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I have been playing chess for about an year now. But, I am unable to get past 1300 USCF rating. There are three phases in a chess game: opening phase, middle-game phase and end-game phase. When I get past the opening phase nicely, I usually win. But, what happens most of the time is that I get trapped in some clever openings from the opposite player and then, I try to recover from it.

Basically, I love playing tactical chess, and often get frustrated when I get caught in the tactical openings of the opposite player. So, I want to learn some good openings to improve upon my opening game for both white as well as black. A list could work or it would be best with the chess diagram illustration.

What I have learnt from experience is that: white attacks and black defends. Is it true? If not, how can black attack?

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    At 1300, I would say that studying opening theory would be a waste of valuable study time. Have you read Logical Chess: Move by Move yet? You should read that while playing each move (including variations on the board). Play through all 33 games, learn the principles, and you should be able to get through the opening at minimum in roughly equal position. – Chino Brews Apr 24 '14 at 18:22
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    As far as white attacks, black defends, there is some truth in that. There is a grandmaster who says that black has to fight just to get back to equal. But at your level that is not true. Players will blunder, lose tempi, otherwise waste moves, etc. The key for black is to develop in the opening in a sound position, which will then allow you to counter attack. And as a bonus, most of your <= 1400 Elo opponents are likely to gift you opportunities for counterplay sooner rather than later. – Chino Brews Apr 24 '14 at 18:25
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What you describe is known as, "half the time when we play chess." We simply get outplayed. You are probably not getting caught by clever openings. You are probably making poor moves and your opponent is seizing the opportunity.

What are the ratings of your opponents who frustrate you?

White has a slight advantage at the beginning, but this advantage is really only realized at the higher levels of the game. The reason is that amateurs waste a lot of moves so white's opening advantage goes away quickly. Don't get too hung up on who is supposed to attack and who is supposed to defend.

Learning openings is good, but don't start memorizing a bunch of openings. Your peers won't follow the script and you'll be as lost as they. Instead, focus for now on opening principles. For example, control of the center, castling, not moving the same piece twice, not bringing the queen out too early. If you've never heard of these things, we can have a worthwhile discussion.

It's hard to give concrete advise with so few details.

One thing you can do is, after you lose, ask your opponent to review the game with you, so you can see what they were thinking. Be prepared to do the same for your opponent when you win.

You can also ask a 1700-ish player (400 points above you) to review your game. They will probably be able to point out issues with your play.

edit - how to capitalize on the opening principles

To show how the opening principles can work, there's no better example than to look at the most popular e4 opening - the Ruy Lopez. This is a common variant.


[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Bc5 6. O-O

White and black both claim the center with the their first moves. White's second move develops a piece and attacks an unprotected black pawn. That's 2 good things. Black responds by developing a piece and defending the pawn. That's good too. White then develops a piece and attacks the Knight on c6, threatening to win the e5 pawn. Black is unimpressed and kicks the Bishop. In this variation, White opts to retain the Bishop and moves back. Black kicks the Bishop again, gaining space but perhaps weakening his pawns a bit as the b-pawn will be unable to support the c-pawn. White retires the Bishop to a pretty good square (this attacks the center, hits the weak f7, and probably Black's castled King, soon enough.) Black then develops a Bishop. White wastes no time in castling, which defends the chronically weak f2 square. Every move has a purpose, almost every moves has a threat.

We see that White moved his Bishop a lot, and we're not supposed to do this, right? The reason it is ok is that each time, there was a purpose to the move. Further, White knew the Bishop could safely end up on b3, and that square looks right at the place where Black is likely to castle.

Also, don't freak out about the ratings. They're always an approximation and very variable at that level. You should be able to defeat a 1400-rated player about 40% of the time.

  • Hey. Thanks for you answer. I always play with players with a rating greater than mine, so, who frustrate me lie in the band of 1380-1400, since I haven't played much with those greater than 1400. I know the principles in general which you have talked about, but just to develop on openings with just these principles seems bit difficult to me. Can you tell me how can one capitalize on those principles while opening one's game? – Sankalp Oct 20 '13 at 13:34
  • @Sankalp post edited.... – Tony Ennis Oct 20 '13 at 14:14
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Your description is a bit general. It's true that White tends to have more active openings as he has the first move, but it's possible to employ counter-attacking openings. As you love playing tactical openings, I would suggest adopting the Sicilian Defense as black - it is known to have a very distinctive active and tactical style.

Avoiding clever opening traps by your opponent is a matter of experience. When you fall for one, make sure to never fall for it again! By expanding your opening knowledge, you can enter the first stage of the game comfortably and exit it with a comfortable position.

  • Sicilian defense is the best opening move for black that I have learnt till now, but haven't used it much, mostly because I was not too much knowledgeable of it. Will open more often with it. – Sankalp Oct 20 '13 at 8:58
  • Don't play the Sicilian without knowing the goals of the opening. Don't just memorize moves. It doesn't help if you're stymied by 1. e4 c5 2. a3 because a3 isn't in the books. Your opponents won't generally play the standard moves, or know why they're playing the moves at all. Be prepared to look at the board and swoop on their mistakes. – Tony Ennis Oct 20 '13 at 12:48
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If you're looking for sharp tactical play in the opening, I like King's Gambit for that.

If you're looking to avoid nasty tactical surprise by opponents, select a few systems that are not so deep, so require less time to learn. This is a temporary fix, though. Eventually, you'd want to play main lines, like Sicilian and Ruy Lopez. But I think, in the short run there are too many lines to learn in both of these.

For example, I like Alekhine for Black after 1.e4 and Benko gambit after 1.d4. Does not work all the time but you can learn main W's surprises in a fairly short time.

Also, 1.e4 c5 2. c3 is a system I use for White in Sicilian (the most popular answer to your 1.e4, presumably). Yes it's a crutch but I just don't have time to learn the lines after 2. Nf3

You can also play 1.c4 or 1.g3 and play positional game as White. Again, to avoid nasty tactical surprises.

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I am 100% sure that kings gambit is the most tactical opening for white. Even all E4 opening is tactical opening for white.

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