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I posted this idea because having played the Dutch Defense and Bird's Opening for a long time, I understand some of the gripes a player might have when playing in those setups. Maybe they don't - maybe it is only me! But I doubt it. I have read articles of high-rated players, even fpawn, who spoke of sacking the pieces on the queenside, all the while tearing open the kingside for a checkmate!
Sounds vicious! Maybe I caught your attention! I hope so - I do want to encourage you, if you have never taken a look at these setups, to do so. Even if you already have something you play for White or Black, it never hurts to have a different opening to toss things around a bit. I normally play 1. f4, but I am testing 1. e4, to see if I can use it equally well. Admittedly, often they are two different beasts. And there are some players who won't play Bird's Opening, but will play the Dutch Defense. So there you go...
Anyways, enough with the jabber! I want to discuss the queenside pawn structure in the Bird, in certain systems. This also can apply to the Dutch - it is important to understand why and when to play these moves. I am not sure that they apply in the Stonewall or Leningrad. This would be more for the Classical/Queenside Fianchetto lines.
I am going to show a setup of only the White pawns, and only half of the board.
When I first started to get the hang of the Bird, it was full barrel on the kingside! It didn't matter what Black was doing on the queenside, I wanted that king! And then I began to discover I was losing more than I was winning, because the attack doesn't always come to be on the kingside. My pieces were not adequate to defend my queenside. So I lost...
Later, I became a little more cautious. I would eyeball the queenside, while I pressed on full force in the kingside. Often, I would be able to tell if my kingside assault was not going to work, so I would lock up that part of the board and proceed to battle on the queenside. This strategy worked a bit better, but still, was there something else I could do?
Years ago, I saw a couple of Larsen games where he played with this sort of structure:
So what about my innocent d3 in the mix? This move may be very small, but it is definitely handy in these setups. The key is to know when to play these moves, and how they relate to the structure as a whole.
One idea I can truly appreciate here is that with a4-b3-c2, the dark bishop has a choice of diagonals to operate from - if d3 is not played, then the bishop cannot easily return to c1 for action. In the game I am about to post, the bishop never made it to b2 or a3 - he patiently waited for his time to fight, and valiantly gave his life on e3 to defend White's honor from a dark knight from yonder valley (is it a game of chess, or a story?)
Here is the game - any comments or questions, please ask. I will discuss what I was thinking as I went, so you can see why I thought to do what I did when I did it!
One thing that I want to mention in that first diagram I showed is that the c-pawn is backward, in a sense. It seems like it would be an easy target. That is why White must be careful not to let Black open the c-file.
I could be missing something obvious, but doesn’t 5…f6 sort of undermine White’s pawn structure?
Also wanted to point out that with your knight at d6, there was no need to fear any sort of “exchange sacrifice”. In fact, such an exchange would probably favor you. You’ve already won a piece, and any sort of exchange sacrifice in that situation would be for purely defensive motives. I don’t see Black’s pieces suddenly coming to life after trading the rook for your d6 knight. I didn’t like seeing the knight retreat from the strong d6 post. I would not call Nd6-c4 a prophylactic move; I would call it “seeing ghosts”. You did end up winning the game, so your move wasn’t terrible, but I think it’s a bit of a mental error. In any event, after you won the bishop with the knight fork, it was all a matter of technique for you to get the win.
By the way, is there a particular reason why you like this strategic-positional style? I know it’s a matter of taste, but it seems that many people suggest playing open games with tactical chances rather than the closed games that are more characteristic of master play. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the openings you play and there’s no dire need to change them, but I get the feeling that you’re sort of creating this image of yourself and trying to force yourself to “play positionally”, when in fact, I don’t think there’s such a thing. You might call one person a “positional player” or another a “tactical player”, but I don’t think it’s possible to play “tactically” or “positionally”, although I am a bit of a hypocrite because I use those terms sometimes. The game of chess is a combination of its parts, and you have to play tactically as well as positionally. At the sub-master level, I think that most games are decided tactically. A blunder, a pin, or, as occurred in the game you posted, a fork often decide the game by tipping the balance of the game to one side. When I play out master games, I see all sorts of subtleties and strange moves that I can hardly understand, and all I notice is that one player will slowly dominate the other player, all the while maintaining material equality! Clearly, most of us here are no where close to that level, and while we can and should keep positional aspects into consideration, we should give precedence to tactics and calculation.
Pika, I will write you back later on this...I want to take a good look at your post before I respond
Positional chess is so fun though! :)
But yeah, it is a bad idea -- one that I have often got into -- to get so concerned with the pawn structure that you forget about being concrete and tactical. In fact, more often than not, the evaluation of a position depends on how the tactics work out. Tactics are the most volatile features: they determine if a plan will work or not. Since your opponent makes moves too, the way your plan is achieved will probably have to be compromised and you have to use the dynamic features to morph your position into something better -- that means calculating a lot of variations. Moreover you could also daydream and forget your bishop is hanging (has happened to me!).
You need to back up your plans with well motivated variations to make sure they work. Just be careful you don't fall into a trance when dreaming up your plans :) Petrosian did that once and he blundered his queen :p
Pika, I see your point about leaving Nd6 there to be taken. That does make sense. I guess my mind was already kind of focused in one direction - that is characteristic of my chess play. I can understand leaving Nd6 there - maybe if I get the opportunity to try this idea again, I will try your idea. That is why I post these games - to get some constructive criticism from others, so I can improve myself.
As far as open games go, that is a bit dangerous for me, in some levels, because I am weaker tactically than strategically. So often, I shun pure tactical positions, especially if I know my opponent is a tactical player. I have played positions like the one above for years - I am quite comfortable with the ideas. I didn't learn them overnight, and I don't play them because I am trying to hide behind anything. As a matter of fact, I am currently going to be learning more about 1. e4 - I just bought a book that is really supposed to explain the core ideas behind 1. e4 openings, from 1. e4 e5 2. d4 on up. I think this will be very beneficial to me.
I often try openings, like Open Sicilians, etc and struggle with them because I don't understand the key ideas, and I am weaker at spotting the tactics in the positions. This is something I am considering beginning more study on - basic tactics. I might even buy a tactics book for kids. Sounds strange, but there are some rudimentary tactics that I need to get into my understanding. Once I get some of these down, then I could probably begin to work with more tactical openings with more satisfaction.
Elubas, I never want to force this idea, nor claim that it is necessary for White to play. It is an idea amidst a myriad of ideas I have worked with in 1. f4 (Classical) Bird systems. It is not the only one. But I have noticed that when I am able to play this idea, often it is good for me. I brought it up for discussion to acheive exactly what we are doing here - discussion. I hope that someone might take a look at my idea and see if there is any merit in it for them, since it has brought some merit to me. As I said, I won't advocate that this pawn structure must be played, but I believe that when the idea arises, it is a good structure to have. This may simply boil down to understanding the positions.
@BirdBrain: I hear you there. I think it's a matter of getting yourself used to calculating messy positions. It may or may not surprise you to know that when I joined chess.com over a year ago, I had a similar chess style as you do now: I liked simple positions where everything was under control. I was the kind of player who got two rooks pinned by a bishop, or two rooks forked by a knight, or the queen pinned to the king (all of them have happened in OTB games!). When I realized that tactics was my weakness, I decided to play more aggressive and tactical openings. I actually hadn't really had an opening repertoire then, so it was easy to make the transition into openings like the King's Gambit.
What I found was that my rating shot up about 200 points (from 1400 to 1600), which may or may not have been a coincidence. And here I am, a year later, and I now feel comfortable in the positions in which I felt uncomfortable in a year ago! Unfortunately, these days, I get even more complex positions which I feel equally uncomfortable in, but that's the thing about chess improvement: as you improve your appreciation for the complexity of the game grows.
In any event, I think there's something to be gained from playing positions that feel uncomfortable, because it teaches you to make calculations and make a decision based on a bunch of uncertainties. There's always the chance you'll blow the entire game in one move, but on the long run, I think you learn more out of it. Ironically, I find that losing games (and analyzing them) is the most efficient way to learning something new in chess. You mentioned that you wouldn't play into a tactical shootout against a strong tactical player. Well, if I knew that my opponent was a tactical buff, I'd go out of my way to make sure that the game ends up in a tactical shootout. I might lose, but because my opponent's so good at tactics, I'll definitely learn something out of the experience.
Pika, what you are saying is what I am about to be doing. I am buying a book on 1. e4 - understanding 1. e4. So I am about to be adventuring in a world of tactics for sure! People always said, tactics first. But I said no. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opening studies more than tactics studies. That is the point to me, to enjoy the game. But now that I have some understanding of the opening phases, I can begin to enjoy the tactical studies more. Thanks for your great and friendly advice, Pika!
Fire, I agree with you. ...d4!? was a personal choice for him based on his style, but yes, ...Bf5 would be more common there. I would normally play into Bd3 if possible to meet Bf5. Here, it would take some setup, so I would have to look at it and see what I would want to do.
Well, I wish you the best. I hope that you find tactics as fun as you've found opening study. :)
Birdbrain, I wasn't talking about your structure specifically, but structural thinking in general. You certainly want to include it, but it's the dynamic, concrete features of a position that determines what plans will and will not work, so don't get too involved with general ideas -- you'll find the way those ideas are executed are very different from how they originally looked!
Don't know if that's what you're doing, but your annotation style reminds me of mine and I would always focus too much on lots of general ideas, but not figure out what would actually work.
On the structure itself -- it's basically a reversed dutch and is playable, but undeniably black will have fully equal play, as he is allowed to make a solid setup facing little immediate pressure on the center -- e5 is well controlled, but not d5 and c5. White can only have a dangerous attack if black is too carefree to appreciate the potential threats in white's position. I have no intention to bash it -- it's playable but not more than that.
Sometimes the knight will want to go to a3, but sometimes c3 and d2 as well -- to determine the best square for it, it's best to see what black does first before you commit to a decision -- something you wouldn't do if you purely copied moves from a pre-determined structure like this one, and this goes for every piece and pawn placement. If you just make the same setup every time, you may find it's not effective against black's particular setup; or it may blind you from being able to punish an error from black -- often requiring a special move -- because you were mindlessly reaching your setup pretty much irrespective to black's play.
Yeah, this structure doesn't apply to many situations, but in some situations it can be used, and I have had pretty good results with it. In these setups, I am referring to Nd2 systems, but they can also be played in Na3 systems. One thing I learned from this post is that it can be hard to make an idea like this lucid to explain. I suppose that since I have played it frequently with good results, it worked out fine.
I like your presentation of a positional closed opening. I think I may give it a try.
The great pleasure, for me in chess, is to win games. I desire openings that break away from the open fighting games. I would much rather draw than lose.
When a play all out tactical openings, I frequently arrive at situations where I almost win, where I was almost brilliant, but there was a way my oppenant could wiggle out of my attack. My position would be a mess, and my opponent's counter-attack would do me in.
Most chess games at my level are lost not won. My strategy these days is to establish a strong position, and let my opponent attack. I believe that a counter-attack, from a strong position has the best chance of success.
As I say, most chess games at my level, are lost; not won. I recommend establishing a strong position for myself and let my opponent make the tactical mistakes.
Peace goodwill ... Ray
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