Master Path Study Plan: The Opening!
Target Skill Range: Master Path (Rated 2000-2199)
Acquire the knowledge you need to approach the opening with confidence and achieve success!
- Learn About Advanced Opening Preparation
- Expand Your Knowledge of Thematic Middlegames
- Learn From Past Champions
- Learn A New Opening Against 1.e4
- Learn A New Opening Against 1.d4
- Expand Your White Repertoire
- Test Your Opening Ability
- Analyze your Recent Games
Master players are ready to reach a serious level of chess, and their openings will need to reflect that. In the following plan, you'll continue building upon your knowledge of thematic middlegame plans, as well as expanding your knowledge of opening theory.
- Modern Day Analysis: Working with the Computer by GM Rafael Leitao
- How to Use a Chess Computer by GM Daniel Naroditsky
- Find Your Own "Miracle" Opening! by GM Gregory Serper
- Openings: Theory and Practice by WGM Natalia Pogonina
- Coach Dejan Explains: Lucas's Perfect Preparation! by GM Dejan Bojkov
2. Expand Your Knowledge on Common Structures with these videos by IM Daniel Rensch:
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen Intro!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 2 - White's g4!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 3 - Modern Ideas!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 4 - Knightmares!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 5 - Black's Ideas!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 6 - e4 Central Pressure!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 7 - White's Slow Play!
- Pawn Structure 101: Scheveningen 8 - Tactical Finale!
Every world champion in history had a signature opening, one that they used at the highest level with success, as well as an opening where they personally contributed to the theory and our current understanding of the variation. Let GM Bryan Smith take you on a tour of past chess champions and their favorite opening, and become inspired to fine-tune your own pet line:
- Steinitz Defense: World Champion Openings
- Lasker's Queen's Gambit Declined
- Capablanca's Nimzo-Indian: World Champion Openings
- Alekhine's Defense: World Champion Openings
- Max Euwe And The Slav Defense
- Mikhail Botvinnik And The WInawer
- Vassily Smyslov And The Closed Sicilian
- Mikhail Tal And The Modern Benoni
- Tigran Petrosian And The Queen's Indian
- Boris Spassky And The Leningrad Variation
- Bobby Fischer And The King's Indian Defense
- Anatoly Karpov And The Caro-Kann
- Garry Kasparov And The Scotch Opening
- Vladimir Kramnik And The Berlin Defense
- Veselin Topalov And The Najdorf Sicilian
- Viswanathan Anand And The Semi-Slav Defense
- Magnus Carlsen And The Nimzo-Indian Defense
If you went through the Advanced Study Plan, then you should already have one solid response to both 1.e4 and 1.d4. Now, it is time to expand your horizons by adding new openings to your repertoire! Many players at the Master level or above often choose one solid opening as their main defense and also learn one aggressive option to use against lower-rated players or in "must-win" situations. In order to complete this section, study one of the openings below, but you are encouraged to return to this page and learn the other openings too!
The Sicilian Dragon by IM Keaton Kiewra:
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 1: The Yugsolav Attack
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 2: 9.0-0-0 with Nxd4
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 3: 9.0-0-0 with d5
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 4: The Prophylactic 12...h5
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 5: Clash of the Titans
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 6: The Offbeat 9.g4
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 7: The Chinese Dragon
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 8: The Classical System
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 9: Levenfish and g3 Variations
- The Fighting Dragon - Part 10: The Finale and Fireworks
- Keaton's Pet Dragon
- Sicilian Dragon Burns Yangyi
- How To Play The Chinese Dragon by GM Bryan Smith
The Pirc Defense by GM Mackenzie Molner
- The Pirc Defense Part 3: The Classical 4.Nf3 and Be2
- The Pirc Defense Part 4: Playing Against Roman's System
- The Pirc Defense Part 5: The 4.Bc4 Variation
- The Pirc Defense Part 6: Facing 4.g3
- The Pirc Defense Part 7: The Austrian Attack
- The Pirc Defense Part 8: The Austrian Attack 2
- The Pirc Defense Part 9: 4.Be3
- The Pirc Defense Part 10: 4.Bg5
The Accelerated Dragon by GM Melik Khachiyan
- Accelerated Dragon: The Maroczy Bind 1
- Accelerated Dragon: The Maroczy Bind 2
- Accelerated Dragon: The Maroczy Bind 3
- Accelerated Dragon: The Maroczy Bind 4
- Accelerated Dragon: The Maroczy Bind 5
- The Accelerated Dragon 6: Practical Game vs. IM Peters
- The Accelerated Dragon 7: Kasparov vs. Ivanchuk
- The Accelerated Dragon 8: The Hybrid Dragon
- The Accelerated Dragon 9: Perelshteyn's Pet!
- The Accelerated Dragon 10: The FInal Chapter!
The Scandinavian Defense by GM Eugene Perelshteyn
- Scandinavian 3...Qd6 Part 1
- Scandinavian 3...Qd6 Part 2
- Scandinavian 3...Qa5 Part 1: Main Line 4.d4
- Scandinavian 3...Qa5 Part 2: Critical Sideline!
- Scandinavian 3...Qa5 Part 3: Alternatives to d4!
Just like against 1.e4, most strong players have at least two options against 1.d4. Watch the following series on "Dealing with Passive Queen Pawn Openings" first, then choose one of the following openings to learn as a second option for your Black repertoire against 1.d4:
- Dealing With Passive Queen Pawn Openings 1 by GM Sam Shankland
- Dealing With Passive Queen Pawn Openings 2
- Dealing With Passive Queen Pawn Openings 3
Semi-Slav Defense by GM Sam Shankland
- Semi-Slav 1: Moscow Variation
- Semi-Slav 2: Anti-Moscow Gambit
- Semi-Slav 3: Botvinnik Variation
- Semi-Slav 4: Meran 6.Qc2
- Semi-Slav 5: Meran Main Lines
(PRO-TIP - Watching opening videos from Black's perspective can give you a better understanding overall and introduce new ideas to use as White! )
Queen's Gambit Declined by GM Gregory Kaidanov
- The Complete QGD: The Basics
- The Complete QGD: Classical Carlsbad
- The Complete QGD: Modern Carlsbad
- The Complete QGD: Avoiding the Carlsbad
- The Complete QGD: Right Move Order
- The Complete QGD: Cambridge Springs Variation
- The Complete QGD: Classical Variation
- The Complete QGD: Lasker Variation
- The Complete QGD: Modern Main Line
Also check out GM Shankland's coverage of the QGD:
Queen's Gambit Declined by GM Sam Shankland
Now we're really kicking it into high gear! If you are a tournament player, you'll know that other players will often try to keep track of your repertoire and use it to prepare against you in key games. This is why many Master level players expand their repertoire with White, so that they aren't playing the same lines over and over again. Here are additional options to add to your repertoire, whether you play 1.e4 or 1.d4 (below):
Double King-Pawn Openings: the Ruy Lopez by GM Ivan Sokolov
- Ruy Lopez: The Verdict On ...Nge7
- Ruy Lopez: The Verdict On ...Nf6
- Sokolov On Winning In The Lopez: ...f5 Sidelines
- My Giuoco Piano by GM Melik Khachiyan
- My Giuoco Piano Part 2
- Trend Breaking Novelties: Italian Game by GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
- Kaidanov's Comprehensive Repertoire: Two Knights Defense With Liver
- Theoretical Statement In The Two Knights Defense
For those seeking more depth, review this series on the Giuoco Piano by GM Roman Dzindzihachvili:
- Giuoco Piano: Part 1 - Two Knights Defense
- Giuoco Piano: Part 2 - Two Knights 5.e5
- Giuoco Piano: Part 3 - Max Lange Attack
- Giuoco Piano: Part 4 - 5.e5 d5
- Giuoco Piano: Part 5 - 5.e5 d5 The Unfinished Story
- Giuoco Piano: Part 6 - More Max Lange
Alternatively, those seeking to attack should review the Evans Gambit by GM Jacek Stopa:
- The Evan's Gambit With 5...Ba5
- The Evan's Gambit With 5...Bc5 And 5...Be7
- The Evan's Gambit With 5...Bd6
- The Evan's Gambit: Exciting Sample Game
- The Evan's Gambit: Exciting Sample Game - Conclusion
- The Evan's Gambit: Black Fights Back
If you really, really, really can't avoid attacking play, study the King's Gambit by GM Simon Williams:
- How to Crush Your Opponent in the King's Gambit: Part 1
- How to Crush Your Opponent in the King's Gambit: Part 2
- How to Crush Your Opponent in the King's Gambit: Part 3
- How to Crush Your Opponent in the King's Gambit: Part 4
- How to Crush Your Opponent in the King's Gambit: Part 5
- The History of the King's Gambit by GM Bryan Smith
For an attacking sideline against the Sicilian Defense, read these articles by GM Bryan Smith:
- The Anti-Sicilian Without A Name
- The Smith-Morra Gambit: A History
- The Smith-Morra Gambit: A History - Part 2
Finally, another attacking sideline is offered by GM Roman Dzindzichashvili:
The French Defense
- Easy and Ambitious System vs. the French by GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
- Kaidanov's Comprehensive Repertoire: Facing the French by GM Gregory Kaidanov
The Caro-Kann Defense
- Beating your Nemesis: Crushing the Caro by GM Ben Finegold
- Easy System vs. the Caro-Kann by GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
1. d4 Repertoire
Here are some extra options if you're a 1.d4 player:
Queen's Gambit Declined
- Grandmaster Preparation Part 1: vs. IM Darwin Yang by GM Ben Finegold
- March Madness Part 2
- Playing With A Space Advantage: Part 3 by GM Alex Lenderman
- My 2011 US Championship: Match vs. GM Onischuk 3 by GM Sam Shankland
- Member Analysys: Fighting for the Initiative by GM Dejan Bojkov
- Modern Masterpieces Volkov vs. Socko by GM Gregory Kaidanov
- Lessons from the Candidates! Part 1 by GM Alex Yermolinsky
- Play Powerful Positional Chess Like Magnus Carlsen! by GM Eugene Perelshteyn
King's Indian Defense
- King's Indian Defense: Sämisch Gambit by GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
- Beating Your Nemesis: The King's Indian by GM Ben Finegold
- Best Of Millionaire Chess: Berczes vs. Le by GM Maurice Ashley
- 2013 US Championship: Killer Opening Discoveries! by GM Timur Gareyev
- Thinking Your Way to Chess Mastery 2 by IM Mark Ginsburg
- Game Analysis: Karpov vs. Kasparov by GM Sam Shankland
- The Fianchetto Benoni by GM Magesh Panchanathan and GM Arun Prasad
One of the great skills of a strong player is sensing weak play and pouncing on it. In no area is this more important than openings. That's because in openings you know exactly when your opponent has stepped off the beaten path (assuming you are better prepared). Was that move a misstep? Test your ability to sense and exploit opening mistakes with this lesson.
Exploiting Opening Errors 3 by GM Sam Shankland
At the master level, you should absolutely be analyzing all of your games in depth. Here, we want you to pay special attention to the opening. Try to identify these things in every game. You can use Chess.com's Analysis Board and Opening Explorer to review.
- Identify when you left your opening knowledge. What did theory recommend instead and why?
- Did you spend an appropriate amount of time after you left the opening? Neither becoming short on time or moving too hastily?
- Did you find the correct plan emerging from the opening? If not, what was the correct plan? How have strong GMs approached the position?
- In the ensuing middlegame and/or endgame, did you accurately judge the exchanges that are common to the opening?
- In all cases where you erred, be certain you can explain in both concrete variations and verbal ideas why your play was wrong and why another line was better.
Here are some final tips on studying the opening:
- New videos and articles are added to Chess.com every day, make sure to check frequently for opening videos/articles that may be relevant to your repertoire.
- While it's generally inadvisable to bounce around between openings, learning a new option here and there can be good for your overall growth and development as a chess player.
- If you need help with a very specific variation or line or feel you're unable to crack a certain opening, consider working with a professional coach.