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Am I ready to start learning about and using openings such as the Sicilian?

  • #21

    You need to study tactics first!  Trust me on this: I'm not a great player but I coached 700-1400 high school players to 3 consecutive county championships in my state's best-chess county and 3 consecutive State Scholastic Tournament team trophies.

    We studied mostly tactics, but also basic endgames (Basic Mates, Principle of the Opposition, Rule of the Square, etc.), positional features to exploit (a good list is here: (https://chesstempo.com/positional-motifs.html), and a few uncomplicated openings - not memorizing long lists of variations but playing according to the ideas behind the openings - from which clear middlegame plans can be put together.  For example, as White we played 1 e4 and against 1...e5 we played the Bishop's Opening (2 Bc4, 3 d3, then often 4 Nc3 5 f4), trying to castle Q-side and then Pawn Storm Black's K-side castle. Against the Sicilian Defense we concentrated on controlling the crucial d5 square when it was practical.  Against the French or Caro-Kann we played the straightforward Advance Variations and tried to make sure Black couldn't profit by playing ...c5.

    As Black we played either the open 1 e4 e5 King's Pawn games or the French or Caro-Kann Defenses against 1 e4 and the Caro's cousin Slav Defense against 1 d4, where getting in ...c5 when possible begins a Q-side counter attack.

    SIMPLE CHESS, ATTACKING OR THREATENING WHENEVER POSSIBLE AND POINTING ALL THE PIECES YOU CAN AT THE ENEMY KING!

    Your 11 Tactics Trainer problems attempted in 3 years indicates you're not spending time studying tactics and patterns unless, like me, you do also tactics at places like chesstempo.

    New openings are fun to explore but they won't improve your chess game like a better recognition of tactics patterns will.  They are the main tools of chess and if you can NOT tell the difference between a Skewer and an X-ray Attack or a Dovetail Mate vs a Swallow's Tail Mate or explain the difference in how the two Bishops are used in Boden's Mate compared to the Two Bishops Mate, then you are working without a complete toolkit.

    Memorize the Tactical Motifs on these two pages and try to solve at least a few tactics problems each day if you have the time.  After you solve the problems, identify which tactics were used by name: that will put a "hook" in your brain from which you can quickly retrieve the information in the future. I do a few tactics problems as a warmup before I look at my daily games each day.

    Here are the sites - memorize the names and process/patterns of the tactics:

    https://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-tactics--definitions-and-examples

    https://chesstempo.com/tactical-motifs.html

     

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