17 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

We are looking at the King's Pawn Opening through October. I do not spend a lot of time teaching openings to children. Their games are usually won and lost in the ending and middlegame. Tactics are their most important skill. Second is the ability to checkmate.

The first Spokane area scholastic tournament for 2013-2014 will be this Saturday. Some games will be won in the opening. These will be quick checkmates. Some games will be drawn in the endgame. These will be a player with overwhelming force lacking the skill to force checkmate. Most games will be decided by pieces left en prise. The young players who observe undefended pieces and take them after first verifying that it is not a trap will win most of the games.

Black has a choice after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3

For 2...Qf6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (17 September).
For 2...Bd6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (23 September).
For 2...f6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (4 October).
For 2...d6 Philidor Defense, see "Lesson of the Week" (11 October).

The Best Move?

Philidor Defense is solid and worth playing. The Russian Defense, which we will look at later this month is very popular among Grandmasters. But, the best move in the opinion of many strong chess players is 2...Nc6. We are looking at games that follow after this move this week and next.

White to move

White has several ways to play. This week we are looking at one line of the Italian Opening. It is an old line--more than 400 years old--and is named for Gioachino Greco (1600-1634), who has been called the first chess master. This week's game was one that participants in my summer chess camp may already know. We looked at two games that started with the same moves and then diverged. Their workbooks have an additional ten games from the critical position. This week's game is the first of these.

3.Bc4 Bc5

Black could have opted for the Two Knights Defense, 3...Nf6.


This is the main line of the Italian Opening. White's move prepares d2-d4.


White to move

5.d3 is solid and safe.

The Greco Variation of the Italian Opening sacrifices a pawn. This sacrifice leads to a battle of ideas. Black plays for material. White goes after the Black king. Such contrasting ideas are at the heart of chess.


We looked at how Black wins material. I asked the students to work out the next few moves.

5...exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.O-O

Black to move

Black can win a second pawn. Greco's games were illustrative games that displayed tactical ideas in attack. I would like to believe that he also intended to illustrate the flaws in Black's hunger for material game without proper attention to the dangers.

8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxb3 10.Qb3

Black to move

Greco has many games that reach this position. In some of them, Black plays 10...Bxd4. We looked one of those in which Black grabbed the rook.


Black's best move is not found among Greco's illustrative games. 10...d5.

The tactics are instructive, and there are several possible branches from this point. With the input of the young chess players, we looked at several possibilities. This week's illustrative game from Greco concluded:

11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5 Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 Ke8 19.Bxg7 1-0

Another variant of this game was posted last May in "Gioachino Greco and the Game of Chess."

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