As a Scot I make no apology for renaming the Scotch Gambit the Scots Gambit and I hope readers of this blog will follow accordingly. The word ‘scotch’ is never heard in Scotland – it is an English or American word that sounds cheeselike to Scottish people. Why did I choose this as an opening to learn for my up-comming competition? Well I am Scottish and I do like gambits so we’re already on a winner. Secondly I like postal chess and this was played in that early correspondence game between Scotland and England in 1824 where Scotland won despite English attempts to change their moves post postage. Finally it is GM Roman Dzindzichashvili‘s opinion that this is an underated opening that is particularly useful if you want to improve your chess. He doesn’t say it’s a winner but he does believe it offers a rich mixture of tactics, positional play and dynamic play.
So how am I learning it? Unfortunately I don’t have any books on the opening and as far as I can see there is only one book that looks into this opening in any depth. That book is Lev Alburt and Roman Dzindzichavilli’s book Chess Openings for White, Explained. This gambit also transposes to the Giucco Piano and Two Knights Defense and books deal with those openings but at this stage I don’t have the time to order books and wait. (My Fundamental Chess Openings book is a bit light on this). Instead I have been watching videos and reading forum posts then making notes that I am turning into an opening tree as per the picture above. My hope is to get a pretty good understanding of how this opening can pan out – not rote learning.
Unfortunately it seems quite complex and just when I find that I am comming to grips with it I find that lines transpose to other openings with their own complexities. At this stage I have looked at all likely responses other than the main line or transposed lines. I will have to go over these lines many times before the ideas are locked in – I will then look at the main lines and transposed positions, I hope I have enough time. I will also have to play many games before I really come to grips with the opening and that won’t happen before my competition.
I have decided to enter another competition in a months time and I have decided to do some training for it. My plan is:
Openings – I am going to learn one new white opening and develop the Scandinavian defense I was using in Ballarat. I also need to find a response I’m happy with against 1.d4, something that opens up the game a bit. The white opening I’m planning to learn is the Scotch Gambit.
Middlegames – I will finish my ‘How to Reassess your Chess’ book by IM Jeremy Silman and tackle four puzzles a day from my ‘The Complete Chess Workout’ book by Richard Palliser. I also have my correspondence games, which are all currently middlegames, to do.
Endgames – I’ll review what I’ve learned so far in my ‘Complete Endgames Course’ again by Silman and read more about rook endings – which I seem to be facing more regularly lately.
About once a week I play a game at Box Hill Chess Club with a 60min + 30s/move time limit. I lost my game and my opponent said that I should have played the ‘Smoking Indian’. Our game started with a Sicilian from me which transposed into a Morra gambit from him and I thought a ‘smoking indian’ was an obscure line that was associated with this opening. It wasn’t, instead it was a comment about the endgame. After their 34th move I should have just done nothing active according to my opponent. I should have been like one of those native americans on old cigar boxes sitting back and smoking my peace pipe and taking on a defence strategy. And after his 34th move things looked drawn and later computer analysis shows this to be drawn with a .59 advantage to white. So what went wrong? Here is the game.
So I’m not sure that the ‘Smoking Indian’ was the solution. Instead I should have understood that it was more important to let go of my central pawn and have an active rook that sought out counter play.
Two bishops are viewed as a highly desireable combination to have and the reasons for this are clear as games open up during play. Because of this I have, in the past, treated my knights as less valuable than my bishops and this has affected the decisions I have made, possibly to the detrement of my games. In my ‘Reassess Your Chess’ book there are sections on both knights and bishops that I have found very interesting. In it Jeremy Silman notes the tricky nature of knights and he believes that they can be powerful weapons, especially against the level of players I am likely to play. At the Begonia tournament I spoke to an opponent of mine after our game and she hates knights! I also find that when I play a piece rich endgame I am quite fearful of getting caught out by them.
At the Begonia tournament my first game ended up being quite ‘Knighty’. I didn’t win the game (my opponent being close to 600 rating point above me) but I did enjoy bouncing my knights around to block and attack. The game made me like knights more. Here is the game.
I think the use of knights was good at the begining of the game. I checked a chess engine after my notes above and after 21.exd5 I’m ahead and after 22.Bxd5 I have good lead with the engine showing.
My son’s chess teacher from the Tuesday class suggested that he should have a go at the Scandinavian defense during the Begonia chess competition that I just posted about. The reason he suggested this opening is twofold; firstly it is relatively unknown and so you are less likely to face a well prepared answer, secondly it is aggressive and that suits my son’s chess style. I chose to use it too because I like trying new things.
The Scandinavian defense has mixed reviews and is not often played at the highest level. My Fundamental Chess Openings book includes 5 or 6 pages at the back and notes that it can be sharp. The variation we were hoping to try was 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 then if 3.c4 play e6 or if 3.d4 then play Bg4. As the competition approached we looked at a few games in a database that showed these sequences to get a feel for what moves are thematic and what patterns arise – we didn’t, however, look in any detail beyond these three moves. I ended up playing 2 games with this opening and my son played one.
My game against at 1500+ player which shows the opening working fine.
And a game I ruined with my tournament blunder – but the opening worked.
Spot Quiz! What is Black’s best move?
Here is my son’s game. It was analysed in the Box Hill Club newsletter by the talented Laurence Matheson and his commentary is used below. (You can click on the variations in this game).
My son and I have just come back from a long tournament – the Ballarat Begonia 2015. This was my first long tournament and it was a seven round event over 3 days with each game lasting 90 minutes plus a 30 second increment. At the end of the tournament I scored 2/7. Happily my son and I were one place apart (him above me) in a field of 104 players, I don’t think that will last long!
The curious thing for me was that 5 of my games were great, close, hard fought battles, this is despite a huge rating difference between my opponents. Of the two other games one was quite easy and in the other it was easy until I made my only serious blunder of the competition (it was still close but it couldn’t be classed as a great game).
I think the closeness of my games have a lot to do with my perception of the other player. I think much more carefully if my opponent has a higher rating, less if they are rated lower. Obviously I should change this and give all my opponents due respect – this should help my scoreline.
Below are two of my games showing how close they were despite the rating difference. One game is against a player rated in the mid 800 on the ACF scale (no FIDE) and one against a player with a FIDE rating over 2020.
And this against a seven year old!
The competition was well run and there were a lot of great players. In the end the top three places went to IM Kannan Izzat, IM James Morris and IM Ari Dale respectively. I enjoyed the competition and hopefully we’ll be able to go again next year.