Opening Play: Many players think that their opening preparation is the weakest piece of the chess chain. Regardless of whether that’s true or not it makes sense to work on all parts of the game. It is not wise to disregard any elements of chess and opening is no exception. Today we will talk about the five ways to improve your opening play.
1. Opening Play: Understand the main ideas
The very first step for understanding any chess opening is learning the main ideas of that opening. Many players make the mistake of memorizing variations instead of learning how a certain opening should be played. Instead of blindly memorizing the moves, it is much more efficient to understand the plans and counter-plans for both sides.
That way you won’t get lost if your opponent deviates from the main lines you have learned. You will know the basic ideas of the openings, weak spots of setups, typical attacking maneuvers, and so on.
2. Learn about the placement of pawns and pieces
After learning the main ideas and plans of the opening you should spend a little bit of time, learning about the pawn structures. Each opening has a unique pawn structure associated with it.
If you want to learn how to play the opening well, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of those pawn structures and also learn about the typical piece placement.
The second point is especially important because the correct positioning of pieces will almost guarantee success in the middlegame.
3. Opening Play: Analyze games of the masters
After learning the main ideas and typical pawn/piece structures you need to go a step further and study the master’s games played with the same opening. Only by analyzing the high-level games, you will be able to get fully submerged into the opening and understand typical attacking/defensive ideas.
By understanding a dozen of high-level chess games, you will feel much more confident playing that opening, thus your over-the-board results will improve.
When you’re picking the games to study, you shouldn’t give preference to necessarily the most recent ones, played by the most prominent players. It is better to start by going over the games played early on; understand the ideas of these games first and only then move to the modern games.
4. Create your database
It is extremely important to create an opening database for storing your opening preparation lines and ideas. All grandmasters do that, and there is a very good reason for it. A simple opening database tremendously helps in systemizing all of your opening preparation.
Not only that, but it also helps in broadening your opening knowledge, making it deeper and more versatile. Unfortunately, most amateur chess players don’t realize that and prefer to save time on opening databases.
By simply organizing your current opening repertoire into a database, you will be able to see things that you have never noticed before. You will see what lines you understand and which ones you don’t. You will see what lines give you the highest probability of winning the game, and which lines typically lose. Based on that priceless information, you will be able to improve on your opening preparation and become a much more theoretical player.
To make your life easier and your training more efficient, we have set up a comprehensive guide on how to work on your opening repertoire, how to set up a chess database, how to prepare for your opponent, and so on.
5. Opening Play: Blitz it up
The final step of working on your openings is getting enough practice. The most efficient way to practice a new opening is by playing plenty of short-time control games to test out the new ideas.
You probably know that I’m not a big fan of using blitz as a training tool. This is an exceptional case though, and many grandmasters recommend playing blitz to try-out certain openings and you should too.
We also recommend reviewing The Bad Bishops.
If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:
- positional play
- attacking skills
- endgame technique
- classical games analysis
- psychological preparation
- and much more