My Chess Study Plan – Opening Study

In earlier posts I introduced my chess study plan and described how I study the endgame and tactics. The next aspect of the plan is opening study.

I explained in the introductory post that I stumbled across GM Nigel Davies’ training site, Tiger Chess, and bought his Building an Opening Repertoire course. GM Davies’ philosophy is that beginning or intermediary players should not burden themselves with tactical opening lines, or a high number of opening variations. Instead they should aim for a low maintenance repertoire which gets them to familiar pawn structures and positions, for which they know the general game plans. These game plans may include where to aim to put your pieces to be most effective and coordinated later in the game, which pawn levers to aim for, or to prevent your opponent from playing their preferred levers.

The course is lengthy and studying it properly takes a long time. You could just watch the videos, but there is no way you would remember all of the ideas. My method is to watch a video and make notes as I go along (in Evernote). This involves pausing very often and sometimes going back over material a few times. I also stop to find the games GM Davies refers to so that I can paste the PGN into Evernote. I then enter the lines into Chess Opening Wizard, adding notes from Evernote as relevant. Finally, I transfer my notes and some key diagrams into a Word document, which I print out at intervals and add to a physical folder. It is in the process of becoming my opening ‘textbook’.

All these steps may sound cumbersome, but I believe they have value. I have access to Evernote wherever I go, so I can read my notes if I wish to. If I want to practice my openings on the laptop, then Chess Opening Wizard contains everything and I can play back and forth through variations quickly, and also read the notes. My main method though is to use my textbook. I play through the openings on my real world chess board – over the board games are played on real chess boards, so repetition and familiarity cannot be ignored.

I am just over a third of the way through the course and it will be a good few months before I have completed my ‘textbook’. Because opening study is my third priority after the endgame and tactics, I am in no rush to get through this phase; it can happen at a pace of a video every two or three days. Once I have documented everything, I will learn all the ideas until I am completely comfortable with the material; best guess is this will take me another twelve to eighteen months.

Once I am there, I aim to take up GM Davies’ recommendation to find model players and study their games. The idea here is to go beyond the introductory lines presented in the course and start thinking more for yourself. If you wanted to be grand about it, you may say that you are looking to develop your own style. I would also use books, for example Colle: Move by Move and The Colle-Koltanowski System, Deceptive Peace behind the Stonewall.

There may come a stage that the limited repertoire I am adopting restricts my ability to progress, but I have a feeling it won’t come soon. If it does, GM Davies’ philosophy accommodates easy expansion of the repertoire. The Koltanowski Colle can be complemented by the Zukertort, for example. Or you could incorporate ideas you found while studying the games of your chosen model players.

For now, I have plenty to occupy my opening study time slots. I am already feeling more comfortable in my over the board games and feel the benefit of the work. I trust this comfort will increase over time.

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