Do You Need To Study Junk Openings?

Do You Need To Study Junk Openings?

| 40 | Strategy

Some chess players love to play offbeat openings.

I knew one class-A player who was a die-hard devotee of the Vulture Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 Ne4?!). He was showing me a book (why do they kill trees to publish such books?) that explained all kind of traps and cheapos in this dubious set-up.

All my efforts to explain the positional defects of this set-up were useless. The joy of winning just one game by using one of the cheapos from the book outweighed for him the sorrow of losing 10 games against decent opponents.

Pretty soon I realized that it is a waste of time to try to change such players.

So, do we need to study junk openings?

Let's discuss this question using another questionable opening: The Halloween Gambit.

This is how you get the Halloween Gambit:

While the idea to sacrifice a knight for the strong pawn center is interesting, still the opening is dubious. The main problem is Black has many reliable lines against this gambit and some of them, to put it mildly, are very comfortable! For example, this one:

While I would definitely not recommend to play the Halloween Gambit in your tournament games, any chess position you study should benefit you in the long run by broadening your chess horizons. Imagine that you analyzed the following game:

While Black didn't defend well in this game, still it is exciting to see how White's pawn armada simply steamrolled Black's pieces.

So, next time you have an opportunity to sacrifice a knight for a pawn or two to get your central pawns rolling, it will be much easier for you to make this risky desision. Who knows, maybe it was the Halloween Gambit that inspired Peruan GM Julio Granda for the next gem:

Another possible use of the Halloween Gambit is when you play Black and defend against the so-called Glek variation of Four Knights Defense:

Here you can notice that the f3 square is slightly weakened and therefore the Halloween Gambit (with reversed colors) would make more sense here.

Here a young 2200-rated kid tries to do exactly that:

And this is a much better try. You'll definitely need some computer help to understand what was going on in this crazy game:

Finally, while I wouldn't advise to play the Halloween Gambit in your tournament games, by all means try it in blitz!  

Here is how a good friend of mine, GM Raset Ziatdinov, was completely demolished in a 3-minute Internet blitz game:

Let's sum up our discussion. While it would be a waste of time and money to study chess books on junk openings, it definitely wouldn't hurt to spend an hour or so trying to understand what's going on in the opening in question.

In most of the cases you don't want to employ such dubious lines in your tournament games, but they could be a good weapon in blitz or rapid games.  

Also, the more chess ideas you know, the better chess player you are.  

You never know when a particular chess idea will be used! Therefore I wouldn't dismiss even the junkiest of the junk without at least a brief analysis!


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