True Opening Preparation

Jun 17, 2008, 7:52 AM |

A revelation hit me a few days ago as to how to prepare an opening.  I have seen many people spend hours and hours studying countless lines of theory, but seem dissatisfied with their result with the opening.  This is partly because of the fact that they forget their lines and become confused, getting an inferior position.  They then follow the game by rereading the material on the opening and continue to blame the loss on the opening.  But how did they come from an inferior position to an objectively lost position?  Or if they remembered the theory but lost the game?  The answer is of course the middlegame.

I have countless opening books.  They list game after game with many annotations.  These annotations can help with the thought process in the ensuing middlegame and the ideas associated with it.  But many people refuse to play out the games.  They insist on looking through the games as if it were a scrapbook, trying to remember every last variation played by the GMs.  Rarely do they remember the variations later or have learned the ideas and therefore are not prepared for the game.

My idea is to look for games in the selected opening and play through the games.  Annotated games can really help your understanding.  After each move passes, try to understand the ideas in them even in the middlegame or endgame.  So even if you can't remember the opening lines, you will have plenty of rich ideas that come from the opening at your disposal.

Six months ago, I played the Ruy Lopez.  I memorized opening lines and was ecstatic to play the most fashionable line in GM play.  But when the middle game occured, I was clueless about how to proceed and made poor moves in the transitory phases and had little planning.  But when I finally played over many annotated games in the Ruy Lopez, I finally understood all of the ideas White has at his disposal.  I no longer needed to remember the longer or more theoretical lines.  I could just implement the ideas I had learned and get a good position.  Memorization is important in learning the first stages of an opening, but it takes the  ensuing middlegame and even endgame knowledge to truly learn it.