I was planning on writing a completely different post. Since the calendar turned to 2018, I had one overarching chess thought: learn the King’s Indian Defence. This would solve so many of my problems: it would provide a complete opening system against all non-1.e4 openings; it would increase my knowledge of hypermodern strategies; I would have an excellent counter to the omnipresent London System; I would improve in one opening I’ve never understood, following in the footsteps of Fischer and Kasparov. It sounded perfect.
Alas, as the first month of the new year ticks down, I’m left with this lament: I am not and likely never will be a King’s Indian player.
There are some positions you just get. The Queen’s Gambit Declined is one such opening. Almost from the movement I first saw the moves, I knew what was happening: I knew what White wanted to do, where he was going, where each piece wanted to be, which pieces were strong and which not, everything. The position makes intuitive sense.
Other positions make sense but are not intuitive. The Closed Ruy Lopez is my example. On the one hand, I understand the structure: White can play a4 to play on the Queenside, or prepare f4 on the Kingside, and the Knight usually goes to g3 via d2-f1-g3. The centre is stable so play happens on the wings. I get all that … but put me in a game, in this position, and I don’t know what to do. Whereas the Queen’s Gambit I could see where the pieces wanted to be, here everything is blank. I stumble around, move-by-move, never fully understanding what all these GM maneuverings mean.
And then, finally, there are positions I just don’t get. The King’s Indian is about all of them. I look at a position and think White is fine … and Black suddenly gets a mating attack. I look at another and think Black has a dangerous initiative … and within five moves White is completely winning. Something about this opening messes with my brain. My chess sense goes haywire. I don’t understand it.
I have reviewed some 35 games since the New Year, most in passing. Not deep, but just getting a sense of what is going on. I reviewed one game in depth, and I got about every move wrong. I couldn’t predict the moves, the move order, or even just the general flow of the game. It was awful.
I’m a big believer in shoring up your weaknesses, and not just in chess. If you improve your weakest link, you are bound to improve. At the same time, it’s important to know when enough is enough. Smashing my head against this concrete wall of an opening isn’t really helping. Let’s use that time to improve something else.
Because, really, in the grand scheme of things, being bad at the King’s Indian isn’t that big of a deal. Lots of players never play the KID. It reaches positions you likely only get in the KID. It’s not like the Isolated Queen’s Pawn positions, which can arise from virtually any opening. The KID is unique, and if I simply don’t play it, I safely ignore everything. Okay.
At the same time, there’s clearly something wrong here. The KID is highlighting an element of chess I struggle with: hypermodern strategy, closed centers, piece play versus pawn play, mixing prophylaxis with attack, advanced pawns and space advantages on one side of the board. If I want to become my chess best, I will need to fix this, to address this deficiency. That doesn’t need to happen right now, though.
At the beginning of the month, I was hoping I would be announcing today my conversion to the KID, now and forever. That didn’t happen. That’s okay. Someday I’ll get it. For now, I won’t worry about changing openings, I’ll stick with what works, and we’ll focus instead on my next biggest weakness: the endgame.
That will come next week.