Chess Openings the easy Way – a Lifetime Experience

by Jiri (George) F. Kovats (Colorado Springs, CO, USA)

I decided to play chess long time ago. At the time I lived near Washington, DC and as a working “stiff” with family I had very little time to study chess. Here is how I started my chess “career”.

Before I started to play, I read number of articles and even books on chess. I was frustrated with the endless chess openings advised by the “experts”. Every master and grandmaster claimed that his openings are the best. Every opening I reviewed had number of different possible responses at every step. I almost gave up.

Luckily, at that time I came across two things, a book by I.A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld: How To Think Ahead In Chess; and an article on how to start playing chess by Ken Smith of Chess Digest, now deceased. The book recommended Stonewall Attack for White, Lasker’s Defence against 1.d4, and Sicilian Dragon against 1.e4. Guess what I started to play? Yes, you are right.

Ken Smith advised for beginners to play forcing openings which are also opening schemes and not variations. Forcing openings are openings where you dictate the initial moves so your oponent plays on your familiar ground.

As I intimated above, I started to play Stonewall Attack with White. Very simple forcing opening. I had lot of success with it playing the other beginners.

Initially, I learned the basics in one weekend. As Black, I started with Sicilian Dragon against 1.e4, and Lasker’s Defence against 1.d4. Both forcing openings. Lasker’s Defence in the Queen’s Gambit Declined is also very easy and, initially, I spent maybe 8 hours learning it.

Again, I had lot of success with it playing beginners like me. Although every chessplayer in the know warned me that Sicilian Dragon is a difficult opening requiring lot of study time I insisted on playing it just because I liked the opening. I loved the Dragon Bishop. I had a great success with it playing beginners and intermediate players. My study time for the Dragon was a bit more than the pther openings. I never studied either openings I played in great detail. Just enough to get by and not lose in the opening.

When I gained some experience, and as I played higher rated players who destroyed my Stonewall Attack in short order, I graduated to Colle-Koltanowski System (White plays c3). This is also a forcing opening scheme and is effective on beginners. It is related to Stonewall Attack so it was easy to learn.

With Black against 1.e4 I switched to Accelerated Sicilian Dragon and I played it ever since. To date, I’m 57% with this opening. As Black against 1.d4 I switched to Tartakower Defence in Queens Gambit Declined. Initially, I spend two weekends learning it. It is that simple. The beauty is that the Tartakower Defence may be used against everything White can throw at you except 1.e4. It cuts down on study time big time. My record with Tartakower is 52%.

In the third stage of my chess “carrer”, I learned Torre Attack after reading an article about an obscure Mexican Master Ernesto Torre who stunned the chess playing world in 1925 in a tournament in Moscow, USSR. He defeated Emmanuel Lasker in a briliant game. At the same tournament, he also defeated Saemisch. The basics of Torre Attack are easy to learn and amateurs can play this opening for a lifetime.

My record with this opening which I play today is 61.5%. Not bad for an old man like me. Torre is not ideal opening by any means but it is very good opening for local tournaments and even state championships. It is my main opening with White. I understand that Torre is good for anyone rated below 2000.

Today I have more time on my hands so for White I’m ready to investigate English Opening, Accelerated fianchetto Variation. Simple and forcing. It is similar to Accelerated Sicilian Dragon only with colors reversed so I think I will be somewhat familiar with it. With Black, I plan to add Sicilian Kan to my bag of tricks against 1.e4. Against 1.d4 my goal is to start learning Nimzo-Indian Defence, a most successful opening for Black against 1.d4.

Now a surprise: Modern Defence is good against both 1.e4 and 1.d4 – what a gift! Statistically, Modern Defence is among the 10 most successful openings for Black! Wow. Maybe it is time to look into it.

Sincerely in Chess

George