Reaping The Whirlwind!

Reaping The Whirlwind!

| 22 | Strategy

When I was still playing in tournaments I answered 1.e4 with various Sicilian lines (Richter-Rauzer, Accelerated Dragon, Paulsen and Taimanov systems, etc.) and the Caro-Kann.

I always loved the Caro-Kann, and at the end of my career it became my go-to choice.

A lot of amateurs roll their eyes when someone brings up the Caro-Kann, since they often view it as passive or boring. But that’s just not the case.

I enjoyed wild tactical games with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 6.Nxf6+ gxf6, and also had good results with the bizarrely dynamic 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 b5!?

I also made a point of rolling the Caro-dice against 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 (A popular, somewhat dull line –- unless Black decides to have a bit of fun.) 4...Nc6 5.c3 g6 6.Nf3 Bg7 7.0-0 Nh6 8.Re1 0-0 9.Bf4 f6!? 10.Nbd2 (A typical move in this variation, but wrong against 9...f6. White should challenge the center with 10.c4 followed by Nc3) 10...Nf7 11.Bg3 e5 12.dxe5 fxe5 and Black’s center pawns are happily rolling along.

I won a lot of games with this line. 

Of course, those lines are risky, but Black is still doing fine with main lines like 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 and 4...Bf5, both of which can be solid in some lines and crazy in others.

As for 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3, Black can remove its teeth (if it had any in the first place) with 5...Qc7, while a more exciting try is 5...g6 6.Bf4 Bf5 7.Bxf5 gxf5 when the old Gasic – Basman, Birmingham 1977 game continued: 8.Nd2 (8.Nf3 e6 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Bxd6 Qxd6 11.Re1 Nge7 12.Qd3 0-0-0 13.Ne5 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qc7 15.Nd2 Rhg8 16.Kh1 Kb8 17.Nb3 Ng6 18.Qe3 f4 with an excellent position for Black in Filguth-Van Riemsdijk, [B13] Tijuca 1978) 8…Nf6 9.h3 Rg8 10.Qf3 e6 11.Ne2 Rc8 12.Nc1 Ne7 13.Nd3 Ng6 14.g3 Ne4 15.Rd1 Qb6 16.Be3 Bd6 with a very dynamic, tense game, which Black eventually won.

There is always a way to make things interesting! Another way to put: “It’s not the position that is letting you down, it’s your lack of imagination.”

Playing with verve, doing something odd, mixing things up -– all of this will give you some nice wins, but reaching for the sky will also lead to some nasty defeats since irrational or ultra dynamic positions can give you a taste of glory or lead you over a cliff... the result depends on the roll of the dice.

Recently I was looking at 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 and now 5.c5 is, philosophically, a critical move.

The main line is 5.Nc3, developing a piece and placing pressure against d5. But 5.c5 is a completely different animal. The advance of the c-pawn gains a lot of queenside space, and White intends to grab even more by b2-b4-b5. What should Black do?

Now we come to the point of this article. It struck me that many players have trouble facing a “give me everything” plan or move. In fact, I’ve seen countless games where amateurs have learned some basic opening moves in their favorite lines, and when the opponent tosses out a “give me everything” slap in the face, the amateur continues with his normal stuff, only to discover that his opponent, by some miracle, has indeed grabbed everything.

How should you deal with a greedy move like 5.c5?


It’s about acquiring the correct mindset for an inevitable “give me everything” moment, because this kind of thing happens in every opening, and it can also happen in another phase of the game. If this happens to you (and it WILL happen to you), and if you ignore it, you’ll end up coming face-to-face with a world of pain.

Or, you might think that he just got lucky. He played some strange move, you responded with the usual book recommendations, he somehow won, and -- well, it had to be luck. But no, it wasn’t luck at all.

When this happens to you -- in fact, when you’re faced with any serious chess decision -- you have to reach out to the imbalances. You have to stop making the normal moves, try and grasp the real purpose of your opponent’s play, and then get a firm grip on what the board is telling you (yes, the board does talk to you -- all you have to do is listen).

So let’s give it a try!

White has grabbed space, but he failed to develop a piece. In fact, he doesn’t have a single piece in play! Black has a few ways to deal with White’s 5.c5 push:

  • Ignore it and develop your army.
  • If White wants space on the queenside, Black should try and gain space in another sector of the board -- in other words, if he has something, you better make sure that you do too! Since the position is too open for Black to push his kingside pawns, gaining central space by preparing ...e7-e5 is a logical idea. Also, note that the destruction of d4 might leave White’s c5-pawn vulnerable.
  • Black can go medieval by cracking White’s c5-pawn with ...b6.
  • Black can go medieval and try and make use of his development edge by a quick ...e7-e5 advance.

All of these ideas are viable, though I have to add that if you want to make use of the “ignore it and develop your army” option, you need to put some flesh on it.

That “flesh” is to develop your army so that the ...e7-e5 push can be successfully made. Do NOT just develop with no real idea in mind. Make sure the development helps challenge White’s queenside push (or whatever plan your opponent might have) in some manner.

Here’s an example of Black getting his stuff out but failing to achieve any of our goals. 


REMEMBER: Bowing to the opponent’s wishes won’t get you far, so when your opponent lays claim to something significant, you need to challenge it in some way, either by creating your own positive imbalances, or by nullifying what your opponent is trying to do.

Here’s a far better rendition of the 5...g6 move:

Black’s idea of countering White’s queenside space with central expansion is excellent. However, let’s keep in mind that 5.c5 gave Black a small lead in development and the central plan we just saw allowed White to get his army into play.

So, instead of challenging White’s static queenside space gain with his own, slow, static central space gain, is there a more dynamic plan for Black -- one that immediately makes use of his development plus?


That’s more like it! Black cranked up the volume and blew his opponent away. Can Black get even nastier?


This plan isn’t subtle at all! Black wants to wipe out White’s queenside structure before it even gets a chance to dance to the “give me space” song.

All this is very advanced, but the real point is to show you how a proper mindset is everything in such positions: White did a possibly premature queenside space grab, Black immediately upped the dynamism meter, and chaos ensued.

The first person to back down will usually fall into a pit, so it’s important that if you initiate this kind of madness, you need to back it up!

In the actual game, White wasn’t able to deal with the complications.

Another idea is for White is to just develop: 

After only nine moves the battle of queenside pawns vs. center pawns has taken on a fever pitch! It turns out that Black is better:

As the very old saying goes: “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.”



  • Don’t blindly follow your memorized opening moves.
  • If your opponent goes hog wild and lays claim to something or other, try not to roll into a terrified ball! Instead, if his idea has intelligence behind it, you need to make sure you get a piece of the pie too! On the other hand, if his idea is a chessic form of ritualistic seppuku, you can still be the one that loses his head if you don’t punish him.
  • Train yourself to do what the board tells you by mastering the nuances of imbalances and the pawn structure.


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