Ways for an Amateur Player to Learn Openings

DJM473

I was wondering, are there any good books or articles on opening theory for amateur players, like players in the 1000-1100 range? I feel like I don't really know anything about the openings and how to play them. I don't know the best move in every situation, and I feel like learning about that would help my game a lot. All I know is the basic principles, like control the center and castle, and the names of a few openings, like the Scotch Game, Roy Lopez, and Sicilian. Can anyone give me some advice? Thanks!

NeoRomantic-1

 Read "discovering chess openings" by John Emms

DJM473

OK, thanks!

ed1975

Yes, this book comes highly recommended by many players.

GypsyBaron

I would suggest learning first what it is you want for dinner. Then the rest will come naturally.

kindaspongey

This is a pretty controversial subject around here. Just about everyone agrees that one should start by learning principles. Some people think that one should at first be satisfied with reading a few sentences on the subject, but I think that one is more likely to have some degree of comfort in the opening if one reads something like the exposition in Discovering Chess Openings by GM John Emms (2006).

"... For beginning players, [Discovering Chess Openings] will offer an opportunity to start out on the right foot and really get a feel for what is happening on the board. ..." - FM Carsten Hansen (2006)
https://web.archive.org/web/20140627114655/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen91.pdf

Perhaps the purpose could be served by reading the discussion of opening play in some general beginner book. The real disagreement arises on the question of when one should go on to the next step. I myself think that it is something of a mistake to think in terms of a next step. Better, in my opinion, to think of opening knowledge as gradually accumulating. One first experiments with ideas and slowly learns more about some of them. Somewhat detailed suggestions are provided by Moret in his My-First-Chess-Opening-Repertoire books.

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9033.pdf

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/9050.pdf

https://chessbookreviews.wordpress.com/tag/vincent-moret/

Opening Repertoire: 1 e4 is a similar sort of book.

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7819.pdf

Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro (2014) combines explanation of principles with starting opening suggestions. Of necessity, his opening descriptions are less detailed (than those of Moret) because he tried to offer choices to the reader and give some indication of how a player might choose what to try.
http://kenilworthian.blogspot.com/2014/05/review-of-pete-tamburros-openings-for.html
https://chessbookreviews.wordpress.com/tag/openings-for-amateurs/
https://www.mongoosepress.com/catalog/excerpts/openings_amateurs.pdf
Some players may not like the idea of relying on the limited selection of an author. It is a pretty daunting project to try to learn a little bit about a lot of openings, but, if one wants more freedom to make choices, it would make sense to look at a book like Yasser Seirawan's Winning Chess Openings.

https://web.archive.org/web/20140627132508/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen173.pdf

While reading such a book, don't forget that the primary purpose is to get help with making choices. Once one has chosen openings, I again think that there is wide agreement that the way to start is by playing over sample games. Some of us think that it can be useful to use books like First Steps: 1 e4 e5 and First Steps: Queen's Gambit

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7790.pdf

https://www.newinchess.com/media/wysiwyg/product_pdf/7652.pdf

as sources of games with explanations intended for those just starting to learn about an opening. Be sure to try to use the openings in games in between sessions of learning. Most of the time, one faces a position with no knowledge of a specific move indicated in a book. One has to accept that as part of chess, and think of opening knowledge as a sometimes helpful aid. After a game, it makes sense to try to look up the moves in a book and see if it has some indication of how one might have played better in the opening. Many opening books are part explanation and part reference material. The reference material is included in the text with the idea that one mostly skips it on a first reading, and looks at an individual item when it applies to a game that one has just played. Resist the temptation to try to turn a book into a mass memorization project. There are many important subjects that one should not neglect because of too much time on opening study.
https://www.chess.com/article/view/learning-an-opening-to-memorize-or-understand
https://www.chess.com/article/view/3-ways-to-learn-new-openings

https://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-understand-openings

"... Overall, I would advise most players to stick to a fairly limited range of openings, and not to worry about learning too much by heart. ..." - FM Steve Giddins (2008)

"... I feel that the main reasons to buy an opening book are to give a good overview of the opening, and to explain general plans and ideas. ..." - GM John Nunn (2006)
"... If the book contains illustrative games, it is worth playing these over first ..." - GM John Nunn (2006)
"... the average player only needs to know a limited amount about the openings he plays. Providing he understands the main aims of the opening, a few typical plans and a handful of basic variations, that is enough. ..." - FM Steve Giddins (2008)

"... there will come a time, whether on move two or move twenty, when your knowledge of theory runs out and you have to decide what to do on your own. ... sometimes you will leave theory first, sometimes your opponent. ... It happens in every well-contested GM game at some point, usually a very significant point. ..." - IM John Cox (2006)
"... Everyman Chess has started a new series aimed at those who want to understand the basics of an opening, i.e., the not-yet-so-strong players. ... I imagine [there] will be a long series based on the premise of bringing the basic ideas of an opening to the reader through plenty of introductory text, game annotations, hints, plans and much more. ..." - FM Carsten Hansen (2002)
https://web.archive.org/web/20140627055734/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen38.pdf
"The way I suggest you study this book is to play through the main games once, relatively quickly, and then start playing the variation in actual games. Playing an opening in real games is of vital importance - without this kind of live practice it is impossible to get a 'feel' for the kind of game it leads to. There is time enough later for involvement with the details, after playing your games it is good to look up the line." - GM Nigel Davies (2005)

"... Review each of your games, identifying opening (and other) mistakes with the goal of not repeatedly making the same mistake. ... It is especially critical not to continually fall into opening traps – or even lines that result in difficult positions ..." - NM Dan Heisman (2007)

https://web.archive.org/web/20140627062646/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman81.pdf

PawnMongo

 Many opening books encourage readers to focus on understanding positions rather than memorizing moves.  I accept this advice but feel it would be more useful if authors told us how much (or how little) we need to memorize.  Clearly, players need to do some memorization.  If I'm playing Black vs. 1. e4, the idea that I would let my clock run while deciding whether it's OK to play 1. ...c5 (or some other move) is nuts.  We all memorize at least the first couple of moves of an opening.  The problem is how much to memorize.  I recognize that an expert needs to memorize much more than a beginner and a GM needs to memorize much more than an expert.  Nonetheless, it would be helpful if books told us, depending on our strength, what we should memorize and then talked about the principles to carry us on from there.

krikorian12

step 1- play opening you dont know . step 2 - lose games. step 3- review games look for better moves, maybe with computer help. this way you dont waste time reading tons of material and then forgetting it later, and at the same time youre practicing your skills during a game. You can play some garbage 1 a4 crap and still win tons of games so dont worry about it too much.

DeirdreSkye

  You have to realize that lack of skills creates all this uncertainty about openings and not lack of opening study. A good player will be able to play well (or even very well) any position, even those he has never studied or seen before.

    So what you are doing wrong? You actually don't know. You try to solve a problem that you have no idea what creates it.

 

I will give you several reasons that create the problem.

1)You don't play long time control games.

2)You don't analyse your games.

3)You don't study.

 

Long time control games are necessary to develop a thinking process.Analysing your games is necessary to find your weak areas , fix them and improve your thinking process. Study is necessary to develop skills even further(playing long time control games and analyzing them develops skills).

     Probably you do 0-1 of the above 3 and you hope that opening study will give you the easy way out. There is no easy way out in chess. Instead of asking how to study openings you should post a game with your thoughts and ask what you could do better or post a position and let better players show you how to think. You would learn 10 times more than wasting your time studying openings.

     By the way, I took a look at some of your games and opening is not your problem. It's the middlegame and the endgame where you are usually messing up big time. 

 

kindaspongey
PawnMongo wrote:

... it would be helpful if books told us, depending on our strength, what we should memorize and then talked about the principles to carry us on from there.

Sounds kinda complicated, and wouldn't it also depend on the expected opponents of the player? Some books do something along these lines and I like it when they do, but others complain about the waste of space.

kindaspongey
kindaspongey wrote:

"The way I suggest you study this book is to play through the main games once, relatively quickly, and then start playing the variation in actual games. Playing an opening in real games is of vital importance - without this kind of live practice it is impossible to get a 'feel' for the kind of game it leads to. There is time enough later for involvement with the details, after playing your games it is good to look up the line." - GM Nigel Davies (2005)

"... Review each of your games, identifying opening (and other) mistakes with the goal of not repeatedly making the same mistake. ... It is especially critical not to continually fall into opening traps – or even lines that result in difficult positions ..." - NM Dan Heisman (2007)

https://web.archive.org/web/20140627062646/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman81.pdf

I think this describes the sort of procedure that many authors have in mind when writing their books.

Klauer
PawnMongo hat geschrieben:

 Many opening books encourage readers to focus on understanding positions rather than memorizing moves.  I accept this advice but feel it would be more useful if authors told us how much (or how little) we need to memorize.  Clearly, players need to do some memorization.  If I'm playing Black vs. 1. e4, the idea that I would let my clock run while deciding whether it's OK to play 1. ...c5 (or some other move) is nuts.  We all memorize at least the first couple of moves of an opening.  The problem is how much to memorize.  I recognize that an expert needs to memorize much more than a beginner and a GM needs to memorize much more than an expert.  Nonetheless, it would be helpful if books told us, depending on our strength, what we should memorize and then talked about the principles to carry us on from there.

Here comes an important point into the discussion you don't mention but makes things more natural. What is that memorization, how do you do it and how long do you keep something in your memory.

 

In an area you know much you are able to remember more and longer. If I show you a line of 20 moves in an opening you never played you will remember less than in an opening you have played 10 tournament games or 100 5min games. This comes out of knowing typical situations and reactions to those (which is describing what's meant with pattern recognition).
So understanding means this knowledge and the probability of this understanding rises if you have practised a line and then analyzed. You get stronger in this process and the amount of memorization and understand gorws in this process. A 1500 Elo player will remember more of a game, than a 1000 Elo player, a 2000 Ele player will remember more than a 1500 Elo player. In case there is no special condition like some illness you can state: The stronger player is the one who knows more and out of his knowledge he remembers more (where the variables are somewhat linked together in this process).

When you were a beinner in your job, before having had any experience on the job, you did remember less than after 10 years. Its the same process, interconnected in your mind.

Prayerman46

I like "First Chess Openings" by Eric Schiller, 2005

DJM473
PawnMongo wrote:

 Many opening books encourage readers to focus on understanding positions rather than memorizing moves.  I accept this advice but feel it would be more useful if authors told us how much (or how little) we need to memorize.  Clearly, players need to do some memorization.  If I'm playing Black vs. 1. e4, the idea that I would let my clock run while deciding whether it's OK to play 1. ...c5 (or some other move) is nuts.  We all memorize at least the first couple of moves of an opening.  The problem is how much to memorize.  I recognize that an expert needs to memorize much more than a beginner and a GM needs to memorize much more than an expert.  Nonetheless, it would be helpful if books told us, depending on our strength, what we should memorize and then talked about the principles to carry us on from there.

Thanks for this! I completely agree-I think it's more important to learn concepts rather than memorize moves, but I feel like memorizing moves is also important. It'd be nice to just know what to do in every possible opening. I face opponents who play Petrov and Scandinavian a lot and I just have no idea how to play against this.

DJM473
DeirdreSkye wrote:

  You have to realize that lack of skills creates all this uncertainty about openings and not lack of opening study. A good player will be able to play well (or even very well) any position, even those he has never studied or seen before.

    So what you are doing wrong? You actually don't know. You try to solve a problem that you have no idea what creates it.

 

I will give you several reasons that create the problem.

1)You don't play long time control games.

2)You don't analyse your games.

3)You don't study.

 

Long time control games are necessary to develop a thinking process.Analysing your games is necessary to find your weak areas , fix them and improve your thinking process. Study is necessary to develop skills even further(playing long time control games and analyzing them develops skills).

     Probably you do 0-1 of the above 3 and you hope that opening study will give you the easy way out. There is no easy way out in chess. Instead of asking how to study openings you should post a game with your thoughts and ask what you could do better or post a position and let better players show you how to think. You would learn 10 times more than wasting your time studying openings.

     By the way, I took a look at some of your games and opening is not your problem. It's the middlegame and the endgame where you are usually messing up big time. 

 

Thanks for this advice! Yes, I like to play 5+5 blitz, but that's pretty much all I play. I don't like to play games that are any faster or any slower. I also play multiple daily games at a time. 

 

You're right; I do 0 of those 3 things! I can try analyzing my games, but the only problem is, usually I'll either know where I've messed up (if I made an obvious blunder), or I won't know, and just seeing the computer say "this move was better" doesn't seem to help too much. I don't know if I'm weak a player to understand, or if I just need to study it for a long time. 

 

And, yes, I realize that I always tend to mess up in the endgame! I read "Silman's Complete Endgame Course" and I understand most of the material up to the 1400 level, but I still end up messing up sometimes in endgames that I should win. 

kindaspongey
DJM473 wrote:

... I face opponents who play Petrov and Scandinavian a lot and I just have no idea how to play against this.

"... Review each of your games, identifying opening (and other) mistakes with the goal of not repeatedly making the same mistake. ... It is especially critical not to continually fall into opening traps – or even lines that result in difficult positions ..." - NM Dan Heisman (2007)https://web.archive.org/web/20140627062646/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman81.pdf

kindaspongey
DJM473 wrote:

... It'd be nice to just know what to do in every possible opening. ...

Most of the time, one faces a position with no knowledge of a specific move indicated in a book. One has to accept that as part of chess, and think of opening knowledge as a sometimes helpful aid.

"... there will come a time, whether on move two or move twenty, when your knowledge of theory runs out and you have to decide what to do on your own. ... sometimes you will leave theory first, sometimes your opponent. ... It happens in every well-contested GM game at some point, usually a very significant point. ..." - IM John Cox (2006)

kindaspongey
DJM473 wrote:

... Yes, I like to play 5+5 blitz, but that's pretty much all I play. I don't like to play games that are any faster or any slower. ... 

"..., you have to make a decision: have tons of fun playing blitz (without learning much), or be serious and play with longer time controls so you can actually think.

One isn't better than another. Having fun playing bullet is great stuff, while 3-0 and 5-0 are also ways to get your pulse pounding and blood pressure leaping off the charts. But will you become a good player? Most likely not.

Of course, you can do both (long and fast games), ..." - IM Jeremy Silman (June 9, 2016)

https://www.chess.com/article/view/longer-time-controls-are-more-instructive

stanhope13

Try www.365chess.com.     OPENING EXPLORER.