Move Two! Chapter 2

One of the ideas of Move Two! and, more generally, of much of what I write, is that it’s based on what happens in children’s games, not what happens in grandmaster games. I currently have a database of 16488 games played at Richmond Junior Club between 1977 and 2006, with some more still to enter which will take the number up to about 17000. In particular, the openings I teach at this level are based on repeated patterns and ideas seen in games played by young players.

I recommend that young players should start by learning the openings starting 1. e4 e5, because these rely more on a combination of memory and calculation and less on positional judgement than other openings. As I’ve explained elsewhere, many children under the age of 12 will find it hard to understand chess at a higher level, but will learn through memory and mimicry.

Our first openings chapter features the Giuoco Pianissimo. If you teach your children the basic opening principles and let them get on with it you’ll end up with large numbers of Giuoco Pianissimos and Spanish Four Knights. Safe and solid, but rather boring, you might think. But there’s one vital plan you need to know: you’ll find very little if anything about this in most openings books but it happens over and over again in junior chess. I win games against children in this way (OK, I may turn the board round and let them finish me off) on a regular basis.

We teach our pupils, quite correctly, to bring their minor pieces out quickly, place their knights in the centre and castle as soon as they can to make their king safe. But anyone who does this against me, especially with White, will probably lose very quickly, something like this.

It’s very simple: once they castle you play Bg4, Nd4 (they often play Nxd4, losing their queen), then either Nxf3, and after gxf3, Bh3 and get the queen onto the g-file as in the game above, or, depending on White’s moves, Bxf3, and after gxf3, Qd7, Qh3. By learning these simple plans you can win game after game, especially with Black. It often works against the Ruy Lopez as well, and can also occur in some Sicilian positions.

You can also try it with White by playing the Canal Variation (named after the Peruvian grandmaster Esteban Canal, who appropriately enough, lived much of his life in Venice). I teach my pupils to remember the move order: Pawn, Knight, Bishop (on the king-side), Pawn, Knight, Bishop (on the queen-side). If Black castles you’re in business but instead 6…h6 or 6…Na5 are fine. If your opponents avoid the tactics you just get a rather dull position: in which case it’s time to learn something more interesting and exciting to do with the white pieces.

There’s more you need to know as well. Many young players are tempted to move their knight to g5 to threaten a fork on f7. This is fine in the Two Knights’ Defence as long as you know what you’re doing, but not if your opponent can castle. You need to recognize this attack and remember to castle if you can (many players fail to find this defence at primary school level), and if they then play Bxf7+ you take back, and with bishop and knight against rook and pawn along with a big lead in development you stand better. (Many players meet Bxf7+ with Kh8 or Nxf7 with a queen move because they don’t want to lose a rook.)

The Activities section of Chapter 2 features some more games with this opening for students to play through with their teacher (possibly as Guess the Move exercises). Putting up online databases relevant to each chapter is a possible further project related to Move Two!.

Masters of the Universe introduces the reader to Paul Morphy, demonstrating a game he played at the age of 12 (the first of a number of games played by future champions in their youth to be featured in the book) along with THE famous Opera House game, which Hugh Patterson discussed in a recent Chess Improver article.

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities ( as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon.