Isaac’s Mailbag, 2nd Edition

If you read my blog last week, I introduced a new segment to my blog, Isaac’s Mailbag. Each week, I will answer 4 questions which I have been asked about chess. Without further ado, let’s get started!

1) What do you have against 1. e4 e5 for Black?

This often comes up when I talk about openings. The problem I have with 1 e4 e5 for Black is that after 2 Nf3, there is not exactly a dynamic positional approach for Black. Against the Ruy Lopez, Black can try the g6 lines, but as seen in the Nakamura–Carlsen game of the Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen could not get an advantage after trading the light squared bishop. The Four Knights and Giucco Piano does not really offer too much variety, and the Two Knights Defense relies a lot on prior memorization. This doesn’t even account for the King’s Gambit, where White forces the game into tactical game early. My problem with 1… e5 is Black doesn’t control the kind of position as much as he can in a Sicilian, French, or even a Scandinavian. The same lines get boring after a while.

2) Chess season is starting, and I’m a chess mom who needs help coaching kids rated below 1400. What would you recommend?

Many scholastic clubs are starting, but often times coaches don’t know where to start. Here is the ChessKid Curriculum. Many coaches use this for private lessons, and while it is kind of a cookie-cutter course, it does provide a framework to start with. If you have a competitive middle school club, try getting a USCF Affiliate to play rated games. Rated games are the best way to practice, and will force your players to calculate.

3) What is the coolest tactic you’ve seen this week?

Grandmaster Andrei Volokitin found this nice gem against Mushgev Asgarov in the 2014 Baku Chess Festival. See if you can find Volokitin’s brilliancy before seeing the answer (position courtesy of!

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 13.01.41


1. Qc5!! and the game is over. If 1… Qxc5 2. Rd8#, and 1… Qc6 runs into 2. Rd8+ +- anyways. The knight cannot move as a result of the pin, so Black is totally lost. Good job Volokitin!

4) Who won the Bilbao Masters Last week?

Former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand drew easily to Ruslan Ponomariov in Round 5 to guarantee a first place finish. The section featured a total of four players: Anand, Ponomariov, Levon Aronian, and Francisco Vallejo Pons.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments section if you want to have a question answered next week!

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