This is a game I played using the Tarrasch Defense against a much stronger player. The game ended in a draw. I know what you’re thinking: Draws are boring! Many amateurs, myself included, feel that if their game ends in a draw they have done something wrong. Sometimes that’s true, but more often than not, a draw simply means both players were able to find the resources to defend their position and bring the game to a peaceful conclusion. So, in this case, a draw was a desirable outcome.
The Tarrasch Defense is an opening I’ve been advocating for several years now. It is an aggressive alternative to the typical Queen’s Gambit. An early c5 usually throws off players and gets them out of their preparation. Black has to play very actively though. Playing passive moves are swiftly met with White taking the initiative.
Drawing a stronger player with the Tarrasch Defense
Do not memorize openings. The number one problem I and other amateurs have, is mis-remembering lines of opening theory. The Tarrasch Defense can be confusing to beginners. Black challenges the center right away and invites trades. While it’s important to understand the mainline ideas of an opening, calculation is still required. No matter how confident you are in the opening, carefully calculate your moves before you play them.
Keep your cool. When your opponent hits you with a surprise move, take your time. After 22. Ne6, I became exasperated. How could I have not seen such a move? My reply, Qb6 was still winning but I missed an even stronger idea. Can you see it?
Stockfish instantly saw the move Qb8! This saves the rook and puts me up even more material. I needed to spend less energy feeling sorry for myself and more energy calculating stronger moves!
Endgame knowledge. There is a reason why strong players suggest studying tactics and endings. It’s because many games, particularly at the amateur level, are decided this way. This game is no exception. I was unable to convert my endgame advantage on several occasions but here is an important point to remember. In an ending, when your pieces are on their ideal squares, leave them there – instead, start to advance your pawns. Had I done this, the road to victory would have been much smoother.
The Tarrasch Defense is a great choice for players to consider in their repertoire against 1. d4. Here at Better Chess, our goal is to recommend ideas that are aggressive and can disrupt your opponent’s preparation.
Most amateurs who play 1. d4 are expecting the Queen’s Gambit Declined. They are well prepared for this. Once you hit them with an early c5, you will see their reaction and understand why the Tarrasch Defense is such a great weapon.
Regardless of the opening you choose, it is important to be thinking about the endgame. This is particularly true when pieces are traded off. The formation of pawns, the placement of your king and an assessment of the minor pieces are all elements to consider before transitioning from the middlegame to the ending.
Keep calculating. Never rely on your memory to play a move unless you have double-checked it beforehand.
What are are your thoughts on playing the Tarrasch Defense? Please share your thoughts below.