Game#47 – Dealing with unusual chess openings

unusual chess openings

Unusual chess openings are played all over. This is particularly true when playing online chess. I can’t tell you how many times that I have been playing on Lichess when my opponent decides to flick out an early b3 or b4, sending my mind reeling – I had little experience with this opening and I began to ponder how I should play against it. Sideline moves are meant more as a distraction than as a serious attempt to get an advantage. Your opponent relies on the fact that you are not expecting an unorthodox opening and feels that this will give him a psychological advantage. He’s usually right.

Game#47 - Dealing with unusual chess openings
An early 3. b3!? sends the game into unchartered waters.

So what to do? First, don’t panic. Just because your opponent has played something you are not familiar with doesn’t mean you will automatically lose. Just play chess. Use the same concepts I’ve been repeating in my blog. Second, develop your pieces, place them on good squares and always look for counter play. Lastly, don’t trade pieces indiscriminately. Let your opponent keep his bad pieces while improving your own.

Unusual Chess Openings

Game#47 - Dealing with unusual chess openings

Post-game analysis

Losing the bishop pair. Holding the bishop pair is often said to be an advantage. But, like everything else in chess, it depends on the position. In this game, the entire fight was around a passed d-pawn. Knights are ideal for blockading passed pawns because they provide coverage all around the pawn it is blockading. Here, White’s f1 bishop was acting as the blockader but, because of its limited scope it could not participate in offensive operations.

Passed pawns must be pushed. Almost all the analysis in this game points to the fact that I should have pushed my d-pawn further up the board. I was overly concerned that pushing it too early would lead to its capture. The problem is that this wasn’t based on analysis. Let’s take a look.

Game#47 - Dealing with unusual chess openings
20…d3! was the best move to play here

Playing d3 is not just about queening the pawn – that’s very difficult to do in this position. It is more about opening lines of attack for my pieces. For example, the g7 bishop’s scope improves dramatically. After d3-d2 I can play moves like Nd3 and Qg5 with an attack on f2 and so on. Unusual chess openings can lead to positions we are not familiar with. When it doubt, stick to fundamentals – improve your pieces and grab more space.

Locking down a position. The process of getting the upper hand in a position can feel very rewarding. All the time you have invested in the game has paid dividends – you have a clear advantage and your opponent is struggling for activity. This is not the time for celebration though.

Once I had my pawn on d2, the game was essentially over. Nevertheless, it is important to continue to improve my position and slowly work towards queening my pawn. This might take another twenty moves but that’s fine. I need to be in the fight for the long haul.

Conclusion

At Better Chess, we are always trying to identify ways we can improve our chess game – even if it comes from unusual chess openings. Here, there were quite a few lessons to be learned. The biggest of these lessons is to focus on where your advantages are and continue to advance these efforts. In this game, it was the passed pawn. In other games, it might be the opening of a file or a diagonal that proves decisive.

Either way, make sure to continue to build on your position and avoid moves that don’t contribute towards your goals. I played the silly 20… h5?! which had nothing to do with improving my position. Pushing my passed pawn was the foundation I needed to build on.

Have you had to deal with unusual chess openings before? What was your remedy? Please share below.