Contents 4.20.2022:
 NM Fikiet's Column: Thoughts on Opening Preperation
Poem by Sebastian Carden
GM Abhimanyu Mishra Simul
Chess Toons
En Passant
Problem of the Week

Editor's Note

Thoughts on Opening Preparation 


A few weeks ago, I wrote an article regarding the most common question I am asked towards chess improvement. This article concerns one of the other major questions: “What openings should I study and how should I study them?”. This is a huge question, and most writers choose to answer this question in the form of a book, rather than an article. What is more, there is no correct answer—a suitable answer depends on a few axes, and what the player wants for their study.


Instead of covering everything, I will describe my general approach, along with a few thoughts and consideration regarding what you should be thinking about when making a plan for your opening preparation.




When studying openings, I will always use Chessbase software, along with my copy of Stockfish. I do understand that Chessbase is expensive, but it is very useful and considered a necessity for higher level (2200+) players. For other levels, any large database where you can see a large sample of games for the opening you are studying is suitable. and Lichess of course have databases, and also offers a free online database. Websites like Chesstempo and also have databases, but are a little less streamlined and slightly harder to use.


When studying a specific opening, I also like to source a well-liked and recommended book on the subject. I tend to use this as a guidebook, valuing text explanations. When I am searching through the jungle of longs variations and sub variations on the opening tree and start to get confused, this can provide a welcome reset. A lot of players my level or stronger will forgo this, but personally it is very valuable, and I think it is definitely the most important resource for studying openings at a lower level.


Opening Goals


There are lots of considerations in terms making a repertoire/studying an opening. In particular, what are you looking for? Some thoughts:


  1. Narrow vs. Wide: Should you only play 1 or 2 replies against any opening? Do you only play one move as white? Or do you want to experiment and play a wide variety? If you are choosing a narrow repertoire, then I would say your openings need to be a little more complex and well-prepared.

  2. Position type: What kinds of positions do you like? In terms of preparing for specific games, I like to analyze lines that can give me specific position types that I can mix and match against opponents. Playing against a tactical genius who loves the Najdorf? I would play a quiet anti-sicilian. Playing a young kid with little patience? Time for a quiet line with lots of maneuvering. Playing a stronger player? I would recommend something more complicated, where by sitting on the shoulders of giants (i.e. cutting edge opening theory) I can compete even with less chess understanding.

  3. Are you playing for and advantage? In the opening, you can try for an advantage, or merely for a playable position with chances for both sides (the goal is just to not blunder and lose in the opening). Both have pros and cons—the first requires lots of work, but can reward you with lots of (virtually) free points right from the opening. With the other, you have more time to focus on other facets of your chess improvement.




I could go on and on. Instead of continuing to drone, I will instead show a game that I am proud of, using a rare line to defeat a very strong player. As a final note, I would recommend constantly asking questions and having a curious mindset when analyzing and looking at moves in the opening. Rather than just following the most popular moves in the database, ask yourself and challenge yourself to figure out why other moves aren’t played! In the case of this game, these questions led me to find a complicated and interesting line that had only been played a handful of times. The surprise factor of this line I believe played a large factor in my victory.

RealDavidNavara vs safikiet 
Yearly Rapid Arena
Play through the game here.

This game was played quite a while ago, in the heat of the pandemic. No one was playing in-person chess, and so instead hoards of chess-addicted players were taking to the lichess/ streets. This was played in Lichess' large "Yearly Rapid Arena". After 2 wins, I was very excited to play against David Navara, a GM who in addition to being the #43 rated classical player in the world at the time, is also better at chess than me in every way. For a 10 minute game, the game was of very high quality. In addition to this game being a big humble-brag, I was also able to unleash a very rare, pseudo-novelty. Here we go! 

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 

My favorite opening. I may be asking for it, but as of writing I have yet to lose a classical rated game with the QGA. I enjoy capturing the pawn, then using the time White takes to recapture the pawn to create active piece play. 

3. e4 Nc6 

There are many possible moves-- I have played e5, Nc6, Nf6 and b5. currently b5 has been super popular, a wild and crazy line being  3... b5 4. a4 c6 5. axb5 cxb5 6. Nc3 a6 7. Nxb5 axb5 8. Rxa8 Bb7 9. Ra1 e6 10. f3 f5  With super unclear play. For the exchange, Black will have active pieces and chaos in the center. Van Wely- Heberla, Doeberl Cup 2015 is a cool game I recommend checking out. 

4. Nf3 Bg4 5. d5  After the provocative Nc6, White takes the challenge and chases the wayward knight around. Black seeks to use the weakened dark squares and undermine White's center.

5... Ne5 6. Bf4 Ng6 7. Be3  The main line and generally most critical reply. The bishop would bite on granite after Bg3 and be slightly misplaced. 7. Bg3 e5

7... b5!?  I would add a few extra question marks and exclams if I could. This is a very rare move-- my database has it played only 5 times, with White scoring very well, two wins and three draws. At the same time, I was drawn to this move when analyzing QGA lines. I wanted something complicated that avoided the main line, where White has a very stable edge. In addition, although White has scored convincingly, the sample size is small, and to play accurately as White is no easy feat. Credit to some german players: GM Niclas Huschenbeth and IM Nikolas Lubbe for playing the move first against strong grandmasters. 7... Nf6 8. Nc3 e5 9. Bxc4 a6 10. Be2 Bd6  Is solid but bleak: White scores almost 60%, and against a super GM like Navara would really be asking for it. 

8. b3  Logical, trying to break down the black pawns. In general, Black will jettison the c and b pawns and develop during White's greed. a4 and Nc3 are also possible, I will selfishly hide my analysis but invite you to delve deeper. 

8... e6 9. bxc4 Bb4+ 10. Nbd2 Bxf3  An important decision, what piece to take with?  

11. Qxf3?  I consider a mistake. White's queen will be misplaced. I do understand gxf3 is not a natural move, White's king will be stuck in the center. Objectively, White would have a slight advantage, but it would be hard to play.  11. gxf3 Qf6 12. Rb1 a5 13. cxb5 N8e7 14. dxe6 fxe6 Black has good compensation. White has a lot of weak squares and is behind in development. Black can castle, hop around with his knights (e5, f4, and h4 all being possible squares) and generally annoy White. 

11... Nf6  The b5 pawn puts interesting pressure on the white center. If cxb5, exd5 and his center collapses. The position is equal according to Stockfish, but it's much easier for Black.  

12. Rb1 a5 I want the bishop to stay here. 

13. h4 White has some problem developing his light-squared bishop, so he decided to do other stuff. Wing pawn moves are all the rage these days, and this tries to harass the knight and gain space. (13. Bd3? Ne5 14. Qe2 bxc4 15. Bxc4 exd5 16. exd5 O-O 17. O-O Nxd5)  (13. Be2 Nh4! 14. Qh3 (14. Qg3 Nxe4) 14... Bxd2+ 15. Bxd2 Nxe4 16. Rd1 Qf6 with some nice Knights )

13... Ne5?! I react to White's h4. This loses some eval points. 0-0 is natural and calm. 13... O-O 14. h5 Ne5 15. Qf4 (15. Qe2 bxc4) 15... Re8!! A sick move I did not consider. 16. Qxe5 exd5 17. Qf5 dxc4 gives White a winning attack for the piece. c3, Nxe4 are both killer threats.

14. Qg3 Nxc4 15. Bxc4 bxc4 16. O-O Black has emerged up a pawn, with the c4 pawn being passed and easily protected in the a5-b4-c3 constellation. This gives Black an advantage, but White is now the one with fully developed pieces, and Black has not castled. I definitely did not just randomly blunder here. 

16... c3 17. Nc4 O-O 18. dxe6?! (18. Bd4 does put black under pressure.  18... Nh5  is the move, but not an easy one to find. 

18... Nxe4!  This move is key, attacking the queen and hitting h4 as well. I was not worried about White throwing in exf7+, as it further activates my rook.  (18... fxe6 19. a3 Be7 20. Qe5  Is probably something that Navara calculated, and things are complicated and equal, although the result would likely be decisive.

19. Qe5  Forced.  (19. Qf4 Qd5)  (19. Qf3 Qxh4)  (19. Qh3 Qd5 Will give Black a pretty dominant position. )

19... Qxh4 20. g3??  A blunder according to the computer. However, I am not sure how much of this was oversight vs calculated risk. For a player as strong as Navara, Nxg3 is elementary, and I would guess that he missed something farther down his calculated line. Obliviously, I did not calculate anything and was simply lucky that I had good defensive options once White's attack was right in my face. Ignorance is truly bliss. 

20... Nxg3 A discovered attack, winning another pawn. 

21. fxg3 Qxc4 22. e7 Rfe8 23. Bd4  Again, just guessing, this was probably all calculated. 

23... f6 24. Rxf6!  Black is winning here, but needs to be careful. Showing this game to students and friends alike, lots have misstepped. Navara most likely saw this move after g3, I had no idea. 

24... Rxe7 (24... gxf6?? 25. Qxf6 Rxe7 26. Rf1  And the tables have turned. To stop checkmate Black has to bail out with 26... Qxf1+ 27. Qxf1  but Black's king will be checked ALOT.

25. Rxb4!! Another great try, possibly calculated, possibly desperation. Either way, Black still needs to be careful. For reference, we each had about 2.5 minutes on the clock. 

25... axb4 25... Qxb4?? 26. Qd5+ Kh8 (26... Rf7 27. Rxf7) 27. Qxa8+  (25... Rxe5 26. Rxc4 gxf6 27. Bxe5 fxe5 28. Rxc7 is drawish.)

26. Qxe7 Qxd4+ 27. Rf2 c2  I almost played Rf8?? here. phew. Putting pressure on the pinned piece, right? 

28. Qxc7 Rf8 29. Qxc2 My heart was pumping during the whole sequence after g3. Spending the rest of my time, I calculated the liquidation and determine the endgame was winning. 

29... Rxf2 30. Qxf2 Qxf2+ 31. Kxf2 h5 32. Ke3 g5 Creating a passed pawn, this will distract the king will i run to the queenside and promote my other pawn. 

33. Ke4 Kf7 34. Kf5 h4 35. gxh4 gxh4 36. Kg4 Ke6 37. Kxh4 Kd5 38. Kg4 Kc4 39. Kf4 Kc3 40. Ke4 Kb2 41. Kd4 Kxa2 The king is not in time. The rest is trivial. 

42. Ke5 b3 43. Kf6 b2 44. Kg7?! b1=Q 45. Kh8?! Qg1 White resigns. 0-1


— NM, Alex Fikiet Marshall Chess Club Member  


The Squares in the Round

I saw them sitting square there,
I saw the clock clocking.
               Two square men in agony
               at the circle-table
               of an old round tree stump,
               many hundred years old.
I recall their eyes ‘round there,
and the ever tick-tocking.
               Four eyes drawn down and able
               gazing wantonly in need
               atop an old round tree stump
               many hundred years old.
Too late…
too late I saw…
for I knew just then I’d bitten

To wait...
to wait I thought...
but the tree stump had me smitten

Too late I saw the square there
Four rooks rank and file
Four pawns each a-walking
               and the ever tick-tocking,
               of a merciless increment
               Six hours, now six minutes more
               Four eyes as two for sure
               Two souls bound as agony’s one
Sitting like children, square and stubborn
as an old round tree stump
many hundred years old.


— Sebastian Carden, Marshall Chess Club Member 

GM Mishra Simul

GM Abhimanyu Mishra, the youngest player to ever achieve the Grandmaster title, will be coming to the Marshall Chess Club to take on all challengers in a simul on Friday, April 22nd!

Registration is now open so please sign up as we are limiting the simul to only 30 players (USCF rating must be under 2100).

The simul fee will be collected and donated to Abhi to help support his expenses as he continues to train and travel to compete and hopefully one day become the next American world champion!!
Please find below a list of Abhi's achievements to date:
  • Youngest Ever Grandmaster in the World (12 years 4 months, 25 days)
  • Youngest Ever International Master in the World (10 years 9 months)
  • Youngest Ever US National Master (9 year 2 months)
  • Youngest Ever US National Expert (7 year 6 month)

Abhi is currently working on obtaining a FIDE rating of 2700 ELO before his 15th birthday and recently won the Sprint Classic (Group B) with a performance rating of 2739.

Register here to play Abhi: Marshall Chess Club

On behalf of the Board of Governors,

Lance Yoon
Executive Director

Lance Yoon, Executive Director 


Chess Toons

En Passant

Chess News En Passant:

– America’s best chess players will return to the Saint Louis Chess Club to battle over the board on April 18-29 in a brand new and exciting tournament, the American Cup. The rounds will be streamed live daily starting at 1:00pm CT on from April 18 - April 29 with expert commentary featuring GM’s Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila and Alejandro Ramirez.

– The 10th Norway Chess tournament takes place in Stavanger May 31st to June 10th 2022. The field is: Magnus Carlsen, Richard Rapport, Wesley So, Shakhriyar Mamedyravov, Anish Giri, Teymur Rajabov, Viswanathan Anand, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov and Wang Hao.

– 1,067 players returned to over-the-board play in Memphis, Tennessee to determine the nation’s top high school player. The Individual Championship ended in a seven-way tie for first, including two New Yorkers and Marshall Members: FM Gus Huston and FM Nico Chasin.

– Pragganandhaa emerged as the winner of 2022 Reykjavik Open after dramatic turn of events in the final round. The Indian youngster scored 7½/9 and finished a half-point ahead of Max WarmerdamMads AndersenHjorvar Steinn Gretarsson and Abhimanyu Mishra

Problem of the Week

H. Forsberg, 1935


Helpmate in 2:

(a) diagram;
(b) change a6 to Black rook;
(c) change a6 to Black bishop;
(d) change a6 to Black knight;
(e) change a6 to Black pawn. 

In a helpmate, Black moves first and cooperates with White to mate Black. So in this problem, each side makes two moves and after White's second move, Black will be mated. This is five problems in one; all solutions are completely unique. The composer was 21 when he composed this magnificent tour de force. Even the most die-hard over-the-boarder will bow his head in awed respect before this jewel of the chessboard. 

Solution to M. Klasinc, 1974: (a) Rf3 Rc2 2.Rf1 Re5 mate; (b) 1.Bd4 Bd3 2.Bf2 Bb4 mate; (c) 1.Nb1 Ng3 2.Nd2 Nd3 mate. 

Alexander George, Marshall Chess Club Member

Editor's Note

Spot a typo in the spectator? If you have any feedback, comments, or would like to submit an article please contact me directly at

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

—Greg Keener, Editor of the Spectator
The Marshall Chess Club
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