Challenger's Corner: Opening Workshop!
CM Isaac Steincamp shares his thoughts on opening play in today's column!

Challenger's Corner: Opening Workshop!

Sep 6, 2018, 9:07 AM |

Want to follow my ChessTV stream, Challenger's Corner, and be involved in my community? Make sure to join his club for tips, analysis, and more!

It's been a while since my last update, so I thought I'd share some of the most instructive highlights from my stream, Challenger's Corner. This week's theme is openings, and I think there's something in here for everyone! I've selected three key themes for today: attacking chess, positional mistakes, and pawn structures.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink!

In my first win on Monday night's stream, I played a blitz favorite, the Jobava Attack. I really like this opening in fast time controls because of the structural imbalances that arise from the combination of 1. d4 and an early Nc3. In this game, I was able to slow down Black's counterplay while launching everything at the kingside:

As I mentioned in the video, this London System move order is a nice way to catch King's Indian players out of book, as this idea of playing Nc3 became popular a couple years ago:

Black did his best to hold off the attack, but eventually my idea of Nh3-g5 was enough to break through. One element you may have noticed on my end, was a little restraint in the opening. If you're going to try and win a "race position", you have to constantly consider your opponent's options and go forth with caution. Before I threw all my pieces at the kingside, I made sure to limit Black's ability to play on the queenside first. Then when I started to attack, Black could only defend - I got a free hand!

Swiss Cheese!

What is Swiss Cheese anyways? We got a live look during my Arena Challenge last Monday, when my opponent opted for this pawn structure against my English Opening:

As you can see, Black has created a lot of holes in his position by having created a b6-c5-d6-e5 structure. Sure, he still has a light squared bishop, but his light squares are still targets - specifically d5.

As you can see, after my Nf3-e1-c2-e3 maneuver, Black can't really stop me from taking the outpost. This idea of placing a knight on a central outpost isn't new, and is sometimes referred to as "Bird's Bind", named after Henry Bird, who played chess in the 1800s!

Even though my opponent managed to trade off both of my knights on d5, it left me with a nasty pawn there, shutting off Black's bishop completely:

While I don't have outpost, I've plugged the hole in his Swiss cheese, and that gave me a massive space advantage. I used this to help me create an attack on the kingside with an eventual f2-f4 and Bg2-e4.

You can watch the highlight of the game here:

Carlsbad Pawn Structures

I've noticed that a lot of my opponents lately are trying out the London System against me, but noticed that a lot of them are struggling to grasp the concepts behind the Carlsbad Pawn structure. GM Dejan Bojkov has a great series on this for Diamond members on, which was actually a great starting point for me when I was looking through this years ago - and I'd recommend it for all of you too!

The Carlsbad Structure can best be described as this pawn formation:

While it may not seem the most exciting, this structure can be achieved in a lot of different openings, most notably the Queen's Gambit Declined! Most players are aware of the minority attack concept, where Black (in this case) launches his pawns and tries to disrupt White's queenside majority with moves like ...b7-b5-b4 to attack c3. But what does this side with the majority do?

This game wasn't a London System (as I mentioned earlier), but it resulted in a Carlsbad pawn structure where I had the queenside majority:

You may have noticed, after staving off any possible queenside advances, I then focused on using the e4 outpost to launch an assault on the kingside. White of course blundered by sacrificing his knight on b5, but the same strategic ideas held. When playing in the Carlsbad pawn structure, don't go against the grain of the position, and focus on carrying out the strategic ideas for best results.

News Update

My vote chess challenge, The Battle of Waterloo, has really taken off here on! With the first couple moves now on the board, the Coalition Forces have 1733 members facing me!

I'm curious to see how I stack up against - and so naturally, I've chosen the English Opening for this first test. As the game progresses, I plan on sharing some of my thoughts on Challenger's Corner - so stay tuned!


Next stream: Monday, September 10th at 5:30PM to 7:30PM EST

This week I'll need to push my stream forward by a couple hours, but we'll be back in Arena Mode on Monday - so bring your A-game! Remember, you'll need to join my club, Challenger's Corner, to register.

Looking forward towards playing some new members!

Follow me on Twitch to get notifications about when I go live, both on my own channel, and chessTV!