Saturday, November 05, 2005

Opening jam

I have been playing lots of games lately, about one a day. My rating is in the crapper, but I (am acting like I) don't care. I am building up a base of experience that is teaching me practical pitfalls and positional possibilities, through trial and error. This is experience I don't get just by working on the Chess Tutor. Plus, more importantly, it is fun to play full games against real people.

As Heisman points out, you get better at chess by adding the good and subtracting the bad. Via this blitz of (non-blitz) games, I have learned another negative that will need attention before I can look someone in the eye and say, "I don't suck at chess." Namely, openings.

In the opening, I frequently get tripped up in that little transition point when it is still officially the opening, but the middle game is right around the corner. After move 5 or 6, when my minor pieces are developed but my major pieces are still hanging out back rank, I don't have a strong sense of what my plan should be. I usually end up reacting to my opponent at that point, which is not a good strategy. This is a minus that learning more tactics will probably not remedy.

What shall I do? Tasc Chess Tutor, my present meat-and-potatoes, is quite weak in opening study (it teaches some of the basic principles, and a few specific variations on the King's pawn opening (the only opening I play), but none of the test questions actually are about the opening: they are mostly tactics and a little endgame). For now, though, I will implement a de la Maza approach to opening study: when I see something unusual, I will study the book up to one move past where I got my butt trounced. Frankly, most of my games are still lost through tactical errors (though I have seen a marked improvement there!), or endgame blunders. For that, the road I am on is bringing me in the right direction.

I would also like to explore the Épine Dorsale a little more. That is my favorite opening line. If anyone knows of any good chapter-length treatments of the major lines emanating from the Épine Dorsale opening, please let me know!

I can see the lure of becoming obsessed with opening study. There are few enough variations to learn that you can flat-out memorize the book moves for some lines. Also, the traps hiding in openings are sweet, a swift and satisfying hammer to bring down on unsuspecting opponents. However, my blitz of games has helped me identify it as one weakness, but not my major problem area. My main game-throwers are still tactics and endgames. Hence, I am on the right track.


Blogger takchess said...
I am big fan of this out of print book. the book is mostly pictures of positions with some text. Much in the way of the write your own adventure books. Its a decision tree. P4 P4 .... and the book will bring you the openings from there. Great for learning names of the opennings and thinking about what are good moves in different circumstances.
also Seriwan opening books I enjoyed as well.

11/05/2005 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Takchess: That sounds perfect: exactly the kind of thing I'd like to own. I have ordered it already, a hardcover chess book for only $5 in nearly new condition. Sweet. Thanks for the tip.

11/06/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Pawnsensei said...


One of the best advice I was given on openings by my teacher was to make a basic opening rep. It's not a bad idea to memorize the first 6 moves of the major openings that you play to give you a fighting chance in the middle game. Also, opening study pays off by allowing you to see the same transpositions time and time again and by doing so, learn the characteristics of the positions that arise.

I have learned that at my level (around 1300 ICC) most people leave book before the sixth move.


11/07/2005 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

I went from 1250 to 1800 in 6 months. Actually I'm "unrated" but I used to lose to 1400's and a few days ago I drew a Life Master (2200) who estimated me at 1800 or so. I say this not to brag, but so that you'll listen to me. I have some specific advice for you.

Play the same opening(s) every time.

As white, play Giuoco Piano (aka "Italian Game") with d4, not d3.
Against the Sicilian play the Rossolimo and Moscow variations (3.Bb5). Play these EVERY GAME!

As black, find something you enjoy-- it needs to have active piece-play and tactics. Against the Queen's Gambit I recommend the QG Accepted or the Albin Countergambit. Against 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 now you play Bf5 and head for the Slav, with pawns on c6 and e6, Nf6, Bd6, Nbd7, Qc7, 00 (in a logical order) with a good game. Against e4 I recommend the French Winawer or simply the Spanish/Italian game.

Download and print analysis for your openings here:
Hole punch everything and put it in a 3 ring binder. (Save your money-- don't buy books yet.)

You need some element of strategy training, regardless of what your messiah delaMaza says. A great book for this is "Weapons of Chess" by Pandolfini. I just bought it used for $3 and it's superb-- can be read without a board too!

Good luck and all the best to you! :)

11/20/2005 04:30:00 AM  

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