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I have been a casual player for many year but never understood why openings is a topic which serious players spend hours memorizing. Is one expected to memorize the numerous moves of an opening? How many moves constitutes an opening? Do both players recognize the pattern of a particular opening and each make the requisite moves of the opening? Why don't players make moves inconsistent with an opening to change the game and throw off the opponent?
People spend hours memorizing openings because they are idiots. Unless you are 1800+ rated you don't need to memorize anything. Tactics, strategy, and endgame are the things to focus on.
Just a couple of miles from where you live is one of the strongest chess clubs in the state. Contact Larry Storch at:
His picture is on the site, he is a very nice guy and a USCF chess master, I have known him for years. He will help you.
IM Rensch gives an excellent explanation of the opening in this video. It only takes 15 minutes, and I'd strongly recommend watching it. It's one of the few chess.com videos viewable by all, so you don't have to be a member to see it.
The video addresses most of those questions, I think except for the last one. The answer to your last question is that people do! Players of all levels occasionally throw a wrench in their opponents' plans by playing a surprising set of moves that goes into unfamiliar territory. Often the line is objectively inferior to the regular line, but the surprise factor subjectively compensates.
I really wouldn't be too concerned about "memorizing" a whole lot of opening moves. Following the basic principles of control of the center and piece development will take you a long way.
Only a basic knowledge of openings is needed to avoid traps and to have a playable position.
Ignore all the opening nonsense for now, you can always waste your time and money obsessing over opening lines later.
Just follow basic rules of development and practice tactics whenever you can.
Reply to paulgottlieb:
I can understand why one player (say white) would start with his favorite opening and continue on the moves as set forth in the opening. I am not sure I understand why the other player (say black) would move with exact conformity with the opening, once he/she recognized the opening. Why wouldn't black try to break up the opening moves with inconsistent moves to that opening and take the initiative? Or why, in the first few moves, when the opening is not totally clear, what makes black move consistent with the intentions of white?
Strong players do it because development, pawn structure etc are crucial when you're unlikely to gain any major tactical advantage.
For most players, it's not too relevant if you know the principles. I could hardly tell you more than a few moves in any opening, I'd rather spend my time focussing somewhere else for now.
As for why people don't play inconsistent moves, it's because often they are weaker and a strong player can take advantage of that.
In reading a book of named and studied openings (I have only read a very few of these) there are ten or so moves by white and black which represent the moves of the opening. Are you saying that white starts with the first move of a named opening and black makes a countermove which limits the opening? Then white makes a second move, and black counters with a second move, further defining the possible opening. Are the openings the result of the first 10 moves or so, and not necessarily the intended opening in white's head at the beginning of the match? In other words, are the openings a script which continues to change and each player must realize available openings from the moves to that point?
Underlying every opening are 2 theories of chess:
1.Classical Opening Theory- Control the center by occupying it with your pawns and pieces
2.Hypermodern Opening Theory-Control the center by using the power of the pawns and pieces. That way you don't create targets for your opponent.
To give you more specific information, it sounds like your reading books about openings that do very little explaining in words the reasons why a move is made in an opening. Instead in notation they give a series of moves ended by a citation to a game or two played by a couple of GMs. There is a series published by Everyman Chess Series that explains in words the reasons for every move in an opening. Some of the titles are, Starting Out In The Sicilian, Starting Out In The King's Indian Defense, etc. They are available on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com, etc.
I hope this helps.
Brantly: Most chess openings represent Black making moves that are inconsistent with White's desire and vice versa. Black and White aren't making moves in concert with one another, they are moving in opposition to one another. Both players are trying to advance their own positions and to thwart their opponent's desires.
What an excellent way of explaining this basic concept; opening theory can sometimes resemble dance-step instruction.
Yes, that's about right, each new move limits the possibilities for what opening the game may end up being.
A script is a good analogy in that the moves are a memorized list, but a bad analogy in that each move has meaning behind it, certain plans, benefits, and drawbacks too. This is important because players will certainly enter into a "debate" over the board such as "my kingside plans will win out over your queenside plans" or more specifically can be "my superior pawn structure will eventually compensate for your active piece play.
Players who only memorize openings without understanding the subtext (to continue the analogy I suppose) fold very quickly once their "scripted" responses run out.
People memorize a lot for the very reason they don't want to be caught off guard, so everyone wants to lead their opponent into unfamiliar territory. Some take a different approach though and go into a mainline because they believe (or hope) their study and understanding of it is superior... and indeed if one player has experience with a position, and therefore knows the ideas and common plans that arise, while their opponent doesn't, at the very least this will mean a time advantage because their opponent will need to catch up over the board.
Opening moves should look fairly arbitrary for a beginner, and that's why they're more or less useless to focus on until later in a player's development. More or less, opening moves only "make sense" in middlegame terms which only make sense in endgame terms.
Thanks for your comments. I will concentrate on the basic strategies of the first ten moves in a match.
"...a suicide opening like the Smith-Morra."
Ken Smith got destroyed with his Smith-Morra at the 1972 Church's Fried Chicken International Tournament in San Antonio, Texas
I have been asked this by students and its hard to put a number to but if I had to pick I would say the opening is 8 to 12 moves . There are many books on "openings" in which they go beyond move 30 in certain very popular lines but ofcourse at that point they are really middlegames and sometimes even endings are reached by move 30 in many books on " openings " . I think this is a source of confusion for some...
Though I must say, Ivandh was wrong about calling people "idiots" who memorize openings. It was fun for me when I did, and it made me feel that I was getting serious about chess.
The best advice I got from the forums regarding opening play is to play the same openings (for black and white) over and over again until the ideas are fully absorbed. I enjoy playing 1. d4 and honestly speaking, when I initially read some of the ideas behind some of the lines, they made no sense to me.
The opening book would say: "After x White should play y because that puts more pressure on the centre and counters z". And those lines only started making sense to me after losing a couple of games and going over the analysis afterwards. Sometimes by not following the best lines, you are simply opening yourself up to some nasty tactical attacks afterwards. But you only really see these complications when you play them. And IMO, if you are serious about improving your play (and openings), analyzing games after you have played them is of key importance.
Themed tournaments with different opening variations are also one of the big reasons why I love Chess.com so much. I played one game against a friend of mine where I played the Benoni just for fun. I had no clue what the opening was about and I lost badly. Out of annoyance I convinced myself it's because the Benoni was just a dumb opening. But recently I joined a Benko Gambit themed tournament (the Benko is a variation that arises from the Benoni) and I am LOVING it! Hopefully with some more practice, it will become a very powerful surprise weapon in my arsenal. Needless to say, I changed my mind about the Benoni being stupid.
The best advice I got from the forums regarding opening play is to play the same openings (for black and white) over and over again until the ideas are fully absorbed.
I learned this very late in the many years I have been playing chess, and it is excellent advice.
I wonder how many people read my post after the first sentence. Apparently not many...
Studying openings can help. Memorizing lines is a waste of time unless you are a pretty strong player to begin with. Many people who are not strong players memorize long variations and those people are idiots.
12/8/2013 - Boxed In
by Naissur a few minutes ago
Is the Caro-Kann the opening I was searching for or should I go for 1...e5 ?
by FromMuToYou 4 minutes ago
Anything else like Hack Attack?
by waffllemaster 9 minutes ago
what the #$%^was he playing and how did he win?
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server down !!
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bug about the timer not indicating the proper time.
by jac1yn 32 minutes ago
Chess records - marvel at the limitless possibilities in this wonderful game!!!
by NM-Dale 38 minutes ago
Can Anyone Become Grandmaster?
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