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peppe_l 557 ( +1 | -1 )
Are chess players opening-obsessed nowadays? Do chess players spend way too much time for studying openings nowadays? Am I the only one who thinks it is somewhat strange to see a 1300 player showing critical opening variations to a master at the local chess club?

And what about constant worrying about what openings to play? Main lines? Yeah, lets see what Kasparov plays, or what variations score the best in my 5-million game database. But wait a sec...no, all my opponents will know the theory till move 25 and beat me (yeah, sure...). Sidelines? No, ECO says = after move 29...cant play such a toothless line (Oh dear...). I want at least +/= (well show me a variation that guarantess +/=)

Here is something I spotted at Chess newsgroup, very interesting discussion IMO.

Opinions?



<Original post>

I cannot learn all the variations of all the Sicilian lines out there. I do have a job (unfortunately, it's not in chess) and I have to spend time away from the board doing other things. Not everyone can be like professional chess players constantly touring, giving lectures, doing simultaneous exhibitions, articles writing on games played giving analysis, etc.

I just need a roundabout way of getting through the opening phases of the game to get me in reasonable shape. I'm noticing if I plunge in and play normal lines against the Sicilian Defence that my opening knowledge gets quickly dashed against the myriad forms of altnerative moves Black can choose from when using the Sicilian.

I'm tired of losing as White against Black's Sicilian Defence and I can't always depend on the Smith Morra Gambit, as I know that's the one variation Black is most booked up on. I need a way of starting out with 1.e4 without getting into wild melee against the Sicilian lines.

Last night I made an opening transposition mistake in the opening which cost me a pawn and ultimately the iniative which eventually cost me the
game. However, I found out last night after the game by looking through my Fritz database of 700K games that there was one game used playing the
"mistake' I played as White. Here are the moves....

1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.d4 cd4
4.Nd4 Nf6...

At this point in the game normally the next move is 5.Nc3 covering the attack on the e4 pawn. But because the game was played at blitz level and I was a bit unnerved by the opponent using the Kronos digital clock (which I've had problems against in the past because of its tendency to
speed through time limits), I got confused and went for...

5.Nc6?! bc6
6.e5? Qa5+!
7.Nc3 Qe5+...

I was a pawn down, lost the initiative and had to fight a rearguard action throughout the remaining part of the game and ultimately lost. Turns out this game I played (non tournament skittles game) had been played before. I took a look through my Fritz database and found ONE game using the move I played in a match taken place back in 1996 between Spanish players. After this loss, I vowed to not play the normal lines against the Sicilian Defence.

I've had some success in the past relying on the King's Indian Reverse system known as the KIA (King's Indian Attack). Supposedly this opening
system can be used against the French, Caro Kann and ultimately even against the Sicilian Defence. What I'm curious to know however, is which move orders or which lines I CANNOT use the KIA against the Sicilian and how will I know?

For instance, I've learned that I cannot employ the KIA against the Sicilian if I try...1.e4 c5 2.g3 because of 2...d5! wrecking the chance to use the KIA. What I'm trying to find out is whether if my opponent knows that I like using the KIA how I can trick him or her into not employ the Scandinavian line against me. For example, I might try using move order 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 c5! 4.d3 d5 5.0-0 Nc6 6.c3 e5! In this case I'd be stuck because if I try 7.Bg5, Black responds with 7.e4 freeing the a1-h8 diagonal for his/her dark squared bishop. How would I respond to this line used by Black? Any ideas?

<One of the replies>

You want to change openings because you dropped a pawn to a two-move tactic in a blitz game?

Hey, look, you want to play the morra or the closed, go right ahead. Knock yourself out, have fun. But you know what? If you can't see moves
like Qa5+ here, you're going to drop a lot of pawns (and a fair number of pieces, too) no matter what openings you play.

In fact, I think that putting your tail between your legs and running from the open sicilian because of stuff like this is a huge mistake. You're using fear of the sicilian to avoid dealing with your real problem: your tactics stink.

So throw away that sicilian book. Throw away that book no the Smith-Morra or the closed sicilian. Throw it all away and do tactical problems until you can solve them instantly.

(Dan Heisman's Novice Nook has had a lot of articles on this general idea--you not only need to be able to solve basic tactical combinations, you need to be able to solve them instantly).

Every second you spend on opening study right now is wasted.

<A quote from another post>

I did not know this "trap" but if I were playing black in that position I suppose I would had find it, ... not so difficult, a double attack and a pawn up. Maybe your problem was not the opening but your tactical miss. That can happen too after 20th move.

<From the second poster>

Exactly. If you don't learn how to see the tactics, then all studying openigns will do is postpone the move when you drop material--but you'll still drop it, and still lose the game.

***


drgandalf 134 ( +1 | -1 )
I agree. In my practice of chess, I ONLY use KIA for White, and try always to play French v e4, Slav v d4, Dutch v c4. I try to play sound opening moves, in preference to book knowledge. From my experience with these four openings, I learn the hard way which moves to avoid. And since I do not care about winning, but rather concern myself about learning, my current opening knowledge appears sufficient for my level of play.

I concentrated on my endgame skills and successfully won lost or drawn games many times with my peer group. I have advanced now to the put where I must learn the ending more thoroughly.

As a light intermediate player, however, my chief duty is learning tactics, planning, calculation, and some basic sound strategy. There really isn't time in my schedule for opening study.

When I have filled all the gaps in my chess training through my rating level, then I will worry about the next class level requirements. However, I doubt that there will still be much time spent on openings.

I understand from the grapevine that opening knowledge is required for master-level play. Until I am there, I will stick to my four openings without undue preparation.

Thank you, peppe_1 for this wise thread.
macheide 208 ( +1 | -1 )
A very interesting post Dear peppe_|,

I have noted the same situation here in GK overall among young, very ambitious players.

The study of openings is facinating but it requires to much time to "stay at day".

I, like you, have to work and don't have the time to polish or expand my repertoire. I'm from an epoch where there was a little fraction of the giantic ammount of theory of these days. In my times, I read the 4 volumes of the today old fashioned "Openings Treatise" by GM Ludek Pachman and I used to play almost every opening and defense.

I left chess for years and when I began to play again I immediately note that my rivals played almost in automatic mode the first 15 or even more first moves, and that my knowledge was, in many points, obsolete.

Fortunately, from my early years, I was always atracted by the middlegame study, the study of the games of the true masters of the game (particularily Capablanca) and overall the final phase of the game. This helped me a lot because when I faced a youngster armed to the teeth with the last fashioned variations and I won my games, they said atonished: "where the hell did I fail?, according to the last Informator I had a plus after move x!" Their problem was that they put much emphasis in openings and they didn't study the game as a whole. Even worst, when I asked many of them in which consisted the supposed advantage, they usualy didn't have the slightest idea or had a totaly wrong one. In resume: they did know a lot of opening theory, but when the opening phase finished they begin to play in a way that did not correspond with the position.

Nowadays I restricted my repertoire to a few lines that I know well, and overall I use lines that usually transform in pawn structures or schemes that I'm very familiar with. If I can mantain my "first move advantage", well, if not, I'm comfortable with a playable middlegame.

That is my particular situation. Hopefuly this could be of some benefit for someone.

Regards,

macheide
peppe_l 110 ( +1 | -1 )
Drgandalf & Macheide Great posts!

My approach is fairly simple - as black I play main lines and generally try to equalize (as white it is enough if I get an approximately position I like to play). But I dont worry about lastest developments because the lines I play are relatively quiet and safe. Maybe in worst scenario an opponent who knows latest theory can get a small advantage, but on my level that is rarely decisive. If I lose quickly, that is propably due blundering :-)

For example in one of the main lines I play as black there is a move that guarantees white +/= as early as in move 9 (according to ECO), but I am perfectly happy to play that position - it suits my style and there is no clear way to demonstrate an advantage. Plus, both sides have lots of play. And you know what? So far no one has played that move against me. In fact, I could even bluff a bit - why study the critical main lines at all since due the fear of main lines everyone plays sidelines anyway :-)

P.S I have to say in the quotes I gave the reply ("<One of the replies>") to the original post was rather blunt, but if you ask me, unfortunately that guy was right.
caldazar 150 ( +1 | -1 )
I would agree with all that's been said; most players spend way too much time on opening study when there are far more serious defects in their play. Opening study is useful for masters because at their level, swings in advantange from +/= to = to =/+ are very meaningful. In general, they aren't dropping pawns, making horrible positional mistakes, and other such things; their mistakes are on the order of magnitude of opening advantages, so it makes sese for them to study openings. A +/= opening advantage is worthless if you typically blunder away a pawn in a game.

I tend to believe that opening study appeals to amateurs players such as myself because it holds great psychological appeal. I forget where I read it (I think it was one of Nunn's books) but a writer claimed that the allure of opening study was that you could pick up an opening book, read it and absorb all kinds of interesting tactical and strategic ideas, and come away afterwards feeling like you know more about how to play chess than you did before. Of course you don't really; you just know a bunch of specific variations. But you feel like you you're a better chess player because you just read a book full of information.

I tend to take the view of "the second poster" in that if you study openings and neglect more serious defects in your play, you're just delaying the inevitable loss.
shoshin 122 ( +1 | -1 )
My outline of study There are three phases to a chess game and it would be foolish to not understand each phase in balance to the other two.

A player needs an understanding of "opening" basics to fully appreciate the "middlegame" and likewise needs an understanding of "middlegame" to fully appreciate the "endgame".

The sequence of these phases logically leads to basic study of them in the same order.(beginning to end)

In my mind, players that follow this outline will reach an intermediate level at a faster pace than those that do not.

At the intermediate level I believe it is important to identify strenghts and weakness in relation to these three phases and study each accordingly.

At the advanced level I believe it is important to return to the "beginners" outline and broaden the players knowledge of each phase in a balanced manner.

Having said all of this, I agree that many players devote an "unbalanced" amount of time with their "opening" studies....(memorizing opening variations and following "opening books" or using databases (opening and endgame) is not playing chess.

A balanced player will win more games, at ALL levels, than a "specialist" or unbalanced player will.

Have a good day guys

brobishkin 51 ( +1 | -1 )
Openings... Throughout the ages, many amatuers and even many of my own chess students have always put most of thier energy into the opening factor of the chess game... Hoping to find some magical opening phase that will always bring about a win... But your only task in the opening is to reach a playable middlegame...

The three phases of the game is one of the first steps I go into while "lessons are in session"... So I must agree people put way to much emphesis on the opening...

Bro...
More: Chess
baseline 98 ( +1 | -1 )
Well said !! peppe_l,macheide and caldazar

Every so often I find myself getting burned out on chess and after reflection I relize that I've been spending too much time reworking my openings. A few months ago I took up the Sveshnikov Sicilian (I had previously been playing the Pirc with good sucess but wanted something alittle more active. :o) ) I bought 4 books on the Sveshikov and went too work. After alot of hard work I was ready to try it out and guess what? You guessed it White played 3.Bb5 lol Since then I've had some good results with the Sves but I've had to spend even more time getting up to speed on all of the ways White can avoid it and neglecting all of the other areas of my game that need work. Right now I am trying to recharge my batterys one of the reasons I'm down to only 25 games or so. I've just picked up a copy of "The Method in Chess" by Iossif Dorfman and will be spending time with it and leave opening theory alone for a while.
bluebabygirl 60 ( +1 | -1 )
to any well as you can see by my play . i do not study openings or middle game or endings . i just play same here as i do OTB !!! this my be wrong way to play here but i have more fun doing it this way just now. besides im much too lazy to study that hard. too much study takes the fun out of playing !! I use my time to read forum and write . but i will admit my major weakness is openings . since i only play my own !! they have worked ok so far . of course against stronger competition they are not so good. I do pick up general knowledge from studying games of the great players . bluebabygirl
verticalchess 73 ( +1 | -1 )
I believe that... openings are grossly underated. If one fails to establish their position by correct development of pawns and minor pieces within the first 10-15 moves then their middlegame will be flawed and an endgame will probably never occur. I spend alot of time studying the openings of grandmasters as well as reading about the purpose of opening attacks and defenses. By increasing my knowlege of main lines and popular variations I have been able to establish a more effective and winning position in the middlegame-leading to many more wins. I do agree that the endgame is probably thee most important aspect of chess but the opening of the game is crucial to having middle and endgame opportunities!
myway316 54 ( +1 | -1 )
Oh,hell yeah! I've always felt that the study of opening theory is,for the most part,a total waste of time for the average amateur. There is too much theory,most of it useless drivel,for the aspiring player to absorb,much less master.That time would be better spent on the more important areas of the games,such as developing tactical sight,and most important,LEARNING THE ENDGAME,the one phase that most players below the rank of master(and quite a few above it!)can't play worth a damn.
tyekanyk 51 ( +1 | -1 )
K Openings are important and not.They are important when they are mishandeld but when they are played correctly it really doesn't make a difference wheter you've played a black caro-kan or a white shaemich (against the KID) if you reach the end game a pawn down you're dead.
Of course at a higher lvel the choice of opening also means the choice of a game plan at incredible length sometimes.
But as an amateur one shouldn't bee worried about something like the refutation of the traxler attack or the polugaevsky ( by leko).
bogg 55 ( +1 | -1 )
Reply to shoshin IMHO you have it backwards. You need to understand the ending to understand the middlegame and you need to understand the middlegame before you can understand the opening. Without extensive knowledge of the remaining portions of the game opening study tends to be the memorization of what appears to be nearly random moves. Random in the sense that you have no idea why one candidate is chosen over another. If you know your endings and you middlegame ideas learning a new opening is actually fairly easy because the moves are easy to understand and hence easy to remember.
bogg 48 ( +1 | -1 )
PS I strongly recommend two books by C. J. S. Purdy, the first World Correspondece Champion and editor of the legendary Chess World.
1) Guide to Good Chess
2) The Search for Chess Perfection
Both published by Thinker's Press.
I have been a master for over twenty years if memory serves and I still learn something nearly everytime I open SCP. It is the best instructional book I have ever read by a very large margin.
Just a sweaty old fat guy's opinion.
peppe_l 208 ( +1 | -1 )
Speaking of masters A story from real life...

A "new" player, maybe approx 1300 player, comes to the local chess club. The first thing he talks about is openings. He has been studying ECO for 2 weeks but still has to know more lines. Then he plays a master, banging out first 15 theory moves from memory. Then he runs out of theory, and surprisingly loses quickly. In next game same thing happens, except this time the master plays his own line and despite of using somewhat dubious strategy, wins the game before move 15.

In "post mortem" the 1300 player says he has to study the main line better and learn the "sideline" his opponent used in the second game. That will surely help.

He will spend 2 more weeks for studying ECO, learn the main line till move 20 and find out the line his opponent used cant be found from the book. So, next time he will bang out 20 theory moves from memory and lose the first game 5 moves later. Then he will lose the second game exactly in similar way because due the lack of positional understanding he will never learn to refute the "own" line his opponent plays.

But hey, go to the previous chapter. This never happened. Why? Because the friendly master explained openings are not so important, not even at his level (!). In fact, later there was some discussion about Finnish player who has claimed that his theoretical knowledge is limited to approx 5 first moves or so. Maybe (or propably!) he was exeggerating, and maybe he has studied more theory since. But the point is he often plays untheoretical "no advantage" openings and wins games anyway because his tactics, strategy and endgames are good. He has critisized trainers for concentrating too much on openings. He is also youngest ever Finnish Grandmaster.

And so, back the main story. Very soon the 1300 player begun studying tactics and playing trough annotated master games.

And yes, you guessed it - he is not 1300 player anymore.

bogg 152 ( +1 | -1 )
A mathematical explanation Let's say there have been 30 million games of chess played since the rules have standardized. Assuming a branching factor of only 3 it takes only 16 ply to reach 30 million variations. If every 4th move is forced we can extend that to around 20 ply. That's 10 moves. It is fairly obvious that in the 30 million games the first 10 moves are frequently repeated so all of the reasonable alternatives for the first 10 moves haven't been explored. There is no reason to assume that YOU can not find a move nearly as good if not better than current theory. Remember the stir that Tal game made when he played an early Be7 in the Open Lopez and equalized with ease. As Purdy states it is nearly impossible to play the opening perfectly but it is very easy to play good opening moves. If the moves come from your own ideas you will at least understand what you are aiming for in the middlegame to follow.
The worst case scenario is that rather than having a trivial advantage in a position that you don't understand you may have a trivial disadvantage in a position that you do understand. The big advantage is that you put your opponent on their own as well and if they have spent all of their time memorizing opening lines instead of studying how to play chess they may not fair to well.
As an aside, I used to take lessons from a former U.S Champion and he stated that he only had his openings memorized for about 5 moves. He said that he prefered to just play.
peppe_l 2 ( +1 | -1 )
Bogg Great post(s)!
shoshin 71 ( +1 | -1 )
bogg :) "IMHO you have it backwards. You need to understand the ending to understand the middlegame and you need to understand the middlegame before you can understand the opening."

Are you saying that a beginner should study endgame basics, then middlegame basics and then opening basics?

If you are, I disagree...of course to each his own. My method has been very productive for me. I have been playing chess for over 35 years and have a strong game.

I agree that a player must understand all three phases in relation to each other but, at the beginner level, players must first have an understanding of the opening phase to even get to middlegame let alone endgame.

Perhaps you are referring to advanced players studies.
peppe_l 32 ( +1 | -1 )
Or perhaps Bogg is referring to players who have already learnt general principles like "develop all your pieces quickly" and basics like "two minor pieces are worth more than rook" etc. For example it is completely pointless to start memorizing KID lines before one has decent understanding of closed positions.
shoshin 43 ( +1 | -1 )
If that is the case we agree....the study outline as I decribed it started at the most basic beginner level. I would add that I see an "overlap" connecting the three phases. The phases are then broken down to strategic aims which, in turn are broken into tactics.

The point I wished to convey in my original post...."balance"... is the key to the way "I" have studied.

My posts are merely statements of my opinion and my process. I do not wish to change anyone's mind.

bogg 121 ( +1 | -1 )
shoshin What I was trying to get at was that the rote memorizing of opening lines of play not coupled with an understanding of why the moves are being played is a mistake and that the memorization of opening variations is generally unnecessary. I see many players of all classes fall into this error and call it opening preparation.
The way I look at opening theory, a strange term used for the current praxis rather than the logic behind it, is its a sort of unspoken gentlemen's agreement. I go here and you go there ... then we both get to play a middlegame that we have studied for untold hours at home ... and neither of us looks stupid in front of our peers.
I am not suggesting that no memorization is required. Of course if you choose to play something like the Shveshnikov Sicilian, pardon my spelling hope its close, you need to have a lot of lines memorized, but you need to know exactly why each move is played or you are wasting your time. Your less well prepared opponent will deviate from 'book' and you won't have any idea of how to proceed. Memorizing opening lines is valuable it just takes second chair to understanding why the moves are played. You should never play a move that you don't understand!
shoshin 59 ( +1 | -1 )
bogg I agree...

The "opening" is probably the weakest area of my game. Through the years I have in affect, memorised many openings & defenses and am capable of playing many developed and established opening variations although many times I chose not to in order to go "offbook".

Most of the time "my" goal in the opening is to reach middlegame, which I see as my strenght, in positionally sound shape. I use established opening variations to help achieve this....the older I get the lazier I get...My satisfaction with chess lies in the middlegame and complicated endgames but, I would be a better chessplayer if I would rebalance my game.
caldazar 248 ( +1 | -1 )
"What I was trying to get at was that the rote memorizing of opening lines of play not coupled with an understanding of why the moves are being played is a mistake and that the memorization of opening variations is generally unnecessary."

I completely agree, and it's the issue of understanding the moves in a variation that causes amateurs who study opening theory so many problems. At best, they'll only get half of this understanding; they'll understand why the moves in the known variations are good. They'll have no understanding about why alternative moves are bad. I'm not talking about lines where a variation should lead to an opening advantage from White, but due to "poor" play, White only comes out with equality. As I said, small swings in advantage are relatively unimportant at the amateur level anyway. Instead, I'm referring to moves that are never mentioned by theory at all, such as in peppe_l's example. There, the booked-up player knows that the move played is probably defective in some way, but lacks the requisite skill to exploit the supposedly inferior move.

On the other hand, if you study strategy and tactics, opening theory becomes unnecessary because you'll find reasonable plans and moves for yourself over the board. Maybe not the "best" plans according to theory, but decent ones that offer playable middlegames. And that's usually more than adequate for an average amateur player.

I must disagree that there are certain openings where memorization is required. As an 1.e4 player, I enter into my fair share of Sveshnikov positions armed with nothing more than an understanding that the d5-square is weak and should be controlled and that I should try to make my pieces as active as possible while limiting the activity of my opponent's pieces. Basic pawn structure and piece activity strategy. I would contend that if you are only reaching playable middlegames because of memorized variations, you lack the required tactical and strategic skill to play that particular opening setup well and should choose a simpler setup. Better yet, ignore opening theory altogether and just play what you perceive to be good moves; you'll never enter into a position holding advantages you don't understand because you won't try to engineer them in the first place. After all, you never know when your opponent will deviate from theory and make you think for yourself.
bogg 82 ( +1 | -1 )
Seems like we all basically agree My favorite way of studying an opening is to go over a few deeply annotated games. By deeply annotated I mean like J. Nunn's notes in Secrets of Grandmaster Play. It might take a week or two for me to get through one of these games with the feeling that I understand everything that the annotator is explaining but after a couple of these I feel like I am ready to take on the world. In this way you get the natural looking errors explained as well as the basic middlegame and endgame ideas that are likely to come into consideration.
Other good books for this are
Best Chess Games 1970-80 - Jon Speelman
Selected Chess Masterpieces - Svetozar Gligorich
Generally speaking most any game collection annotated by a strong player/analyst where nearly every move is commented upon.
shoshin 55 ( +1 | -1 )
caldazar "I would contend that if you are only reaching playable middlegames because of memorized variations, you lack the required tactical and strategic skill to play that particular opening setup well and should choose a simpler setup."

Before you prematurely jump to this conclusion, you should play me. Only then will you be able judge what my strategic and tactical level is. :)) Please don't be surprised if you have underestimated my game. :)

I challenge you to show me the result of your learning process compared to mine. It should be fun.
caldazar 62 ( +1 | -1 )
shoshin I didn't mean to imply anything about your level of skill; my apologies if my posting came across as conveying that message. My point is simply that I feel most amateurs could play just as well without opening studying, relying on their own resources, and not experience any particular setback in terms of overall performance. While I have no doubt you would be more than a good challenge for me, I believe it's because of your playing skill, not because you've memorized reams of variations and ideas.

All the same, feel free to challenge me; I'm always up for a good game.
shoshin 42 ( +1 | -1 )
:) No apology needed...I am sure I wasn't clear about why I play established openings that I have memorized through the repetition of facing the same openings for over 35 years...against database players and book players I am always impaitent to reach my favorite phase of the game, Middlegame. :)

I like nothing better than to leave the "book" on move 2!!!

The challenge is on the way and thanks for the game.

Mike
r_lawrence 145 ( +1 | -1 )
I'm an amateur .. Yet an adult that just got serious about studying chess about a year and a half ago. This 'opening thing' has been burdensome to me.

You see, we amateurs seek advice from all of the higher rated players. Usually, the higher rated guys are into serious opening study, because its important at that level to compete. So I say, "what do I need to study?" I get a variety of answers about balance, and so forth, but I HAVE had several advanced players say, "Study your openings, its the most important part of the game! See, you lost this game in the opening because you didn't know it!" I think this is because this is exactly what the advanced players are going through THEMSELVES at the time.

So, I went through phases of trying to memorize all of the main lines up to like ... move 10. Inevitably, I would get 'fed up' with such memorization, and quit studying AT ALL .. for a few weeks or so. (I can't leave chess for long!)

Now, I've resigned myself to go slow with openings, and just play a few. (eg, I ALWAYS play the french as black against e4, and as black against d4 I try for the Budapest Gambit) My study is mostly tactical problems, grandmaster games, and some strategy. This is much more enjoyable for me now, and pretty soon, I will be quite 'sound' with the few openings I DO play. When I feel ready, I'll add another to my repertoire.

As and end note, since I've made this change, I feel my game/rating/enjoyability has improved.

Cheers!
baseline 76 ( +1 | -1 )
r_lawrence I think you made a very good point. I have to spend more and more of my time on openings, especially here. But then again here I don't have to memorize them I just have to find the best lines for me and save them to my database for quick retrieval. I do have to spend the time playing through GM games to understand the whys and wherefores and to get an idea of the typical middlegame and endgame themes. In fact one of the best ways to learn is to play through GM games, you pick a side and try to guess the next move eventually you start to see why the GM is making his moves and you start to come up with the same move more frequently. By doing this thru the whole game you are learning openings,middlegames and endgames all at once.
bogg 52 ( +1 | -1 )
Another method of study ... was suggested by the late IM Smith of Chess Digest and Poker tournament fame. He suggested playing through several hundred unannotated games from the opening that you are studying at a very fast pace of a few minutes per game. His idea was that the repetition would burn the common themes into your subconcious mind/ pattern recognition engine. This could possibly be replaced or at least augmented by the chessbase function of analyzing a group of games statistically for piece placement.
baseline 26 ( +1 | -1 )
Ken Smith his Chess Digest Catalogue was one of the few (perhaps the only) places that recommended books based on your USCF rating. Of couse he just happen to have all of those books in stock, but it was a valuable service by a well known Senior Master.
peppe_l 80 ( +1 | -1 )
r_lawrence *** but I HAVE had several advanced players say, "Study your openings, its the most important part of the game!" ***

If someone says openings are the most important part of the game, he is either 2600+ GM or wrong :-)

And even if he is 2600+ GM he is only talking about whats most important for 2600+ GM who already has read all the books about tactics, strategy and endgames one can find...

Just for fun,

Leave two amateur level players (doesnt matter are they 1200 or 2000) to a desert island. Give amateur A all the opening books money can buy. Give amateur B all the tactics, strategy and endgame books money can buy. Wait one year and organize a match between amateurs A and B. I claim amateur B can play 1.h4 and 1...h5 to skip all the lines his opponent has memorized (if he believes its necessary) and crush amateur A like a bug :-)

tyekanyk 41 ( +1 | -1 )
you're right understanding is far more important than learning by heart variations up to the 20th move.
But once you've learned strategy and tactics you cannot aply them properly without a good opening repertuare (the idea of the opening is most important not the learning of long lines you don't have clue about even if you have a small edge you won't be able to make it count against a tenaceous player)
peppe_l 48 ( +1 | -1 )
Good opening repertoire Is relative of course, there are many GMs who skip lines where they have theoretical chances for small advantage and simply choose something playable. A player who excels in tactics, strategy and endgames finds reasonable moves and plans even if he is out of his repertoire in move 3. I agree ideas are more important than memorizing moves, and I really think Bogg nailed it when he wrote...

"You should never play a move that you don't understand!"



bogg 321 ( +1 | -1 )
a little more stuff I think the actual question is where to devote your chess study time most efficiently for players of different classes? This is just a personal opinion so please take with a grain of salt.

I do believe that nearly anyone can become a master! Every new idea that you learn improves your play a fraction. The higher your current standard the more new ideas you have to learn to make a noticable difference in your level of play. When I was a player of average strength it felt like I new nearly everything! Now, as a master, it feels like I now almost nothing!! There is so much to learn that very few people are able to or are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to learn the information. How many people get their PHDs when it is not required by their profession? Once you start to devote a significant percentage of your study time to studying openings you turn chess into work, for most people it becomes less fun. Ask yourself which you prefer to look at a well played and well annotated game or a list of opening alternatives. The one that is the most fun is the more productive area for study as you will continue to study it, it doesn't seem like work. If you are going to actually work at chess the time should be spent in erradicating your weakest point. I would postulate that until you are at or near the level of a World Champion that is not your openings and I would guess that for most of us it would be our endings.

About GMs and there study habits. GMs would need to learn thousands upon thousands of new ideas to make a significant difference in their level of play. The stronger you are the more of your time that should be devoted to opening preperation. This just makes sense from a practical point of view. But when A strong player studies the opening they are not trying to memorize what has gone before, they are looking for improvements! They are looking to play their own ideas after coming to their own conclusions about what has been played previously. Dvoretsky said that he NEVER plays an opening line that he didn't have some idea of his own to bring to the table. A weaker player isn't competent to do that consistently. Their memorizing the moves played by others just hides their weak play from themsleves and from others until later in the game. The hardest thing in chess study for most of us is to identify where our understanding is the shallowest. From the standpoint of self improvement the memorizing of your opening and early middlegame moves just makes it more difficult to realize where your study should be directed.

Lastly, I know of one correspondence world champion, Purdy, and one OTB world champion, Lasker, that were definitely against spending time memorizing opening lines. Both of these players outlined, in a few pages, what they thought was all of the knowledge that an amateur chess player needed to play the openings well! Not competently, but well!!
gromanswe 97 ( +1 | -1 )
I am opening obsessed. I am opening obsessed, by good reasons:

ALL games have an opening.
MANY games have a middle game.
SOME games have an endgame.

Therefore a player bad in openings will never
be a REALLY good player.
It doesn't matter if she/he is superior in endgames.

I like to compare chessgames with a 100 meter race.
If you are 5 meter behind in the Start, you will never catch up,
unless you are a runner in a class above the others.

A good player will keep the advantage, until game is over and won.
Between very good players, a pawn gained or even a better pawn-structure
attained in the opening, is enough to win.

So I will continue examine Openings,
but ALONG with that some middlegame and endgame knowledge.
ONE thing doesn't exclude another.

As there are so many openings and variations of them (and still new to come),
NOONE will ever be able to say, he knows it all.
- It is a "never-ending-story" -

gromanswe
torre_tinorete 25 ( +1 | -1 )
Openings... I think it would be better to study openings in a way that you grasp the basic ideas of the opening i.e. what its aiming for. To know an opening by rote is not practical simply because you play different opponents with different opening preference.
gromanswe 210 ( +1 | -1 )
yes, Basic Opening ideas I agree with you torre_tinorete.
The ideas behind the Opening moves in chess is a vital knowledge.
What is generally good to do and what is not good.

Such things as:
- trying to get a strong center: d4 e4 d5 e5
- quick light pieces development
- castle to get King safe, BEFORE attack
- try to get Rooks to work on open files, center files
- NOT to unnessary go out with Queen in very beginning
- avoid doubled pawns and isolated pawns
- strike inwards center with pawns, if there is a choice
- avoid unnecessary a3 h3 a6 h6 moves (all too common fault) that could have been used for development of pieces instead
- NOT to strike on b2 b7 g2 g7 with Queen, unless it is really safe

These are some general rules for the opening game. Most established openings follows these rules,
alhough there are exceptions.
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To only learn "the best" opening variations move by move has little value,
because when the other player makes another move at some point, what then?
You have to know how to make use of "a weak move" from your opponent.
Most opeening books doesn't say what you should play, if the opponent does another move or a third move, that is somewhat less good.

In such cases it is best to have some general understanding of what is good or not good.
And some of that knowledge is gained by experience.
Some have that chess-intuition, to see what is good, without a lot of thinking. This is a gift.
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If we look at chess-history, most great masters has been good in opening play.
They have even gotten openings/variations namned after themselves.
Think of Nimzowitch, Marshall, Najdorf, Rubenstein, Aljechin, Reti and Fischer and many more.
They had a knowledge of what the opening is about,
and from that they introduced new ideas.

Quick development and influence on the (4)center-squares to sum it up, in few words.

gromanswe