Study Plan For Intermediate Players: The Opening!

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  • | Sep 15, 2011

Target Skill Range: Intermediate (Rated 1400-1799)

Acquire the knowledge you need to approach the opening with confidence and achieve success!


  1. Extend your base knowledge of "tournament openings."
  2. Aim for consistency.
  3. Learn the concept of transposition.
  4. Learn these critical pawn structures and their basic plans.
  5. Stay sharp and learn to avoid opening blunders.
  6. Understand planning and development.
  7. Complete an opening lesson.
  8. Take the quiz!

Intermediate players should be taking the steps to develop a consistent approach, and see that "planning" in chess begins as early as move one.

1. Extend your base knowledge of "tournament openings." 

An intermediate player should be able to recognize most "main line" chess openings, even if he/she hasn't yet mastered them.

Use our Game Explorer and Openings Book features to learn the first 7-10 moves of the following list of openings, commonly played by master-level chess players. This should also help guide you if you are still unsure of a consistent approach for your own games (see Task #2).

Learn 1.e4 openings:

Learn 1.d4 openings:

Learn 1.c4 and/or 1.Nf3 openings:

    2. Aim for consistency.

    After learning and applying the basic principles to the opening you learned in the Study Plan for Beginners in your own games (and extending your knowledge of main line openings by completing Task #1), intermediate players should be ready to take some significant steps in the first stage of chess. This is not to say you should be studying hours of opening theory just yet, or even fully developing an opening repertoire, but choosing to play a consistent set of openings is now key.

    As white, you need to decide to play only 1.e4 or 1.d4. We do not recommend players of this level choose to play 1.c4 or 1.Nf3 as the "mainstays" in their opening repertoire. This is because masterful play of the openings reached after 1.c4 or 1.Nf3 tends to require knowledge of many different transpositions (see Task #3) into both 1.e4 and 1.d4 openings.

    For players who have already committed to 1.c4 or 1.Nf3 -- we recommend taking extra time for Task #3, as it directly pertains to playing your openings successfully. As black, you need to choose a consistent defense against both 1.e4 and 1.d4. See Task #2 for more information on the opening choices at your disposal. Get started with your new consistent approach right away!


    3. Learn the concept of transposition.

    Read this: Transpositions by GM Magesh Panchanathan

    After grasping the concept of how opening lines can tranpose into one another in chess, try to recognize how/where transpositions occur in your own most commonly use openings. Make sure you understand the general plans associated with each exact position and pawn structure reached, regardless of the move order used to get there.

    4. Learn these critical pawn structures and their basic plans.

    Master-level players understand that knowledge of how to play a position, the ability to find a good plan, and being able to outplay your opponent from any position are much more important than memorizing opening theory.

    So how do we acquire those skills? By approaching the opening - and the transition into the middlegame - the right way: Learning the pawn structures that dictate the plans of every position before we try to memorize opening theory!

    Watch the video below to further your knowledge of the fundamental pawn structures in chess. Learn to recognize when and from what openings they occur:

    Watch this: Pawn Structure 101: Every Opening Explained! by IM Daniel Rensch 

    5. Stay sharp and learn to avoid opening blunders.

    The material for this task was selected from GM Gregory Serper's column. The articles below are appropriate for Intermediate players, and each one of them critical for your understanding; however, if you enjoy these articles, there can be no harm in reading more articles from Gregory's Writing, and we would strongly encourage ambitious players to do so.

      6. Understand planning and development.

      Here your assignment is to solidify a "high level" understanding of openings and their impact on decision-making. Every chess opening and position requires certain types of development plans for your pieces, specific kinds of repeating plans for both white and black, and commonly seen tactical patterns special to those structures and positions alone.

      Whether you have chosen to play any of the openings featured in the following videos is irrelevant. Watching the following lectures will not only improve your knowledge of those specific openings, but also instill the key elements planning from the opening. To see these principles in action, watch the following video lectures:

      After watching these required videos, if you enjoy learning opening principles in this way, you can search and sort our video library for more opening videos. New additions covering different types of openings are being added all the time!

      Your next assignment is to search our "Explore Opening Ideas" column, co-authored by GMs Magesh Panchanathan and Arun Prasad, for 3-5 articles on the opening of your choice. Read those articles as if they were your personal homework assignments from Magesh and Arun!

      If you cannot find the opening you want, choose an opening you know nothing about, because again, the most important concept you are trying to instill into your thought process is how to recognize and execute high level plans in any structure or opening you are faced with. The critical thinking skills required to choose good plans in openings you don't know is in many ways more important than executing ideas in the openings you have memorized and play everyday. Good luck!

        7. Complete an opening lesson. has many Chess Mentor Courses on the opening; however, we have selected this specific course for learners at your level. If you can complete this course and score over 70%, you should be playing the opening stage at a 1400 level or higher. Either click the green button or follow the link below.

        by GM Sam Shankland


        Test your new skills.

        This final section contains questions a player should be able to answer after completing this study plan!

        Question 1: What openings/structures does IM Rensch say he missed in his Pawn Stucture 101: Every Opening Explained! video from Task #4 -- listed in the comments section?

        Question 2: How does white take advantage of black's "Nfd7 mistake" in GM Shankland's "Wrong Knight" lesson from his Lesson?

        Question 3: Who does Bobby Fischer beat at the age of 14, as black, in the "Game of the Century", featured in Lilov's Grunfeld video?

        Question 4: What is the winning move in GM Shankland's "queen-a-licious" lesson from his Mentor Course?

        Question 5: Which openings are listed with "transposition links" in Task #1?


        Answers: 1. the Panov, the Pirc/Modern Defense, and the King's Gambit; 2. with h4! -- "launching an immediate kingside attack"; 3. Donald Byrne; 4. Bg5!; 5. 2: the Panov-Botvinnik and the Catalan.


        • 3 months ago


          Excellent chess course

        • 7 months ago


          The link to Closed Catalan doesn't work for me.

        • 9 months ago


          Wow! Thanks!

        • 13 months ago


          Help me

        • 16 months ago



        • 20 months ago


          the Reti is there, its at the bottom of the list.

        • 21 months ago


          the questions are useless: It is pointless to memorize, for example, one move from one game on move 38

        • 22 months ago


          to be honest i dont like the idea of memorizing openings. then you are truly limited not by your creativity but soley by your rote memorization... says the me 6 weeks ago. Now i undeerstand that most openings are just the same and sometimes they are limited options to open well and defend some openings

        • 23 months ago


          Anyway, the plans are really good and detailed. Thank you!

        • 23 months ago


          I think the questions in the quiz shouldnt be so direct but instead should be such that you have to think to find the answer

        • 23 months ago


        • 24 months ago


          This will help me a little bit in my next game...

        • 3 years ago


        • 3 years ago


          Openings these days is all about remembering the moves, if you deviate within the first 20 moves in a opening like the Scicialian Dragon variation, you're done for it in a tournament. This is why I like 960, throw the opening books out the window.

        • 3 years ago


        • 3 years ago


          Auf deutsch wäre auch schön.Gruß Armin

        • 3 years ago


          @AntoineD-aixlesbains: please stop spamming.  Post something relevant, or go post somewhere people aren't trying to seek genuine advice, or trying to better themselves.  Troll.

        • 3 years ago



        • 3 years ago


          The 1.d4 Nf6 Indians explore the White and Black sides of "hypermodern" Indian defenses.  Please join us if you wish to have the opportunity to learn and play this opening in a cooperative group setting.


          Click the Indians mascot to apply. GO INDIANS!

        • 3 years ago


          Wink thanks....i always confuse, why i cant do more better.....its really answered me...i will study hard..

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