Playing the Bird? Print E-mail
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?
Thank You,

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 unexplored positions.
 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.

- GM Joel