Let’s talk about chess, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things, like pawns en prise, let’s talk about chess… let’s talk about chess!
Salt n’ Pepa, “Let’s talk about Chess”
When I was in high school, I played a lot of chess. A lot. I never got too interested in learning the game all the way through – to me, it wasn’t a problem I had to solve, just a fun thing to do. I liked winning, sure – but I didn’t have to win, so I didn’t study middlegames, tactics, et al.
What I did do, however, was learn a number of openings. I always thought it was interesting to respond to other players’ machinations with moves that were unexpected and unanticipated – surprise, of course, being the most interesting thing that can occur in chess or in any “open” game, in which all the information is available to all the players at all times.
I surprised myself today when I realized that I can still recall the names – as well as the moves and the designed purposes – of a whole host of chess openings that I used to use when I played in high school.
There is, for instance, the classic Philidor Defense, in which the common opening 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 is met not by the standard, reflective 2. … Nc6, but instead by a pawn buttress of 2. … d6. This is far preferable to the poor Damiano Defense of 2. … f6, which exposes the kingside and leaves the king vulnerable to a sacrifice attack. Once the night captures with 3. Nxe5, the response 3. … fxe5 (that threat of capture being the implied defense of said center pawn, after all) is met by 4. Qh5+ and the king, with no guards at the castle gate, must leave the safety of the back line.
While I enjoyed messing around with unusual defenses as black, I also liked using odd opening lines as white. Two of my particular favorites to play were 1. b4 (try to figure out what to make of that!) and the old, long-forgotten King’s Gambit.
The Queen’s Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4) is still standard, but the parallel gambit on the kingside (1. e4 e5 2. f4) is exceptionally rare nowadays. Though it was the most common opening back in the 1800’s, it is now not often seen, and it is certainly not the kind of opening most young players have had the chance to play against.
I won quite a few games with the King’s Gambit opening, if I recall correctly (and I may not – I’m sure most of my losses have been gracefully papered over by the vagaries of my mind, and only the impressive victories remain), and I definitely enjoyed the sharp, aggressive gameplay that it brought to the table. I suggest that any chess playing readers out there give it a shot and see if they like it.
Go ahead. I liken it to taking the Schwinn out of the garage and firing it up for old times’ sake. Except this bicycle, you’ve never learned to ride.
PS: A side note to non-chess playing readers: learn.