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Chess Openings for Beginners (Part 2)

If we follow the advice of Sigmund Tarrasch, then chess beginners and novice chess players are busy learning endgames first and middlegame ideas second. Simple chess endings to more complex examples, then middlegame strategy (pawn structure, weak squares, etc.) and tactics (chess combinations, Kingside attacks, etc.). On this foundation we can build our knowledge about chess openings – and for now we only want an opening “system”, a chess opening to get us safely past the first 12-15 moves.

To be fair, when Tarrasch finally introduces the opening phase of chess he provides a general survey, a little taste, of all the main chess openings. It’s okay to peek ahead and get a feel for what lies ahead, because someday we’ll adopt a few of these standard King’s Pawn or Queen’s Pawn chess openings as our own. But at this point in our career let’s find a simple and universal way to get through the opening of a chess game.

In fact, let’s save study time and find a true “stereotype”, a chess opening we can play with the White and Black pieces both. One obvious example is the King’s Indian:

Depending on what the opponent does we’ll advance our e-pawn or c-pawn two squares, staking a claim in the center. Move order is flexible, so we can play 1…g6 or 1…d6 (as Black) in answer to 1.e4 and still reach the diagrammed position; the Queen’s Knight can also be held back for deployment elsewhere. As White this layout is called the King’s Indian Attack, and as Black it’s the King’s Indian Defense or (after 1.e4) the Pirc/Modern complex, but they’re all clearly related.

Another “automatic” chess opening might be called the “Queen’s Indian” formation:

We can play Nf3, Be2, 0-0 and then push a pawn to c4 or d4 as our center play. Again we have a wide choice of follow-up plans, with a safe and solid position. Here White is playing the “Larsen Attack” and Black the “English Defense” but again the opening concepts have much in common.

It is interesting that both chess opening systems described above can lead to the “Hippopotamus Opening”, in which we redirect our King’s Knight to the e2-square:

We might plan a c-pawn push followed by Qc2, and we’re practically in the middlegame already.

Each of these chess opening “systems” pass muster – that is, we exit the opening quickly and in good order with either White or Black. It must be understood, however, that these chess openings are essentially counter-punching strategies; the enemy is free to grab the chess board’s center while we ponder how to strike back or die. This pleasure is paid for by creeping around on the first three ranks and not attacking or threatening anything. A sophisticated proposition, perhaps, for the beginner or novice at chess. But we are at least getting our chess pieces organized, and can trust to win the game with our superior new skills in middlegame chess strategy and endgame play.

The “universal” chess openings just described, playable for both White and Black, are certainly worth a look. No other plans of development fit the bill, although some chess openings come close. Bird’s Opening with 1.f4 is typical, and can be played with White or Black (the Dutch Defense) equally in all cases – except, that is, when we’re Black and White has played 1.e4 on his first move. Another near miss is 1.Nf3 and 1…Nf6 against anything, which we reject because 1.e4 Nf6 is Alekhine’s Defense and 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 leads to a crush of Grandmaster chess opening theory.

But there is another chess opening that can be played with White or Black, one that offers more piece activity than we’ve seen yet, and one that applies more directly to the “standard” openings we’ll want to learn later. Next time let’s examine ChessCentral’s favorite opening system for beginner and novice chess players!

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2 Responses

  1. New to chess and found Part 2 avery interesting concept. Looking foreward to Part 3.

  2. Hello, I run a website called humansofnewyork.com. I wrote a story about an encounter I had with a Chess Hustler at Washington Square Park, and I thought that it may make interesting material Chess Central. He was a very interesting man and had some interesting philosophies. Thought it might make a fun post

    The Chess Hustler
    http://www.humansofnewyork.com/2011/04/08/the-chess-hustler/

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