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’.

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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.

12 thoughts on “My Chess Study Plan – Opening Study

  • 8th April 2015 at 3:15 am

    Im pretty sure positional chess and strategy is A LOT more important than openings. What is the point of studying an opening line that would never be played.

    • 29th April 2015 at 10:33 am

      You need to know what people are likely to play against you, otherwise you waste too much time working things out over the board that are actually well known theory. You can’t just make it up as you go along, unless you are playing at a really low level. Also, how do you know that an opening line ‘will never be played’ against you?

  • 13th May 2015 at 11:45 pm

    How do you like Tiger Chess for openings? My current method is to read a “Starting Out” book (it is a series, I am sure you are familiar), which includes basic theory, a couple basic variations, and concrete games; then I play it in blitz a bit; and I plug in my preferred lines into Chess Position Trainer. Finally, I go over my lines with my coach, a GM, and he tells me the sorts of things I should consider, may want to look into, and what to look out for. Most importantly, I find a model game from the most recent time that variation was played.

    I wonder if Tiger Chess could help me.

    I really enjoy, which is free. There’s not too much on there, but the NM on there gives some really nice explanations on basic and intermediate ideas in certain openings.

  • 15th May 2015 at 8:02 am

    The approach at Tiger Chess is to keep it really simple – get to the middlegame on an equal footing. He presents a simple repertoire based on principles I mention in the second paragraph of this post and explains the key lines in a series of videos. There are more than 220 videos in all, including a few introductory and development ones at the start and end, respectively. I can see me using this repertoire until I am at least 1800, possibly beyond. Even then I can slowly extend it – for this GM Davies also provides ideas.

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