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# Lesson 1. Opening Fundamentals

Jan 14, 2013, 9:22 PM 10

Welcome to Road to Chessmaster Lesson 1. Opening Fundamentals. We will be taking you through the chess openings of today and trying to explain to you why it is that theory is as it is. Throughout this program you will notice common themes regarding the explanation of most moves, and before we begin in earnest let me offer some general information regarding the early stages of a game. I know that you may have heard some of these tips before, but as far as I’m concerned, you can never be told them enough times!

1 Put your pawns in the centre.

If White were to have two moves at the start of the game then he could do a lot worse than to play 1 e4 and 1 d4 to seize space in the centre. These pawns could then advance further up the board to take
squares away from the opponents pieces.

Knights are the only pieces that can jump, so it’s clear that one needs to advance a pawn or two in order to let the other pieces out. If as White you can get one pawn on e4 and one on d4, then for starters your bishops have plenty of options. Advance these centre pawns a square further up the board and the enemy knights are severely restricted.

2 Develop your pieces as quickly as possible.

Pieces sitting on their original squares are not really taking part in the battle. They need to be brought out as quickly as possible, so time is of the essence. Normaliy the minor pieces are developed first, castling takes place, and than the rook can be brought into play. However, one of the themes of this lesson is that all these basic principles have many exceptions, and you have to take the specifics of such position into account. We shall see several games in which this standard pattern of development does not occur, because the particular position demands a different plan. However, a couple of general principles are valid in the majority of cases:

A. Don’t make repeated moves with the same piece in the opening. It is better to spend three moves developing this different pieces than to move the same pieces three times. There are both obvious and subtle exception to this. An obvious exception is if a piece attacked and you have to move it again avoid losing it. More subtles exception arise when the repeated of the same piece have in mind the concrete aim that outweighs the time lost.

B. Don’t develop pieces to square where they can be chased away by the opponent with gain of time. This applies expecially to early queen development.

In general, at least one of the knights will be developed before the bishops are brought out.

Some like the ‘Fianchetto’!

Despite our suggestion about putting pawns in the centre, many players prefer an alternative approach. Indeed one thing you will most certainly learn from this lesson, is that openings are a matter of taste. Although it seems like an attractive prospect to dominate the centre of the board, in fact there are many players who prefer to avoid the responsibility of having to keep everything under control, in favour of a quieter life.

For Black, a fianchetto (characterised by deploying a bishop on the square directly in front of where the knight starts) is often later followed by a counter-strike in the centre. As you will see, when playing with White it is also possible to combine the two ideas.

Exercise 1. Does the rule of ‘knights before bishops’ apply with a fianchetto?

Most strong players wlll try to castle early, although there wlll be occasions when It ls satisfactory not to do so. lf you don’t castle early then you must always be aware of any checks (Diagram 1).

Diagram 1.

The rook Check is annoying

Sometimes, however, the king can Find a safe haven without the need for castling (Diagram 2).

Diagram 2.

The black king is safe

3 Plan a pawn break.

But note that this does not involve plotting to throw a pawn against the ground as hard as you can! What it actually means is that you should try to engineer a pawn move that will put pressure on your opponent’s position. This may then enable you to bring your rooks into the game effectively.

Of course rocks are valuable pieces and deserve to play an important role in the game. There can be no arguing the influence they have in endings, frequently nipping around attacking pawns and such like, However, whilst it’s clear that the opening is a good battleground for knights and bishops, only too often the rocks are left out in the cold for too long.

lt is difficult to introduce them into the action without a pawn break first. Put simply, attempting to bring rooks out in front of your pawns is awkward and when there are so many pieces still around, they are bound to be vulnerable to enemy pieces of lesser value.

Occasionally in the middlegame, when the pawns offer some cover (eg. with the f5 one in Diagram 3) it is possible to swing a rook or two up and along. In general though the first stage to activating a rook is to challenge an enemy pawn with one of yours. When there is no side-stepping to be done, the likely outcome will be the creation of one or two open or half-open files, as in Diagram 4.

Diagram 3.

A rook swinger can by handy

Diagram 4.

Taking on d5 opens lines for the rooks

Here the pawn break c2•c4 has set the ball rolling. Both sides must begin developing their pieces, but the future may easily hold possibilities for the rocks along the c- and e – files.

Although one cannot categorically state that bishops are better than knights, you will often find that other things being equal, more often than not a bishop will avoid an unprovoked swap for a knight. Obviously it depends upon the situation, but similarly a knight will frequently be happy to concede itself for a bishop provided it isn’t making a concession elsewhere.

4 The direction in which the fixed pawns lean gives a good indication as to which side of the board one should dedicate one‘s resources.

Diagram 5.

Leaning Pawn!

Exercise 2. On which side of the board are both players likely to get most joy?

In this program we have tried to demonstrate that there is more to chess openings than just putting your pawns in the centre and developing your pieces (although that’s not a bad place to start!). We haven’t covered every single possible opening, but there is a pretty reasonable selection. Perhaps it is not important whether a variation is named after a famous player or a country’s capital, but taking on board some of the features of lines that have yet to cross your path, can only help improve your understanding of the game.

It naturally follows that as you improve you will seek out far more detail and numerous variations in texts specific to your favourite opening and if it’s plain moves you’re after then you’re better off with the BCO’s, ECO’s and NCO’s of this world. We aim here is to provide the reader with an instructive introduction to a variety of ways to approach the start of a chess game. There are dozens of openings out there, so what are we waiting for? Let’s get on with it!

Solution to Exercises

Exercise 1.

No, This famous old rule is derived from the logic that generally in the opening a bishop will have more options than aknight. As it makes more sense to make a move that you `know’ you are going to play before one that you are not sure about, it usually follows that you should develop a knight first, waiting to see what your opponent does before committing the bishops, It is of course pre-determined where a bishop goes in a fianchetto and so once you have decided that that’s what you are going to do, there is no need to delay.

Exercise 2.

Diagram 5.

Leaning Pawn!

Okay, so perhaps the wording to this question wasn’t great as of course you should always pay attention to what is going on all over the board. However, when pawn chains occur, it is generally true to say that action is best sought in the direction in which the fixed pawns lean.

In the diagram above White’s fixed (i.e. blocked by enemy pawns) pawns on f3, e4 and d5 lean toward the queenside, Hence that is the side of the board that he should anticipate making his breakthrough. A pawn break with c4-c5 is the next logical step. If he can achieve that, then his rocks can try and seek entry into the enemy position via the c-file.

In contrast Black’s fixed pawns (on d6, e5 and f4) lean toward the kingside and an attack over there with a …g6-g5•g4 push is a very sensible continuation. The prospects are good for an exciting game.

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