Exploring the Unsound

Exploring the Unsound

Sep 9, 2013, 1:11 AM |

Other than “just playing chess” – if such a thing exists – I like to play chess using openings that are considered dubious, unsound or even refuted. The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, The Killer Grob, The Gibbins-Wiedehagen Gambit, The Colorado Counter Accepted, there’s no end to the list. In my upcoming blogposts, I’d like to browse through some of those games and share the fun I had while playing with the interested reader. But in order to avoid a sort of disclaimer at the beginning of every post, I prefer this short introductory writing to explain why of all the chess openings, I absolutely had to go for the clearly inferior choice.

Well, before simply listing my personal arguments, let me point out the importance of the word “considered” in the first sentence. When is an opening dubious / unsound / refuted? There’s a chess expression that says: “Unsound and therefor playable”. (Who’s quote is that anyway?) I’m sure that if I would use these openings against any chess master, he would sweep me of the board in no time. But he would do the same if I’d use the most solid opening in the book, so that’s no argument. Against players of my own rating however, these openings still seem to work. Probably even better than standard openings, as I’m prepared for them and they aren’t. And if they know the refutations? Look for yourself.

This is considered (one of) the refutation(s) for the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. 

And after white finds this solution to the Blackburne–Hartlaub Gambit (Continuation in the Englund Gambit), do you feel ready to resign?

On my mortal level, there’s certainly still a lot of interesting play left. And so far, I’m winning more of these dubious games than I’m losing. And… never quit while winning!

Here’s my shortlist of arguments why I like (and recommend) unsound openings.

1)      It’s a matter of taste. I just like these openings.

2)      Most of these openings lead to games that favor the more tactical player and increase your tactical skills while playing / reevaluating them.

3)      You will be better prepared than your opponent, as most of these openings are rather uncommon. Some refutations are so hard to find that you’ll quickly get the upper hand if your opponent slips early – which he likely will.

4)      Some of these openings are so uncommon that you won’t find any information online. So your opponent (in an online game) can’t just pause and find the best strategy using Google, YouTube or Wikipedia.

5)      If your opponents shakes his head in disbelief and contempt after your first two moves, the victory will taste even sweeter.

6)      There’s plenty more where they came from. You’ll never get bored and you won’t often face the same positions over and over again.

And to throw in another quote about one of them: The Grob is generally considered inferior and is usually not employed in serious competition. International Master John Watson writes, "As far as I can tell, 1 g4 is competitive with 1 h4 for the honour of being White's worst first move. Against an informed or skilled opponent, it is simply masochistic.” What more incentive do you need?



Interested in learning more about unsound openings? There are different groups on chess.com featuring team matches, vote chess games and good discussions about them. Check out The Unsound Openers, Unusual Openings and Unorthodox Openings for example.