Picking The Correct Opening Repertoire

Picking The Correct Opening Repertoire

| 71 | Opening Theory

Picking the correct opening repertoire is one of the most important decisions that a chess player makes. There is no point starting the game with a series of moves that will lead you into a situation that you find uncomfortable.

The aim of this article is to provide you with some important factors to consider when picking openings.

We can all fall victim to picking a bad opening; take a look at the following game, which gave me no enjoyment at all.

I chose an opening that made me feel uncomfortable, and I certainly did not enjoy the experience! I hate playing passive positions which require long defensive maneuvers, so I should never have picked an opening which led to this type of structure. We also saw my opponent being very clever with his choice of opening moves so as to draw me into this type of position. Erwin avoided entering a Benoni structure which would have played to my strengths. 

How can you avoid falling into a similar predicament?

For a start, you must pick an opening that...

1) gives you a sense of excitement and joy whenever that opening appears on the board.

Wheee! My favorite opening position

After all, if you enjoy an opening, you will naturally play it well!

For example, the opening I played in this next game is not sound, but it is certainly a lot of fun, and this helped me play the position well.

After a number of adventures, my opponent finally makes a mistake. Can you see how I managed to win in this position?

2) fits your personality.

You know what kind of person you are better than anyone else. Do you prefer intense situations, with numerous fascinating possibilities? If the answer is yes, then the Open Sicilian should suit your needs. Do you prefer a safety first approach, where the chances of a quick result are very low? If so, then choose an opening that reflects this, like the Berlin.

Take a look at this next game of mine. Even though I had a lousy position from the opening, I still felt happy. Why? Because it is the type of position/middlegame structure that I enjoy playing.

I also have a video of this game.

So, remember to play to your strengths. You can always work on your weaknesses, but a competitive match is not the time!

3) suits your way of life.

Do you study chess for hours each day, or do you prefer only to play, without any study? There is no point playing an opening that requires you to spend hours studying the latest improvements if you do not have time to do this.

Look at this game by my good friend, Grandmaster Mark Hebden.

Mark's move 2.Bf4!? worked very well. Why? Because after this move, the game is more about positional understanding then remembering theory. This is where experience comes in, and Mark was much more experienced than Alina.

4) is appropriate to your energy levels.

This is similar to the point above. If you tend to blunder during long games, then it best to avoid openings that lead to highly complex positions. On the other hand, if you are a youngster with all the energy in the world, then you should play like one! Pick an opening that allows you to use that energy.

Yawn... No more calculations...

5) suits your level of competitiveness?

If you are here just to have fun, then why not just play gambit lines? That is, if you enjoy attacking (as most players do).

The following bit of advice will help anyone improve in the long run.

Pick three openings: one with White, one against 1.e4, and one against 1.d4. It is better to be a master of one trade then a fool in many.

Why? Because if you play the same openings time and time again, the following things should happen.

1) You can learn from your mistakes. A mistake made more than once is just stupidity.

Over time, the opening will become more and more familiar to you. For example, let's take a look at my beloved Dutch opening.

2) You will start to "feel" where the pieces should go.

Have you ever had the feeling in a game that you are just not sure what you should be doing? If you play consistent openings, you will eradicate that feeling. Experience will guide your pieces.

Take a look at this attack that Black pulled off.

Black understood just where his pieces should be heading, and this helped him win in a very quick manner. Of course, you can also watch DVDs and read books on the opening to improve this skill as well, but nothing will help you as much as actually playing and learning for yourself.

3) Middlegame and endgame pawn structures will become second nature to you.

Once you understand the skeleton structure of the position, you will also understand what plans will help you on your way to victory.

In this next video, I show how my knowledge of pushing the h-pawn can affect the game.

So, if you want to build an opening repertoire, or if you want to change yours, you should...

1) Work out what kind of game you want? Sharp, slow, etc.

2) Investigate some openings and find ones that suit this style.

3) Work out what your base is going to be. What is your first move? What will you play against each of Black's main openings?

4) Work on your chosen openings. Get a book or buy a DVD, then practice, practice, practice!

Good luck!

That is all for now, if this article proves to be popular, then in my next article, I will give you some spoonfed advice regarding precisely which openings fit which styles and which openings work well together.

For example, if you play 1.e4 and gambit lines, what openings might you play as Black against 1.d4 and 1.e4?

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