Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

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International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that readers have about the game of chess. 

If you want to ask Andrew a question, then send an email to and next time your question could be featured!  Please include your real name and your member name, but you can ask to remain anonymous if you wish!

Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers...

Rey Mora
  Dear Mr. Martin, I'm a chess player in my school and I need some tips from a titled player like you. Which is more important, studying (reading books) or practise (playing a lot of games)?

Dear Rey Mora, For young players I normally recommend 66% play/33% study.  It is so important as a newcomer or improver to get out there and play as much as possible, because this is where you will gain experience. Reinforce this experience with study where you go over your games closely, possibly with coaching help and work out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Basically the stronger you get at chess, the more the ratio above is reversed, to the point at which when you are at the pinnacle, as one of the best players in the world, you are preparing and studying virtually all the time.

Jack Olsen
Hello, I am a first year college student and I'm writing a paper about chess.  More specifically, I am writing about the opening and I am researching what (if any) is the best opening move.  The most common move is e4, but d4 has a slightly higher statistical advantage.  Nf3 leading into a fianchetto and King side castle is also strong, but highly defensive. I was just wondering what your opinion on the opening was and I was also wondering how significant you thought the first move/first set of moves was. Thank you.

Dear Jack, I think this is an impossible question to answer as there are at least four opening moves: 1 e4, 1 d4, 1 c4, 1 Nf3,  which are roughly equivalent. One can use statistics to support the claim that 1 e4 is better as White wins 53.845% of the time, whereas after 1 d4 he only wins 52.999% etc.  However, in the end it boils down to a question of taste; play what you like!

Bobby Fischer once famously remarked that 1 e4 was 'best by test'. It's certainly the most aggressive first move.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Nh5 This is an old fashioned approach to the King's Gambit. As usual, Basman goes his own way.

5.Qe2!? [5.Nc3 d5 (5...d6 6.Bc4 Nc6 7.Qe2 Be6 8.Bxe6 fxe6 9.exd6 Bxd6 10.Qxe6+ Qe7 11.Qxe7+ Kxe7) 6.d4 g5 7.g4 Bxg4 (7...Ng7 8.h4 Bxg4 9.hxg5 Ne6 10.Bh3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nxd4 12.Qxf4 Nxc2+ 13.Kd1 Nxa1 14.Rf1 Qe7 15.Nxd5) 8.Rg1 Qd7 9.Nxd5 Qxd5 10.Rxg4]

5...Be7 6.d4 0–0 [6...Bh4+ 7.Kd1 0–0 8.g4 fxg3 9.Qg2 g6 (9...Be7 10.hxg3 d6 11.Rxh5 Bg4 12.Rh1 dxe5 13.Bd3) 10.hxg3]

7.Nc3 [7.g4!? fxg3 8.Qg2 would be, let's say, more thematic. White forcibly opens lines against the Black King and leaves the Knight on h5  targeted. However, Black still has resources. 8...d6 (8...gxh2 9.Rxh2 g6 10.Rxh5) 9.hxg3 Bg4 10.Bd3 dxe5 11.Nxe5 Qxd4 12.Nxg4 Qxg4 13.Qe4 Qxg3+ 14.Kf1 f5 15.Qxe7 Nc6 16.Qe2 Rae8 17.Qf2 Qg4 18.Rg1]

7...d6 [7...d5 8.Bd2 Nc6 9.0–0–0 Bf5]

8.Bd2 dxe5 9.dxe5 Bh4+ [9...Bf5 10.0–0–0 Nc6 11.Qc4 (11.Bxf4?? Nxf4) 11...Nb4 12.Bxf4 Qe8]

10.g3 fxg3 11.0–0–0 I thought you would all enjoy this extraordinary position. Black is quite taken aback by the audacity of White's opening approach.

11...Bd7 12.hxg3 Nxg3 13.Qh2 Nxh1 14.Nxh4 Bg4 15.Bd3!? Bxd1 [15...Nf2! 16.Qxf2 Bxd1 17.Nxd1 Nd7 18.Nf3 g6 19.Nc3 is rather messy, but represented a better chance of survival than what happens!]

16.Nf5 Black's pieces are at the ends of the earth! 16...Qxd3 17.cxd3 Bg4 18.Nh6+ gxh6 19.Qxh6 Nd7 20.Nd5 Rae8 21.Nf6+ Nxf6 22.exf6 1–0

Coming back to Jack's question I think your choice of opening move is very significant. You have to get a very good idea of what your style is like and what your preferences are as a person and as a player. Only then make the decision what to open with. As we saw here, Basman has a devil-may-care approach to the game, which endears him to a lot of people. Of course, when one plays in this manner, one will have to accept the occasional loss! member  alex_nauta Hi, I am starting to play Sicilian defense (hyper accelerated dragon) and I was analyzing a line and in the book I am reading there is no explanation of what I should do against one tactical possibility. In particular : 1.e4,c5 2.Nf3, g6 3.d4, cxd4 4.Nxd4,Nc6 5.Nc3,Bg7 6.Be3,Nf6 7.Bc4,0–0 8.Bb3,a5 9.a4,Ng4 10.Qxg4,Nxd4 11.Qh4,d6 12.Nd5,Re8 13.Rd1,Nxb3 14.Bb6,Qd7 15.cxb3,Ra6 and I think I do understand the later moves (as well as the previous ones), but what if white plays 15. Nc7 instead of capturing the knight on b3? I am really interested in this because it looks to me that if white plays 9.a4 the following sequence of moves is so natural that it is very possible that it will occur in some of my future games.

Hi Alex,The sequence of moves you describe has been seen in games at a high level.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0–0 8.Bb3 a5 9.a4 Ng4 10.Qxg4 Nxd4 11.Qh4 d6!? After [11...Nxb3 12.cxb3 d6 is supposed to be bad because of: 13.Nd5]

12.Nd5 [12.0–0 Nxb3 13.cxb3 Be6]

12...Re8 13.Rd1 [13.0–0 Be6]

13...Nxb3 14.Bb6 [14.cxb3 Ra6 15.Bg5 f6 16.Bh6 Rc6=]

14...Qd7 15.cxb3 [You mention 15. Nc7 which at first sight seems a very strong move. However, Black has 15...Nd4!! as an excellent reply, with the following lines: 16.Nxa8 (16.c3 Qc6! 17.Nxa8 g5!! 18.Qxg5 Qxe4+ 19.Qe3 Nc2+; 16.Bxd4 Qxc7 17.Bxg7 Kxg7–+; 16.Nxe8 Nxc2+ 17.Kd2 Qxe8 18.Kxc2 Qc6+–+) 16...Nxc2+ 17.Kd2 (17.Ke2 Qxa4 18.Nc7 Qc4+ 19.Kd2 Bxb2 20.Qg3 Nd4 21.Qd3 Qb4+ 22.Ke3 Qxb6) 17...Qxa4 18.Nc7 Nd4! 19.Bxd4 Qxd4+ 20.Ke1 Qb4+ 21.Rd2 g5! 22.Qxg5 Qxe4+ 23.Kd1 Bg4+ 24.f3 Qb1+ 25.Ke2 Qxh1 26.Nxe8 Qxg2+ 27.Kd3 Qxf3+ 28.Kc2 Qe4+ 29.Kc1 Qc4+ 30.Kb1 Qf1+ 31.Kc2 Bf5+–+ It looks to me as though the counter-attack Black obtains after 15...Nd4 more than outweighs the loss of either of his Rooks.]

15...Ra6 16.Bd4 Qd8 The black squared bishop will soon be exchanged so the black queen has to be in a position to defend these squares.

17.Bxg7 [17.0–0 Be6 (17...Rc6 18.Bc3 Be6 19.Rd3 Rc5 20.Rfd1 b5 21.Bxa5 Qd7 22.Bc3 bxa4 23.bxa4 Qxa4 24.b4 Rxc3 25.Nxc3 Bxc3 26.f4 Bc4 0–1 Schramm,A (1996)-Landau,C (2064)/Ruhrgebiet 2004) 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Nf4 Qc8 20.Rd3 Rc6 21.Qg3 f6 22.Ne2 Bf7 23.Nd4 Rc1 24.Qe3 Rxf1+ 25.Kxf1 Qd7 26.Rc3 Rc8 27.f3 Rxc3 28.Qxc3 e5 29.Ne2 d5 30.exd5 Qxd5 31.b4 axb4 32.Qxb4 Qb3 33.Qxb3 Bxb3 34.Nc3 b6 35.Kf2 f5 36.g3 Kf6 37.f4 g5 38.fxe5+ Kxe5 39.Ke3 h5 40.Kf3 f4 41.gxf4+ gxf4 42.Ne2 Bd5+ 43.Kf2 Bc6 44.b3 f3 45.Ng1 Kd4 46.b4 Bxa4 47.Kxf3 Kc4 48.Kf4 Kxb4 49.Ke3 Bd1 50.Nh3 Kc3 51.Nf4 b5 52.Nd5+ Kc4 53.Nb6+ Kc5 54.Nd7+ Kd6 55.Nf6 Ke5 56.Nd7+ Kf5 57.Nc5 Bc2 58.Na6 Kg4 59.Nb4 Bf5 60.Kf2 Kf4 61.Ke2 Bg4+ 62.Kd2 Kf3 63.Nd5 Kg2 64.Kc3 Kxh2 65.Kb4 h4 66.Kxb5 Kg3 67.Ne3 h3 68.Kc5 Be2 0–1 Almasi,Z (2676)-Kramnik,V (2807)/Monte Carlo 2003]

17...Kxg7 Threatening to exchange even more pieces with e7-e6. After all black has the slightly better pawn structure so the ending might even be a little bit better for him.

18.Qg3 [18.0–0?! e6 19.Qxd8 Rxd8 20.Ne3 Rc6! 21.Nc4 b6 22.Rd4 Ba6=]

18...Be6 in the lines where black plays d7-d6 this bishop is always well-placed on e6. It attacks the pawn on b3 and can be exchanged against the strong knight on d5.

19.0–0 Rc6 20.Qe3 Bxd5 [20...f6!? maybe best. The idea is to follow up with Rc5 and b7-b5 21.Nf4 Bf7 This is why f7-f6 maybe better than 20. - Rc5; 20...Rc5 Black would like to see what white will do before he takes on d5 21.Nf4!?]

21.exd5 Rc5 22.h4!  [22.f4!?]

22...Qd7 [22...e5? 23.dxe6 Rxe6 would be a good idea if it was not for the tactical trick: 24.Qxc5; 22...h5 23.f423...Qb6 24.Kh1]

23.Qd4+ Kg8 24.h5 Qf5 Now d5 is just as weak as e7, but still black has some problems after the opening of the h-file to coordinate the defence of Kg8 and the e7 pawn.

25.hxg6 hxg6 26.Rfe1 b5 [26...e5 27.dxe6 Rxe6 28.Rxe6 Qxe6 29.Qxd6 Qxd6 30.Rxd6 Rc1+ 31.Kh2 Rc2 32.Kg3 Rxb2 33.Rb6±]

27.Rd3 [27.Re3 Now the rook on the third rank does not have to cover d5 as in the game. 27...b4 (27...f6?! 28.axb5 Rxb5 29.Qa4!) 28.Rh3 Qf6! This is the negative side of 27.Re3 - no pressure in the e-file]

27...f6 28.axb5 [28.Rh3 g5 29.Qd1 Qxd5 30.Qh5 Kf8 31.Qh6+ Kf7=]

28...Rxb5 29.Rh3 g5 30.Qc4 Rb4?! [30...Rc5 31.Qa4; 30...Qxd5! 31.Qe2 However this is similar to a position in the game - only in the game black does not have an extra pawn (31.Qc2 Qf7; 31.Rxe7 Rxe7 32.Qc8+ Kf7 33.Rh7+ Kg6 34.Rxe7 Qd1+ 35.Kh2 Qh5+=) 31...Kg7 32.Rh7+ (32.Qh5 Qg8 33.f4 (33.Rc1 Kf8!? (33...Rc5=) ) 33...Kf8 Black does not seem to be in any real danger - white is a pawn down.) 32...Kxh7 33.Qh5+ Kg7 34.Qxe8 Rb7=]

31.Qe2 Qg6 [31...Qxd5 32.Qh5 Kf8! 33.Qh6+ (33.Rhe3 Rh4) 33...Kf7 34.Qh7+ Kf8=]

32.Qe6+ Kg7 33.Qd7 Qf7 34.Rhe3 Kf8 [34...e5 35.dxe6 Qxd7 36.exd7 Rd8 37.Re7+ Kg6 38.Rd1+-]

35.Rh3 Kg7 36.Rhe3 [36.Re6!? With the idea 37.Rxd6 exd6 38.Rh7+ seems to put black in a difficult position 36...Rbb8 37.Qa4!]

36...Kf8 37.Rh3 [37.Qa7 Rb5] 37...Kg7 ½–½  The author is indebted to Grandmasters Alterman and C Hansen with the compilation of these extensive notes. member zapaton
Hi Andrew.  I am looking for a book, book series, or software that could serve as study guide for my son. His love of chess is something that I can not understand; he spends hours and hours paying and learning in the best way that he can. I only want to help him use his energy in a more efficient way.  He is only 8 and he started playing at 6. He has won several local tournaments even one in the under 14 category. He has a chess teacher who has done a great job in keeping his interest in the game. They meet one to one for 1.5 hours a week.

He plays mostly over the internet.  I have not seen much progress over the last year. His strengths and weaknesses seem to be the same. His chess teacher does not follow any development plan. He is a player of about 1900 Elo in the local rating listing; thus, he is much stronger than my son, but he has not acquired his chess knowledge through systematic study.  Thank you for your valuable time.

Dear Zapaton, I have found the 'Winning Chess' series by Yasser Seirawan to be of great use helping young, talented players. I believe Everyman Chess is the publisher. Seirawan covers every aspect of chess in this series and the books are filled with deep insights and are beautifully written. You might also try buying him an intelligent playing engine such as Fritz. Good luck; he sounds a very good prospect!


Peter Lamoreaux
My question concerns moving the correct back rank rook.  This is a difficult concept for me to explain/teach my team of 18 amateurs. When either color has a choice of which back rank  rook to move; how do you decide?  The right or left one? Many players have asked me!

Dear Peter, I always tell my students that Rooks either belong on open files or behind pawns that intend to advance. Any other Rook deployment apart from this would have to be given very careful consideration indeed.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 0–0 9.0–0 Re8 10.Qc2 Nf8 We now reach the critical moment. Should White play 12 Rad1 or 12 Rae1?

11.Rad1 Be6 12.f3 White reveals his plan. He wants to play e3-e4 and the Rook belongs on d1, supporting d4. Later on, if Black takes on e4, White is thinking about pushing his d pawn further. That's what 12 Rad1 says to me.

12...Rc8 13.Bh4 a6 [13...c5! should not be delayed!]

14.Kh1 b5 15.a3 a5 16.e4 Crunch time. As White now threatens e5, Black must (reluctantly) capture on e4.

16...dxe4 [16...b4 17.axb4 axb4 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Na4 dxe4 20.fxe4 b3 21.Qc3 Nd7 22.e5 Bg5 23.Ng3 Nb6 24.Nxb6 Qxb6 25.Bc4±]

17.fxe4 Ng4 18.Bf2 Nxf2+ 19.Rxf2 Bg5 20.e5 Hm, so much for the Rook on d1!

20...Bc4 21.Ne4 Bxd3 22.Qxd3 Be7 23.Qf3 Qd5 24.Nf4 Qc4 25.b3 1–0 A very unexpected end to the game. Black's Queen is trapped. However, seeing this game, I start to prefer 12 Rae1, despite White's win.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0–0 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 c6 9.Qc2 Re8 10.0–0 Nf8 11.Rae1!? So to Rae1. The plan is the same; f3 and e4. The difference is the d4 square, which is slightly weaker this time.

11...Be6 12.f3 N6d7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Nf4 [14.e4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Ng6]

14...Qd6 15.Qf2 Nb6 16.a3 Bd7 17.Re2 e4 seems to be taking a long time coming.

17...c5?! [17...Re7 18.Rfe1 Rae8 19.Qh4 c5=]

18.dxc5 Qxc5 19.Rd1 Bc6 20.Bb1 Rad8 21.Ba2 Rd7 22.Nd3 Qe7 23.Nb4 Qc5 24.Nd3 Qe7 25.Nb4 Qc5 26.Bb3 Nc4? [26...Ne6]

27.e4! Qxf2+ 28.Kxf2 d4 29.Nxc6 dxc3 30.Rxd7 Nxd7 31.Bxc4 bxc6 [31...cxb2 32.Rxb2 bxc6 33.Rb7 Ne5 34.Ba2+-]

32.bxc3 Rb8 33.Rd2 Ne5 34.Ba2 g5 35.Ke3 Kf8 [35...Rb6 36.a4 Ra6 37.Rd4 c5 38.Rd5 Rxa4 39.Bb3! Ra3 40.Rxe5 Rxb3 41.Rxg5+ Kf8 42.Rxc5+-]

36.g3 Ke7 37.f4 gxf4+ 38.gxf4 Ng6 39.a4 a5 40.e5 Nh4 41.Ke4 Rg8 42.Rb2 f5+? 43.exf6+ 1–0

I don’t think these two games clear the matter up; in fact it just goes to show that Peter has touched on a very difficult subject. Rook deployment is not a matter to be treated lightly in our games. The rule I put forward at the outset will help us, but it is not a definitive answer. Each case must be given close, individual attention.

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