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Hi. I'm very much stuck on choosing an opening to learn and play. I'm thinking about playing the Caro-Kann but I heard that it is very drawish and passive.
I play the London System and the Slav as White and Black. I used to play e5 against e4 but there's just so many lines to learn. I feel like I'm good both tactically and positionally - I'm just a very passive chess player. I hate taking risks, I love taking gambits, I like endgames, that kind of thing. I'm very much trying to become a more aggressive chess player. A IM at a tournament that I once attended told me that if I could be more aggressive at the chessboard, I would improve about 100-200 ELO. I'm around 1800 right now. Openings have never been my forte and I'm trying to start mastering them.
Should I play the Caro-Kann (and the London System)? And (I'll shoot two birds with one stone): How do I become a more aggressive chess player?
caro-kann is not the first choice of openings if your looking to start playing mroe aggressively. if you want to master aggressive chess, get into the sicilian against e4 and the kingside fianchetto openings against d4 (gruenfeld, KID, or even the modern benoni provided your opponent commits to Nf3 early so as to rule out the awful f4 lines). the good thing about the sicilian, is despite all the theoretical mumbo-jumbo, there isnt an awful lot of theory for BLACK to learn. with the sicilian, black basically gets to dictate the game with his 3rd, 4th and 5th moves, so while you only have to study your favorite sicilian variation, your opponent will have likely needed to study EVERY sicilian variation.
if you want counterplay against e4, your begging to play the sicilian.
Hi. I'm very much stuck on choosing an opening to learn and play. I'm thinking about playing the Caro-Kann but I heard that it is very drawish and passive . . . I'm just a very passive chess player
Then what's the problem?
I play the London System and the Slav as White and Black. I used to play e5 against e4 but there's just so many lines to learn.
If you play the Slav, and don't like the many lines you have to know after 1.e4 e5 then the Caro sounds perfect for you :)
What? Declining gambits and keeping lines closed is the least risky way to play. Accepting gambits leads to the wild positions.
I would suggest something less dull than the London, how about the colle-zukertort as a system for you? Or are there attacking chances if black plays a certain way? I've just always thought of the London as dull.
A IM at a tournament that I once attended told me that if I could be more aggressive at the chessboard, I would improve about 100-200 ELO.
What? You should play in the style you're more comfortable with. If you do otherwise it will hurt your rating.
But note that passive play is not the same as defensive play. "Passive" is a bad word in chess, no GM plays passive. Defense is one thing, but each of the pieces has an important job (and is active) and when in the past you slipped up against someone like Petrosian he would suddenly play like Tal.
The Caro is not passive. Not good opening or good style or good move is passive -- ever.
Look over games of attacking players like Tal or Shirov or Christiansen (I'm sure attacking players know more, those are just the big names I know).
By becoming more aggressive though, the IM might have meant you're too meek and are missing opportunities to "cash in" your position so to speak. Instead you continue to maneuver and the position become equal again. Go over your games and find the errors. Look for the positions where you had an advantage, and try to find the moment when it become equal again. What elements in the position gave you that advantage and what moves pursued them actively/immediately. That way you can correct your thinking.
If you want to play aggressively, dump the london system and if nothing else play 2. c4
oh and the caro kann gives you chances to play aggressively if you choose the right lines(e4 c6 d4 d5 Nc3 dxe4 Nxe4 Nf6 Nxf6 gxf6 is a good one)
siamesenightmare93: I've thought about playing the Sicilian but I'm not sure if my playing style is that sharp. I don't want to memorize all the Sicilian lines and play them in a tournament only to find out that the Sicilain is not my style. Thanks for the suggestion though.
Orangehonda: Thanks so much! (To answer your first question), the problem is that I DON'T WANT TO BE PASSIVE. I'm not happy with my playing style right now and I want to change that. It may sound really odd, but I like taking gambits (even though they lead to wild positions, which I do okay in) because I love knowing that if I withstand the attack, then I will win because of the extra material. As for the London System, I finished learning all of the theory for that. It is drawish and "dull" too, so I'm going to learn the Colle-Zukertort system too (Does that sound okay?) That is exactly what the IM meant when he told me that I needed to play more aggressively. Thanks for the suggestions! I'm worried that the Caro-Kann is drawish though. I'd hate to draw against a lower-rated opponent that I'm better than just because my opening was drawish. Do you think I should just learn the Caro-Kann and then if I need to, learn another more aggressive opening (like the Sicilian, perhaps?) Thanks so much!
Hehe, if you want to beat class players out of an equal dull middlegame just study the endgame. If you're real good in the endgame in fact all you have to do is trade down all the pieces and then kill 'em in the endgame
So ok, you want a more aggressive opening... then the Caro is probably not so good :) I'd go with the others and say have a look at your Sicilians and KID and Grunfelds and such.
Orangehonda: Do you really think I should just go for the Sicilian line? To be honest, I'm a bit scared at the prospect of losing my Sicilian games just because I might not be sharp enough. I have a psychological problem where I'm terrified of losing OTB tournament-rated chess games. Might this be good after all? Thanks (and sorry for pestering you with all these questions).
It's important to play openings you're comfortable with, so if you like the slav (I mean, depending on the variation I guess) then the Caro's structure is similar so it seems like a good idea.
If the IM said to play more aggressively in terms of cashing in an advantage instead of making some passive maneuvers then he may not have meant anything about openings but simply to be aware of this tendency when you look over your games.
If you want to force yourself outside your comfort zone, and play openings that force you into uncomfortable positions and in that way broaden your play I suppose -- then you'll have to face your fears and go ahead and play some sharp Sicilians. If you don't like that kind of game, then your rating will go down in the mean time as you broaden your scope.
yeah get out of that 'comfort zone' of yours just to get somewhere.
The choice of an opening system is much less important that you might think. The important thing is your attitude while playing it. There is nothing passive about the Caro Kann when it's played correctly. It's solid, and it doesn't lead to an immediate shootout, like some lines in the Sicilian, but there's nothing wrong with the strategy of equalizing first, then playing for the win. As Tigran Petrosian said: It's easier to play for a win from an equal position than from an inferior one.
Just so! It's not the opening which is aggressive or passive, it's the player. A passive player will dull down a Sicilian in no time, while an aggressive player can create play from either side of a French Exchange Variation (one of the most drawish opening lines).
You don't have to be crazy to be aggressive, just always seek to fight for the initiative. When your choices of moves include one which puts pressure on the opponent and one which does not, choose the first unless there's a good reason not to. It's not just about making threats, but putting yourself into position to possibly make threats next move.
After job and family responsibilities forced me to take a few years off from tournament play with only rarely being able to play, I found my game getting moribund, too concerned with positional play and not seeking chances for active play first. One way I helped get over that was by making a deliberate effort to sacrifice more.
If I saw a pawn sac which looked promising, I stopped trying to calculate until I could prove compensation, I just sacked the pawn and was forced to play aggressively to justify it. If I could get Short's "English equilvalent for a piece" - two pawns and a check - I went for it. It worked! An unexpected benefit was that, confronted by aggression, many opponents failed to defend well and lost fairly quickly.
Do I worry if a speculative sac is "correct" or not? Nope, if it wins it was correct in my book. Some of Tal's most beautiful sacrifices have been refuted - after decades of analysis in a few cases. He still won those games and is admired for his conceptions.
The very best part is that usually even when my opponents hunkered down and found the best defenses and weathered everything I could throw at them and won the ending, I still had more fun playing the game than they did!
I agree entirely. I've just begun playing again after a long (16 year) absence from chess, and I found that my game was lacking in dynamism: I was much to concerned with pawn structure and not losing material. My solution was also to just go after every promising looking sacrifice, and even to adopt crazy lines like the Cochrane Gambit against the Petroff. What fun!
I think I'll always be a positional, overly-cautious kind of player--you can't change your basic nature--but I certainly look at the board with a much sharper eye for the tactical opportunities that arise, even in the quietest looking positions
Aggression is in your mind not the opening you play.
You can always spark the play up, but you have to first lose the fear of losing a game, until you do that you will never be a strong player.
work on this not the opening you use
Topalov plays the Caro-kann regularly. If he's not an agressive, tactical player, nobody modern is.
First of all, those saying that Caro is drawish or passive are most probably white players who hate playing against it. It's true that you have to be prepared to defend accurately early on in the game but as a compensation you have very solid structure and there can be winning chances later on in the game - remember when playing with black one can't have everything but needs to make some compromises. Winning with black is extra hard...
If you want to maximize your current results then playing with the style you are most comfortable with is probably the best solution. If on the other hand you wish to improve then it's necessary to work outside your comfort zone.
As others have already said, in order to become more agressive you must above all chance your attitude which can of course be very hard to do. But extending your repertoire with some openings that really force you to attack can help. I'm not suggesting a complete overhaul but you could for example consider learning few gambit openings.
In general it's much easier to find gambit type of openings for white but for black there is also for example the Albin counter gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5) that is not terribly unsound. There are also countless opening that don't include any sacrifices (in the opening phase that is - later on you may need to sacrifice to force your attack through!) but still require agressive handling - for example most openings where you have an isolated d-pawn.
If you try to follow these instructions you'll most probably initialy loose some rating points but you should see the benefits later. When you have learned enough from your new agressive openings you can alwayss return to more peacefull lines if you so wish. It's still usefull to have some grazy gambits as occasional suprise weapons - these can really throw an unsuspecting opponent of balance!
Though ideas spring from the player, the opening does make it easier for the player to achieve the kind of situation they want. That isn't to say that you can't squeeze tactics out in the Caro-Kann, but it won't be as ripe a hunting ground as, say, the King's Gambit. Changing your repertoire won't help if you play it as limp as a fish, but it can help you get the kind of things you want to see, and faster.
I don't see how the Colle-Zukertort is anything but extremely boring, more so than the London. If you like developing your bishop early, a better square might be to g5 though, as the Torre Attack is surprisingly good, especially against the King's Indian Defense.
The Caro-Kann is an attacking opening. From move 1, Black threatens to attack White's e4-Pawn. When White takes up the challenge with 2.d4, Black attacks the pawn with 2...d5!. White has three main choices here and a number of sidelines, but 95% of games will go 3.Nc3/Nd2(transposing to each other after 3...dxe4), 3.e5 (which gives Black no problems with developing and often exchanging his 'bad bishop' on c8, although the Short Variation does put Black under some early pressure), or 3.exd5, usually followed by 4.c4. Here, too, Black plays aggressively, with 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4! 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Nxc3!? 14.bxc3 Rb8! 15.Qc5+ (15.Ba3?? loses a piece to 15...Kf6) Ke8 16.Qxa7 Bd6! and although Black has lost the right to castle and is down a pawn, White's position is not safe and his king lacks a safe square. This is an aggressive try for a win from the Black pieces in a line long thought to be equal.
The mainlines with 3.Nc3/Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 are not problematic for black, who castles kingside and attacks White's queenside castle structure with moves like b5 and a5 early in the game. This is clearly not 'passive' or 'drawish.' Also, White lacks a lot of kingside attacking chances, and has to play in the center while avoiding exchanges, as Caro endgames tend to favor Black (because of White's weak h5 pawn). Black must, however, always be aware of the possibility of a g2-g4 thrust by White that may threaten Black's castled king.
The Advance Variation has some fun theory (Black gets a very good game if White plays 3.Nc3, planning g4, a line Shirov played for years as White although Black has a lot of promising ways to play for a win from the opening here) and the Short Variation is perhaps the most important variation in the entire Caro-Kann. The line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Ne7 8.c4 Nbc6 9.Qa4 a6 10.Nc3 dxc4 11.O-O-O is perhaps critical for the entire evaluation of this line, so careful study of the resulting positions is a must for any serious player of this defense.
My play style is similar. I tend to be somewhat passive, and I enjoy defending and accepting gambits. It just feels so much easier to let my opponent be the one who is pressured to try and demonstrate some advantage. All I have to do is survive the other guy's attack and I can win, or at the very least draw.
One thing that helped me is that I had a friend/sparring partner who was hyper-aggressive. Any slip-up against him was quickly—and violently—punished. I took on some elements of his style in some of my games, started playing the Evans Gambit on occasion, and forced myself to attack. It just comes down to practice, like anything else in chess. Watch the games of the great attacing players (Morphy, Anderrsen, Chigorin, Lasker, Alekhine, Tal, Spassky, Fischer, Shirov, among others) and play aggressive in your own games (preferably online or practice ones where you don't care if you lose a few to begin with) and you'll start to recognize the patterns and understand when it's time to go for the jugular.
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