Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 1

Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 1

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We're learning chess strategy from the classic My System by Aaron Nimzowitsch. I'm your guide, likesforests. Grab a cold one, pull up a chair, and enjoy. :)

§1.1 You develop a piece by moving it off the back rank and towards your opponent. Develop all your pieces before moving any piece twice.

Players in the 1400-2000 range tend to be aggressive developers, but I found an example where someone from our group missed an opportunity:

Question: How should White defend his knight?

Answer: In the game 5.c3?! was played, but 5. Be3! is stronger. It's better strategically since it develops a piece. It also sets the tactical threat Nxc6 bxc6 Bxc5 when White wins a piece.

§1.2 Pawn moves are not developing moves, but one or two are required for development.

  • You have to move pawns to develop most of your pieces.
  • If your pawns don't occupy the center, your opponent can demobilize your pieces!

Demobilization explains why we put pawns in the center and how to exploit when our opponent doesn't. Pawns have a lust to expand and their advance can force our opponent to demobilize (undevelop his pieces) or at least flee to less useful squares.



Pawn moves in the opening should support development or fight for the center. But his target of making only 1-2 pawn moves is suspect. You have to make at least two pawn moves to develop the bishops, and Nimzowitsch usually made three pawn moves in his openings.

John Nunn: "A good rule of thumb is no more than 3 pawn moves in the first 8 moves."

§1.3 A lead in development is an ideal.

A good opponent matches your development. One trick to get ahead is to simultaneously develop a piece and attack one of our opponent's pieces which is already developed.

Scandinavian Defense

White to move after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5. Black has a lead in development, but 3. Nc3! allows White to catch up by simultaneously developing and attacking the queen.

Scotch Game

White to move. A member played 6.Bg5 in this position.

Question: Could White have gained a development tempo by playing 6.e5!?

Answer: The alert reader will note 6.e5!? is not a developing move, so after 6...Nh5 or 6...Qe7 the answer is no. But the very alert reader will see 6...Nh5 is refuted by 7.g4! and 6...Qe7 is refuted by 7. Be2!. Black must play ...Ng8 so yes 6.e5 wins a development tempo.

I welcome criticism and even praise if you feel it's deserved. Lesson 2 will be out next Friday... if you haven't already, Add me as a Friend to enjoy it hot off the press!

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I love endings and helping others learn to play. I placed 5th in my section at the World Open, won a recent U1600 with a perfect score, and aim to one day be a chess master. :)