How To Deal With Outrageous Chess Openings
What can you do when your opponent doesn't play what you expected?

How To Deal With Outrageous Chess Openings

| 55 | Opening Theory

I am sure that you've encountered the situation where your opponent played an opening move that breaks all known chess rules.

What is your second thought when this happens? (I assume that the first thought is usually: "You gotta be kidding me!")

Can you keep your cool and play your best chess?

Outrageous opening moves can be played for a variety of reasons, which we discussed in this article. So a beginner-like move doesn't necessarily mean that your opponent is a beginner, and therefore you need to take it seriously. A good example is the following opening:

If 3...Qe7 were not enough breaking opening rules, Black is going to play 4...Nd8 next!

When I was a kid, the leading Soviet magazine Chess In The USSR published an article about this system. The point of the article was to convince the readers that this opening system is not that bad. Since the two masters from Leningrad who wrote the article, Vinogradov and Kopylov, were well-known opening innovators (the Leningrad Dutch is their brainchild), I decided to take a look. 

To my surprise, it was very smooth on paper and the games provided by the authors were supposed to convince the readers that the system is playable.

Indeed, look at the following game from the article:

I was a 12-year-old kid who knew something about chess—therefore I would have rather believed in Santa Claus than in openings like this. So, using today's language, I thought that the authors were just trolling their readers.

Since no one ever played this junk against me, I forgot about this article pretty soon. I would never have remembered it again if not the following game played in my home city by my teammate and a strong chess player:

I knew GM Saidali Iuldachev from childhood. He always preferred classical openings like the Ruy Lopez and Orthodox Defense of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Well, as I mentioned in my last article, most chess players from Uzbekistan prefer classical chess, so I was really shocked to see such chess blasphemy.

Moreover, looking at the database, I see that some experienced grandmasters play this junk and in many cases can get away with this:

This is real madness. Do they want to turn chess into a circus? I found that old article and read it again. Somewhere towards the end of the article the authors analyzed the variation 4.Nc3 Nd8 5. Nd5 and mentioned that "it is possible that the knight's invasion to the d5 square can refute Black's plan."

Indeed, in the variations where White manages to play Nd5 before Black plays c7-c6, things turn sour for Black pretty quickly:

Of course GM Bricard played this game really badly. He didn't even play the mandatory c7-c6 move! But it can give you the idea that maybe White shouldn't waste a tempo to castle and instead go for Nd5 as quickly as possible:

So, it turns out that the authors of that old article were absolutely correct in their conclusion: if Black manages to finish his slow opening setup, which includes the key move c7-c6, then he might get a playable position, but if White plays very energetically—4. Nc3! followed by 4. Nd5!—Black's position is on the verge of collapse.

You can ask why I am analyzing the opening variation, which happens once in a blue moon? Chances are that just like me, you will never face this variation over the board. And yet, I think it teaches you a very important lesson. If your opponent plays a dubious move in the opening, try to play as energetically as possible.

In many cases, natural-looking developing moves will allow your opponent to finish his plan and escape the punishment. As you could see, in situations like this, even castling can be a waste of time!

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