Too much opening study ?

The question of whether you should spend time studying openings or not is the Nessie of chess improvement forums.

Rather than take sides on this dangerous topic (I’m neither an integrist of the “thou shalt not study openings” dogma, nor an opening study monk), or try to define what “opening study” really means (hint : it’s not only memorizing moves), I offer a few pointers that you can use as warnings to assess if your opening study dose may need a reassessment :

You may be overemphasizing opening study if :

  • You often blame your losses on the opening (“I didn’t know this variation”)
  • Your position deteriorates quickly when you leave your ‘book’ (in engine eval. terms, that would be something like losing ~0,5pts in the 4-5 moves after you leave your book line)
  • You score under 50% on average out of at least = positions in the opening phase
  • You know your opening lines better than people rated 300 pts above you

Conversely, you probably need to spend a little more time on your openings if :

  • You’re lost out of the opening (or even before)
  • You’re regularly trailing on the clock out of the opening


  • 10 days ago


    This is probably for slow chess, but i did an experiment with blitz about openings. i played many low rated players from 800 to 1500~ blitz here for few months. Just for fun and to see what they do and where they go wrong. And i played all kind of stuff - wild openings (1.h4 or g4 etc), openigns that does not exist (1.e3 with Ke2 to d3 etc) and main lines. Surprizingly i found that when opponent does not know the opening (i mean if i play 1.Na3) they pretty much know what to do like 2 pawns at center etc general principles) problems goes after that. They lose track of what is attacking what and they play random move or very agressive but week move. If they play their opening - they move by pure memorization, sometimes i trick them and i play sideline but they still play the wrong now main line but overall they are feeling more confident and that helps their game. So is good to know openings. But only 1-2 i dont suggest. But to know different kind of position you need experience and to first study tactics.

  • 10 days ago


    Yeah. My philosophy is that opening study is better than doing nothing, and that punishing your opponents for not knowing their opening stuff is worthwhile. Really, opening study for us class players isn`t about getting an advantage out of the opening, although even at the 1400-1500 level it`s a nice thing to have. It`s more about not losing out of the opening and knowing what to do in the opening, because sometimes `control the center` doesn`t cut it.

  • 4 years ago


    I feel mid game strategies and tactics are the most important for my level. I want a comfortable, developing opening, to ease into the mid game-- hopefully ahead or be even...

  • 4 years ago


    i think middle game tactics really decides the fate of the game. I study chess, mainly openings, and i end up losing 7 rounds in a row to my friend who does'nt even know a single opening (though he knows some general opening principles), he does'nt really study chess as much as i do and he came out with some unfamiliar opening moves (for me). He just hav a good tactical view or somewhat a chess pro?

  • 4 years ago


    Endgames are all about tactics, and planning. Thats why they are so good to learn. They help you in two of the most important areas of the middlegame.

  • 4 years ago


    and strongly discourage them (like in current blog Wink)

    Well, I have nothing against opening study, and I do study openings myself. But I think many players (especially if they lack experience) are not using the right methods. My post aims at hinting when the methods may be wrong, rather than discourage the study itself.

    As for books versus databases, I feel there is a level when the book is no longer necessary or even plainly insufficient, but it's above mine, so I guess around 2200 FIDE maybe ?! Surprised But even there, you can find tremendous opening books nowadays aimed at this level.

    A good book with decent explanations and model games is probably still the best way to start studying an opening when you're U2000.

  • 4 years ago


    And only players of Estragon's strength can really learn openings from database - I find it extremely difficult and almost impossible to grasp the nuances of complicated openings (e.g.: Panov-Botvinnik Attack) without good books.  +1

    In order to advance in strength grasp of endgames is a must. LASKERFAN  +1 

  • 4 years ago


    I think openings should be memorized in alphabetical order. First learn Alapin, then Alekhine defence and so on. When you finally get to Zukertort defence you will most likely become a Master by that time. That gotta be the quickest way...

  • 4 years ago


     IMHO I think its a good idea to find whole games in a data base that use the openings you are interested in and play out those games to find out what the master players do--their strategies, tactics and ideas.  Playing solitaire chess with those games are helpful.

  • 4 years ago


    I can't disagree with your formula for diagnosis.

    Still, the method of opening study is very important.  Those who spend their free cash on openings books and DVDs are doing it all wrong*.  It's cheaper to just play over master games, and you learn more about the position than the moves of a variation, such as ideas for the middlegame and typical endings.


    * For every player who improved dramatically doing this, there are 100 who did not.

  • 4 years ago


    Sometimes you can learn more about the game with fewer pieces on the board. [Play] and study endgames. 

  • 4 years ago


    For amateur players, such as myself, I think that it is important to know some kind of main lines in a lot of different openings, instead of only knowing a few openings very well. I also think that you learn chess more quickly if you play different openings, because you also will get to play a lot of different positions.

  • 4 years ago


    Unless you want to become a GM or World Champion; just enjoy the joy of playing Chess!

    I would personally say practice makes a MAN (a woman too; or else I will be termed SEXIST in these modern PC timesWink) perfect (hopefully); hence keep playing as many games as you can.  

    You learn more from your lost games than won games!!

  • 4 years ago



    To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.

    The game might be divided into three parts, the opening, the middle-game and the end-game. There is one thing you must strive for, to be equally efficient in the three parts.

    Ninety percent of the book variations have no great value, because either they contain mistakes or they are based on fallacious assumptions; just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings.

    IMHO his 3rd quote still applies to the majority, if not the vast majority of amateurs because many of them are probably clueless the instant their opponent deviates from whatever priceless bit of opening theory they worked so hard to memorize (without understanding what they were memorizing)

  • 4 years ago


    I guess that I'm almost in the first camp, even though I'm probably in the second camp.  I wonder how long you could spend in both camps.

  • 4 years ago


    Ive been on both sides of this. I feel if you dont understand pawn structure you have no business studying the opening. Only learning it by going over master games is what you should do until then in my opinion.

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