Kindred’s Special: Openings, A Solid Foundation

A solid foundation of principles help to direct operations in a chess battle. Years ago it was established that White (since 1929) was officially to open a game with the lst turn. This is suppose to represent a slight edge because white has an early on direction of development that black normally responds to in meeting threats and trying to equal development of forces so as not to lose time. White’s strategy is to obtain a spatial edge, thus securing some advantage for maneuvering, finding good squares for pieces and either gaining a strong center or at least one of equal sharing. Likewise, black’s task is to try and obtain equality through efficient development of his own forces. In simple terms, white aims to keep pressure on black while black retaliates with creating an equalibrium. For many years this was the status quo and normal thinking of the masters. Chess openings became normal through the practice of masters who set the standards for such opening names as The Ruy Lopez, The Giuoco Piano,  Queen’s Pawn Game that led to such offshoots as Queen’s Gambit Accepted or Declined, and various sub titles within the general systems that emerged from practice and theorists.

In general I advise starting out learning all you can about King Pawn Openings (1.e2-e4). The nature of these openings is more tactical featuring attack, defend, conjuring up more threats, defend or initiating some form of counterattack by black.  Contrarily speaking, the QP openings generally are more positional in nature and for the student learning it is more complex to understand the systems employing such operations.

The fundamental principles regarding the opening are deployment of forces and the center. The center is the geometrically small square e4/e5/d4/d5 and the central squares that abridge those on the c and f files which I call the central complex.

How to assure a decent opening position in readiness for the coming middle game is important and various steps can be taken to reflect upon for carrying out such opening plans:

  1. Secure some control of space in the center by at least one pawn unless you are allowed to grab more center with additional pawn moves (usually e/d pawns but also c and f pawns might participate to that end). Remember that on the lst time you move a pawn it can advance either one or two squares.
  2. It is customary to develop a Knight before a Bishop. The reason being is that the Knight can pressure the center with both attack and defense whereas the Bishop is geared more for digging into the enemy camp on the b5 square but often well placed depending on the situation on c4, d3, e2 or g2. The same is basically true for the Queen’s Bishop on its own diagonal. Thus you can see the desirability of holding back a Bishop deployment for a move or two after the Knight is played forth.
  3. Pick out a good square the minor pieces to be developed and  square count can assist you because often the more you can increase sqct the better the chance of inhibiting the opponent’s own forces, create threats, and benefit from maneuvering space within your own lines.
  4. Early Q moves should be avoided until the minor pieces are developed and perhaps castling has taken place. Such a plan for the Q might be to support the defense of a center square from being occupied by the opponent or to support a pawn advance, to backup a Bishop’s pressuring a diagonal, and lastly to utilize it as a pinning factor usually against a Knight or pawn.
  5. Play to get control of at least a portion of the center.
  6. Castling should fit the need of the position. It is safer to castle on the K-side (0-0) than on the Q-side (0-0-0) as the King in (o-o-o) remains somewhat in the central complex files (c-file) and often requires an extra move to go to the b-file for safety.
  7. A King caught in the center files for any reason is vulnerable and often subject of a dangerous mating attack.
  8. Try to maintain at least one pawn in the center.
  9. Pawn formations are subject to attack by enemy pawns; an example: 1e4 e6 2d4 d5 3e5 c5 4c3, a standard line in the French Defense.
  10. Always examine possible moves, checks on the King, loose pieces or pawn not adequately defended which can be swiped and put in the box. Such occurances might uncover loose pieces, a surprise checkmate usually brought about by a sharp sacrifice of material. But it might also entail nothing more than grabbing control of a file, rank, diagonal. Creating an isolani or pawn islands is a positional feature resulting from such assessment aimed at an advantage in the endgame and occasionally even in the middle game.
  11. Do not sacrifice without good reason. This involves a combination to secure a mating attack, win of material, a positional advantage, or to remove a dominate piece that inhibits your own forces or threatens to win the game.
  12. In addition to the above, a pawn sacrifice is often essayed in a game and should be done only with specific goals: 1. secure superior development of forces; 2.deflect the enemy Queen; 3.contain the enemy King in the center; 4.create a breakup of the center defense or breakthrough of heavy forces in the center or central complex. 5.In cases where the King has castled, to open lines for heavy units to invade the King’s defensive squares.

Beware of counterattacks that usually involve a sharp entry by a Pawn to initiate it. Often it involves the attempt to smash a center or to react against a Kingside pawn roll up or attack. An attack should not succeed without some control of the center.

As the knowledge, skill, and numbers of players increased throughout the decades, the beauty of chess as evolved in kind. Brilliant attacks, clever defensive resources, superb strategical battles featuring more and more imbalance as a weapon culminating in splendid tactical motifs makes it an ongoing learning process. Competition has enriched the game and widened the aesthetic beauty to ever new highs.

In the simpliest of terms however a move boils down to two questions which has remained as a guiding tool: 1. How does it affect the center? 2. Does it fit in with development of my other pieces and pawns and with my general strategic plan? And this should be asked about the opponent’s move as well. As you find your thoughts proving right more and more, that is a sign that you are becoming an able practitioner of the chess pieces!

My concept of square count I have given elsewhere in my lessons. An interesting book called POINT COUNT CHESS was authored by Geoffrey Mott Smith and Al Horowitz with a forward by GM Samuel Reshevsky. I mention it because it is also based upon a type of numeric point count that relates to various strategic and tactical motifs that when applied appears to have practical application. As I remember when reaching a total of 4 or 5 points, the game was close to winning. Open files, half-open files, outpost, weak squares, QP isolani, castling, active versus defensive roles for the Kings all played a role in such point count. Geoffrey Mott Smith was a brilliant player of games and his system is worthy of attention. For the novice player, it is a book that can add a couple hundred points to your rating.

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