Why don't chess openings matter?

coldgoat

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

 

EscherehcsE
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!!!!

USArmyParatrooper
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.
MickinMD

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.

chessgm003

They do matter!

robbie_1969

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

Lagomorph
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.

Antonin1957

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.

NMinSixMonths

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

NMinSixMonths

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.

NMinSixMonths

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.

NMinSixMonths

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.

NMinSixMonths

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.

NMinSixMonths

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.

kindaspongey

"... 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)
"... Once you identify an opening you really like and wish to learn in more depth, then should you pick up a book on a particular opening or variation. Start with ones that explain the opening variations and are not just meant for advanced players. ..." - Dan Heisman (2001)
https://web.archive.org/web/20140626180930/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman06.pdf
"... To begin with, only study the main lines ... you can easily fill in the unusual lines later. ..." - GM John Nunn (2006)
"... 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)
"... For inexperienced players, I think the model that bases opening discussions on more or less complete games that are fully annotated, though with a main focus on the opening and early middlegame, is the ideal. ..." - FM Carsten Hansen (2010)
"... 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)

"Every now and then someone advances the idea that one may gain success in chess by using shortcuts. 'Chess is 99% tactics' - proclaims one expert, suggesting that strategic understanding is overrated; 'Improvement in chess is all about opening knowledge' - declares another. A third self-appointed authority asserts that a thorough knowledge of endings is the key to becoming a master; while his expert-friend is puzzled by the mere thought that a player can achieve anything at all without championing pawn structures.
To me, such statements seem futile. You can't hope to gain mastery of any subject by specializing in only parts of it. ..." - FM Amatzia Avni (2008)
"Yes, you can easily become a master. All you need to do is some serious, focused work on your play.
That 'chess is 99% tactics and blah-blah' thing is crap. Chess is several things (opening, endgame, middlegame strategy, positional play, tactics, psychology, time management...) which should be treated properly as a whole. getting just one element of lay and working exclusively on it is of very doubtful value, and at worst it may well turn out being a waste of time." - IM pfren (August 21, 2017)
"If you want to improve in classical ( slow ) chess you have to work on all 3 phases of the game . ..." - NM Reb (August 30, 2017)
"... A remark like 'games are rarely decided in the opening' does not really do justice to the issue. ... even if an initial opening advantage gets spoiled by subsequent mistakes, this doesn't render it meaningless. In the long run, having the advantage out of the opening will bring you better results. Maybe this warning against the study of openings especially focuses on 'merely learning moves'. But almost all opening books and DVD's give ample attention to general plans and developing schemes, typical tactics, whole games, and so on. ..." - IM Willy Hendriks (2012)

kindaspongey

"... anyone who is just starting out should not dive into the vast ocean of theory that is the Najdorf. For beginners, the time invested in studying even minor lines can be more productively used solving tactical puzzles and basic endgame technique.
...
... In some lines, a good understanding of basic principles will take you far, while in others, such as the Poisoned Pawn ..., memorization is a must, as one wrong move can cost you the game in the blink of an eye. ..." - FM Carsten Hansen (2006)
https://web.archive.org/web/20140626175558/http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen87.pdf

"... what is good at world-championship level is not always the best choice at lower levels of play, ..." - FM Steve Giddins (2008)

"... 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)
"... 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)

NMinSixMonths

I never said you should master tactics and then move on. I merely said that there are building blocks that are concrete and can easily be internalized that should be attended to first. After that it's about eliminating the most common reason for losses. I don't believe that you can go on studying while ignoring why you lose and expect your performance to improve... simply makes no sense at all.

kindaspongey

Is anyone advocating that a player ignore tactics?

NMinSixMonths

Is anyone claiming that someone is advocating that a player ignore tactics?

Pikelemi
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

 

 

Why don't you "just" give it a try then ?