A Kaleidoscope of Openings

A Kaleidoscope of Openings

Learn opening ideas with a national champion!

Want to learn the key ideas and traps in a variety of openings from a former US Champion! John Grefe won the US Championship in 1973 and used these openings with success in his own games! If you are rated between 1000 and 1500, these opening ideas will help you score plenty of wins in your own games! Learn the key ideas behind many important openings!

  • Learn traps that can help you score quick knock-out even against strong opponents!
  • Learn the key ideas behind many important openings!

"Why is this only a single course? It's incredible!" - Chess.com user robertmines

Albin Countergambit

Albin Countergambit

WHAT PRICE THE INITIATIVE? The privilege of moving first gives White a slight opening initiative which Black can meet in various ways. One of the riskiest strategies he can employ is trying to wrest the initiative for himself with a countergambit, giving up a pawn for various types of compensation. In the Albin Countergambit - 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 - Black pitches a pawn in order to disrupt the natural course of White's development. Grandmasters shun it, but it has excellent surprise value, especially for amateurs.
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Queen's Gambit Accepted

Queen's Gambit Accepted

A QUICK CRUSH The flamboyant grandmaster Janowski was a world-class player who got squished as the challenger in two world title matches against cigar-chomping mathematician and philosopher Emanuel Lasker. No matter. Janowski's French patron loved his flashy combinative play and kept him flush for his regular visits to the Monte Carlo roulette wheels at the turn of the century.
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Queen's Gambit Accepted: 3.Nf3

Queen's Gambit Accepted: 3.Nf3

A PARADOXICAL OPENING The Queen's Gambit Accepted comes about after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4. Why does Black play such a strategically inconsistent move? His plan is not to hold onto the pawn at c4 for dear life, but to obtain smooth development for all his minor pieces in an open position where tactics are just as important as strategy.
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Sicilian: Nimzowitsch/Rossolimo

Sicilian: Nimzowitsch/Rossolimo

THE BISHOP OR THE KNIGHT? The question of which minor piece is stronger, the bishop or the knight, has been kicked around for a long time. In certain types of positions one of them is definitely better. In blocked positions the knight is superior and in open positions the bishop dominates. Some players, however, don't give much thought to these positional features. They either prefer the bishop or the knight, whatever the circumstances.
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Modern Defense

Modern Defense

STRAIGHT FOR THE JUGULAR Everyone knows that checkmate is the name of the game. But is it reasonable to make a bee line for the king within a few moves? Yes, in some cases a blitzkrieg is clearly the correct plan. It flows effortlessly from the particular opening or variation in question. In the following miniature between two young grandmasters who are willing to take enormous risks to grab the initiative, Judit Polgar and Alexey Shirov. Black goes too far with his provocation and Judith does him in brilliantly.
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Double e-pawn Opening

Double e-pawn Opening

REFUTING A PREMATURE ATTACK An early mating attack can spring naturally from some positions. There's every reason to expect success only if the opponent has committed an error. Sometimes the attacker might overestimate his chances, choose the wrong plan or decide to complicate at any cost. Or a quiet positional game may suddenly flare up due to errors.
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Petroff's Defense: 3.Nxe5

Petroff's Defense: 3.Nxe5

A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK Petroff's Defense is also called the Russian Game because it was analyzed by the masters Jaenisch and Petroff of Russia during the mid-1800s. It features battles converging on the e-file. Grandmasters usually opt for this defense when they're satisfied with a draw, but it can lead to lively piece skirmishes that test the tactical acumen of both sides.
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Evans Gambit

Evans Gambit

THE OPEN E-FILE Mating attacks mostly occur during the middlegame. But if the king tarries in the center mate can occur even in the opening. An open e-file is often the reason that an early king bashing succeeds.
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Alekhine's Defense

Alekhine's Defense

HORSING AROUND Alekhine's Defense, 1.e4 Nf6, is a radical departure from classical opening strategy. Instead of sending in the pawns to challenge the opponent's central ambitions, Black thumbs his nose at traditional strategy. He tosses away tempi while encouraging the encroachment of the opposing foot soldiers. This is called hypermodern strategy. The provocation is intended to lure the peons forward to their doom, but can easily backfire.
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Caro-Kann

Caro-Kann

FORTRESS OR TIN CAN? The ultra-solid Caro-Kann starts with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5. It's passive but hard to beat. Most pros choose either 3.Nc3 or 3.e5 against it. 3.Bd3 is eccentric but can confuse the uninitiated. Black should counter it with 3...dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6, but not with 3...Nf6?, leading to our starting position.
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Caro-Kanned

Caro-Kanned

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qd3 e5 6.dxe5 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qxe5 8.0-0-0 Nxe4 was the lead-in, from a game between the grandmasters Dr. Savielly Tartakower and Richard Reti, circa 1910. The witty Tartakower, playing Black, was fond of eccentric opening play, but he gets waxed for getting too wacky against the godfather of the hypermodern school.
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English Opening: 1...e5

English Opening: 1...e5

A LOST ART? Grandmaster I.A. Horowitz was a mainstay of U.S. Olympic chess teams of the thirties and longtime editor of Chess Review, which eventually merged with USCF's Chess Life. An excellent teacher and author of numerous books for the novice, he defined a raid as a series of captures countered by a (hopefully) equalizing series of captures. Horowitz astutely warned that the raid involves a continual hazard for the player who captures second.
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King's Indian: 7.Be3

King's Indian: 7.Be3

NOT A CHANCE In game three of the 1990 world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov the first nine moves were 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 Qe7 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Nd5 Qd8. Karpov played 10.Bc5 attacking the rook on f8. However, he didn't have a ghost of a chance of catching his rival Kasparov in a wicked trap.
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The Dilly-Dallying King

The Dilly-Dallying King

DON'T FIDDLE IN THE MIDDLE Whenever the king is uncastled and the board swarms with active pieces, there's the danger of a quick knockout. Black's position is solid and he's developed all his minor pieces, yet White's pieces are so well coordinated that he's able to begin tactical operations at once despite being uncastled himself.
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Center Game

Center Game

BULLSEYE! Anyone familiar with British tabloids knows that royalty-bashing can be fun. In the antiquated Center Game - 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 - White's cheeky queen has street-fighting fantasies but has to endure potshots from the proletariat. The further 3...Nc6 4.Qe3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Ne5 6.Bb3 Bb4 7.c3 is the setup.
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Ruy Lopez: 3...Nf6

Ruy Lopez: 3...Nf6

OLD WORLD CURIOSITY The Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez was the darling of the nineteenth-century masters who frequented the cafes of the German capital at the turn of the century. World champion Emanuel Lasker loved this trappy line, but today, like the infamous wall, it's only a relic. One old line runs 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 (the Berlin) 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 (Nowadays 5.d4 is considered best. Then 5...Nd6 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 is fun.) 5...Nd6 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 (6...Be7 is better, disallowing 7.Nc3 Nxb5 8.Nd5 because of 8...Nbd4!) 7.Rxe5+ Be7 8.Nc3! Nxb5? 9.Nd5! 0-0 10.Nxe7+ Kh8 11.Qh5 d6, reaching our starting position.
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Queen's Gambit Declined

Queen's Gambit Declined

THE TRAPPER TRAPPED 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bg5 cxd4 6.Nxd4 e5 7.Ndb5 a6 8.Nxd5 introduces this challenge, which has been the downfall of more than one grandmaster. Theory recommends answering 4...c5, the semi-Tarrasch Defense, with either 5.e3 or 5.cxd5, but White hoped to lure his opponent into overextending his position after 5.Bg5.
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The Weakest Square

The Weakest Square

ACHILLES HEEL In the opening f2 and f7 are the weakest squares because this spot is only guarded by the king. The opposing queen, king bishop and king knight can often pounce on this inviting target in a trice.
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Double KP Opening

Double KP Opening

BEWARE POISONED PAWNS The moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4 4.Nxe5 set the stage for this challenge. Black's third move, offering a pawn, flies in the face of good opening sense by neglecting development. But White's unbridled optimism with 4.Nxe5 is not the way to refute it. When your opponent deliberately gives you a pawn, think twice before grabbing it.
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Ruy Lopez

Ruy Lopez

AN OLD STANDBY Our challenge begins after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4!? b5 6.Bb3 Nxd4 7.Nxd4 exd4 8.Qxd4?. 4...d6 is the Steinitz Defense Deferred to the Ruy Lopez (3.Bb5). White's pawn sac with 5.d4 is reasonable, but he follows it up incorrectly in his haste to restore material equality.
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King's Gambit: 3.Nc3

King's Gambit: 3.Nc3

THE STEINITZIAN STROLL Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official world champion, exhibited more than a few eccentricities both on and off the board. For one thing, he claimed that he could give God odds of pawn and move. And even though he was the first to systematize many modern chess principles he was inordinately fond of cramped positions where most of his pieces hugged the back rank. He also liked to take his king for a walk in the opening...
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Out of the Books

Out of the Books

HIGHLY IRREGULAR GM Isaac Kashdan was a Groucho Marx look-alike who was once roasted on the maestro's TV show 'You Bet Your Life.' Groucho kept referring to him as "Mr. Ashcan." Here he does some trashing of his own against the ubiquitous N.N.
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Sicilian: Smith-Morra Gambit

Sicilian: Smith-Morra Gambit

YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 is the Smith-Morra Gambit. Our challenge comes about after the further moves 4...Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Ng4 9.h3. Grandmasters shy away from this gambit because it's hard for White to open lines to capitalize on the superior development. But it's a great weapon for the rank-and-file.
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Queen's Gambit Declined: Cambridge Springs Defense

Queen's Gambit Declined: Cambridge Springs Defense

HANG 'EM HIGH Let's take a look at a position from the Cambridge Springs Defense to the Queen's Gambit: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Nf3 Qa5 (the Cambridge Springs) 7.Nd2 Bb4 8.Qc2 0-0 9.Bd3. Shunning the defensive mentality inherent in many lines of the Queen's Gambit Declined, Black plays a variation that allows him to create an early diversion against c3 with the moves ...Qd8-a5 and ...Bf8-b4.
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Queen's Indian Defense

Queen's Indian Defense

CONTROLLING THE CENTER WITH PIECES After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3, White isn't ready for e2-e4 yet. This gives Black the option of playing the Queen's Indian Defense, 3...b6. His plan is to fight for the center primarily with pieces, using his pawns later on. This strategy gives Black good chances for active play.
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Sicilian: Dragon Variation

Sicilian: Dragon Variation

LAGGING DEVELOPMENT SPELLS DEFEAT 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 is the Dragon Sicilian, one of the feistiest lines at Black's disposal. With 6.Be3 White bolsters the d4-knight while readying the fearsome Yugoslav Attack. This hack 'n' sac attack envisions Qd1-d2, f2-f3 and h2-h4-h5 with a mating blitz along the h-file once Black castles kingside. Black mistakenly tries to disturb the normal course of events with 6...Ng4, leading to our starting position.
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Legal's Mate

Legal's Mate

REMEMBER TYPICAL MATING PATTERNS Chances are the venerable snare illustrated after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 h6 5.d4 Bg4 6.dxe5 Nxe5 has claimed more victims than any other trap. Though the actual moves leading to the setup may vary, the mechanism and mating pattern do not. Remember them so you can apply them yourself.
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The Uncastled King

The Uncastled King

BEWARE OF HAVING NO FLIGHT SQUARES White leads in development and Black has lost the right to castle. But if White can't find a way to take advantage of these factors right away, Black will consolidate and try to turn his bishops to account.
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Slav Defense: 3.Nf3

Slav Defense: 3.Nf3

ATTACKING TWO WEAKNESSES The game Schlechter-Perlis, 1911, opened 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Bf5 4.Qb3 Qb6 5.cxd5 Qxb3 6.axb3 Bxb1, bringing about our starting position. The idea behind the Slav Defense, 2...c6, is to reinforce d5 with a pawn while keeping the c8-h3 diagonal open. But Black's third move was premature, allowing White to seize the initiative by simultaneously pressuring b7 and d5. This is a common motif in double-d-pawn openings.
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King Hunt

King Hunt

WANDERING KINGS DIE YOUNG Black is ahead in material, but his king has been prodded from his throne and is surrounded by hostile pieces.
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A Stunning Novelty

A Stunning Novelty

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED There's no foolproof way to avoid playing a variation that's supposed to be good, but turns out to be bad. Even grandmasters who've played the same opening dozens of times can suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of a mating attack. An excellent example is the game Browne-Bisguier, from the U.S. Championship of 1974. This challenge is the most difficult in the entire set. Most players probably will not solve it correctly. I decided to include it for its scintillating and instructive tactics as well as the fact that it illustrates the close connection between the opening and the middlegame.
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Budapest Countergambit

Budapest Countergambit

IN-BETWEEN MOVES (ZWISCHENZUEGE) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 is the Budapest Countergambit, an opening full of mind-numbing traps. Black hopes to lead his opponent astray by getting him to weaken his position or misplace his pieces trying to hang onto the gambit pawn. White's sanest strategy is to keep the pawn for a few moves, then return it to gain the two bishops. The further moves 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bf4 lead to our challenge position.
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Bogo-Indian: 4.Bd2

Bogo-Indian: 4.Bd2

BOGO THE CLONE 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ is the Bogo-Indian Defense. It honors the exuberant Russian grandmaster Efim Bogolyubov, who exclaimed, ?When I am White I win because I am White. When I am Black I win because I am Bogolyubov.? Despite the self-hype he got smashed in two world title bouts with Alekhine back in the twenties. The opening bears an uncanny resemblance to both the Queen's Indian and the Queen's Gambit Declined. In fact, it can easily transpose into either one.
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Gruenfeld Defense: 5.Qb3

Gruenfeld Defense: 5.Qb3

TRIPLE JEOPARDY The Gruenfeld Defense, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5, invites White to build an impressive pawn center in the hope of wrecking it with flanking blows. Black's strategy relies heavily on a strong fianchettoed bishop on g7 to put pressure on White's pawns. The further moves 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 b6 8.e5 Be6 set the stage for our challenge...
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The Old Guard

The Old Guard

PIECE POWER IM Hans Kmoch, renowned for his Old World courtesy, crossed swords with numerous famous GMs back in the thirties. Years later he became the director of the prestigious Manhattan Chess Club. Author of the classic book "Pawn Power in Chess," he was the first really good player I ever faced, in a simultaneous exhibition at the New Jersey YMCA Chess Club back in 1962.
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Owen's Defense

Owen's Defense

RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR KING SAFETY Fianchetto defenses to 1.e4 are hardly new. But it wasn't till the 60s and 70s that grandmasters started employing openings like the Pirc (pronounced Peertz) and Robatsch Defenses (1...d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 and 1...g6, respectively), on a regular basis. These hypermodern debuts cede the center in the opening in order to later attack the opposing pawn center.
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Center Counter: 2...Qxd5

Center Counter: 2...Qxd5

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE In the Center Counter - 1.e4 d5 - Black takes out your e-pawn without bothering about preparatory moves like 1...c6 or 1...e6. This causes him to lose time with the queen (or knight after 2...Nf6) and has always made the opening suspect among grandmasters. Despite this it's a good opening for the average player because it reduces the amount of theory you might need to learn. Besides, the element of surprise often makes up for its theoretical drawbacks.
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Ruy Lopez: Open Variation

Ruy Lopez: Open Variation

KEEP AN OPEN MIND 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 is the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Black's idea is to eliminate the White e-pawn, insuring good play for all his minor pieces. The further moves 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Nd4 Qd7 lead to our challenge.
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Sicilian: Dragon

Sicilian: Dragon

NAGGING NAGS Our challenge starts after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 a6 7.Qd2 Nd7 8.Be2 g6 9.Nd5 h6 10.Bh4 g5. Black enters the Dragon via a strange move order featuring weird knight maneuvers and lost tempi. Kids, don't try this at home.
3 Sfida
King's Indian: Averbakh

King's Indian: Averbakh

A LITTLE LEARNING IS A DANGEROUS THING... 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 is the standard way for Black to meet the Classical Variation (5.Nf3 and 6.Be2 or 5.Be2 and 6.Nf3) of the King's Indian Defense. If White captures twice on e5, Black regains his pawn at once with easy equality: 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nxe5 Nxe4! hits the undefended White knight at e5 and guarantees equal play.
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Ruy Lopez: Main Line

Ruy Lopez: Main Line

CHOICE OF CHAMPIONS When Black counters 1.e4 with 1...e5, White must soon decide how he's going to get in d2-d4. If he doesn't play this thematic central pawn break it will be almost impossible to maintain an opening initiative. For the last one hundred years the world champions have placed their faith in the Ruy Lopez far more than any other double e-pawn debut.
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Pirc Defense

Pirc Defense

HYPERMODERN STRATEGY Fianchetto defenses to 1.e4 have been around a long time but it wasn't till the 1970s that grandmasters began to trust them. Black's strategy is to invite his opponent to form a classical pawn center unhindered. The method in this apparent madness stems from the concept that the White pawns offer convenient targets, while White has no such peons on which to train his guns. Black must time his counteraction precisely. If White is allowed to shore up his footsoldiers with pieces, the humble pawns will be transformed into a formidable force that can either advance with crushing effect or slowly strangle the opponent.
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Slav Defense

Slav Defense

THE BENEFITS OF THE FIRST MOVE How meaningful is White's advantage of moving first? Grandmaster consensus is that with perfect play chess should be a draw. But if White plays actively, pressing his opponent on every move (somewhat like having the serve in tennis), he could wind up with a big edge after just a single slip by Black. Our challenge arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 (the Slav) 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0, and graphically illustrates this idea.
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Caro-Kann: 4...Nd7

Caro-Kann: 4...Nd7

LIKE A ROCK The moves 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 introduce the Caro-Kann Defense. The idea of challenging the unprotected White e-pawn with Black's d-pawn is common to the French Defense and Center Counter as well. But in the French (1...e6) the c8-bishop is hemmed in behind its own pawns. In the Center Counter Black lacks a pawn foothold in the center and can lose time by having to recapture the d-pawn with a piece. The Caro-Kann tries to avoid these pitfalls by both supporting the d-pawn and keeping the c8-h3 diagonal open. The further moves 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 bring about our challenge position. A drawback to the Caro-Kann can be seen in Black's virtually obligatory third move, which surrenders the strongpoint in the center. Why does he do it? Because he lacks any other good continuation. On the plus side, however, is the fact that Black can usually get all his minor pieces to good squares while maintaining a rock-solid pawn structure. The opening is positionally sound and resistant to violent attacks and tactical complications, though its passivity requires great patience when handling the Black pieces.
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Orangutang

Orangutang

MONKEY BUSINESS If you swing into action with 1.b4, the Orangutang, it's not unthinkable that your opponent will go bananas trying for an immediate refutation. The witty Dr. Tartakower, no doubt struggling to keep a straight face, claimed he was inspired to try this opening at the famous New York 1924 international tournament after a consultation at the local zoo.
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King's Indian: Saemisch

King's Indian: Saemisch

KNIGHT-ERRANT David Bronstein failed to become world champion by the narrowest of margins when he tied Botvinnik 12-12 in their 1951 title tussle. He was probably Ian Fleming's inspiration for Grandmaster Kronsteen, a character in the James Bond tale From Russia with Love. David's fertile imagination produced the daring sacrificial line that begins 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 (the Saemisch) 0-0 6.Be3 e5 7.d5 Nh5 8.Qd2 Qh4+ 9.g3.
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Slav Defense: Meran

Slav Defense: Meran

THE STRONGPOINT After 1.d4 d5, Black has momentarily stopped White from carrying out the natural advance e2-e4. With 2.c4, which brings us to the starting position of this challenge, White begins hammering away at the d5 'strongpoint.? We're going to explore one of Black's most important choices on move two, the Slav Defense, a frequent visitor to top-flight grandmaster tournaments.
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Benko Gambit

Benko Gambit

A POSITIONAL PAWN SACRIFICE In well-known openings players generally gambit a pawn for either a lead in development or a lasting central superiority. If the gambit is reasonable and sound it's usually White that's playing it by virtue of his extra move. So the Benko Gambit (known in Russia as the Volga, after the river of the same name) is something of an anomaly. With 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 Black sacrifices a pawn not for a lead in mobilization or control of the center, but for lasting queenside pressure. He has two chances of getting the pawn back: slim and none. Yet even world champion Garry Kasparov ventured it recently as a change of pace from his beloved King's Indian. It therefore behooves us to take a closer look at an opening that maximizes our winning chances as Black by creating extremely sharp middlegames, since the uppity Benko Gambit has yet to be refuted.
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Sicilian: Velimirovic Attack

Sicilian: Velimirovic Attack

OPPOSITES ATTACK The moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 e6 bring about a typical open Sicilian formation. 1...c5 fights for the center in a way that will create an asymmetrical pawn structure. The result, after White breaks with the thematic d2-d4, is that both sides can pursue an active plan. Counterattack, not defense, is the name of the game.
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Colle System

Colle System

FLEE FROM DOGMATISM The Belgian grandmaster Edgar Colle successfully introduced his system to the chess world during the 1920s. In double-QP debuts (1.d4 d5) the break c2-c4 had long been considered mandatory if White wants to get anything out of the opening. Colle, however, had his own ideas about going after the center. His countryman George Koltanowski, known for his prowess at blindfold chess, also employed the system frequently. 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 sets the stage.
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Closed Sicilian

Closed Sicilian

A CLOSED ENCOUNTER 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 starts the action. White's plan is to hold the line in the center and queenside while he masses for a mating attack on the other wing. Former world champion Boris Spassky, noted for his attacking play, loved the Closed Sicilian. Despite Spassky's great success, even against top GMs, none of his colleagues played it regularly. It's an excellent weapon to include in your anti-Sicilian repertoire.
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Sicilian: Alapin

Sicilian: Alapin

CENTER STAGE A good way to sidestep the main variations of the Sicilian is to play the Alapin Variation, 1.e4 c5 2.c3. With the proliferation of faster time controls making unusual ideas more attractive, a number of top grandmasters have recently taken up this line. It's a good choice for Joe Average, too. White's plan is to build a pawn center.
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Sicilian: Accelerated Dragon

Sicilian: Accelerated Dragon

STEALING A TEMPO In normal Dragon lines Black has to stop for ...d7-d6 to prevent the f6-knight from being kicked around by e4-e5. In the Accelerated Dragon - 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 - Black tries to do without ...d7-d6 so he can get in his standard central break ...d5 in one move instead of two. If White can't prevent this Black will experience no opening difficulties at all. This variation is a favorite of American IMs John Donaldson and Jeremy Silman.
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Gruenfeld Defense

Gruenfeld Defense

MISTER THEORY Ernst Gruenfeld, an Austrian grandmaster who bumped heads with the legendary Alekhine and his contemporaries back in the twenties and thirties, invented the opening which bears his name. Besides creating a new system, he had the reputation of knowing everything that was to be known about the openings. The distinguishing move of the Gruenfeld Defense arrives after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 and is the first move of this challenge. Nowadays the Austrian's idea is commonplace, but back then prevailing opinion among the top players was divided as to the fundamental soundness of this radical hypermodern opening.
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King's Indian Attack vs 2...e6 Sicilian

King's Indian Attack vs 2...e6 Sicilian

A FISCHER FAVORITE Throughout his career Bobby Fischer was partial to 1.e4 but he also loved to play the King's Indian Attack, which he employed with great success. He managed to blend these diverse ideas by opening with 1.e4 and switching to the KIA when his opponents played the Sicilian with 2...e6 or the French Defense, an opening whose main lines gave Bobby fits more than any other.
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Two Knights Defense

Two Knights Defense

TACTICS CAN OCCUR ANYTIME Our challenge started out 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6, the Two Knights Defense. White decided not to get embroiled in the complications that arise in the most common continuations, 4.Ng5 and 4.d4, but instead played the quiet 4.d3. The further moves 4...Bc5 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.c3 were quite reasonable. White surrendered the two bishops but in return wound up with a beautifully centralized knight at d5. Then Black got careless with 9...Be6?. Correct was 9...a6 or 9...Ne7.
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King's Indian Defense: Classical

King's Indian Defense: Classical

PURE PROVOCATION Imagine what happens when one player loves to establish a big pawn center and the opponent lets him do it without a fight. This is exactly the case with the King's Indian Defense, world champion Garry Kasparov's favorite answer to 1.d4. It runs 1...Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4. You should be aware that many move orders reach this position, but more important is to understand the ideas behind each side's moves. White feels that he should grab the vital terrain Black has given him because the three center pawns offer opportunities for active play. Black, backed up by the practice of many thousands of master games, feels that he will be able to maintain equality in a sharp game by attacking the center later. He plans to play either ...c5 or ...e5, pressuring d4, which can no longer be supported by a pawn. The King's Indian often leads to intricate strategic and tactical battles.
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King's Indian Defense: 4 Pawns Attack

King's Indian Defense: 4 Pawns Attack

KASPAROV's CHOICE It wasn't so long ago that a fair number of grandmasters were expressing doubts about the theoretical soundness of the King's Indian Defense. This was at a time when White was scoring well, and they began to wonder whether Black could afford to let his opponent have a comfortable advantage in space without making him struggle for it. Then along came world champion Garry Kasparov. Around the beginning of this decade it became his exclusive defense to 1.d4 and brought him phenomenal results. I remember studying about 35 of his games from the early 90s, most of them against colleagues rated at least 2600. His score was 18 wins, 5 losses and the rest were drawn. Even though Kasparov's rivals knew what he would play and could fully arm themselves to meet it, the dynamic play the KI grants Black suited Garry's aggressive style perfectly.
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Torre Attack

Torre Attack

A "SYSTEM" Grandmaster Carlos Torre of Mexico evolved his system of mobilization during the twenties in games against the leading players of the time. His most famous victory came at Moscow 1925. He defeated ex-world champion Emanuel Lasker in a brilliant game exemplifying the deadly tactical 'windmill,' a series of discovered checks. The word 'system' refers to the idea of having a particular piece/pawn configuration in mind from the outset, which can be used almost regardless of what type of setup the opponent chooses.
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Queen's Gambit Declined: Exchange Variation

Queen's Gambit Declined: Exchange Variation

IT KEEPS ON GOING AND GOING... Our challenge begins with the moves 1.d4 d5, often referred to as a double d-pawn opening. Each player stakes an immediate claim in the center using a pawn to cover important squares. This prevent the other player from further expansion and also frees pieces for development. This strategy has been around for several centuries. Most often the game will become a Slav Defense or a Queen's Gambit Declined, which is the subject of our challenge. It's mostly grandmasters who bring about this opening by answering 1.d4 with 1...d5, not amateurs, but you'll see it often enough that you'll want to be ready for it.
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French Defense

French Defense

CONSTANT TACTICAL VIGILANCE Our challenge begins after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7, the Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense. Its inventor rose from the Polish ghettoes at the turn of the century to become a world title contender, though circumstances deprived him of the chance for a match. Normally in the French, Black holds the strongpoint at d5 but in this line he surrenders it in order to trade a few pieces and relieve his cramped position. For a long time the line was considered a passive drawing weapon and was out of favor. But such is the whim of fashion that it's currently in vogue thanks to creative players on the lookout for new weapons for Black.
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Old Indian Defense

Old Indian Defense

EASY STREET Some openings require you to become familiar with a large number of variations and intricate tactical subtleties in order to play them without getting mashed right in the opening. Others, like the Old Indian, are much simpler to learn because their overall setup doesn't vary despite what the opponent does.
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Danish Gambit

Danish Gambit

COFFEE AND DANISH? The Danish Gambit arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3. It's a high- powered gambit which gets the adrenaline flowing quickly, so you might not need a caffeine boost if you start off with the Danish. Today this type of gambit isn't played much by grandmasters because they feel that so much is known about them that Black can equalize easily. But at the amateur level it should work well, especially as a surprise weapon.
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Philidor's Defense

Philidor's Defense

SOUL FOOD Andre Philidor was born near Paris in 1726 and grew up to be an accomplished composer, musician and chessplayer. His great contribution to the game was his realization of the importance of the pawns in an era that gave undeserved precedence to flashy but trashy piece play. He believed that the pawns were "the soul of the game."
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Dutch Defense: Stonewall

Dutch Defense: Stonewall

THE HOLE TRUTH Our challenge begins after the moves 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 e6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.c4 d5. Black's first move brings about the Dutch Defense, a longtime favorite of the legendary late world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. With 1...f5 Black aims to increase his control over the important central square e4 while opening an avenue of attack for his pieces to go after White's king (f8-f6-h6 for the rook and e8-h5 for the queen). Though few grandmasters employ it on a regular basis, the Dutch has the great advantage of containing a built-in plan of a kingside mating attack, even if it is positionally suspect against very strong players.
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English Opening: Fischer's System

English Opening: Fischer's System

BREAKING THE SYMMETRY The English Opening, 1.c4, has often been likened to a Sicilian with colors reversed because Black can try to bring about a role switch, though a tempo down, by countering with 1...e5 and then a quick ...d5. But this is not the only way to handle the English. Other significant replies are 1...Nf6 and 1...c5. The latter frequently leads to strategical battles, which is the quiet type of game White is usually seeking with 1.c4. If he plays mechanically, however, the first player can find the initiative slipping from his hands before he knows it. A good example is a line Bobby Fischer liked as Black, which starts 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3.
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Nimzo-Indian Defense

Nimzo-Indian Defense

THE MISSING LINK In double-d-pawn openings like the Queen's Gambit and Slav both sides employ classic strategy by occupying the center at once with pawns. In openings like the King's Indian and Gruenfeld, Black uses hypermodern principles, letting White build a center unopposed, to be used as a target. The Nimzo-Indian and its close relatives, the Queen's Indian and Bogo-Indian, represent the middle ground between these two extremes. Initially Black relies on his pieces to fight for the center, as the hypermoderns do, but soon he plays ...d5 just like the classical players. Mixing these two approaches grants him more active play than in 1.d4 d5 games but without the added risk, and winning chances, provided by hypermodern play.
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Nimzo-Indian: Saemisch

Nimzo-Indian: Saemisch

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION In the Nimzo-Indian Defense - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 - Black initially fights for the center with pieces. This allows his minors to take up more aggressive posts than in double d-pawn openings like the Queen's Gambit Declined, but in turn gives White more dynamic possibilities. The first objective is to control the square e4, preventing White from establishing a big center with e2-e4. White has many ways to deal with this perennially popular debut, but perhaps no line is as dangerous as the do-or-die Saemisch Variation, 4.a3. White spends a tempo getting Black to commit himself at once, gaining the two bishops but taking on an inferior pawn structure. If Black fails to contain the White bishops and pawn center he's in for a rough life.
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Nimzo-Indian Defense: 4.Qc2

Nimzo-Indian Defense: 4.Qc2

GIANTS OF CHESS The Nimzo-Indian Defense arises after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4. Black strives for more activity than he can expect in double d-pawn openings but shuns more ambitious, and riskier, debuts like the King's Indian, Gruenfeld, Modern Benoni, etc. The Nimzo is the brainchild of eccentric genius Aron Nimzowitsch, whose pioneering work on chess strategy, My System, has inspired and instructed countless chess players. Late world champion Tigran Petrosian claimed it exerted a great influence on his game.
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Modern Benoni

Modern Benoni

MIXING IT UP WITH BLACK It wasn't till Fischer's and Tal's successes in the fifties and sixties that grandmasters in general realized Black could legitimately fight for the initiative from the very first moves without taking extraordinary risks. Prevailing opinion till then held that it was first necessary to neutralize White's first move advantage, establish clear equality and only then press for an edge.
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Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

SOUNDNESS An important concept to understand is 'positional soundness.' Positionally sound moves are those which are aimed at improving our game without creating any weaknesses. There should be at least one such move in every position unless we are in zugzwang or suffer from a serious bind. Some moves are obviously sound and others are obviously poor, but many are not easy to judge. A good example of the last type of move is the Blackmar- Diemer Gambit, which comes about after 1.d4 d5 2.e4. Grandmasters rarely employ it but it works wonders against amateurs. And even if it is, strictly speaking, unsound, that doesn't mean you shouldn't play it.
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Scotch Game

Scotch Game

TOO STRAIGHTFORWARD? The question of which opening is best is one which grandmasters have debated for some time. It's not merely a matter of idle speculation, for if one particular opening proved to be superior to all others the rest would disappear from tournament practice, at least in the games of grandmasters. Bobby Fischer once opined, "1.e4 is best by test," and loved to play the Ruy Lopez against 1...e5 (2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5).
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Slav Defense: Dutch Variation

Slav Defense: Dutch Variation

CLOSE RELATIVES Some openings exhibit important characteristics that are very much like others even though they may arise differently. Take, for example, the Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6) and the Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5). In both debuts Black stakes out central territory by supporting the d-pawn with the c-pawn, keeping the diagonal of the c8-bishop unobstructed. In addition, in many lines Black soon gives up the strongpoint at d5 in order to achieve free and easy mobilization of all the minor pieces while maintaining a solid pawn structure. If the typical middlegames arising from these closely related openings appeal to you, you can economize your study time by including both of them in your repertoire. Many of the general ideas you learn in one of them can be applied to the other.
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Center Counter

Center Counter

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM The idea of the Center Counter - 1.e4 d5 - is to eliminate White's e-pawn, attaining freedom for the Black pieces while not giving White any pawns he can target to throw Black on the defensive. But the lack of pawn support for the thrust ...d7-d5 means that Black will have to retake on d5 with a piece, which will then be subject to tempo-winning hits by White pieces or pawns. Theoretically suspect, it is nevertheless a good choice for the aficionado.
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Petroff's Defense: Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit

Petroff's Defense: Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit

PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE There can be no doubt that the player who's willing to sacrifice material for an attack has both a practical and psychological advantage. The former is due to the well-known phenomenon that it's much easier to conduct an attack than to try and fend one off. This has been common knowledge for a long time even though no one seems to understand exactly why, but not for a lack of theorizing. The psychological edge takes the form of confidence in one's ability to carry the attack to a successful conclusion, else you would not have given up material, in addition to the knowledge that you're not afraid to take risks.
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Vienna Game

Vienna Game

FORCED CONSTITUTIONAL 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3, the Vienna Game, leads to our starting position. It's a close relative of the King's Gambit and other 'Romantic' debuts of a bygone era. Today it's hardly seen at all in international events because White's second move lacks a threat and gives the opponent too much leeway.
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English Opening

English Opening

IT HAPPENS TO THE BEST THE WAY IT HAPPENS TO THE REST The English Opening, 1.c4, mostly leads to quiet maneuvering games where tactics recede to the background, at least till the middlegame is in full swing. But even in 'quiet lines' tactics lurk just below the surface, waiting to pounce like hungry alligators stalking unwary prey. The game between grandmasters Boris Gulko and Joel Benjamin from the 1995 U.S. Championship is a good example of how quickly the game can switch from being strategical to tactical, and of how even grandmasters can have their tactical alertness lulled when things seem quiet.
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Sicilian Dragon

Sicilian Dragon

SHARPEST OF THE SHARP An opening or variation is said to be sharp if it leads to positions in which the players must solve knotty tactical problems. The sharpest way to meet 1.e4 is the Sicilian Defense, 1...c5. And of all the variations of the Sicilian, the Dragon, featuring a fianchettoed Black bishop on g7, is one of the sharpest. (We are only speaking here about positionally sound openings, not those requiring extreme risks in order to increase winning chances.)
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Torre Attack Gone Bad

Torre Attack Gone Bad

BEWARE 'AUTOMATIC PILOT' The Torre Attack arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5. White has in mind a particular piece/pawn setup with knights on f3 and d2, the bishop at g5 and pawns at c3, d4 and e3. The placement of the f1-bishop and major pieces depends on how Black responds. Our challenge position comes about with the further moves 3...c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Qc1 cxd4 6.cxd4.
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Blumenfeld Countergambit

Blumenfeld Countergambit

KNOWING WHEN TO OFFER AND WHEN TO DECLINE Theory considers the Blumenfeld Countergambit - 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 c5 4.d5 b5 -to be shaky, but paradoxically suggests that the best way to meet it is to decline it. A good way to do so is 5.Bg5, and if Black opts for the brazen 5...h6 the likely moves 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.Nc3 b4 8.Nb5 Na6 lead to our challenge position.
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Chigorin Defense

Chigorin Defense

A HYBRID After 1.d4 d5 2.c4, most of the time Black adopts a classical strategy in fighting for the center. He plays either the Queen's Gambit Accepted, 2...dxc4, or supports the d5-strongpoint with 2...c6 or 2...e6 so that he can maintain a pawn presence in the center. But Chigorin's Defense, 2...Nc6, relies on hypermodern ideas of piece pressure on the White center, albeit without the usual presence of a strong fianchettoed bishop. The opening has never received the endorsement of the grandmaster community but somehow finds a champion in every generation who tries to make it work at the highest levels. Fortunately for the average player, its surprise value alone makes it good enough for him to adopt, at least occasionally.
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Alekhine's Defense: 4 Pawns Attack

Alekhine's Defense: 4 Pawns Attack

CONTRARIANISM Alekhine's Defense - 1.e4 Nf6 - is the most radical hypermodern strategy that can be played in answer to 1.e4, if you discount unproven ideas like 1...g5 and 1...a6. Black invites upon himself the loss of several tempi as the f6-knight is driven to the poor square b6 by the White center pawns. The method in this madness is the concept that the advanced pawns can be turned into convenient targets that can't run away.
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King's Indian Attack: 1.Nf3

King's Indian Attack: 1.Nf3

REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY "What's good for the goose is even better for the gander," seems to be the philosophy of players who adopt 'reversed' openings. Their thinking is that if an opening is reasonable for Black it should be even better with White, as they have "a move in hand." This can be true if Black enters a sharp variation and treats it exactly as he would if he were playing White. If Black is not so ambitious, however, White is often giving up his prerogative of pressing for the initiative by virtue of his extra move.
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King's Gambit: 3.Nf3

King's Gambit: 3.Nf3

A REAL GAMBIT Rudolf Spielmann, himself a great attacking player who flourished in the early 1900s, wrote one of the earliest systematic texts on sacrifice, the classic The Art of Sacrifice. He defined a 'real? sacrifice as one which the attacker ventures knowing that he won't be able to recover his material, as distinguished from sham sacs. Under this definition, the King's Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.f4, is a real gambit.
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Giuoco Piano

Giuoco Piano

THE 'QUIET GAME' 'Giuoco Piano' is Italian for "Quiet Game." It first bloomed in Italy during the 1700s when that country was one of the leading powers of chess. Back then the dominating concept of the game was "Romanticism." Everyone strove to create beauty by playing brilliant sacrificial attacks regardless of their soundness. Today, like the other double e-pawn openings, it plays second fiddle to the Ruy Lopez in grandmaster events. The pros feel that the Ruy gives them the best chance of maintaining the first move initiative as long as possible. But the element of surprise is still important, so from time to time they'll eschew their favorite debut for the Giuoco or one of its cousins.
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King's Indian

King's Indian

A LITTLE LEARNING IS DANGEROUS In the King's Indian, Black's initial target is d4. Not that the square is weak, but White's annexing of the center with the c-, d- and e-pawns allows Black to drum up counterplay by targeting the center square that can no longer be supported by a pawn and therefore requires shepherding by pieces. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 starts the ball rolling.
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Caro-Kann Defense: 4...Nd7

Caro-Kann Defense: 4...Nd7

SAFE AND SOUND The Caro-Kann Defense - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 - has long had a reputation for being solid. Black's main idea is to get out of the opening with a decent game while preventing White from conjuring up any attacking chances or tactical complications. This policy makes it difficult for Black to start playing for a win for some time, but the opening is ideal if you're satisfied with a draw or when you're faced with an opponent who'll attack at any cost.
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French Defense: Winawer

French Defense: Winawer

COUNTERATTACK In the French Defense - 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 - Black goes straight for the White e-pawn at the cost of hemming in the c8-bishop. His idea is to keep hammering away at e4 till he forces White to commit himself in the center by an exchange of pawns or an advance. Naturally, the best chance of an opening edge for the first player is to establish a bridgehead with e4-e5 once it becomes impossible to maintain the tension. This invites the undermining strategy ...c7-c5, however, setting up the basic French conflict: Will White be able to use his spatial edge to generate kingside chances, or will the e5-pawn eventually become a static weakness?
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Center Counter Defense

Center Counter Defense

SO MANY OPENINGS, SO LITTLE TIME You might think that the process of choosing which chess openings to play is fairly cut and dried, but you'd be wrong. Many factors contribute toward making an opening or variation suitable. Your playing strength, style, preferences, experience and available study time all influence your choice of repertoire. When time is limited an efficient way to build a repertoire is to choose the openings which are easiest to learn, even at the cost of playing something theoretically shaky. If these lines also sidestep your opponents? favorite prepared lines, so much the better.
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Sicilian: Najdorf 6.Bg5 variation

Sicilian: Najdorf 6.Bg5 variation

A FISCHER FAVORITE It's common knowledge that the Sicilian Defense is one of the best ways to play for a win against 1.e4. It blends positional soundness with tactical sharpness. One of the most complex lines in the Sicilian is the Najdorf Variation. Bobby Fischer invariably played it when he chose the Sicilian, which he did about 90% of the time he faced 1.e4.
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Leksione

A Kaleidoscope of Openings

Hapjet
90 Mësime
S'ka Video
527 Sfida
Shperndarë December 10, 2007
62351 Studentë