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Saturday, January 19, 2019
1. e4 e5

Sicut erat in principio…

I first learnt how to play chess about 35 years ago. If I remember rightly, there was a programme on the telly about the game which was in black and white, and illustrated various games using stop animation. If, again, my memory isn't too faulty, the commentator always described castling as a tricky move. My Dad bought me a chess set one day and taught me how to play the game along with the first few moves of the dear old Giuoco Piano.

I was a bit miffed when one of my friends played an opening which didn't respond to the Giuoco Piano and annoyed with him for saying that he (or someone) always won with the opening in question. Her did win, but this particular opening is probably difficult to tackle for a lot of players if your opponent is being excessively defensive.

Curiously enough, when I started playing online chess last week, one of my opponents played the same kind of opening. Whether it has a name, I don't know, but it appears to be known – somehow – among defensive players. It's the sort of opening which must drive knowledgeable players to paroxysms of rage and frustration.

I started out trying to play a Queen's Gambit and ended up playing the Old Indian Defence (ECO A55) without even knowing it. (I'm not sure the moves are in the standard order, but the final position is.)

I then played d5 and got e5 in return. My opponent has played quite a few games, likes this opening, and tends to be defensive. e5 was no great surprise. I tried c5 and have got Nxc5 as a reply, which is not a move attacking or developing a piece, but a wholly defensive action. I'm now considering my next move, but my attempts to kibitz this game keep leading to the same conclusion. It forces the attacking player to sacrifice pieces to advance because the other player is playing a wholly defensive game.

Whither now? b4 is tempting. He'd probably play Nd7; I'd play b5; he'd probably play c5; I'd play b6; he'd probably play Nxb6, thus thwarting another attack but doing nothing to advance his cause. However, that leaves me with Bb5+, no doubt followed by Nd7 or Bd7, which then has me thinking, "Why bother?" I think I may just let the game time out, which is not the way it should end, but such an opponent isn't worth the effort.

I am somewhat irked by this bothersome child's irritating style of play. I shan't suggest that he should learn a proper opening or two because I doubt whether he'd be mature enough to accept my advice with good grace.

Since I have an academic background, I quite like the research and analysis sides of correspondence chess and even the chance to try a little original thinking (perhaps). I note that by playing 1. …c5 to some of my opponent's 1. e4, I've probably put them out of sorts because they know the Giuoco Piano and do not expect or recognise some Sicilian Opening (of which there are too many). I've had several play 2. Bc4, which is a move in a less played version of the Sicilian.

In spite of this failure, I think that some of these players and I are quite well matched once they stop playing pointless moves. I've spent the opening of these games mostly moving pawns around while the other player tries Bb5(+).

Whatever else, I ought to get plenty of practice at the game.

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