.d5 Nb8 8.e4 Ne5 9.Bf4 Nbd7 10.Qa4 c6 11.dxc6 Nxc6 12.Bxc4 e5? Far too ambitious. Black must settle for exchanges and hope to gradually achieve equality: (12...Nb6 13.Qb3 Nxc4 14.Qxc4 e6 15.Rd1 Qb6 16.0–0 Be7 17.Rd2 Rd8 (17...0–0 18.Rd7) 18.Rxd8+ Qxd8 19.Qb3 Qc8 20.Rd1 0–0) 13.Be3 Bc5? (13...Nb6 14.Qb5 Nxc4 15.Qxc4 Bb4) 14.Bxf7+! Kxf7 15.Qc4+ Kg6 16.Qe6+ Qf6 17.Qg4+ Kf7 18.Qxd7+ Be7 19.0–0 Rhd8 20.Qxb7 a5 21.Nd5 Qd6 22.Rac1 Rac8 23.f4 Kg8 24.Rxc6 1–0 Graf,A (2635)-Braun,R (1931)/Schwabisch Gmund 2009The difference in strength was obvious. The Chigorin is not an opening one should venture against much stronger players.]
3...Bg4 4.e3 [4.cxd5 Bxf3 5.gxf3 Qxd5 6.e3 e5 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Bd2 Bxc3 9.bxc3 is much more challenging, after which I believe Black's best move to be 9...Qd6 as played by Morozevich]
4...e5 One can see the attraction of the Black set-up 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Nf6 7.cxd5 Qxd5 8.Qxd5 Nxd5 9.Bc4 Bb4+ 10.Bd2 Bxd2+ 11.Kxd2 0–0–0 12.Bxd5 Rxd5 13.Nc3 Rd7 14.d5 Ne7 15.e4 c6 16.Rac1 Kb8 Events have taken a natural course since the opening and White has got less than nothing. In fact, he's about to go into a lousy ending.
17.Ke3 cxd5 18.Nxd5 Nxd5+ 19.exd5 Rxd5 20.Ke4 Rhd8 21.Rc4 g6 22.g4 f6 23.Rc3 [An exchange of one pair of Rooks might help the White cause. 23.Rhc1 Rd2 24.R1c2 R8d4+ 25.Ke3 Rxc2 26.Rxc2 Black still has to activate his King]
23...Rd2 24.Rhc1 Rxb2 25.Rc7 Rxa2 26.Rf7 Rxf2 27.Rcc7 Rb2 28.Rce7 Rb6 29.Rxh7 Rb3 30.Rd7 Rxd7 31.Rxd7 Rxh3 0–1 The best book I know on the Chigorin is written by GM Morozevich and Alexander Barsky, published by New in Chess in 2007. If you want to know more about this opening, you should get yourself a copy.
Chess.com member qnl1051 Hi Andrew, Many chess books I have read discourage against disrupting the pawns in front of the short castled king. Yet in many GM annotated games, I see them play h3 or h6 and the comments often applaud this as a good prophylactic move. This confuses me. Can you shed light on when h3 or h6 is considered a good move, and when it is a weakening one? Thank you.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bg5 0–0 6.e3 h6 In this case ..h7-h6 has two useful functions:
1) It protects against a possible later back-rank mate.
2) It prevents any embarrassment from a battery of White's Queen and Bishop on the b1–h7 diagonal.
As this move is played so commonly I hesitate to criticize it, but there are possible drawbacks which Hillarp-Persson zeroes in on here.
7.Bxf6 Bxf6 8.Qd2 c6 9.0–0–0 Nd7 10.h4 Nb6 11.g4! White is going to use the h6 pawn to help him to lever open the Black King.
11...g6 12.g5 hxg5 13.hxg5 Bg7 [13...Bxg5 14.Nxg5 Qxg5 15.f4 Qf6 16.c5 Nd7 17.e4 Qg7 18.f5 sees White continuing to smash open the Black King position.]
14.e4 Qc7 [14...Nxc4 15.Bxc4 dxc4 16.Qf4 f6 17.Qh2 Kf7 18.Qg3 is obviously dangerous to Black, although in view of what happens, perhaps he should have gone for it!] 15.Ne5 Bxe5 16.dxe5 Qxe5 17.f4 Qg7 18.e5 Bd7 19.c5 Nc8 20.Ne4! dxe4 21.Qxd7 a5 22.Rh3 Ra7 23.Qd8! This game is a crush.
23...b6 24.cxb6 Rb7 25.Qf6 1–0 A move in front of the castled King, any move, must be carefully considered. That's what it boils down to and especially here when White had such freedom of movement. Beware weakening pawn moves when you have yet to unravel your position!
Let's move on to consider another case.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3! 9 h3 in this instance is prophylactic, preventing Black from playing ...Bc8-g4. White makes it easier to force through d2-d4 and may even the pawn on h2-h3 later on to assist him with a Kingside attack. The reason this move is so often played and is so successful is that Black is CRAMPED and will be cramped for some time to come. Thus he is in no position to take advantage of any downsides attached to h2-h3.
9...Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 White masses for a Kingside attack in the usual Lopez fashion.
14...g6 15.b3 d5! On this move the strength of Black's game stands or falls and in a way it is the logical counterpoint to 9 h3. White plays on the flank, Black responds in the centre.
16.Bg5 Bg7?! One can tell this is a blindfold game, as Mamedyarov unexpectedly makes a weak move he would never otherwise have made. [16...h6! 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 hxg5 19.Ng4 Bg7 20.Nxf6+ Qxf6 was the way to go, for sure.]
17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Rxe5 19.f4 Rxg5 20.fxg5 Ne8 [20...Nxe4 21.Bxe4 dxe4 22.Qxd8+ Rxd8 23.Nxe4 Bxe4 24.Rxe4 Bxc3 25.Rc1 Bd4+ 26.Kh1 leaves Black with only a very small chance to draw.]
21.Qf3 d4 22.Rad1 c5 23.Ne2 Qxg5 24.cxd4 cxd4 25.Nxd4 Be5 26.Qd3 Bg3 27.Rf1 Ng7 28.b4 Rf8 29.Bb3 Bc8 30.Rxf7 1–0 Potential counterplay is the key to assessing the overall effectiveness of moves such as h2-h3 and ...h7-h6. That comes through simple experience of over the board chess.
Chess.com member Ripper89 Hi Andrew! I have a rating of 1500 but I can't handle a certain type of opening when with black. Here are some examples: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 then 3. Bc4, in one game I responded 3. Bc4 h6 4. c3 a6 5. b4 b5 6. Bd5 Nf6 7. Bxc6 dxc6 followed by Nxe5 losing control of the middle, and the other game was 3 Bc4 h6 4. c3 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4. I know that in the second one my mistake was Nxe4 but the problem is that I can't effectively answer this opening: 1 e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4. Is h6 a good answer? Thanks a lot.
Freddie Sugden Hello Andrew. There is one opening which I find hard to play against for black. I reply 1...e5 against 1.e4 and I enjoy playing variations such as The Marshall Attack against the Ruy Lopez and so on...but but I am never sure what to play against Bc4. I have been playing Nd4 (The Kostic Trap) but of course this is a one-trick pony and I am now seeing hardly anyone falling for the trap of Nxe5 and they are just swapping off the knights with a much superior position due to development. Nf6 I have always thought inferior because after Ng5 black has to give up a pawn with d5 exd5 Na5 because of course if Nxd5 then either d4 or Nxf7 and black is crushed at the standard I am playing at...Lastly Bc5, I am afraid of transpositions into the scotch gambit or maybe white playing b4 into the Evans gambit as I love playing these openings when I am white and so as black I am incredibly wary of their power and am scared to even get stuck playing them! Any suggestions?
I will take these questions in order and use a recent GM game to help. I am indebted to GM Postny and Chessbase for their assistance with the notes. All notes by me are marked AM.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6! [3...h6?! is not a good move. The only thing it tells me is that you are afraid of Ng5, although we will see that Black can allow that move successfully. Funnily enough, this blends in with an earlier question. 3...h6 certainly stops White from playing Ng5, but White has such freedom of development that he can respond energetically in the centre with 4.d4! exd4 5.c3! and now ...h7-h6 looks like a wasted move. Remember that the opening is a battle for TIME and POSITION. Black should be getting his pieces out and concentrating on positive plans of his own. AM]
4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 I strongly recommend this variation, although you do have to learn the lines. Black sacrifices a pawn but gets a good initiative in return. To answer Freddie's question honestly: there is no easy fix against Bc4. The Two Knights Defence with 3...Nf6 is an excellent response, but you will have to do a bit of work on it. AM
6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Bc5 We saw a game from L'Ami last week and I return to this variation again. 10...Bc5 is a promising way to go for Black.
11.c3 Qc7 12.d4 [Worse is: 12.b4?! Qxe5 13.bxc5 0–0]
12...exd3 13.Nxd3 Bd6 14.Nd2 Bf5! [14...Be6N 15.b4 Nb7 16.c4 c5?! (16...a5) 17.bxc5 Nxc5 18.Nxc5 Qxc5 19.Nb3 Qe5 20.c5! Bc7? (20...Be7) 21.f4 Qe4 22.0–0 Rd8 23.Bb5+ Ke7 24.Qe1+- Sutovsky,E-Postny,E/2001/Israel league]
15.b4 [After 15.Nf3 Rd8 16.0–0 0–0 black has a dangerous initiative.]
15...Nb7 16.Nc4 Rd8 17.Be3 [Deserving attention is 17.Nxd6+ Qxd6 (17...Nxd6 18.Bf4 Nd5 19.Qd2) 18.Nb2!?]
17...0–0 18.Bxa7N [18.Bd4 Rfe8 19.Ne3 Be4 20.h3 Nh7 ½–½ Gdanski,J-Sepp,O/Vantaa 1994/EXT 2000 (20)]
18...Nd5 19.Bd4 [19.Nxd6 Nxd6 20.Bd4 Nb5 21.Rc1 Bxd3 22.Bxd3 Rfe8+ 23.Kf1 Nxb4 24.cxb4 Rxd4]
19...Rfe8 20.Nxd6 [Too optimistic is: 20.0–0? Bxh2+ 21.Kh1 Re4]
20...Nxd6 21.0–0 Nb5 22.Rc1 [22.Qd2 Ndxc3 (22...Rxe2?! 23.Qxe2 Bxd3 24.Qxd3 Ndxc3 25.Rfe1 Qd6 26.Qxc3! Nxc3 27.Bxc3 White has more than sufficient compensation for the queen.) 23.Bxc3 Nxc3 24.Qxc3 Rxe2.
22...Nbxc3! [ The other alternatives are much worse: 22...Nxd4?! 23.cxd4 Bxd3 24.Bxd3 Nxb4 25.Bb1±; 22...Ndxc3? 23.Bxc3 Rxe2 24.Qxe2 Bxd3 25.Qe5+-; 22...Rxe2? 23.Qxe2 Ndxc3 24.Bxc3 Bxd3 25.Qe5+- just like in the previous variation.]
23.Rxc3?? –+ [23.Bxc3 Nf4 24.Nxf4 The best practical solution. (24.Re1 Bxd3 25.Bf3 (25.Bxd3 Rxe1+ 26.Bxe1 Nxd3 27.Rc2 Nxb4 28.Rd2 Nd5) 25...Be2 26.Qc2 Bxf3 27.gxf3 This position looks unattractive for white, however the following variations confirm, that white keeps the position: 27...Qd7 (27...c5?! 28.b5 (28.Bb2 Qc6 29.Re3 Rd3!! 30.Rxe8+ Kh7–+) 28...Qd7 29.Re4 Nh3+ 30.Kg2 Ng5 31.Rg4 Qxb5 32.Bxg7! Kxg7 33.h4) 28.Re4 Rxe4 (28...g5 29.Rxf4 gxf4 30.Kh1; 28...Nh3+ 29.Kg2 Ng5 30.Rg4 Qd5 31.Rg3) 29.Qxe4 g5 30.Qe5 f6 31.Qxf6 Qd1+ 32.Be1 Ne2+ 33.Kg2 Nxc1 34.Qg6+ with perpetual check.) 24...Rxd1 25.Rfxd1 Qxf4 26.Bf3=]
23...Nxc3 24.Bxc3 Rxe2! 25.Qxe2 Bxd3 26.Qg4 f5 This move was overlooked by Sutovsky. Black wins the exchange and the game.
27.Qh4 Bxf1 28.Kxf1 Qd7 29.f3 Qd3+ 30.Kf2 Ra8 0–1