I found a treasure trove of games, on chess.com, played by the person who was going to be my opponent at my Monday game, unfortunately his repertoire was varied and it was hard for me to work out what I would play against him. I was going to be white and I noted that his favourite responses to 1.e4 were the Ruy Lopez – most popular, the Scandinavian with Qxd5 (followed by the retreat Qd6) or a Sicilian with 2.Nc6.
I saw 2 games he played where his opponent opened with the Scots Gambit and in both cases he responded with the questionable 4. …Be7 so I revisited my Scots Gambit study hoping that the game would go in that direction. It did…
And so my Kamikaze move was not justified in this game and once the position stabilised I was behind. At that point I kept swapping down and when you are behind like this you should swap pawns not pieces. I guess I was hoping that one Bishop would not be able to stop my pawns if I could give them good support with my King but I was wrong. My other problem was that even if I was going to sacrifice I needed to develop my pieces more to support my attack. Once my attack petered out I was very vulnerable. So a lesson was learned – if you’re going to take down a warship with a small plane you need to be bang on target.
Postscript: I ran the game through my Arena engine and the sacrifice was wrong but it wasn’t horrendous. At move 21 I am only down by 1.03 (the value of a pawn) and I am playing well, often playing the computers first choice but as the game wore on and pieces got swapped off the game became more and more un-winable. Here is a graph showing the balance of the game.
This is a follow on from my previous post and but Instead of posting about the moves of pieces I thought I’d focus on my process of learning an opening. The Scots Gambit is a fairly uncommon opening and I don’t have a books about it so I have started my research through watching videos. While watching the videos I have been noting moves and lines which I have then put into an opening tree. I have tabulated this into a spreadsheet that shows all the posible lines I could play in response to good moves from my opponent. Often my opponent has a number of good, or likely, moves (shown in green above) and the spreadsheet is fairly complicated. I have called this spreadsheet ‘Scots Gambit’. This is step 1 – ‘Research’.
My next step is to limit my responses to one move rather than a number of possible continuations. I have chosen the move that most reduces the responses of my opponents. By this I mean that on move 6, for example, I could chose 6.Nc3 or 6.e5 – if I chose 6.Nc3 then the clear and best response from my opponent is 6. …Bd7 and following that there is a limited sequence of good moves but if I chose 6.e5 my opponent could respond well with 6. …dxe5 6. …Qe7 or 6. …Nd7 some of these then branch out further. I have therefore chosen 6.Nc3 to prune the branches of my opening tree. I have made an updated spreadsheet called ‘Scots Gambit Condensed’. End of step 2 – ‘Guidelines’.
The next step I took was to play quick unrated games on chess.com, games that are 5 minutes per side, in which I play as much as I can from memory then refer to my spreadsheet when I can’t remember the moves. By doing this I am memorising the moves as best as I can. Ongoing step 3 – ‘Practice’.
But isn’t this all rote learning? Yes it has been but I am now going back to the videos and instead of recording the moves I am listening to the reasons behind the moves. The reasons given in videos are normally tactical but some videos talk about aims and strategies. In the Scots Gambit one aim seems to be to blockade the Queenside and attack on the Kingside. Step 4 – ‘Substance’.
Finally I am going back to step 3 with greater knowledge and playing better until I feel confident and start to see common middlegame themes.
Many good players will say that a person at my level doesn’t need such a focus on openings but I would disagree. It has been interesting learning undertaking this process and it has given me an insight into how grandmasters would prepare (it must be a massive undertaking to learn all the main openings and all the most probable continuations for those openings). By starting to learn openings in depth now I can hope to have a number of openings learnt in time. Also after 5 or 6 moves the positions in most openings become varied and complex and this is teaching me about middlegames, pawn structure, themes and positional play .
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.