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Learn How to Play Chess Openings

Chess is a game that takes a long time to master. In addition to mastering strategic ideas and developing tactical talents, some positions and sequences, including as specific checkmate patterns and endgame approaches, must be memorized. But nowhere is this more crucial than at the beginning.

What good does it do you to memorize openings? I’m not advocating for written memorization per se – grasping the principles of the introduction is far more important — but it’s necessary to remember that we “stand on the shoulders of giants,” as Isaac Newton put it.

That is to say, many grandmasters and other good players have spent many hours figuring out the best opening moves, and we should at the very least pay attention to what they’ve found. Not only that, but memorizing can save you a lot of time in a real game. Over all, don’t try to come up with your own Sicilian mainstream theory!
But, with so much to learn, how can we make the best use of our time? Here are 4 pointers to help you learn chess openings:

1.Look for Appropriate Opportunities

It’s important to note this caution before moving on to the main recommendation. Examining vacancies takes time, as I mentioned at the outset, so don’t waste it on the wrong one! It’s such an important topic that it’ll be the subject of its own blog post. In the meanwhile, I’d like to offer some quick and useful advice.

For starters, I wouldn’t advise a beginner or lower-intermediate player to use hypermodern openers. This covers any opening that begins with 1.Nf3 or other openers in which you first cede direct control of the center (the Pirc, Modern and Indian games are all suitable examples) (the Pirc, Modern and Indian games are all good examples). Because these openings are incredibly difficult and require exceptional precision, and they frequently have the ability to transpose to other openings, this is the case.

It’s also crucial to pick an opener that you like and stay with it. Changing openers all the time until you reach a high level is not a good idea. As a result, you should choose and perfect a start that you enjoy. While being well-rounded has its benefits, in this circumstance, consistency is significantly more important, at least at the beginning and intermediate stages.

2. Get to know the pawn structures that go with that particular opening.

Memorization is important, but understanding the reasoning behind the moves and the overall plan is much more important. It’s difficult to remember every move from every potential variant. In any event, no introductory course or book will prepare you for every possible scenario, so you’ll need a master plan to help you decide what to do when you’re unsure.

The pawn construction acts as a lighthouse. The “skeleton” of the position is carved out by the pawn structure, which provides strong and weak squares for both sides, which become targets for strategies.

A good example is the Minority Attack, which can be found in the Orthodox Exchange pawn structure — a common pawn structure in the Queen’s Gambit Declined and other openings. This isn’t the ‘go-to’ approach for White in every QGD, but it is the ‘go-to’ option for White the majority of the time. To get you thinking about pawn structure, here’s a Queen’s Gambit Declined – Exchange Variation with and without the pieces.

3. Repetition in the classroom and in games

This may appear to be two distinct points, but it’s actually a symbiosis! You should practice your openings frequently when learning and playing. As the Russian proverb goes, “repetition is the mother of learning.”

One of the reasons Chessable was created was to help people understand openings (although it’s also good for other elements of the game!). Spaced repetition can be used to not only learn the rationale behind the maneuvers, but also to test your understanding of them.

But it’s also vital to put your knowledge into practice, because practice will eventually vary from theory. I agree with former world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik that blitz chess is not conducive to learning, but it is excellent for learning openings since you get to play them so many times. I recommend using a 5 minute timer with a 3 increment – it’ll get you through a lot of games in a day while still giving you time to think.

When you’re playing, however, don’t just go on a blitz binge. Take a few moments after each game to reflect on how the opening few minutes went. Is this the recommendation of your Chessable coach or instructor? Have you made any mistakes in your sequences? Is this even something that was brought up in class? Take your time and make sure you get it right the first time so you don’t acquire bad habits. It pays out handsomely in the long run.

The great thing about Chessable is that if you don’t understand something or come across a variant that isn’t covered in the course, you can leave a comment in the course and the instructor will typically respond quickly to resolve your problem. In many cases, your question will contribute to the course’s improvement in a future update, which will help others as well.

4. Take a peek at the Descriptive Annotated Master Games.

My final piece of advice is to look for and play master games that use that opening. Examine how the professionals approach that opening and their technique. It’s even better if you memorize some of them; this way, you’ll be able to build a mental library of locations and strategies to use when playing across the board.

Make sure there are descriptive annotations detailing what’s going on. Many well-known Chessable opening repertoire tutorials, such as NM Bryan Tillis’ Master the French Defense and GM Alex

Colovic’s Najdorf Sicilian: Simplified, include a section with model games and notes. There are, however, a number of periodicals that do the same thing, as well as good YouTube streamers who can walk you through the game. Keep in mind that we are standing on the shoulders of giants!

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this.

Repetition, repetition, repetition is the theme. It is, nevertheless, an active rather than mindless repetition. Allow yourself to pause, analyze, and make any required changes to your openings.

Make sure you spend time reviewing your games and considering what worked and what didn’t.

Regardless matter who you choose as your opening, if you follow that simple method and stick to it, you will be successful. Now it’s just a matter of putting in the time and effort. There are many good openings out there, and if you put in the time to master them, you’ll be tournament-ready in no time.

Fortunately, thanks to Chessable, learning openings is a lot easier and takes a lot less time than it used to! Check the many Chessable opening courses that are available to help you. There are now a plethora of high-quality courses available from some of the world’s best educators, many of which are available for free. Some of them are quite large, but don’t let that deter you; with

Quickstarter chapters and Short & Sweet versions, you can go through the first few levels fairly quickly.

Continue to look into your options; I’m looking forward to hearing about your successes!

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