This is a hypothetical question as I'm not actually taking part in tournaments but the question is I think worth posing.

I was non-chalantly playing this as black against a chess.com bot:

[StartPly "11"]
[FEN ""]

1. d4 a6 2. d5 e5 3. e4 d6 4. Nc3 f5 5. exf5 Bxf5 6. Nh3

At this point I say to myself, what a novel opening! I have no idea what to do.

I can come up with many themes and ideas disjointedly: white might use the e6 square as an outpost later, pawn to f4 is also possible for white - either chipping away at black's center or provoking black to push e4, which would take resources to defend but would also stop Bd3, which is good for black because white's bishop isn't ideal on c4 or e2... et cetera.

I have a hard time ranking these or knowing how to connect these ideas, let alone precisely calculating what lines are there given the non-forcing nature of them.

I am aware that as opposed to a computer, a human in a timed game can't do a perfect job. But can you tell me how a good player would go about it, using my position as an example? I haven't turned on the engine because I don't want to take the fun away just yet.

1 Answer 1


A few days ago I wrote a lengthy answer to a different question which begs a similar answer. There are "general principles" for what an opening move should achieve and it is - up to a certain point of playing strength, which few of us ever achieve - better to concern oneself with these general things - motifs, plans - than to learn certain lines (without understanding how they are motivated).

For a level up to Elo ~2200 it is perhaps more beneficial to be able to come up with the second-best move consistently than to play 15 moves like a super-GM only to mistreat the resulting position.

The higher you get the more important is to know concrete, forcing lines, but only because the knowledge of plans and motifs is commonplace among your (equally strong) opponents. But most of us (myself, with a peak rating of Elo 2150, 30 years ago, included) never get high enough for this to matter.

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