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Aggressive Chess Openings (2012) (stackexchange.com)
322 points by tosh 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments

Blitz online chess is one of my vices. To encourage wild games, I play the Fried Fox as black and the Wandering King as white, sacrificing soundness for excitement. Both involve moving the King's bishop pawn ahead one, and then moving the King into that spot.

It probably chops 100 points off of my rating, but who cares? It gets away from book lines and thwarts boring drawskis.

Should enough people migrate to chess960 that opponents could be found readily, I might not have to resort to such silliness.

Chess master and bullet addict here. It sounds like you're as into avoiding book lines as I am. May I recommend my secret opening weapon: the Hippopotamus. It is quite possibly one opening to rule them all:

- play it with both sides

- guaranteed to get people out of book

- successfully deployed to defeat none other than super GM Etienne Bacrot (in blitz, but still): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1479768

[edit] it's not a particularly sharp/aggressive opening. Tends to be more slow positional grinds. But not always - there are lots of possibilities for breaking things wide open with center pawn breaks.

That opening is amazing! I’ve never seen it before. Super aggressive and very aesthetic!

Yes on the aesthetics. More of a counterpuncher choice than overtly aggressive IMO. Usually lines don’t open up until move 10-20.

As an aside, cool to meet the person behind ironworker. I used your service many years ago to launch my first startup. Helped me with some cron job shenanigans that otherwise would have caused me a lot of grief. Nice work!

Why didn’y Bacrot just play 31. Bg7!! And win the game?

That's discussed in the game comments.

I don't understand.

Below the game record are some comments. One of them asks "why not 31. Bg7?" and some discussion ensues. One commenter points out a line beginning with 31. ... Ke7 and ending up with W gaining the exchange but B having several extra (passed) pawns. (I haven't attempted to verify the accuracy of any of these comments.)

How did you become a chess master? Can you tell me more of this hippopotamus?

This is going to sound really egotistical, but honestly I don’t remember much about becoming a master as I was 10 at the time. What I do remember is playing a shitload of games, rated games most weekends. And analyzing my losses with a soviet chess coach to identify and work on my blind spots. Rinse and repeat. Playing experience way more valuable than book learning.

I’ve been working on some training software and will hopefully be releasing a beta version on HN this summer, pending wrangling a bit of funding and/or a few devs willing to work for equity/glory.

I recommend checking out the mighty hippo’s Wikipedia page for some decent commentary and sample games.

It doesn't sound egotistical. It just seems like you had good parents and you put in a lot of hard work around a difficult subject and it paid off.

I wish I had put in more time as a kid for chess and that there was more STEM materials for computing and robotics. The 90's was a wasteland between the time of the BBC Micro/Commodore era and what we now have today with the Raspberry Pi and the maker movement. Windows 95 just wasn't very good for a kid with no idea where to start.

Is chess training software not a saturated market? I'm not super familiar with this to be honest.

Haha, no, like most scholastic chess champions I had a super dysfunctional home environment. One parent definitely supported/pushed my chess, and I give credit there where it’s due, but I could only apply the label “good” to either of my parents with some major qualifiers.

Never too late to start training! Neuroplasticity is a thing.

Chess training software is super not saturated. The dominant program, ChessBase, basically hasn’t changed in 20 years. Still no Mac version or decent web version if I’m not mistaken.

There’s a lot of cool things happening in live play and steaming right now with LiChess, which is phenomenal, and chess.com is starting to up its game as well.

But serious training software is stuck in the 90s, hence opportunity. Not that there’s any money in chess, but that’s another topic.

Well I hope everything is going well for you now in life! I didn't mean to imply your past was ideal and am sorry if it came out that way.

Thanks for the background on chess training programs. I had a friend with Houdini or some other engine maybe 10 years ago and it had a pretty extensive training mode or so I thought. It was fully 3D and could explain every move and suggest better ones...etc. Houdini is pretty expensive iirc (edit: just looked it up and it is ~$100 range), so maybe something more reasonable would satisfy a need? Also, I suppose the training mode was not as fully featured as real training software? I can't tell if this is the same "chessbase" thing you're talking about.

I’m up for helping, I have a load of ideas in this area...

Awesome! I just emailed you.

Is that not simply hypermodern school with the fianchettoed bishops?

Yes, it’s like the ultimate expression of hypermodern.

Other pro tip: if you do the full hippo with all the fixings (double fianchetto, pawns e6 d6 h6 a6) it also allows you to delay castling until you know which side your opponent commits to. This can lead to an awesome attack that comes out of nowhere and completely blindsides the hippo-unaware.

For clarity, is the attack you're referencing a castle to the opposite side of the opponent and then using your two rooks on the opponents side to push down the pawns?

Kind of. Waiting to commit works both ways:

1. If they castle one side, you can do the other and then launch an attack, usually it’s the pawns that clear the way and open lines, then rooks and minor pieces can get in the action. (As opposed to using rooks to push down pawns, if I’m reading your comment correctly)

2. You can also see if they are preparing an attack on one side, usually watching pawn structure or where they’re putting rooks. And then you can castle on the opposite side to effectively neutralize the attack.

Note that it’s definitely possible to launch an attack on the side you are castled on, especially if the center has a closed pawn structure - it’s just more risky and thus less common.

What percentage of your blitz games end in draws? I just checked my stats and over my hundreds of blitz games only about 5% of them end in draws. I checked the stats of some friends who are both better and worse than me and all of them were around 5% draws.

I fully appreciate the idea of wanting to play more aggressive lines to get a different style of game, but I don't think it is necessary by any stretch if you are looking to get decisive games.

2.45% of my blitz games end in draws.

Playing a weak, non-standard opening is surely not the only way to get interesting games, but it's reliable and easy for someone of my skill level (around 1850 on blitz.chessbase.com). It's much more reliable than playing any well-known gambit, for example.

This article starts off with an appreciation of the King's Gambit. However, there are many known lines which counter the King's gambit and bring it back into a boring, drawish middle game.

Chess is unfortunately a game that rewards people who play to avoid losing rather than play to win.

Tournament chess could change this style by counting wins as more than twice a draw (say 1.5) but where a loss is still 0.

Your idea is normally implemented as football scoring (so 0 points for a loss, 1 point for a draw, 3 points for a win). It has been tried (with limited success if I remember correctly) in top tournament chess. On mobile and reluctant to try and track down the details of when and where.

The Bilbao Chess Masters [0] used a 3-1-0 scoring format.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilbao_Chess_Masters_Final

Me too. I used to play the Polish opening for white a bunch, but against anyone who can withstand unusual positions, it ends up in a boring midgame. My strategy now is to just play the same 2 openings every game, so that I get to an interesting midgame as quickly as possible with as much time as possible. fwiw my draw rate is 3.5%

Also, no shortage of games on lichess.com (their horrible UI update notwithstanding).

If you like crazier games that avoid book lines, I highly recommend the chess-like abstract board game Onitama [0].

It’s a smaller chess grid with each player getting four pawns and a king, and each player has two random cards that specify the move that all their pieces can make. If you take a move using one of the cards however, you exchange it with a neutral center card, so next turn your opponent will get that card after their move. It makes it very very hard to see more than a few moves ahead and the random cards basically ensure every game plays like some novel endgame neither player has ever seen.

[0] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/160477/onitama

> you like crazier games that avoid book lines, I highly recommend the chess-like abstract board game Onitama [0].

Or just play Go.

>Or just play Go.

Or just play a game where the pieces themselves change the rules of the game (magic: the gathering comes to mind).

Both Chess and Go suffer from the problem that a "correct" play can be computed and both games will eventually be solved (and yes, Go has many more possibilities than chess of course).

To be a real game worth playing for me, a game needs to have randomness and hidden information as well as some way of altering the rules of the game itself mid-game.

I’m also an avid Magic player haha. Onitama scratches a similar itch for me as opening a hand and solving it relative to the boardstate. Lots of predicting opponent moves / options and leaning into lines of play intuitively, since the cards are randomized each game.

Me too! One thing I am noticing is that because I often just use it to destress, I am not improving really, because it's all instinctive on 3 minutes.

The problem with improving seems to be that while I can play a few blitz games, taking time to work on game is more a separate occupation. I occasionally do the lichess practice thingies but without seeing much impact. Anything that can be done that helps but that is on the timescale of a few blitz games?

If you play on blitz.chessbase.com, the position is continually evaluated -- they won't suggest moves while the game is live, but they will tell you who has the better position and by roughly how much.

Whenever there's a position where you don't see the reported advantage, or when a change in the assessment occurs that you didn't expect, that's an opportunity to go back afterwards and just look at those specific points in the game to see what the engine suggests.

If you really want to get good of course you need to be much more methodical in your study. But I started to find chess much more enjoyable once I left behind any long term ambitions.

Interesting feature. I figure it still provides something of a hint if the estimate is updated immediately—e.g. if your opponent plays a move and suddenly you're several points ahead of where you were, then that's strong evidence that your opponent has let you win a piece, and you should look for a tactical combination to do that.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just changes the game. If we embrace this rule, then I humbly suggest that a large change in evaluation (due to a blunder) be accompanied by an "Oooooooh!" sound effect; that's what semi-restrained human observers might do.

You have to be good at slow chess to be good at fast chess, because slow chess builds that intuition you then cash out on in time trouble.

Play through a grandmaster’s game with some insightful commentary? Bobby Fischer’s favourite games for example.

Many years ago I was playing in Rossolimo's chess studio in Greenwich Village, and he pitted me against a master, who played this variation 1 f3 … 2 kf2. It took me three or four games to be able to figure out how to use the tempi well enough to get a successful attack. After that Rossolimo allowed me to play him. After achieving what felt like an opening advantage, I managed to blow the game.

Why not play on lichess.org

I played chess at a low level for about a year. I very quickly learned to despise the Fried Liver Attack. It's the cannon rush of the Chess world: very easy to execute while relatively difficult to defend against. There's a huge, complex world of chess strategy, but before you can get to that you have to learn like every Fried Liver variation because beginners will use it over and over.

The dominance of formulaic application of opening theory over improvisation is a problem at all levels of chess. Bobby Fischer crafted chess960, a variant on shuffle chess, to deal with it:


> Fischer's goal was to eliminate what he considered the complete dominance of openings preparation in classical chess, replacing it with creativity and talent. His belief about Russians fixing international games also provided motivation. In a situation where the starting position was random it would be impossible to fix every move of the game. Since the "opening book" for 960 possible opening systems would be too difficult to devote to memory, the players must create every move originally. From the first move, both players must devise original strategies and cannot use well-established patterns. Fischer believed that eliminating memorized book moves would level the playing field.

I think this is not really true at all. Yasser Seirawan has written and lectured extensively about playing variations of the English & 1. Nf3 openings as white, and King’s Indian Defense and various Pirc / French / Caro-Kann lines that allow either player to pretty much veer out of theory-heavy variations and reach early positions in which there are no sharp tactical edges to the game and your opponent could not generally have forced any without entering a dramatically losing position.

The popularity of Fried Liver Attack among beginners in the US is puzzling to me. When I was learning chess (in Europe), I was told not to waste time on it since it's not a "serious" opening. With black you just need to know to play Na5, sidestepping all this drama with black king in the center.

Or play Bc5, though you have to face the Evans Gambit occasionally.

I gave up playing 1...e5 because it's akin to asking white to smack you over the face with their favorite variation which they practiced to perfection while black has to learn dozens of variations to cover what white can throw at them.

This Fried Liver thing is the least of black's problems.

reading this i realized i haven't played e5 in years, pretty much never looked back after i started learning the french

The French can be a great choice for black in the right hands. White often plays for a quick attack on the king side with Qg4 while risking losing control of the center. Allow black to get a rook on c8 with an open c file after c5 x d4 and black is looking good.

Or you could just play Na5 instead of Nxd5?

It difficult to make as comparison to the star craft cannon rush because chess is a game of perfect information and the cannon rush in star craft relies on incomplete information to work effectively

That's true if you want to play 1...e5 against 1.e4, but you don't have to. Obviously, every opening has its various traps and cheeses, but if you hated the fried liver so much, why not try the sicilian or the french?

Haha, I'll be honest, I have no idea what the sicilian or french is. I just played casually on the weekends.

This is funny as I'm a beginner who has played plenty of the French and plenty of other openings like Queen's Gambit and Scicilian, but have never heard of Fried Liver. So we're the same, but total opposites.

When I played for my school, town and county back in the 70s in the UK the Sicilian Dragon was very fashionable so the teams I played in learned to take back the initiative with white via the then little-known Morra Gambit - 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cd 3. c3. We also had a line in the Ruy Lopez which took our opponents out of the books early - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d4. My other, more recognisable favourites were the Benko Gambit (Benoni) and Marshall Attack (Ruy Lopez). All very effective at club level prior to the computerisation of chess.

I'm quite partial to the Bongcloud opening myself.


This is hilarious. I lost it at "Again, Black harasses without development. He has violated nearly every opening rule – frequent pawn moves, lack of development, pointless checks, and moving the same piece repeatedly."

Also, on page 14 Black has mate in one. It reads “In this arch-typical Marijanezy Bind position, a clever Black player might be able to delay the inevitable with some tactical wizardry, but positionally, he is lost.”

> Also, on page 14 Black has mate in one

I think that's true of all the examples (isn't it?) - they all end at the move where Black has mate, but they admit nothing in the commentary. It's beautifully done.

Ke2, best by test.

Anyone else recently get into the timeless game of chess? I find it meditative and a great way to distract my mind that doesn't involve a device (although I play a lot on my phone :)

Can anyone recommend a good chess book for a 1000 rating player who's plateaued?

The #1 way you will get better at 1000 Elo is, for each move you are considering, imagine where all of your pieces will be after the move and verify none of them can be captured without compensation (in chess lingo — “hanging”)

That is, a book can teach you about basic pawn structure, basic tactics (skewering, forking, revealed checks, etc) but all will be useless if you don’t consider possible responses by your opponent.

You should be able to find plenty of AI opponents you can force to only use a very limited depth search. If you can’t beat an AI that looks 1 ply ahead, that implies that you are also not looking more than 1 ply ahead. So practice against such an opponent until you can win 100% of the time.

I used to play a lot, and hit 1900 (USCF) before I ran out of time to keep playing competitively. So I'm not a pro by any means, but I might know enough to help you get started.

The best way to increase your rating is to find a good chess coach. Otherwise, off the top of my head, my suggestions would be (in order of importance):

1. Learn an opening really well. Ideally, find one opening for white that doesn't generally have many weird transpositions, e.g. the London system. Also, find a couple of solid defenses for black in response to 1. e4 and 1. d4, e.g. the French and the Slav defenses.

2. Study the most basic endgames -- queen + king vs king, rook + king vs king, etc. I'd suggest [0] as a resource.

3. Practice a lot of tactics. You can do this through books (I'm partial to [1] for beginners and [2] when you reach 1600 or so) or through online services like lichess.org.

4. You can probably hit 1500-1600 fairly easily with 1-3. At this point I'd start learning the basics of strategy/positional play, e.g. static vs dynamic advantages. I think [3] is a pretty good resource for this.

5. Study some of the more advanced endgames in [0].

6. Start looking at some more complex openings and go a bit deeper into positional play. IMO the most important thing in the long run is just to find an opening and style of play that you really like.

Hope that helps!

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Endgame-Challenge-John-Hall/dp/188067... [1] https://www.amazon.com/Combination-Challenge-Lou-Hays/dp/188... [2] https://www.amazon.com/Sharpen-Your-Tactics-Sacrifices-Combi... [3] https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Positional-Evaluation-Dan-He...

1. Review your mistakes after each game - lichess.org (which is the best online chess platform by far) has an option to look at your sub-optimal moves at the end of a game and find a better move than the one you made originally.

2. Obligatory shoutout to ChessNetwork who has a great youtube channel - the guy is just a pleasure to listen to and his beginner series, which teach important general concepts, will be really useful if you've plateaued around 1000.

+1 for chessnetwork. Somehow this guy can provide live commentary on GM vs GM bullet games. It feels like you’re watching a tennis match and he’s providing comments on every stroke.

I agree with these 2 points especially Jerry being easy listening. His commentary on one minute lightning chess tourneys on lichess is phenomenal esp. when Dr. Carlsen is at large.

Amazing how no one is answering your question.

“The Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters: Fundamentals of the Game” https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Russian-Chess-Masters-Fundame...

Don’t let the title deter you; hitting a wall is almost always about fundamentals, which at 1000 points is a heady topic. Great series. Graduate to Jeremy Silman’s books.

https://chessable.com is pretty great for actually practicing the stuff from books!

I've not used chessable yet, but one of my favorite youtubers, John Bartholomew, is behind it and I'd recommend his videos wholeheartedly.

He did a series of videos that is particularly worth checking out called "Climbing the Ratings Ladder" where he plays opponents at different rating tiers and analyzes their mistakes[1].

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2huVf1l4UE

Yeah I'm a big fan of John's and watch this same stuff! :D Glad to see him get some love here.

I haven't read a chess book, but I did some tactics a few years back and got to 1300-1400 online.

Around that rating, the most important thing is to learn how to not blunder. Doing tactics is the most helpful for that. You also learn to spot and take the most advantage from your opponent's blunders.

Since you want to distract your mind and avoid a device, check out chess puzzle books, such as "303 Tricky Chess Tactics". I found chess puzzles fun to read before bed and 'sleep on' a problem. Good luck.


Books by Yasser Seirawan helped me when I was at a similar level. Winning Chess Brilliancies has some very good insight into some of the best grandmaster games.

Are you already doing long time control competitive matches?

I've been playing 10 and 15 minute games online. Once a week I play IRL chess with no time limits.

IMO you grow immensely with real tournament experience with at least 1 hour time controls. 15 minutes is known to be a harsh time control and "no time limit" in my experience just means "don't make me impatient", which is a really short limit.

My 60 Memorable Games Bobby Fischer.

There's a variamt of chess created by GM Yasser Seirawan wherein he seeks to stoke the heady flames of tactical attacking chess where he introduces two new pieces: the hawk (which moves like a bishop + a knight) and the elephant (which moves like a rook + a knight). The problem is, there's absolutely nowhere to play it online! I wish I had the skills to build a site/mod lichess to make it work, but lichess isn't interested in adding new variants. If anyone's looking for a project...

I found this: https://www.chessvariants.com/play/seirawan-chess

Perhaps it is of some interest.

I've been thinking about contributing a certain chess variant to lichess, but I haven't reached out to them or done any research yet - what makes you think they aren't interested in adding new variants? Have they made any statements about that in the past?

I hung around #lichess on freenode (where the wonderful dev team exists, including the founder Thibaut) a lot at the time (and I still do) and I was more or less definitively told about concerns of further splitting the userbase. The most recently added variant (Racing Kings) is not terribly popular, and they've made a commitment not to remove variants once they're added, so I appreciate the caution, but something in my bones told me then (which was about two years ago now) and still does that S-chess would be SUPER popular.

If you enjoy tough games, i encourage you to take a look into crazyhouse (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazyhouse). It is the analogue to shogi, captured pieces can be redeployed as a single move. You can play crazyhouse on lichess.org for free, just a email is required. GM Yasser Seirawan is the most prominent crazyhouse fan playing on crazyhouse(https://lichess.org/@/yasser-seirawan). As is internationally common, pieces _can_ be dropped with check, this makes the game extremely violent. Considering that your opponent can use captured pieces against you, a material loss feel twice as hard as in normal chess, in the long run. Nevertheless the game of crazyhouse is completely dominated by dynamic factors. E.g a queen is barely worth two pieces and (in high class games) often it is sacced for a single piece and a tempo. If you have black you will have a hard time to survive the opening against a good player, some even believe that the game is winning for white and i think this is not way off. If your oppononent is 200 Elo points stronger, expect to get mated until move 30 or even move 20. A single slip and you can get mated in move 15 or earlier. I hope i have wet your appetite :-)

For black, I play the Black Lion system, which can be used against e4 and d4 which is the reason why it appealed to me, besides not being so well known.

In many lines black goes for a crazy attack on the king side (called the Lion claw) where Black does not castle, but also black just castles and it becomes the Philidor Hanham, with equal chances for black.

Anyway, you get a lot out of it without severe downsides: similar game against e4 and d4, equality for black in many lines and the possibility for going for the win with black with a king-side attack.

I love gambits. I play the King’s Gambit, Smith Morra, and Benko. I also like the Wing Gambit in the Sicilian, but haven’t looked too closely at it. But perhaps my favorite, in response an attempted Fried Liver Attack, is the Traxler Counter Gambit as black. Here’s one of Traxler’s games: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1224609

Fascinating. I am just starting to study chess seriously this year, and devoured that thread with interest.

A question for the chess experts on here - is it possible to take your rating from around 500 as a rank beginner to around 1000 within a 12 month span? I kind of set that for myself as an ambitious goal once I've finished the study phase but have no idea how difficult a task that would be.

I wouldn't worry too much about your elo, if you're enjoying it you're gonna get a lot better. For the longest time people didn't even have the internet to get better and had to spend big $$ to get coaching.

To get better you need to first master the endgame so you don't throw won games, then learn what kinds of midgame positions (tactical vs positional) you enjoy best so you can then pick a few openings you like.

That is very achievable :) stop blundering/hanging pieces and you are there. I myself since discovering lichess this year set myself the goal to go 1000 to 1500 lichess elo, which is approximately the same. It's May and I'm stuck at 1450. (Also mainly by stopping to blunder pieces)

Unrelated, but perhaps someone here can point me in the right direction.

Which chess services or apps would people recommend for iPad? I bought one for my dad to replace his old Android tablet and struggled to find an app that fits his needs.

He basically wants ranked matches that are fairly quick paced; a simple UI would help too (he's in his mid 70s). Would rather pay than have ads. Thanks.

Lichess, it’s free and should be very easy to learn even for seniors. It got awesome feature such as free computer analysis for played games etc.

Edit: and no ads! You can support the developer and get a cool icon, but all the features are free for all the users.

Excellent, I'll set him up and see how he gets on. Thank you.

Edit: I just installed and signed up myself, this looks perfect. Thanks again

Agree. LiChess. It has iOS app and a webapp.

I think certain lines of the Scandinavian defense can be considered aggressive, though the way you're supposed to play it involves moving your queen back to the back rank eventually (this loses tempo, however). Good opening as black to get into an opening sequence you probably know better than your opponent

I will take this opportunity to recommend agadmator’s chess channel on YouTube, I’m thoroughly hooked and have learned so much already from it!

[0] https://www.youtube.com/user/AGADMATOR

I got into playing more aggressive openings after watching analyses of Paul Morphy and Tal and never stopped!

People particularly love attacking chess (possibly because expert, constricting, prophylactic chess is a slower burn and takes more skill in a lot of cases to appreciate), and with that being said, it's interesting because chess is sort of the opposite of that Sun Tzu quote: "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

If you're a strategic chess master but you can't see tactics, that mastery doesn't matter and your opponents take all your pieces. If you're likely to get ground down in an eighty move game but you can sniff out an attack on your enemy's king, you can usually at least get a shot at doing that and crush your opponent.

>Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Tal wants a word with you on that one.

I am surprised nobody mentioned theax Lange attack 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d4 exd 5. 00

It leads to pretty wild position but unfortunately it was studied a lot and with perfect play Black gets a drawing position.

Too late to edit! I meant to write "the Max Lange attack".

Reminds me of a "DuoLingo for Chess" someone posted a while back: https://www.chesscademy.com

Is it still online somewhere? The heroku app in the link os broken.

Oh crap, not that I know of :/

Thanks for pointing that out.

My current favorite is

1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6 5. g4 :)

Oh I play that line too! It was used in the 80s by GM John Nunn to score many victories (yes, I know, it's old).

I play a deadly london system.

great post

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