Ask GM Joel
By Joel Benjamin
August 28, 2007
Dear GM Joel:
I am a class D player (I have been
playing chess for less than a year): who plays the Bird opening. I
purchased Timothy Taylor's 2005 book on the Bird and I learned some lines on
it. However, I am frequently told the Bird in not one of the better openings.
Can you give me your opinion on the Bird? Also if you think I should play
a different opening please tell me what that is. I also have one more
problem. I often lose on time (G/60's and in G/150's I usually get down
to 3 minutes) Can you give me a suggestion on how I can manage my time better?
- GM Joel
GM Joel responds
You've been playing chess for less than a year and you're playing the
Bird? Stop immediately! You need to play something with a more
classical approach to opening principles. You should occupy the center more
conventionally and develop your pieces in a more straightforward manner.
You shouldn't be opening your king on the first move. At least start with
1.e4 or 1.d4. You might find a book that suggests a complete repertoire
against all defenses from either of those moves.
Yes, the Bird is not a particularly good opening. It's playable, and can
lead to some interesting positions. But Black has every chance to try for
an advantage without worrying about equalizing. That leaves him better
off than in most standard openings.
There are bad reasons to play the Bird and only one good one (though this
doesn't apply to you: you aren't experienced enough to try it).
1) The book makes it look cool!
BAD! Any decently written opening book will do that. If the book
doesn't make the opening look appetizing, it won't even get published.
2) I would rather play something else but I don't have
time to learn theory. BAD! You can play something more
mainstream without knowing everything about it. Choose openings that
conform to your style.
3) I like off-beat openings that lead to unusual and
I'm not concerned if I get an advantage from the opening.
GOOD! In this case the opening might work for you
As for your other question, there is no easy way to avoid time pressure.
I do have some suggestions, though. GM Robert Byrne told that he
occasionally got short of time in a bad position, but never in a good
one. That pearl of wisdom hasn't helped me, but it makes a lot of
sense. Try not to waste time deciding between what you feel are good moves.
If you must have a long think, it should be because you will get into trouble
if you don't make a strong move at that moment. And accept that you will
finish the game poorly if you are down to your last few minutes and there is
still much work to be done.