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 A.J.'s Opening School, Page # 1  

This is a page that was very old and was posted on one of my very first chess web sites. Previously, you could only reach this page through a link on my "Beginner's Chess Course." I have received literally DOZENS of e-mails about this page, so I decided to update it and add it here. 

(I plan on eventually having dozens of pages like this.) 

   Each move is explained,  move-by-move.   

All the relevant ideas are both discussed and expounded.  I think this is a very good way to learn the opening. (This page was originally available ONLY as pure text.) 

 (This page is PRIMARILY targeted at the  "bare-bones"  beginner ... and players who are rated well BELOW 1600, USCF.)     

( A  glossary  of opening terms.)      ( NEW - July, 2004:  My System in Chess. [more] )         (A page that deals solely with the B-sack on h7.) 

November 14th, 2003:  In the beginning of Chapter Five of his new book,  ("My Great Predecessors," Part I.); GM Garry Kasparov  makes the following statement, (See Page # 340.):  

   "According to my theory, the game of chess consists of three components:  material,  time,  and  quality of position."       

  Of course this is clearly incorrect!    

If you consult the classic - and by now a landmark - book of chess: "The Ideas Behind The Chess Openings,"  you will see a list of nearly 20 items ... 
things  GM Reuben Fine  states are ELEMENTS of chess. 

This also is clearly and completely wrong!  (Dead wrong!) 


I remember attending a lecture given by  GM Alex Yermolinsky - shortly after he won a U.S. Championship - where he gave a list of  like 11 items that he said were fundamental to chess. I disagreed with this list as well  ...  it was simply too long  to be precise. 


In his now classic series of books, ("Winning Chess");  GM Yasser Seirawan  gives the four following  PRINCIPLES:   
   # 1.) FORCE;  # 2.) TIME;  # 3.) SPACE;  and also  # 4.) PAWN STRUCTURE.    

   While much closer to the mark, this too is not entirely accurate.    


It seems amazing to me that with so much chess theory, the {seeming}  'authorities'  cannot even agree on the basics!!!  {A.J.G.} 

 Click  here  to see an explanation of the symbols I commonly use. 

 (A  glossary  of opening terms.) 

Greco - anonymous
Sacrifice on h7 (Greek Gift) by the Bishop
Spain, 1792.


  This game illustrates two very important points:   

  #1.)  Sometimes castling can be wrong, early or premature;   
  #2.) An open file on a King's castled position can be DEADLY.  

(There are few diagrams, you will need a chess board.) 


  The ELEMENTS Of Chess  

 (Added: Friday;  November 14th, 2003.) 
 Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to outline CLEARLY  the four basic  ELEMENTS of chess.  I think the order they come in are  also the most important. The first thing you take out, when you are getting ready to play a game, is the chess BOARD, not the pieces. 


The following terms and their definitions are fundamental before we can proceed any further. They - by logic - define the three dimensions that are always present in physical space and the idea of 'flow in the time stream.' (Plus one nearly intangible idea.) 

  # 1.)  SPACE    -  The squares of the chessboard. Mathematically 
            speaking, this is a system of boundaries. It provides the arena 
            for the pieces and is where the game will take place. 
            ONLY ONE unit of  force  can occupy one unit of space ... 
            at any time. 


  # 2.)  TIME     -  The idea of: "You move, then I move."  This concept 
            of time and alternating turns, ("x" moves - per person); is built 
            into nearly all board games, including those played with dice. 
            Time ... and the correct way of utilizing it ... is still not completely 
            understood, even today!  (Tempo.)   


  # 3.)  FORCE    -  The term force is NOT clearly understood. In Averbakh's 
            book of tactics, the author spends three pages defining force. I am 
            not even sure we are any clearer - or understand the concept any better - 
            at the end of this diatribe, as compared to before he began! 

            Therefore,  my definition of this term/principle ...  
             which is revolutionary because of its sheer simplicity  ...  
             is as follows: 
            Force  is defined (plainly) as - 
            "Any  time a piece exerts capturing power on any square."   
            PERIOD.  This  ...  AND NOTHING ELSE!! ...  is force.  
            (Note the relationship! A piece - a unit of FORCE - must exert 
             influence over another element, a square - a unit of SPACE.)  

            Note too the importance that the SQUARE a piece must occupy ... 
            will distinctly affect how much force a piece generates!!!  


   # 4.)  MATERIAL    -  By now you must be saying, "HUH?" Isn't material 
             the exact, same thing as force?  DOZENS of well-known players - 
             including several U.S. Champions - have said the same thing when 
             I elaborated this point. And I understand their confusion. Even the 
             much vaunted RUSSIAN SCHOOL OF CHESS does  NOT  make 
             this particular distinction. 

             But consider this: A Rook in the corner - suffocated by its own 
             Pawns and pieces - is NOT a factor early in the opening. Yet the 
             Rook is the the second most powerful piece on the chess-board.  
             It is often the middle-game, (Or even the ending!); before this piece 
             begins to really make its presence felt on the chess board. And to 
             really attempt to understand the basic  ELEMENTS  of chess, you 
             MUST ask yourself why this is true! 

             I give the following - extremely precise - definition of   MATERIAL 
             "The relationship of POTENTIAL ENERGY, that is contained    
               within the pieces, (as compared to their actual effectiveness),    
               as defined by the TABLE of MATERIAL VALUE."     

             In other words, a piece's TRUE WORTH or BENEFIT is measured 
             by the post it holds ... AND THE NUMBER OF  SQUARES  IT 
             ACTUALLY CONTROLS!!! This equation of the POWER of any 
             piece, and its exact numerical WORTH is HIGHLY  RELATIONAL! 
             To put it simply,  we measure a Pawn as one point, and all the 
             other pieces in a point total ... based on that pieces' ability to 
             control the greatest number of squares. 


Other factors - such as Pawn Structure - can be seen as a mathematical SUB-SET of our highest or prime set of the main "integers of value." 

Other factors like piece activity, open lines, King safety, etc. - while all these things are very important - they are NOT basic, fundamental elements. 

The first (starting) position, and the final position, (only two kings left on an otherwise empty chess board); both have ALL the fundamental elements. (Two pieces taking up space on the board, moving in turn, and both control  a certain number of squares.)  We also see that each pieces worth is  TRULY  relational, e.g. what the pieces are valued at is tied directly to what is both off ...  AND ON ... the chessboard!  


One player wrote me repeated e-mails ... he (or she) did not understand the real difference between material and force ...  thinking {& arguing} that they were one and the same. In the end, this person only came to a real understanding only after I told them ... rather sarcastically:
<< "Think of it this way: {superior} FORCE is why you were checkmated ...
       MATERIAL is all that garbage you had in your hand at the end of 
       that same game." (In your hand = extra Pawns, pieces, etc.) >> 

1.e4,  {Diagram?} 
White immediately strikes at the most important part of the chess 
board. His Queen and King's Bishop are released, and the road 
is paved for a very rapid deployment of (all of) White's forces. 

     [ The move: 1.h3?,  {Diagram?} accomplishes little. ]

Today we know this is a French Defense ... and is absolutely OK, 
IF it is followed up by the correct moves.  

In those days, this was considered to be an inept way of handling 
the beginning part of a chess game. 

A modern master would have literally dozens of ways of dealing with 
White's opening of the game with his King's Pawn. The most reliable 
of these is 1... e5,  which is the "Open Game,"  or 1...c5;  which is 
known as, "The Sicilian Defense." 

     [ Probably the simplest idea is for Black to echo White's ideas 
       and play: 1...e5; (!)  {Diagram?}  with a good game. 

       Now a simple opening, showing the basic idea of rapid and 
       consistent development, is: 2.Nf3 Nc6; 3.Bc4 Bc5; 4.0-0 Nf6; 
       5.Nc3 0-0; 6.d3 d6; "=" {Diagram?}  with an equal game. ]  

2.d4(Really - '!')    
An excellent move, whereby White immediately occupies and 
controls the whole center of the chess board. 


     [ One student suggested the move: 2.a3!?,  {Diagram?} 
        but this is really too slow.  ('?')  (And it does nothing 
        about the center.)  ].  

2...Nf6;  (Really - '?!')    
While a developing move, the Knight can almost be immediately 
displaced by e5. This kind of thoughtless development was common 
in those days, before Morphy and Steinitz had left their indelible 
stamp upon chess. 

     [ The move, 2...d5!;  {Diagram?}  is a French Defense, and 
        would have been MUCH better than what was played in 
        the actual game here. ]  

Possibly the simplest and best.  



This move has many key points to it: 
  # 1.)  It controls the center.  (e4)  
  # 2.)  It develops a piece to a good square. 
  (Systematic and rapid development of your entire army is one 
   of the basic goals in the opening phase of the game. Think of 
   it as a RACE!! The first one to get all his pieces out wins!) 
  # 3.)  It prepares castling.  (Protect the King! Castle early!) 
  (King safety and early castling is very important in the early 
   phases of a chess game.) 
  # 4.)  It maintains the material balance.  
  (Protects the pawn that Black was attacking.) 
  This idea of both developing and guarding the squares that your 
  opponent is threatening is a hallmark of good chess. It is also 
  fundamentally the same idea as Nimzovich's concept of ... 
   << SQUARE CONTROL. >>  

Take ANY modern opening manual and play through one of the 
lines. At the end of the line, ask yourself did the opening feature 
ALL of the above concepts. The answer will be a resounding, 
"YES!!!!!,"   ... ... ... ...   95% (or more!) of the time. 
(The above four ideas are the BASIC PRINCIPLES ... 
  of the chess opening.) 


Some other pieces of advice I could give are: 

  •   -  Never  lose control of a square in your half of the board!  
          (While common knowledge at the master level, this is a 
           sage piece of advice that most beginners today are NOT 
           taught early in their development - but it should be.)  
  •   -  Study as  MANY  different openings as possible. (Even the 
          lines that you may not ever play!)  When you have a good 
         FEEL for what constitutes a good opening, you will play 
         better moves yourself. 
  •   - Try to understand the  PLAN  behind the opening. 
         (If you have no clue, you will need a good teacher, or at least
          a good book to acquaint you with the basics of a given 
          opening structure.)  
  •   - When you are confronted with a new move, or at least a very
        unexpected move ... stop and think!! See if you cannot divine
        the  idea  behind the move that your opponent just played. 
        (While many of my students consider this a nearly impossible 
         job here, you will never get better unless you at least try.) 
         {A good book to help with the above two points is the 
          very excellent treatise by  GM R. Fine.  "The Ideas  
    The Openings."  While a bit dated, this is still 
          maybe the only book that systematically tries to teach you 
          some of the basic ideas behind the different opening lines.} 



     [ White could also play: 3.e5!?, {Diagram?} 
        with a (very) small advantage. ]  

More simple development ... without a thought or a care to as to 
what might happen later.  (Really - '?!' or '?') 

While this may look like a somewhat silly opening by modern 
standards, we must also realize this game was played over 200 
years ago ... long before players like Nimzovich had a chance to 
expound their theories of the proper way to handle a mobile pawn 
center.  (The purely Nimzovichian concept of the correct way of 
handling long pawn chains - which arise from the French Defense 
 - had yet to be set forth as well.) 

     [ By playing the moves: 3...d5!; 4.e5 Nfd7; 5.c3 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 
       we arrive at a very modern line of the French Defense. 
       (Which, - of course! - had not even been discovered or 
        mapped out in detail yet.) ]  

Simple straight forward development. 
(And there is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, at least 
  in my way of thinking.)  

      [ A modern player might prefer to play: 4.c3, {Diagram?} so 
        as to avoid any unpleasantries or dealings with the Black 
        cavalry that occurs after an eventual Knight sally to the 
        b4-square. ]

Black develops simply and quickly. But in positions where your 
opponent has a mobile pawn center ... ... ... 

(Discuss what is wrong with Black's development.) 
MOSTLY --->  Black's pieces are easily displaced by White's 
mobile pawn center.  

     [  Better was 4...d6 {Diagram?}  
         (or even ...d5),  to prevent what actually happens 
        in this game. ]  

This move does not help with any of the 4 basic Opening Principles. 

So why did White make it?   {This is really an inferior move here.} 

(White is basically setting a trap.)

Castling here, or pawn to c3 were much, much better than trying 
the rather pointless h4. 

(But we will allow it here to simply demonstrate a point.) 

     [ Now 5.c3, ('!') "+/="  {Diagram?} is very good. 

       Or even 5.0-0 , lead to a nice game for White. ]  

5...0-0;   {See the diagram just below.}   
Black  "Castles into it." 

One of the few times that castling is wrong. 
(Really a mistake, or - '?') 

  The actual position after BLACK has made his fifth move.  (opn-schl_pos1.gif, 18 KB)

(A simple rule of thumb to remember is it is generally never good to 
  castle into a PRE-EXISTING OPEN LINE!) 

     [ Black still probably had to play: 5...d5!{Diagram?} 
        with a playable game. ]  

Now White's play is very simple: he plays by the numbers and 
wins the game. 
,  {Diagram?} 
A very strong move. 

Step #1:  is to drive away the Black King's Knight. 

 This Knight on f6 is the absolute best defender of Black's King    
 and his King-side.    

After this piece is forced to flee, Black's defenses have been 
dramatically weakened. 

     [ By comparison 6.d5 exd5; 7.exd5 Nb4;  {Diagram ?} 
        is probably OK for Black. ] 

Black had to move his Knight or suffer the loss of a piece with little 
or no good reason.  

The simplest setting for the sacrifice - sometimes known as the 
Greek Gift after El Greco's pioneering analysis. 

     [ 6...Ne8!?; ] 

 7.Bxh7+!(Maybe / probably - '!!')  {Diagram?}   
To players that have never seen this idea before, this can 
be a very shocking move!

Step #2:  is to rip Black's King open. 
(Open lines or avenues of attack.) 

Notice that Black's King is virtually defenseless. Meanwhile, (prior 
to White's 7th move);  5 of White's pieces, (counting the White 
light-squared Bishop); are pointing at the Black King, or are only 
1 move away from attacking the Black King! 

     [ 7.c4!? ]  

Black feels he has no choice. To simply play ...Kh8; is allow the 
White Bishop to retreat with the win of a whole pawn. 
 (Additionally, Black's pawn cover in front of his King has been 
   drastically altered for the worse.)  

     [ Black is lost anyway after the continuation:  
        7...Kh8!?;  8.Be4!, f5!?;  9.Bxd5, exd5;  10.Nc3!, Bb4!?; 
        11.Bd2!, Bxc3;  12.Bxc3!, Qe8;  13.h5! "+/"  {Diagram?} 
        (Probably "+/-")  with an overwhelming position. ] 

White must expedite an attack on the exposed Black King. 
Otherwise the sacrifice of Bxh7+ made no sense at all. 

 (Step # 3.)  Attack, attack, attack!!  
   The exposed King must be IMMEDIATELY targeted 
    for an attack.)  

     [ The move 8.c3, {Diagram?}  accomplishes little. ] 

Black tries [unsuccessfully] to keep lines closed to his King. 

     [ Losing is:  8...Kg6?!; 9.h5+ Kh6;   (9...Kf5?; 10.g4#)   
10.Nxf7+,   {Diagram?}  This is a DOUBLE-check! 
         (10.Nxe6+!?,  "+/-"  also wins for White.)   
       10...Kh7; 11.Qd3+ Kg8; 12.Nxd8 Nxd8; 13.c3, "+/-" 
       White has a decisive material advantage here. 
        (And Black's King is still not safe!) 


       Also losing is:  8...Bxg5?!; 9.hxg5+ Kg8;  {Diagram?} 
       This could be forced.    (9...Kg6?; 10.Qh5+!, Kf5; 11.Qh3+!, 
         11...Ke4[]; 12.Qd3#.)    10.Qh5 f5;  11.g6, "+/-" {Diagram?}  
       transposing into a result identical to that of the game. ]  

Now White threatens a check-mate in  ...  one move!  

Step # 4.)  It is to bring the last of the reserves into the attack! 

     [ 9.c4!? ]   

Now this is forced, otherwise Black will be mated. 
(Almost immediately.) 

Notice how Black has been  forced  into ... OPENING LINES 

     [  Not: 9...Ndb4??; 10.Qh7#. 
        Or 9...Re8; 10.Qh7+ Kf8; 11.Qh8#  ] 

Part of the plan. Note that the King's Rook-file has been opened ... 
with deadly effect. 

One other thing I should note is that you probably do  NOT  want 
to exchange Queens when you are conducting an all-out attack 
against your opponent's King! 

     [ 10.Qxg5? Qxg5; 11.hxg5 Nxd4; "-/+" {Diagram?} 
         winning for Black. ] 

Black  MUST  try to give his King a flight square ... 
or be mated in one move. 

     [ Slightly worse is: 10...f6!?11.g6, Nxd4;  {Diagram?} 
        It appears there is little Black can do here.  
         (11...Re8; 12. Qh8#)   & now  12.Qh8#.  

        Or 10...Nxd4?11.Qh7#.  {Diagram?} 
        (Qh8# works as well.)  ].   

White cuts off Black's flight square(s). 

Black Resigns.  
(Because he cannot stop mate.) [ If 11...Re8; then 12.Qh8#. ] 

     [ 11.g6 Re8; 12.Qh8# ] 

  1 - 0  

If I am correct, and chess is a form  "mental combat,"  then one of the greatest martial artists who ever lives gives the following sage advice:

<< Consider water. It is clear and pure. If you place water in a glass, it becomes the glass. If you place water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip, water can flow. Water can drown, or offer a thirsty man hope. Water - in a great enough quantity - can crash on its opponents, and overwhelm any defense. This is the advice I would offer you. >> 

  "Be water, my friend  ...  be water."  - BRUCE LEE     (I may not have gotten this quote exactly right ... this was done from memory.) 

I hate it when my students play a move, (that I object to - maybe on principle);   ... and then they tell me that a good player also does this. 

A case in point.  (September 23rd, 2005) 
(This will be part of my download - for the October 2005, "Game of The Month.")



[Event "6th YM"]
[Site "Lausanne SUI"]
[Date "2005.09.19"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Nakamura, H."]
[Black "Volokitin, And"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2660"]
[BlackElo "2671"]
[PlyCount "46"]
[EventDate "2005.09.14"]
[Source "TWIC" (Mark Crowther)]  


1. e4 c5;  2. Qh5? Nf6;  3. Qh4 Nc6;  4. Be2 e5;  5. d3 Be7;  6. Qg3 d5;  7. Nd2 O-O;  8. c3 b5;  9. Nh3 d4;  10. c4 Ne8;  11. cxb5 Bh4;  
12. Qf3 Nb4;  13. Bd1 f5;  14. a3 Nd6;  15. axb4 fxe4;  16. Qh5 Bxh3;  17. g3 Qf6;  18. Bb3+ Kh8;  19. f3 exf3; 20. Kf2 Bg5;  21. Nxf3,  
21...g6;  22. Bxg5 Qf5;  23. Qxh3 Qxf3+;   0-1  

Monday; November 19th, 2011:  A page that deals solely with the Bishop-sack on h7. 


  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 1985-2010.  

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2011.  All rights reserved.  


 Page first generated in 1995.  Updated and redone, July, 2000. 
Last update: Saturday, July 14, 2012

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