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Too much opening study ?

The question of whether you should spend time studying openings or not is the Nessie of chess improvement forums.

Rather than take sides on this dangerous topic (I’m neither an integrist of the “thou shalt not study openings” dogma, nor an opening study monk), or try to define what “opening study” really means (hint : it’s not only memorizing moves), I offer a few pointers that you can use as warnings to assess if your opening study dose may need a reassessment :


You may be overemphasizing opening study if :

  • You often blame your losses on the opening (“I didn’t know this variation”)
  • Your position deteriorates quickly when you leave your ‘book’ (in engine eval. terms, that would be something like losing ~0,5pts in the 4-5 moves after you leave your book line)
  • You score under 50% on average out of at least = positions in the opening phase
  • You know your opening lines better than people rated 300 pts above you

Conversely, you probably need to spend a little more time on your openings if :

  • You’re lost out of the opening (or even before)
  • You’re regularly trailing on the clock out of the opening

Comments


  • 15 months ago

    gnuandspeedo

    I feel mid game strategies and tactics are the most important for my level. I want a comfortable, developing opening, to ease into the mid game-- hopefully ahead or be even...

  • 17 months ago

    lyongliang

    i think middle game tactics really decides the fate of the game. I study chess, mainly openings, and i end up losing 7 rounds in a row to my friend who does'nt even know a single opening (though he knows some general opening principles), he does'nt really study chess as much as i do and he came out with some unfamiliar opening moves (for me). He just hav a good tactical view or somewhat a chess pro?

  • 17 months ago

    Phelon

    Endgames are all about tactics, and planning. Thats why they are so good to learn. They help you in two of the most important areas of the middlegame.

  • 17 months ago

    hicetnunc

    and strongly discourage them (like in current blog Wink)

    Well, I have nothing against opening study, and I do study openings myself. But I think many players (especially if they lack experience) are not using the right methods. My post aims at hinting when the methods may be wrong, rather than discourage the study itself.

    As for books versus databases, I feel there is a level when the book is no longer necessary or even plainly insufficient, but it's above mine, so I guess around 2200 FIDE maybe ?! Surprised But even there, you can find tremendous opening books nowadays aimed at this level.

    A good book with decent explanations and model games is probably still the best way to start studying an opening when you're U2000.

  • 17 months ago

    NimzoRoy

    And only players of Estragon's strength can really learn openings from database - I find it extremely difficult and almost impossible to grasp the nuances of complicated openings (e.g.: Panov-Botvinnik Attack) without good books.  +1

    In order to advance in strength grasp of endgames is a must. LASKERFAN  +1 

  • 17 months ago

    LaskerFan

    The mindset and procedures of studying endgames and openings are totally different.

    Endgames are all about techniques and generalisations. Beginners find them difficult and advanced relish them. In order to advance in strength grasp of endgames is a must. It is depths of conceptions of endgames which differentiate a patzer from a decent player.

    Openings are huge amount of data. beginners find them "easy" (memorisation without understanding) and most advanced find them difficult (it is not about memorisation - it is divining the underlying logic, strategy and endgame goals - grasping the involved traps) are too lazy (unless forced to do so for tournament preparations) and strongly discourage them (like in current blog Wink). There are many who feel a sense of pseudo-achievement by just acquiring books on openings,  without really studying them! There are still others who derive enjoyment in proclaiming their obscure names to others just to show how much they know - nothing to do with chess proper!

    And only players of Estragon's strength can really learn openings from database - I find it extremely difficult and almost impossible to grasp the nuances of complicated openings (e.g.: Panov-Botvinnik Attack) without good books.

  • 17 months ago

    conanbarbarian

    I think openings should be memorized in alphabetical order. First learn Alapin, then Alekhine defence and so on. When you finally get to Zukertort defence you will most likely become a Master by that time. That gotta be the quickest way...

  • 17 months ago

    DrFrank124c

     IMHO I think its a good idea to find whole games in a data base that use the openings you are interested in and play out those games to find out what the master players do--their strategies, tactics and ideas.  Playing solitaire chess with those games are helpful.

  • 17 months ago

    Estragon

    I can't disagree with your formula for diagnosis.

    Still, the method of opening study is very important.  Those who spend their free cash on openings books and DVDs are doing it all wrong*.  It's cheaper to just play over master games, and you learn more about the position than the moves of a variation, such as ideas for the middlegame and typical endings.

     

    * For every player who improved dramatically doing this, there are 100 who did not.

  • 17 months ago

    Reshevskys_Revenge

    Sometimes you can learn more about the game with fewer pieces on the board. [Play] and study endgames. 

  • 17 months ago

    morkis

    For amateur players, such as myself, I think that it is important to know some kind of main lines in a lot of different openings, instead of only knowing a few openings very well. I also think that you learn chess more quickly if you play different openings, because you also will get to play a lot of different positions.

  • 17 months ago

    sixtyfoursquares

    Unless you want to become a GM or World Champion; just enjoy the joy of playing Chess!

    I would personally say practice makes a MAN (a woman too; or else I will be termed SEXIST in these modern PC timesWink) perfect (hopefully); hence keep playing as many games as you can.  

    You learn more from your lost games than won games!!

  • 17 months ago

    NimzoRoy

    CAPABLANCA SEZ:

    To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.

    The game might be divided into three parts, the opening, the middle-game and the end-game. There is one thing you must strive for, to be equally efficient in the three parts.

    Ninety percent of the book variations have no great value, because either they contain mistakes or they are based on fallacious assumptions; just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings.

    IMHO his 3rd quote still applies to the majority, if not the vast majority of amateurs because many of them are probably clueless the instant their opponent deviates from whatever priceless bit of opening theory they worked so hard to memorize (without understanding what they were memorizing)

  • 17 months ago

    PhilipN

    I guess that I'm almost in the first camp, even though I'm probably in the second camp.  I wonder how long you could spend in both camps.

  • 17 months ago

    Phelon

    Ive been on both sides of this. I feel if you dont understand pawn structure you have no business studying the opening. Only learning it by going over master games is what you should do until then in my opinion.

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