Need help with a openings against 1. e4

USMNTfan

I am struggling as black against e4 and I am looking for some advice as to what I should play.  I am currently playing in the most recent Chess.com tournament and so far I am 4/4 with white (ahead in the game in progress) and 0/3 with Black (objectively I am ahead in one and in a semi-resignable position in the other).  That is a very common result (18 out out 51 in Daily and Blitz this year as black against e4).

A little bit of background as otherwise I realize that people can't be helpful. 

  • I play mostly online games here and am solidly between 1450-1550 for the past 24 months. 
  • When I play over the board I am 1200 but likely underrated as I only play 3 times or so a year (I would guess probably closer to 1300-1400 OTB)
  • As white I play e4 and prefer to be in the Ruy Lopez (score 48%)
  • I score well (55%) as black against 1. d4 where I play mostly Kings Indian and some Slav (hey need some variety).
  • Against 1. e4 I have tried, at various times:
    • 3. Qd8 Scandinavian,
    • Caro-Kann (Bf5 variation if allowed),
    • Modern,
    • 1... Nf6 Scandinavian, and
    • 1. e5. 

All of which I have spent time on learning and feel comfortable enough for my level (at least relative to how I feel with white).  However I score between 29 and 36% in all of these openings. 

IMBacon

Looking at your games with black.  Openings are not the issue.  The issue youre having are the usual things:

Missing simple tactics.

Hanging material.

One piece attacks.

Opening Principles:

1. Control the center squares – d4-e4-d5-e5

2. Develop your minor pieces toward the center – piece activity is the key

3. Castle

4. Connect your rooks

Tactics...tactics...tactics...

 

Pre Move Checklist:

1. Make sure all your pieces are safe. 

2. Look for forcing move: Checks, captures, threats. You want to look at ALL forcing moves (even the bad ones) this will force you look at, and see the entire board. 

3. If there are no forcing moves, you then want to remove any of your opponent’s pieces from your side of the board. 

4. If your opponent doesn’t have any of his pieces on your side of the board, then you want to improve the position of your least active piece. 

5. After each move by your opponent, ask yourself: "What is my opponent trying to do?"

 

USMNTfan
IMBacon wrote:

Looking at your games with black.  Openings are not the issue.  The issue youre having are the usual things:

Missing simple tactics.

Hanging material.

One piece attacks.

Opening Principles:

1. Control the center squares – d4-e4-d5-e5

2. Develop your minor pieces toward the center – piece activity is the key

3. Castle

4. Connect your rooks

Tactics...tactics...tactics...

 

Pre Move Checklist:

1. Make sure all your pieces are safe. 

2. Look for forcing move: Checks, captures, threats. You want to look at ALL forcing moves (even the bad ones) this will force you look at, and see the entire board. 

3. If there are no forcing moves, you then want to remove any of your opponent’s pieces from your side of the board. 

4. If your opponent doesn’t have any of his pieces on your side of the board, then you want to improve the position of your least active piece. 

5. After each move by your opponent, ask yourself: "What is my opponent trying to do?"

 

 

Thanks for the response.  I 100% agree with everything you said. The Pre-Move checklist is helpful and I will try it out in my next couple of games.

Any idea why I am scoring so much worse with Black?  I assume that for the errors you listed I assume I am equally likely to make them with white as black.  Is white just that much of an advantage at my rating level?

daxypoo
i asked my coach the same question and he said- with little hesitation- 1...e5

mainly because- as an e4 player myself- it will only help my e4 knowledge by playing 1. ...e5

also- need much more practice/exposure/experience in the positions resulting in e4/e5 games
BobbyTalparov

@IMBacon has already covered the important stuff, but I find it interesting that you did not mention 2 of the most popular defenses (Sicilian and French)

USMNTfan
BobbyTalparov wrote:

@IMBacon has already covered the important stuff, but I find it interesting that you did not mention 2 of the most popular defenses (Sicilian and French)

 

I have thought about both.  I have stayed away from the Sicilian because it seems to be an incredible volume to learn (and I seem to score very well against it).  For the French, not really sure.  It is a logical place for me to go.  That or e5. 

 

After reading @IMBacon 's response I wonder if there is something more mental going on.  I don't see why I would be more likely to miss tactics or hang a piece as black then white but it is worth exploring.  I find that the game (ie developing a plan and executing it - may not be the right or best plan) comes much easier as white, with black I tend to be much more mechanical (playing for a pawn break for the sake of playing for a pawn break, simply reacting to a move, not looking at attacks on opponents king, etc).  I realize I have a lot to learn and improve but the scoring difference seems illogical to me.

IMBacon
USMNTfan wrote:
IMBacon wrote:

Looking at your games with black.  Openings are not the issue.  The issue youre having are the usual things:

Missing simple tactics.

Hanging material.

One piece attacks.

Opening Principles:

1. Control the center squares – d4-e4-d5-e5

2. Develop your minor pieces toward the center – piece activity is the key

3. Castle

4. Connect your rooks

Tactics...tactics...tactics...

 

Pre Move Checklist:

1. Make sure all your pieces are safe. 

2. Look for forcing move: Checks, captures, threats. You want to look at ALL forcing moves (even the bad ones) this will force you look at, and see the entire board. 

3. If there are no forcing moves, you then want to remove any of your opponent’s pieces from your side of the board. 

4. If your opponent doesn’t have any of his pieces on your side of the board, then you want to improve the position of your least active piece. 

5. After each move by your opponent, ask yourself: "What is my opponent trying to do?"

 

 

Thanks for the response.  I 100% agree with everything you said. The Pre-Move checklist is helpful and I will try it out in my next couple of games.

Any idea why I am scoring so much worse with Black?  I assume that for the errors you listed I assume I am equally likely to make them with white as black.  Is white just that much of an advantage at my rating level?

Glad to help.  As to "why" you score better with white?  

No clue...I did look through some of your Daily games, and they all pretty much seem to be decided by the same thing(s)

Not following opening principles.

Hanging material.

Missing simple tactics.

Not double checking your moves (a big one)

To answer your question about having white being an advantage?

I can only give you my opinion.  Honestly...unless youre an elite player, the color doesnt really matter.  I think where it does come into play is mentally.  Some players simply have the mindset that they play better with white, think there is a real advantage to having white.  I know players who entire mindset changes when they have the black pieces.  And what i mean by "changes" is they go into they the game thinking they are already at a disadvantage.  

Chess as in life.  We are our own worst enemies.

USMNTfan

  @IMBacon

I really appreciate the feedback and taking the time to look over my games. 

IMBacon
USMNTfan wrote:

  @IMBacon

I really appreciate the feedback and taking the time to look over my games. 

Youre very welcome, but if i wanted to be a real help, I would actually dig in and try and find an answer for you.  But...that requires more work than im willing to put in :-)

BobbyTalparov

USMNTfan wrote:

BobbyTalparov wrote:

@IMBacon has already covered the important stuff, but I find it interesting that you did not mention 2 of the most popular defenses (Sicilian and French)

 

I have thought about both.  I have stayed away from the Sicilian because it seems to be an incredible volume to learn (and I seem to score very well against it).  For the French, not really sure.  It is a logical place for me to go.  That or e5. 

 

After reading @IMBacon 's response I wonder if there is something more mental going on.  I don't see why I would be more likely to miss tactics or hang a piece as black then white but it is worth exploring.  I find that the game (ie developing a plan and executing it - may not be the right or best plan) comes much easier as white, with black I tend to be much more mechanical (playing for a pawn break for the sake of playing for a pawn break, simply reacting to a move, not looking at attacks on opponents king, etc).  I realize I have a lot to learn and improve but the scoring difference seems illogical to me.

The benefit to both is also the drawback to both: you can easily look up where you went wrong after each game, allowing you to improve each game. In the end, which defense you pick does not matter if you do not develop your pieces, control key squares, and get your king to safety, all while paying attention to tactics (both yours and what could be available to your opponent). I can 100% guarantee that your opening choice is not your problem.

Quasimorphy

Is it ThrillerFan who is always suggesting the French for KID players and vice versa?  Probably a good idea to give the French a try, at least.

BobbyTalparov

Quasimorphy wrote:

Is it ThrillerFan who is always suggesting the French for KID players and vice versa?  Probably a good idea to give the French a try, at least.

Yes, he likes the French and the KID. While I think some of his analysis on the French is a little on the optimistic side (towards black), it is a solid defense. The key to it (and most openings for that matter), is to understand what problems you have to solve and what problems your opponent must solve. In the French, black's main problems are space and how to develop his light square bishop.

IMBacon

 



USMNTfan

 Thanks @IMBacon.  Very helpful and illustrative.

FrogCDE

Nigel Davies wrote an article some years ago on Openings for the Club Player. His suggestions for Black against e4 were: Sicilian O'Kelly (2, Nf3 a6), French Romanishin (3...Be7 against both Nc3 and Nd2) and Berlin Defence with 5...Be7. Of these, I chose the O'Kelly and have found it very useful over the years. Easy to learn, reasonably sound and gives White a chance to go badly wrong.

Chessflyfisher

Stay with the Caro-Kann. In fact, join the vote Chess groups that exclusively play Black in this defense. You will learn a lot.

ThrillerFan

IMBacon is absolutely right that at your level, Openings are not the main issue.

 

That said, you claim to be a King's Indian player.  The King's Indian more often than not leads to a blocked center.  Take the Classical King's Indian.  d- and e-files are completely blocked.  Play is on the wings.  In positions with pawn chains, it's all about attacking the side of the board in which your pawns point.  Therefore, White should be attacking Queenside while Black attacks Kingside.

 

As a King's Indian player myself, I always preach the same thing to those that ask the question you are asking.  The French Defense leads to the same thing!  A blocked center the vast majority of the time.  Notice with the blocked center, White's pawns attack Kingside and Black's attack Queenside, which once again dictates where each side needs to attack.

 

I tell French players the same thing about the King's Indian Defense.

 

The French Defense is always what I recommend to King's Indian players!

kindaspongey

Possibilities:

First Steps: 1 e4 e5

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7790.pdf
The Petroff: Move by Move
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7530.pdf
Starting Out: The Sicilian
https://web.archive.org/web/20140627122350/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen123.pdf
First Steps: The French
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7611.pdf

https://new.uschess.org/news/how-to-really-learn-an-opening-review-first-steps-the-french/

First Steps: Caro-Kann Defence

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7800.pdf
The Pirc: Move by Move
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7604.pdf
First Steps: The Modern
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7700.pdf

First Steps: The Scandinavian

https://www.everymanchess.com/downloadable/download/sample/sample_id/148/
The Scandinavian: Move by Move
https://web.archive.org/web/20140626232217/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen171.pdf
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7270.pdf
My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black
https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9050.pdf
The Alekhine Defence: Move by Move
https://www.everymanchess.com/downloadable/download/sample/sample_id/69/

NeoRomantic-1

Alternative View

As I understand it, the OP’s Concern is that he seems play better as back vs 1.d4 than vs 1.e4. 

His belief was (maybe still it) that this was due to the openings he plays vs 1.e4. 

For the OP’s game vs matousekdusan, I have the following comments:

  1. Once White decided to try and hold on to the pawn with 3.Nc3, I believe that 3…Nxd5 is ill-advised.
    1. It moves the same piece twice.
    2. You exchanged your King’s Knight for his Queen Knight.
    3. I believe you gain more with 3…e6. Yes you will still be a pawn down, but you will be ahead in development with an open center. 
  2. As pointed out by IM Bacon 9…Nd4 is a bad move, it is also not consistent with an opening principles: Complete development before attacking. In fact most of White’s forcing moves that lead to the OP’s demise, where only possible because of the exposed nature of the black king. 

Based on the above I do think that part of OP’s problem in this game was a lack of opening knowledge and violation of opening principles without sufficient justification.

 Is this his primary problem? Maybe, and maybe not.  As ThrillerFan pointed out the King’s Indian, which the OP plays much better, has a blocked center and attacks on the flank.  Like ThrillerFan suggested maybe the OP plays closed positions better.  And as suggested the OP may do better playing the French vs 1.e5. 

Another difference between the King’s Indian and the 2…Nf6 Scandinavian is that in the King’s Indian normally black makes the same 5 or 6 moves every game.  With the King’s Indian you play the same kind of game over and over and over.  The OP even stated that to keep from getting bored he play the Slav from time to time.   While the 2…f6 Scandinavian can result in a number of different positions by move 6.  Maybe the OP would do better with openings that consistently result in the same position for black 4 to 6 moves in. 

That being the case I suggest the following:

  1. The Modern Philidor
  2. 3…Qa5 Scandinavian.