Starting Out Strong

Well, I’m back from the Potomac Open. I finished 2/5 in the U2100 section, so I’ll need to do some work before the Virginia Closed.

For today’s post, I want to talk about playing solid chess in the opening and reaching playable positions. In each of my wins this past weekend, my opponents ran very low on time, and one of them even flagged on move 26. It is very important to have a grasp for the position, and generally, when players go out of theoretical lines and ideas, they start to get lost in the minutiae of the position.

In this first game, I was playing as a 200+ point underdog in the last round of the Virginia Scholastic State Chess Championships at Longwood University. While I drew the game, I reached a slightly better position out of the opening.

Li – Steincamp (Virginia Scholastic State Chess Championships, 2013)

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3

4…Bg7 A very flexible position. In the Grand Prix positions, it is important to stay flexible, and in some cases wary of the f4–f5 push. For the most part, I just need to develop and get my king safe.

5. Bb5 At the time, this move was out of my opening preparation. I find this move odd, because most Grand Prix players like their light square bishop on c4 or g2. If white wants to trade the bishop for my knight on c6, he eliminates most of the common ideas.

5…e6 6. O-O Nge7 7. Bxc6

7…Nxc6 Because of the fluidity in my position, I did not need to worry about doubling my pawns or falling behind in development. Still out of preparation, I need to answer a few critical questions. What to I want to do with my c8 bishop? What side of the board do I want to play on? What are White’s weaknesses?

These are all important questions to answer. Since my opponent has given my the pair of bishops, I obviously should try to open the position. In order to do this, I generally look for ways to trade pawns, meaning that the traditional b7–b5 ideas are too slow right now. In this position, I elected to push d7–d5, and develop my light squared bishop to either g4 or a6. White doesn’t have any concrete weaknesses right now, so my main focus should be to strengthen my bishop pair.

8. d3 O-O 9. Be3 b6 10. Rb1 d5 11. Ne2 dxe4 12. dxe4

12…Ba6! Now that I have opened the position, it was crucial to use my bishops to my advantage. By placing my bishop here, white’s knight on e2 is a little uncomfortable.

13. Qxd8

13…Raxd8 In this position, Rfxd8 is fine too. I figured taking with the a rook could give me future options with f7–f5 ideas.

14. Kf2 Nb4 15. c3

15…Nc2 Here I copped out of the much better 15…Nd3+ with a much better positions. I had spent a lot of time calculating this move, but I can’t remember exactly why I chose Nc2. After this move, I only have a slightly better position.

16. Rbd1

16…Nxe3 Removing the other bishop and putting my opponent’s king in the middle of a crossfire. However, I overlooked 16… f6, followed by Bd3, pressuring the e4 pawn.

17. Kxe3 Bc4 18. a3

18…f6 Eliminating the e5 square for my opponent’s knight.

19. Rfe1 1/2-1/2 My opponent offered a draw and I took it. I think if I had this position now however, I would have played on. I’m not winning here, but my pair of bishops offer me a lot more play than my opponent.

While I missed a few opportunities, I outplayed my opponent in his opening without any prior preparation. When in the opening, its very important to keep a strong and flexible pawn structure, and continue optimizing your pieces. If your opponent deviates from common theory, it is important not to panic. play sound chess, both tactically and positionally.

 

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

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