Q: I am due to play against a much stronger player in an on-line tournament soon, and wondered if you had a recommendation on how to approach it? I can see that he uses the French (I'm playing White) which I could prepare against (I'm an e4 player), but should I do something more psychological? Assume that he feels confident against me and adopt an opening as White that he has to attack me to win? Is there such a thing as a reversed Pirc, as I really enjoy that opening?
Any ideas welcome....
I don't really pretend to be a chess guru. But with too little time (and energy) to play tournaments myself, it's tempting to give advise to those who actually do play. So here are my 50 cents:
First of all: It's fully possible to play a reversed Pirc. 1.g3 d5 2.Bg2 e5 3.d3 might be a good attempt but it really depends on which lines you favor. However, I wouldn't expect you to gain much by heading for a reversed Pirc. Quite likely your opponent will choose a line which is not considered to give (White) a lasting advantage but which gives (Black) easy equality when reversed.
If you are willing to invest some time and work in this game, my main recommendation is to head for the sharpest mainline. Most strong players hates to risk losing to a weaker player who happens to be better prepared. Consequently they are quite likely to chicken out with an inferior move in order to avoid prepared surprises. With some luck this will give you a clear opening advantage. If the difference in playing strength isn't too great this could offer a chance for a win (or a draw offer from a position of strength).
1) Find out as much as possible about your opponents preferences in the French. Does he play the Winawer? The Classical? Which subline(s) does he prefer? Does he tend to follow the mainlines or does he play some home-brewed mixture?
2) Find a good book about the line you are most likely to encounter. Concentrate on the sharpest mainlines (that's the most ambitious lines for White). You will not have time to prepare for all the ways he may deviate but at least you should know when he leaves your prepared line (and you have to start thinking rather than remembering).
3) During the game, try to give an impression that you are well prepared and looking forward to a theoretical duel.
If this approach should fail (he is after all a much stronger player), you at least are likely to learn something from your preparations. If theoretical mainlines are not to your taste, you have got two main options:
- Try to complicate from move two, and hope he gets more confused that you. You most likely will lose, but there always is a chance that he blunders first. 1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.g4 could be a try.
- Play unashamedly for a draw. If he isn't too much stronger than you, he may worry if he really will be able to win a dead level ending and try to introduce some complications himself. That could backfire and give you an undeserved chance. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 is the obvious (and banal) solution.