Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Opening Study

Ok, so I'm curious. How much opening study do you do? What percentage of your time is spent studying openings compared to looking at other aspects of chess? I will admit that as I've got older, it has become a less consuming part of my chess study and I now spend more time looking through games, working through tactical puzzles, and looking at endgames. I have some vague opening ideas that have been picked up over the years, but to be honest, I'm no expert on any opening.

Now I guess this brings some good and bad. On the plus side, it makes me quite flexible and imaginative. I'm not tied to theoretical systems, and am not trying to uphold the honour of certain variations. I play a number of different openings, all equally averagely, and just kind of find myself in a middlegame position all of a sudden, which I just start working on over the board. As FM Bill Jordan once said to me "you can only be out-theoried by one move" as when you make that move which your opponent doesn't recognise they are also on their own to some extent. Of course, this is a simplification of the issue, as studying opening systems should enable players to develop feel for typical positions as well as knowing the best theoretical lines. On the down side I don't get many cheap points in games and have to work hard at the board from fairly early on in games. While my general understanding of chess might not be that bad, my specific understanding of certain openings will be poor meaning that I am missing chances of getting the best start to games.
The Tarrasch

So the question is, 'am I bothered about it'? Well in some ways yes, but generally no. I am well past the stage in my life where I have that many goals to achieve in chess, and virtually none of my goals are to do with playing myself. However, as I've started playing less chess, and less seriously, I've found that I'm enjoying looking at theoretical works more. I have started playing games on chess.com using a time limit of 3 days per game, and have started studying openings through that, like I imagine correspondence players do, though I would never consider myself one of them! I've also been working with stronger kids than in the past, and I could really do with helping them with openings as well as other parts of their game.
Sicilian Najdorf

So I've decided, at the age of 46, I'm going to start looking at openings again (probably the first serious opening study I've done in the past 25 years!). I will share some ideas here, though of course, you'll have to be ready to accept the openings that I choose. And talking about choosing, the whole subject of openings is pretty massive, so finding a starting point is a pretty daunting prospect. So I'll even tell you where I'm going to start looking. I'm going to try to go in depth into the following openings:

- Tarrasch Variation of the Queen's Gambit
- Four Knight's Opening
- Sicilian, especially Najdorf (my great favourite as a junior).

I think these systems offer a wide range of styles of play, from opposite side castling to isolated queen pawns, gambits to near symmetrical systems, pawn minorities, pawn majorities, and broken pawn structures compensated by pieces. I find these imbalances, and I suppose balances, the main interest in the opening and where it leads us to in the middlegames. I'll be playing these systems a lot as well, so if you do play me in a tournament, or online, there's a good chance I'll play one of these openings, if allowed. I remember back in the 1970's or early 80's in the UK, IM Mike Basman announcing that he would be playing 1.b4 or 1.g4, and the same things in reverse when he played in tournaments, allowing players to prepare for him. I think that was a pretty amazing thing to do, so I'm basically doing the same thing. Well almost, as I get bored easily by openings, so I apologise in advance if you've prepared one of those systems against me and I come up with something completely different! Of course, you can be content that I won't know that opening better than any other system I play!!
Four Knight's Opening
I will gratefully accept any help and analysis on these openings, and once I start publishing some opening ideas, I'll gladly accept criticism of them. Watch this space, and let's get these openings understood!


  1. I would be happy to help you with study of the Najdorf as I have studied it extensively, you can show me what the tarrasch is all about :)

  2. Thanks Anthony, cool I'll post some articles in the near future :)