Game 20: SmithyQ-Zicfun33: Opening Principles

In some ways, the game today is fairly simple.  It’s ten moves and Black hangs a piece.  GG.

This is true, but it isn’t the whole story.  Black didn’t hang his piece randomly.  He had a plan, and his first few moves were standard, and he played a standard central break.  Things seemed fine on the surface, but if you look deeper, Black’s position was actually terrible.  Why?  Because Black didn’t follow opening principles.  He moves a piece twice in the opening, and though it looked harmless, it basically brought him swift defeat.

Let’s take a look at how deep opening principles can take us.

[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2015.05.08”]
[Round “?”]
[White “SmithyQ”]
[Black “zicfun33”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C78”]
[WhiteElo “1786”]
[BlackElo “1504”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “19”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{A lesson on basic opening principles.} 1. e4 {Advancing a pawn in the centre,
preparing the development of two pieces. Awesome!} e5 {Black replies in suit.}
2. Nf3 {As we know, development is key, and development with tempo is even
better. The Knight attacks the pawn, and now Black needs to do something.} Nc6
{Black could defend the pawn in many ways, but developing the Knight to a
natural square makes the most sense.} 3. Bb5 {White immediately develops the
Bishop to its most aggressive square, possibly threatening to take on c6 and
later win the e5-pawn.} Nge7 {This isn’t necessarily a bad move, but it’s not
the best move. It certainly doesn’t follow opening principles: the Knight is
blocking the Bishop, and so he’ll either need to move the Knight again to free
the Bishop or play g6-Bg7, which again costs more tempo. Notice that the
Knight also doesn’t pressure e4 the way it would if it were on f6 instead.} 4.
O-O {White castles, which makes perfect sense. Also, notice that Black is at
least three moves away from castling. White can play Re1, a quick d4 and maybe
catch Black’s King wide open. Black’s King position is the current most
important factor in this position.} a6 {Black pushes the Bishop back, but this
is already a slight error. How does this help his King? As we’ll see…} 5. Ba4
b5 6. Bb3 {[%cal Gb3f7] Black has spent several moves that simple put the
Bishop on an aggressive diagonal hitting f7, all while Black cannot castle.
Ng5 is a threat in this position.} d5 $2 {More or less, the losing move. Why?
Because Black is opening up the position with his King in the centre. True,
his position doesn’t look bad now.} 7. exd5 Nxd5 {And even here it looks okay
on first blush. However, Black has spent three tempi to 1) move his Knight
twice in the opening while he has a score of undeveloped pieces, and 2) open
the centre with his King at least two moves away from castling. Black’s
position is in fact terrible.} 8. Re1 {For instance, how does Black defend his
pawn? Bd6 just hangs the Knight. Qd6 or Qe7 allow d4 with terrible threats.
Bg4 is met with h3 and Black will lose material. In fact, Black CANNOT keep
material here. The computer already gives White a near winning advantage, +1.5.
Why? Because Black ignored opening principles whereas White did not.} f6 {
Black tries desperately to keep his material, but now the computer says it’s a
+2 advantage to White, and it’s easy to see why. White is way ahead in
development, the Black King is still in the centre, the centre Black already
opened and White is about to further open. Even if Black could caslte, the
weakness on the a2-g8 diagoanl could be fatal anyway.} 9. d4 {This move
reknews the pressure on e5, and now there is no defence. In addition, dxe5
will open the Queen up to attack the Knight along with the Bishop. The e-file
is super dangerous, the d-file isn’t much better, and Black is already lost.}
Bd6 {Black tries to develop, get ready to castle and protect his centre, but
it simply hangs a piece. Note that dxe5, opening the Queen to attack the
Knight while the pawn also hits the Bishop, is also winning.} 10. Bxd5 {
Black resigns, which is fitting, as the game wouldn’t last ten more moves
anyway.} 1-0


The lazy conclusion is that Black didn’t see that Bd6 hung a piece, chess blindness, oh well, hurp derp, carry on.  That’s not just lazy, it’s wrong.  On move 9, Black did not have a good move.  Seriously, find a better one.  Find something Black could play instead.  There is nothing.  Black is losing material; maybe not a whole piece, but he’s losing a lot.

The second lazy conclusions would be that Black lost because he didn’t know the theory.  Hogwash.  I don’t know the theory.  I think it’s some combination of d6, g6, Bg7 and 0-0, where the game almost looks like a pseudo-King’s Indian.  Black could also try Ng6, Be7 and 0-0, maybe preparing f5.  Black has options.

The problem wasn’t the theory, it was the principles.  Tell me, should you open the centre when behind in development and your King hasn’t castled?  Of course not.  That’s not even principles, that’s common sense.  Black ignored it, though, and played d5 and Nxd5.  That’s three tempi in the opening, and White used those very tempi to castle and play Re1, directly taking advantage of Black’s mistake.

Black was uncomfortable by move 6, desperate by move 8 and losing by move 9.  The blunder at the end, if you want to call it that, wasn’t the main mistake.  The mistakes all came earlier.  Hanging the Knight was simple the final sign, the ultimate symptom of a bad position.  Ignore opening principles at your peril.  The difference between a normal and a losing position can be as little as moving a Knight twice.

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