HOW to Build an Opening Repertoire

HOW to Build an Opening Repertoire

NM CraiggoryC
Aug 15, 2016, 11:11 AM |

I recently viewed a blog titled "Build Your Opening Repertoire" <--click on the link to view the excellent video with a bunch of advice about building an opening repertoire. Which gave me the idea for this blog about HOW to build an opening repertoire. 

When I first started playing competitive chess, when I was nearly 15 years old, I used to love studying opening theory. I liked the idea of being able to win the game, or getting a winning position, early in the game. I also liked the idea of using your creativity to try to find new and original ideas that your opponent has never seen and might have trouble meeting your new idea.

Today I'm a NM and I get much less wins from the opening, but this doesn't mean that studying openings is less helpful at this level. Whereas when I was first starting playing in chess tournaments (I was rated around 1300 USCF), I would study any line just for fun, today I have much less time to study and I try to optimize my time. In a previous blog I showed how to use your online games/blitz games to help build your opening repertoire. It's very important to PLAY a game in the variation that you are studying. You may think your opening preparation is sufficient in a certain variation, but until you actually play a game, you'll most likely notice that you actually are ill prepared for that particular line.

So first step to getting a well organized and well practiced opening repertoire is to look up your games you've played. You can do this on by clicking the "Learn" tab and sliding over to "Game Explorer". Once you are on the "Game Explorer" page there's a tab that says "Master Games". Scroll down to "My Games" in that tab. You can now see a tree of all the games you've played on! Now you can cross reference with's "Master Games" database or use chessbase if you have it.

Now that you've got games to reference, it's time to study where you went wrong and to develop an opening repertoire. You want to use games you've played because after playing the game you have a much better feel for the position.

Below is a game I lost, in a variation I thought I knew pretty well but my opponent played an inaccurate, but unknown (to me), move and I was unable to accurately meet the move. The whole idea is to use your online games (especially your losses) to see what you need to study or practice. If you keep doing this, eventually you'll build up a complete opening repertoire that you've already practiced; instead of just superficially knowing some theory.

HOW to Build an Opening Repertoire

The main line is my game. The variations are Anand-Aronian and Topalov-Kasimdhanov. I'm the analyst of the main line. Anand is the analyst of the variations.