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I was wondering people's opinions in regards to studying opening theory. I have heard from multiple people that studying openings early on is not a good idea. For the simple reason that myself, for example, am currently a 1484 player on chess.com. And when I play against players at my level, many aren't going to be playing perfect book moves in the opening. So therefore there is no point in me memorizing extensive opening variations. I have gone over mainline moves for a couple different openings but nothing really beyond that. Is this line of thinking correct? Should I continuing to be studying tactics, positional concepts and endgames for now? At what point should I start to be studying openings more thoroughly? Or is my entire logic completely wrong?
You should know all the main opening variations 15 moves deep before you ever play a game of chess.
Yes, mattyf9, forget opening variations for now. It doesn't hurt to learn the names of the openings, but memorizing lines is a complete waste of time and counter-productive even, as it tends to screw players up.
At your level, nearly all of your wins and losses are due to tactics, usually very simple one- or two-move threats that either you or your opponent didn't see. So you should practice tactics, and the best way is to play a lot. Especially slower time controls or online, speed chess is fun but is too fast to learn much from.
To get a idea of openings, just adhere to the basic rules of development for the most part and you can't be too wrong. Start with the simplest pawn structures, 1 e4 e5 is the basics. Then pick a player or two whose games you like, and get their games in the opening you want to learn by filtering a database.
Play over those games quickly, but not blitzing through them, 15 minutes or so each so you get the idea of what's happening without trying to analyze it all too deeply. The concept is to go over many games over time, and see the ideas the masters use in these lines not only in the opening, but on through the middlegame and even into endings.
Play over all the games, win lose or draw, to the end so you get to see the ideas that work - and don't work - for both sides. In this way you will know far more about the opening than someone who has memorized variations and spent sacks of money on opening books and DVDs.
Thanks estragon. I feel a little funny calling you estragon lol. Yea I disagree scott. Memorizing openings isn't a good idea. I'll try that estragon. I usually play e4 and I like the Sicilian for black. I've gone through about 8-10 main line moves for e4 for white and c5 for black. If white plays d4 I usually play nf6. I'll give that a try looking thru games thanks again
Further extra credit: Becket wrote Endgame, a play so-named for the chess phase that has just a few pieces (characters) remaining.
P.S. Yes I know about pawn-heavy rook endings. Take it up with Becket.
What I've been doing to learn openings is mainly studying games. I go on chessgames.com, browse through recent tournaments (such as tal memorial, tata steel, world championships and candidates tournaments, etc, from 2010-2012). Then when I find a game that I like in the opening I'm studying, I use chessgames.com's find similar games feature. Then I can go through the various lines that have been played and what kind of positions result.
As an example, I was studying the Neo-Grunfeld when I came across this game, and was alerted to many innaccuracies in my opening repetouire:
As you can see, without my knowledge of the opening I failed to capitalize on my opponents innaccuracies (and this was 40/2 + 1 SD time control). You don't need to memorize lines, but finding a few key games and some variations from the lines they played helps a lot.
As an improving player, currently taking lessons with Dan Heisman, I have seen a a nice improvement in my playing strength these past couple of months. My current study plan consists of playing OTB games with slow time controls (twice a week at the Las Vegas Chess Club), a smattering of blitz games on the FICS, repetition of basic tactics (currently studying Chess Tactics for Students), going over master games and reading Heisman's Novice Nooks and other "talky" chess material. I'm also working hard on developing a consistent thought process. I believe the latter is the biggest indicator of an intermediate player.
My opening preparation is almost non existent. I do look up my openings after each game so that my opening tree will increase a little at a time. Once I become an intermediate player I will build a repertoire of course.
Last night I played an 1800 USCF rated player at the club. I was black and I play(ed) the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon. I mixed up my move order and lost a chance for an opening advantage (he played the Yugoslav Attack which is inaccurate against the Accelerated Dragon). I now know what to do in the future against that line.
I played a hard-fought game and was down a knight for two pawns. I eventually lost the game after trying for a perpetual check in time trouble. Did my opening inaccuracy cost me the win? Hell no! My inconsistent thought process did (missing a threat that cost me the knight). According to the computer analysis, I was actually slightly ahead until that point. I even managed to get an even game a few moves later thanks to some inaccuracies from my opponent.
The point of my story is that I gave an 1800 player a good game, both according to the computer and him, and I credit this to my dedication to the above study plan. Not knowing the proper opening line had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. After I was "out of book," I simply followed sound opening principles.
Use your limited study time wisely!
well said dargone. Do you take lessons with him in person or through skype?
Thanks! Over the phone via the ICC. He is awesome and an amazing instructor obviously.
Dargone, that's exactly what I do. Sadly, I believe that with better opening preparation I could have scored much better than I did at the Chicago Open, my first major tournament.
I scored +1 -2 =4 in the U1900 section, not a bad result as my USCF is around 1550 (although I am underated - not just saying this, when I started 7 months ago I was a 694, and no matter how much I improve it takes a while to gain 1000+ rating points)
Both losses were due to poor opening preparation, but not poorly memorized lines. I had learned the lines from books and opening explorers, without looking at any real games. As a result I ended up playing 15 moves of theory in a ragozin before ending up in a terrible position with weak light squares. I didn't understand white's plan of center expansion with his extra center pawn and kingside attack, while black's positional plans of attacking the c3 pawn and gaining queenside counterplay destroyed me. In the second loss I messed up my move order in a sharp meran semi slav and came under a crushing attack that ended in a bishop sac.
Some of the draws I played poorly in the opening too, such as the game above where I should have had an easy advantage as black, or in the queen's gambit declined tarkatower variation, where I didn't realize that the c5 break was weaker than it lost because Qa3 pins the pawn. I thought I was lost the entire game if at any point he played c5, but luckily he knew the idea so he didn't. Even in the game I won I messed up my opening in a grunfeld, but I managed to save a lost ending.
In short, I agree that the best way to learn openings is through analysis of your own games and similar games, but sometimes you need to do more preparation for a bigger tournament (so you don't end up regretting not preparing like I do). I also extremely recommend looking at full games, not just scoring percentages in databases, so you don't reach a lost position 5 moves after you get out of theory.
paul gottleib is correct about the source of my handle.
dargone and shepi13 both have typical experiences. Learning the game yields better and faster results, it is an organic process in which you of course learn about openings as you go along, but NOT by memorizing lines.
shepi13 ~ I think your problem was "opening preparation" but it started when you decided to try out new openings in the tournament. Real preparation is knowing the positions, some of which knowledge you can only get by experience, so you will have better results if you use the same openings you use in online and casual games when you go to a tournament. It's always tough to try out a new opening in real competition, you need to have at least the experience of having played it for a few weeks or months with some regularity.
Some of the openings were new, but mostly because of what my opponents played. I have played the queen's gambit since I started chess, but I believe this was the first time anyone had played the tarkatower variation against me. In addition while frequently facing the ragozin in scholastic tournaments, the only people who ever played it simply thought "I want to double his pawns", and generally led to easy wins, as they lacked most knowledge of the opening. While I am used to the grunfeld I generally have trouble with e3 lines, such as the one played, and I'm not that certain of most of the neo-grunfeld positions, which I get less often.
Sadly, while some of the games were complete draws, a few games I had an advantageous ending that I failed to convert. I was lucky to win a game : in the game I won at one point in the ending it was -3 on my engine, I knew it too and was extremely frusterated and upset, on the verge of resigning.
I need more ending knowledge too, I went into a R+B vs R+N ending because his pawns were on the color of my bishop, and there were pawns on both sides. Within a few moves I realized I should have trusted in the rook ending for a draw as my bishop was forced passively to the back rank and my rook ended up practically trapped. I also ended up with an undefensable pawn stuck on b7.
I looked up heismans rates they're pretty steep, at least for me right now.
Well, shepi13 you might be at that stage where deeper opening preparation is required. The U1900 section is probably 'intermediate' by most standards.
There is a huge difference between that and the U1200 section that I played in at the National Open!
Endgame knowledge wins you many more games than opening knowledge. Openings have a way of changing for us all, often due to little more than fashion. But if you know the endings, you can get there from a lot of different places.
As an added bonus, if you learn how to play Rook endings, you will score many points you don't deserve - opponents often mess up winning or drawn Rook endings. Between them and pure pawn endings, that will make up the large majority of endings you encounter.
Yeah, I imagine many intermediate games are lost in the ending. Even Grandmasters mess up endings quite a bit.
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