The Unexpected Danger Of "Beginner" Moves

The Unexpected Danger Of "Beginner" Moves

| 73 | Opening Theory

Last month marked 88th birthday of GM Eduard Gufeld, who was born March 19, 1936 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Even though he died over 20 years ago in 2002, he is well-remembered for his entertaining style of play and strong sense of humor. Among many pictures of the grandmaster posted on the Internet, this one shared by GM Rashit Ziatdinov caught my attention:

Date and photographer unknown.

Look at the woman in the foreground of the picture. She just captured White's e4-pawn and is still holding it in her hand. Judging by the expression on her face, she is quite happy with her position. Now look at GM Gufeld's face. It is a "business as usual" look as he anticipates another typical quick simul win. He is thinking if he should play his move Qe2 right away, or make another round first and play it only when he comes back. Most probably, the game continued like this:

But what if the real story was different? Even though the majority of players in these big simultaneous exhibitions are usually fairly new to chess, what if this woman was not? Maybe that smirk on her face indicated that she was going to play so-called Kholmov Gambit, and she simply anticipated the surprise for the grandmaster? 

We will never know what actually happened in that game, but we do know that even moves which look like a beginner's mistake can be very dangerous if you don't take them seriously. Since we talked about the Kholmov Gambit, let's use it as an example. German FM Marco Riehle plays this variation on a regular basis, even against grandmasters, and his results are quite good. The highest-rated player that he beat using this surprise weapon is one of the world's top grandmasters, GM Leinier Dominguez Perez! To be fair, the result of that blitz game was decided in a deep endgame on move 81 and has no direct connection to the opening.

Meanwhile, in the following game, Riehle's surprise weapon worked perfectly right from the start of the game:

By the way, if you look at Marco Riehle's games, then you can see that he is trying to surprise his opponents with beginner looking moves in every single opening he plays! For example, say you are trying to play the ultra solid French Defense but then have to face the Orthoschnapp Gambit? Never heard of it? Me either! Nevertheless, Riehle uses it on a regular basis:

And I am not even talking about the Nakhmanson Gambit, which looks like the ultimate beginner's blunder: White simply puts his knight where it can be captured by a pawn right away!

While this gambit doesn't have a good reputation, some of the best attacking games were played in this line. Try to find a winning combination in the following famous miniature:

So, if you want to create very sharp weapons for both White and Black that appear like beginner's mistakes, but are quite poisonous in reality, investigate the openings played by Marco Riehle! This way you'll see typical replies and typical mistakes of his opponents and therefore you'll know what you can expect in your own games. 

I am happy to see that some of our fellow members create their own surprise weapons similar to the ones we just saw in the games above. Here is one of them. What do you think about the move 4.Ng5 in the following position?

Yes, it looks like a beginner's move: White is trying to attack with his lonely knight. While the move indeed is not that good, it is the start of a very creative and dangerous idea: he is going to sacrifice the knight on f7 against practically any of Black's moves! member @jagheterchas plays this line in every single game, with quite impressive results. Here are some of his games:

The list could go on and on and on!

Is this a good opening line? Well, definitely not, and if you push a little button that looks like a magnifying glass, the engine will show you numerous ways Black could repel White's attack. But that's not the point! Jagheterchas gives the impression of a creative person who is looking for his own way in chess. Also he has a lot of fun in the process, and isn't fun the reason why 99% of all people play chess?

To summarize, if you are not going to challenge GM Ding Liren in the next couple of years, and instead play chess for the fun of the game, playing these beginner-looking moves can be an unpleasant and dangerous surprise for your opponents!

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