Monkey See Monkey Do.

Monkey See Monkey Do.‎

GM Gserper
90 | Opening Theory

I will always remember the day I signed up for my first chess club.  Even though most of the members there were about my age (7-8 years old), they all seemed more experienced and smarter than me.  So, when one of the kids asked me if I wanted to play a game, I said “sure, why not” trying to keep my cool, but deep inside I was scared to death.  I knew some basic stuff (which basically means I was aware of “Fool’s mate”), but such terms as Italian game or Queen’s gambit were foreign words for me at that point.  Nevertheless, I found a very smart solution. Since my opponent was obviously good in chess, he was going to play good moves for sure, so if I just copy them it couldn't be bad.

And so the game began.  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6  So far so good I thought.  And here an unexpected thing happened.  My opponent called our coach and complained that I just copied his moves which is illegal.  As I learned later, my opponent joined the club some couple of days before me and therefore wasn’t any better than me, but at that moment I thought I would be expelled from the club for cheating or something like this.  Our coach explained to us that there is nothing illegal in copying an opponent's moves, but it is a very risky strategy. He showed us a possible continuation of our game.

The danger of repeating your opponent’s moves is that at some point you simply cannot repeat them anymore (when you are checked for example) and therefore your whole ‘smart’ strategy fails. Here is a simple puzzle to demonstrate this concept.  Your opponent promises that he will repeat all of your moves no matter what.  How many moves would you need to punish him? Actually, just four moves!  And there are two ways to checkmate your opponent in four moves if he repeats your moves.  Of course, since we know that our opponent has pledged to copy any move, we have the luxury to play the most ridiculous moves.  Try to solve this puzzle on your own before checking the solution below.  It is fun!

In the next game played by masters,  Black was unable to copy his opponent's move because that move was… a checkmate!

So, is it that bad to repeat your opponent’s moves?  Not necessarily!  You just need to break symmetry at a good moment.  The next game is a good example. White just played 11. Qd2. What should Black play? Should he keep repeating his opponent moves by 11... Qd7 or play something else?  Try to solve this interesting, but difficult puzzle.

The moral is very simple: if you copy your opponent's moves indefinitely, the result will be bad.  As a matter of fact, the longer you repeat his or her moves, the more dangerous it becomes.  So if you decide to play a symmetrical opening, the best strategy for Black is to stop copying White’s moves when  you have a good opportunity. 

Good luck!

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