A step-by-step guide on getting better at opening

How to get better at an Opening?

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Hello & Namaste!
In the next few posts, I will focus on the "how to" part of chess. To start with, I am writing on the subject of openings. There are a lot of books available on openings that give you knowledge but very little is written about how to study an opening and get better at it. In this post, I will share an approach that you could consider employing in your practice.

1A. Make a list of available material and resources | 1B: Prioritize
To illustrate this, I will choose Grunfeld. Now under Grunfeld, I make a list of all possible resources and materials that include DVD's. After some probing I get to know the level of the material and I prioritize which book I will study first. Under this, it is important to study the resource that not ONLY deals with theoretical part but also deals with ideas, themes and recurring plans. For example, Jonathon Rowson's excellent book on the Grunfeld - Understanding The Grunfeld is a good companion.

2. Study the typical endgame plans
Collect games of high rated battles that reached endgames. 40+ moves is a good point and then study the ensuing endgames of the opening. Make a list of common themes in the endgame in the opening and mark the model positions. For instance, Black's Queenside pawn majority vs White's central pawns is a common theme in the endgames.

3. Study the typical plans and pawn levers
When you come across high rated battles without annotations, it makes sense to use the pawn levers as the filter to understand possible plans for both the sides. Pawn breaks can be used as clues to know more about possibilities after the transition from opening to the middlegame.

4. Learn the Basic Theory
Categorize the opening into Mainlines, Trending Lines, Sidelines and Rare lines. You can use a book to understand the main lines, but a simple search in the base or checking the opening tree can also help you in understanding the main points in the opening

5. Play Blitz Games / Practice Games
After you are sufficiently equipped with the basic theory, play some blitz games. Start with 4 games and stop. After you are done playing, come back to your notes and compare. See if you did everything right in the opening and if your opponent deviated, it is an opportunity to learn something new .

6. Draw conclusions or Write an Opening Note
After you have spent sufficient time on the opening, you would have come across a lot of stuff that could be worth noting. Prepare a document with all the ideas and concepts you have learnt in the opening. This could be useful for revising prior to the event and also when you are about to teach the opening to someone.

7. Revise and Update
After you are done with preparing / following all the steps above, it is time to do one revision and update lines in your notes by consulting the games played in that particular week/month/quarter.

I hope this step-by-step guide will be helpful in your process of getting better at an opening. All the best!

I will be basing my next set of articles on the 'How to' series. If you want me to cover a particular topic or a question, do post it in a comment and I will consider it. Thanks!

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