At the beginning of this skill building project, Andrea (my chess coach during these months) suggested I picked one opening to play with Black versus e4 and one against d4. For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed more playing king’s pawn games (those starting with e4). That’s why I looked forward so much to focus for at least three months on the French Defense when playing with black pieces. And that’s what I did. During the past three months, any time I played against e4 I went e6. Then I would try different variants within the French Defense, but I’d stick to that for a long period of time. I think that e4 is more popular than d4 and c4 (the main openings), and that’s probably why it felt like the past three months I did a deep dive in the French Defense. I simply had more opportunities to play that opening.
Even though I love playing a wide variety of openings (and I do know the first 8-10 moves of many openings, both with white and black pieces), I have to admit that ‘specializing’ in just a handful of openings might be more fruitful in the long run. When you do something over and over for long periods of time you have the chance of getting better at it. Of course, doing the same thing repeatedly is not sufficient. You must also do it the right way. In chess, playing the same opening over and over again doesn’t guarantee you’ll become a master at them. You need to know the ideas behind the opening, understand it a conceptual level, learn different variants, etc. But if you stick to it for a period of time and practice well, chances are that you’re going to see some improvement.
The Lesson: More French Defense & Ruy Lopez
In this lesson we studied a classic possition derived from the French Defense, when White plays f4 and has a big wide center. Many times, the resulting positions will be of opposite side castling. That’s what happened in the position below:
Here, white is preparing g4 and h4. The idea is to open up the ‘h’ column. Eventually, they could also play Bd3 and bring the queen to the ‘h’ column to add pressure on h7. Even though they’re preparing a strong attack, they have to be careful and keep their own castling safe. Black is going to play b5 as soon as they can and prepare their own attack. Who will arrive first? That’s the question! We need to have good timing and assess our position objectively, to avoid getting caught up in the heat of the moment.
We also studied some ideas in the Ruy Lopez opening. I’ve always loved playing the ‘Spanish’, both with white and with black pieces. Lately, I’ve been trying with White a4 and d3 (I had always played a3, along with c3 and d4). Andrea helped clarified here in which cases it makes sense to play a3 and when to play a4, depending on the position of my light-squared bishop (the ‘Spanish bishop’). That’s not a minor thing! Below you can find a very classical position resulting from this opening.
We’ve also talked about the placement of the white knight of b1. He suggested the maneuver Nc3-Ne2-Ng3 as an interesting alternative to Nd2-Nf1-Ng3. The former has the advantage that I don’t need to move my rook from f1 to e1 to make room for my bishop, as it will head to g3 via e2.
The Weekly Practice (03/17/21 to 03/23/21)
This week I practiced two Puzzle Storms per day, except for one (my highest ranking was 46), did tactics on mating attack, studied the classic French Defense (variants with f4), and continued reading ‘The Seven Deadly Chess Sins’, by Jonathan Rowson. There was one day where I did no practice at all, and one day I did just 10 minutes of tactics. The rest of the days I practiced for around 1 hour (one day only I did 45 minutes). At this point -and anticipating already the end of the project-, I felt a bit exhausted from the daily grind and ‘allowed’ myself a day off 😁.
The Games of the Week
Between March 17th and March 23rd, I only played 19 games. These are the picks of the week:
C13 French Defense: Alekhine-Chatard Attack (I won with Black)
A complicated and very tactical game. I like this weird line of 6… h5 vs the Alekhine-Chatard attack. I haven’t studied the theory (is it even a variant?), but it just suits my style and temperament! And so far, so good.
Here’s a defeat in the Tarrasch variant of the French Defense:
C07 French Defense: Tarrasch Variation, Open System, Süchting Line (I lost with White)
And a victory:
A36 English Opening: Symmetrical Variation, Botvinnik System (I won with Black)
That’s all for now! 😊