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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Are you “Booked Up?”

For several years, I’ve been touting about opening knowledge, and how it’s so important. I mean, what good is starting a chess game if you are going to lose the thing in the first ten moves anyhow? However, I also believe that *too* much opening study is wrong. It’s good to know the ideas behind each opening, and maybe a couple zaps and traps, but you should always be *playing* chess, instead of pounding out pre-determined lines.

Why, though? Because, if you just slap out the first ten moves of the opening you know so well, without thinking, you may miss slight errors or even blunders from the opposing camp. Instead, think about the chess game from move one, and you’ll find you win a lot more games, even if the moves you choose aren’t “book” lines. Many times, the book moves will be correct anyhow, but decide for yourself *why* they are correct, and you’ll have a much deeper understanding of each opening and the way they work.

Of course, if you are a big 1-minute fan, this credo may not work so well because you don’t have as much time to ponder each position. But in a long game, or even a blitz game, simply insta-moving pieces because it’s the way the opening is supposed to look could be a big mistake. After all, the name of the game is winning, and if you can win in the first few moves because of a blunder the other side makes, you’ve got to take advantage of that.

The first, and most important, thing for you to do is decide which opening formations fit best with your style. If you like long, positional grinds then gambit openings may not be best suited for you. But if you are an attacking player who likes sharp, unclear positions, you may find that positional openings may prove a little too boring for your particular tastes.

Second, you must determine the *ideas* behind the openings. Believe it or not, GMs are thinking about the endgame while they make their first ten moves. Moving certain pawns or developing certain pieces to different squares greatly affects how the endgame will turn out, and so they can steer toward openings that favor their entire game style, and not just play for cheapos to win a pawn by move twelve. Sometimes, pawns are more expensive than they seem to be at first.

My advice is to pick an opening and play it in slower games for a while. Lose a hell of a lot of battles with it, and note where you went wrong and right. Then, once you get a better feel for them and what their aims are, you can begin to implement them into blitz games or bullet games because there may be less “thinking” involved, and more rote memory while still playing sound, solid chess.

Openings are an important, integral part of the game of chess, but they are not the end-all-be-all. Just as much, if not more, time should be spent on tactics and endgame structures. A well-balanced chess player will be much better equipped to win games than the one who spends all their time on one certain aspect. That’s just the way it is.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Derek. I play Chess myself, and I find, that one cannot follow the orthodox opening 'book' moves, if the opponent is unorthodox. By 'I find', I really mean to say, 'I understand'. After all, one has to play, in the context of how the opponent is playing. In learning the openings, one improves one's strategic play.
    I don't think very many people learn the openings, at least, if they are intimidated by reading Chess books.
    Let me say, that your posts are inspiring. Thanks for sharing them with us. Regards, Aditya Mookerjee.