Too Much Opening and the Grand Plan

Too Much Opening and the Grand Plan

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Too Much Opening and the Grand Plan

Abhilash_007 asked:

(In response to my article, HELP! I FEEL SO LOST WITHOUT A PLAN!). How do you decide it’s time to map a grand plan?


Dear Abhilash_007,

Grand plans are rare, even in grandmaster chess. To create them, you need to have a deep understanding of the given position’s inherent tactics, structural needs, and the way both sides pieces can help/inhibit those needs. And you would only create one if you’re positive that the basics of the position will remain unchanged for many, many moves. This tends to be very advanced, and I don’t think that any amateur of any rating should be looking for grand plans. Appreciating them while going over an annotated game is one thing, but actually beating your head against a brick wall in the hope of creating one is quite another.

One reason that a grand plan is rare is that the opponent can always do something that alters the trajectory of even the most logical train of thought. A chess position is always changing, and thus a grand plan rarely stays valid for too long (which means it was never a proper grand plan in the first place). In fact, some strong players don’t believe that grand plans even exist – they view them as the creation of after-the-fact artistic license.

Nevertheless, whether one believes in grand plans or not, very long plans do appear from time to time, though the extent of what the player actually saw during the game and said he saw afterwards will never be known! Here’s a classic example of such a plan, by none other than the 4th World Chess Champion:


E. Zonosko-Borovsky – Alekhine, Paris 1933

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 d6 6.c3 Bd7 7.Re1 Be7 8.d4 0–0 9.Nbd2 Be8 10.Bxc6 Bxc6 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Nxe5 Bxe4 13.Nxe4 Qxd1 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 15.Rxd1 fxe5 



The following is what Alekhine had to say about this position (from the second book of his best games):


“The endgame position thus reached is by no means as easy to conduct – especially for the first player – as it looks. Black’s plan of campaign – which will prove a complete success – is divided into the following parts:


1) Exchange of one pair of Rooks.


2) Bringing the King to e6 where he will be protected from a fontal attack by the e-pawn and be used to prevent the entrance of the remaining White Rook at d7.


3) By operating with the Rook on the open g-file and advancing the h-pawn, force the opening of the h-file.


4) After this the White King – and eventually also the Bishop – will be kept busy in order to prevent the intrusion of the Black Rook at h1 or h2.


5) In the meantime Black, by advancing his a- and b-pawns will sooner or later succeed in opening one file on the queenside.


6) At that moment the White King will still be on the other wing, the first player will not dispose of sufficient forces to prevent the final intrusion of the enemy’s Rook on his first or second rank.


Granted that if White had, from the beginning, realized that there actually existed a danger of losing this endgame, he probably would by extremely careful defense have saved it. But as it happened, Black played with a definite plan, and White only with the conviction that the game must be a draw. And the result was a very instructive series of typical stratagems much more useful for inexperienced palyers than the so-called ‘brilliances.’”


The rest of the game seems a picture perfect replication of the plans Alekhine listed, but it must be admitted that White was most helpful in going along with the program: 16.Bh6 Rfd8 17.Kf1 f5 18.Rxd8+ Rxd8 19.g3 Kf7 20.Be3 h5 21.Ke2 Ke6 22.Rd1 Rg8 23.f3 h4 24.Bf2 hxg3 25.hxg3 Rh8 26.Bg1 Bd6 27.Kf1 Rg8 28.Bf2 b5 29.b3 a5 30.Kg2 a4 31.Rd2 axb3 32.axb3 Ra8 33.c4 Ra3 34.c5 Be7 35.Rb2 b4 36.g4 f4 37.Kf1 Ra1+ 38.Ke2 Rc1 39.Ra2 Rc3 40.Ra7 Kd7 41.Rb7 Rxb3 42.Rb8 Rb2+ 43.Kf1 b3 44.Kg1 Kc6 45.Kf1 Kd5 46.Rb7 e4 47.fxe4+ Kxe4 48.Rxc7 Kf3 49.Rxe7 Rxf2+ 50.Ke1 b2 51.Rb7 Rc2 52.c6 Kg3 (And not 52…Rc1+ 53.Kd2 b1=Q 54.Rxb1 Rxb1 55.c7) 53.c7 f3 54.Kd1 Rxc7 55.Rxb2 f2, 0-1.




Boring304 asked:


Recently I started to like the Najdorf variation as black and I’m interested in learning it a bit deeper. The problem is that this opening has so much theory that I have no idea where to start, and CB10 just makes it harder. Any help?


Dear Boring304,


You have made the common mistake of biting off more than you can chew or, in chess terms, grabbing hold of more opening than you can handle. The Najdorf is one of the most theory-intensive openings in existence, and if you’re not ready to revel in that fact and spend your life memorizing its many thousands of variations, then why play it?


Of course, you can start with the Najdorf’s basic plans and ideas (a book like STARTING OUT: SICILIAN NAJDORF [Everyman Chess] by Palliser would be a big help), but even then you’ll have to memorize extreme amounts of variations if you expect to survive against a guy that’s booked up and ready to drown you in his favorite super tactical anti-Najdorf lines.


This isn’t a problem if you intend to use it in postal chess or e-mail chess (since you can look in a book), but an over-the-board player has to be honest about the amount of work he can give to chess (and wouldn’t that time be better spent studying master games or deepening your understanding of the imbalances or improving your tactical IQ?).


In general, I recommend that amateurs make use of concept driven openings over those that demand brute force memorization. For example, though the French Defense and/or Caro-Kann both have tons of theory, their ideas make up the opening’s soul and can be readily assimilated. Then, even if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, you will still be able to get a reasonable position by following those basic ideas and concepts.

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