Last week I had an email from a young chess player in WA who wanted me to look at a couple of his games.  He supplied detailed notes which included a lot of opening analysis and different variations that he looked at.  Need-less-to-say he fell into time-trouble and blundered later in the game.

I think one of the most common failings of young chess players is to spend too much time on learning opening variations.  My advice to the young player …. STOP ANALYSING!  You can get a reasonable game out of the openings without any great effort by simply playing an opening system (like the King’s Indian or the French Defence set-up) and then you don’t need to analyse all the various possibilities … you just play your normal system that you know well.

If you are looking for a simple, safe system for White I quite like the London System which involves White playing d4, Nf3, Bf4, e3, c3, Nbd2, Bd3 and 0-0.  A friend of mine who is a complete beginner has been playing this in the Croydon Open and has so far managed to avoid falling for the four move checkmate!  A major success.

Of course if you are Black it is a little harder.  Against d4 I like the Old Indian set-up which gets me into the game usually with only a very slight  disadvantage.   I had a chance to use it last week when a former pupil of mine, now studying at Melbourne University, challenged me to play a few games against him at the State Library.  I was delighted to accept as the State Library is the custodian of one of the biggest collections of chess books and magazines in the world, the M.V.Anderson Chess Collection.  Many years ago I used to love visiting this chess collection.  You would climb up a narrow, circular metal staircase up several floors to a hidden balcony which contained shelf after shelf of chess treasures.  The musty aroma of the old books assaulted your nostrils but the thrill of searching through the shelves for some old, forgotten book or magazine drove you on.

Regrettably these days it is a little different.  There were two or three double-sided shelving units of books and magazines but all the good stuff is now apparently in storage in Ballarat.  M.V.Anderson would not be happy and nor was I.  Instead of the smell of old books you get the smell of young university students using the area to study, although there are half a dozen sets available for play.  I warmly greeted my former student Jack and we managed to secure a set and started playing.

Jack opened with 1.d4 and of course I quickly banged out the moves of my Old Indian Defence as my aim when playing chess these days is to not have to think.   Then something terrible happened.  He moved a piece twice in the opening!  How many times have I preached to my students about not moving a piece twice unless you really have to?  I looked up at him as his hand quitted the piece and remarked “all those lessons I gave you some years ago … have you forgotten it’s bad to move a piece twice in the opening”?  He clearly had to be punished …. here is what happened.

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