The First Round

Continuing last week’s story, in the first round my pupil had the black pieces against one of the stronger players in the event. The game was very typical for this level.

Here’s what happened.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. O-O

While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just a developing move with, as it turns out, no particular plan in mind.

4.. d6
5. h3

White wants to avoid the pin, but by playing h3 before Black has castled he’s setting up a target. Black might think about a plan involving h6, g5 and g4, along with O-O-O.

5.. Nf6
6. Nc3 O-O

There’s still nothing wrong with this, as long as you’re aware of the danger.

7. d3 Nd4

Another idea was Na5 to trade off the white squared bishop, but at this level they never find this because they’ve been taught not to put their knights on the side. When he reached a similar position in a later game, as you saw last week, he played an unsound sacrifice: Bxh3.

8. Nxd4 Bxd4
9. Bg5 h6
10. Bh4 Qd7

Black is scared of the pin, and also scared of moving the pawns in front of his king. But this is a big mistake. He shouldn’t be scared of the pin so much: instead he should be scared of getting doubled pawns in front of his castled king where the enemy queen is strongly placed. So he needs to do something about Nd5: he should either play c6 to prevent this, or Be6, prepared to trade off the knight. As it happens, g5 is also possible here as White can’t sacrifice a piece for two pawns: 10.. g5 11. Bg3 Kg7 or c6.

11. Qf3

Missing the chance to play 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nd5.

11.. Qe7

Now Black’s wasted two tempi moving his queen to a worse square, where it will be hit by Nd5. There were better alternatives: Bxc3 or Nh7.

12. Qg3

The simple and obvious Nd5 was now completely winning. But instead White is seduced by the idea of pinning the g-pawn, hoping for a mate on g7. So many children get obsessed with this plan to the exclusion of everything else.

12.. Kh8

Again, he’s scared of the pin so moves his king out of the way. But this was worse than useless. After 12.. c6 he’s back in the game. What he should really be scared of here is Nd5.

13. Nd5

Finally White seizes the opportunity and the game is soon over.

13.. Qe8
14. Nxf6 gxf6
15. Bxf6+ Kh7
16. Qg7#

The basic plan here (Bg5, Nd5, double your opponent’s f-pawns in front of the castled king, use your queen to deliver mate) is essential knowledge for all juniors as it happens over and over again at this level.

Many children try it with White and are often, as here, rewarded with swift victories. If you like, it’s the next level up from Scholar’s Mate. If your opponent doesn’t know what’s happening you’ll win quickly, but, against a well prepared opponent you’ll just get a rather dull position.

To make progress, though, you need to move on, to learn how to play different types of position, and, specifically, more open games.

You’ll still need to know it with Black, and, because it’s based on a symmetrical opening, the idea works with either colour. If you’re playing in intermediate level junior events you’ll meet a lot of opponents who just develop (e4, Nf3, Nc3, Bc4, O-O) without thinking. If you understand this game you’ll stand a pretty good chance of winning quickly.

Even if you decide to switch to the Sicilian with black, you’ll still get the chance for this sort of attack against opponents who think the opening’s just about getting your pieces out.

Most opening books will tell you very little about this important plan. That’s because they’re based on what happens in master games, not what happens in intermediate level games. There is one exception: Chess Openings for Heroes. If you’d like to see an advance (unproofed) copy please get in touch.

Richard James

Author: 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 has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through