Time to change opening repertoire?


I played 1 e4 exclusively until last year when I decided to try the London System: 1 d4, 2 Bf4, 3 Nf3.  I chose the London System because it's the same basic setup as the Slav or Caro-Kann Defenses with a move in hand.

You can play it against 1...d5, 1...Nf6, 1...g6, 1...b6, etc.  That makes memorizing variation after variation unnecessary.

Taskinen wrote:
ThrillerFan kirjoitti:



Hope this helps in answering your question.

Hey, may I ask some advice from you? As a new player I've pretty much sticked to one opening every time I play (e4, Nf3) leading to either Ruy Lopez, Italian game or Scotch game depending what I feel like doing. I prefer to play Ruy Lopez since it was the first opening I learned and watched some videos about. I feel comfortable playing it and I've had good success (against my level opponents) with it. I've also done a bit of research on the Italian game and Scotch game as well.

My biggest issue is with the black openings. I like it when my opponent opens with e4, cause I can play very similar lines as I would play with white. Playing the Ruy Lopez main line is my favourite since I know the main variations about 10 moves deep, which gives me plenty of room to adjust with my opponent. And if my opponent (as they often do at this level) does something crazy, I'm usually very quick to jump on the opportunity and create an advantage.

However the issue is that when my opponent opens with d4 I'm usually totally lost on what I should be doing. One time I started with d6 (having looked somewhere that it has pretty high win rate against d4) leading to a position where I didn't want to trade queens if all pieces are exchanged in the middle. Afterwards I analyzed the game with the computer and it told me I played Black Lion defense. So being interested that I actually managed to figure a solid opening I looked couple videos about it and started playing it ever since. However Black Lion is way too aggressive opening as black for my taste, so I would like some better options against d4 as black. Any suggestions?

Also I would some day like to play some d4 openings myself, do you happen to have any ideas what would fit my playing style and lead to similar positions as the e4 openings I go with? Perhaps that would make it easier for me to learn the ins and outs and have couple more choices in my repertoire. I know that beginners should stick to only couple openings, but I would like to increase my understanding of chess as whole - it doesn't matter if I lose some games while doing so.

So basically if my main opening choice is Ruy Lopez, what do you think would be the fitting choices for my second white opening and two black openings? :-)


Two things:


1) At your level, I wouldn't recommend 1...d6 against 1.d4.  Better off going with the classical defenses like you do against 1.e4.  That means 1.d4 d5 and if 2.c4, then 2...e6.  If 2.Nf3, then 2...Nf6 (not committing when White doesn't commit).


As for your comment of "e4, Nf3", I hope you don't play 2.Nf3 against everything and that you understand why you are playing that.  White plays 2.Nf3 against 1...e5 and against 1...c5 because both moves control d4 and don't allow White the big center.  Against moves that don't contest d4 or e4 immediately, like 1...e6, 1...c6, 1...g6, etc, that you are playing 2.d4 and not 2.Nf3.  If you are playing 2.Nf3 against those moves, you aren't understanding what you are doing, you're merely memorizing, which is a bad thing, but a typical thing that many beginners do, and that's a huge error.

garalon11 wrote:
ThrillerFan escribió:

Sorry for the long-winded response, but the answer is critical IMHO.


Speaking as one who yo-yos between 2000 and 2150 based on streaks and slumps over the board, I can tell you that I have tried almost every opening known to man kind.  I have also played the same opening for elongated periods of time.  Both are bad!


Too many openings and you end up the jack of all trades and the master of nothing!


Playing the exact same opening over and over and over and over and over and over again leads to getting complacent and starting to not think about what you are doing, playing like a robot, and you end up making horrible moves because you didn't consider the fact that your opponent inverted moves 8 and 9 and that it actually does make a major difference.


It only took me 20 years, but I figured out what appears to be the best recipe.  In involves following each and every one of the following, not pick and choose, ALL of the following:


  • Have 2 main openings for White, Black against e4, and Black against d4.  Black against Flank Openings you can have more than one, but only one is necessary.
  • Of the 2 main openings for each scenario, consider one of them "dominant" and the other "recessive" with a roughly 75/25 split between the two in each case.
  • The two openings should in some way go together.  In other words, don't try to combine the Slav Defense with the Modern Benoni or the Caro-Kann Defense with the Latvian Gambit.  One should be a little more aggressive and riskier than the other, but don't go to extremes.
  • Your Black openings against 1.e4 and 1.d4 should mesh with each other.  Similar style of play (not similar pawn structure - King's Indian and Pirc don't "mesh")
  • For your dominant opening, don't cherry pick variations.  Learn the opening as a whole and play it as a whole.  For the recessive opening, feel free to cherry pick (more on that below).
  • Depending on how many tournament games you play a year determines how many times you can go outside of the 6 openings you choose.  My rule of thumb is 1 game per 50 at most, regardless of which color.  I play about 110 to 120 tournament games a year.  I played 1.b4 a few weeks ago.  Before that, I played the Budapest (as Black) last summer once, etc.


To illustrate, I'll give you mine.  You will notice that they all lead to either a Blocked, Open, or Static Center.  You don't see me ever going up against a Mobile Center (i.e. Grunfeld, Alekhine, etc.) and only rarely a dynamic center.  Notice that my 2 dominant openings as Black both entail blocked centers.  My 2 recessive openings both entail static or open centers.



White:  Dominant: 1.d4, Recessive: 1.Nf3 (That may switch at some point)

Black vs e4:  Dominant: French, Recessive:  Petroff

Black vs d4:  Dominant: King's Indian, Recessive:  Dutch (Classical and Stonewall via 1...e6)


Notice how also my recessive opening as Black against 1.d4, the way I play it, could transpose to my dominant opening as Black against 1.e4.


Also, when you look at what I do as White:

1.d4 - Catalan vs attempts at the NID or QGD, Gligoric, Exchange, or Fianchetto KID, Exchange Grunfeld, 4.Qc2 against Slav (transposes to Closed Catalan if Semi-Slav attempt [4...e6]), etc.

1.Nf3 - 2.d4 against 1...d5, often leads to Catalan or Slav lines, 2.c4 against 1...Nf6 leading often to King's Indian or Anti-Grunfeld lines, and while it avoids the Grunfeld unlike 1.d4, it also entails playing the Symmetrical English against 1...c5.


All in all a very positional repertoire.  You see no dragon, modern benoni, leningrad dutch, King's gambit, or anything else even remotely close to resembling those.  This is what I mean by openings that mesh.  Notice that the style of play is similar throughout, but the specifics of the positions are very diverse and so it forces you to think every time and never get complacent!


As for the "knowing the opening in its entirity" vs "cherry picking".  Take my case.  I can play the Classical, Winawer, or MacCutcheon against 3.Nc3 in the French.  I can play 3...c5, 3...Be7, or 3...Nf6 against the Tarrasch.  The Petroff, since I don't play it near as often, I don't need to know both the 5...Nd7 and 5...Bd6 variations against 3.d4.


Note, if your opening is a line of the Sicilian, know that Sicilian inside and out, not the entire sicilian.  Same with 1...e5.  So if you play the Najdorf, understand both 6...e5 AND 6...e6 lines (where both are possible, against 6.Bg5, 6...e5 is simply bad, same thing against 6.Bc4, but against 6.Be3, 6.Be2, 6.f4, etc, know both lines, but don't try to throw in the Taimanov, Dragon, Classical, Kan, and Accelerated Dragon unless one of those happens to be your "recessive" opening.  The one that is your dominant, diversify within itself, like I will play 3.Bb4 sometimes against 3.Nc3 in the French and other times I'll play 3...Nf6.


Hope this helps in answering your question.

Thanks a lot for your response. I find your idea very interesting. It would take me some time to build such a complete opening repertoire, because I think that, at my current level, I should focus more on strategy and endgames than in openings. But I can slowly increase my openings' knowledge as well, I guess. As White, I would definitely choose 1.e4 as my "dominant" option, but I could start playing 1.d4 as my "recessive". I was thinking about the Catalan, but I've read that it's such a complex opening which requires deep positional understanding. Maybe it's too much for me right now... Do you think I should allow NID and QGD? Or should I try going for the Catalan instead? Thanks.


There is definitely more theory in the Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Gambit Declined, combined, than the Catalan.


The thing is, you have to know when the Catalan works and when it doesn't.  It's all about Black's Light-Squared Bishop.  ...e6 needs to be played, hence why you see the Catalan against the QGD and the Nimzo-Indian, but not say, the Slav.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 O-O 6.O-O dxc4




1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6, now 4.g3, while dabbed a little bit at the top level these days just to play something different, isn't near as good as it is when Black has played ...e6 with the Bishop still behind the pawn chain.  It's just like the Colle System.  1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 and now if 3...e6, then 4.Bd3 and you go for a Colle, but if say, 3...Bf5 or 3...Bg4, then 4.c4 is necessary and playing the setup with 4.Bd3 and 5.c3 or 5.b3 is useless!


So it's all about understanding the fact that the Bishop needs to be blocked by Black's own pawns for it to be effective!