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Question 2:

'Doc! I have a question to ask is in regards to the way I play chess. I feel that when I play as white I am a different person than when I play as black! Though I do enjoy playing either colour, I feel that if I am white and have a semi-closed position then something is wrong! (With black I feel 'normal' in such a position.) When I am white I love wild attacks and open positions. When I am black I like to play slow positional stuff. Do you know what I mean? What I am asking, I guess, do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? And is this normal? Mike

'Doc' answers:

Mike! Yes, what you are feeling is quite normal! Don't worry or try to doubt yourself, as you may undermine your self-confidence needlessly. Have you ever played tennis? Have you ever watched two really great tennis players battle it out? I have never ceased to be in awe of the difference the serve makes...sometimes it seems that the other guy never has a chance to show his stuff! Often 40-0 comes before he even can touch the ball! It is a good thing for the other guy (and for the popularity of tennis) that the serve gets alternated! In chess there is nothing equivalent to the serve, though some 'experts' have tried to argue that playing with white (in chess) is similar to having the serve (in tennis). Some even believe that having the white 'advantage' should be enough to win (with perfect play on both sides)! The famous Romanian GM Suba is only too happy to argue something to the contrary (!): black should be better because white must move first and in doing so he commits himself prematurely...Interesting theoretical arguments...which have little practical value!

Besides, perfect play is a utopian illusion! We live in a world where error can at best be delayed (not avoided...i.e. ''To err is human'') and we chessplayers indulge in a game where only the last error has any real significance! But the first move does make a difference. Just how much of a difference (and what kind of a difference) is not so clear!

The study of opening theory represents the extensive efforts by thousands of masters over hundreds of years to answer that question. As of today, from what I can judge, I'd say that the only value of the first move lies in the choice to determine--to a small extent--the type of positions that can arise in the middlegame. Nothing more and nothing less ! 1.e4 definitely leads to different positions than 1.d4, for a concrete example. But to try to objectively argue that open positions are better than closed positions (or the reverse) is going too far...Hence, the 'advantage' of the white pieces (over the black pieces) is purely subjective. Mike, your 'problem' has more to do with 'style' than with being white or black, and with being more comfortable in open positions than in closed or semi-closed positions. Your own experiences have undoubtedly tempered your tastes, but surely having white in a semi-closed position is no cause for alarm!

What I suggest is that you find a trainer who can help you choose your openings (with black and white) that will best fit your style (or preferences). There are plenty of openings with the black pieces that can give you active, sharp play against either 1.e4 or 1.d4. Look at the games of Tal or Fischer or Kasparov: they were able to successfully influence the types of positions that would likely occur in the middlegame by a careful and in depth study of what openings were available on the 'market' and matching them with their own styles.

Of course, if things were only so simple for the rest of us...The truth is that your opponent will also try to impose his style in the game! But that leads to the type of complicated, intense struggle that makes chess the great game that it is!

Good luck, Mike!


Best of luck!



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