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Ten "System" Openings

MooseMouse

The pros and cons of systems were acknowledged above.  For beginners, the time used memorizing an extensive opening repertoire is better spent understanding general opening principles and working on tactics, tactics, tactics.

btickler
MooseMouse wrote:

The pros and cons of systems were acknowledged above.  For beginners, the time used memorizing an extensive opening repertoire is better spent understanding general opening principles and working on tactics, tactics, tactics.

Acknowledging them does not address the quote, which implies that beginners should play a system because they can just memorize the system and they don't need to try to understand or even care about their opponent's moves.  Knowing a few catch phrases like "connect the rooks" or "knights on the rim are grim" is not actually understanding general opening principles.

If a beginner is playing the London and cannot answer, say, a simple question like "why is the bishop played to f4 before the knights are developed?", then they are not learning anything, and all you are really avoiding is them trying to play Scholar's Mate all the time wink.png.

As I mentioned, systems are fine.  Telling students to just mimic a position for white without any deeper understanding so they can get to the tactics will work okay for scholastic students that aren't going to ever reach a title, but as I said, teaching them this "shortcut" worded that way just passes the buck on to the next coach to unravel the damage for the players that do get good...

"Okay, I know what your old coach told you, but it's time to go past the London, or, if you want to keep playing the London, then we need to go back to square one and you need to learn the reasoning behind it.  You're bogged down at 1300, and you won't go past it until you stop doing what you are doing now."

"But Kamsky plays the London and he's been US champ so many times..."

"Do you think Kamsky just memorized the London without understanding why the moves are made?"

"What about Pogchamps?  The coaches there say the London is good."

"Pogchamps doesn't have any good chessplayers, and the London is the easiest way to prepare bad chess players to play a semi-presentable game.  That doesn't mean the London itself is bad, it just means it's being misused in this case.  The London is not intended to allow you play the opening without understanding or calculating anything."

tygxc

There are many more systems e.g. hippopotamus
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1106728 

MooseMouse

Very true.  Beginners develop into stronger players, and understanding deepens over time, with study and experience.  IM Waitzkin talks engagingly of how strategies he employed as a younger player became ineffective as he faced tougher opposition.  Of course we should seek to understand our opponent's moves.  But your example proves my point -- if a beginner knows why, in the London, the bishop goes to f4 before the knight moves, I would strongly suspect that the beginner is inefficiently using their limited chess study time memorizing opening nuances (of which there is no end) that are irrelevant at his level, when there are much better ways for a beginner to employ limited study time and increase chess strength.  Let's ask Dan Heisman!

btickler
MooseMouse wrote:

Very true.  Beginners develop into stronger players, and understanding deepens over time, with study and experience.  IM Waitzkin talks engagingly of how strategies he employed as a younger player became ineffective as he faced tougher opposition.  Of course we should seek to understand our opponent's moves.  But your example proves my point -- if a beginner knows why, in the London, the bishop goes to f4 before the knight moves, I would strongly suspect that the beginner is inefficiently using their limited chess study time memorizing opening nuances (of which there is no end) that are irrelevant at his level, when there are much better ways for a beginner to employ limited study time and increase chess strength.  Let's ask Dan Heisman!

I disagree.  Understanding why the bishop goes to f4 early is part of general opening principles...i.e. sometimes you want a strong pawn chain, but if you get a bishop trapped behind it, it is a big problem that often lasts well into the game.  This reasoning is key for many openings, not just the London...the French, the Slav, etc.  This is not beyond the grasp of a beginner...rather, it is very easy to teach with just a few examples.

Scholastic programs are designed to teach masses of kids to play reasonably well, and to cull the best players out over time.  That is, to make the job easier for the teachers and to serve the most kids adequately with limited resources.  That doesn't mean it's the optimal approach for an individual student's best and most rapid development.

Your Heisman reference proves *my* point wink.png.  His best student topped out at the high school championships, but he's known for setting up programs that teach masses of students well.

ThrillerFan

This is completely the wrong way to teach a beginner.  None of these "systems" are usable all the time, and you actually need to understand what Black is doing and why one "system" might work in one case and be no good in another.

 

For example:

 

Colle System (Koltanowski or Zukertort - Doesn't Matter) - The whole point behind this, along with others like the Catalan or certain systems against the French, is that e6 is played specifically with Black's Light-Squared Bishop BEHIND the pawn chain.  If Black places the Bishop OUTSIDE the pawn chain, Black is better if White proceeds in Colle fashion.

For example - 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 and now after 3...Bf5 (or 3...Bg4), a move like 4.Bd3, trading your good Bishop for Black's bad one, gives Black a slight advantage.  In fact, either Bishop move is called the Anti-Colle, as the Colle relies on Black's Bishop being BEHIND the pawn chain.  The ONLY good move is 4.c4, and you will usually wind up in a slow slav.  Once ...e6 is played, Black's light-squared Bishop is stuck outside the pawn chain, and cannot come back to d7 or c8, and White attacks Queenside, NOT the b1-h7 diagonal.  The Colle is also no good against Fianchetto Defenses as the d3-Bishop bites on granite.  The Bishop should go to e2.

 

Rules of thumb for those "System" lines:

 

Colle System - Usable only when Black's LSB is blocked BEHIND his pawn chain, like 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 or 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 b6 4.Bd3.  Otherwise, it is garbage and Black can even claim a slight edge in some cases, especially if White tries to play it systematically against the Anti-Colle or King's Indian.

 

London System - Usable against MOST lines, but fails to the Modern Defense.  After 1.d4 g6, both 2.Bf4? And 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.Bf4? Are bad for White.  The whole idea of the London is to dominate the dark squares and to put a stranglehold on e5 and to attack Black on either the Kingside or Queenside while trying to hold Black at bay in the center.  Here, Black gets in e5 way too quickly and White is already losing time.  After 1.d4 g6 2.Bf4? Bg7 3.e3 d6 4.Nf3 Nd7 (or 4...Nc6) 5.h3 e5!, Black is already slightly better.

 

Torre Attack - Fails against early ...d5 lines.  After say, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5, 3.Bg5?! Is highly dubious (3.c4, 3.e3, or 3.Bf4 are better) because of 3...Ne4!  The Torre is most effective against 1...Nf6/2...g6 or 1...Nf6/2...e6.

 

Trompowsky Attack - Fine against 1...Nf6, somewhat dubious against 1...d5 (because of ideas found with 2...f6!), OK against 1...f5, bad against basically anything else.

 

Stonewall Attack - like the Colle, only effective with Black's Bishop hemmed in.  If it is hemmed in, White needs to play Bd3 and Qe2 early to stop Ba6 and Bxd3.  Otherwise, too easy for Black to get the winning ending Knight vs Dark-Squared Bishop.

 

Some of these other "systems" aren't even worth discussing at all.  The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is unsound, and while it may work vs 1400-rated wannabes, you are just going to have to start all over again when you face players that know what they are doing!  So not worth going there in the first place!

tygxc

Colle also works with ...Bf5
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007871
Colle also works against ...g6 and ...Bg7
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1036730 
Colle also works if black frees his light square bishop with ...e5
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1036682 

 

GrandPatzerDave

Man, you guys are rough!  Ease up a little and try to remember that the original intent is targeted at middle schoolers.  You're never, ever going to keep the interest of that demographic with too much Grinding on the Depths of The Why (TM) for all your more-advanced stuff.  If they have to unlearn some things if and/or when they progress beyond where they started, then that's OK.  You don't expect the ones that do advance to continue to play with their starter set of pieces either, do you?

kalafiorczyk
ThrillerFan wrote:

This is completely the wrong way to teach a beginner.

For example:

as the d3-Bishop bites on granite.

And this is an example of how not to write for a beginner. I'm not completely against using hyperbole, but you really need to first define what do you mean by "biting on the granite."

Chess-wise this thread probably has useful information, both for the beginners in chess and for the beginners in teaching chess. Language-wise this thread is descending into figurative hell of figures of speech.

ThrillerFan
tygxc wrote:

Colle also works with ...Bf5
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007871
Colle also works against ...g6 and ...Bg7
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1036730 
Colle also works if black frees his light square bishop with ...e5
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1036682 

 

Just because White wins a single game against each does not make it a good idea for White.

 

Nice try though thinking I'd surrender to cherry picking!

 

I can bet $500 each time that the next card is higher than a King.  Occasionally, I will be right and an Ace will show.  That does not make it a good strategy!  Most of the time, I will lose $500 doing that!

 

You've got to look at the big picture, not the exception!

ThrillerFan
kalafiorczyk wrote:
ThrillerFan wrote:

This is completely the wrong way to teach a beginner.

For example:

as the d3-Bishop bites on granite.

And this is an example of how not to write for a beginner. I'm not completely against using hyperbole, but you really need to first define what do you mean by "biting on the granite."

Chess-wise this thread probably has useful information, both for the beginners in chess and for the beginners in teaching chess. Language-wise this thread is descending into figurative hell of figures of speech.

 

If you don't know what biting on granite means, then literally take a bite on something granite and you ought to get the message!  LOL!

 

Disclaimer:  I take no responibility and will provide no coverage of costs for dental services required after attempting this activity.  Proceed at your own risk!

kalafiorczyk
ThrillerFan wrote:

If you don't know what biting on granite means, then literally take a bite on something granite and you ought to get the message!  LOL!

With my own teeth or with the bishop's teeth? Previously you wrote that it was the bishop who was supposed to bite, not the reader.

If you think that that sarcasm or irony are synonymous with intelligence then you are wrong.

tygxc

#30
I illustrated the virtues of the Colle System with 3 wins by Edgar Colle himself over strong grandmasters. White voluntarily hems in his own Bc1 with e3, but then frees it by preparing e4 with c3, Bd3, Nbd2, O-O, Re1 etc.
The main drawback of the London, Trompovsky, Torre is that white commits Bc1 too soon and thus abandons the defence of the dark squares on the queen's side, especially pawn b2. Black can often attack those e.g. with ...c5 and ...Qb6.

btickler
GrandPatzerDave wrote:

Man, you guys are rough!  Ease up a little and try to remember that the original intent is targeted at middle schoolers.  You're never, ever going to keep the interest of that demographic with too much Grinding on the Depths of The Why (TM) for all your more-advanced stuff.  If they have to unlearn some things if and/or when they progress beyond where they started, then that's OK.  You don't expect the ones that do advance to continue to play with their starter set of pieces either, do you?

You can teach systems just fine without telling students the quote I originally replied to.

Would you be okay if a coach told your kid "always trade your bishops for knights, because new players don't avoid forks very well, and they can't properly leverage the bishop pair, and that makes knights more powerful"?  No?  Why not?  It's true for beginners, and it works.  But you don't teach that, because those kinds of preferences get locked in, and even when you say "don't do this anymore" later, they will still lean that way, to their detriment.

You mistake my intent in posting.  I don't care about "keeping the interest" of the 50 kids that are going to drop off long term anyway.  I'm talking about not screwing up the 1 kid that has talent and is not going to lose interest anyway.  It's like the justice system.  If you convict 50 criminals, that's not a justification for convicting 1 innocent person wink.png.  Don't teach bad habits/principles.

MooseMouse

You're hyperbolizing.  Here is the quote you originally responded to:

Usually you don't have to react to what your opponent is doing. You memorize a certain piece and pawn formation, and most games, no matter what your opponent does, you can move the pieces to build your formation and complete your development.

The context is defining what we mean by "system".  Now key on the words "Usually" and "most games."  It should be understood that exceptions are legion, i.e. if Black responds to 1.d4 with 1...e5, we adjust.  And the beginner can do so, if they understand and are learning to apply good basic opening principles.  Of which system openings provide reasonable examples, with the caveats mentioned above.

btickler
MooseMouse wrote:

You're hyperbolizing.  Here is the quote you originally responded to:

Usually you don't have to react to what your opponent is doing. You memorize a certain piece and pawn formation, and most games, no matter what your opponent does, you can move the pieces to build your formation and complete your development.

The context is defining what we mean by "system".  Now key on the words "Usually" and "most games."  It should be understood that exceptions are legion, i.e. if Black responds to 1.d4 with 1...e5, we adjust.  And the beginner can do so, if they understand and are learning to apply good basic opening principles.  Of which system openings provide reasonable examples, with the caveats mentioned above.

It's only understood that exceptions are "legion" when you understand chess wink.png.

Why even use the phrase "no matter what your opponent does"?  Why would any chess coach say this to any chess student, in any context, ever?  That's the problem.

Wcndave

Not sure if the debate or the information is more interesting...  As a learner (~1050) with limited time, here's what I found.

I spent ages learning an opening, with all the why's and what ifs etc, but my opponent doesn't let me play it very often. So then I get stuck a lot of the time, just trying to apply the principles I do know.

In this context, a system is nice.  When good players go off on a specific line discussion, I get lost and too much detail to learn it all at this point.

I feel like my journey goes:

  1. learn some principles
  2. learn a couple of systems that use them
  3. learn some more tactics
  4. learn how to win endgames

Then, once I get to 1300 with that, and still want to improve, but am now losing due to a lack of depth of knowledge, I can go back and start to really understand the whys of things.  I don't think I'd have to "unlearn", just increase the depth of learning.

Everyone will have different weaknesses, and if I have 30 mins a day, what am I going to do first?  I could learn a bunch of specific openings with the why as well, but that would take a while.  I should probably work on whatever is the main reason I lose, which will vary over time.  With a system I might lose on tactics, then on endgame, then on openings.. back to learning more about that when I reach that point.

It seems you're debating the difference between a generalised teaching method, and identifying/teaching the next world champ.

 

 

Optimissed

Interesting. One tiny criticism. The Vienna Game is 1. e4 e5 2 Nc3 maybe Nf6 3. Bc4. What you have there is a direct transposition into a King's Indian Attack which could obviously be reached from a normal, 1. Nf3 KIA move order. People started playing it with g3 because of 3. ...Nxe4 in the normal line, followed up with ... d5, winning back the piece. But I would have thought that although playable, the Vienna with g3 is too telegraphic and will give black good options. So it's probably better for white to go for 3. Bc4 and risk the Frankenstein_Dracula continuation with 3. Nxe5. After all, that's a superb way for white to play for a draw against a much stronger player, since after Nxe4, white can bottle out with complete equality and no chances of a win for either side. Otherwise, against a weaker player, white can go into the full complexities of the FDV.

So the true Vienna Game complex is a manoeuvring game, with the f1 bishop on the Q side and the chance of going into a delayed Vienna Gambit (which is completely distinct from the Vienna Game). Typically, white will have diagonal pawn complexes on the Q-side. 

btickler
Wcndave wrote:

It seems you're debating the difference between a generalised teaching method, and identifying/teaching the next world champ.

That's my whole point.  You owe it to every kid you teach to assume they *are* the next world champ and teach them accordingly until they prove otherwise.  You don't have to lavish each one with personal attention, but you definitely don't take shortcuts and teach methods/ideas that may cause damage down the road in the name of expediency.

This would be like saying "I teach chemistry, but I don't teach it as if any of my students will ever be in the field of chemistry".  If you teach that way, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy wink.png.