Dealing with Opening Problems

Dealing with Opening Problems

Mar 16, 2016, 3:47 PM |

So you're having opening problems right? There is that one opening that has been bugging you, disrupting your ability to finish strong in a tournament or beat that rival that has stolen the last 4 games in a row from you. Well that is in fact something that happens to everyone inevitably at some point. With the introduction of computers, openings have begun to play a major role in determining who seizes the initiative. Whoever seizes the initiative seems to have a more pleasurable game, not having to fight against annoying difficulties from all corners of the board. 

What should you do if you get into an unfavorable opening position? Well, fight on, give everything you've got. The game isn't over until your opponent gives checkmate to your king. So create counterplay and try to make the best of the position you are given. That being said, once the game is over, whether you won or lost, it is time to revise your idea, and see if you can improve the position you are entering. I know countless players who have dragged out their opening problems for years, entering the same bad positions over and over again, and expecting different results. As Albert Einstein once said, "You can't do the same thing over and over again, and expect different results."

There are many ways to deal with your opening problems. Different players have different suggestions as to how to go about this. Here is one way I approach doing this. 

1. Take the game at its core, and assess why your position wasn't as great as you thought it would be.

My assessment as to why I had seemingly lost (in addition to my subpar endgame technique) was because I had entered a type of position that didn't fit my typical style. 

2. Switch the perspective and understand black's main plans. By doing so, you will be able to find either the most testing or the most annoying lines to use from the white standpoint. One way I like to do this, is to look at the games of one of the top players that employs a particular line. It's easy to find moves you can make to replace the ones you played in the game. However, if you understand the plans associated with those moves, you will be able to effectively play the resulting positions to a higher degree of success.

In this case I used Vladimir Bagirov, an adherent to the Alekhine Defense:

3. I noticed from looking at Bagirov's games that the primary plan of the Alekhine Defense is to provoke pawn pushes from white, and then seek to attack the center later on and exploit the positioning of those pawns. In my game, I had played moves such as c4 and b3, which made my pawns weak, and allowed black to equalize. So now, it is a matter of fixing the plans (not the moves) for white.

4. An optimal plan that I found (rather than building a center for black to later attack) was to use my light squared bishop to provoke the knight on d5, and then set up my pieces in a way to attack black's king. This game illustrates how that was done:

By switching my perspective in looking at this opening, I was able to pinpoint the difficulties of its main plans for black. I found that black wants to attack the weaknesses in white's center. However, when white doesn't build a center for black to do this, black ends up being underdeveloped and passively defending an attacked king. When you are tackling your own opening problems, it is important to separate the moves from the plans of the opening. Understand why you had difficulties playing the position you got into as opposed to memorizing the route to get into a different one. Most importantly, know what types of positions you enjoy playing, and do your best to manipulate the route so that you can get into those types of positions.