Thursday, February 28, 2013

Opening Study

I am happy with my opening repertoire.

I am unhappy with the results of my opening studies.

I forget critical moves in the main variations, while remembering trivial lines that I have never seen in a game.

I am going to rethink how to study openings from the ground up.

Why study openings? To improve our play. There are several aspects:

  • To better understand the middle game plans that occur from an opening.
  • To better understand endgame structures that happen from an opening.
  • To become familiar with the tactical ideas that occur and spring from an opening
  • To save time in a game by making decisions ahead of time.
Memorizing lines is a problem for those of us with less than grandmaster memories. The main problem is that there is too much to remember. Since memory fades over time if not refreshed, most of us will reach a point where the amount of time to study openings will only be enough to refresh what we have already memorized. There will be no room for improvement. Some solve this problem by choosing lines that are not as challenging for your opponent, but are easy to grasp like the Colle. Others make the mistake of choosing offbeat lines like the Grob.

With clear knowledge of an opponent, you can do a more in depth study of lines before the game. From a few moments between rounds to months before a major match, the study will have to be adjusted to the time available and your knowledge of your opponent.

I think I need to drastically trim the size of my repertoire tree for line memorization. I still want to document and comment a very large tree, but only do memory training on a much smaller subset. I should train on the larger tree only in subsets for know upcoming opponents.

I need to come up with a better way to organize Tabiya and be more precise in defining those in my Repertoire. I should write a monograph on each Tabiya that is like a very verbose Stoyko exercise.  In particular, I should note paired moves. I should also create a flash card for each Tabiya. Eventually, I should use my collection of Tabiya to extract games from the WeekInChess weekly game download to review.

Paired moves is a concept I came up with a while ago. The idea is that the problems presented in an opening have a limited number of ways to address. Each move to address a problem may have a natural response. A good example of this is in the closed Ruy Lopez is the point when white directly defends his e4-pawn. Black must address the Bxc6 and Nxe5 threat. You should have selected ahead of time whether you are going to play ...d6 or ...b5 (assuming Morphy's ...a6 has been played), depending on how white defends the pawn. For instance, your paired moves might be (Re1, b5) (d3,d6).

(An aside: Here is a good reason for every chess player to be familiar with the Ruy Lopez, it is a good place to find any kind of example you might want, and it is continually used as example material by writers)


  1. Thanks your opening study. To get better in studying, I think you can see more at There is too much knowledge to remember while we don't have enough time to study all. Downloading this app free, we can save much time because we study everywhere and everytime. This app is very smart and well - organized which helps you more flexible.

  2. I just discovered your fine blog today. I'm in a similar position as you (middle-aged but improving player in the 1900s). A couple of years ago I discovered a way to actually retain my opening knowledge using the technique of spaced repetition (I don't know if I can post links here but you can just look up the term). I have a flash card for every position in my repertoire. By now I have around 2500 of them. This has enabled me to play sharp openings and even expand my repertoire over time instead of just staying on a perpetual treadmill.

    Of course this is still a non-zero amount of work, and people have differing opinions on how useful memorizing opening lines is anyway. But I feel like it's had a qualitative effect on my play.

  3. Dan,

    I have looked at spaced repetition, and that is a good way to memorize information, that can be represented in a flash card. Flash cards are a part of my current study patterns, but I have not made ones for my Tabiya, even.

    I have still not made a complete Tabiya search file to extract games for study from TWIC downloads.

    I think making a complete list of Tabiya would be a good start for me. I am expanding my black repertoire to include 1.e4 e5, and I could start there.