The Backyard Professor in a French Defense

If only more people had as much enthusiasm for intellectual pursuits! Kerry Shirts, known as the “Backyard Professor” of chess (on Youtube) dives into the royal game, including analysis of some of his own games. He admits he’s no master, but I love his enthusiasm in his analysis, and it reminds me of my analysis of my own games, when I was just getting started in competition as a post-beginner.

He has had access to a number of chess books, yet I wonder if they were the best publications for him during his early development as a competitor in the royal game.

A Chess Game Played by the Backyard Professor

See the Youtube video of this analyzed game. I found errors in a number of moves, yet I do not classify the Backyard Professor as a raw beginner, not at all.

1) e4      e6

2) d4    d5

3) Nc3   Bb4

This is the Winawer variation of the French Defense opening.

Winawer variation of the French opening

Diagram-1  after Black’s move Bb4

The Winawer is a common variation of the French Defense. The Backyard Professor (BP)now played 4) a3, with the following continuation:

4) a3     Bxc3+

5) bxc3   dxe5

Winawer French

Diagram-2  after Black captures with dxe4

BP’s opponent captured the pawn at e4. In the video, BP states that Black has “a very powerful center pawn.” That seems like a fair assessment to me. But BP is mistaken if he thinks that Black has simply won a pawn or that it’s not important to lose a pawn in this opening variation.

The standard move for White, in the position shown in Diagram-2, is 6) Qg4, winning back the pawn. BP appears to be unaware of that possibility, in his analysis. In the game, he now made a mistake, in my opinion:

6) Be3  . . . .

In his analysis BP says that he does not want his opponent to “mess up my kingside” by advancing the pawn at e4 to e3. But if it were Black’s move, in Diagram-2, e6 would be met by Bxe3, putting that same bishop on that same square. The only difference then would be that Black no longer has a “very powerful center pawn” at e4. In other words, the bishop would end up on the same square but the Black pawn would be captured. That means there is no reason to fear that black pawn at e4 advancing to e3.

On the sixth move, White would do much better after 6) Qg4. The alternative 6) f3 offers a gambit pawn, which could work well, if Black accepts it, for it gives White attacking chances. But let’s consider how BP’s game went after 6) Be3.

6) . . . .   Nf6

7) Bc4   O-O

8) Ne2  Nc6

9) O-O  Bd7

I believe BP is correct here in questioning the wisdom of his opponent developing this bishop to d7. Yet his reasoning on that move is not to the point, in my opinion. Black’s queen bishop should be developed to b7, where it points to the pawn at e5.

10) f4  . . . .

unorthodox Winawer French Defense

Diagram-3  after White moved f4

The Backyard Professor appears to be oblivious to what he now did in the game: On his tenth move, he gave his opponent a passed pawn. Worse than that, if Black now moves Nd5, that pawn could become a protected passed pawn, especially if Black will soon thereafter move f5. In fact, Black now does move Nd5:

10) . . . .   Nd5

11) Bxd5  exe5

12) Qe2  . . . .

BP is thinking of creating a pawn storm against the black king, believing that his bad bishop will become active after that pawn advance progresses. There’s a big problem with the idea. If Black plays well, that bad white bishop will remain bad and Black’s bad bishop may possibly become better by getting on the diagonal a6-f1 (assuming Black’s kingside continues to be safe). Black would probably do well to now play Ne7.

Black played poorly, however, and the Backyard Professor eventually won the game from a pawn storm on his opponent’s king. That bad white bishop did become better, after Black’s poor play, and that bishop eventually allowed the white queen to give checkmate.

Kerry Shirts’ (BP) analysis of this game on Youtube may not be a masterful lesson on minor-piece exchanges and the handling of bad bishops, and it may not be a masterful lesson on this variation of the Winawer-French Defense, but it can be fun to learn his thinking and the execution of his attack against a less than masterful opponent.



Backyard Professor of Chess

To begin, I have been delighted with much that I have seen in a few of the Youtube chess videos of the “Backyard Professor.” (I have seen only a few of them.) Kerry Shirts lives in Idaho, where he plays in a chess club and makes his own videos . . . many videos.

Chess Book for Beginners

Beat That Kid in Chess is for the early-beginner, the person who gains the most relative benefit from chess experience.

Chess Book Reviews

We now look at three chess books, each of them appearing, from the cover, to be for children. The ideal ages for readers of these books, however, may surprise you.


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