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Why don't chess openings matter?

  • #1

    People say on the forums that you should not "waste time" reading opening books to get better.

    but i don't understand why not.  can't i just memorize the moves and then play like a GM?

    to get to a destination you need to know how to get their by making the first steps

     

  • #2
    coldgoat wrote:

    People say on the forums that you should not "waste time" reading opening books to get better.

    but i don't understand why not.  can't i just memorize the moves and then play like a GM?

    to get to a destination you need to know how to get their by making the first steps

     

    Sure! And I guess you could memorize everything in like 10 minutes! Easy peasy!!!!

  • #3
    In my opinion everybody should study openings (note: study not memorize) to the extent of their own level of play.

    On Chess.com I’m 1500 player. It makes no difference to me why on move 32 Magnus Carlson pushes a particular pawn in a particular opening.
  • #4

    Yes, you should know the ideas behind the openings, but since most games leave the books before the 10th move, the advice minimizing openings is saying you should aim at reaching a playable middlegame where you can use the tactics you're most comfortable with and open/closed positions you like best and a lot of different openings will get you there.

    I've followed some opening books only to have my opponent suddenly make a non-book move that left me wondering how I would be able to gain equality.

    Of course, I don't play those variations anymore, but I mainly make my moves according to the general ideas behind the opening than follow a prescribed move order.  For example, if I play the French Defense, I know I better be thinking about counterattacking with ...c5 as soon as practical.  If I play the Bishop's or Vienna Openings, I know I want to play f4 before Nf3 if possible.  The order of moves is determined by the position on the board, not a memorized script.

  • #5

    They do matter!

  • #6

    most openings are simply a fight for two central squares, either e4 and d5 or d4 and e5.

  • #7
    coldgoat wrote:

    People say on the forums that you should not "waste time" reading opening books to get better.

    but i don't understand why not.  can't i just memorize the moves and then play like a GM?

     

     

     

    You can. but it will only work if you play a GM who sticks to book, and even then he will trash you once he goes off book.  Play a game on here where someone goes off book on move 3 and what will you do then ?

     

    Learn the thoery and principles of openings but learning all the variations is both pointless and likely to send you to an asylum.

  • #8
    coldgoat wrote:

    People say on the forums that you should not "waste time" reading opening books to get better.

    but i don't understand why not.  can't i just memorize the moves and then play like a GM?

    to get to a destination you need to know how to get their by making the first steps

     

    Studying openings matters because it saves time and adds precision over the board.

    That said, studying openings is not the common understanding of just memorizing the initial moves, but studying the plans proper to their pawn structures and piece arrangements, and how they evolve through the middlegame and the ending. That is, getting a better idea of what's going on, what are you supposed to do about it, and what may happen next.

  • #9

    I study openings because I want to learn about the strategy behind the early game. I can't memorize openings, not at my age. I really can't recite the moves in the Caro-Kann or anything else. I just try to understand the strategic logic behind the first few moves.

  • #10

    Some of the newest openings manuals do tell which are the plans behind the systems, and also give exemplary games.

    But it will be difficult to find such books for each and every system you play or want to. Then, it's better to collect some 50–100 verbally annotated games on each system, and go through them. Playing chess after doing such work is like night and day.

  • #11

    I don't think so. I don't think you should even ponder the positional nature of chess until you have tactics down.

  • #12

    And by gotten down I mean internalize. when you first learn the game you make the biggest stride at the moment you stop leaving pieces hanging, you don't have to look around your arm to make sure before you take your hand away anymore. The same should happen for all tactical weaknesses but most people just do tactics problems but don't notice when the elements or tactical weaknesses are present in a game for themselves or others. Tactics are also easier to understand and learn this way than positional concepts. David Pruess has an excellent 4 part video series on different exercises you can do to attain this but the easy answer is simply to learn the tactical elements and then look around your arm to make sure you aren't leaving yourself vulnerable those before you take your hand off the piece... at least, of course, until you no longer have to. I'm only a 1400-1600 blitz player so I'm not standing on the hill saying "this way!" I'm merely looking up from the bottom and judging the easiest way to the top.

  • #13

    Positional play is tactics preparation. Reason why most people devoting all their available time to solving tactics puzzles, get to see the other side's winning continuations, but don't know how to avoid that scenario game after game.

  • #14

    JMurakami wrote:

    Positional play is tactics preparation. Reason why most people devoting all their available time to solving tactics puzzles, get to see the other side's winning continuations, but don't know how to avoid that scenario game after game.

    Well tactical weaknesses are technically a part of the position and would also fall under positional play but they are the easier more concrete part of positional play and are far easier to understand and internalize than color complex, piece mobility, pawn structure etc etc. like having a rook on the same line as a king. open lines to valuable pieces, pieces a knights move away from the same square etc etc. I guarantee most players my level are aware of the pawn structure and know the plans they are supposed to play yet are oblivious to the tactical weaknesses in their and the opponents position... making the positional knowledge of the pawn structure pretty useless.
  • #15

    I just think their is a logical path to improvement. if you lose most games to checkmate or large material deficit long before the endgame then you need to fix that. When you start losing games because of that backward pawn then study pawn structure... But I would guess that a person can reach expert to master with tactics and basic positional knowledge, mostly learned in the process of mastering tactics anyway.

  • #16

    It's the approach. Most think that tactics are different and apart from positional play, when what makes them visually distinct is the level of activity. Now, strong piece activity is what most equal to tactics, but is present along the game at different levels.

    In other words, without understanding the activity in a position, no sound positional play is possible. Without sound positional play, tactics may favor anyone, and most likely to the side who has the pieces and pawns better posted. Then, it's not "do this first", but "give time to learn all facets of the game".

  • #17

    And I don't believe that. Nothing works that way. There is always a staircase to climb. Chess is performance based. The only path to lose less is to eliminate the cause of your losses, which is a never ending climb. I would consider you much better than me but I would guess that I stand a much better chance of beating you than you stand of beating Carlsen. If your statement were true then that wouldn't be the case because the only way you could be better than me is if you "understood all facets of the game" thus being equal to Carlsen.

  • #18
    People say don't study openings because this way you'll lack opening knowledge then when they play you they'll crush you in the opening. Don't trust those nerds.
  • #19

    @NMinSixMonths: Oh man, you have quite a binary mentality. 

    For example, you take the understanding of something as "yes he does", or "no he does not". Chess is not that way. It's more like grey areas, where people increase their knowledge, understanding, "clarity of ideas".

    Your approach, instead, speaks of "this first, and only when you are very good at this, then the next step". Well, that approach hasn't worked out all that well for you, has it? Then, why do you advice it to others? I mean, tactics wise, even Carlsen still makes mistakes. Then, according to your ideas, he should still be solving puzzles, right?

  • #20

    I haven't studied chess seriously ever. I've thought about doing so but never really did. So my approach, not studying, has indeed failed to work. However, you are barely better than me in the grand scheme so one could throw that snarky comment right back at you. When you put a clock into the equation everyone will make mistakes. It's not the individual mistakes that matter, rather the common mistakes. Like I said, eliminate the reasons for losing and you will stop losing that way, it is measurable and studies show that it is much easier to improve at things you can measure than it is to improve at the abstract. Even without that fact though, what good does anything do if you are still hanging pieces all the time? You could be the most knowledgeable chess player in the world but you will have poor performance after poor performance if you keep dropping pieces. But nope, chess is different than literally every other endeavor I guess.

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