Tackling the Opening

I often see people wondering what opening books they should get so they can memorize opening sequences. I understand where they are coming from, because that’s what I enjoyed reading when I was learning chess. Hundreds or exciting potential ideas to learn and try out! Who wouldn’t get excited by all the potential paths?

But memorizing opening sequences isn’t the best way forward, especially for beginner and improving players. It’s much more important to understand the aim of the opening and play moves that accomplish the objective of the opening portion of the game. Then later, if you want to learn openings, you need to focus on the themes of the opening and get a broad sense of what the particular opening is trying to accomplish.

Below I share some of the resources I’ve been gathering over the last few months that have been helpful for me, as I’ve been going back to the fundamentals of the opening.

If you have other resources that have been incredibly instrumental in your learning, please comment and share with the community!


Opening Principles

Discovering Chess Openings by John Emms

The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings by Reuben Fine

Opening Principles in Action

(from John Bartholomew‘s YouTube channel)

  1. (Undefended Pieces) Make sure your pieces are defended with every move. Use tactics to attack your opponent’s undefended pieces.
  2. (Coordination) Develop your pieces so they don’t hinder other pieces, and the directions they are pointing all work together to attack the same parts of the board.

Learning Openings for different rating levels:

(from Kostya Kavutskiy on ChessDojo)

  • 0-1200: Focus on opening fundamentals
  • 1200-1800: Focus on an Opening’s Themes and play through model games
  • 1800+: Build your own repertoire and the variations you want to play

Books on Openings

(from Greg Shahade’s blog: originalsummary)

Books are often a compendium of sequences and trying to cover all possible variations. But this is not helpful for a player who is experiencing subset of these sequences. Instead, do the following:

  1. Figure out what 20% of the opening variations are played most of the time in your games.
  2. These 20% of variations differ at rating tiers, so need to know what they are when you are playing at different levels.
  3. Books don’t express problems with lines. Analyze these lines for yourself to find flaws.
  4. The 20% of variations you will see often change over time. Use Chessbase to stay in touch with current trends