The best tools to create an Opening Repertoire (100% free).

Mar 10, 2010, 5:29 AM |

I'd like to share a few tips I gathered in my quest for learning openings.

At first, when trying to learn a new opening, people tend to put as many variations as possible in their software/database without any real work behind it. Here I'll show you how to store your pet opening moves and practice them.

You will absolutely need the following tools:

-SCID (alternative is ChessDB, but scid is preferred and used here)
-Chess PositionTrainer

I - Getting Contents

I assume you already have at least 1 pet opening for white and and a response as black against at least 1.e4 and 1.d4. Now you need to ask yourself "after the 2 or 3 first obvious moves, what next move should I use?" There is no perfect answer, but one that worked for me is to search for a GM that uses the same opening as you.

Your first stop must be It will have all the up-to-date games of your favorite GM. If you don't have a premium account there though, you cannot download PGN's but at least you can find the latest events where your GM played and find these events on google (most of them have an official site) and download the PGN's for free.

Now that you have a lot of games featuring your idol, you need to organize them in a database. This is where SCID comes in handy.

II - Organizing games with SCID

Open SCID and create a new database (file with extension .si4) by using the menu File->New...

Now you have a new empty database. First choose menu File->Open and select one the PGN's you've downloaded and go to menu Windows->Database Switcher (Ctrl+D). This new window helps you organize simply your opened databases as shown below.

Clipbase is a temporary database always present in SCID where you can put any temporary games or move from one place to another and filter them.

2: Kasparov_ is your new database (should contain 0 games for the moment)

1: Kasparov.pgn is the PGN you've just opened.

Select this PGN game/database and drag&drop it inside the clipbase database.
The games present in the PGN are now copied temporarily to clipbase. (you can now close that PGN with a right click->close)

We want now to filter this games by player, color and date and put them in our fresh database. Let's say we want Kasparov playing as white between January 1999 and December 2005. Open the menu Search->Header (Ctrl+Shift+H) and enter the needed values:

Press "Search" and then "Close" this search window and you have a clipbase database filtered like you want. Now drag&drop it inside your new database (here 2: Kasparov) and you're done! You have a filtered kasparov database. (no need to save it, it's automaticaly done when you exit SCID). You can right-click on Clipbase and choose "empty clipbase" if needed.

Repeat these steps for all Kasparov's PGN of the same category (opening) you want to study.

III - Choose your main lines

Ideally you want to play variations with the most win percentage.
Finding this information is done by using the great Tree window.
First go to menu File->Open base as tree... and choose your Kasparov white opening database. This will open a new "Tree" window with a list of moves and score percentage.

I'm guessing you want an 1.e4 opening (Innocent) so you can click on line 2! (in the above database)
The move will be played on the board and the list of next possible moves updated in the Tree Window. Let's say you want Kasparov answer to a Sicilian defense, click on the line with the c5 move and you will see what Kasparov played the most. Go on like this until you find the answers you seek!

IV - Your SCID Repertoire

As we will see later, ChessPositionTrainer is excellent to train your speed and learn an opening and its variations move by move. A SCID repertoire focuses more on the positions resulting from the opening you choose.

You might not want to create a SCID Repertoire until you've perfectly learned your pet openings move by move. I use this feature as a middle game analysis tool and eventually change my opening moves if I don't want to reach any of the position in the repertoire.

Here is how to create a repertoire.
With the tree window open and the desired opening moves played on the board, go to menu Windows->Repertoire editor (Ctrl+Shift+R) and in the window that opens, choose Edit->Add group to add the current position to the repertoire. (then File->Save in your repertoire folder)

Now each time you open your Repertoire, clicking on a group will display the position on the board. This makes it easy for you to choose between different positions (that you want or not to reach) and change your opening moves accordingly. Although this is a valuable tool, I would not use it first as an opening learning tool. It is more an analysis tool to keep for later. Feel free to explore the add line, exclude line and other features.

V - Chess Position Trainer (CPT)

There is not much to say about this one. It good, extremely straightforward and when you've chosen your pet opening moves from SCID and entered them manually in CPT, using the training tool everyday a few minutes will forcefully make you learn the opening.

At some point you won't need it anymore and you will be able to focus on SCID repertoire and the Tree database to improve your opening go to the middle game you like; until you choose to learn a new opening.

This part, although smaller than the others is not less important.
It plays an essential part in learning the main moves of an opening and the training mode needs to be used at least weekly! otherwise you end up with a useless and limited opening database.

VI - Useful Opening Tools in SCID

The Opening Report
When you open a database (huge database is best) as Tree and make a few moves (your pet opening for example), you can go to menu Tools->Opening Report (Ctrl+Shift+O) to open a new report tab with a LOT of useful informations on this opening. Most notable are:

-Move orders reaching the report position. Let's say you play the French defense, using the Opening Report tool will show you that a French-Type position can be reached via 1.d4 opening!

-Positional Themes
Whether results in a Kingside castling, isolated pawn, pawn storm, open file...etc. (interesting for middle game analysis as well)

If you like rook endgames, this tool will show you if your opening often result in this kind of endgame!

The Statistic window
Menu Windows->Statistics will show you how your opening performs in percentage of win/loss/draw in your database.

Although a bit scary, SCID is a gold mine for chess improvement.
I think you have all the tools at hand. Practice will get you there.
I let you explore SCID's tactical training tool and engine features by your selves.