Apr 21, 2012, 4:54 AM |

Apparently, I'm one who likes to keep things simple. What openings are my 'go-tos'? funny you should ask... I don't have any. I have the vaguest of conceptions of how some openings go, but it seems for the most part I'm largely just 'winging it'.

So after a 10 year hiatus from OTB tournament play, I decide i miss the game, and come here for a rehash. Entered an Online open tournament where I play 9 players simultaneously, and pretty much play a different opening for each one. Most conventional, some pieced together from random stray theories... current standing: 6 wins, 7 losses and no draws. Could be worse, hoped for better.

but I will say this - I'm beginning to get over my rather irrational fear of 1. e4. Okay, go ahead and laugh. I suppose I should give a brief history here. when I was about 7 years old my older brother taught me how to play - or rather, how the pieces moved. Then he proceeded to beat me repeatedly with the scholars mate (1. e4!). I just couldn't figure it out how he constantly won. Thus began and ended my early chess career.

Fast forward a couple decades... I don't recall the year exactly, but somewhere around '99 - '01 My brother joins a local chess club. Seems like it might be something interesting to occupy my time with, so I join as well. He's much better at it than I am, as he had played it off & on through the years with neighborhood crowd etc, and i hadn't really played at all, chalking chess up as one of his things, not really mine.

Anyway, I decide to join the club with him, and I discover new things, like clocks and the USCF, and the quiet humiliation of being crushed by a 7 year old. "Don't let it get you down, his dad's a chess coach." So? Am I supposed to feel better about it then? But I stick to it for a while, and I learn the basics of opening theory as well as a few golden rules that oddly aren't concrete, so there's a bit of confusion as to when it is not only okay, but preferable to go against these rules.

2 or 3 pawn moves to begin with, but no more. Develop all of your pieces moving them each once to their desired spot. Don't bring the queen out early. Castle as soon as you can. Knights before bishops is preferable. Control the center. Okay, I try working with these most basic of axioms. And what happens? I get queen raided! Repeatedly! Don't they know they shouldn't bring her out early? Fine, that's a stupid rule. I'm bringing her out anyway. And she was out, and she was gone. Trapped & killed every time. How are they getting away with it? Maybe I'd better stick to the golden rules after all, at least until I learn to defend myself.

It's a nice club here, 2 very spacious floors, the ground floor is where the majority of the action lies, a counter where they have refreshments of various sorts and all manner of chess books & equipment for sale, the back half is where the smaller weekend swiss & round robins are held, and the front half is generally skittles matches & kids playing bughouse, with a semi-cozy lounge area separating the two with a few sofas & lounge chairs for spouses who don't play but want to keep an eye on things, or for the players who just want to chill & catch up on their study. The basement is finished nicely, and that's where all the bigger tournaments are held. But I digress...

1. e4 = Sicilian. Or so it would seem a majority of the time with the players here, who generally seem to average in the 1500 - 1600 range. Here I am a patzer. A rank novice. I hear them rattling off all sorts of mysterious opening names, citing lines like a soliloquy as if they expect me to understand what they are saying... And largely they play king pawn openings. So, after picking up a little, I decide to go with the queen pawn. For the sole reason being that everyone seems to know every line & variation to follow e4, I figure d4 is the only way to take them out of their familiar ground so that I might gain just a modicum of hopeful equality.

I join the USCF so that I could play some rated games, and thus get a magical number by which everyone will judge you. They don't care what your name is, it's your rating on the scoresheet that they concern themselves with. 900? This ought to be over quick. And it usually was.

Study if you really want to improve! I buy a handful of books, but they're difficult to follow. What's worse is there are all sorts of books! Which should I study first? The general consensus is one should first study endgame strategy. That's all well & good, but how do I get to the endgame? I'm being slaughtered by the tenth move! Tactics are what you need! So I look at some tactics books, and the little puzzles they have in them are mostly positions from the latter half of the middlegame to the endgame itself, and what I want to know is... how do I get from here, 1. e4 or 1. d4 - to there... a tactically ripe situation? 

Openings are what I must first learn. I need a couple for white, and a couple for black, not just rote lines, but the theories behind them, if I am to stand any chance of coming into the middlegame with any hope of equality. So I pick up an opening book, I believe fom the Fireside Chess Library, that highlights queen pawn openings such as the colle system and the reverse stonewall. I begin to actually have some success! I actually start moving up in the lower ranks of the club! Laughing 

Tournament day! I enter into one of the bigger tournaments, and its my first one. Butterflies like you wouldn't believe. There's maybe 30 - 40 other entrants, and I'm having second thoughts. My first match is against a younger 20 something fella, who seemed friendly enough. I don't remember the details of the game, but I won! my very first round I get a point! I was excited, but I felt so bad about beating him  that I was actually shaking & felt physically ill. I think the time control was 50 moves in 2 hours, and maybe another hour or to to finish. But after a recess & wandering about checking on other peoples games, my nerves calm some. Time for my next opponent. It's that 7 year old again. I win that one too! Yay! Then I annihilate a 12 year old... he took it well. Next up is a 40 something housewife who could be a librarian. She opened with 1. d4 I remember, and I found it odd that after working so hard to verse myself with queen pawn openings, I really had no clue how to play against them. Wassup wi' dat? Funny game. She was my toughest opponent yet, and after a really close battle, she scored the point. I was a little disappointed for losing, but also relieved some. Tension had been getting high for me after 3 straight wins in a long time control. My brain felt like pudding after being at it all day. After my loss I feel like I can relax. It's just a game. My final game is against one of the old timers with eyebrows longer than my hair. I know him to be a sharp player, and I don't like my odds. His opening freaks me out. I learn after the game it was called the 'Austrian attack', but on the scoresheet I had titled it simply 'Big wall o pawns'. At some early stage he had pawns on d4, e4 & f4, and they were just coming closer. No matter what move I made, it was met instantly with a double or triple attack. Nowhere on the board could I find safety. He beat me soundly.  But all in all I had a pretty good time of it.

Still, I always shied away from e4 openings, as d4 was after a time just more familiar to me. but after a couple years at the club I sort of faded out of the chess life and went on to other things. My last rating as a USCF member was 1095. woo!

So here I am now, 10 or so years later, and I'm just having fun with it, trying just about anything, e4 and all! Who knows, I might even try some of the offbeat ones with funny names like the grob or the fried liver, or the Polish opening... 1. b4? Why not? If it has enough behind it to actually be published as a valid opening, then there might be something to it, right?

Well there's my chess story, hope you found it amusing, or that there might be parts you could relate to Smile I have a tendency to ramble occasionally and get off track. So I'll just close this here, and go see if anyone's made a move yet in my online games. Perhaps later I'll put in some of my favorite games I've played here, but I dont have too many finished ones just yet. But there are definitely a few I enjoyed already, both wins & losses. Sure, I hate losing, but I don't mind, it's the fight I enjoy Sealed