08 June 2014

Cross-training openings: Dutch Defense

Here are two further examples of cross-training openings, both relevant to the Dutch Defense.  I've been working my way through Nimzovitch's Chess Praxis, similar to the way I eventually completed Bronstein's Zurich 1953 tournament book.  The games are instructive in general - why Nimzovitch chose them to begin with - and you can also see a copy of his notes to the first game in the link below.

Bogoljubov - Nimzovitch (London, 1927)

Nimzovitch - von Scheve (Ostende, 1907)


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  2. Hello ChessAdmin, I have only just stumbled across your blog today and I think it's amazing! I'm in the process of reading through all the articles in chronological order from the beginning. May I ask you how close you are to master level since you began this blog? That's if you haven't attained it already. Your article on "why I play the Caro-Kann" really inspired me. I have been debating between playing: 1...e5, Sicilian or the Caro-Kann for longer than I'd like to say. Of the 3 I have always found myself more comfortable in the positions resulting from the Caro-Kann, however, I was always put off fully committing to it for some of the reasons you listed, specifically the reason that it may inhibit your chess growth. I have a difference to you against 1.d4 as I'm currently playing the Nimzo-Indian paired with the QGD (Tartakower vs Classical). I have asperger's syndrome and choosing an opening repertoire for me has been incredibly difficult, as I want to choose one that I can play exclusively for the rest of my life. It may sound crazy but I have always feared that 50-70yrs down the line on my deathbed I will look back and have regrets about the openings I chose. I have spent hours 100s (probably over a 1000) of hours agonising over the selection of a repertoire. For a long time I was obsessed with Bobby Fischer (partly because I'm certain he had undiagnosed asperger's) and I really wanted to play the same Black openings as him, in particular the: King's Indian and Najdorf. I have had reasonable success in the Najdorf but I really hate the anti-scilians, especially the 2.c3 Scilian and the 3.Bb5+ Moscow Variation against Najdorf attempts, which at this present time is enough for me to rule out the Sicilian altogether (I had a really bad loss in the 2.c3 Sicilian that haunts me till this day, I still have nightmares where I'm playing against a lower rated person and they destroy me in under 20 moves with it). My biggest problem with the King's Indian is I don't like having to be the one to fight for the initiative, which is what Black needs to do in my understanding of the King's Indian, as Black has compromised his position by giving up "space". Part of me feels like playing it anyway because of my admiration with Fischer, but atm I'm playing the Nimzo/QGD because I feel most comfortable with it, also I like that the Caro-Kann and Nimzo/QGD both share a light sq strategy theme. I have also tried 1...e5 as I'm a fan of Mickey Adams, but I find symmetrical positions really boring, in games against players rated even 20-40ecf pts (200-350 fide equiv I think) less I can even get into bad positions just by a lack of interest in playing the game because I'm bored (the Italian Game in particular). I think my biggest fear of committing to the Caro-Kann is; X years down the line I'm afraid I'll either get bored of the opening, or even worse, White finds something against the Caro-Kann that brings the opening itself into question. Do you think the Caro-Kann is an opening that will stand the test of time? Also do you think the Caro-Kann is a rich enough opening that it could satisfy (in the mental stimulation sense) someone for a lifetime? Sorry for the long post, I would be very interested to hear your opinions on any of the above. Kind Regards,
    James P.S. best of luck with your blog for future, I have bookmarked and will be checking it daily for updates. I will also recommend to my friends when my club season restarts in Sept/Oct later this year. Live long and prosper.

    1. Hello James,
      You certainly packed a lot into that comment! I'll offer some relevant responses in no particular order:
      -- I think opening choice is first and foremost a personal thing; aside from some clearly weaker ones (the Grob etc.) there's no "right" or "wrong" choice for your main opening weapons. It's primarily dependent on how comfortable you feel in the resulting positions and on what level of enjoyment you get out of studying and playing them. It's also natural to add to your repertoire over time, so you don't have to feel stuck forever with one system - although bouncing around and always changing openings will over time make your game shallow.
      -- I sympathize with your experience with the Sicilian, everyone as Black wants to get into the exciting main line variations and at the club level there's a lot of 2. c3 and the Moscow/Rossolimo with 3. Bb5, or other deviations.
      -- I've never gotten bored with the Caro-Kann, I think that's a strength of the opening. The more you study and play it, the deeper it gets, plus there are significant choices of variations at key points that provide variety. Black for example has a lot of choice in the old main line (3. Nc3) and in the Advance variation, which is really the new main line by popularity, there's a big split on move 3 (...Bf5 or ...c5). The fact that Tal played it in his matches with Botvinnik is often overlooked - he was hardly a boring guy - and it's solid enough that it will never be driven out of fashion, much less busted.
      -- It's a fact that every opening you pick will have certain frustrating or less interesting lines. I feel like this is minimized for the Caro-Kann, for example, but I think it's part of a chess player's maturation process to objectively evaluate their openings rather than demand too much out of them. This fact can also stimulate valuable further study into the selected opening or cause you to look at specific, constructive ways to avoid a particular line. Professional players do this all the time and focus on transposition and move-order subtleties to get where they want to go, not just memorizing lines out of a book or database.
      -- If you read the "Chess vs. Life" post, you'll see where I'm at currently. I've put in nowhere near the necessary number of hours to have reached mastery and realistically may never do so (although it's still a useful goal). Simply improving my understanding of the game and continuing to do related mental work has been helpful, though, and after I can return to playing more regularly, I'll have a better grasp of where I'm at in my capabilities. Frankly I need to put the time in to absorb a significant amount of additional knowledge, especially on endgames and on certain middlegame concepts, before I'll be able to get to the expert (2000 Elo) level.

  3. Hello ChessAdmin,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to respond to my comment. I think on the basis of comfort I'm probably going to stick with the Caro-Kann. The highest win from the Black side I have ever had was with the Caro-Kann against a 2200, I was estimated around 1900 elo at the time so I was very happy.
    I'm not sure whether you have read Lars Bo Hansen's book "How Chess Games are Won and Lost"? In it he briefly discusses Opening selection based on the "style" of player you are. One of the styles he calls "reflectors" he says the: Caro-Kann or Ruy Lopez would be a good choice against 1.e4. Against 1.d4 he suggests: Nimzo/Queen's/Bogo-Indian complexes or Queen's Gambit Declined. I expect he was just using these as examples but I think he's probably right.
    I have been considering switching to 3...c5 against the Advance, I was impressed by Andreikin's employment of it against Svidler in the last Chess World cup, making 2 draws quite comfortably. I imagine if it's good enough at their level it's good enough at sub-GM level too.
    As White I read in one of your articles that you decided to go with the English. Did you consider playing 1.d4? Or did you want to avoid such things as the Grunfeld? I recently purchases Kornev's 3 Vol series on "A Practical White Repertoire with 1.d4 and 1.c4" after reading good reviews and think it's very good. I really liked his recommendation of the Averbakh against the King's Indian, my results against the King's Indian have improved drastically since switching to the Averbakh.
    I read your post Chess vs. Life and have faced similar problems to you, mainly work for me and being too tired when I get home to want to study chess, would rather relax and watch football. I think for me if I can achieve FM before I die I will be satisfied, I will try set aside more time on the weekends. I think you will achieve master status if you're able to find the time, you're definitely doing all the right stuff from the articles I've read.

    1. I never really understood the 1. d4 suite of openings when I first started tournament play (as a low Class C player), whereas the English was an offbeat "flank" opening (not so offbeat at the higher levels) and seemed better suited as a less-intensive alternate to 1.e4. At this point I doubt I would ever adopt 1. d4, although I might eventually look at some specific transpositional possibilities to certain queen's pawn openings from the English. One of the concepts I've begun to understand better is the idea of aiming for certain positions (or position types) out of the opening, rather than getting hung up on exact move-orders.


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