Opening Questions And A Dream Mate

Opening Questions And A Dream Mate

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Openings That Lead to a Draw

Question: member jos2001 wrote, “I’m a 1076-ranked player who wants to know the best openings to draw.”

Answer: Though various openings are known to be drawish at the master level (and up), I don’t really think that any opening is going to help amateurs make draws against high-rated players. Moreover, just because an opening is “drawish” doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of play left. 

Here are three examples of so-called “drawish” openings:

Berlin Defense: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8. Though this is known as a good way for Black to hold against the Ruy Lopez, it’s now seen as an opening full of subtle ideas where victory can be had by either player.


Petroff Defense (also known as Petrov’s Defence and the Russian Game): 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 is another opening with a drawish reputation. After 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 Black’s okay but both sides need to know a good deal of theory while also fully understanding the typical positions that arise. For example: 8...Nb4 9.Be2 0-0 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.a3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 Re8 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Bf4. The position after 15.Bf4 is the starting point for the real battle.


Exchange Variation of the Slav Defense: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 cxd5. It looks boring, but both sides have many ways to add a bit of fire to the game and, once again, the players needs skills and knowledge to wend their way through the complications (4.Nc3 e5!?) and positional niceties (4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bf4 Bf5 [6...a6 is also very popular, while 6…Nh5 tries to change the complexion of the game] 7.e3 e6 when White has a large assortment of choices: 8.Bb5, 8.Qb3, 8.Ne5, 8.Be2, 8.Rc1 and just about every other reasonable move imaginable. Those that crave a quick draw often bail out with 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Bd6 10.Bxd6 Qxd6, snore.


So, the fact is that every opening, no matter how placid it might look, is full of fight (unless both players want to draw).

HOWEVER, no amateur should seek a draw from the opening unless a draw would give you a zillion dollar prize. Even then, a common way to lose is to play for a draw (groveling with sub-par moves is a path to hell). No, need to go for the gusto no matter what! Find openings that fire your imagination. Learn the basic moves of that opening, the typical pawns structures that occur, and also the positional and tactical situations that appear over and over in the systems of your choice. 

If you aren’t playing to win, then why play? If you want to find some sanitized opening that always makes a quick draw, then you should sleep as much as possible since you will only find it in your dreams. And if you aren’t willing to do battle and lose (and we all lose, over and over), you’ll never learn anything since losing is the ultimate teacher.

Best Openings

Question: member Keshav Sharma asked, “My standard rating is around 1550. I play the English Opening for White and the Sicilian Dragon for Black. Are they the best openings?”

Answer: There is no such thing as a “best opening.” Each player should choose an opening that attracts him. Some players are looking for a gambit as White, others for Black gambits. Many players that are starting out (or have bad memories) want to avoid mainstream systems, others want dynamic openings, and others want calm positional pathways. It’s all about personal taste and personal need.

For example, if you feel you’re poor at tactics you can choose a quiet positional opening (trying to hide from your weakness and just play chess), or seek more dynamic openings that engender lots of tactics and sacrifices (this might lead to more losses but, over time, will improve your tactical skills and make you stronger).

Here’s an example of an ex-tournament player who now plays on (I’ve know him since I was 13 years old!). He has always played 1.Nc3 all the time, avoiding theory and, ultimately, leading to positions that he knows better than his opponents. He still plays it to this day.

The good thing about odd openings is that the theory doesn’t change much as the years go by, meaning that it’s something you can play for a lifetime with very little study. Another guy I knew (around 2200 strength) always played 1.g3 as White and ...b6 as Black. He knew the ideas, knew the structures, and that was that. On the other hand his opponents (who were corn-fed on Sicilians and other mainstream openings) were clueless.

Mr. Keshav Sharma, your opening choices are very good IF you enjoy them. The English Opening (you don’t need to know much theory) is something that will often take your opponent out of his or her comfort zone. It’s an excellent opening and, over time, you will learn its many secrets. However, if your idea of chess fun is attack and attack some more, then the English Opening probably isn’t right for you.

The same goes for the Sicilian Dragon. It’s a super-theoretical system and tactics and crazed mating attacks are common. If you don’t like hyper-theory and you don’t like crazy tactical chess, the Dragon isn’t right for you unless you feel it will help you improve in those areas.

Once again, openings are all about your personal needs and tastes. What’s “best” for one player might be “worst” for another.

A Dream Mate

Question: member Hagaiderech was delighted about the following game and his "very nice checkmate.” He also pointed out that he learned the idea from the Tactics Trainer.

Apparently these things work!

How should Black play the position after 9.d3?


In the actual game Black played 9...Qd4? 10.Bb3??

How did Black live a dream?


Congratulations to Mr. Hagaiderech, who got to do something that many dream of doing.

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