Firouzja’s opening tricks – Chess.com

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The Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz event is already in the history books and provides food for thought. First, let’s talk about the phenomenal performance of GM Alireza Firouzja. It immediately brings back memories of the famous 1970 Herzog Novi blitz tournament, dubbed the unofficial World Blitz Championship.

Back then, GM Bobby Fischer won the tournament with 19 points from 22 games, 4.5 points ahead of GM Mikhail Tal. You all know what happened two years after that tournament. (Note: We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this event this year). I’m not implying anything, but… well, actually, yes am propose who will be the world champion after GM Ding Liren.

More importantly, we finally got to hear the new chess sound I had been waiting for from Firouzja for a long time. did you notice that let me explain.

Firouzja starts showing us his new chess sounds. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nowadays, when top grandmasters memorize their computers’ opening recommendations well into the middlegame (or sometimes even endgame), it’s almost impossible to get a new opening position that requires your opponent to use his brain instead of his memory. Each player has their own recipe for this problem. Most of them are just trying to better prepare and memorize the opponent.

However, GM Magnus Carlsen has his own unique, inimitable approach. He sometimes performs outright junk moves that troll his opponents and force them to use their head from the very first move! Here is an example:

It is difficult to recommend this approach to any of us mere mortals. Why should you deliberately play the worst move in the starting position and fight for survival instead of an opening advantage?

During this year’s Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, Firouzja showed his recipe that many chess players might like. His idea may sound ridiculous, but on closer inspection it makes sense. Before I explain his approach, here’s a disclaimer you’d typically see when watching videos of daredevils performing dangerous stunts: “Done by the pros, don’t try it at home!”

So what is Firouzja’s new idea? He intentionally wastes speed in some openings to get a good position! I know it sounds like chess blasphemy because one of the most basic chess rules says: Don’t waste time, especially during the opening. Nevertheless, check out how Firouzja does it:

Did you notice what happened? White played 6.d3 only to play 8.d4 two moves later. As a result, he got a well-known theoretical position down a tempo! For example, compare it to the following very famous game:

Can you see the difference? While the diagrams look identical, it is White’s move in the well-known theoretical position, so GM Anatoly Karpov played 9.Bg5. But in Firouzja’s game it was Black’s move, so GM Sam Shankland played 9…Ne4.

So what is the method in Firouzja’s chess mania? Well, first of all, even after losing tempo, White’s position is probably still preferable due to Black’s long-term weakness on d5. And second, I suspect the Tarrasch Defense isn’t exactly what Shankland wanted to play, which puts him in a relatively unfamiliar position.

Here is another example of Firouzja’s “Black Magic”:

Did you notice that Firouzja played 9.Be3 only to play back 11.Bc1 two moves later? Well, that sure has to be stupid, doesn’t it? Not so fast! Consider the following theoretical position:

I found 16 games in the database where the chart position happened. Do you want to know the score? Twelve wins for Black and four draws! Now notice that this position is identical to Firouzja’s game – only the colors are reversed. But because Firouzja lost two tempos, he not only plays black instead of white, he also slows it down a tempo!

So in the theoretical position it is Black’s move, and Black played 12…Rc8 in the game above. Meanwhile, in Firouzja’s game, it is White’s move and his opponent played 13…g5, which corresponds to White’s move 13.g4.

As you can see, the explanation for Firouzja’s bizarre opening move is quite simple: the position is so good for Black, and the result is so stunning that he even wanted to play it at a slower tempo!

Whenever a new trend in chess emerges, top players take notice. Here is the game played by American Chess Superman:

Looks like a crazy game where opponents started with tactical complications from the start. It’s funny that most commenters missed one obvious thing: GM Levon Aronian made a mistake in a known theoretical position. Do not believe me? Then consider the following diagram:

The above happened in 94 games including, as you can see, some encounters with Super GMs. White generally does well when refusing the “gift”: the hanging rook on a8. Using his black magic and turning white to black, GM Hikaru Nakamura confused Aronian, who captured the a1-rook and promptly paid the price.

Hikaru Nakamura
Nakamura is also working on his own version of Firouzja’s Black Magic. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nowadays we hear a lot of complaints about computers killing the opening game, urging people to go for Fischer random chess or, even worse, junk openings like 1.h4 as a solution. For me, Firouzja’s approach is a breath of fresh air!

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