How to waste time while studying a chess opening

How to waste time while studying a chess opening

matyurasov
matyurasov
Apr 15, 2018, 5:40 PM |
0

Amateurs have by definition limited time to study openings, so they should concentrate on the variations that they actually encounter, not on the variations played between masters. This post is going to illustrate this idea with a position of the Modern defence, Averbakh system, Kotov variation (A42).

In the worst case scenario, the main variation at the master level is a minor variation at the amateur level, and the main variation at the amateur level is barely played by the pros. Books usually reflect the practice of the masters, so the risk is to study variations that never materialize on the board, and to miss the moves that our opponents actually play. This is how to waste time while studying a chess opening.

Let's have a look at this position that I have encountered 87 times with Black in my 5|5 blitz games, against opponents rated between 1600 and 2000 ELO:

 

This table presents the frequency of White's 5th move in this Modern Defense position, as given by the Openings explorer (https://www.chess.com/openings):

  Masters My blitz opponents
5. Be3 55% 55%
5. d5 33% 7%
5. Nge2 10% 8%
5. Nf3 2% 30%

 

Examination of the table lead to the following conclusions for the amateur:

  • d5 is a minor variation.
  • Nf3 requires a whole new chapter to be written about it.
  • Nge2 is rarely played, and when it is, it often transposes to 5. Be3. This move can therefore be entirely forgotten.

Progressing through the game, this position is theoretically and practically important:

 

This table presents the frequency of White's 7th move, as given by the Openings explorer (https://www.chess.com/openings):

  Masters My blitz opponents
7. g4 41% 16%
7. c5 24% 10%
7.Bd3, 7.Qd2, 7.f3 or 7.Nge2 35% 55%
Other 7th moves N/A 19%

 

Examination of the table lead to the following conclusions for the amateur:

  • The major variation is made of pseudo Saemisch King's Indians starting with the moves 7.Bd3, 7.Qd2, 7.f3 or 7.Nge2.
  • There are two minor variations: 7.g4 and 7.c5.

The entire investigation can be summarized in a table made of 6 major variations and 3 minor variations. These 9 positions are my key positions in this opening, i.e. positions that represent between 0.5% and 2% of all the positions I encounter with a given color.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 Nc6

5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Be3   e5  Nge2 exd4 Nxd4 Nge7 Be2   O-O O-O   f5
      other moves  
  d5   Nce7 Qd2   f5 f3    Nf6  
    g4    f5 (min)    
    c5    f5 (min)    
Nf3   Bg4 d5   Nd4      
  Be3  e5 d5    Nd4 Be2  Bxf3 Bxf3  c5
      other moves    
d5    Nd4 (min)        

 

By studying these 9 key positions that result from 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 Nc6, I am ready to meet 80% to 90% of what my opponents are going to throw at me. If I had studied the 9 key positions resulting from the masters' practice, my readiness will fall to maybe 40% or 50%. I think that it is a good way not to waste time while studying a chess opening.