Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not All Booked Up

In this day and age, it gets progressively harder to get better at chess if you do not 'book up'. When I mean 'book up', I mean learning not just your major opening lines but also knowing them well enough to know the nuances, strategies and plans that comes with the opening.

'Seasoned' opponents knows how to find every nook and cranny to exploit every new nuance in your opening in an attempt to gain an advantage if you do not know your openings back to front.

I'm still learning the King's Indian Defence, and admit that I've got a long way to go before I can truly say that it is part of my repertoire.

How do people learn new openings?

I cannot say for others, but I've always been interested in mainline opening knowledge.

So when and how did I start playing the KID then?

I can't pinpoint the exact moment which this took place (idea of learning another opening) but it's probably around like 2 months ago. At that time, the Nimzo-Indian/QID was part of my original repertoire but I felt that I needed to understand how to handle the dark squares of the royal game. In addition, I wanted to learn how to handle dynamic positions. I felt the KID 'seemed' like a good defense that gave plenty of scope for attacking ideas.

That was what got me started on the KID.

When I first started to learn this opening, I was very intimidated by the amount of theory of this opening.

I've only started examining the main Classical lines with e5, Nc6, Nd7 and thought it was very strange to lock up the center position. Fortunately or rather, unfortunately, the Bayonet Attack does not hold the same terror it did (which originally forced Kasparov to give up the KID) once Black players knew how to equalise.

I've yet to fully understand the nuances of this defence, really. I'm currently reading through Gallagher's Starting Out: The King's Indian by Everyman but the progress has been slow and painful. I keep losing to Steven despite numerous tries against it. Oh well.... that only shows I've not fully understood how to play it yet.

I still have not decided what to play against 1. e4 but of late, I've been looking at 1. e5 as a solid response and am looking to play the Ruy Lopez as Black if given the chance.

I'm not a good move memorizer so anything beyond like 6 or 7 moves and I start to lose my way and tend to go out of book.

So how do you acquire your opening knowledge/repertoire?


  1. no time to meaningfully comment.
    love this post. LOVED it!

    one thing... do you have A. file of all comtemporary games, such as Linares, wijk aan Zee, Dortmund, Staunton Memorial, Tal Memorial, etc, so you can tag all ECO's in your openings. then you are staying current, working on stuff relavent to you.

    second B., you can take my 50,20 Classic GM game file collection or similar, and do the same.

    this is the way.

    warmest, dk

  2. I am actually reading the same King's Indian book. I can't say that I really have a good answer to acquiring opening knowledge as I am so new to all of this still.

    So the way I have decided to go about it is to learn two openings for white and two for black and really really learn them! And I am not going to try and learn them all at once either. Right now I am just studying The Colle for white (much to chessgasm's chagrin based on a recent post of his), and The King's Indian for black. I am still going to play 1. e4 for white and rely on principles. But I have decided it is time to slowly starting building a repertoire. I think having a repertoire will give me a plan. My coach wants me to be more "active" in the openings.

    Have a good one!


  3. Just keep at it. And you'll find that in time your opening knowledge will improve. Just make sure not to become a slave to your memory. Openings are not all about memorization you know. Ideas play an important part too. But anyway, everytime i play a game i check the opening stages with ChessBase and the ChessBase Powerbook and see how well i fared. In time it helped me to remember more and more opening moves as i too used to go out of book after 5-6 moves. I also really like the ChessBase opening CD's/DVD's. For you i'd recommend The ABC of the King's Indian and A World champion’s guide to the King’s Indian. Another good book ofcourse would be Bronstein's Bronstein On the King's Indian. If there's one expert on the KID, it's him. Furthermore, i also guess moves to games played in my openings of choice (preferably annotated). That also helps you to gather more ideas etc.

  4. I am not studying openings. I find that players under 2000 rating have better things to do then that, like studying tactics, annotating your own games so that you can learn from your mistakes.

    The best way to study openings, atleast that is my opinion, is that when you annotate your game look in an opening encyclopedia or openingbook of that opening at which move you deviated of theory and then add one move. With other words, if you deviated at move 10 then add move 10 (which is given in the book or encyclopedia) and only move 10. That way you add to your opening knowlegde but not so much that you will forget it. Also by doing so you learn the opening by playing, getting the positions into your fingers, and not by this dry reading out of a book.


  5. I think I'm most receptive to new knowledge after a defeat, and then Chessbase really helps with its stats and relevant master games. I also have ChessPublishing's DB which is annotated. The ideas make more sense after you've seen how your alternative is punished. ;)

    When I pick up my last opening I did a bit of reading on it, tried it out in maybe 20-25 blitz games against Chessmaster, and then played over some master games in an opening book. I still didn't (and don't!) know it very well but a dozen losses later I will!

  6. One of the worst sensations is when you a reach a position in a game that is in your repertoire... but perhaps due to new strategic or tactical knowledge it suddenly no longer makes sense to you. ;)

  7. dk: thanks for the compliments. and yes i have actually been paying close attention to the various ECO codes that I'm interested in just to see if there are new ideas or certain lines have been refuted.

    Tommyg: what a coincidence! hope you're having as much fun as i have. i've never been a huge fan of the Colle but if it works for you, good for you then. your coach is definitely right in the opening. striving for piece activity and control of the center is crucial in the opening phase. best of luck for your studies!

    chessmasterorbust: thank you very much for your recommendations. i'll definitely try to scour for the materials. bronstein's book sounds really good. but the book is hard to find here in australia.

    chesstiger: different strokes for different folks, i guess. i concentrate mostly on tactics and the reason and only reason i study and take up an opening repertoire is to ensure that i don't get off to a bad start which results in a bad middlegame. i find that studying openings also opens up my eyes as to how to control squares and learn the various plans and strategies involved. less not be afraid, i normally give my openings a whirl vs Fritz. and it definitely helps in improving my memory for certain lines.

    likesforests: i know exactly how you feel. for example, in the KID, the modern Na6 variation initially gives me a puzzled look because it seems to violate the rule of never putting a Knight on the rim but the idea of this move is not apparent but it definitely proved its worth later on in the development and prophylaxis proves it to be a tough nut to crack! i myself suffer at least 20 terrible defeats online and numerous more vs my brother-in-law before i finally start to understand some of the quirks behind my repertoire.

    a big thanks to everyone for your comments!