How to Play Like Magnus Carlsen
Or at least passably well

1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 in the proper spirit



From the Spring 2009 issue of the Bay Area Chess magazine:

A Method for Handling 2. Qh5

One important thing chessplayers forget, or don’t know: Ask an adult if s/he would rather be sipping cool drinks on a sandy beach than plugging away at the mortgage while being upside down on the second car. The adults will say they’d rather be on the beach, but they’re just too tied up with the house, the car, the antique furniture, the canned goods.

Adults get too tied up in material. Watch adults when they’re playing chess — they clutch and fondle the captured chessmen off the board, and on the board, they cling to the material to the death. If you give up the material, you can live on the beach. At the chessboard, especially, let some material go. Be unencumbered.

Another important thing that chessplayers forget, or don’t know: The great, great chess teacher Cecil Purdy said: “In order to play this game passably well, not only must you see all the threatening moves, you must recognize the unreality of their unreal threats.”

You must see all of your threats — because that’s how you win — and you must see all of their threatening moves — because that’s how they win. And you must also recognize what a great opportunity arises when your opponent’s threat is unreal.

After your opponent moves, your thinking process ought to be:

“What are the the threats?”

“Those are the threats.”

“What if I ignore them? What if I just pass my move, and let the other player carry out that threat?”

Ideally, you’ll see that if your opponent carries out that threat, it works out OK for you. That means you don’t have to waste your move making a defensive move, and you can instead make an attacking move that brings up unused force.

Those two invaluable things — be unencumbered by material, and ignore enemy threats if possible — are the basis for one method for dealing with the bane of the chess kid’s existence: 1. e4 2. Qh5 3. Bc4 4. Qxf7 mate.

Kids develop the habit early of defending the e-pawn at move 2 with 2…Nc6. Making a habit of defending is the wrong way to get any good at chess.

Students should get into the habit of attacking. Students should get into the habit of ignoring enemy threats if
possible. 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Nf6 accomplishes both tasks.

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