I was surprised to learn that one of the big criticisms of amateur chess players is that they study openings too much because this is one area where I hardly spent any time.
Only when I started reading books I realized how much preparation grandmasters do, and the benefits of strong opening knowledge. Essentially, you shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel in every single game you play, and you should have a body of knowledge that you can depend on for your openings.
In this post I am going to detail out my way of opening preparation for an amateur adult player that has served me well.
Picking an opening
In my opinion you have to know three openings to play all your games. One opening with white, one with black to play against e4, and one to play against d4. If your opponent plays anything else you should be able to rely on one of these openings to play against that.
I have picked up openings of my coach Mr_Penings because our styles are similar, and I have the benefit of looking up his games to see how he handled certain situations. The three openings I play are as follows:
- English – 1.c4 with white
- Sicilian Kan – 1.e5 c5 with black against e4
- King’s Indian Defense – 1. d4 Nf6 with black against d4
You can pick up the same openings as your coach or based on your favorite player, and experiment and see if you have a feel for it. If you have a feel for it – you will just know it instinctively from your first game with that opening.
Now, that you have picked up an opening I will detail out how I build a repertoire in that opening.
Opening study – build a repertoire
Lichess has a phenomenal way to study openings, and one that I am so impressed with, and use so often that I can’t do without it now.
For this purpose I will use a game that I played, and an opening study that I have to illustrate what I mean.
For this post, I will share a chapter from a study that I have on lichess based on when white plays the Bowdler attack against the Sicilian. The Bowdler attack happens as follows:
- e4 c6
- Bc4 – and you have the Bowdler attack.
The lichess opening explorer shows you the following stats for every opening.
On the bottom right you see the most common responses that a player has played, and the win – loss percentage. This helps you see what moves you are likely to see in a game, and what the responses scored like. You can also scroll further down, and see some top games in that line. This is very helpful as you can see how top players developed their game plans in that opening, and learn from that yourself.
This is by far the most useful method to study openings that I have encountered. Earlier, I used to look at grandmaster games, but that was not all that helpful because lower rated players hardly do the same things as a grandmaster might do.
Now, let me share my study and tell you how I build on my opening knowledge using this tool. You can scroll through the embedded study below and see how I comment the various positions, and make notes for myself so I remember them in future games.
Specifically, go through these sequence of moves:
- e4 c5
- Bc4 e6
- Nc3 Nc6
- Nf3 Nf6
- e5? Ng4
I point out this sequence because I refrained from playing Nf6 on move 4 in an actual game because I was worried about e5 but in later analysis I saw that e5 is actually a mistake! This is because Ng4 is such a strong response here that white ends up losing the e pawn!
Another very interesting aspect of this is that the opening explorer shows you how many times a move has been played. In this case it shows that e5 has been played 614 times. This is about 10% of all games that have reached this position, and you have your opening preparation right then you should have a winning position at least 10% of the times you play this position on move 5 itself!
Now, in itself this may seem trivial but think of building this type of preparation for every opening sequence you play, and very soon you will notice that you are encountering the same positions over and over again, and are well prepared for them, and are outplaying your opponent from the start. This post has details on how you can create as study on lichess.
As an adult chess player – you are likely to have limited time to study openings, but they are very important to improve your results. The method that I evolved over time doesn’t require a lot of time to study, and it is simple and free. You play a game, make a few notes in your study, brush up the other moves that may have occurred in that variation and over time build a vast pool of knowledge!
- How to improve as an adult chess player – Par 1: Introduction
- How to improve as an adult chess player – Part 2: Swindles
- How to improve as an adult chess player – Part 3: Openings
- How to improve as an adult chess player – Part 4: Middlegames