Progressive Training -The Opening

Building A Opening Repertoire

See Basic Ideas In The Opening

See How to Develop a Opening Repertoire

See How to Master a New Opening

Opening Training

All things return into their own circles. Only these circles revolve.

Opening Preparation

There are more books and information on the openings than any other aspect of the game. Does the constant loss in the openings leave you with the discouraging feeling that you haven't yet found the "right" opening? Perhaps for these reasons players often move from opening to opening collecting books as they go, spending a fortune, knowing a little bit of everything but not much in depth of anything, Others try to find a unorthodox strange opening to spring on opponents thinking that they will find a great weapon to spring on unsuspecting and unprepared opponents taking them by surprise and winning easily in the opening. Thus also avoiding the strategies of the middle and endgame that they may know little about. This is exactly not the way to take up an opening, You will lose every time in the opening phase to someone who has spent time to study their opening throughly. To be successful in the opening phase of the game you must take up only a few openings and STICK to them.

Trying to decide which openings to include in your opening repertoire can be a very daunting task. Your apprehension to the task is probably felt by many others also. Such an aversion could be based on a lack of sound guidelines to such intricate, convoluted, muddy waters. Even strong players have the same problems and often have poor results in tournament play from having the wrong opening repertoire for their preferred style of play.

Although there are many different approaches in such a selection, every chess player should make their choice first and foremost on their own taste and style of play. Although this rule may sound obvious, it is often broken by the strongest of chess players. They may be influenced by a coach or other erroneous assumptions like weird, contentious, controversial, unconventional, arrogant, and outright strange unorthodox openings strategies are going to trip up your opponent.

Openings have to be studied in accordance with your own tastes. If you have a good memory you could study the complicated modern openings systems where there is a lot of theory and you can memorize a quantity of games with various refinements. In this case your opponent may suffer from the lack of knowledge in these areas. In the Sicilian Najdorf, for example many variations exists. In the Grunfeld and the King's Indian, White has a extremely wide choice. There White determines the opening formation, and Black has to be prepared for everything. Black can only play such lines if he has a good memory.

Another thing that players with good memories can do is to expand and diversify their repertoire. They can afford to play a variety of openings, since they are able to absorb and memorize them. This enables them to select whatever system is, the most unwelcome to a particular opponent.

For players with less good memories it is dangerous to follow the same path. If this is the case then it may be better to concentrate on what is called opening schemes, or logical systems with a smaller amount of theory, in which it is more important to understand the position and know about typical ideas behind a opening and use your resources than to memorize specific details and precise move-orders.

In general, openings might better be formally divided into opening variations and opening schemes.. Of course this classification is relative, since the theory of any opening involves both a set of exact, concrete variations and elements of logic and planning, the question is only how these factors inter- relate. So if you have a good memory then learn the opening variations, with a indifferent memory, concentrate on opening schemes and understanding the underlying theory in the openings. One such book that has stood the test of time is Reuben Fine's book, Ideas Behind The Chess Openings. Another good book is Yasser Seirawan's, Winning Chess Openings.

After you have given some thought to which openings you intend to have in your opening repertoire, you then can go to work and give them some serious analytical study. A player's chief preparatory work must be done in advance, not during play. Many inexperienced players try to base their preparations on the study of out-of-the-way variations, lines that have been insufficiently investigated. In principle this is normal for a player who has not yet equipped himself with a wide opening repertoire, who, because of his inexperience, simply has not absorbed that mass of theory with which today's stronger players are snowed under. But that does not mean one should be making the avoidance of theoretical variations into an end in itself by choosing lines that are known to be inferior and relying on all sorts of eccentric, trappy, crappy openings and variations. Such a strategy is ill-conceived. How often do you hear someone pronounce that they have this great unorthodox opening like it is a secret weapon to instant success against any opponent. They are using these openings because they are too lazy to put in the time to study the conventional openings, and their hope is that by using such openings that they will catch you unprepared to deal with it and you will lose your way and fail early in the game. This will never happen with those that study the basics of chess and the basics of opening play. The through study and understanding of sound basics will protect you from any such unorthodox openings.

What method is most effective, then? The position held by most successful players is that in the opening you must endeavor to play the objectively best moves, even if this means a much greater amount of preparatory work and more detailed analysis. In any event, what you play must be thoroughly studied, you must have all the nuances at your fingertips.

We can lay down two main principles for choosing an opening.

1. First: you should take your own capabilities as your starting point, that is, 
   you should try to reach a position which you know well and which corresponds 
   to your opening tastes, and your style of play.
If you excel in strategic maneuvering and your prepared line culminates in a position of the gambit type with wild complications, you risk coming away empty handed no matter how conscientious your pre- game analysis was. For this reason, experienced grandmasters sometimes reject even promising continuations if they do not suit their style. You would hardly expect Kasparov to go into a passive position even with Black. It is simply not in his character. Look how he played in his matches with Anatoly Kapov. He deliberately avoided passive positions, preferring to give up a pawn and achieve a draw in a complex struggle rather than refrain from sacrificing and achieve the same half point through accurate but non-aggressive play. Conversely, see how Karpov prepared himself for the matches. He constantly avoided superfluous complications in the opening, going in for them only in cases where he was firmly convinced, on the basis of deep analysis, that he had prepared a really strong and promising line,

So the primary aim of your preparations must be to obtain the kind of game where you feel comfortable.

2. The second task perhaps involves more subtlety. Try to take your opponent into 
   positions that are least congenial to his style and do not correspond to his 
   tastes as a player.

In this case the likelihood of errors on his part will greatly increase. To spring a surprise opening may not be a bad idea, but it is not a good idea to be playing a variation that you are not familiar with just for the sake of makng your opponent feel ucomfortble. You may wind up being more uncomfortable than him and you may have more difficulty with it than in one of your prepared variations. Bluffing like this is extremely dangerous, especially against a seasoned opponent.

If your own arsenal of openings is limited, even the most exact appraisal of your opponents's chess personality will not enable you to exploit his weak points. In that case you have practically no choice. Play what you know well and understand, play so to speak, not against a specific opponent but against his pieces. GM Svetozar Gligoric wrote a book about his best games and the title was "I play Against the Pieces"

What is more important than trying to memorize many variations of an opening is instead to learn the ideas behind that opening. Reuben Fine's book Ideas Behind The Chess Openings has recently been upgraded to algebraic notation and is a very comprehensive book. Modern Chess Opening's by Nick de Firmian also presents the latest strategies and many clear and concise presentations of the openings.

General Principles of Opening Play

With this approach it requires you to know your own openings exceptionally well! Otherwise your opponent, who has no trouble deducing your opening, will throw you off balance with some surprise he has stored up in advanced. To try to assemble a brilliantly organized, practically impeccable opening repertoire is of course only within the power of a very experienced player. But even less advanced players can set out on that path. You can expand your arsenal gradually, perfecting one variation after another, rather than attempt to master all openings at once.

The Power of The Index Card

A good way to start building your opening repertoire and the various variations is to get a quantity of index cards and put the first 10 moves of a opening on them. You can then lay them out on the table for a quick reference. You can then add more moves and add more cards as you go.

One weapon you can add to your arsenal in the openings is to mask you intentions. Suppose your choice of openings has worked perfectly and your opponent is thinking he knows exactly what you are going to do next. In spite of this you don't give the appearance of having caught him in a prepared line. On the contrary, you do all you can to conceal it, to stop him from sensing the danger too soon. This is great fun with the comps too, when you can prepare to castle on either side of the board and the comp goes wild not knowing which side of the board to prepare a attack for. I like to drive Fritz nuts playing this game of hide and seek. Of course I lose in the end at its stronger levels but I have a lot of fun playing the masking game with it. Incidentally both Kasparov and Karpov do this all the time.

Sometimes when they are perfectly familiar with the position in front of them and all the subsequent play, they still keep on pondering their moves. Of course don't get to enthusiastic for such methods. In principle they are usable, but only within strict limits, in small doses, so to speak. In other words, conceal your intentions by all means, but don't spend too much time doing it, this has its dangers. For one thing, unforeseen problems may arise in the course of the game, and secondly the time may be needed for realizing your advantage. If you know how to play the position and have analyzed it inside and out before, make your moves quickly. By this very means you will increase the psychological pressure on your opponent. He knows he has been caught out, so he is not too sure of himself any way, and playing fast gives you a clear psychological initiative, in both the purely technical and the psychological sense, is just what we should aim for when playing an opening.

This advice is not carved in stone. Sometimes playing your variation quickly may be the wrong approach. Chess is not a matter of arithmetic, it is not all monolithic, the applications of this or that rule may depend on the most minute nuances of a particular situation. Don't try to work out a rigid code of instructions to be followed in all cases. What is more important is simply to know the various approaches to solving the problems that face you. The choice of approach is sometimes purely subjective and determined by the player's style and taste.

* Four General Principles of Opening Play

Let us ask what constitutes the strategy of the opening struggle in chess. If you examine the games of strong masters, you will see that both sides aim above all to mobilize their forces with the greatest of speed. This is easily explained; the more pieces in play, the more attacking possibilities you have.

The First Principle of Opening play.
1. Fast development is the basis of opening play.

! Advantage in Development

The more of your pieces take part in play, the more diverse attacking possibilities you have.

Therefore lead in development is a very significant factor that is especially important in the opening.

There are three main opening principles.

1. Quick mobilization of all your pieces.

2. Fighting for the center.

3. A player, who has an advantage in development, should strive to open the position.

The old masters were very familiar with these rules. For instance, Paul Morphy's games will provide you with many excellent examples of this rule.

The Second Principle of Opening Play
2. Whoever gains control of the center has a distinct advantage in opening play.

Here is a second important factor: from the very first moves,. A battle for the center is fought. The center may be called the commanding summit of chess strategy; whoever gains control of it will afterwards have the better prospects. It is natural for the central squares e4, e5, d4 and d5 to be the object of constant attention by both sides from the very outset. As a rule, chessplayers endeavor either to seize the center with pawns or to exert pressure on it with pieces.

Principles of Center Control

The Third Principle of Opening Play
3. Try to stop your opponent from gaining control of the center

At the same time, both opponents are trying to frustrate each otherís planes. It makes sense to play a move, which hampers the opponentís development; if this loses a tempo it is likely to be justified later. It is well worth spending a tempo to prevent the opponent from castling. In this way you will increase your own lead in development. Thus, the third principle of opening play is to counteract the opponentís intentions with a view to holding up his development and stopping him from gaining control of the center.

If you ask which is more important: pursuing oneís own development or hindering that of the opponent. Of course it is ideal if both can be combined. If the choice must be mad, it will depend on the particular circumstances of each single case; there is no universal precept. But it is better not to forget about developing your own position.

What else matters to a chessplayer in the opening? Of course, he gives attention to his pawn structure. It may already be possible at an early stage to provoke a weakening of your opponentís pawn position Ė to wreck his pawns structure. Remember that a great deal may depend on whether you obtain a good pawn structure or a bad one.

And, finally; from the very first moves, a struggle for the initiative is under way and this perhaps is the very essence of opening play. In out day, can we imagine a game in which the players spend some time simply bringing out their pieces and then look around to see where they stand and what they should be doing next? Of course not. It is natural that White, as the first player should generally try to keep ahead of his opponent in development, to seize the center and to create the first threats.

Modern opening structures are firmly linked to a middlegame plan of action and simethimes you even have to take the eventual endgame structure into account. It may be to draw a clear line between the opening and the middle game, especially since all the principles of opening strategy that was mentioned can be applied to the middle game too, though in rather different ways.

Lets observe some simple rules of the opening play
1. Donít move the same piece twice, without some serious justification
2. Donít waste time on prophylactic moves with the rook pawns; developing the pieces faster 
   is more important
3. Donít bring the queen out too early; choosing the right place for it is a crucial task, 
   since the nature of the subsequent struggle is in many ways dependent on where the queen 
   is placed.
4. Donít be rushed into a premature, unprepared attack.
5. Donít go in for pawn-hunting, especially in open positions where a lead in development 
   makes an immense difference. 
   Remember that a tempo in the opening is sometimes more important than a pawn.

The Fourth Principle of Opening Play
4. The purpose of the opening is to mobilize your entire army rapidly.

The purpose of the opening is to mobilize your entire army rapidly by activating a different piece on each turn, gaining moves by attacks and threats and forcing your opponent to waste time defending himself. You should also castle quickly to safeguard your King from potential danger and to clear the path for the Rooks and Queen shifting along the front rank.

As you bring out your pieces in the opening , you should try to set problems for your opponent on each turn. The goal is to prevent him from completing his own development and from safely castling his King. If your lucky, he may not even survive an opening against your mounting threats. Don't let him get away. Hound his King until real concessions are made or you win material or you get the big prize, checkmate. This strategy is bound to work against an opponent who fragrantly violates opening principles that he either doesn't know or brushes aside with gross indifference if he does.

To develop a general understanding of what the opening should accomplish, you need numerous examples showing how your opponent's violation of principles can ruin his game. The material must demonstrate corresponding cause-and -effect relationships. The side making the error shows what to avoid, while the side exploiting the mistake shows how to play well. This is far better than reviewing errorless chess games between two master who seldom make the mistakes that are instructive to a casual player. At the same time, examples portraying one player's taking advantage of another's errors are more useful to the student than games between amateurs where neither side capitalizes on the enemy's missteps..

* Strategy Principles of Opening Play *

Most books will tell you that the purpose of the opening is to develop your pieces. However, it turns out that this is just a small part of the picture.

The true purpose of the opening is to create imbalances and develop your army in such a way that your pieces, working together, can take advantage of these imbalances.

The opening phase of a chess game requires considerations quite different from those in the middlegame, or endgame. You must understand them clearly in order to avoid setting your sights, during the initial stage of the battle, for goals that are not attainable.

In checkmating combinations you will find that they have one feature in common, either the attacking player has superior forces on the board where the struggle takes place, or his opponents's forces, though equal in material value, have little mobility, they are cramped, and get into each others way. From this observation you would correctly infer that the most important objective of a player during the opening phase should be to "develop" his pieces from their initial hemmed-in positions to squares that afford them good mobility, and to do so as quickly as possible in order to be prepared to meet a concentration of enemy forces on any part of the board.

It is a common mistake of the beginner to embark on aggressive excursions with one piece (usually his Queen) or another before he has completed the development of his forces. The beginner usually thinks that since the Queen is so powerful, that bringing it out early in the opening will simply overwhelm his opponent with such a superior force of power. The novice does not realize something that the seasoned player knows from bitter experience, that the result of a premature attack is almost always an irremediable delay in his development and a disarray of the line-up of hie men, enough to give his adversary an opportunity for launching a successful counter-attack.

Principles of Center Control

You will be surprised how quickly the rigorous observation of the principle of rapid development will enable you to cope with any opening your opponent chooses to play. Naturally, you will have to learn how to weigh the advantages of one developing move over another. The proper choice is in most cases dictated mainly by the positions of the Pawns in the center files of the board. In turn these Pawns must be placed in accordance with the principle of center control, which is as important as the principle of rapid development. It is intimately related to it, for it is through securing access to squares in the middle of the board, by establishing a Pawn on K4 or Q4, that a player best ensures adequate mobility for his pieces.

Learning how to play the openings

In learning how to play the openings, much of the information for beginners is simplified into a few rules such as: Get your pieces out quickly, Use your pawns to gain space and control the center. The platitudes go on and on. If only the realities of opening mastery were as simple as this. Reading books on the basics of opening play makes most players think that the opening revolves around the development of both sides' armies. While true in a limited sense, this is actually a view that misses the big picture.

* The true purpose, of the opening is to create a difference or series of differences, in the respective positions and then develop your pieces around these facts so that, hopefully, these differences or imbalances will eventually favor you.

For example, if you as White get to advance your pawns to d4 and e4 while your opponent places his pawns on d6 and e6, you will enjoy a spatial plus. You would then develop your forces in such a manner as to highlight this advantage.

Another typical example centers around Black playingÖ.Bc8-g4 x (Kt)f3 or Ö.Bf8-b4 x (Kt)c3. These common exchanges create an imbalance of Bishop versus Knight. As soon as this appears on the board. White should place his pieces and pawns on squares that highlight the powers of his Bishop's. Black on the other hand, should play for a closed position (which is known to usually favor Knights) and try hard to create advanced support points that will ultimately enable his knights to become equal or superior to the enemy Bishops.

This view of the opening play will enable amateurs to figure out new situations in a intelligent manner. Although some memorization is still necessary it allows one to make a plan, verbalize a goal, and then make sure that every pawn advance and piece development caters to the imbalances that you've created in the first few moves.

In the opening you will see many different opening situations. But once you grasp that everything is geared in one way or another, to this idea of opening imbalances, the solutions will be easier to find or, at the very least, far easier to understand when you turn to trying to create a imbalance or difference in your favor and then develop to that imbalance.

+ Making a Plan

The first thing you should do in the opening is to make a plan. If we define the word plan for the opening it does not necessarily mean that we know how to create one. We first have to find a way to make a plan and then develop our forces around it. We should never just mindlessly develop and then expect to find a plan at some later point in the game, that is poor planing.

To make a plan we first have to either find or create an IMBALANCE in our opponents position. An imbalance is not necessarily an advantage. It is simply a difference. It is our responsibility to turn that difference into a advantage.

Here is a breakdown of the different imbalances.
1) Superior Minor Piece. (The interplay between Bishops and Knights)
2) Pawn Structure. ( A broad subject that encompasses doubled pawns, backward pawns, isolated pawns, etc.)
3) Space (The annexation of territory on the chess board.)
4) Material (Owning pieces of greater value than our opponent. Our knight on a outpost, occupying a weak square.)
5) Control of a key file, square or diagonal. (Files and diagonals acts as pathways for our pieces, while squares act as homes for our pieces.)
6) Lead in development (More force in a specific areas of the board.)
7) Initiative ( Dictating the tempo of the game.)

If you don't find a imbalance in your opponents position your first plan is to find a way to create one. You should be aware that most imbalances are created by pawn moves and thus creating a poor pawn structure. Every time a pawn moves there is a good chance that a imbalance has been created. Forcing your opponent to create a imbalance should be the first step in a plan if you can't find a imbalance to plan around.

Look and list all the imbalances in your opponents position. Next try to figure where on the board is your best chances to take advantage of that imbalance. The kingside, center or the queenside? Look to see where your opponent is least strong. What factors exist on that side that favor your playing there? Is there a open or weakened king position? Undefended pieces, does this include pawns? Inadequately defended pieces?

Once you have determined which side of the board you intend to play on, find a plan to develop your forces around that imbalance. Try to find candidate moves that will develop your plan. The candidate moves are all the moves that will lead to take advantage of the imbalance.

Can our plan of developing all our pieces around that imbalance force an immediate crisis?

Is our plan going to turn that imbalance into a decisive advantage for us to either win material, gain a superior minor piece, gain a advantage in space, gain a lead in development, gain the initiate, control a key file or square, weaken our opponents king structure, lets us take advantage of a key square?

Principles of Rapid Development

There are a few rules which it is desirable to follow in any opening. Failure to do so would delay the completion of your development. These rules are:

1.Avoid all Pawn moves which neither advance your own development nor retard that of your adversary. Look for an opportunity to move one of your center Pawns up to the fourth rank and to maintain it there.

2.Don't move a piece twice before you have development all your pieces, unless compelled to by a threat of your opponent or justified by a weakness which your opponent has created in his position.

3.Don't exchange a piece which is developed for one that has not yet moved.

4.Don't place a piece so that it blocks the path of another piece or of a center Pawn.

5.Don't develop a piece to a square from which the opponent can drive it with a move that furthers his own development.

Clearly, every time a player violates one of these rules, he loses a tempo, it takes him a move longer to complete the mobilization of his forces. Making an unnecessary Pawn move is a particularly bad habit. It not only loses a tempo but usually also increases the effectiveness of the adversary's pieces by giving them access to the square which the Pawn controlled prior to advancing.

You can activate all your pieces without moving more than two or, at most, three Pawns. Getting the Knights into play, of course, requires no preparatory Pawn moves. Advancing one of the center Pawns frees the Queen and one of the Bishops, and the second Bishop can be freed by the advance of the other center Pawn or a Knight Pawn.

* Means for your note book. What? You are not taking notes?