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youngglor 19 ( +1 | -1 )
The French Defence Is this defence suitable to all chess players? I have heard that beginners shouldn't use it but I don't see a concrete reason why. What are your thoughts on this? Would this be suitable to me?
youngglor 4 ( +1 | -1 )
Forgot... to thank you guys in advance!
Thanks!
anaxagoras 50 ( +1 | -1 )
Let's see here....

Yes, it's suitable to all chess players. I can't imagine why someone would say it's not suited to beginners. In my opinion it's an excellent choice for a beginner because:
1. The e6-d5 is guaranteed central pressure, and many beginners are not stubborn enough about center control.
2. It's a solid opening and not easy to attack.
3. It obliges Black to make a concerted defence before a counter-attack (which also means it will punish you for attacking prematurely).
4. Many are less familiar with the French, compared to the ubiquitous 1e4 e5.
youngglor 71 ( +1 | -1 )
Reti... has quoted that "the beginner" shouldn't use the queen's gambit nor the French defence. Is it the fact that these two types of games usually lead to closed positions? I feel that a beginner should be able to play these games and get some knowledge of strategic principles. Recently I played some queen's gambit and it came like a shock to me! Chess can be so beautiful! Ive played my share of King pawn games, now, I feel like I should proceed to trying some Queen pawn games. I don't want to be playing my 10th Queen pawn game at like rating 1600 ;) lol...
What are your thoughts on this? When did you proceed into closed positions?
halfpast_yellow 73 ( +1 | -1 )
French. I started my 'serious' chess with the French Defence, as it was the defence my Teacher played and played well. He passed it on to me, and as a beginner it taught important facets of the game, such as the Bad Bishop, attacking a pawn chain, and signifigantly, patience and counter attack. The French Defense gave me some direction with black where I previously had no idea how I should play with this colour. Now Black is my prefered choice. Playing the French is good because it means you have a plan, no matter how broad. Although I moved away from the defense in favour of a more hypermodern approach, the ideas learnt still serve me well, and are very present in whats becoming a pet line of the Alekhine for me.
youngglor 46 ( +1 | -1 )
Here is the quote... "A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. This is a rule which has stood its test in chess history and one which we cannot impress forcibly enough upon the young chess player. A beginner should avoid Queen's Gambit and French Defence and play open games instead! While he may not win as many games at first, he will in the long run be amply compensated by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the game"
- RICHARD RETI
caldazar 74 ( +1 | -1 )
Well, there are lots of different ways to study tactics and playing open games is one good way to acquire tactical knowledge. The French Defense has its share of tactics too though, especially some of the sharper lines of the Winawer and the Alekhine-Chatard Attack in the Classical, for instance.

The main thing about the French that I personally don't care much for is that Black's play, while usually rather straightforward, is often slow to develop so White tends to get in the first shots. That's fine; the French is also extremely solid and the resulting positions are difficult to attack. Still, at some point you have to learn how to fight for the initiative from the first move and how to play out-and-out tactical games.
baseline 52 ( +1 | -1 )
French Defence I agree that beginners and novices should study tactics and stick to open games to begin with. The French would be a good choice as a players first closed opening. The history of the French Defence runs parallel to the history of chess theory, the wealth of good annotated games by the likes of Steintz, Nimzovitch, Alekhine,Botvinnik, Korchnoi, Fischer and many others provide all the stragetic lessons necessary to play the opening well and to learn many positional concepts.
youngglor 8 ( +1 | -1 )
When do you recommend I start playing closed games??? What rating?
caldazar 114 ( +1 | -1 )
It's not a question of rating at all. Different players have different strengths and weaknesses, and you have to correct your most severe weaknesses first before correcting smaller ones. While perhaps it might be true that your knowledge of closed-position maneuvering could use some work, all the maneuvering in the world isn't going to net you enough of an advantage to compensate for situations where you drop pieces due to tactics or simple oversights. Until you correct these mistakes (usually through tactical training and by developing the mental toughness, discipline, and patience to thoroughly examine a move at each point), if you try to learn how to play such closed positions, all that's going to happen is that you'll outmaneuver your opponent and gain a strategic advantage only to drop a crucial pawn and ruin all your efforts. It's not necessarily that your study will be wasted; rather, larger factors will simply dominate in the games you play so that until you eliminate these larger mistakes, your prowess with positional maneuvering will never shine through.
baseline 8 ( +1 | -1 )
caldazar now suggest a simple opening system for black that fits the bill.
caldazar 98 ( +1 | -1 )
Why do you need to memorize any opening system at all?

It's been said that a chess player's development mirrors the development of chess theory as a whole, and I've always felt there's a great deal of truth to it. I can't think of a better way to get started on the road to chess improvement than to take the path past masters went down, starting from the very beginning. You can argue that 1. e4 e5 is not "simple" in that there you must study the King's Gambit, the Italian, the Spanish, the Scotch, and a host of other defenses. But the point is not to study openings per se, but rather to play them instead. Morphy, Anderssen, Paulsen, they and many others all managed to play some decent chess without possessing anywhere near the level of opening knowledge a typical grandmaster has access to today. Yet they managed to do okay with just their wits along with a bit of understanding about the power of pawns, pieces, development, and initiative.
soikins 189 ( +1 | -1 )
I remember that when I was a kid and didn't know opening theory at all (I had no idea that there was such a thing), but was told that in the opening you should develop you pieces, I played The Italian game. It followed one of the main lines until move 12 or smth. Thought I had no idea that it was a theory.
Then I didn't play chess for 10 years and returned to it some 3 years ago and started to play against a computer. I got outplayed in the open games, so I wnt to the closed ones -- Queens Gambit and French. I got to these openings through understanding that I don't feel so good in open games, I feel more comfortable in the closed positions. Thought then I reached another crisis -- draw death. I just could't win, thought I didn't loose so often. So now I'm trying to get more spice in my play, more fire on the board. I started to play hypermodern openings lately.
What I want to say by this -- In my own chess development I have followed the development of chess as such (thought I never had the "old masters" style of gambit play). Thought I do not say that it is the only way or even that that is the best way. I just think that that is the way it naturally happens if you don't meet external influence (coaching) that carries you to a higher level of development faster.
I believe Reti was right -- you should start with the open games. Thought the question -- what rating should I reach to start playing closed games -- isn't correct. I think you will move on to the next level of development when you will understand why you should. When you will see in which positions you feel better. It is not obligatory that one should move on to the closed games, maybe you just like playing oopen games, then in your next step of development you will just better understand the strategic principles behind the game itself.
youngglor 66 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks you guys... I have decided to stick with more open games for a while, until I have better knowledge than what I have right now. It is quite a temptation though. My true self lies into closed positional play! The beauty of it all! I think a good plan would be to finish the amateurs mind...study a bit of endgames, and then proceed into the more complex queen pawn positions. I just can't help be fascinated by it all...You guys have been great help. Then again...the game of chess is thinking about what chess is about ;) I might never satisfy my need to learn ;)
youngglor 66 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks you guys... I have decided to stick with more open games for a while, until I have better knowledge than what I have right now. It is quite a temptation though. My true self lies into closed positional play! The beauty of it all! I think a good plan would be to finish the amateurs mind...study a bit of endgames, and then proceed into the more complex queen pawn positions. I just can't help be fascinated by it all...You guys have been great help. Then again...the game of chess is thinking about what chess is about ;) I might never satisfy my need to learn ;)
youngglor 3 ( +1 | -1 )
Sorry! Sorry for the double post..
baseline 41 ( +1 | -1 )
caldazar Yes that is pretty much the way I learned chess, but from a pratical point of view the Ruy Lopez is a much more complicated opening than the French. White can also play 1.c4 of 1.Nf3

Learning an opening system and memorizing opening lines are clearly not the same.

The opening is an unavoidable part of the game, how do you prepare a novice to play it? I have my thoughts on the matter, but would like to hear yours.
baseline 127 ( +1 | -1 )
youngglor Looking in "The Oxford Companion to Chess" by Hooper & Whyld a positional advantage is defined as follows. "any advantage other than a material advantage, e.g. a gain in Time, space or Mobility, or possession of the better pawn formation" Clearly these concepts apply equally to open games as well as closed games.

Morphy was a great master of the open game, If you decide to study his games it is not the openings that will be of value to you, but the open positions reached from the opening. Remember that many of his opponets were not masters. Pay attention to how he gained time and space on his opponets and how he placed his pieces to maximize thier power and how they seem to work so well together.

After Morphy, Tarrasch's "300 chess games" would be a good choice. Through his annotations you will be introduced to classical chess theory without having to make sense out of lots of variations.

There is no magic elixer for chess, but by studing well annotated complete games you are studying all phases of the game at the same time, and every game can teach you something.

Lastly, finding improvementss in your own games will pay big dividends, the master games you study will help you find those improvements!

best wishes!
caldazar 510 ( +1 | -1 )
baseline Yes, from a theoretical standpoint, I suppose the Ruy Lopez is indeed a more strategically complex opening to tackle, but my concern is not so much with theory as it currently stands. Rather, I've always felt (correctly or incorrectly) that it is more important to know how to do some things well rather than to be able to do many things with only average proficiency.

When you learn to play the French, you need to learn how to operate at a space disadvantage, how to play with a bad bishop/make a bad bishop good, how to attack a pawn chain, how to defend against early attacks (especially queen raids; Qg4 figures prominently on the White side of a number of French lines), how to attack doubled pawns (if you adopt the Winawer), how to fight for the center, how to activate your pieces when such activation does not necessarily occur quickly, and a few other things. All useful skills that eventually need to be learned and mastered but certainly there's quite a bit more to the French than simply "attack d4", "play ...c5, cxd4, and then ...f6" and "do I want my g8-knight to wind up on d7 or f5?". Contrast this with, say, the Ruy Lopez. What does a player need to know to understand the Classical, the Moller, or the Berlin? Pawns to the center, develop every piece in one move with an eye towards controlling the center, get castled short, and don't drop anything to tactics. You can argue that these are not necessarily the most critical lines in the Lopez, and you still have to understand a bit about how to use bishops well in open positions (the Exchange Ruy, while never overly-popular, does come up now and again), but my concern is not necessarily with what is best according to theory, but what can get you to a playable middlegame position with a minimum of hassle. Whether a resulting position is +/=, =, or =/+ is not so important.

I always try to advise people not to look at the opening as some unique and special aspect of a chess game but rather as just another set of (admittedly complex) middlegame positions. Anything that a player would consider as relevant in a middlegame should be considered in the opening. I feel this also has an added benefit in that a player will never attempt to play into an opening he doesn't understand. If the player doesn't understand space disadvantages, timely counterattacking, economical defense, and the value of a flexible position, he will never choose to play a Sicilian because the player would never set his opening goals to match those of a Sicilian in the first place. Any advantages a player enters a middlegame position with will be advantages he will be comfortable with because they will be advantages he has been trying to acquire from move 1.

And of course there will always be other opening moves to be played. The point again is to try understand these moves in the context of what you already know and to grow this understanding through your encounters with unfamiliar situations. If a player only understands material but not development, for instance, 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 would make no sense to him as Black. And so he'd probably lose, and then he'd be forced to ask himself why he lost, what precisely he did not understand about the positions at hand. In this way, I feel a player is permitted to tackle new frontiers slowly, one small concept at a time, rather than being exposed to a whole system of potentially unfamiliar concepts all at once.

Further, I disagree that learning an opening system and memorizing lines are not the same thing. In principle they aren't; learning an opening system is about learning which positional and tactical factors dominate and which ones are less influential in a given position, and you can learn a lot about good/bad minor pieces from the French, counterattack in the Sicilian, and central control from the King's Gambit. But then the study invariably falls to "Plans for White and Black," opening schemes, configurations of pieces, and such things. And these things require knowledge of move orders, because if you don't have that knowledge, sooner or later you'll find that your move orders are wrong, and that you never quite getting around to executing that plan theory tells you you're supposed to be able to execute in the position. So for better or worse, people run back to the opening books to look up and memorize the move orders and alternative plans, and when they get outmaneuvered again, they go back to memorize more lines to figure out what theory tells them they should have done instead of the players telling themselves what they think they should have done. I'm always happy to see a player deviate from opening theory; it means they're thinking on their own and they may get to see why exactly their move is not recommended as the game ahead unfolds. And I feel this experience is a far better learning experience than any tutoring session I could ever hope to offer. And hey, maybe they just came up with a perfectly playable novelty.
baseline 53 ( +1 | -1 )
why reinvent the wheel? good tutoring can accelerate a players progress many fold. In fact I would suggest that the best way for a novice to learn to play the opening is to allow him to chose his openings and build up his knowledge by helping him find improvements in the games he has played, and not only the opening but the entire game. A good tutor can direct the student to master games that will help him. Over time the student will find he is following in the footsteps of the masters and playing main lines or at least respected sidelines.
caldazar 302 ( +1 | -1 )
Because I feel the effort itself is what has value I feel that by experiencing and puzzling through a concept by himself, a player learns more than if someone simply feeds him the information. It's the struggle and the effort put into the understanding that contributes most to the learning experience. I've seen players pour over books, reading them cover to cover, and then coming out feeling like they know more than they did a few hours or days ago (I've been guilty of this myself, in fact). Nothing could be further from the truth; you learn by doing, not by observing. I'm not saying learning from books is a bad thing; quite the contrary, they are wonderful resources. However, they are only useful if you actively take part in the reading, questioning judgements, exploring sidelines not mentioned anywhere in the text, and not blindly believing the things you read.

I don't want to try to help people learn how to play chess. I want to teach them how they can teach themselves how to play chess. I don't want them to need me in the long run. If they have doubts, I want them to believe in themselves more than they believe in me, and I want them to question what I say to ask that I prove them wrong. Sure, if someone has a question, I'm more than happy to offer my input, but really, I want them to figure out the answers to their own questions themselves, and so I want to point them in the right general direction, but not draw them a roadmap. I don't want to just hand them all the answers (or at least, my interpretation of the answers). I don't want to tell someone "rooks belong behind passed pawns"; I want them to push their pawns without support and watch as the pawn is captured and then try to defend the pawn's advance the next time around. Because then they not only learn the few right ways to accomplish a goal, they learn a lot of wrong ways too, so they wind up understanding the situation more fully.

I agree that one of the best ways to improve is by going over past games and finding errors, but I want the player to do that himself; I don't want to do it for him. If he then comes to a point where he feels there must be a mistake but he lacks the knowledge or skill to concretely isolate the mistake, then of course I'll jump in and offer some suggestions.

It's the skills of critical analysis (especially self-analysis) and independent thinking that I try to foster, not endgame technique or opening knowledge. I try to advise others on how to learn and think about chess, not about how to play chess itself, and I do so in the hopes that they will begin asking of themselves the questions I initially start off asking them ('what was your idea behind that move?' is a fairly common one). Because at the end of the day, they have only themselves to rely on and I'm not standing behind them at the tournament when they make their next moves.

To truly succeed, I feel you must first fail.
baseline 24 ( +1 | -1 )
lets not split hairs! There are good teachers and bad teachers,
There are good books and books which are less helpful.
Its possible to learn faster with a "good" tutor. but
te beginner has to want to learn and be willing to put
the necessary work into it.