Saving Chess With The a-Pawn

Saving Chess With The a-Pawn

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The first part of this article has brought a great response and many reader suggestions. But I have a confession to make. It was a totally tongue-in-cheek article and I am surprised that the majority of our readers took it for face value.

I thought that the conclusion of that article made my position pretty clear: classical chess doesn't need to be saved! The game will never be played out, at least not in our lifetime!

I hope you managed to notice the real point of the article, though. While my suggestion to start games with an addition of the moves 1. a3 a6 was clearly sarcastic, the conclusion that the a3 or a6 move can be very beneficial is deadly serious.

In fact, in many openings (the Najdorf Sicilian is one of them), chess players are happy to spend a very important tempo to move his rook pawn one square ahead. Of course you can do it on the very first move: 1. a3 (the Anderssen opening) or 1. e4 a6 (the St. George Defense).

Does 1.a3 offer White any opening advantage? Of course not! Then why should I play this opening you might ask?  This is a good question, thanks for asking!

Let me tell you a story about the Russian GM Andrei Deviatkin. He might be not a household name and he never entered the world's top 50 players, but let me assure you, he is a decent chess player and a smart guy. I enjoyed reading many of his articles and thoughts about chess.

Some time ago, GM Deviatkin announced that he was going to retire because he was tired of modern opening theory's advancement. His amusing words: "When I see the position after 1.e4 c5 in my game I already want to resign!"

Laugh if you wish, but I absolutely understand his point. These days you can spend weeks, even months of your life by learning and memorizing the endless labyrinth of the numerous variations of the Sicilian Defense. Do we play chess to enjoy the exciting process of creativity or do we prefer to bore ourselves by memorizing openings?

Fortunately GM Deviatkin didn't completely retire from chess and keeps playing, albeit not very frequently. His solution to the opening dilemma? Here it is:

As you can see, while 1.a3 doesn't promise any opening advantage, it is a simple way to avoid all the opening theory. 

Some chess players like to use this opening in blitz:

This opening used to be a good way to get a computer out of its opening book. (Of course today, no matter what opening you play against a decent chess engine, you are still doomed Frown).

Even if you play 1.a3 and don't care about the opening advantage, it doesn't mean that you cannot win the game in the opening!

The 1.a3 opening might look weird, but the resulting game is still regular chess with all the regular strategy and tactics. Find a simple, but cute move that decided the next game:

So, should you start playing 1.a3? While you can try it in a game or two, personally I'd stick with normal openings that promise you an initiative and the opening advantage.

But if you get to the point of abandoning chess in favor of Fischer Random or some other variants due to the frustration about the modern opening theory, then by all means switch to 1.a3 and start enjoying the good old chess again!

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