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The Scotch Game - The Beginners Mind - Part 03

We're back and just to recap, the position under consideration is the following:  1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nxd4 This continuation for whatever reason is very popular at the 1200 - 1700 level. Now if you have read Parts 1 and 2 you may have come away with the impression that 4...Nxd4 is a very bad and naive move, but truth be told the move is not as bad as it looks provided it is connected with the right idea. If you doubt me and think that 4...Nxd4 isn't worth taking seriously,  then just know that Ex -World Champion Boris Spassky has used  the move on more than one occasion to defeat strong opposition, and I will show some of those games in the final instalment.

The correct continuation after 4...Nxd4 5.Qxd4 is 5...Ne7 but why? Isn't the f6 square just  a better and more active square for the Black Knight, the answer is yes and no.  Yes in general  Knight's are best placed on f6 and f3 in the opening, controlling more central squares and protecting one's Castled King especially the vulnerable h2 and h7 pawns. However Chess is not a game of generalities, generalities are best used as guidelines not doctrine, Chess is a game foremost of specifics, priorities and problem solving. The problem Black has to solve here is how to dislodge White's dominating Queen without compromising his structure or losing too much time and 5...Ne7 intending 5...Nc6 satisfies those objectives. Curiously a move such as 5...Ne7 would rarely occur to a 1200 - 1700 player because that level  hardly thinks in terms of specifics, they just want to attack something immediately or if they must defend it has to be a against a direct threat to one of their pieces or pawns.  

Before we delve further into the position after 5...Ne7 I want to mention that in another thread the question was asked 'How to improve calculation' and I commented that this was a very complicated topic with many layers, I will now reveal a secret tool used by strong players to help them calculate better and find the right moves and plans and a given position, are you ready, the secret tool is called "Comparative Thinking" this is when you borrow  known ideas from a similar position maybe even another Opening and try to apply them to the position in front of you, this is where your knowledge of Classical Commented Games could come in handy. Now back to 5...Ne7, and a personal experience to illustrate how comparative thinking could work in practise, many years ago I played some Blitz Games with black against the strong Cuban GM Jesus Nogueiras and he crushed me badly with the following line as White: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxd5 4.Nxd5 Qxd5 5.Ne2 Look familiar :) at the time I was very angry with myself, I mean how could I lose to such a ridiculous move, true Jesus was much stronger than me but still. Jesus had sensed my frustration and after the blitz session had finished he graciously agreed to analyse the above position with me and the lessons learned I can now apply to our Scotch position after 5...Ne7 today and that's pretty much how comparative thinking works, a pattern triggers a déjà vu moment and you use it to help navigate and evaluate the current position before you. This is also why it is so important to analyse your own games, it helps you build a mental rolodex of positions, plans and structures that you will probably meet again and again.

Okay, moving on 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nxd4 5.Qxd4 Ne7 I can bet that one reason why this move escapes attention at 1200 - 1700 level is that on the surface the pin  6.Bg5 looks extremely unpleasant now there are two ways to go about solving this problem:

Way 1  is brute force calculation which should lead you to work out that 6...Nc6! is both safe and strong, this is why I emphasise that at 1200 - 1700 level learning to count efficiently is much more important than trying to memorise reams of opening lines, why, because if you cannot figure out over the board that 6...Nc6! is working, then how will you be able to find and play the correct strategic move 5...Ne7 without prior knowledge. The weakness of brute force calculation, at least for humans, is that it costs lots of energy, energy that we would like to conserve for more critical moments later in the game, which brings us to......

Way 2 Pattern recognition that we call up from our mental rolodex, we have seen a similar construction before and intuitively know what tactics to look for and what manoeuvres work best. This approach is used heavily by strong players when evaluating positions, with brute force calculation only coming into play to verify the details.  

Let's stop here for today and I will leave you with this question. What are the possible drawbacks of Black's 5...Ne7 to c6 manoeuvre. While you ponder that please check out the following link which is not entirely relevant to our discussion but I enjoyed it alot and thought that you might too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LHDaV5Dih8

Hope to see you soon with Part 4

Part 2 Here: https://chessmood.com/forum/main-channel/the-scotch-game-the-beginners-mind-part-02

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The Scotch Game - The Beginners Mind - Part 02

Ok guys we continue where we left off last time examining the ramifications of 4...Nxd4 against the Scotch Game, and we concluded that the commonly played 5.Qxd4 c5? or 5.Qxd4 d6 6.Nc3 c5? is just too weakening for Black, yes he dislodges the Queen temporarily but the price was too high as explained in Part 1.

So then is 4...Nxd4  just plain bad, or is the premature c5 the cause of all Black's problems or is it a bit of both. For sure if we can't do something soon about White's dominating Queen on d4 Black's position will quickly become more passive and more difficult to play, in another game played against Coach Avetik in his from 1600 - 2400 series  his opponent tried to solve his difficulties with 5.Qxd4 Qf6 challenging the Queen with tempo without compromising his Pawn structure and should White exchange Queens on f6 it would actually be Black that has taken over the lead in development. All good right, not quite, White being a strong player will not co-operate so easily and rather than exchange Queens a mini battle will now be waged  over  the fight for a lead in development and control of the Centre, the result of which will decide the outcome of the opening. 6.e5 was played and black continued 6...Qb6  again offering the Queen exchange seemingly without a loss of time,  and should White meekly move away without making a threat Black once again would  overtake the lead in development and the worse would probably be behind him.

There is a difference however between offering the Queen exchange on f6 and offering it on b6, on f6 Black could have recaptured with a piece speeding up his development and keeping his pawn structure intact but on b6 he is forced to recapture with a pawn damaging his structure and leading to an unpleasant endgame, sometimes the half open a-file in such positions offers sufficient counterplay to maintain the balance but I don't think that is the case here. White also need not exchange Queens here as 7.Be3 is an attractive alternative, allowing black to exchange Queens and avoid a damaged pawn structure but in return White will retain a lead in development and the Bishop takes up a dominant position on d4 cramping Black and making his position very uncomfortable to handle. We can stop here and conclude that White has won the opening battle and that 5...Qf6 while ingenious  does not solve all of Black's problems.

In the next instalment we will continue to drill down after 4...Nxd4, so far we have seen what Black should not do, let's see whether that knowledge can be used to figure out what he should try instead.

See you next time.

Part 1 here:  https://chessmood.com/forum/main-channel/the-scotch-game-the-beginners-mind-part-01

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