Winning in a symmetrical position is much more difficult as a rule than winning from a more unbalanced position. However, as Jeremy Silman points out, there are many types of imbalances. Even if pawn structure and material are even, there are issues to consider.
My four strategical considerations in symmetrical positions:
1. Elements of space, time, king safety, better minor pieces and combinative skill.
2. Entry points to determine where either side can invade the territory of the other.
3. Exchanges of material, determine which pieces to swap and when to swap them.
4. Endgames are coming so if there is no middlegame mate, head to the best ending.
Recently I have been working on opening repertoires that I can play reasonably well vs higher rated opponents. I want ones that use my current skill set. Memorizing openings is an important skill. I know the value of memory, but I don't want to require myself to do too much memory work at my age just to survive a game.
Another thing I try to avoid is sharp openings that require me to be tactical genius to survive. Some times I do get creative combinative ideas during games, but I other times nothing comes to me. I prefer positions where the strategy is obvious to me, even if the position is mostly complicated and tactical. That way if I don't see a combination right off, I still know which direction to point my army.
The Petroff, or Russian, is an opening I've played off and on for decades with mixed success. I bought Konstantin Sakaev's new book: "The Petroff: an Expert Repertoire for Black." I used to be an Expert, so I like the title already. It covers everything after 1.e4 e5.
One of the Petroff Defence variations after the popular 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 is the symmetrical 5.Qe2. Things start out rather even, but it is still a chess game. Below is another ICC blitz game vs "blik". There is an interesting contrast in this game: White plays based on middlegame evaluations while Black plays based on endgame considerations. White was slightly better in the middlegame and lost in the endgame.
blik (2200) - Sawyer (1969) begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2 Qe7 6.d3 Nf6 7.Bg5 Nbd7 8.Nc3 Qxe2+ [I use a little phrase to remind myself in this line: "Take on eight."] 9.Bxe2 h6 10.Bd2 c6 11.0-0-0 Be7 [11...d5=] 12.d4 d5 13.Bd3 0-0 14.Rde1 Bd6 15.Kb1 Re8 [Black offered to swap rooks and also frees up the f8 square for a king or knight.] 16.Rxe8+ Nxe8 17.Re1 Kf8 18.Be3 Ndf6 19.Ne5 Ng4 20.Nxg4 Bxg4 21.h3 Bh5 22.Ne2 Bg6 23.Bxg6 fxg6 24.Bf4 g5 25.Be5 Rd8 26.f4 gxf4 27.Nxf4 Nc7 28.h4 [28.Nd3 Bxe5 29.Nxe5=] 28...Bxe5 29.dxe5 Re8 30.Rf1 Kg8 31.Ng6 Ne6 32.g4? Nf8 33.Nxf8 Rxf8 34.Rf5? [This allows a exchange which helps Black go from a winning rook ending into a more easily won pawn ending.] 34...g6 35.Rf6 Rxf6 36.exf6 g5 [Of course one cannot allow White to play g4-g5.] 37.h5 Kf7 38.Kc1 Kxf6 39.Kd2 Ke5 40.Ke3 c5 41.Kf3 Kd4 42.a3 a5 43.a4 b6 44.Kf2 Ke4 45.Ke2 Kf4 46.Kd2 Kxg4 47.c3 Kf3 48.Kc2 g4 White resigns 0-1
You may also like: Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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