Modern chess literature is facing an explosion of constant opening books. It seems almost every week a new monograph is released detailing how to confront some defense or another. At the same time, titled players and reliable instructors warn against devoting oneself too much to opening study. We’ve all heard the story: An aspiring player endlessly mulls over the intricacies of the mind-boggling complications of a hotly debated opening only to be faced with stagnation as they’ve neglected to study other critical chess themes and phases. With so much information and viewpoints available, its worthwhile to ask the question regarding the significance of opening preparation and how much time should be devoted to studying openings at all.
My experience, practice, and viewpoint is clear:
“Effective Opening preparation is an essential and powerful tool for improvement that can raise the rating of players rated under 2300 by hundreds of points”
The most important part of the statement above is “effective.” I believe that done right, opening preparation is a tool that can yield many “hidden” benefits to your game. For example by correctly studying the pawn structure of an opening, you will be able apply the ideas learned not only to the arising middlegame, but also to middlegames arising from completely different openings as well! Or studying an opening that leads to opposite side castling can aid your skills in attacking positions overall as well as arm you with new tactical motifs than can boost your game as a whole.
To sum up, opening preparation can lead to the following advantages:
Goals/Benefits of Opening Study:
- Increase your knowledge of themes, motifs, and structures
- Understand Resulting Middlegame Plans
- Save Time on the Clock
- Gain an Advantage/Win as a result of preparation
The first two points have already been discussed. The third point is also related to the first two. By knowing the plans in the position, you will be able to make decisions quicker than your opponent. Of course, knowing the opening better will also save you time on the clock. Lastly we have the absolute sweetest goal, a direct hit due to our superior preparation. While the fourth point is the ultimate goal of learning openings, the first two points are equally important since they assist our chess skills overall.
Still, effectively studying openings is not simple. The problem many players face is that they spend oodles of time memorizing variations that simply never appear on the board. Studying “smart” is a trial and error process for many (it certainly was for me when I was a young player), but can be circumvented with the assistance of a good coach or in some cases, a good book.
The methodology described above strongly influenced me in producing my repertoire suggestions on the Caro-Kann defense.
Continue reading the full article – with practical examples and advice by IM Ostrovskiy