Sunday, July 29, 2007

Those Cheapo Openings

One thing that I have found increasingly vexing as I have climbed the rating charts is the prevalence of "cheap" lines in almost all defences. I won't deny that I am certainly someone who prefers positional imbalance in my chess games - I like semi-open positions more than clear open ones, and I like uneven structures that allow for a range of maneuvering ideas - but I am open to more closed structures, just anything that gives me the opportunity when playing with the black pieces to fight for a win. That said, I never cease to amazed that there simply are ways in almost every single opening for white to turn down the complexity and play a flat, relaxed, sometimes even thoughtless game and just coast.

For example, I would offer the following:

4 Knights Scotch/Lopez especially, or Ruy Lopez Exchange

French Exchange

Caro-Kann Exchange

Sicilian Alapin, or c3+d3 slow positions, or even 1.e4 c5 2.c4 with a Botvinnik positional grind

Alekhine Exchange

Pirc w/1.e4, 2.d3

London System

Colle System

KID Exchange

Slav Exchange

Grunfeld with e3 early and maybe Be2

e3 QID

Some QGD Exchange lines, usually without Ne2



I don't mind the drier lines that result in imbalance, like the Closed Sicilian, or the Burn French, or even the Bf4 Grunfeld, what really vexes me are all the positions where white just comes out and says, look, I don't want to lose. That's all there is to it. I don't really mind if I have virtually no winning chances, as long as you have no winning chances either. All of these systems have followings, and as a tournament player, I find that they arise in as much as perhaps 1/4 of games played. People seem remarkably content with the white pieces to just relax, play really slowly, and just shrug their way through the middlegame and on into a level endgame waiting for the opponent to make an error or bely a shortage of positional knowledge on their way to a lost pawn endgame or some such.

I wonder if it is simply a given in the nature of the game that if white really really wants a draw, it is virtually impossible for black to avoid allowing a flat, dry position.

I wonder, do other players find this to be a problem, do they find it to be true? How does a player in a must-win game with the black pieces find a way to mix it up, especially against someone of equal strength who is liable to punish dubious flailing? I have found this to be especially disconcerting in the e4 lines, and believe me, at one time or another, I have tried them all! It is very difficult to be patient when you are on the hotseat, and many is the time that my opponent played one of these lines and then simply didn't make a mistake, leaving me with little recourse to a grumbling 1/2-1/2...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an expert. This is my answer to your question. If you want to win a game of chess, all you need is an imbalance in the pawn structure.

Andy Soltis wrote an article once about how routinely GM's outplay everybody else in 'equal' endings. Endgame play is extremely difficult, just one or two small slips and you're dead.

So, you can even play something like the Caro-Kann: 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 - and regardless of what happens in the middlegame, you have an opportunity, if you are the more skillful endgame player, to win the game later. Against 1. d4, the Dutch Defense, for example, guarantees this pawn imbalance.

If somebody wants a draw against you, especially a lower rated player, play the endgame 'forever' against him. Send a message that yes, you might get your draw - provided you can stay with me in the game for 100 moves.

If you have that kind of desire to win, you will.

9:47 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home