Understand what type of player you are and adjust your style accordingly


My Danish teammate Grandmaster Sune Berg Hansen mentions Foundation of Chess Strategy by another Danish Grandmaster, Lars Bo Hansen, as the chess book that has had the greatest influence on his own chess. It is not so much the explanations or the chess in the book, but the concept of dividing players into four categories that made an impression on Sune.

Lars Bo Hansen puts a name to four types of players and debates how they should play and how to play against them. They are: Activists, Reflectors, Pragmatics and Theorists.

They are divided into a grid that looks like this:

Lars Bo Hansen describes the inherent characteristics of each player, their strengths and weaknesses and so forth. While I find the chess a bit uninspired in the book, I do find the concept extremely useful and would recommend anyone to read this book and identify themselves in the grid.

The point to this is that the idea of the all-round player is close to being an illusion. Of all the World Champions the only one continuously mentioned as an all-rounder is Boris Spassky and I have a feeling that this is as much tradition as it is fact. And anyway, the ‘narrow-minded’ players who beat him up in matches, Petrosian, Karpov and Fischer all stand above him in chess history as far as I am concerned.

So, what we should do is design our opening repertoire according to our style and slowly improve in the areas where we are weak (avoiding them at all costs usually means a lot of rating points). But there are parts of chess that are better suited to our way of thinking, to our character and so on.

A final note on Hansen’s book: The references to business are poor as far as I am concerned and could with benefit be ignored entirely. Luckily they quickly disappear from the book. The idea of this particular grid does not originate in the world of business anyway; as with so many other things, it was thought up in Russia. I first saw it in Mark Dvoretsky’s writings as a brief note so it is possible the idea was his to start with.

105 thoughts on “Understand what type of player you are and adjust your style accordingly”

  1. Interesting! Concerning ‘identifying ourselves in the grid’, would it perhaps be possible to design a set of chess problems (e.g. multiple choice?) to establish this, similar to psychological tests like Belbin? I think this would be interesting, in order to discern our desired attributes from our actual attributes.

  2. PS: could be a combined test with identifying youre strengths and weaknesses, maybe something for the start of ‘Thinking inside the box’ :-).

  3. Jacob Aagaard

    No, this stuff is covered in Lars’ book. If interested, go there. We try not to spend our time doing what others have done again.

  4. Petrosian is a reflector like Karpov. Fischer is a pragmatic. In my view, the point of Lars is that anyone belong or have is roots in one style, but anyone who wants to be a strong player should and must play well in all styles (universal) at some point, although the best results will always be inside one style of play. Lars believes that in modern chess a great advantage is to be able to not being predictable with openings. Magnus Carlsen is one example of a reflector who plays a variety of diferent openings. Playing always the same openings will not serve the future generations. Lars believe for example that reflectors and activists are the ones with more chance to be world champions.

  5. Is this really something for class players like me (C-class)?
    Shouldn’t we play all sorts of positions too learn the basics first?

    I’m suspicious against recommendations for opening repertoires for players on my level.

  6. Jacob Aagaard

    I think you will find that there are things that are simpler for you to understand than others. In general you should work on what you are good at and what you are crap at, leaving the stuff in the middle for later.

  7. This thing sounds like the Myers-Briggs Test for Chess Players.

    I do, however, disagree with what the article here says about basing one’s repertoire around it. If message #5 is correct in claiming that Fischer is a pragmatic, (which I’m not sure he is, I’d say he was more of an activist) then what it would say is that I should play the same openings as Fischer, since supposedly both Fischer and I are pragmatics, but my repertoire and style of play is exactly the opposite of Fischer. I definitely apply logic far more than intuition. Shoot, I spend way too much time calculating, looking for a definitive conclusion that what I’m about to get is better or worse for myself, rather than applying intuition. I also take the approach of what must get done must get done. I’m not a firm believer in general concepts, and when I browsed the introduction to Strategic Play (I think, if not, it was Positional Play, I’m still on Calcuation, 3 tests in thus far), it just confirmed my theory that General Concepts are useless once you are past the 2000 mark. It’s all about the specifics. The facts about the position in front of you. If it means that a Bishop is worth more than a Rook in this case, or accepting doubled-isolated f-pawn AND doubled-isolated c-pawns leads to a won position in this particular case, then the facts are the facts, and that’s what you have to do and just deal with it. Forget the general concept of better pawn structure.

    However, Fischer was a tactican, I’m a positional player. There are Logical, Factual ideas in wild, tactical games, and there are Logical, Factual ideas in slow, positional games.

    For example, a recent correspondence game I won on Chess.com went as follows. I am White:

    1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.c4 e6 6.O-O O-O 7.Qc2 Nc6 8.Rd1 Rb8 9.b3 a6 10.Nc3 Ne7 11.e4 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 Nf5 14.Bf4 b6 15.Rac1 Bb7 16.d5 Re8 17.Qc2 e5 18.Bg5 Qd6 19.Nd2 f6 20.Ne4 Qe7 21.Bd2 Nd6 22.Bb4 Qd7 and now the rest of the game, which is only a few moves, is based on shear calculation and fact, no real “intuition” about it. 23.c5 Nxe4 24.c6 Qd8 25.Bxe4 Ba8 26.d6 Kh8 27.dxc7 Qxc7 28.Bd6 1-0

    Fischer would probably laugh at this, especially with his famous quote “e4 – Best by Test”. The Catalan is quite possibly the last opening Fischer would even remotely think about playing had he still been alive.

    So if Fischer was a Pragmatic, and Fischer played 1.e4, and this pragmatic posting this message plays 1.Nf3, 1.d4, or 1.c4, and unlike Fischer’s Sicilian and Grunfeld, this pragmatic has done best with d6 and/or g6 lines (Modern, Pribyl, Philidor, etc), how can the opening repertoire be figured based on which of the 4 categories you fall under?

  8. Fischer is often misunderstood; his most famous games are attacking wins so it’s easy to think of him as an attacker (or “activist”). But against other world-class GMs many of his wins came through better handling of strategic endgames, and good decisions to enter them in the first place. I think putting him in the “pragmatics” box is fair.

    If Spassky was a “universal” player, then surely so was Fischer and Karpov? Actually i find it hard to understand how someone could be a “pragmatic” without being to a large extent “universal”; if you’re a world-class player and always ready to do “what has to be done” in any position, you must be able to play all kinds of positions well. Perhaps the pragmatist reveals himself in his opening choices, by avoiding the most berserk attacking lines but also the calmest endgame lines?

  9. Patrick your post have some contradictions in itself. Fischer was a pragmatic player that played the KID and Sicilian and yes, you can figure what openings belong to diferente styles by Reading Lars books. Pragmatics and Activists are 1.e4 players and Reflectors and Theorists are 1.d4 players. Theorists can play both 1.c4, 1.d4 and 1.e4. Maybe you are more of a Reflector or Theorist because in general 1.d4 is the move of these styles or maybe you are playing the wrong openings for your style. Concrete calculations is a key trace of pragmatics, like sharp openings, strong in attack andwilling to accept sacrífices/material. If your style of play is the opposite of Fischer than you are not a pragmatic and should not play Fischer openings.
    There is intuition in concrete Sharp positions and intuition for positional play. You said that you apply more logic than intuition, and if you like 1.Nf3, 1.d4 or 1.c4 maybe you belong to theorists but that is something that you need to find for yourself in your study. On the other hand, you said that you apply more logic than intuition but at the same time are not a firm believer in general concepts (altough General concepts can be very deep Ex: Magnus is a great positional player that knows where the pieces belong and is not so good in calculations like Kasparov and vice-versa and guess what, he is world champion with strong general concepts! General concepts are useless when someone pass the 2000 mark? How is that if general concepts are a part of chess like calculations or tactics? Here there is a confusion or we are talking about diferent realities. I am thinking of general concepts at GM level. Elo rating or level of play are a diferent matter. Positional moves are much more dificult to find than tactical ones! A player will always find a very dificult combination with big time on the clock but that is not the case about a very deep positional move based on general concepts). When you ask if you spend more time on calculations rather than applying intuition, you need first to clarify if you have intuition in sharp or quiet positions because calculations are always a part of chess but are much more present in sharp positions. Intuition is something that could be developed but one have it or not. By the way, Fischer follow logic too (remember the endgames) , but not an intuition in positional chess like for example Capablanca. Tal was an activist. Fischer 1.e4 is a characteristic of Pragmatics (and activists too). There are several diferences between Pragmatics and Activists and in the openings that belong to the roots of each style too. Spassky was pragmatic and Karpov was a reflector.

  10. P.S. I don’t understand why the Catalan wouldn’t be a good opening choice for (the pragmatic) Fischer. The modern treatment of the opening is very dynamic, ready to go for either small endgame edges or tactical play.

    And in fact Fischer played the Catalan in game 15 of the “return match” against Spassky in 1992. That game started 1.c4, as did several of his White games from the Reykjavik match.

  11. The great confusion in the debates about styles and openings is the recognition about wich openings belong to the roots of a stlyle and wich openings are played by one player just to expand his knowledge or to be universal. Fischer move is 1.e4 (Pragmatics) and of course he can play everything at his level, but that 1.c4 was for me more psychological effect saying to Spassky: See? I can play everything!

  12. I think that’s too strict a view of playing styles and first moves. Lars Bo Hansen lists (among others) Spassky, Fischer, Kasparov, Korchnoi and Svidler as “Pragmatics” (surely “Pragmatists” would be better English, by the way?). Of these, one played almost exculsively 1.e4, one played mostly 1.d4 and 1.c4, and Spassky, Kasparov and Svidler could play both 1.e4 and 1.d4 at a phenomenal level. Karpov and Adams are “reflectors”, yet both relied on 1.e4 for decades with success (and so did Leko, whom Hansen calls a “theorist” but I see as very close to Karpov and Adamd stylistically).

    When Karpov switched from 1.e4 to 1.d4, it was not due to any stylistic problem with 1.e4 in general, but because he specifically could not break down Kasparov’s Sicilian. Carlsen (surely a reflector?) has played a lot of 1.e4 lately, mostly because 1…e5 is the preferred response among the elite and he’s doing so well with the d3 Ruy Lopez.

    The point is, both 1.d4 and 1.e4 can lead to such a variety of position types that all kinds of player can find lines they’re comfortable with after either move. And while Fischer in his time could rely on a limited repertoire throughout his career, today most of the top players feel the need to vary. You sometimes see lots of top players turn away from 1.e4 simultaneously, probably when the Berlin or the Marshall are at a high point theoretically. And the same can happen the other way if the Slav or the Grünfeld get too hard to break through.

  13. Style is not fixed but something that is evolving with age. The young Karpov for example, is very diferent from the later one. It is normal to attack in youth and develop those skils. If Karpov at some point found that he had better results with 1.d4 that speaks for itself. Another point is that the diagram above have two lines and sometimes a player can be in the middle near the other style and have some traces of the other and openings too. Sometimes players play other moves and openings to develop and grow but they excell in some openings or positions, and sometimes they only want to trick the oponent with some choice or for psychological reasons or whatever. For example, Karpov and Kasparov both played the QGD but I have no doubts that Karpov will always have better results with the plan 0-0 and minority attack on the queenside and Kasparov with 0-0-0 and attack on opposite sides. If they change, the results will not be the same! Leko I agree is a reflector, Carlsen too. Yes Carlsen played 1.e4, but again for special reasons or preparation against someone and because he is Carlsen and likes to show that he can play everything, but is roots are 1.d4 and Ruy Lopez, Nimzo and QID with Black. Like you´ve said, he was playing d3 Ruy Lopez something that he likes very much with Black! No surprise. I agree with the last point because today chess is much more explored and they can feel at home with positions each move, but that in itself cannot delete the general view and for me for example it was not a surprise to see one of a rare defeat of Carlsen recently beeing that Taimanov Sicilian against Ivanchuk. 🙂 Structures and centers, open or closed and sharp or quiet positions or endgames are important characteristics related to openings and styles too. Top players do indeed vary but they all have their roots and bellow that level not all players play 1.e4 and 1.d4. It is very important that amateurs do not follow top players opening choices blindly or because of fashion but understand what is style and what openings to choose accordingly and then later at master level, one can and should start to experiment other types of positions and openings or other styles of play.

  14. Spassky was much stronger than Petrosjan and probably not weaker than Fischer/Karpov. The latters were much more determined than him while the former was much more solid. But Spassky was the only genius of the four. None of them would not even consider Nd6 as he played against Bronstein.

  15. I have LB Hansen’s “How Chess Games Are Lost And Won”, which has much discussion on the same theme. I like the idea of characterising players this way. Might be a too crude way of doing it, but it’s a good starting point.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Karpov’s style of playing and am getting closer and closer to be playing the same opening lines as he did. I stopped playing the Sveshnikov sicilian as black some years ago, not because of some theoretical problem, but the opening didn’t really seem to fit me. My results were not bad at all, but I often felt uncomfortable. I have the same feeling when playing the sharpest lines of the semi-slav. The calmer Caro Kann and safe Nimzo indian lines seems much more “me”.

  16. This is not really right. In fact, we can find other types of player than these. Me for instance, I am in none of these, at least probably not just in one type. By the way, I don’t really know how describe me, always not… So, I have some problems to find the right openings for me, I have often changed and I’m not again satisfied, not really. I have to find an opening in which I’m completely comfortable, always… Yet, I have tried many of them, almost everything.


    Your response to Patrick is for me just wrong. Incoherances, mess etc It’s just my advice of course and I have no time and/or desire to enter in a debate but I can’t be agree with you. Sorry. 😉

  17. Why was Spassky MUCH stronger than Petrosjan ? He lost the first match against him.
    Petrosjan is quite unserrated in my opinion, he was a fantastic player, just look at his best games-collection

  18. I have scanned this debate and could in theory add a lot of things. Only, I am desperately busy finishing the KID and King’s Gambit so they can be printed.


    Jacob, your fellow colleagues from Chess Stars are tracking down Black players in Schandorff’s footsteps! Hopefully we, the 1.d4 gladiators, will be equally pleased also with “A Practical White Repertoire with 1.d4 and 2.c4. Volume 1: The Queen’s Gambit” by Alexey Kornev 🙂

    I think with all these recent reportoire books on 1.d4 (Avrukh, Schandorff, Kaufman, Watson and now Korneev as well) there is a big gap in the market for a reportoire book on 1.e4 !! In fact I kind of feel like switching back from 1.d4 to 1.e4 just to make a point :-).

  21. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I think after seeing Khalifman’s series of 14 books has discouraged everyone from 1. e4…

    Also I had serious problems with 1. e4 when I was 2200–the last year in which I played it, I think I lost about 35% of my games as White.

  22. @garryk
    Spassky gambled everything on one trap with Nd6!? against Bronstein. Spassky admited he was carried away with the concept, but Bronstein had left himself with only 20 minutes for the next 26 moves. Maybe Bronstein had tought that Spassky had found a win in all variations. He played 15…Nf8 but correct is: 15…exf1Q+ 16.Rxf1 Bxd6 17.Qh7+ Kf8 18.cxd6 cxd6 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Re1+ Ne5 21.Qxg7 Rg8 22.Qxh6 Qb6 23.Kh1 Be6 24.dxe5 d5 25.Qf6+ Kd7 after wich a king reaches safety with a probable draw. This game was used in the James Bond film “From Russia with love”, but strangely the White pawns at d4 and c5 were omitted. :-)) Look at the game D. Byrne-R. Fischer, 1956 (game of the XX century) 17…Be6!!

    About the style debate here, I just want to add that style is not a mistake certainly. It is related to “refining”, when someone have a comprehensive system of chess knowledge, when someone have a “chess school” and may develop his style of playing. What is style? If someone draws a line of his chess knowledge. There are a few skils mastered perfectly. These are quite important elements because they allow one to win against equal (strong) opponents. While saying “style” most players imply another situation. It looks like this. Such a player has a few powerful skils and has huge gaps in other segments. Players who can attack and make tricks, but lose soon in an endgame. Of course it´s not a style. It´s just a weak player with big gaps in his chess education.

    Looking forward to the next books Jacob, and later the one about Tal is on my list. Indeed right now books are more important.

  23. While I agree that “style” is ideally some strengths you have on top of being basically good at eerything, that doesn’t mean the “chess school” necessarily comes before the style in a player’s development. I have been struck by how much even world-class players have been shaped by their very earliest chess books. I believe Karpov started out with just one chess book, one with Capablanca’s games! Kasparov studied Alekhine’s games early on (though this when he was already under Botvinnik’s wing, so probably he had many things in place already). Larsen read Bjørn Nielsen’s (?) book on Nimzowitsch, Kramnik studied Karpov’s games in his youth…

    And throughout these players’ entire careers, for al their wide chess education you can see the influence of their earliest chess heroes in their style, yes exactly where they typically win against equal (strong) opponents. Maybe I’m overstating this, but I find it very fascinating. What is interpreted in so much psychological speculation as based on personality or lopsided talent (more for certain aspects of the game, less for others) may in reality just be the random “dumb luck” of which player was someone’s earliest hero!

  24. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Actually my results with 1.e4 were pretty good, except against 1…e5 (I used to play the King’s Gambit) and the French (that’s one reason I started to play the French with black). Based on the descriptions in the table and the discussion above I think I fit best into the box ‘pragmatic’, and I gather that 1.e4 is then in pricniple the most suitable choice. I prefer play to be very concrete – that’s why I score quite low on the excercises on positional play and strategy in Yusupov’s books and quite high on tactics and calculation. I play 1.d4 in a ‘1.e4 kind of way’ , i.e., as sharp and direct as possible.


    Did you read pdf excerpt of Playing the Trompowsky by Richard Pert?

    What do you think? Is it worth to add it to White repertoire, besides Schandorff’s books?

  26. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I am not sure what my style was back then–how to define a style of someone who usually averages 35% when playing White? I had problems against the Sicilian, French, and 1…e5–a good reason to switch to 1. d4. Also I became increasingly more positional–when I was 14 I used to play things like the Perenyi Attack and 6. Bg5 against the Najdorf and the 4. Nc3/5. g4 Advance against the Caro-Kann–now I play the Catalan and Avrukh’s choices against the Slav and Semi-Slav and the Fianchetto against almost everything else (except now the Grünfeld given the major advances for Black in the Fianchetto Grünfeld..I only feel comfortable playing as Black in that line with …Nxd5). I think the problem was that I played 1. e4 like 1. c4, which is definitely not ideal when one plays 6. Bg5 in the Najdorf..

    But the Trompowsky should be interesting too, it can lead to many different types of positions.

  27. @Zagreb1959

    I don’t discuss the strength of the move, probably Bronstein could draw after that move…but the concept was absolutely stunning…I don’t think any other player would have thought about it (neither me!).

    Petrosjan was a very solid player that was perfectly fitted to resist Spassky creative approach…but Spassky was far stronger…the best Spassky could compete with the best players of today while Petrosjan would be wiped away by Carlsen&C.

  28. @garryk
    Have you ever seen how Petrosjan beat twice the young (then already top 5 player) Kasparov? Petrosjan may loose, but nowone would whip him of the board for shure

  29. Jacob Aagaard

    Had a thought; as a dynamic player my problem is usually that I do not have a strong enough feeling for long term aspects. And for technical players (reflectors and theorists), they often have a poor feeling for dynamics. Maybe it is like a dial; if you turn in one direction, you pay more attention to short term things; if in the other direction, you pay more attention to long term things. Maybe it is impossible to improve both at the same time!?

    Just thinking aloud; this is by no means a theory at all…

  30. @boki

    Yes yes…I remember those games…but at that time I was used to crush my opponents and wasn’t prepared to hit a defensive wall as Petrosjan…but look at the game of the next year..


    I completely crushed him in a symmetric position. Tigran was a strong player and a respectable world champion…but Spassky was another level…it’s like Ivanchuk…the average Ivanchuk is a normal top-10 player…but the best Ivanchuk is a fantastic player, absolutely fantastic player. And i remember the 1991 game when he crushed me, don’t bother… 😉

  31. @Jacob Aagaard

    In fact the most difficult part of the dynamic thinking it’s to not ruin your long term chances. The best games I remember are not the ones in which my opponent collapses under my attack but when the attack brings a superior ending…and then the win. See for example my famous 10th game in the match against Anand.

  32. @garryk
    So the message is: don’t burn all your bridges while being dynamic, unless you see a forced way to checkmate or a technical win. And the question is how to achieve this.

  33. @Ray
    You are right but the only way to learn is in my opinion to start burning some bridge here and there…sometimes you’ll burn in the right way…sometimes not…there’s no shortcut…of course it’s nice to have an escape as I had against Topalov in my immortal…but burning bridges it’s the only way to learn. You learn a lot also defending inferior endings after an unsuccessful attack…


    Just look who plays Tromp at Tal Memorial!

    A good advertise for upcoming book:

    White: Carlsen – Black: Kramnik

    1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 d5 3. e3 c5 4. Bxf6 gxf6 5. dxc5 e6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. c4 dxc4 8. c6 Nb6 9. Nbd2 c3 10. bxc3 bxc6 11. Qc2 Bg7 12. Bd3 f5 13. e4 Qf6 14. Rc1 O-O 15. O-O c5
    16. Rfe1 Rd8 17. a4 c4 18. Bf1 fxe4 19. Nxe4 Qf5 20. Nd4 Bxd4 21. cxd4 Bb7 22. Nc5 Qxc2 23. Rxc2 Bc6

  35. PS: all these good opening books could however cause some kind of ‘choice stress’ – I’d like to play more openings than is realistically possible, but which one to choose then? It’s like switching queues in a supermarket – one second after switching you already regret it :-).

  36. @Ray
    “….except that it takes a lot of time which you can spend in the middlegame and endgame.”
    Could you please explain?

  37. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I have five pre-orders queued in the QC online shop. Better than spending it on chocolcate biscuits or something like that..I like the Trompowsky sometimes, and as the introduction says, one could play it outside of Britain since possibly those players do not know it as well. Interesting thought..

  38. @Stigma
    What I tought when I said “chess school” (my term only) was: Strategy part- Pieces, basic principles of opening, middlegame and endgame, basic rules of planning, strategic elements, strategic operations. Tactics part- General theory, tactical motivs, types of sacrifices. Endgame part- General ideas, simple theoretical positions, endgame tools and diferent endgame types. At least a player must have some knowledge to be able to analyse games the correct way. Your post is very interesting (Polgar talked about this in one TV program, I think it was channel History about genious who compete themselves in several tasks) because chess patters in early childwood when the brain is developing make a diference and it seems the early hero too. It is like learning a language. No one from another country at middle age can speak like a local born kid of that same country. Petrosian had study Nimzowitsch “My System” and his style is a copy & paste of that book. I remember Kramnik once in an interview when asked about the old Kramnik and the new one with all those Petroffs, said something like: “I was impressed by Karpov games and what to do? Maybe if I studied other player I could play diferently!”. Fascinating indeed.

  39. Gilchrist is a Legend

    After 1. d4 e6, I suppose White could play 2. c4 without worrying about the Grünfeld/King’s Indian/Slav. I personally would not want to play 2. e4 and transpose since that was the reason for which one will have played 1. d4 initially. If 1. d4 c6, 2. Bg5 still seems interesting. 2…Qa5+ 3. Bd2 Qb6 4. Nf3 and sacrifice the pawn, 4…Qxb2 5. Nc3 perhaps with some compensation. 1. d4 c6 2. Bg5 d5 3. Nc3 might be a Veresov or something similar, and 3. Nd2 is interesting: 3…Qb6 4. e3 might be a Torre transposition, whilst 4. c4 Qxd4 5. Ngf3 Qxb2 6. Rb1 Qxa2 7. e4 dxe4 8. Ne5 looks very interesting, with the idea of 8…Qa5 9. c5 Qxc5 10. Ndc4. I have no board in front of me though, so this might already be refuted..

  40. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Gilchrist, do you really consider switching to the dark side of the “Queen´s pawn Openings” ;-). Please don´t forget how many times you yourself had to face 1.d4 without 2.c4 in the past.

    Seriously, the Tromp-book looks indeed very interesting. I was intending to pass on this one since I don´t even play 1.d4. But who knows, some time in the future…

  41. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @Tom Tidom
    No, since I only consider the Trompowsky as the only exception to the rule of sidelines, of all openings for White, 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. c4. I would not mind playing the Trompowsky occasionally, but I would never play the Torre, London, Colle, Stonewall, Veresov, etc. The Trompowsky is not as annoying to face as Black as the aforementioned, but 2. c4 would always be my principal move.

  42. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I barely had to play against the Trompowsky, but having had to play against the TLC complex (Torre/London/Colle) in probably at least 70% of my 1. d4 games, playing against anything save those are interesting.

  43. @Ed
    I meant to say that it takes a lot of time to study both Schandorff’s reportoire and the Tromp. If you concentrate on ‘just’ one reportoire with white, you can use the time spared in this way to study the middle game and/or end game.

  44. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    But what about 1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 and 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 then? Especially the former must be a nuisance to the ‘ true Tromp player’, wouldn’t it? You’re prepared for a sharp fight and instead you get a rock solid Queen’s Gambit :-). Also, 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 means you have to study two systems against the Dutch.

  45. Gilchrist is a Legend

    That is true. But at least the QGD is the worry instead of the Grünfeld, King’s Indian, Slav; a sort of move-order trick in response to a move-order trick. 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 probably avoids the 2. Bg5 in the Dutch, but probably most feel more comfortable against the Classical Dutch than the Leningrad or Stonewall.

  46. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I think one does not have to be an aggressive player to play the Trompowsky, but any style with intuition and creativity, since the positions in the Trompowsky can be very strange, for example the example of the .pdf excerpt where White sacrifices some queenside pawn and then plays 9. Bc7, or the line 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 3. Bh4 g5 4. f3 gxh4 5. fxe4 with a very odd pawn formation. The solidest lines are probably 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 3. Bf4 d5, when a sharp player must switch mindset to not attack and advance the pawns recklessly, but I think that line is more similar to a Slow Slav or some structure alike.

  47. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Possibly not, maybe there could be 3. d5 or 3. e4 dxe4 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bg5, but I am completely unfamiliar with either. But that would require a Stonewall Dutch player who uses that move-order and must be willing to play the French. Maybe one can use the Trompowsky book with Avrukh’s GM2 for the Stonewall.

  48. As John Shaw has already pointed out the Trompovsky fits in fairly nicely for someone who usually plays 1.e4 like me. The only real problems I see are after 1.d4 d5 when I´m not really interested in studying the Queen´s Gambit nor am I sure if 2.Bg5 is good enough for regular use like the Trompovsky probably is.

    But first let´s see if Pert´s work can really convince me to play the Tromp. Only then I will start thinking about a possible repertoire with 1.d4.

  49. There’s all this debate about the Stonewall after 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 – there is a simple solution to this. If you enjoy facing the Classical, and only want to face the Stonewall when it’s bad, play an early Nh3.

    As a former Stonewall Dutch player, I was amongst the intelligent ones that didn’t live and die by the Stonewall, but not all chess players are that smart. Here’s the catch to it all:

    1) Black can always play …f5, …Nf6, and …e6, in one order or another, but then he must pay close attention to White’s move order.

    2) If White has not played c4, Black should not play c6. So after 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bf4, Black can answer with 5…Bd6! Black is fine with trading Bishops on d6 PROVIDED he can recapture with the pawn. If he must recapture with the Queen, this trade is AWFUL for Black.

    3) If White has played c4 by move 4, Black should play 4…c6 to wait another move and see what White does with the Knight. So after 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4, Black should play 4…c6!

    4) When and if Black has played both g3 and Nf3, the Stonewall is perfectly safe to play.

    5) After 4.Nh3 or 5.Nh3, Black should switch gears and go for a Classical Dutch with …d6 and an eventual …e5. Even if White does this after 4.c4 c6, Black’s fine. …c6 is a common move in the Classical Dutch.

    6) Black should never allow a Bishop trade on d6 unless either he can recapture with a pawn, or White has taken for ever and a day to play b3 Bb2 Qc1 Ba3 etc. Black should never take the Bishop on f4 (retreat to e7 instead) unless it does structural damage to White, like creates doubled f-pawns and an open g-file.

    So if you specific goal is to get more classical dutches and fewer stonewalls as White, play 1.d4, and after 1…f5 or 1…e6, play 2.g3 (If Black doesn’t go Dutch after 1…e6, you avoid the English Defense, and will likely end up in a Catalan eventually), 3.Bg2, and 4.c4. Follow that up with 5.Nh3! You’ll see more classicals and “favorable” stonewalls this way!

  50. @Patrick
    That being said however, it still means you have to be well prepared for the Classical Dutch and thus learn another line next to your 1.d4 f5 2.Bg5 line, which ‘system players’ in general don’t like. Must people I know who play these system openings stick quite stubbornly to their system, just as many Stonewall players do with black. Simply because they play these systems to avoid theory. In the past, when I was at university, I had too little time for studying opening theory and therefore played the King’s Indian Attack. I started every game the same regardless of black’s replies. Needless to say my results were not impressive. Many system players play like this and that’s why it pays to study Avrukh’s book.

  51. Why is it that almost every comment thread here suddenly switches into discussions of what opening to play on move 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6? I thought the original topic was interesting enough to focus on…

  52. What are real openings? Well just look at the books that QC publishes…There is a book in the Mora, but not the London, so just looking at what openings Jacob, John and the crew choose says a lot about what they consider viable good openings…And there are plenty to choose from the books they provide!!!

  53. Going by the definitions in Lars Bo Hansen’s book, I guess I am nearly half and half – activist and reflector.

    Does that sound plausible?

  54. GM 12 is Awesome!!! This I think is a well put together book on a very exciting opening. And from what Niko implied in the last news letter is that this really is a theoretical opening for white to play against. And also that Black looks okay here! I must admit to not only being fascinated with the black side but also really starting to reconsider my choice of playing against the Modern Benoni. I was just using the Bf4 without much study, but have had some games against higher rated black players who ran over me. So I will have to study up and look at other alternatives. The Classical is what I started with but again after looking at the Analysis in the book I am not very excited to play the whte side of this anymore. And the Flick Knife still looks like a good try but again Petrov is very convincing that black is okay here too! So the conclusion for now seems like black is OK!

    Pretty cool, and a wonderful book. I really like that he put in other lines that were not his first pick or that were not as popular letting the reader choose between lines that fit his or her style. I found this a lot of fun and very refreshing!

    This is one Dynamic exciting complex opening to play and Petrov did a wonderful Job of giving you choices with different lines. Some being more theory heavy and some not as much. Others being very sharp and tactical and alternatives that were safer or at least more positional in nature. A great balance!!!

    Congrats again QC and GM Petrov!

  55. Gilchrist is a Legend

    True, I used to play the Modern Benoni as a teenager, and despite having not bad performances, I felt slightly worried about the tactical nature of the position. But GM12 surely has secured it in my repertoire now..

    I always have read about the fear of the Taimanov Attack, but I do not understand. I knew somewhat about this line when I used to play the Modern Benoni, and opined that it was simply only another line. Within the Modern Benoni I usually feel most uncomfortable against the Fianchetto and any of the Nge2 lines (7. Bd3/8. Nge2 or 7. Nge2).

  56. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Yes, I think opening books should have this structure. If every main line has at least two options (and also sidelines), the repertoire is less narrow. I think GM6 2nd Edition will have this structure with two choices against 6. Bg5 in the Najdorf. But I think GM12 has three choices against the Taimanov Attack.

  57. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I also like this structure very much, And in GM 6 there were at least two directions in many of the lines given. And for example against the English Attack they covered both …e5 and …e6 which is great because sometimes your opp. has your opening play down, say in the e6 structure then you switch it up. I have noticed plenty of times where certain opp. so really well against certain lines and fall apart against others…My self included!

    You need at least 2 lines against 6.Bg5 in the Najdorf for sure. I play the Blood Diamond as black with good results but also realize that my opp. are not picking the best lines against me, so I am hoping for some Delayed Poison Pawn coverage too.

    And Also I think GM12 has 4 lines against the MML, right?
    9…b5 9…a6 9…Re8 and 9…Nh5 Which I think is fantastic! Against a higher rated opp. or a player around the same strength as you, I like …b5 but in a must win or against a lower rated opp. 9…Nh5 looks promising! And other lines can be played too!

  58. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Three lines with the Taimanov Attack, and four for the Modern Main Line, yes. And Playing the French has two lines against 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5, viz. 4…Bb4 and 4…Be7. So this book strategy is quite favourable I think. Deviating with one’s own repertoire can be as effective as playing two completely different openings.

  59. @Michael
    That’s a nice argument :-). So if I understand correctly the Slav is not a real opening, the Traxler is a real opening, and the Tromp is just about to become a real opening :-).

  60. @Michael
    I agree! To stay on topic, I looked at the characteristics given in Hansen’s book, and it turns out that I’m a pragmatic. According to Hansen pragmatis like concrete chess (check), tend to drift in ‘boring’ positions without concrete play (check) and tend to be materialistic if they don’t see an immediate refutation (check again). Based on this I’m reconsidering my opening reportoire like Jacob recommended and I think the Modern Benoni and the Najdorf are both excellentely suited to pragmatics. I’m now looking into the Benoni book and it’s indeed awesome! I have tried it on the internet and it gives exactly the type of game I love :-). The Najdorf’s next :-).

  61. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Well, not really to be honest, because I don’t like the Scheveningen which Ftacnik recommends against 6.Be3 and 6.Be2. Also, against 6.Bg5 I prefer either the posioned pawn (how concrete can it be?) or else the old main line. Actually I like the reportoire which Andriasyan recommends in his recent book for New In chess.

  62. I was interested in the LBH classification approach. I think my style is a reflector, but I would be interested to know what category the French Defence is categorised as? I am not sure it is so easily categorised within the LBH system. I too am interested in the French series which is coming out soon.

  63. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I am very wary about anything called “Poisoned Pawn”–memorising the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn lines might be as much as all of the other variations combined, depending on your answer to 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3. The Delayed Poisoned Pawn, however, seems quite interesting and refreshing. When I was younger I remember spending months studying the 10. f5 line with 13. e5/15. Ne4. I still never finished..

  64. @Ray
    Of course the Slav is a real opening! I was talking about openings that were questionable as real openings, some one commented on the Mora Gambit. I don’t think QC would have put a book out on it if they didn’t feel like it was a real opening. Also I think what Jacob said is my own feeling about real openings…Are you setting problems for your opp. or just passively developing like in the London. Of course you may love the London System and that is your right. But I prefer more interesting chess, and more ambitious opp.

    As for the Tromp, they seem to be making a case for it. In the Yusupov. Series there is the intro where Anand talks about using it in an important game to win a match. The suggestion to play the game came from Yusupov.

    And then there is the fresh game from the Tal memorial where Carlsen used it to beat Kramnik. So I can see some of the attraction to this opening. Also as black this is the only non 2.c4 openings that I feel sets any real challenge to black. Not that they are big problems but at least it seems that white is trying to set black problems.

    As for the Slav…I thought that QC was going to do a book called the Classical Slav, but it was delayed or cancelled. Cant remember why, but certainly not because it is not a real opening.
    I wonder if they will get this project back in the future…

  65. Not to mention the new Tromp book they published. Also don’t see them doing this unless they thought it was a worthwhile opening.

  66. Ray :@Michael I agree! To stay on topic, I looked at the characteristics given in Hansen’s book, and it turns out that I’m a pragmatic. According to Hansen pragmatis like concrete chess (check), tend to drift in ‘boring’ positions without concrete play (check) and tend to be materialistic if they don’t see an immediate refutation (check again). Based on this I’m reconsidering my opening reportoire like Jacob recommended and I think the Modern Benoni and the Najdorf are both excellentely suited to pragmatics. I’m now looking into the Benoni book and it’s indeed awesome! I have tried it on the internet and it gives exactly the type of game I love . The Najdorf’s next .

    Yes indeed!!! I was just looking at GM12 again today at the Flick Knife attack and Modern Main line chapters and am gaining even more confidence in this opening. This is a great book in a very exciting opening, and Petrov has really given me the impression that this is a good defense. Fitting my style well. I have played e6 Najdorf and Grunfeld for years and this is a great addition, Plus the second edition I think of GM6 is going to be very good book. I like the Kan and Taimanov too and play all 3 of these Sicilians not to mention being interested in most variation if the Sicilian. But until GM12 I had not found another defense to 1.d4 that I like as much as the Grunfeld and its counter attacking possibilities. And I wanted another defense with 1…Nf6 because so many play 1.d4 sidelines and I like to meet them with the Nf6-g6 set-ups. And then The Modern Benoni again offers you the powerful DSB which I love!!!

    I have played in some blitz game too…And had some wild games that were a lot of fun with positions I also love, and when I am in position that are complicated, dynamic, and confusing I play better and learn more. I love to pull players into the deep waters…

    Once in a while something comes along and reignites your passion for chess, this is what GM12 has done for me!

  67. Gilchrist is a Legend

    Given that the Trompowsky has a high number of obscure and unorthodox positions (weird pawn structures, unexpected gambit lines, strange placement of pieces), I think it is a good try for a theoretical advantage as well as practical. In the TLC complex, it seems like a system all of them. I do not know many London or Colle players who would spend weeks analysing their respective systems past move 20 for a theoretical edge.

  68. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I really think it is good for a Sicilian player to know both e6 and e5 lines against the English attack. I put off learning e5 against it for a long time, but when I did study it some I did learn a lot about the weakness in d5 and d6, and that I had over exaggerated these weakness in my head. I still prefer e6 but sometimes like I said before, your opp. has you number, so then maybe switch it up with …e5 and …h5 and we have a completely different game.

    I really hope they cover the DDP against 6.Bg5, sometimes I am not in the mood to let white castle queenside with out a challenge!

  69. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I agree about the Tromp, I think out of all the 1,d4 sidelines in sets the most problems for black and you can find yourself getting confused by the complications, which I don’t see in many other 1.d4 sidelines.

  70. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @Michael Wilde
    I played both before, but now I only play 6…e5 lines, except of course against 6. Bc4 and 6. Bg5. They are almost like different openings, as the Scheveningen is more subtle but tactical. In 6. Be2 e6, the position seems calm, but as the middlegame develops, suddenly each move is very critical. 6…e5 is calmer and more positional. 6…e6 reminds me of the Hedgehog in a way, except that in the 6…e6 variations White attacks the king almost always. For 6. Bg5, I think 6…Nbd7 in the first edition of GM6 was good. But the Delayed Poisoned Pawn is very popular now and the Gelfand alwasy seemed good to me.

  71. Michael Wilde

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Yes part of playing the Scheveningen is being able to pronounce it! I know that it is named after a seaside city, but I cant remember who played it there in a tournament that gave it its name. I agree that e5 can be calmer and e6 can sometimes be full on blooded battle! That is why I think it is such a great opening, because you can know and play both lines, and depending on your mood or if you are just tired if a total kingside onslaught, you can choose more positional lines with e5. However if I am feeling good and my focus is on track, then I do enjoy the e6 positions that can get so unclear, dynamic and tactical. I think it has a lot to do for me with Kasparov being my chess hero( Of course Tal has just joined him now!) and he played the e6 systems so well. The games were so exciting to look over, the famous game against Karpov in the WC match, and I remember 2 beautiful games latter in his career against Polgar and Adams I believe. For me these games where some of my favorites in the Sicilian. These games inspired my opening choices and style of play because it is what caught my eye and what looked like the way I wanted to play.

    There are so many books covering e5 that I am very glad that GM6 covers e6, besides this what other books do we the e6 Najdorf players have, that is not dated. I like the e6 set-ups in general, so I am attracted to the Kan and Taimanov. But I do at least see that I should study e5 lines too.

    I hope they keep the Blood Diamond variation which I think is still in good shape, and add the DDP.

  72. Michael Wilde

    I thought it was Euwe but wanted to make sure…

    The Scheveningen Sicilian

    The variation first came under international attention during the 1923 chess tournament in the village Scheveningen at the North Sea coast near The Hague. During the tournament the variation was played several times by several players, including Euwe playing it against Maroczy.

  73. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @Michael Wilde
    I do not know, perhaps Max Euwe played it, but Scheveningen is right next to Den Haag,site of the ICC (International Criminal Court, not Internet Chess Club) and has a beach setting in a North Atlantic climate, like Brighton in the UK. The variation is fine though; I have played it in the past, and sometimes it has a character similar to the Kan’s Hedgehog. If you have GM6 shall you see that sometimes pieces are not exchanged until move 20 or 30. It teaches the player who grow defensive skills, since inaccurate defence can lead to absolute disaster. White plays Qf3/Qh5, Rf3-g3, e5, f5, and one must try to hold the fortress on the kingside and then counterattack. 6…e5 usually does not have this phenomenom I do not recall, but rather a very positional character. Karpov played the White side of this variation, and I think his games are important to learn the variation. I am not sure if 6. Be2 e5 shall be included in GM6 2nd Edition, but I would buy it anyway. 6…e6 is actually good if trying for a win at all costs, since 6. Be2 e5 can become blocked at times with either side unable to improve the position, or it may be annoying against a very good positional player. 6…e6 retains sharpness in the position.

    I actually stayed in hotels in Den Haag and took the tram to Scheveningen. It was a pity that I was reading about 6…e5 whilst eating in Scheveningen, I should have summoned the Scheveningen spirit and learnt more about 6…e6 whilst there..

  74. Michael Wilde

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Sounds like a cool trip…

    When playing blitz I sometimes cant help myself from playing 6…e5 against Be2 just because it feels more forceful. But I like 6…e6 and do not mind the hedgehog positions. These spring board positions for counter attack are some of my favorites!

  75. Pingback: Finding a chess hero - Chess Forums | Free Online Chess Game & Forum

  76. There was this “what type are you?” kind of quiz on a site which would indicate which opening was supposedly more suitable for your character. Obviously a game, a joke…

    Anyway, I played with it a little, and I discovered that if you answer to the appropriate multiple choice questions that you lived in a jail (!) and that you wanted to study Chess all your life, it decides that “your” openings are the Najdorf with Black and the English with White.
    So the advice of the guy who designed the quiz is: if you have all the time in the world and you have nothing else that you want to do and that you can actually do, then study the widest and/or deepest openings you can find.
    It is indeed a joke, but with some sense to it.

  77. @Zagreb1959
    Firstly a special prize for thinking on your reply for 9 years but in the meantime Jacob did publish Thinking inside the Box and touches on the Lars No Hansen idea and the similar Dvoretsky classification over a whole chapter with a ‘what type of player are you’ focus and then forgets to provide any real help in helping you classify yourself the reader (unless you count one 2×2 grid) which is immensely frustrating and in effect makes the chapter useless unless you feel you have the same exact playing style of Jacob himself.Be nice to have some sort of quiz or flowchart to help everyone else out ?

  78. @JB
    I would be curious to know which openings are supposed to be best suited to each of the 4 types. I am inclined to view these as being guidelines rather than absolutes. I might have to treat myself to the DVD 😉

  79. I am inclined to think that Jonathan Rowson hit the nail a little closer on the head when he wrote “The Seven Deadly Sins.” The idea that we can think about thinking is practically impossible. It wold be asking us to remember to blink or breathe. I don’t remember who wrote about the four stages of mastery but it goes something like this: 1 Unconscious Ignorance. I don’t know what I don’t know. @ Conscious Ignorance. I know that I don’t know. 3 Conscious Competence. I know I know it. 4 Unconscious Competence – Mastery. I don’t know why I know this but I do. Guitar players don’t need to look at their strings. Piano players don’t need to look at the keys. They just know where everything is at all times. I am trying to get to that point. Calling myself a reflector and whatever sounds good today doesn’t make it so. And with all the overlap in chess, what goos would it serve for me to know this. I’m a left handed driver. I only make left turns. Come on already. Cheers.

  80. Benjamin Fitch

    A distinctive aspect of chess (different in this way from the technical aspect of playing the piano) is that either a) it’s not humanly possible to play every game with zero mistakes or b) if a bunch of people did do that, then playing chess would become pointless because it would be glorified tic-tac-toe at that stage. So if mistakes are the soul of chess, then what is “mastery”?

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