2010-06-25

Studying Chess Openings

This is something every amateur (That's me!) at some time in their life spends too much time studying.  In my study plan (Chess Study Plan) I have planned to spend around 30 mins a week studying chess openings.  But what will I be studying and how will I remember it?
  1. The first thing to remember is that as someone still learning chess, studying openings a lot is not productive.  One needs to spend more time studying tactics, endgame and masters games.
  2. What seems to be the most difficult for a player to do is to choose which openings to play.  That can be an entirely different discussion.  I am assuming that you already know which openings you want to play.
  3. Download Chess Position Trainer (See my Chess Links page for the link) and install it.  If you use a Mac or Linux, I would suggest installing Virtualbox (or another VM system) and a copy of Windows in the VM just for studying with this tool.  Here is a screenshot from their website. 

  4. How I use Chess Position Trainer(CPT) for openings is I create a subrepertoire for each of the openings I want to study. As I read through a book I will input the lines I want to use and learn.  There is a spot to take notes on the current board and indicate the plans, tactics etc.  This is ideal for keeping track of things you find while studying.
  5. Each time I play a game, I use CPT's Find Novelty option, which will find where the game deviated from where I studied.  I can see if I had studied a different line or if it is new.  I look up in books the novelty and see if someone has covered it.  I then make a decision on what I want to play and add it to my CPT repertoire.
  6. Something to remember, you may not understand the ideas behind the moves the opponent is making.  There are books that can be purchased for this, or you can spend some time thinking about why you think they did it.  Reviewing your game with a friend or mentor is a great way to learn the plans.  I use the Basic Chess Openings and More Basic Chess Openings books to get the general idea of openings.
  7. You should study games played by masters that match your repertoire.  These can be from a book, website or database that you have on your computer.
  8. After finishing reading a book, CPT has a great study tool in which is quizzes you on the lines you added to it.  This is high recommended to improve line retention, but don't forget the ideas behind the moves are more important.  The study tool includes a way of tracking your progress in learning your opening.  It provides the percentage of positions that you have learned.
  9. To continue to learn and be comfortable in your opening of choice you must play a lot of games with that opening.  A great way to do this is playing speed chess - online or at a club.  Online you have an advantage in that you can save all the games and review them later.  Once you get comfortable with the opening, playing it in slower games is great.  (Check out my Chess Links page for places to play - I will be adding and reviewing more places as time goes on).

I am sure there is something that I am missing on studying an opening. What do you do to learn your opening repertoire? Are there features I missed in CPT? How do you figure out what the ideas are in various openings? Are there websites that have overviews of chess openings?

I will be starting my Chess Study plan this weekend and plan on having a weekly update on how I am progressing.