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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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The Scotch Game - The Beginners Mind - Part 01

I decided to start this short series after watching one of the ChessMood streams and observing that in game after game the 1200 - 1700 level players kept choosing 4...Nxd4 against the Scotch, and I asked myself what was the attraction to this move at that level . I came to the conclusion after watching the games that it could be one of three things or some combination of these:

·         To avoid getting double pawns

·         To draw the White Queen to the Centre in order to attack it

·         With no idea at all other than to exchange a piece and see what happens

Let's consider the above motivations one by one:

Avoiding unnecessary doubled pawns: All things being equal it is generally good strategy in the opening. Here it does lose a bit of time in an open position but it does achieve the goal of drawing the queen to the  centre where it is vulnerable to attack and most of us are taught as beginners not to develop the Queen too early in the game as it can be chased around by our opponent. Books will tell you develop your minor pieces first, get castled quickly etc. which is fine. Ponder the following and tell me your thoughts, in the position being under consideration is avoiding doubled pawns and luring the opponents Queen to the Middle more important  or equal to developing another minor piece instead.  

Drawing the Queen to the centre:  A question to ask ourselves after 5.Qxd4 is, is the White Queen really so badly placed in the Centre and if so can we favorably exploit it, if yes then 4...Nxd4 was a sound decision if not then avoiding the doubled pawns and losing time may not have been worth it. Now in the games I saw all the 1200 - 1700 players immediately or soon after lunged at the Queen with c5 which is well intentioned, after all you are attacking the opponents strongest piece with your weakest one so what could be more logical than that. In fact c5 is a very bad idea in this position, the reason is this, pawns do not move backwards and after White moves his queen you have not improved your development or position but rather permanently weakened your d5 square for free and left the backward d6 pawn forever weak as it is unlikely that White will ever allow you to play d5 in the future.  Chances are you will lose such positions against a strong opponent 99%  of the time without a fight and that's a good thing, so long as you learn from the experience and use that gained knowledge to exploit similar mistakes by future opponents. The take away here is you don't have to lose a piece or a pawn to have a lost position or conversely you don't have to be a piece or pawn up to have a winning one.

With no idea at all other than to exchange a piece: This is the worse sin that a 1200 - 1700 can commit in chess, that is to make a move or to exchange something with no idea whatsoever in mind, it is much better to have a bad idea in chess than no idea. No idea = No improvement  or to be clear you will never improve,  bad ideas can be corrected no ideas cannot. Drifting from move to move hoping something will turn up, or your opponent will leave something hanging for you to grab will leave you stuck at the same playing level  forever, avoid such a scenario at all cost.

In part two we will explore the position after  4...Nxd4 a bit more. The following position was taken from one of the streams and  I would love to hear  your thoughts on it, in particular what would you play on move seven for White and why.  Till next time ChessMood Family, stay safe and be well:

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

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Problem in 4...Qh4 line for White?

Hello Friends, 

I want to share a line in the Scotch when gave me some problems. And it is the line 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 5. Nc3 Bb4 { C45 Scotch Game: Modern Defense } 6. Nb5 Ba5. Such a simple move that I believe solves a lot of blacks problems. c7 is defended and the knight is still pinned. I tried to play dynamically in the game and i was on the losing end for most of the game but the Cassia rewarded me for not giving up. And my team also needed me to win! I don't think 6...Ba5 was covered on the course and it is quite tricky to find a logical reply if you never seen it before. What does Chessmood recommend here? 

[Event "Rated Classical game"][Date "2020.06.25"] [Round "-"] [White "Kayode"] [Black "NM"] [Result "1-0"] [UTCDate "2020.06.25"] [UTCTime "17:50:53"] [WhiteElo "2018"] [BlackElo "1819"] [WhiteRatingDiff "+51"] [BlackRatingDiff "-52"] [Variant "Standard"] [TimeControl "3600+15"] [ECO "C45"] [Opening "Scotch Game: Modern Defense"] [Termination "Normal"] [Annotator "lichess.org"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 5. Nc3 Bb4 { C45 Scotch Game: Modern Defense } 6. Nb5 Ba5 7. Be2 a6 8. Nd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Nf6 10. O-O Nxe4 11. Bd3 O-O 12. g3 Qe7 13. Nf5 Qe5 14. Nh6+ gxh6 15. Bxh6 d5 16. Bxf8 Kxf8 17. Re1 Qxc3 18. Qh5 Ne5 19. Bxe4 dxe4 20. Qh6+ Kg8 21. Qg5+ Kf8 22. Qd8+ Kg7 23. Qg5+ Ng6 24. Qd5 f5 25. Qd8 Qe5 26. Rad1 Qe7 27. f3 Qc5+ 28. Kh1 exf3 29. Qd4+ Qxd4 30. Rxd4 b6 31. Kg1 Kh6 32. Kf2 Bb7 33. Rd7 Rc8 34. Re6 Be4 35. h4 Bxc2 36. h5 Kxh5 37. Rxh7+ Kg5 38. Rg7 f4 39. gxf4+ Kxf4 40. Re3 Nh4 41. Rc3 Bb1 42. Rc4+ Be4 43. Re7 Nf5 44. Rcxe4+ Kg5 45. R7e5 Rf8 46. Kxf3 Kg6 47. Re6+ Kg7 48. Kg2 Nd6 49. Re2 Rf5 50. Re7+ Rf7 51. R7e6 Kg8 52. Rc2 Rg7+ 53. Kf1 Rf7+ 54. Ke1 Rg7 55. Rce2 Kf8 56. Kd1 Rd7 57. Kc2 Nb5 58. Rf2+ Rf7 59. Rd2 Nd6 60. Rh2 Kg7 61. Rg2+ Kf8 62. Kd3 Rf3+ 63. Kd4 Rf5 64. Rge2 Rf4+ 65. Kd5 Rf5+ 66. Kc6 Rc5+ 67. Kd7 Nf7 68. Rf2 Kg7 69. Re7 Rd5+ 70. Kxc7 Rc5+ 71. Kxb6 Rc8 72. Rfxf7+ Kg8 73. Kxa6 Ra8+ 74. Ra7 Re8 75. Rfb7 Re6+ 76. Kb5 Re5+ 77. Kc4 Rf5 78. Rb8+ Rf8 79. Rxf8+ Kxf8 80. Rb7 { Black resigns. } 1-0

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Playing the GrandPrix against Philidor Video

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bc4 was mentioned in the philidor video course by GM Grigoryan (https://chessmood.com/course/philidor-defense/episode/1168 time 0:49s) but i couldn't find the section where a full analysis was given  . All the analysis looks to be for 3.d4 followed by 4.Nge2. I would like to play the 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bc4 line, can anyone help point me to the correct section? i've seen its in the pirc course but that's different as g6 is played.

Thank you chess friends