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Paladine
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A few people requested a chess thread awhile back and things have been rather quiet around here, so I figured maybe it was time to start one up. I've spoken to Finvarra, and he's agreed to be my co-instructor on this thread. His perspective should be very useful since, in addition to being a strong player, his style tends to contrast very strongly with mine.

We'll periodically offer games or positions for discussion, but the content of this thread depends primarily upon the interests and proficiency of our students. So please, as you're able, let us know what kind of experience you have (whether you play in person or online, any ratings you might have), ask whatever questions you like, and perhaps share a game you've played for discussion and critique. [Wink]

[ October 02, 2008, 02:40 PM: Message edited by: Paladine ]

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msquared
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Ok I guess I will start.

I am at best a casual player. I know how the pieces move, I know the basic idea of the game. I have no ratings. [Smile]

How do you start a strategy? Doesn't the other player recognize a certain opening and have a way to counter it?

Which is better to be? White or Black? Take the first move or let the other guy commit?

msquared

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Paladine
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quote:
How do you start a strategy?
A strategy is a means of accomplishing a large goal. Pretty early in the game, the "pawn structure", or shape of the pawns, is going to indicate to each player what his strategic objectives should likely be. Different structures are conducive to different ideas.

For example, consider the position that arises after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6. White's pawns are "pointing" towards black's kingside, which means he's going to have more space on that side of the board. In general, it makes sense to develop your pieces and attack where you have more space. So in this opening, white's often going to want to attempt to generate play on the kingside and in the center, where he has more space.

Black, on the other hand, has pawns pointing towards white's queenside. He can pile up pressure on white's d4 pawn with ...c5, ...Nc6, ...Qb6, and possibly ...Nh6-f5. He can also look to turn white's advanced pawn on e5 into a disadvantage, attacking it with ...f6. Don't worry too much about how these ideas are likely to play out for now.

The important thing to take note of is the fact that the way we've set up our pieces, at a very early stage, are going to largely determine how the game ought to proceed. White is going to want to try to maintain his pawns on e5 and d4, and to use the space advantage they confer to generate an attack on the kingside. Black is going to want to attempt to dissolve the pawn duo by attacking it vigorously, and to generate play using his queenside space.

quote:
Doesn't the other player recognize a certain opening and have a way to counter it?
Openings are largely covered by what chessplayers call "theory", which is essentially the product of decades of master and grandmaster study of the optimal moves in the beginning of the game. As players become more proficient, they become more deeply familiar with a wider variety of theoretical openings, as well as the ideas behind them.

quote:
Which is better to be? White or Black? Take the first move or let the other guy commit?
With best play in most openings, black struggles to obtain equality. If white makes a minor error in most openings, he'll have about an equal game. If black should make a similar error, his position often quickly becomes a disaster. Imagine, for example, a mistake which costs a move. If white gives black a free move, the players have simply switched positions. If black gives white a free move, he's 2 moves behind and often in a world of hurt.

Originally, color had no correlation with the order in which people moved. Black, however, was considered by many to be the "luckier" color. In order to compensate the white player for being less lucky, it was decided that he ought to get the first move.

How big a disadvantage this is largely depends upon the strength of the players involved. Among amateurs, where even strong advantages are more often than not squandered, the relatively small advantage which inheres in the first move is quickly negated by circumstance. At higher levels of play, the difference becomes very significant.

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Finvarra
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"How do you start a strategy? Doesn't the other player recognize a certain opening and have a way to counter it? "

There are a wide array of openings out there, and most competitive players have a few main openings in their repertoire. For example as Black, I always respond to pawn e4 as a first move, with pawn to c5. (called the sicilian defense). This opening suits my style because it is an aggressive opening, that generally leads to more tactical games, as opposed to a locked positional game. There are many variations within this opening that my opponent can choose from, and there are "anti-sicilian" lines that close the position.

After the first few moves, when the opening is established, you don't usually have to pull a strategy out of thin air. As Paladine said in regards to pawn structure, certain positions just kind of call for a certain general plan. This is why even the early developmental moves are important. For example if I'm white, and my opponent sets up his pieces on the kingside with moves like Nf6, pawn g6, bishop g7, and castle, I know that I often want to start a pawn storm on that side, disrupt the safety of the king and attack. With this in mind I will usually try to castle on the queenside so that my king wont be weak if I throw all my pawns on the other side.

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JoshuaD
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My game has sort of stagnated somewhere around 1300-1400. A big part of it is lack of motivation to get better, but another big question for me is how I go about getting better.

Any suggestions?

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Finvarra
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The best way is to play stronger opponents, preferably slow games, and analyze them afterwards with someone that can explain where you went wrong. (me or pal [Smile] )

Do you have an ICC account?

(For those who don't know, ICC = Internet Chess Club and is the best site to play on, though requires a paid membership)

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JoshuaD
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Yea, surprisingly it's JoshuaD. [Wink] Paladine's very difficult to play against. You know his style; he wins a pawn or some positional thing, and my game just kinda chokes. It's very difficult to get feedback on which moves cost me the game without him telling me.

I do something on move 6 that's a bit theoretically wrong, and my position sort of crumbles from there. It always seems to me like my mistake was the move that dropped the pawn, but when we go over it, he usually ends up showing me some loss is inevitable from some much earlier position.

I've been playing against our mutual friend Paul lately (the guy who used to play that really strange opening he invented), and I think that might really help my game. We usually end up in more dynamic positions (where I'm still probably gonna lose) but I have ideas.

You should get my screenname from Paladine sometime. Apparently your poker's getting strong, but I could probably help out a bit there in exchange for some chess help.

[ October 07, 2008, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: JoshuaD ]

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Finvarra
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I personally don't love playing against Paladine. I prefer tactical open positions. It is important though to fix those early moves that lead to bad positional games. I still suck in certain positions and have to compensate with my pretty tactics.

I played Paul once in a tournament and won only moving knights and pawns [Smile] To be fair though, he wasn't completely sober at the time.

I'm down for a poker chess trade though, I just messaged you on ICC with my handle and AIM screen name.

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Finvarra
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For anyone that reads this thread and is confused I'm going to define/explain a few terms that are usually used when discussing chess to avoid confusion.

Closed/Open Position: This refers to the pawn structure, but drastically affects the nature of the game. When the pawns are locked, e.g. white pawns on b2, c3, d4, e5, and black pawns on c4, d5, e6, f7, the position is locked. Locked pawn chains divide the board, pawn trades are impossible to open it up, etc. This affects what side of the board you play on, but also how you play. A closed position is often less about looking for the winning, mating attack, and more about trying to create weaknesses and exploiting them.

An open position, both players are more likely to play on both sides of the board and the center. There is more piece mobility, and each side will often attack his opponent's king.

Other useful terms:

A pin: when a piece can't move because it would open up an attack on a more important piece. For example a black knight on c6 would be pinned to the king on d7 if the white bishop was on b5, because moving the knight would be moving into check.

A fork: When you are attacking two pieces at once. For example if a white knight on c7 is attacking both a rook on a8 and e8.

A skewer: The opposite of a pin. Attack a more important piece, and when it moves you win another piece. Bishop check, king moves, bishop takes rook.

Minor pieces: knights, bishops
Major pieces: Rooks, Queen, King
Pawns are just pawns

Doubled pawns: When after capturing a pawn or piece, two pawns are on the same file. Usually a weakness, because the pawns are harder to defend.

File = vertical row
Rank = horizontal row

An outpost: usually on your opponent's side of the board. A square that is strong for a piece such as a knight because the pawns have already moved and cannot attack the piece to kick it out.

This is just a few things off the topic of my head and not all inclusive.

If or when we analyze a game, these are some of the terms that will be used.

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The Drake
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For people who don't like to pay, check out freechess.org

FICS is much like ICC from the beginner's perspective, but costs nothing. My FICS handle is WhiteCastle, though I don't get much time to play lately.

On to my chess question for the instructors:

As a C class player in USCF, usually rated around 1500, my opening repertoire:

White:
c4 (or d4 transposing to English)
Four Pawns against King's Indian
Will transpose into Queen's Gambit if favorable

Black:
e4 c6
e4 d5
d4 - QGD Slav
c4 e5

Comments, or suggestions? My biggest problem is staying on top of the Caro-Kann when white gets aggressive. You really can't afford less than optimal, but I like it better than the massive theory in the Sicilian Lines.

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JoshuaD
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Paladine's very strong with that c4 stuff. You should talk to him about it.
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Paladine
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Have any games to share in these openings, Drake? Maybe something from your FICS history you found interesting? I enjoy most of the openings you've described (although I myself gave up the Caro for the Accelerated Dragon a few years back) and am probably competent to give some help in lines that might be causing you trouble.
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The Drake
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I have most of my tournament games entered into Fritz, I'll look for some helpful ones and post them. I'm away for the weekend so it may be a little while.
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Finvarra
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I don't play any of the same openings as you (but could still obviously help analyze the games.) I do play one of the most aggressive lines as white against the Caro though. ( 1. E4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. nc3 e6 5. g4 )

I'm a 2100 by the way. I didn't post that before in case it wasn't obvious that 2100 USCF is different than 2100 on yahoo chess.

Just for the record, I play exclusively e4 as white. As black I play the Sicilian against e4, both the Dragon and the Najdorf variations but these days I'm favoring the Najdorf. I play the King's Indian Defense against d4, and tend to do a similar King's Indian set up against most non e4 openings. I've fooled around with some other openings too, but those are my staples.

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