Creating a Killer Opening Repertoire
After over 50 years of playing chess, albeit off and on, I believe I have finally solved my opening woes. As I mentioned in previous articles, I initially dabbled in as many openings as I could; dilettantism at its finest!
I attempted the French, the Spanish, a couple of versions of the Sicilian (eventually settling on the Dragon), the Caro-Kann Nimzo-Smyslov, Stonewall Attack, Guioco Piano, etc., etc., etc. Although some of my games were noteworthy; others were less so. Eventually, I came to my senses and realized that apart from the stratospheric likes of Fischer, Anand, Kasparov, et al, chess players have no chance of opening mastery. So a while back, I purged my chess book collection and decided upon an opening repertoire that I could play forever. The idea actually came from an old Reinfeld/Horowitz book: How to Think Ahead in Chess, in which the authors recommended a simplified opening package that would steer play into carefully scripted prepared lines; primarily the Sicilian Defense Dragon Variation and the Stonewall Attack. The idea was, by playing these lines, one could immediately eliminate the vast theoretical ocean of the Ruy Lopez, French Defense, etc. Although it's become de rigueur to malign Reinfeld's vast (and largely repetitive) work, he did have a good point. What was a fairly strong intermediate player like me doing attempting to master reams of opening lines? I, unlike many chess players of my acquaintance, (and I say this gently) have a life outside of chess.
Clearly, a solution was required. I re-examined my game and came to the conclusion that the openings that gave me the quickest attack and open lines were where I played my best. Once the center locked up and I was forced into long range strategic planning in hopes of a passed pawn, I won fewer games. To use a metaphor from MMA, I was not a Jiu Jitsu player, content to slowly accumulate small advantages and then go for a submission. I was a Muay Thai fighter, intent on cutting my opponent to ribbons with my feet, knees and elbows.
I initially considered attempting to fix holes in my strategic game. After all, I was already playing 1.d4 with my Stonewall Attack, although it often led into some swashbuckling middle games. After some serious consideration, I realized I was not going to become a master of the Game of Games. That was never my intention anyway. I just wanted to win more often! To that end I formulated my opening arsenal based on these points:
- An opening repertoire that would largely give me the ability to guide the action into into certain lines. These would be lines that my opponent would not know so well, or ideally, be completely unfamiliar with. These would be lines I could practise over and over and over, becoming familiar with the sort of game that resulted.
- This repertoire would steer away from closed and strategic chess into the pyrotechnics and explosions I enjoyed.
So here's how I play:
1.d4 hoping for the Blackmar Diemer Gambit:
If my opponent plays 1..e6 or 1..d6 I respond with 2. d5 leading to the psychological warfare and insanity of the Jack o' Lantern Attack:
If I play 1.e4 it is to open with the King's Gambit (hopefully accepted). If my opponent responds with the Sicilian Defense, 1..c5 I play 2.b4, the Wing Gambit:
As Black against 1.e4 I play 1..e5.
After 2.N-f3 I play 2..f5 leading to the incredibly explosive and unstable Latvian Gambit:
Against 1.d4 I always play 1..d5, avoiding the Indian lines. My opponent usually responds with Queen's Gambit, permitting me to play my all-time favourite opening, the Albin Counter-Gambit:
Although considered unsound, I win a lot of games with this opening, preferring 19th Century style swashbuckling chess to some of the calmer more strategic stuff we see today.
So if you play against me, that's what you'll likely get. It doesn't always work of course...
A case in point: While writing this article I took a short break and played a Live blitz game. My opponent opted for the Four Knights Game, which took me out of my preparation, and due to its heavy maneuvering awkwardness, quickly caused difficulty for me. I suddenly noticed my time was ticking away and my opponent had a winning advantage, despite being a couple of hundred points below my blitz rating. I quietly resigned.
By now, if you've read this far you might be thinking that all of the openings I've chosen are "unsound" or even "refuted". Maybe so. But I win a lot of games with them. I'm not playing against Vladimir Kramnik. I'm playing average chess players, who often hate playing against these lines which take them out of their preparations and favourite lines. Which is of course the point...