Punishing Passive Play in the Opening: Part 3

Passive Active 3In the previous two parts to this series of articles about “Punishing Passive Play in the Opening,” we  looked at a game and identified the passive moves that White played at the start. Black was able to capitalize on his strong position and win the game in a methodical manner. However, sometimes more drastic measures are needed. At times, you will have to rip the position open and highlight the defects in the opponent’s passive structure very quickly, or else they might be able to become active before you can take advantage of their problems.

I learned a lot about playing active in the opening by watching the “Winning Chess Games in the Opening” DVD by GM Rafael Leitao and would highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic!

In the following game, White begins extremely well: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Qc7 6.0-0 Nf6 7.Nc3 b5 8.a3 Bd6 This is seemingly active move, but White is able to defend against it with one simple move: 9. Kh1!

This still allows Black to capture the h2 pawn with 9…Bxh2, but White will be able to trap the bishop with 10.g3.

Instead, black played 9…Bc5. Not a great move. Black is moving a piece more than once, breaking a key principle that says to not move the same piece multiple times in the opening. The reasoning behind this is because it wastes time and White is way ahead in development here as well.

Punishing Passive Play 310.Nb3 Be7 Moving the bishop again.

11.f4! White is preparing to attack the Nf6 with e5 soon and then the knight will not have a great retreat square. 11…d6 Looks like it defends against the e5 pawn push threat, however: 12. e5! (See position to the right) White does it anyway!

Black has broken many opening principles to reach this position. Black has not developed his pieces quickly, he has not castled yet and he has not seized much control of the center. White on the other hand, is castled, almost fully developed and has every right to seek an attack on Black’s king who is in the center of the board. 12.e5! is a very violent, but correct, way of capitalizing on Black’s passive opening position. The tactics all work in White’s favor: 12…Nfd7

13.exd6 Bxd6 14.Be4! Nc6 15.Nd4 Forcing the win of material. Nxc6 is threatened as well as Nxb5 forking d6 and c7. 15…Nxd4

16.Qxd4 Rb8 17.Qxg7 And white went on to win quickly.

We see in this example of punishing passive play in the opening, White hit hard and fast. He didn’t allow time for his opponent to catch up in development and get a more active position. White jumped on his chance to swing the game in his favor and never looked back. You should play the same way and avoid passive play in the opening! Punish your opponent’s weak moves!

“The Secrets to Mastering the Chess Opening” – GM Damian Lemos
“Winning Chess Games in the Opening” – GM Rafael Leitao

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