Charlie Storey's story

by ChessBase
1/10/2018 – FIDE Master Charlie Storey from Morpeth, Northumberland, shares his backstory and how he got into professional "sniping". In his pet opening, Black plays 1…g6 2…Bg7 and 3…c5 against most of White’s set-ups. "The Sniper fires up the imagination, just like The Dragon — but chess is a game of mediaeval war and I just updated it to modern warfare — rooks, tanks, queens, drones — you can figure the rest out."

The Sniper The Sniper

The Sniper is a universal opening framework which can be played against all main first white moves — 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.f4 and 1.Nf3. Black plays 1...g6, 2...Bg7 and 3...c5 against practically anything!


The Sniper's Story

An interview

Charlie Storey

ChessBase: Tell us something about your chess career: when did you start to play, do you have any heroes, how did you get better, how do you train, how often do you play?

Charlie Storey: I learned at about 10 years  old — joined the school chess club and beat the Science Teacher Mr Atkinson…I literally skipped all the way home! It helped me to become Sports Captain in my middle school – that and doing 10,000 kick ups with a football! I hardly played from 10-14 then got the chess bug and it ravaged me!

CB: You recently published a DVD about The Sniper, a universal opening system against almost everything – Black plays 1…g6 2…Bg7 and 3…c5 against most of White’s set-ups. When and how did you decide to play this system?

CS: After reading one book on opening theory (The Dragon) in my first 5 years of playing chess I became a natural for Kings Fianchettoes. That was because my friend and rival used up all of the chess books in the local library (no Internet back in 1986! -  by using all of his family’s tickets to monopolise the entire libraries chess book – I never took the book back – I kept re-issuing it or he would have snapped that one up too! After defeating Jonathan Rowson with a KID Fianchetto using …c5 to dynamic effect I realised back in the 90’s A Fianchetto with …c5 was potent in nearly all positions. I have played Fianchetto systems all my life but always searching for theoretical novelties (or 'TN' as they were called back then) I enjoyed finding, preparing and executing these novelties with the help of Chessbase 3.0!

CB: Can any chess player find new approaches or novelties in the opening? And if yes, how?

CS: I believe White's best move is a4 at move one. We are not quite ready as a chess species to know why just yet so there is much to be discovered as theory mocks this move at the moment.

CB: Do you still remember your first game with The Sniper?

CS: Officially the Sniper was coined back in 2008 ish but the games that secured my FM Title in the British Chess Championships Black vs GM Arkell it was a fantastic game and The Sniper book was researched and it was published shortly after.

CB: What attracts you to this system?

CS: Addiction to kingside fianchetto — pattern chunking in middle games, saving time because of this then putting my opponent into too much time pressure they make mistakes so I can play my wonderful tactics!

Reviewer Davide Nastasio had an in-depth look at The Sniper DVD in November

CB: Having one line against everything sounds like an economic and time-saving repertoire. But what about transpositions? How well do you have to know Kings Indian, Benoni or Pirc structures to play The Sniper?

CS: Great question! It helps to know a little something about all kingside fianchettoes — The Sniper gives massive creatively for similar bur entirely new positions through leaving the knight on g8 — this tempo can help in many other phases of the opening.

CB: When did you decide to play The Sniper regularly?

CS: I had phenomenal results with it before marketing the Sniper back in 2012-2016 of course when people know its coming they will spend hours (with White) preparing and should be able to get a small plus but nothing substantial. I won so many Opens before it was mainstream, watching my peers draw with Black while my surprise and sound dynamic theory took them into a Tal-ian dark forest! I won our County Championship with 7/7 playing The White and the Black Sniper in every round shortly after book was published. I now mainly play it in Blitz and Rapid — as I enjoy learning about other openings which is important in my role as England U18 International Team Coach / ECF Fide Academy Coach.

CB: The Sniper brought you success, didn’t it?

CS: Considering I am a humble FM with two IM norms — one of which is under dispute! It is amazing I have won more opens than any other player in the UK save GM’s Arkell and Hebden who are dedicated professionals on the circuit and I have had the likes of Jonathan Hawkins, Tim Wall, Mihai Suba swimming around in the North East!

Keith Arkell and Mark Hebden

Keith Arkell & Mark Hebden | Photos: P. Grochowalski CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

CB: Did you ever suffer a drastic defeat that made you doubt the soundness of your pet opening?

CS: The thing is even when one line goes down, there is still so much creative scope to Ceasear shift one of the moves to continue independence and creativity in a sound or human sound setting.

CB: What do you think is the reason for your success with this system?

CS: I am basically 2700 Strength with Black in it due to way too much exposure to it, and I have a very deep understanding of strengths and weaknesses, and normally far more than a human opponent. But lets not forget — if White does their homework thoroughly they should be able to make that first move count — or are they in Zugzwang — that will be for Alpha Zero 1000 to figure out!

CB: You are not the first who played these opening moves. But you turned these opening moves into a system by giving it a name: The Sniper. Why did you choose this name?

CS: Excellent question — Since writing the Sniper I have qualified as a Computer Science and Business Studies Teacher — I was raised in financial poverty and had to be an entrepreneur at an early age to survive — I know what people like and Chessplayers like to use their imagination — The Sniper fires up the imagination, just like The Dragon — but chess is a game of mediaeval war and I just updated it to modern warfare — rooks, tanks, queens, drones — you can figure the rest out — The Sniper has long range stealth ability just like a hidden sniper. As a teacher of kids I was not sure how parents would receive it but lets face it who’s never used a water pistol and I use analogies of water shooting when talking to kids about it.

CB: Have you ever been criticised because people felt that the name is too martial, too militant?

CS: I was horrendously criticised in the early promotion of The Sniper — I teach online safety to kids which is best summarised as "be nice", some of the comments I got were pretty nasty and in many cases there was pack like mentality of cyber abuse. Chess players naturally are super critical, as they need to be to progress. Sadly, sometimes this manifests itself into cruel online comments. Of course, I have thick skin but it saddens me sometimes to think people in my community can make hurtful remarks but it seems to happen all over the Internet.

CB: In the whole of opening theory The Sniper is a side-line. Opening theoreticians often claim that side-lines should not be the basis of an opening repertoire because they tend to be unsound and that the surprise value is their biggest advantage. What do you think?

Sun Tzu

CS: After reading Sun Tzu you will understand the value of surprise — empires on built and lost on it.

CB: Do you play, or did you play, main lines?

CS: In my 20’s I tried to make ends meet by winning Swiss Tournaments regularly winning them – Mainlines draw you have to find creative solutions to score 4/4.5 out of 5 Otherwise you get stuck in ¾ pool which never even covers expenses and forces a 9-5 job!

CB: Do you think the line is fundamentally sound – that is with best play White can only get a minimal or slight advantage?

CS: My research, which will be published in my next chess project, now I have completed MasterChess.TV, is to create a Storey Skynet System which is the best theoretical line for White using my state of the art tools and Comp Sci skills / intuition… I would like to do this with Chessbase which I love if not then I will deliver it through MasterChess.TV

CB: Why, do you think, is — or was — the opening not more popular?

CS: Most players have been brought up on Classical principles and Openings which does okay for them but nothing special – I am no Jose Mourinho but the Sniper is the special one in terms of opening theory — try classifying it with ECO Codes…I dare you!

CB: Do any top players employ The Sniper regularly?

CS: Markowski from Poland featured in some of my early works – Of course transposing into a Dragon, Benko, Teradctaly, KID, Benoni could have some merit in claiming it’s a Sniper and many Super GM play those.

CB: When explaining the various systems of The Sniper on your DVD you gave the various systems names of English football clubs. How did you come about this idea?

CS: I have taught primary school kids for years and just like The Sniper they need something they can relate to too hook their newly learned complex information onto. The brainwashing from Sky has assured there is an easy hook — I would like to see all opening follow this new convention — I mean how boring does — Main Line, Secondary Line, Third line — it's boring — we are competing with Playstation here! I love football so it helps when teaching to transfer enthusiasm to students — it’s a hidden force we don’t fully understand like Creation and God in many ways.

CB: Does it work?

CS: I have a poor memory for chess variations due to an allergic reaction I suffered when I was 20 years old. I have had to learn about memory theory to compensate and I have done a fine job and use thes techniques to become a fine Chess and Computer Science Teacher.

CB: Does it not limit the DVD to an English audience?

CS: Do you know how many Chinese watch the Premier League!

CB: Will you still play The Sniper after you gave away the secrets and plans of this opening on the DVD?

CS: Yes! In fact, I welcome a challenge match from Magnus Carlsen at Blitz over 20 games sponsored by Chessbase — all proceeds to a charity of Magnus' choice and played at If I win Magnus has to kiss my DVD! If Magnus wins, he gets to play my engine playing The Sniper and if he wins that Blitz match I will donate my first years Royalties from The Sniper to a charity of Magnus choosing!

CB: OK, to conclude: What is your own favourite game with The Sniper?

CS: This year I won the top UK Chess Open — Blackpool 2017. I needed to draw in the final round against a GM on top board and I new the game was going to be watched by the world with the DVD due out — the pressure was on — would I play The Sniper in the final round….GM Peter Wells opened 1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.c4 c5…. Draw offered by me… Draw agreed and we shared 1st prize!

CB: And what is your favourite Sniper-game played by another player?

CS: My under 8 student from England International trips played it in his final 2 rounds and won with it in Prague — I never push the Sniper on my students but he was willing to give it a try and Shlok confused himself, but more so his opponents!

The Sniper

The Sniper is a universal opening framework which can be played against all main first white moves — 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.f4 and 1.Nf3. Black plays 1...g6, 2...Bg7 and 3...c5 against practically anything!


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Everden Everden 1/13/2018 05:52
"Happy for that to be put into test if anyone would like to put up £500 for a 30 game Blitz may have your fee back if my rating performance does not hit 2700"

Er.. what?!

So, if you're successful, you gain £500 and your challenger loses £500.
However, if you're unsuccessful, you lose nothing and your challenger gains nothing.
Forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting for someone to take you up on this ...
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/13/2018 03:41
There are some confused chess players making comments about the 2700 claim of my strength in the Sniper allow me to bring some clarity. Players are of different ability in different openings as Black I know about The Sniper than I do about The Alekine. If I claimed I was 2000 strength on the Alekine then that would be my way of explaining I have less knowledge on the Alekine. Likewise I would be 2000 strength in the Sokolsky 1.b4 opening. It is clear I am GM strength at Blitz when I play The Sniper that is in FIDE terms 2500-2700. Happy for that to be put into test if anyone would like to put up £500 for a 30 game Blitz may have your fee back if my rating performance does not hit 2700 and you must have a fide rating of at least 2500
Everden Everden 1/13/2018 01:15
Werewolf "Well let's see it then! I've given a line I think is better for white: 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.dc! Bc3 5.bc Nf6 6.e5 Ne4 7.Bc4! Nc5 8.Qd5!"
I agree that this looks very unpleasant for Black. Where's the counterplay coming from? In fact, some very strong players have continued with 8.Nf3 here, and this calmer approach also looks good. I certainly don't think you need to play like a 3500 engine, as the author has claimed below, to do very well from this position as White.
Werewolf Werewolf 1/12/2018 09:46
Well let's see it then! I've given a line I think is better for white: 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.dc! Bc3 5.bc Nf6
6.e5 Ne4 7.Bc4! Nc5 8.Qd5!

What's the answer? White has Bishop pair, more space, and where is the black king going? I think it will die if it goes to g8.
Black has the weak c pawns to aim at....but that's it.
anandymous anandymous 1/12/2018 04:05
Simple question: Why do you use "Teradactyl" instead of "Pterodactyl"?
Everden Everden 1/12/2018 01:13
Mr Storey,
Firstly, is it really too much to ask that you do me the very simple courtesy of getting my name right? You have got it wrong twice now.

Secondly, it is you who made a claim regarding your own ability by referring to an Elo number. Now you are patronising me for having attempted to discuss this. Make up your mind: do the numbers matter or do they not? You can't have it both ways.

If you are hoping to persuade people to buy your DVD, you might get better results by treating potential customers with some basic courtesy instead of hurling abuse at them, telling them you 'feel sorry' for them, and by asking 'are you stupid?' I have addressed you courteously from the start, but instead of engaging with my questions in a mature way, you ridicule and patronise me while ignoring the points I've raised. You've not yet managed to respond to anybody without resorting to aggression and hostility, so I wonder why you bother writing comments here: you're doing yourself no favours. If anyone from Chessbase ever reads these comments: does it not concern you what damage this is doing to your brand?
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/11/2018 10:17
Everson...I feel sorry for anyone who judges persons ability on the broken fide system...My sincerest sympathy.
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/11/2018 10:11
Werewolf 4.dc?! In my view but if you think you can play like a 3500 engine to bring home you 4.dc! I would love to see you try!
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/11/2018 10:04
Ah FMMichaelBaron I did not claim I was 270o ...are you stupid? Or do you just read segments then blurt out the first thing that comes to mind...that seems to be what your telling me.
Werewolf Werewolf 1/11/2018 05:48
The more I look at it, the more dubious this defence looks.

1.e4 g6
2.d4 Bg7
3.Nc3 c5
4.dc! Bc3
5.bc Nf6
6.e5 Ne4

Now what?

8.Qd5! and I think black is close to going under. But I welcome comments from "Snipers" to show how black proceeds :)
Budd Budd 1/11/2018 11:26
Puny humans
FMMichaelBaron FMMichaelBaron 1/11/2018 06:12
Hillarious calim about him being 2700...I played him in blitz on and I am a 2300+ rated inactive FM....Mr Storey was performing at hs 2200 level...I did not see any trace of 2700. RE Super GMs matching knowledge of Sniper....No cat experts worldwide have better knowledge of the cat who lives in my house than I do...but it does not make me a cat expert :)
Everden Everden 1/11/2018 03:19
With the greatest respect, all that's happened here is that you've taken us round in a circle and failed to address my original question, which was:
'This is a surprising claim coming from someone whose published Elo rating is in the mid-2200s. Does Mr Storey have any grounds to support this assertion, I'm curious to know?'
You offered your online blitz rating as the justification for your claim, and then, when I queried the validity of that, you withdrew your justification and simply repeated the original claim - except that you no longer assess yourself as 2700 strength, but as an even more astonishing 2800. You've still offered no objective grounds for having made this claim, so the answer to my original question appears to be 'No'.
There seems little point in continuing this discussion any further, as I don't think we're getting anywhere. Thank you for having taken the time and trouble to respond, nevertheless. I wish you well with your DVD.
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/11/2018 01:07
I was not referring to online Blitz.....there is hardly a Super GM in the world that could match my knowledge on The Sniper so it could have been more appropriate to say I was 2800 plus in The Sniper to help demonstrate my strength in that particular opening.
Everden Everden 1/11/2018 12:13
Everson your right....2700 is wrong....I am 2800 on some Chess servers!"
In that case it should have been spelled out in the article that you were referring to online blitz ratings, as much of the interview up until that point had referred to classical OTB chess. Online blitz ratings are completely different from, and significantly higher than, classical OTB ones, so it is simply misleading not to say what you're referring to.
ChinaCoach ChinaCoach 1/10/2018 07:21
Everson your right....2700 is wrong....I am 2800 on some Chess servers!
Werewolf that is some new theory you have found by standing on the shoulder of giants....maybe a Caesar shift needed there....can you suggest an appropriate moment to change foe Black?
adbennet adbennet 1/10/2018 07:03
This 3-move draw (Wells-Storey, Blackpool 2017) was somehow not mentioned in Donny Gray's article from 12/20/2017, "What's the matter with draws?".
Everden Everden 1/10/2018 06:35
Some of the comments may be tongue in cheek, I'm not sure."

Perhaps you're right. I did wonder about this at certain points, but initially gave the article the benefit of the doubt and read it as a serious attempt to generate interest in the DVD. However, when the author gives his favourite game in the opening as one that ends with a draw offer on move 3, I do wonder if the whole article is a rather odd attempt at comedy. Perhaps someone at Chessbase could clarify.
Werewolf Werewolf 1/10/2018 10:41
Some of the comments may be tongue in cheek, I'm not sure.

But I have serious doubts about this defence. The line
1.e4 g6
2.d4 Bg7
3.Nc3 c5
4.dc! Bc3
5.bc Nf6
6.e5 Ne4

His "Manchester United" line, just looks horrible for black to me.
Everden Everden 1/10/2018 03:02
"I am basically 2700 Strength with Black in it"
This is a surprising claim coming from someone whose published Elo rating is in the mid-2200s. Does Mr Storey have any grounds to support this assertion, I'm curious to know?