Discover your Passion for Opening Study! (Gruenfeld)
Courtesy of my cousin, Duncan P. Clarke.

Discover your Passion for Opening Study! (Gruenfeld)

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Hello everyone, during the quarantine I've been experimenting with several ways to solidify and broaden my opening repertoire (even if you're an anti-theory extremist, please read this blog, you may change your mind that opening study is "boring and tedious") in an interactive and enjoyable manner.

You see, back when I was growing up  my opening study was to read a (at the time a highly acclaimed) opening thesis published by a respected theoretician, play over the board, analyze the game either by myself or with another player, and scribble the improvements on the score-sheet. Before the next time I planned to play that variation, I'd revise my notes on a wooden board before the game with the little preparation time there was. 

That's a dinosaur! It's ineffective, boring, and disorganized. Enter a top tier opening like the Gruenfeld defense for black...

If you were like me you'd be daunted by the immense theory and memorization of the variation. I'd also be repulsed at the idea of just staring at notation in the book and trying to memorize the given variations. It's difficult to stay awake like that.   The one advantage is that I retreated into "system openings" and played the London System ever since.

Fortunately, this week I found Forward Chess , which reignited my passion for opening study. Here are the benefits which are universally great for any player who wants to master an opening or any other aspect of the game. Advantages include:

  • Enormous selection of books from high quality publishers. Openings, Calculation, Endgame, Strategy, Game Collections, Psychology, you name it, they've got a vast array of material which fits players of every level.
  • Step-by-step playbook. Opening study should be interactive, here you can play through the variations on a board. This helps ingrain variations in your head and you're likely to be more engaged in the material presented.
  • Curious? Turn on the engine! Near the little interactive board there is a button to turn on the engine. Stockfish 10 is the assiduous servant to elucidate ambiguity regarding assessment of a position you are unsure of. Convenient little tool at your fingertips, especially helpful when revising variations with little time to prepare before the game.
  • Search by the book title, Publisher, or price, it's incredibly easy to find the most relevant, and affordable material for you! The website is easy to navigate.
  • As a bonus, you have access to a free sample chapter you can play around with the interactive board and engine, and help decide whether the book in question is promising to purchase. (The author's prose, explanation of ideas in the position, validity of variations, etc...)
  • Access to a database that shows, moves, number of games, and statistics for each variation as you browse through the book.
  • Instead of falling asleep reading opening books, the study format at Forward Chess has kept me up at night. Chess study is best absorbed as active-learning and enjoyable as possible. 

Today, I'll share my Forward Chess experience while studying The Modernized Grunfeld Defense by GM Yaroslav Zherebukh. @Cruel_Yaro . He offers instructional chess material on his website which I highly recommend players to visit.

Before I review my enlightening experience with studying his book with Forward Chess, I'd like to add that I've seen lectures by Zherebukh, not only is he very strong, he has a modern approach to openings and chess in general. 

He writes about the history, and how Ernst Gruenfeld revitalized chess with his (at the time a radical approach, now endorsed by every modern elite player) non-symmetrical opening choice. 

Ernst Gruenfeld, Wijk aan Zee, circa. 1961

Opening tip: Zherebukh recommends players to play at least 10 online games (he prefers 15 minute games to blitz & bullet) in an opening before playing over-the-board. Now with quarantine, there is time to get even more experience, and specialize in specific variations.

Memorization tip: Zherebukh advises players' to manually input the copious variations of each chapter and go over them on Chessbase. Excellent! We save all that hard work and sweat with Forward Chess, it's all inputted, and now we simply recall, guess the move, and then click the arrow for the solution.

Palatable Writing style, here's a specimen from the introduction on how to read this book: It honestly doesn't matter where you start: it can be chapter 1, 10, or 8 followed by chapter 5, 7, or 9 -- it really doesn't matter. Nowadays White plays everything against the Gruenfeld and there is no such thing as a main system anymore. And now he finishes the passage with:

Treat this book like a buffet: Eat what you like whenever you like. 

Take note: Zherebukh recommends the reader to master ALL the chapters, but especially chapters 14-16 Anti-Gruenfelds.

Book structure: The book has 5 sections, Parts I, II, III, IV, V. Each of the 16 chapters are split into the sections.

Here's my favorite specimen in the book. I enjoy it because of the beautiful maze of endless complications. A quote from Chapter 7 in relation to the following diagram.

How often do you have four pawns for a queen, knight, and bishop? I hope the answer is "not very often" or "never" or else this book is probably a bit too advanced for you.

My favorite crazy-line in the book. It belongs to chapter 7, variation (A), 10.Rh4!?, Get ready...

As a 7-year-old boy I was taught that the rook is worth 5 points, while the bishop and knight are worth 3 points each. The true value of the pieces should be judged on a case by case basis.

I'd rate my overall experience ! The Forward Chess format for studying the book was simply a joy, and and no less praise should go to Yaro for his excellent book.