The Amateur Eye – 1. e4 or 1. d4

My good friend Tom McKellop, a very strong amateur is a big fan of correspondence chess.  He asked me about 1. e4 and 1. d4 as starting a game based on my square count idea for planning opening play from the very first move.  That question is sort of universal among both amateur and professional players.  Much depends upon individual style, the opponent, and energy level for a good fight.  For an example of 1.d4, lets take a gander at a recent game between Grandmasters.  I chose this one because the themes seen for both sides bring about dynamic positions which might be common as an example evolving out of ….

l. d4  Nf6 2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Bb4 The Nimzo-Indian is a good choice. Years ago, common place was the standard QGD which seems to give White a slight edge after 3…d5  4.c:d5 e:d5 5. Bg5 which has always been a favorite approach of mine.

4. Nf3  b6  5. e3  This idea was a favorite of the Yugoslav GM Gligoric which dates the move opening popularity.  It was also a favorite of GM Reshevsky who won a match with Miguel Najdorf for the Western Hemisphere World Championship title in1951 and successfully defended it against Gligoric among others.

5. …Bb7  6. Bd3 O-O  7. O-O  d5  Black wants a share of the central pawn structure.

8. c:d5  e:d5  9. a3  Bd6  10. b4!  The problem for Black is how to deploy forces to counter the space edge White achieves.  Another idea is 10. Ne5 although it is too committal maybe.

10. …Nbd7  11. Qb3  a6  12. a4  Qe7 Partially restoring a s/c balance.  Another thought is 12…Re8 maybe with a swing of the Knight to the Kingside via Nf8 now that the f8 square is open.

Here the position is dangerous. 13. Rb1  c6 To stop b5 isolating the d-pawn.  But here a strategic mistake would be Ne4 because 14. N:d5  B:d5  15.Q:d5 Nc3  16. Qb3 N:b1  17. Q:b1  h6  18. b5! a:b5 19. a:b5 and despite the Exchange, White’s control and power play is hard to match.

14. a5 Rfb8  15. a:b6  Bc8 16. Qc2  White piles on the e4 pressure threat which cannot be stopped.   Still, the game remains somewhat defensible.  For example, 16… R:b6  17. Na4 Rbb8 18. Bd2 White is better but Black still can put up strong resistance. And 16,,,N:b6 17. e4  d:e4 18. N:e4 N:e4  19. B:e4  h6 20. Re1  Qf8!! Black needs to keep the Queen near her majesty. Black choice of 20… Qc7 led to 21. Bh7+ Kf8 22. Ne5 Nd5 23. N:f7 Q:f7 24. Bg6 Bf5 25. B:f5 N:b4  Marginally better might be 25….Re8 26. Bd2 and now 26. Qe4 centralizing the Queen with the deadly threat 26…Nd5 27. Be6!  Qf6 28. R:b8+ R:b8 29. Qh7 g5  30. Qg8+ Black resigned..

In openings where 1.e4 is played, I usually recommend 1…e5 but 1….e6 or 1…Nc6, 1…Nf6 I find are sharp if you are playing for a win even if risky.  Solid booked players may go for one of the Sicilian Defense lines but poses a White lst move advantage with choices of obtaining attacking gambit play such as the Wing or Morra Gambit.  The positional slow Giuoco Piano is very popular as is the Scotch Opening or even the Evans Gambit.  So, if you are not booked up on at least the basic moves and plans, I would advise 1.d4 over 1.e4. Also, a new twist is called the Dunst Opening 1.Nc3 followed by 2. d4 or playing it as an alternative after 1. d4.

For the adventurer, I sometimes start with either 1. e3  or 1. c3 both which avoid book openings for students. That helps to avoid clever traps.


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