This is a game I played recently. After 12. Be2, I really didn't know how to proceed. Eventually, after thinking for a very long time (>30 minutes, it's a correspondence game by the way), I moved 12... Be7, a simple move that was one of the first moves I considered.

[fen ""]
[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Him"]
[Black "Me"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteELO "?"]
[BlackELO "?"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 b6 5. Nc3 Bb7 6. Qa4+ Nc6 7. Ne5 Qd6 8.
Bd2 a6 9. a3 Nd7 10. f4 f6 11. Nxd7 Qxd7 12. Be2 Be7 13. cxd5 exd5 14. Bf3
Na5 15. Qxd7+ Kxd7 16. O-O Nc4 17. Bc1 c6 18. b3 Nd6 19. Bb2 h5 20. Rae1 Rag8
21. e4 dxe4 22. Nxe4 g5 23. d5 gxf4 24. Bxf6 Rh6 25. Bxe7 Kxe7 26. Nc5+ Kd8
27. Nxb7+ Nxb7 28. dxc6 Nc5 29. Rd1+ Kc8 30. b4 Ne6 31. Rd7 Rd8 32. Rfd1 Rhh8
33. Ra7 Rxd1+ 34. Bxd1 Nd4?? 35. Ra8+ 1-0

These are my considerations:

  1. I don't really like my position, it feels cramped. Where did I go wrong?
  2. My plan: Break open with ...e5. Prepare for this by positioning a rook on e8, and the other one on d8, e7, or f8 (but which of the three?).
  3. But I don't really want to move the rook on a8, because after c4, my pawn on a7 hangs and the White Queen will be near my King if I O-O-O'ed.
  4. c4 feels very annoying to me anyway, but especially if I plan to O-O-O, because my Pawn structure that is supposed to protect my King will be weak.
  5. I guess I should plan on O-O'ing. But how? If I make way with ...Be7, it will be similar to when I try to maneuver the rooks as in point 1.
  6. But ...g6 followed by ...Bg7 feels like I weaken the Pawn structure behind which I want to O-O.
  7. I have spent enough time on this, 12... Be7, YOLO!

So, what do you guys think about my thought process? What should my plan be in this situation? Where did I go wrong before this that led to this position that feels not so good to me? Is this position actually not so good? Et cetera. :)

(By the way, I feel that this is in general my weakness. Usually I tend to make solid moves while sniffing for a weakness. However, if a weakness doesn't 'spontaneously emerge from the noise', I don't really know how to make one, and I end up drawing or winning/losing due to a random emerging tactic. How can I learn this?)

6 Answers 6


The only opening move I really didn't like is 6…Nc6. Usually you don't want to put something in front of your c-pawn in these d-pawn openings. And incidentally it also seems to lose a piece (because of 8.cxd5 with Bb5 to follow). It also leads to all your positional problems: The pressure on d5, the slightly weakening move f6, the inability to free yourself with c5.

Your thought process is ok, Be7 and castling short is a decent conclusion. But you probably should have looked for a tactical solution as well: 12…dxc4 looks quite interesting for you. 13.Bxc4 is not possible, due to 13…b5 and Qxc4 can be answered by Na5 and Bxg2. Ok, it's not exactly risk free, but it's a pawn. Also, the bishop on b7 is really waiting for the diagonal to be opened sooner or later, so it should always be on your radar.

Generally to improve your strategic understanding you can do the usual stuff: Go through well annotated games, play and analyse tournament games, work through some instructive books. But on the other hand, putting your pieces on nice squares and waiting for something to come up, is an entirely valid strategy. Also, finding some creative tactical ideas can often substitute for a deep strategic plan and without decent calculation you can forget about implementing even the best plan.

  • Hi, thanks for you answer! What would you suggest instead of 6 ... Nc6? I see three other options: c6, Bc6, or Nd7. I didn't want to move Bc6 because I wanted to get another piece out instead of moving the Bishop a second time. Pawn to c6 would be alright I guess, but according to bucketman I should make less pawn moves and develop pieces instead. This leaves Nd7: This would still pin the Knight, but it starts out with 2 more defenders when compared to Nc6. Would this be safe enough while achieving my development goals?
    – Aernout
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:44
  • 2
    @Aernout it makes sense to go Nd7 to help prepare an eventual e5 break. It also allows a later c6 in order to further defend your center so that you could meet cxd5 with cxd5 and maintain two pawns in the center. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 22:36
  • Nd7 is certainly desirable, but there may be a problem with Ne5-c6, so possibly Qd7 is best. The queen exchange will only speed up your development and if he forces you to exchange queen, his knight ends up on a4. You still have this latent threat of … dxc4 Bxc4 Bxg2 so it looks pretty ok for you. Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 8:34

Your game plan and actual moves don't really align. You place a bishop on b7 but never make any effort to activate that bishop by opening the a8-h1 diagonal.

You also spend a significant amount of time without developing your black square bishop and thus not castling. This means you are exposing yourself to threats to your king which is how you got into this mess in the first place.

Pushing the f pawn is also a no-no. When your king is not safe and the best course of action is working towards a king-side castle you do not want to push one of the most vital pawns that will keep your king safe in that position in the future.

Try playing the next thousand or so games with the basics in mind.

  1. Develop pawns early which allow for piece development and contesting the center however avoid making too many because you need to develop pieces.(NEVER TOUCH THE F PAWN)
  2. Develop pieces, usually knights before bishops since the best bishop squares aren't always as clear as the ones for the knights
  3. Secure the king. There aren't many opening lines that don't involve castling(of which most are king-side castles!). So make sure you castle!
  4. Coordinate the queen in a position where it won't get harassed easily to avoid burning moves on constantly repositioning her
  5. with the pieces off the back rank coordinate your rooks.

When developing pieces try to justify to yourself why you should put them there. a bishop on b7 is great! But is it really when my own pawns are blocking it and making it a useless piece? What about his bishop? Maybe I should offer or force to trade my bad pieces for his good ones!

  1. When you look at this game taking the basics into account you'll see that you made a substantial amount of pawn moves of which a6 didn't really achieve anything besides weaking your pawn structure. Meanwhile your opponent also made a lot of pawn moves but they did a better job at occupying the center. Also you touched the f pawn(naughty!)

  2. You failed to properly develop pieces, your white-square bishop is miserable and your black square bishop(a key piece in many black openings) wasn't ever freed to do anything. You also wasted a significant amount of time making knight moves, make up your mind on what you want to do with your pieces! Make your own plan, don't make everything about reacting to the opponent.

  3. Your king is as insecure as he can be. He's stuck in the middle of the board and you apparently wanted this. The only time you want your king in the center is in an end game with relatively few pieces on the board!

  4. Your queen did get developed but got placed in a rather unfortunate position of defending a knight that shouldn't even be in danger(king safety caused that problem!) in the end you traded her and permanently disabled your ability to castle.

  5. on 32. Rfd1 you can see a perfect example of white having good rook coordination and black having poor coordination. You should take a note from how your opponent doubled his rooks on the d file and thus completely took control over it.

Good play comes with practice, but every player has games where following the basics is the best thing to do

  • 1
    For what it's worth: White also kept the king in the centre for quite a while, put his queen on a square where it could have been harassed and moved his f-pawn … Also, most of the things you criticised were consequences of 6…Nc6 (which you don't criticise). I'm pretty sure Aernout didn't want to play Qd6 or a6, but options were relatively scarce. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 11:53
  • You shouldn't use the opponent's bad moves as an argument to justify your own though. It also seemed more fruitful to leave Aernout with some advice for future games instead of running an engine over it and pointing out whatever it considers a blunder. If he gains some ideas on what to look for when developing pieces he may not be as prone to making the same mistakes again.
    – bucketman
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 12:19
  • 1
    I'm rather arguing that these moves aren't always bad and that it's moot to criticise forced moves. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 12:48
  • Thank you, bucketman, for taking the time to write this, there is some really good advice in there. I have a questions though: The reason I played a6 was to prevent Nb4, which would further increase the pressure. Is Nb4 not a move I should be afraid of? Overall, you are certainly right about me not having a plan and only reacting. As mentioned, I find it very difficult to come with a plan.
    – Aernout
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:10
  • I can't seem to edit this in the previous comment, so here is a new one. The fear of Knight pressure was not only why I played a6, but also the reason I moved the f-pawn: to kick out the Knight on e5. In this game: How should I have handled the Knight on e5? For next games: Should I have my Black Bishop on d6 to prevent (or trade with) the Knight on e5? And another question: I tend to hold of castling because I'm afraid I pick the wrong side and get pressured once the game opens up. Should I pick (randomly) earlier and 'just' defend well?
    – Aernout
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:22

Just briefly, 4...b6 looks like the wrong idea to me, it makes the queenside light squares too weak.

6...Nc6 was a blunder that should have lost a piece for a pawn after 7.Ne5 Qd6 8.c5 bxc5 9.Bb5.

After 15...Qxd7, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with White just taking the pawn on d5, which is a pawn-up endgame.


Playing d pawn games requires a lot of patience and a certain subtlety because of the advantage of White's first move. You need to learn the first quality and improve the second before you can get stronger.

For starters, you should learn why playing ...4 b6 before c6 was a bad move.

In this game (and many others before yours), it involved serious complications from which you were unable to extricate yourself.

In answer to your question about the sixth move, and how you went wrong, you ought to know that the b knight is "better" (more defensively placed on d7 where it 1) connects to the knight on f6, and 2) can be shield from pins by c6.


How about 14.... b5 ?

I dont see a problem playing 12........Be7

  • The d5 pawn is attacked twice (Knight on c3 and Bishop on f3) but defended once (Queen on d7). So I need to get another defender, which is the reason I move my Knight (together with trying to get the Knight to a better spot). If I play 14 ... b5, White will play 15 b3, after which the pawn on d5 is certainly doomed... Right? The problem I had with 14 ... Be7 is that this would hinder my rooks gearing up behind the central pawns.
    – Aernout
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 20:37
  • @Aernout Regarding 14...b5, if white plays 15. b3 ba4 ( killing queen! ) or if you mean, 14....b5 15. Qb3 then you can play Na5 to attack on Queen on b3
    – Raja
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:48

Did you have a plan?

Later at move 19ff I would not have gone at the King side but would have been active on the Queen side and center.

Earlier as noted above Nc6 was not good. Just play Qd7 and let him trade if he wants.

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