In this game, White appears to have lost the initiative against the Nimzo Indian defense as early as the fourth move, and certainly by the eighth move.

If White's next four moves were 1) e3, 2) Nf3, 3) Bishop moves and 4) O-O, White would get a solid defensive position that is characteristic of Black's play. Under the circumstances, does it make sense for White to "play Black" in this way if he wants to minimize his chances of losing?

(In the actual game, White adopted a more aggressive policy and succumbed to Black's superior development.)

One other feature of note. White was rated about 50 points weaker than Black, even though they were both Masters (2400 vs. 2450). Would it make sense for White to "play Black" if he were 50 points weaker, and play more aggressively if he were 50 points stronger?

  • The standard advice is to play aggressively against stronger players and solidly against weaker players. I'm not sure 50 rating points is a big enough difference for that kind of thinking to come into play; in that case maybe just play normally.
    – bof
    Mar 27, 2016 at 6:56
  • 2
    There's no 'white' or 'black' play style. There is only the struggle for advantage. White begins with a small advantage, Black tries to take it a way.
    – Tony Ennis
    Mar 27, 2016 at 14:36
  • @TonyEnnis: Let's say, White opens e3, Black plays e5, and White belatedly plays e4. Now you have a king pawn opening position with Black to move instead of White, meaning that you have "colors" reversed. White's best option at this point may be to play as "Black." That's what I meant for the game above.
    – Tom Au
    Mar 27, 2016 at 16:58
  • @bof: OK, White the weaker player, played aggressively and gave it his "best shot" even though he lost. Whereas if he were stronger, it might make sense for him to play solidly as I indicated, and hope to "outlast" Black.
    – Tom Au
    Mar 27, 2016 at 17:05

3 Answers 3


This is actually quite common behaviour in the Nimzo-Indian defense. Black trades the bishop pair for either an advantageous pawn structure (e.g. in the Hübner variation) or a lead in development (like this game).

In the latter case, a successful strategy for White might be to neutralize Black's lead in development (which corresponds to your "play Black"), exchange some pieces and take advantage of his bishop pair in the late middlegame or the endgame. However, this style of play might not suit everybody.


You may have answered your own question with the phrase White "succumbed to Black's superior development."

First, one should never be concerned about "playing as white" or "playing as black." One should play according to the needs of the position; if your opponent is better developed (whether white or black) you should seek to neutralize the affect of that by keeping the position closed, and exchanging their developed pieces.

In my earlier years, I was brought up short by the question being asked by the master helping me analyse my recent loss, "He sacrificed. Why are you attacking?" Up until that point I thought that was just the way chess was played; bring out my pieces and start throwing them at my opponent's king.

You should only be on the attack if there's a reason in the position. From your description, it seems like you recognize White lacked a reason to attack, so White should have reined in his aggression until such a reason arrived at the board.


Makes no sense as stated.

Either you have the initiative and use it to improve your position or you do not have the initiative and you are responding to the other players moves rather than forcing them to respond like would happen if you did have the initiative.

White starts with the initiative but it can swing back and forth depending how well each side plays; and except for the first early moves it has nothing to do with white/black it has only to do with having/not_having the initiative.

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