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How does one really learn opening theory?


  • 2 years ago · Quote · #1

    ChessSponge

    I'm not talking about just what the openings are called or what the move orders are, I mean the actual theory and reason behind the moves and why those instead of other moves. And when there are other good moves which create new lines/openings, what the difference in theory is when you choose one over another.

     

    I can memorize things easily so I feel I can "learn" many lines. But I find myself staring at the Game Explorer sometimes and saying "Why did they choose this here instead of this". Most times the other choices are also in the game explorer at those times.

     

    I've found a couple videos on this site that do a pretty good job at explaining many of the moves (typically never all of them though), but then it is a very specific line in a specific opening.

     

    Maybe I just think too much and the answers are easier than I try to make them out to be.

     

    For example:

    So how does one really learn all of that?

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #2

    Namssob

    If you are referring to the "why" behind certain moves, I can tell you what I have been doing.  Asking!

    Simply play top rated players, and ask them WHY they made a certain move, or why specific lines are better than others.  You will learn a lot simply by asking people.

    I'm like you, I don't want someone telling me they played Be7 because it's "the main line", or "it has a high win percentage"...I look for people to explain what it accomplishes, i.e., an attack, a defense of several squares, and multi-stepped plan that leads to an attack, defense, or some other tactic.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #3

    ChonleyB

    I too ask the why on a lot of the 'book' moves, but I suppose the masters who wrote the book were often playing with the bigger picture in mind of the endgame, while most of us are looking to merely survive the middle-game and hopefully get a quick mate in. But in your example of the Sicilian I noticed you asked why should white play 2. Nf3 instead of Nc3 defending the pawn. White can play Nc3, and I will be doing so more frequently. I had a couple wins with white using it, but I couldn't find them, so I'll give you this draw I had at least to give you some idea of how it changes the game for black. I'm not an expert player, both me & my opponent made mistakes, some worse than others.

    http://www.chess.com/echess/game.html?id=52474557

    I annotated it without any program help, and I'm sure there's probably a bunch of inaccuracies I overlooked, so if anyone fancies pointing any of them out to me, that'd be more than welcome.

    As far as your wondering about the mystifying purpose of the e6 push, I expect because usually the king's bishop is fianchettoed, and so the king's knight will often develop to e7, so as not to get in front of the bishop.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #4

    Michael-G

    You are looking at the wrong direction.Middle-game and endgame you must study and it is sad to see good players "feeding" your confusion with useless opening information instead of guiding you to the right direction.

    Have you studied endgame?Have you studied middle game?How many games with isolated pawn have you SERIOUSLY studied(not just read but try to analyse)?How many rook endgames have you SERIOUSLY studied?How many books with games from great players have you SERIOUSLY studied?Do you know what "minority attack" is?How many games with backward pawn have you SERIOUSLY studied?Can you evaluate a simple  position? Can you find a simple correct plan?

    Don't answer me , I don't need an answer , your questions are all the answers I need.

    Answer to yourself.

    p.s. Keep memorising lines , in 2 years when your improvement will hit a wall just change the opening explorer or the database you use.It's their fault. 

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #5

    Michael-G

    IQP is not the only possible isolated pawn position.There can be isolated pawn from every opening.Referring to IQP as the only isolated pawn is either a superficial or just simply a bad case of an  example.

    Information like:

    "2...e6 is not as common as 2...d6 or 2...Nc6, but it does get played often enough. Black can pick from a few different systems of development: the Kan, after 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6; the Taimanov where Black develops his Knights on C6 and e7; or the line in the game, which could also have been reached after 2...d6."

    is useless for anyone that hasn't done any serious middle game and endgame study , only increases his confusion and makes him think that is the important.

        You want to "feed" his confusion?Be my guest.I will even stop tracking that topic and let you do your job undisturbed.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #6

    Musikamole

    My favorite book for explaining opening moves, and I have several, is still the FCO (Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren).

    Some examples of his move by move explainations:

    1.e4 c5 - "Like 1...e5, 1....c5 prevents the formation of an ideal pawn-centre with 2)d4, but without giving White the typical targets of the 1)e4 e5 openings..."

    Open Sicilian 1.e4 c5 Nf3 - "White intends to play 3)d4, opening the d-file and taking charge of the centre, not with two pawns on e4 and d4 as in the Alpin but with a pawn and knight and - most importantly - with beautiful open lines and natural squares for all pieces."

    Regarding 6)Be2, there are other options to the main line.

    6.Bg5 - "This is often called the Rauzer Attack, reflecting the fact that the modern handling of this line, with Qd2 and 0-0-0, was devised by Vsevolod Rauzer. The fact that 6)Bg5 is more aggressive and forcing than 6)Be2 can be felt immediately."

    Another thing that helped me with understanding opening moves was the pawn structure teaching of Danny Rensch in his videos. Basically, players who study openings are looking very closely at what pawn structures they will get after the opening phase, and learning how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of all of those different pawn structures, i.e., do they want to get into a Scheveningen, Dragon, or Najdorf pawn structure. That's how they see chess, looking at the pawns on the board.

    Now, some players with the White pieces may want to avoid all of those pawn structures above by playing the Closed Sicilian, directing Black, sometimes, away from his comfort zone, i.e. the Dragon.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #7

    ChessSponge

    Michael-G wrote:

    You are looking at the wrong direction.Middle-game and endgame you must study and it is sad to see good players "feeding" your confusion with useless opening information instead of guiding you to the right direction.

    Have you studied endgame?Have you studied middle game?How many games with isolated pawn have you SERIOUSLY studied(not just read but try to analyse)?How many rook endgames have you SERIOUSLY studied?How many books with games from great players have you SERIOUSLY studied?Do you know what "minority attack" is?How many games with backward pawn have you SERIOUSLY studied?Can you evaluate a simple  position? Can you find a simple correct plan?

    Don't answer me , I don't need an answer , your questions are all the answers I need.

    Answer to yourself.

    p.s. Keep memorising lines , in 2 years when your improvement will hit a wall just change the opening explorer or the database you use.It's their fault. 

    There is something you are completely missing, I play chess to have fun. If I find studying openings and learning the reasons behind the moves fun, that is what I will do. It is really that simple.

     

    As for why you feel the need to tell other people that are enjoying a hobby incorrectly in your view, you may want to take some time to do some self inflection and see why that is. Your post did not add anything to the topic at hand. A topic that is about openings in the opening forum. You are welcome to approach chess and study/play it any way you wish just as everyone else is and you are just as welcome to let others do so.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #8

    AnthonyCG

    Study long,

    study wrong.

    Just finish the game before there is an endgame! Cool

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #9

    finalunpurez

    Most opening moves is to develop pieces into their ideal position. I think what u should do is to study the middle game that arises from the opening. If u like the sicillian, u should read some opening books on the open sicillian and look out for their middle game plans and strategy for both sides.That should make u understand why some moves are played. Hope i helped! :)

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #10

    ChessSponge

    I have considered some of the move by move books. My biggest complaint with most chess books is they tend to have a big paragraph of notation followed by a couple lines explaining just one point in the whole list of moves. And although I get that a lot of chess players have no problems visualizing a big long line of notation, I find it slow to do and slower to learn from.

     

    Maybe the move by move books are a lot better about this by giving a lot of position diagrams to look at while reading the discussion about the moves. If so I will probably pick one of them up and go through it a couple of times.

     

    Thank you for all the useful feedback and discussions in the thread so far.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #11

    finalunpurez

    Maybe u could set up a chess board while you are studying with chess books. This should make it easier!

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #12

    exchangevariation

    Reuben Fine's "Ideas Behind the Chess Openings" although decades old is a good starting point.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #13

    ChessisGood

    The point of 2. Nf3 is to prepare to open the center with d4.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #14

    sapientdust

    ChessSponge: if you own ChessBase (or even the free version of chessbase), you can buy many of Everyman's books in chessbase format, so you can play through every line easily. I love reading books in that format and wish more publishers would embrace it.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #15

    Skwerly

    great discussion!  thanks for the read.  :)

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #16

    Musikamole

    AnthonyCG wrote:

    Study long,

    study wrong.

    Just finish the game before there is an endgame!

    Laughing

    Yep. I like the OP's attitude. First, keep it fun, especially if it is a hobby, and not a profession!

    I won several games memorizing the ins and outs of the Fried Liver Attack. Why? Because I found it fun to study this romantic opening, and to swindle some opponents who didn't know the theory.

    I would suggest to the OP to study a few ins and out of the Kings Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4). It's a blast to study, and a ton of fun to play. The FCO (Fundamental Chess Openings) is one book that covers all of the ins and outs of this great, romantic and historic opening.

    Chessgames.com is a great sight to find all of the really old romantic games, and to see how people got swindled in the Fried Liver, King's Gambit, and other old openings. If you look at grandmaster games, these old openings don't look fun, they even look drawish. But don't let that disappoint. My King's Gambit and Fried Liver Attack games don't look anything like those games, since they are full of crazy blunders, from both sides, as both openings are tricky to play - and I learn some cool tactics and checkmates along the way - which are also things that keep chess fun for me. 

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #17

    Musikamole

    uhohspaghettio wrote:

    The Richter-Rauzer is a line in the Classical, not the Scheveningen. 6. Bg5 against the Scheveningen is pretty tame by comparison. 

    Conversely, 6. Be2 in the Classical is known to be completely sterile after Boleslavsky's 6. ...e5.

    I know that. Perhaps my sequence of sentences mixed things up a bit. The point I was trying to make in that paragraph was something I got from Danny Rensch - that is, to pay close attention to the pawn structures - even taking all of the pieces off of a study board, so that you only see the pawns. That's what Danny does in his lectures, and it helps one to see the openings in a more meaningful way, and helps to answer the OP's question - why this move, and not that move.

    Basically, the pawn structures define the optimum piece placement, or something like that.

    There is the ideal pawn center for White, e4 and d4, and then there is the ideal extended pawn center for White (not as easy to support!) - c4,d4,e4 and f4.

    Example - If Black plays the Pirc Defense, not wishing to contest the center by placing pawns in the center, then it makes sense for White to be more agressive in the center with the Austrian Attack, not that this opening is the only good way to meet the Pirc. Black intends to contest Whites large pawn center from the flanks, among other things, with moves such as Bg7.

    Before looking at the theory, a good question to ask oneself is, what pawn break should Black attempt - c5 or e5 - and why? Pawn breaks are really good things to study, and can be fun to study. Dan Heisman talks about pawn breaks a lot, and all of his articles are free to read at ChessCafe under Novice Nook. A treasure of chess information for beginner to stuff many advanced players still struggle with (Class A, Expert), so don't let the word Novice Nook fool you.


     

     

     

     

     

     


  • 2 years ago · Quote · #18

    SimonWebbsTiger

    ChessSponge wrote:

    I'm not talking about just what the openings are called or what the move orders are, I mean the actual theory and reason behind the moves and why those instead of other moves. And when there are other good moves which create new lines/openings, what the difference in theory is when you choose one over another.

     

    I can memorize things easily so I feel I can "learn" many lines. But I find myself staring at the Game Explorer sometimes and saying "Why did they choose this here instead of this". Most times the other choices are also in the game explorer at those times.

     

    I've found a couple videos on this site that do a pretty good job at explaining many of the moves (typically never all of them though), but then it is a very specific line in a specific opening.

     

    Maybe I just think too much and the answers are easier than I try to make them out to be.

     

    For example:

     

    So how does one really learn all of that?

    It's a very complicated question. Rather than give you a plat answer, I suggest you borrow or buy a) Garry Kasparov's "On Modern Chess -- Revolution in the 70s" Part One. The reason for saying that is because it gives a great look into how GMs develop opening ideas and how theory develops, which eventually percolates down to our level.

    For example, Garry discusses several tabiya in the Scheveningen.

    b) borrow or buy the four volume series "Mastering the Chess Openings" by John Watson. (I think volume 3 - dedicated to the ideas of the English Opening - is the best volume in the set.)

    Watson discusses many of the typical strategic ideas of various opening set ups and also discusses general issues about opening play.

    A couple more titles worthy of attention are "How to Open a Chess Game", which is perhaps tricky to get hold of (it's out of print) but worth searching for because 7 GMs (eg. Bent Larsen and Paul Keres) discuss opening questions; and "Secrets of Opening Preparation" by Dvoretsky and Yusupov, esp. the lecture by Dvoretsky where he discusses studying the historical development of an opening by looking at many games over the decades in a particular variation. That approach by Dvoretsky will help teach you the opening you wish to play but also give a deeper understanding of why some lines have faded away -- they are refuted or plans are developed casting doubt on the set up -- whilst others come to the fore.

    A very good, practical aid is the New in Chess Yearbook series. Each of the four yearly issues is packed with surveys on all sorts of openings where the survey author discusses current GM praxis, gives a selection of annotated games in that opening for study and - often the most informative part - discusses typical ideas/structures in that opening under discussion.

    So, there is a plethora of very good material which can help you get a handle on openings.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #19

    Estragon

    Michael-G wrote:

    IQP is not the only possible isolated pawn position.There can be isolated pawn from every opening.Referring to IQP as the only isolated pawn is either a superficial or just simply a bad case of an  example.

    You are quite incorrect on this point.

    While it is true that an isolated pawn may occur in many different situations, the Isolated Queen Pawn is by far the most common and the most theoretically significant.  More than a century of research and practice by the greatest minds in chess have developed the understanding of this position - nobody works on isolated g-pawns.

    The IQP is a proven advantage in the middlegame where its owner can utilize the e5 or c5 squares effectively, and/or those files.  In the ending, it can be vulnerable but not necessarily fatally so, so in balance it cannot be said the IQP is truly a weakness unless it is blockaded and attacked.

    Learning how to play with and against the IQP is fundamental to positional understanding in chess.

  • 2 years ago · Quote · #20

    Musikamole

    SimonWebbsTiger wrote:
    ChessSponge wrote:

    I'm not talking about just what the openings are called or what the move orders are, I mean the actual theory and reason behind the moves and why those instead of other moves. And when there are other good moves which create new lines/openings, what the difference in theory is when you choose one over another.


    b) borrow or buy the four volume series "Mastering the Chess Openings" by John Watson. (I think volume 3 - dedicated to the ideas of the English Opening - is the best volume in the set.)

    Watson discusses many of the typical strategic ideas of various opening set ups and also discusses general issues about opening play.

    --------------------------------------------------------
     
    I have three of the four theory books by John Watson (1.c4, 1.d4, 1.e4), and the author does a great job of explaining a lot of move by move, as well as strategic ideas. It has much more content than the FCO, with all of the different volumes, so it just depends on how much detail you want to get into. I always grab the FCO first, which is nothing like the MCO (no move by move), and if I want to dig a little deeper, I'll crack open one of Watson's books.
     
    He also gives easy to understand lectures over at ICC, like pawn chains, pawn structures, and GM Boris Alterman has over 50 videos on gambits, with easy to understand explanations of the ideas behind the moves. Dan Heisman also lectures on that site. So, the internet has an exhaustive amount of move by move information, even before one opens a book. Smile
     
    BTW...chess.com has a lot of video instruction on openings as well, covering the strategic ideas, or plans.
     
    I see you are a diamond member. Check out the chess mentor courses on chess.com. There is a series, or more, of teachings on openings, and the authors do a lot of typing, explaining the reasons behind moves.
     
    Last, when I posted a question about the reason behind the moves, it was suggested that I purchase Logical Chess, Move By Move, Every Move Explained by Irving Chernev. I own it, and it is the first book for anyone to read that has this question. For more detail, you can look into Chess: the art of logical thinking, from the first move to the last by Neil McDonald, then look into Understanding Chess, Move By Move by John Nunn. That last book has the most text - a lot! I have all of these books.
     
    With all of that said, to keep my Live Chess play as fun as possible, I spend time on tactics trainer. There are so many blunders made in each Live Chess game at, I would guess, just about every skill level that 99% of us play at. So, no matter how many strategic ideas one has, it really helps to recognize blunders, from both sides of the board, which is what tactics study has done for me.

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