How to develop an opening repertoire

How to develop an opening repertoire

Jun 21, 2014, 7:03 AM |


There are many posts that go about creating an opening repertoire. But mostly it's suggesting what opening one should play. But how to develop and record your opening repertoire? I have looked at multiple sources and I will describe some methods you can try for yourself to build your repertoire.

The following methods I will describe:

  • Writing down your repertoire
  • Opening repertoire with SCID
  • Opening repertoire with Chessbase (basic)
  • Opening repertoire with Chessbase (keys)
  • Using index cards
  • Using Excel/Note managers like Wikidpad/Evernote

First method: Writing down your repertoire

This method isn't very sufficient in the digital age. The problem is that you can write down your repertoire but it's hard to edit choices you made, it would seem rather pointless to write down your whole opening repertoire again with some changes everytime you find an improvement or a hole in your repertoire. Still it can be done, an example:

1: e4


-------------2 Nf3



-------------2 Nf3

-------------2 f4


--------------2 d4


--------------2 d4 

------1...other first tries by black.

Second method: Opening repertoire with SCID

A good way to create a repertoire with SCID has been documented here:

I am not fond of the SCID GUI but it's free so that's a big bonus.

Third method: Opening repertoire with Chessbase (basic)

With chessbase there is a simple way to create a repertoire that a lot of players use: For instance for a white repertoire: Choose your first opening move and look at all the main defences. Then find a line out of a chessbase book, game or ECO code you like and put in into a separate game. Do this for all the defences black has and look for transpositions too. Make a game for every line you play. Then put all those games into a database. And voila you have an opening repertoire, an example from a database I created:

I use this method myself, I like to use the fourth method but it's a lot of work to put in the moves. Basically if you really want to understand your opening repertoire you have to annotate every move played and explain why this move is made. You have to do research so you understand the positional and tactical ideas behind the move and your position reaching the middle game and possible end games. It's easier to remember moves that you understand the plan behind then try to memorise it. Still for memorisation there are some good techniques I will explain on the end.

Fourth method: Opening repertoire with Chessbase (Advanced)

For this method you can install a key into chessbase and edit it so you have a beautifull tree branch of your opening. This can be handy to analyse. You can use the games you created in the previous method for this. A good method to do this is described here (start at 3:30): 

Fifth method: Using index cards

This method was around before computers and most new players don't like it but it's popular among older players. Basically you write a line on a big paper and you file it into a dossier and every addition or change to that line you can simply add or replace the paper. With this basic way you can fill up a whole filing cabinet full of dossiers with lines you like to play as an opening repertoire. This can be really rewarding because you aren't restricted by software like Chessbase, you can edit your notes anyway you like. 

Sixth method: Alternatives, using digital notemanagers 

For a while I wasn't sure how to develop and record my opening repertoire so I tried a lot of different sofware to record it.

Some programs u can use if you really don't want to use chessbased programs: 

  • Microsoft excel, you can easily build a table of your opening lines.
  • Evernote, record your lines into different notebooks.
  • Wikidpad, This is a basic text editor with a tree pad, with this tree pad you can also create an easy opening tree of your favourite lines. The nice part is that you can put your texts, analyses and traps separately from the lines and simply put it into the tree structure. This keeps it very organised.

How to memorise these openings?

The best method I have found is using Chess Position Trainer and going over annotated games (of every move) of my openings. Chess position trainer let's you train your lines so you can easily memorise it so you can safe time during your games. The annotated games allow you to understand the openings so you won't be surprised if your opponent plays out of book because you understand the general plans and themes.

I'm sure one of these methods will be just what you have been looking for, try it out and let me know how it works out for you!