Non-intuitive openings (my case: Sicilian Kalashnikov)


As a Pirc player for many years I thought that Sicilian might be fun. Dragon Sicilian is close to Pirc and has a lot of theory so I thought there might be something completely different. So I came across Rotella's "Killer Sicilian"-Kalashnikov. I liked the idea of the d5 square and the possibilities and I even had some success in initial rapid chess which motivated me to learn more.

After some time of training - and even with the spaced repetition method and look up critical moves for reasoning. I feel I haven't understood anything at all. Intuitively I would do at least one or two wrong moves in almost every variation. Unfortunately some move order problems (b4 vs. Rb8, Sf6 vs. Be6) do not make any sense to me. I also have no idea how failure tolerant the opening ist. After all when you are a pawn down in some lines you better play well.

So the questions are:

Did you also encounter openings which made no sense at all to you?

How did you handle the problem? Stay focus or give it up immediately?

I guess I will continue spending my main time on Dvoretsky's Endgames and look for something different - or stay with Pirc...


I started with Scandinavian 2...Nf6 before playing in a club. Back then it was considered unsound and with the Wahls books I started Qxd5. Those Caro-Kann structures ruined the opening for me. That's why I ended up Pirc back then. Did you have a look at Smerdon's Scandinavian?


    Spaced repetition can't help you understand chess.  The Sicilians with early e5 are very complicated. You need to study games and you need to play long time control games and analyse them to find out what you are doing wrong. Depending on what your other needs are , it might not worth to invest so much time in a line that is so difficult.


Agree! But spaced repetition seems to help in understanding that I'm not even able to play in an automated way. Total lack of feeling for and understanding of...would have wasted much more time otherwise.


I don't know about the specific line you're referring to but when I see a counter-intuitive critical move it usually goes something like this... the obvious x fails to surprising counter y, so to prevent y instead we play surprising move z. So I guess my question is if you do want to keep learning this, in the variations when you make your one or two wrong moves, do you understand what is wrong with those moves? If you figure that out that may help you figure out why the "right moves" are played instead.


It sounds like you are focusing first of all on variations. This is not the best way to learn this opening (or any other opening, for that matter). The Kalashnikov leads very early to a Boleslavsky Hole pawn structure. First learn the strategic themes and plans for that structure. After that, the specific variations and the reasons for the moves will be much more understandable and more easily remembered.

The main focal point of Sicilians where Black plays ...e5 is the d5 square. The strategy and techniques for both sides are discussed in (1) Soltis, Pawn Structure Chess, chapter 3 (2) Flores, Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide, chapter 9 and (3) Kmoch, Pawn Power in Chess, at pages 118-122 and diagrams 180-181. There are surely other sources. 

An alternative, as suggested by @DeirdreSkye, is to look for a defense that is less strategically complex.

Josimar73 wrote:


Did you also encounter openings which made no sense at all to you?

How did you handle the problem?

I wanted to learn the Benko gambit, but I had no experience in it, or in positions like it and some moves were weird to me.

I had already made an outline of the main variations and memorized some moves. This is important so that you have some orientation, but memorizing moves was not helping beyond that because I didn't understand the positions.

I went to

I took 50 games from the 1950-1970s from GMs

I took 50 recent games from GMs.

I went over them at the pace of about 10 per day (about 10 minutes per game).

For each game I took notes:

1) What side of the board did white and black seek play on? (queenside, center, kingside)
2) How did they do it? (pawns or pieces)
3) Where were the pawn breaks and/or piece configurations?


After about 20 games, and with my memorized outline, I'd already developed some ideas. Now I could start guessing correctly as I went through more games. I started recognizing pawn structures and such, and guessing the plans correctly.

But you keep going. You find exceptions. I also did engine analysis when moves or plans seemed counter to what I'd learned. Sometimes the engine shows the GM was dumb. Sometimes the engine verifies that it's an alternative way to play.



Of course this process isn't so useful to beginners because they haven't studied general strategy and endgames yet.

If you haven't studied those things yet, then do that first, and forget about openings for a while. Openings are not the reason you're winning and losing games. Studying the opening will not make your middlegames easier to handle.


Thank's a lot for interesting thoughts and tips. I will have a more detailed look into the Boleslavsky hole. Also to find out how I feel about the hole itself (which side I would really prefer). After all, it's not always about the understanding alone. I would like to play (better) with IQP but if asked I always prefer to play against it.

Other example: For my white repertoire (1.c4) I had constant problems with a black slav triangle setup. The structure is clear and plans are clear but I always underperformed when I tried to avoid d4 to stay in English territory. With d4 and fianchettoed bishop as a closed Catalan it plays almost itself.

One more thing which is in my mind - should I even change from Pirc even I get a little bit "bored" after 15 years. Just looked up my stats from OTB tournaments: 47.4% wins, 21.1% draws, 31.5% losses means 57.9% of the points. (I only play OTB local team league on board 4 or 5 out of 5).