Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners

Chess Openings - how to study - for beginnersQuestion: Hi Coach @GoldenChess! I’m a newbie in the chess scene and am from Madipakkam (near Nanganallur) in Chennai. I have a problem and that is – Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners especially. The doubt is: should I study all the major openings and if so which ones do I have to study as priority?

To be more specific, my concern is – I am very familiar about the Sicilian but after 1. e4 if my opponents do not play any Sicilian line but takes me into an unknown territory that I can’t manage, what must I do ?

Do I have to study all the openings in this case ?

Last week somebody advised me that I have to study the openings that fit my playing style. What is your take on this?

Thanks for all you tips! – Aadhithya (age 15)


 

Hi Aadhithya – First of all, I guess that your question is basically about building your White repertoire. In the long run, if you are serious about improving your chess, the answer is – yes! Hard work does pay. For example – you may start with 1.d4 and play the Colle system – or the Sicilian Grand Prix with 1.e4 as white. But there is every possibility that you will soon feel bored with that opening.

Also, after a few games, your opponents will start coming up with new tricks and ideas. To deal with that, you have to work harder… and smarter.

But – and that is a big ‘but’ – more than that, knowing key tactical ideas and motifs, and basic endgame positions helps a lot.

Being new to the chess scene doesn’t demand a lot of opening theory knowledge so spend less time on openings but don’t avoid it completely.

While studying Chess openings, pick up a nice annotated games collection that covers opening principles along the way, such as Chernev’s Logical Chess: Move by Move or a lighter reading like Understanding the Chess Openings


Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners (or how not to study!)

Chess Openings - how to study - for beginnersWhat openings you choose is up to you, and depends on your goals in chess and your personal tastes. So if you are already rated 1800 or thereabouts, you can pick theoretical lines to build your repertoire and polish it everyday.

However if you are lower rated – you said you are a newbie so I assume you are a post-beginner – then you need to only understand and remember the major lines in a selective set of openings and more importantly, improve your middlegame understanding.

Try completing the combination books selected from this link from Amazon.

Note however that you will not have a ‘style‘ of play until you have a quite decent understanding of the game by which I mean 2200 elo rating.

Until then you don’t have a style – what you have is a collection of responses and weaknesses.


Chess Openings - how to study - for beginnersSo in summary

  • Study only the important openings that you will play and encounter and choose the 4 or 5 common variations of that opening, to begin with by reading books by the great Grandmaster of the past (I have listed some suggestions below).
  • Play them regularly with friends or at online chess playing sites such as Chesscube.com, Chess.com,  ICC or Playchess (ChessBase).
  • Try playing with chess software like Lucas Chess (read a good review here)
  • Don’t hesitate to change openings if you feel you are not enjoying it.
  • Don’t waste your time on off-beat openings that are not important, you are not a master yet and
  • I suggest to really master tactics by doing them daily on a real chess board rather than openings for your age and level because you will lose mainly by tactics and not because of the minimal advantage that was gained by that uncommon variation.

Book Suggestions: I suggest you to get a few books that are a collection of GM games annotated by the Grandmaster himself and go through them with your coach or another player who is stronger than you.

An example list:

My Chess Career – Jose Raul Capablanca (for Intermediates)
Alexander Alekhine’s Best Games – Alexander Alekhine (For Intermediates – constant revision)
One Hundred Selected Games – Mikhail Botvinnik (For advanced intermediates)
Smyslov’s 125 Selected Games – Vassily Smyslov (For Intermediates)
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (For advanced intermediates)
My 60 Memorable Games – Bobby Fischer (For advanced intermediates)
Bent Larsen´s Best Games – Bent Larsen (For Intermediates and constant revision)
I Play Against Pieces – Svetozar Gligoric (For advanced intermediates)

 

I have avoided providing the latest Grandmaster’s book list as the above list of older books gives a good understanding of an opening’s evolution. These books will discuss about the opening plans and ideas and that will be a good foothold to begin with. I hope I have answered your question on Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners


Once a grasp of these ideas are absorbed in place, we can then continue our learning with the later day Grandmaster’s books such as those by Shirov, Anand, Gelfand, Karpov and Kasparov.


In addition to this list, there are older annotated tournaments with analysed games in book format that are classics such as:

Alekhine’s New York 1924,

Bronstein – Zurich 1953 Najdorf’s Zurich 1953 The Hague-Moscow 1948: Match / Tournament for the World Chess Championship

These above 4 suggestions are only for helpful additional reading and are not absolutely necessary if you are not very inclined for self study.

Why is self study important?


If you like videos you may try Roman Dzindihashvili’s collection in this regard. He is one author who works wonders for ‘beginners’ understanding.


Additionally, I would request you to share some of your OTB (On the Board) games  or online games to make this discussion more meaningful.


 

Do drop in at Golden Chess Centre at Nanganallur (Chennai) and we will see how to guide you in your self study.For others who have found my suggestions useful why not visit my Facebook page and follow it by liking it so that you can be notified for more such articles like this?


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