A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...

Obviously opening theory is important but if you don't keep up to date then it can sometimes do more harm than good. In the following game my opponent knew something about the opening but he wasn't aware of recent improvement for White and he ended up losing a painful game:

What can be done to help prevent this kind of thing? Well, it's important to keep an up-to-date games database for reference. Games can be downloaded to use on Chessbase from http://www.theweekinchess.com/twic

When working on a line search key positions in the database and see what has been happening recently in strong players' games. This way you can at least avoid some nasty surprises...

Of course they can still come up with a strong novelty but that happens far less than someone simply repeating a strong idea they've already seen. Let me know in the comments if 'a little knowledge' has ever gotten you into trouble during a game!


  • 3 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    I agree with IM. I just bought a book called Attack with Black and further of the recommended lines (which mostly I couldn't memorize) I didn't understand at all what the position was about.

    Main ideas are crucial, forgetting lines or getting out of the mainlines is easy, but if you know the basic points, you have good chances to handle the position.

  • 4 years ago


    the problem with trying to avoid theory is that there is theory on so much.

  • 4 years ago

    IM Trendle

    Thinking more seriously for a second this is why it's important to have a good general understanding of the plans/ideas for both sides. Occasionaly you're going to get surprised in the opening but if you have some idea of the key points of the variation you can normally 1) work out the opponent's idea and 2) come up with a plan of your own.

    Memorising lines is not enough - understanding the principles is crucial!!

  • 4 years ago

    IM Trendle

    @LarEe91 - many thanks - now corrected.

    @axelmuller - I was discussing this with some GMs and they agreed they were generally pleased when a lower rated player played something non-critical.

    The solution is simply to play mainlines, be on top of theory, know at least as much as the higher-rated player - preferably more. Simple really Smile

  • 4 years ago


    "In the following game my opening knew something about the opening"

    "my opponent" perhaps? Smile 

  • 4 years ago

    NM axelmuller

    Apparently Alex Yermolinsky loves being surprised in the opening by a lower rated opponent. Playing mainlines guarantees you a good position after 15-20 moves. Sometimes the position reached is so good/save that the lower rated player has chances to hold it or the higher rated player is forced to take risks.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice! Opening study gets a bad rap.

  • 4 years ago

    IM Play_Dead

    Nice article :) Hadn't seen 14.Be3 before, but to my mind Black seems OK after d4 Na4 Qa7 Bf4 Nf8! Bringing the knight round to g6 and shoring up Black's kingside.. Any thoughts?

  • 4 years ago


    I thought knowing theory up to the 10th move was enough up to expert level!

    Lines that dangerous are not common I think, and I'm wondering if I could have seen the consequences on taking on d4 OTB. Now it seems obvious that the pawn is poisoned, but it's easy for me to talk now :)

  • 4 years ago

    IM Trendle

    Yes, that's normally good advice although that can often mean accepting worse positions. Obviously it's just tough facing higher rated players - I actually now try and play more mainlines when facing them - one advantage if you have time to prepare is they normally have lots of games you can go through!

  • 4 years ago


    Perhaps playing less theory-heavy lines against stronger opponents is also good advice (in general)?

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