Reader Questions: French Defense And A 2000 Rating Goal

Reader Questions: French Defense And A 2000 Rating Goal

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I’m still going through some (sadly) neglected games, comments, and lectures. This time I’ll look at a game of one of the site’s best chess historians, Spektrowski, and I’ll also answer a question or two.

The most popular move after 5.Nf3 c5 is 6.dxc5 Bxc5 (6...Nc6 is more accurate since it retains the option of ...Nxc5) 7.Bd3.

Though 6.Bb5 seems illogical, the move is actually based on two sound considerations: White wants to develop quickly, and he wants to take some of Black’s pressure off White’s pawn center. That sounds pretty good, and some reasonably high rated players have given it a go from time to time, most likely to take their opponent out of heavy theoretical pathways.

For example, the very creative Georgian grandmaster, Bukhuti Gurgenidze (an extremely strong player) used it several times way back in the late 1960s to the mid 1980s with quite good results.

In general, though, this kind of move is self-destructive (amateurs don’t play this for the right reason). You’re wasting time to give away your lovely light-squared bishop for the not-so-impressive d7-knight. In this particular line, there are concrete reasons to give it a try, but do be aware of the move’s flaws.

After 6.Bb5, Black has tried three moves: 6...Nc6, 6...a6, and 6...Qb6, which was played in our main game. 


Finish the game in the following puzzle:



If White wants to play for an advantage then 5.f4 or 5.Nce2 is the way to go. However, 5.Nf3 c5 is tricky, and both 6.dxc5 and 6.Bb5 can take an unprepared opponent by storm.

Be that as it may, Black should have no problem equalizing against either of these moves (6.dxc5 and 6.Bb5), though many of the “equal” positions are still sharp and interesting.

Question from Aydaughn76:

My name is Jonathan. I am 38 and started to teach myself chess three years ago. I’ve made considerable progress on my own. I can compete with 1900-level computers and my online record is pretty impressive (to me LOL). In your opinion is it likely that I can achieve at least a 2000 rating, having started to learn chess so late? I love the game and only wish to be as good as I can be and then pass on the knowledge to my newborn daughter eventually.

Dear Jonathan:

Why not? At 38 you’re still a young man and it seems you started off with a bang. Remember that the average tournament player is around 1400 to 1500, so anything in that range and above makes you a very good player. If you study the right books and play against opponents that are a bit above you, and if you’re patient (improving takes time) and view losses as valuable learning experiences, you have a very good chance to reach your 2000-rating goal (or higher). Never let anyone tell you that you can’t!


Question from PamirLeopard87:

I really like these articles, but there is something I was thinking while reading this last one. If we concentrate too much on recognizing strong and weak squares, don't we run the risk of missing some good combination or tactic? I have seen my fair share of games where a player with a quite bad position on the board found a good combination, either by sacrificing a piece or through creativity, that led him to a win.

What I mean to say is, sure, positional chess is important and we need to master squares, but where does this stop and where does the tactical work begin? I think those are two aspects that must coexist in a player’s mindset.


Dear PamirLeopard87:

Good chess isn’t played in the way you mentioned. You don’t say, “Okay, I’ll start out looking for tactics, then I’ll go into strategy mode and do some nice positional things, then some glances for tactics, and then back to being Petrosian.” 

First, you need to do this:

  • You prepare your openings. That does NOT mean you memorize a bunch of stuff! It means you learn the typical pawn structures for that opening and where the pieces generally go in that type of structure. You also learn the typical tactics that occur in your opening. You play over a ton of games where your opening was used. By that time (thanks to going over those games), you’ll already know most of the basic moves. Pick up a couple key variations and you’re ready to hunt bear (noooo…I love bears! Do NOT hunt bears!). You can NOT properly play an opening if you don’t know the strategy that your opening is based on! 
  • You will also need to learn all the basic tactical patterns (forks, X-rays, pins, etc.).
  • Study books on positional chess.
  • pssst... don't forget endgame study!

Now let’s address your question by walking you through the start of an imaginary game. You play your opening. Your opponent doesn’t know your opening and quickly leaves the book lines behind. No problem, since you understand your system’s general goals. So you just continue following the pawn structure’s dictates while keeping your ears open for a tactical alert (it sounds like this: “Warning! Warning! A pin is possible! Warning! PIN! PANIC! PIN!”). 

You do NOT stop thinking of strategy so you can look all over for possible tactics and combinations!

You push panic away, take an honest look at the pin, and realize it’s pure garbage. So you continue with the board’s positional demands.

Chess is a perfectly balanced melding (think Vulcan) of strategy and tactics. They work together, and you will (over time) learn to make use of both. In general, strategy gets the most energy since chess is about building up your position.

By mastering basic tactical patterns, your mind will automatically notice the possibility of them rearing their terrifying head. It’s not something you have to do every second –- if you see that the position is bubbling with various tactical patterns, then you look. But if none of those patterns exist, continue turning your strategic goals into reality.

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