FIDE-Rated Event Reporting, Part 1

fide logo
FIDE, the International Chess Federation.

Congratulations! You’re going to be Chief Arbiter of your very first FIDE-rated event. It may even be a tournament offering IM or GM norms!

What information do you need to submit? How? And by when?

Remember: National Arbiters (NA) may be Chief Arbiter of FIDE-rated events that do not offer title norms. A FIDE Arbiter (FA) or International Arbiter (IA) must be the Chief of norm events.

Here in Part 1, I’ll talk about pre-event “gotchas.” Part 2 will cover what to do during the tournament. Finally, Part 3 will discuss what to do after the event has ended.

While some info here can be helpful to any arbiter, these posts are aimed at USA arbiters submitting events to the US Chess Federation (USCF, or US Chess).

 

USCF Responsibilities

You need to email your event’s information to the US Chess FIDE Events Manager (currently, IA Brian Yang) so that he can register your event with FIDE. You cannot do this yourself, and must go through US Chess. You can email fide@uschess.0rg.

For a title norm event (you’re an FA or IA, right?), you need to send the info to US Chess at least 33 days before the start date of your event.

For a non-norm event, you can send the info a mere 3 days 6 days before the start. [FIDE needs the info 3 days prior, from US Chess. Thanks to IA Judit Sztaray for this correction!]

Which information to include? Below is the info I sent Brian to register the 2023 New York Winter Invitational – GM A. Feel free to steal this template:

Tournament Name: 2023 New York Winter Invitational – GM A
City and State: New York, NY
Number of players: 10
System: RR
Start Date: 2023-01-12
End Date: 2023-01-16
Time Control: 90 minutes with 30 second increment from move 1
Playing schedule:
Round 1: 11/12 7PM
Round 2: 11/13 12PM
Round 3: 11/13 6PM
Round 4: 11/14 12PM
Round 5: 11/14 6PM
Round 6: 11/15 12PM
Round 7: 11/15 6PM
Round 8: 11/16 10AM
Round 9: 11/16 4PM
Chief Arbiter: Andre Harding (2008335)
Chief Organizer: Keith Espinosa (30911044)

Note as well that you need to have a Chief Arbiter and Chief Organizer (a person, not an organization) when registering your event. Include their FIDE IDs, as I have done here. The CA and CO can be the same person.

When your event is registered, it will be assigned an Event Code and look like this on the FIDE website:

fide tournament details
If this page doesn’t exist, your tournament doesn’t exist to FIDE!

 

A Very Important Detail

USCF rating report screenshot
Two FIDE-rated sections, one USCF rating report.

TDs usually include all event sections in one USCF rating report. You can do that when submitting FIDE events for USCF rating, too.

(I’ll talk more about the rating reports in Part 3.)

 

When it comes to FIDE-rated events, however, each FIDE-rated section must be registered as a separate tournament! Behold:

fide events rated
Two USCF-rated sections in one USCF rating report become two separate FIDE events!

 

The email snippet above registering the January 2023 event was actually four times as long, because I had to send essentially the same info four times to register each section: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D. Cut and paste is your friend here…

 

SwissSys

If for some reason you don’t already have a copy of SwissSys, you now need it! That’s because you need to submit your event for FIDE rating using SwissSys files.

This means, even if you use Swiss-Manager as I do, prepare your SwissSys files before the tournament!

Create as many sections in SwissSys as you need for your event as you would for a normal USCF tournament. Enter all of your players (if your event is far in the future, update regularly).

Now, as you register players, the “I.D. number” field should contain their USCF ID. In the “I.D. #2” field, enter their FIDE ID number! Search the players on ratings.fide.com

Which rating to use? I enter the players’ current FIDE ratings, but this doesn’t matter UNLESS you’re going to pair a FIDE-rated Swiss tournament with SwissSys. Then it is a must (more on that in Part 2).

[Edit: IA Tom Langland mentioned a combined USCF/FIDE rating database I was unaware of, which should make this process much easier! I found it here: https://www.kingregistration.com/combineddb]

Check that the players have current USCF memberships, as you would for any non-FIDE-rated event. However: any GM/IM/WGM/WIM whose FIDE country is not USA is exempt from having a current membership. They just need a USCF ID number. So get your foreign players a USCF ID if they don’t have one!

[Edit: IA Sztaray reminds us to make sure all players in FIDE-rated sections have FIDE IDs! Get info from the players (federation, gender, birth year) and email fide@uschess.org to get new IDs. When you have them, enter this info manually.]

 

PGN files

This applies to norm tournaments: GM, IM, WGM, and WIM.

    • For a norm to be valid in a round robin event, a PGN file of all games in the tournament must be submitted to FIDE [in our case, we send them to the US Chess FIDE Events Manager].
    • For a norm to be valid in a Swiss event, PGN files of all games from norm-earners must be included. It’s not required to include all games.

Keep this in mind! If you’re not using DGT boards, you will be entering lots of games into ChessBase! Even if your event doesn’t require the submission of PGN files, strive to collect all game scores.

Order carbonless scoresheets — NOW. Collect the top (white) copy, while the player keeps the bottom (yellow) copy. While you’re at it, order lots of pens.

 

Final Thoughts

This is more work than you anticipated, am I right? Yes — and you must be very detail-oriented.

Doing all this pre-work, however, will make your life much easier when it comes time to submit your event for FIDE rating.

I would appreciate any questions or comments from other arbiters or prospective arbiters!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

ForwardChess: Good for Reading Chess Books?

A Huge Timesaver

If you’re comfortable reading books on a screen (web or downloadable app), ForwardChess will save you a lot of time:

  • No need to use a board and pieces, resetting again and again to play through variations.
  • No need to enter games or entire books into ChessBase.
  • No need to add more “stuff” to your physical chess library which, if you’re like me, could have hundreds of books in it already!
ForwardChess
ForwardChess app. Image: play.google.com

 

Try Before You Buy

If you walked into a real bookstore, you could peruse the books you were thinking of buying. Forward chess allows you to read samples, often including a chapter or two to see if the title is what you expect.

 

Better Prices

The 670+ books currently available on ForwardChess are usually cheaper than their print alternatives, and comparable to Amazon prices. And whether you get a physical book or a Kindle version, you can’t play through the moves without a board …

The ForwardChess libary include classics by Jose Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, and Rudolf Spielmann among others, as well as a plethora of contemporary titles. There are no Chernev or Mednis books, however — please fix this, ForwardChess!

Most major publishers are represented, including Chess Stars, Everyman Chess, Quality Chess, and New in Chess. The notable exception is Gambit Publications.

 

Conclusion

Chessable has a lot of fans; I’ve used it some and I think it’s ok … but it doesn’t let me study the way I grew up doing with “regular” books. At least, I don’t know how to use it in this way.

ForwardChess books are intended to be read like physical books. It is a blessing for chess players. If you’re lazy, like me, and don’t want to take out a board and pieces any longer, there is no longer any excuse to not study!

Chess Tactics: Radjabov — Naiditsch, 2003

Teimour Radjabov
Teimour Radjabov. Photo: 365chess.com

Teimour Radjabov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1987.

He was at one point the youngest grandmaster in the world, achieving the highest title in chess at the age of 14 years and 14 days (at that time, Bu Xiangzhi was the youngest GM ever, before Sergey Karjakin shattered the record in 2002).

Radjabov began playing top tournaments at age 14, making appearances at Dortmund, Wijk aan Zee, and Linares. His peak world rank was No. 4 (October 2012), and a month later he achieved his highest mark on the FIDE Rating List: 2793.

In recent years it seemed the gifted Azeri was finished as an absolute top player, but he surprisingly won the 2019 World Cup, defeating Ding Liren in the finals. This earned him a spot in the 2020 Candidates Tournament. FIDE screwed the pooch on that one, but I look forward to seeing Radjabov in the next Candidates.

 

Dortmund 2003 is best remembered for a monumental upset: Victor Bologan (World No. 42) triumphed in a six-player double round-robin over Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand, and Peter Leko — ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the world, respectively.

Two youngsters also took part in that event: Radjabov and Arkadij Naiditsch.

Everyone should play through Alexander Finkel’s annotations for ChessBase to the Round 8 battle, below — how to handle, or in this case not handle, a direct kingside attack from a Queen Pawn Game (here, the Torre Attack).

White to play. How did Radjabov launch a deadly attack?

13.?

 

Where is your counterplay coming from?

How to Increase Your Chess Rating Fast

You can increase your chess rating quick, fast, and in a hurry. Almost immediately, in some cases. But if you’re a “chess romantic,” this method is not for you.

Increase your chess rating and win more prizes at tournaments.

Everyone wants to win more games, but what price are you willing to pay? If you’re 1000+, I have long been convinced that the quickest, surest path to more wins and a higher rating runs through the opening.

Embrace this. Don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed by the group-think that pervades chess instruction and insists you look for a pot of gold at the end of the tactics rainbow. Or worse, insists you focus on endgames.

Are you still reading? Good. Let me be very clear about what I mean, and explain my reasoning.

 

Use opening study to drive your rating gains

Knowledge is power in chess. When looking to increase your chess rating, laziness won’t do.

That said, there are different layers to opening study.

 

Wait! Why not tactics and endgames?

Don’t worry!

  • You are working on tactics! If you study openings properly, you will learn recurring tactical ideas in lines you actually play. This makes them easier to find in real life instead of hoping to apply something from solving thousands of random puzzles.
  • Your endgame results will also improve as a side-effect of serious opening study. Not only will you get more familiar positions and practice playing them, good study will provide you with better endgames than you had in the past!

Okay, let’s keep going!

 

Know what kinds of positions you play well, or can learn to play well.

A player can’t completely avoid tactics or strategy — we all know this.  As for the lecture about “stunting your chess development,” that applies to aspiring 2700-rated grandmasters. Almost everyone else spends their chess career managing their weak spots.

If attacking play comes naturally to you, play openings that allow you the kinds of attacks you like to play. Not all attacks are the same!

Do you consider yourself a strategist? Fine (that’s a hint by the way, study his games). Do you like to maneuver in closed positions? Maybe you prefer queenless middlegames? Perhaps you have an affinity for certain types of endgames?

Research “candidate” openings that might suit you. Then test them out against good opposition online. I recommend playing games in the 5-minute pool. The results aren’t important; focus on whether or not you like the character of the play.

 

Don’t be delusional

I’m a poor attacker … and after 25 years of chess, this won’t change very much. While I’ve had some success with the Sicilian Najdorf (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6) , I have played the Dragon Variation (5…g6) exactly once in a tournament game — at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1996! I lost badly, too.

What’s the difference? The Najdorf is dynamic, while the Dragon is a straight attacking race.

On the other hand, I like playing queenless positions, and for some reason I’ve always been able to play any kind of endgame with rooks well. Slow maneuvering is not my forte, which I guess explains why several attempts to play the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) as black have been a failure. My attempts to play the English Opening (1.c4) have been disastrous.

As WIM Iryna Zenyuk once told me: “Play YOUR chess.”

 

A word about system openings

I’m referring to the King’s Indian Attack, Colle System, London System, Torre Attack, etc.

I would mostly avoid them … and not because of nebulous ideas about “limiting your potential.”

As I’ve said before, avoiding main line openings forces you to work harder at the board when you have nerves, a ticking clock, and an opponent to deal with.

Instead, choose openings with defined main lines you can study in advance and learn well. If your opponent deviates, you will either know how to deal with their subpar moves, or can take comfort that you have a route to a clear advantage. In other words …

 

Raise your rating by shortening the game

The more of a game you can pre-plan, the better your results will be — if your prep is good.

Think about it: do you have more confidence in your own moves, or those you learned from Stockfish or Grandmaster XYZ? As long as you have an idea of your moves’ purpose and aren’t blindly memorizing, I think the answer is clear. Lofty ideas about being creative or original stop most players from increasing their chess rating. That, and not wanting it badly enough.

Yes, you’re going to have to memorize some lines … some of them 15+ moves. That’s a good thing: your hard work will leave your peers behind and raise you to a new level. Let them do 20 minutes of tactics a day and play openings “based on ideas.” They will be at the same level five years from now.

 

Action steps to improve your rating

    • Buy ChessBase if you haven’t already. I consider it indispensible if you’re serious about trying to increase your chess rating.
    • Search for openings/positions you might be interested in playing.
    • Test these lines in online play to see if they suit you and you like playing them.
    • Create a database in ChessBase with your opening lines. I call mine “Opening Lines.” In this database is one “game” (line) for each opening.
Increase your chess rating with detailed opening study
A peek at my current database.
    • Constantly play through GM games in your chosen lines, and keep testing online.
    • Add/edit lines in your database … this could take months to begin with, and never really ends. Be thorough.
    • Maintenance. Keep studying games, memorizing your lines, and practicing online.

I eagerly await comments on this one!

Mihail Marin: Great Chess Authors, Part 8

Today I want to discuss a very popular and highly-regarded chess figure who also happens to be the first currently-living author in the series. Serious work for serious people, yes, but more approachable than most Dvoretsky volumes.

Mihail Marin

Mihail Marin
Mihail Marin. Photo: Mihail Marin’s Twitter, @MihailMarin3

Mihail Marin (1965 – ) was born in Bucharest, Romania. A three-time Champion of Romania (1988, 1994, 1999), he competed in the 1987 Szirak Interzonal. 

Marin has represented Romania in ten Olympiads, winning a bronze medal on Board 3 at Thessaloniki 1988. He earned the Grandmaster title in 1993 and was ranked one of the World’s Top 100 Players in 2001.

These are certainly impressive accomplishments, but Marin was destined for greatness in another realm of chess.

Starting at the Top

In 2003, Gambit Publications issued Mihail Marin’s first book, Secrets of Chess Defence, which was nominated for the 2003 ChessCafe Book of the Year Award.

Gambit also published Marin’s Secrets of Attacking Chess in 2005, which was also well-received. If you can even get one of these books, you’ll pay a pretty penny! Well, there’s always Kindle…

A Critical Building Block

New publisher Quality Chess lived up to their name by bringing Mihail Marin into the fold early on. He has produced a string of hits for them — behold:

Learn from the Legends: Chess Champions at their Best (2004)

This book won Marin the 2005 ChessCafe.com Book of the Year Award, and was so highly-acclaimed that it has been revised and reprinted multiple times.

Each chapter examines a distinctive feature of a great player of the past: Akiba Rubinstein‘s Rook Endings, Mikhail Tal‘s Super Rooks vs. Two Minor Pieces, Tigran Petrosian‘s Exchange Sacrifices, Bobby Fischer‘s Pet Bishop, and more.

A book that definitely lives up to its hype: pleasant and instructive.

Beating the Open Games (2007)

A player who has decided to play 1…e5 in response to 1.e4 needs to prepare for the different lines white can employ. Fortunately, few of them cause much trouble and Marin prepares his reader to understand the ideas behind his recommendations.

A second edition of this book was issued in 2008, but don’t let that concern you: the majority of lines in this book haven’t seen major advances in theory that should concern the casual player.

I’m not sure there’s a better resource for the Double King Pawn.

A Spanish Repertoire for Black (2007)

In response to the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5), Marin recommends the Chigorin Defense (3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5) to his readers.

He gets into some of the history, maneuvers, and reasoning for why lines developed as they did. This is not a waste of your time: such insights come to the rescue when you find yourself facing a move you have not studied. Marin’s discussion of the “Spanish Knight” is worth the cover price alone.

This book should be used with Beating the Open Games, above.

Reggio Emilia 2007/2008 (2009, with Yuri Garrett)

This book celebrated the 50th edition of the Reggio Emilia tournament held in the Italian city bearing the same name. It contains plenty of photographs, crosstables, and stories — as every tournament book should.

Hungarian Grandmaster Zoltan Almasi proved victorious.

Held over the New Year holidays every year from 1958, the series unfortunately ceased to exist due to financial issues. Anish Giri won the 54th and final edition in 2011/2012.

Grandmaster Repertoire 3 – The English Opening, Volume One (2009)

Grandmaster Repertoire 4 – The English Opening, Volume Two (2010)

Grandmaster Repertoire 5 – The English Opening, Volume Three (2010)

These three books ushered in unprecedented popularity of the English Opening at all levels!

From club players to super-GMs.

I have not read them myself, actually. But I have no doubt about their influence, as I recently alluded to. It could be decades before someone creates a more authoritative series of books on a major opening system.

Volume One covers 1.c4 e5, Volume Three covers 1.c4 c5, and Volume Two covers everything else after 1.c4.

Grandmaster Repertoire – The Pirc Defence (2018)

I don’t play the Pirc, or play against it, generally. So this book isn’t for me, strictly speaking.

Still, I agree with the rule that good chess authors write good chess books, and I’m sure I would learn a lot about chess in general by reading this book.

If you have any interest at all in the Pirc, I would highly recommend taking a look…but you probably own this book already!

Šahovski Informator

Old Wine in New Bottles (2019)

Mihail Marin has written a “textbook” for the makers of Chess Informant!

He stresses something that I often remind students and parents about: following the computer’s every move or recommendation is very limiting because the machine cannot help you during the game — at least it should not!

Having a good foundation of classical games and understanding cannot but help you. Over the years I have seen countless young chessplayers make serious mistakes because they lack this base.

ChessBase

I’ll also mention that Mihail Marin has authored several ChessBase DVDs (which can be purchased for download)  and contributed to countless others including, for example, the Master Class series.

I have an old ChessBase Catalan E00-E09 DVD by Marin somewhere. It was well-organized and thorough, even though I didn’t end up playing the opening after all.

Who knows what other great materials Marin has in store for us? I for one can’t wait!

What do you think of Mihail Marin’s books? Please share!

Chess Game Analysis: Triple or Quadruple

I’m sure these suggestions for chess game analysis have been mentioned elsewhere before, but let me share an effective way I studied my games when I was serious about improvement.

A chess game analysis method helpful for climbing this chart!
Better game analysis can help in climbing this chart.

The Method

  1. Make a database in ChessBase containing your tournament games. I call mine “My Games.”
  2. Play your tournament game. Really, you should have 60 minutes or longer of thinking time where you can give your best. Definitely use this method for multi-day events!
  3. Optional but highly recommended: Analyze the game with your opponent. Discuss the play with words and variations. This is the Quadruple Game Analysis variant.
  4. Enter the game into ChessBase and write detailed notes about it. Variations you saw and did not see, fears, emotions, internal distractions, general time usage by both players…everything you experienced during the game. At the end, enter a few paragraphs of summary: what you learned, things to improve, etc. If you did a post-mortem analysis with your opponent, include their comments and variations (noting the material that came from your opponent).
  5. Next, run your favorite chess analysis engine. Note that we do this after entering our own comments, to avoid computer worship! Don’t “correct” the previous analysis: you’re looking for resources missed in the previous analysis that radically change the assessment of a position (winning to drawing, drawing to losing, or winning to losing). Enter relevant comments into your notes. For example: “24…Rc7! 25.Ke3 Kf5 26.Be4+ Kg5 wins — Stockfish 11
  6. Email the whole thing to your coach and ask for their comments. They can enter notes into the game directly or type a detailed email summary. Alternatively, you can incorporate their comments during your discussion of the game during the next lesson.

What to expect from this kind of chess game analysis

A single chess game analysis using this method takes hours. It will bear fruit though, especially if you play fairly regularly and stick to the same openings (refining them over time). Commit to this method for 6 months or a year: your play will improve a lot, and you will move one or two tiers higher as a result.

The First Chess Game: Castellvi — Vinoles, 1475

According to the MegaBase, the first chess game Castellvi — Vinoles was played in Valencia, Spain in 1475. By “first chess game,” I mean the first recorded game played under rules similar to those used today. Earlier versions of chess did not have queens and bishops, for example.

Sofonisba Anguissola's The Chess Game; Castellvi—Vinoles predates the painting by 80 years!
The Chess Game. Sofonisba Anguissola, 1555

Being the first chess game, Castellvi — Vinoles was not very well-played, but that doesn’t matter much. I drift off and try to imagine what life was like over 500 years ago, during the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance! As a former history major, thoughts like this fascinate me.

I’m not sure castling was allowed in 1475, because the players had opportunities to aim for this most desirable move but did not! I’m almost certain en passant wasn’t in the rules yet; keep that in mind as you play through the game.

The Dawn of a New Era

ChessBase and MegaBase: Essential!

At least, they are essential for advanced players and for coaches. If you’re already familiar with ChessBase and MegaBase and understand their value, feel free to skip this post. Otherwise, you need to keep reading.

What is ChessBase?

ChessBase: makers of ChessBase and MegaBase
ChessBase: makers of ChessBase and MegaBase

ChessBase GmbH is a chess publishing company founded in 1985 and based in Hamburg, Germany. The company’s flagship product is also called ChessBase: a database program that can organize chess information in myriad ways. The current version is ChessBase 15.

The primary information ChessBase manages is chess games, which we’ll discuss below. The program can also play chess videos, organize opening “books,” and utilize endgame knowledge contained in “tablebases.”

What is the MegaBase?

MegaBase is a collection of annotated chess games played from the year 1475 to the given year. Pulished annually, the current MegaBase 2020 contains more than eight million games! You will find plenty of games with commentary by grandmasters and world champions including Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand, etc.

The information available to you with ChessBase and MegaBase is staggering.
The information available to you with ChessBase and its databases is staggering.

A cheaper alternative is the Big Database, which contains the same eight million games as MegaBase, but few have commentary. It’s much better than nothing, but I highly recommend MegaBase.

For working seriously on chess, ChessBase will save you a huge amount of time and effort. Search games in a database and study them on your screen without combing through books or using a chess set.

You can search databases for opening positions, distributions of endgame material, brilliancy prize games, games with commentary by a certain player — the possibilities are extensive. In addition, you can also create your own database files that contain games in a certain opening, or study material for a particular student. Which brings me to my next point.

ChessBase and MegaBase: the most important resources for coaches

I would cry if I couldn’t use ChessBase to prepare lessons and manage my students’ material.

I make a new database file for every student I teach privately. This allows me to keep a running track of what we have worked on together; I just keep adding to their database. I can import games from MegaBase and the internet, recreate instructive positions from physical books, enter my own commentary, and much more.

Preparing for lessons can be a very time-consuming process, but ChessBase cuts that time down tremendously. When I’ve finished preparing my lesson, I print out the material and go to my student’s home to teach the material.

Mainline Chess Openings…Should I Play Them?

What are Mainline Openings?

“Mainline chess openings require lots of study time, which I could use to work on other parts of chess. I’ll choose sidelines instead.”

Definitely a mainline chess opening: the Botvinnik Semi-Slav.
The craziest opening in all of chess? Starting position of the Botvinnik Variation of the Semi-Slav in ChessBase.

It’s a common argument, but a misconception. There’s a difference betwen mainline and cutting-edge. Mainlines are commonly played by grandmasters but can be strategic in nature and not rely on “crazy” lines.  Cutting-edge theory on the other hand can be very sharp and is often based on engine preparation by Stockfish and others.

Mainline Example

True, there’s rarely one mainline per opening. Take the popular Najdorf Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6):

The moves 6.Be3 (6.f3 is similar), 6.Bg5, 6.Be2, and 6.Bc4 are definitely mainlines, all of which have different branches. One could argue that 6.h3 and 6.g3 are nearly mainlines as well. Then of course moves like 6.f4, 6.Nb3 and even 6.h4 are not to be ignored. Surely only professionals should wade into these waters?

I’m far from a professional, and I used to play the Najdorf with success. Even this, one of the most infamous mainline chess openings, is very concept-based. That’s because there are only two main structures for black. The d6-e6 center:

And the d6-e5 center:

In these, black’s piece placements don’t change that much. Not only that, a Najdorf player can completely avoid the second structure based on the variations they choose.

At first, you’ll have to memorize variations and play through a bunch of games to understand what’s going on. Yes, more than you would if playing a sideline. But after a little while, there are few surprises. Even enemy “preparation” can’t neutralize your understanding; at best it can give you specific tactical questions to answer.

Choose WIsely

Which brings me to my next point. If you play something wild in the Najdorf like the Poisoned Pawn Variation (6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 and now 7…Qb6)

Expect fireworks and nasty home-cooked surprises!

But as far as I know, the old line beginning with 7…Nbd7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 b5 is still playable

In my opinion this is the Najdorf line where you need to remember the most specifics, and it’s not so bad. Of course, there’s no requirement to play the Najdorf Variation, or any Sicilian, but I wanted to show an extreme example.

Remember: there’s a difference between mainline and cutting-edge. Just avoid the latter if you don’t have the necessary time, memory, or study habits!

Okay, what’s the alternative?

Players who aim for sidelines in most or all of their games understand that they can expect less out of the opening. On the other hand, their opening repertoires are lower-maintenance.

But are they making their lives more difficult in the middlegame? I say yes.

Let’s take one of the most popular sidelines today, the London System, which traditionally begins 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4:

White usually follows up with, in some order, c3, e3, Nbd2, Bd3, and 0-0.

It’s a trap!

White can almost close his or her eyes and play these moves, but what can black do? Actually, a lot. For example:

  • The light-squared bishop can go to f5 or g4 on the kingside, or to b7 or a6 on the queenside.
  • The dark-squared bishop can go to d6, e7, or g7.
  • The Nb8 can go to c6 or d7.
  • The Nf6 can stay where it is, go to h5 to attack white’s Bf4, jump to e4, or even d7 if black aims for an …e5-advance.
  • The queen can go to a5, b6, c7 if safe, d6 after a bishop trade there, or e7. Did I forget any?
  • The b-pawn can stay on b7 or go to b6 for …Bb7 or …Ba6.
  • The c-pawn can go to c6 or c5.
  • The e-pawn can stay on e7, go to e6, and maybe even go to e5.
  • The g-pawn can stay on g7 or go to g6 for a fianchetto.
  • And plenty of these options can be combined!

This seems like a lot more study to me! If you don’t want to study at home, you’ll have to study at the board! My advice: play mainline chess openings!