Understanding your opening for the average player begins with these ideas. Are you looking for a closed position or an open position? Do you know the advantages of each type?
Knowing what weaknesses and strengths exist in your chosen opening will help you come up with plans during the game.
I often hear players talking about style. Understanding whether you favor open positions vs. closed positions is just one component of style. One is not better than the other. Some player calculate better when there is more space on the board, others with more pieces or occupied spaces.
If you are a player that prefers open spaces and lots of attacking lanes, then you need to make sure you are playing openings that favor this style.
Players who like open spaces tend to play "e4" or P-K4 openings. They may also consider some of the Indian systems or flank type openings.
Players who like closed positions tend to play "d4" or P-Q4 openings. Closed position players tend to maneuver more. They will shift their pieces multiple times behind their own forces. If you feel comfortable creating plans where you pieces stay on your side of the board for 10-15 moves then closed positions are for you.
Let's talk about what happens if you choose the wrong opening. Let's pretend you are a positional player and don't know it. You have decided to play a popular opening like the Sicilian. Most of the Sicilian lines are sharp, open attacking lines. Keeping your pieces at home is a recipe for disaster in this opening. You will rarely win a game.
If you find yourself constantly asking yourself what should I do now? You are probably playing the wrong style for the opening or the wrong opening for your style.
Players should look for openings that are intuitive. How do you find openings that are intuitive? By looking at others playing live. Jump on the live chess site and watch some high rated players playing. If you can predict what moves they make or what plans they implement, you might want to try similar openings.
Strong chess players are constantly reviewing other strong players games. They might not look at other games for the same reasons, but they will come away with similar ideas.
I encourage you to regularly look at Grandmaster games. Some games will excite you others will not. Either way you should make a note of what openings they are playing and how you feel about it.
If you feel like the French is boring. Make a note. "Note to self. The French is boring." Feel free to add additional comments to the note. "I don't like the French because white always ends up attacking the pawn chain." or "They always end up trading down quickly."
Making these type notes about openings and games will help you determine your style.
Once you know what opening really fits you, you can then move on to the most important training. That is determining what ideas exist for your opening.
Play your opening religiously. Keep notes. You should be able to tell at what point you made a new move.
Let's say you play 20 games with the white pieces. Every game your first 5 moves for both sides were identical. (this is a good start). On move six your opponents started doing different things. Let's say out of 20 games 5 opponents pushed a center pawn. or 5 games your opponent castled on move six.
You should keep notes on what the best move is from move six. You can also keep notes that reflect how many games you win based on changes on move six.
The stronger you get, the more moves you will make consistently and correctly in the opening.
You should compare your first 10 moves with grandmaster games. How many times did you make the exact moves that they made? When you deviated did you loose the game? At what point did your opponent deviate? Was there move a mistake?
In Part IV we will begin to analyze the specifics of one particular opening. Feel free to leave a comment or message me on your opening preference. I will try to choose an opening with the most requests.