Spacebar and Opening Preparation

Spacebar and Opening Preparation

| 17 | Strategy

One of the dilemmas of modern chess is that opening theory has grown to huge proportions. The advent of computers and databases mean that there is plenty of information about a player's tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Throw in some strong programs, and at many tournaments where there is only one game per day, you have players doing some serious preparation with the help of the computer that wouldn't have really been possible before. My repertoire is not especially broad, and I usually have one main opening with a few systems that I like to play. This often makes it easy for my opponents to prepare for me. At the recent Cappelle la Grande tournament in France, this came back to bite me.

In the 7th round, I was sitting on 4.0/6 and playing with the black pieces against FM Roi Miedema from the Netherlands. I had looked at his games prior to the round, and noticed that he was a 1.d4 player who generally played one of two systems: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qc2, or 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4. Thus, I was prepared for both those systems when we sat down at the board. But I was in for a little surprise ...

Ok, so what would you play after 9.Qxe4? Black's natural pawn breaks in this position are ...c6-c5 and ...e6-e5.

What would you play here as Black after 17.Ne5?

Ok, so White is attacking the bishop on a4, and if it retreats to e8, White will grab the free pawn on b7. What should Black do?

So the game ended in a draw, but my opponent had the whole thing prepared! As it turned out, I reinvented the wheel over the board here, as this ...Ba4/...Rd2+ drawing idea had been discovered at the end of 2007, but I was not aware of it.

I wasn't too pleased after this game - I expected to fight for a full point when I sat down, but then I was cornered into a drawing variation of my Semi-Slav. The silver lining was that I discovered the draw over the board. Still, it was surprising to hear my opponent talk about leaving the computer running overnight on a position - I've never done that before! Using the computer like that (or, as we say at the GM House, using spacebar because hitting spacebar takes the program's 1st choice in ChessBase) can make things tough. It's one of the reasons why I'd like to have two main openings at my disposal against most starting moves.

Against 1.e4, I do have two main openings - the Ruy Lopez with 1...e5 and the French Defense with 1...e6. This makes it a bit harder to prepare for me when you play 1.e4, and I used this to my advantage at another point in the tournament.

How would you react as White to 7...h5?

How would you continue for Black after 14.Kf2?

In this game, I was able to take my opponent out of her comfort zone in the opening with a rare move. This was a nice game to play, but because she let me execute a pretty straightforward attack on the h-file, the game wasn't too complicated.

Here are both entire games in their own viewer.


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