What is my weakest opening?

What is my weakest opening?

Mar 10, 2018, 4:01 PM |

I started playing chess again at the end of 2016, after 10 years of mostly total retirement. I now play 5|5 games on chess.com. I sometimes have a couple of consecutive weeks when I can dedicate quite a bit of time to chess. It's usually when my wife is out of town happy.png I usually try to start and complete little projects. I want to talk about a series of such projects. They are:

  1. What is my weakest opening?
  2. Finding a new opening
  3. First experience with the new opening
  4. Preparing for even more success

I will write 4 posts with the 1400-2200 ELO player in mind. My strength is also in this range, so I do not claim any chess credibility. However, I am OK reporting statistics, writing down the words of a master, or reporting a variation given by Houdini. These posts are mostly entertainment. In particular, you should probably spend more time on tactics, strategy and endings, and less time on the openings, especially if you are in the low end of the range (1400-1800 ELO).

Project #1 was to identify my weakest opening. With chess.com's Openings tool, it was easy to establish this win% ranking:

  1. Caro-Kann (W) 65%
  2. French (W) 65%
  3. Sicilian (W) 61%
  4. Against 1.d4 (B) 60%
  5. Sicilian (B) 59%
  6. Italian (W) 57%
  7. English (B) 56%

The most worrying opening is the Italian. First, I score a bit better with White than with Black on average (61% with White, 59% with Black). So the Italian scores comparatively less than the English with Black. More importantly, it represents many more games.

It turned out that my weakest opening was also the one I disliked the most:

Most of my games in the Italian would take a turn similar to the one presented above. From a practical standpoint, there are a few issues with this position at the amateur level:

  1. It is not that great for White. Houdini reports 2 Black moves that give them a tiny edge, and 8 moves that give them equality.
  2. It is one of the most important position for an 1. e4 e5 player, so quite a few people know what to do here.
  3. The simple and natural Black plans work well.

At a personal level, the Italian was the only opening I had against 1...e5, and I almost always play 1.e4, so I have played plenty of them, causing a bit of boredom. Compared to my pre-retirement period, I have the impression that Black players know this position better, so the cheap king side attacks work less often.

1....e5 is the second most common reply I face with White vs 1. e4, the first one being 1....c5. If I can improve my win% against this move, my overall results will improve as well.

In conclusion, I had plenty of reasons to upgrade or replace the Italian opening with White happy.png