Playing The Classics

It seems to me that a chess-player should first of all learn to play the classical openings, rather than openings such as the English opening, the Reti opening, Pirc-Ufimtsev Defense – the so-called “anti-openings”. These openings imply that the real combat begins only after the 15th move. You can also regularly provoke some interesting positions when playing these openings (the way M.Botvinnik and V.Smyslov did), but only on condition that you have had a very good practical experience and the knowledge of classical openings.

In some “anti-openings” you can move your pieces “to and fro” with no trouble. Those who like the process of playing chess as sport, rather than studying the theory of openings and the logics of the game, are really fond of playing “anti-openings”.

There is a rule in art: the professionalism of an actor is proved by means of classical, ever-lasting performances. If an actor cannot play a classical role, he is just an amateur. However, if an actor is able to perform classics, but unable to give the role some of his own individuality, the actor is no more than a good professional, but not a creative one.

Mostly the classics are difficult to play because the spectators have already seen them, so that you won’t get them interested by the text or the plot. What they want is to see the way a classical role is played. To arouse the audience’s applause (or win a game of chess) you should find significant nicities of the role, which is impossible if you lack talent.

Chess is an art as well, and so this rule can be applied to it. A chess-player should learn and play classical openings if he wants not only to achieve success as a sportsman, but also to become an artist. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO BREAK THROUGH. If you only stick to Ruy Lopez, Scotch Game, Reti Opening or Sicilian Defense, you might make certain progress  and then wonder why you are not developing and improving your results. One should acquire a lot of technical skills, study a lot of typical positions to achieve success in classical chess. To master classical chess means to know how to play “right” chess. “Anti-openings” in turn cause a “to-and fro-game”. 

 A coach who teaches classical chess is supposed to know quite a lot about both classical openings and general culture. If a coach does not meet this requirement, his pupil is bound to study no more than 2 – 3 openings and neglect the theory of openings.

Playing an opening is in many ways like putting on a play. If an opening (or a performance) is badly organized, the actors’ playing won’t help. In that case, excellent moves are very rare and they seem as out of place as a tank at a horse show.

A young chess-player should learn to CREATE complicated positions instead of involving himself in the game where positions of this kind might be created.

It is very boring (especially for the young) to study classical openings, but that is valuable practice. And, as we know, practice makes perfect.

Today it is extremely hard to get even “+/= ” playing an opening, so if you have managed to turn the position to suit your tastes, the opening is considered successful. 

Classical openings contain a lot of strategic and tactical approaches, they provide a chess-player with innumerable lines and situations. Nearly every move of classical openings is based on gaining the upper hand. “Anti-openings” are far less interesting. A lot of their moves are deprived of any ideas, because they are not aimed at winning a game. Ruy Lopez resembles in a way a classical waltz, and Reti Opening is very much like a twist, where the partners don’t depend on each other and dance for themselves.  

Contributed by : A.Vaysman  Honored coach of Ukraine


4 Responses

  1. I always thought that the Ruy Lopez and the Scotch were both classical openings. So what are the classical openings?

  2. Hi Robin ,
    Ruy Lopez and Scotch – of course both are classical openings.
    Indeed to my mind , many players use the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez or Sicilian with 2. c3 , or Scotch with early trading all the pieces – trying to avoid studying theory and complex situations.
    Typical Classical openings : Queens Gambit, Ruy Lopez , Tarrasch defence, French defence,Nimzo Indian defence etc.., where we may from the first moves following the batle for the center and both sides are following the Opening rules – the only way to get there some advantage or equalising.

  3. So what would the Bird opening as white be considered, I find when i play this opening, some people try to outright refute it, i do however like most of the positions i get out of the opening
    i almost always get a semi open f-file and good central control

  4. Hello Mike , I would call Bird opening is quite reasonable line, indeed I prefer more Classical approach 1. e4! or 1. d4!

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