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  1. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    05 Jan '10 18:50
    Occasionally I see posts from players wanting to improve their opening repertoires, which is a good and noble goal. I'd like to do the same, although my time at present is probably better spent nailing some endgames and then working on tactics, but I'm wondering how deep do these players go when learning their chosen openings? For example, the Ruy Lopez seems to come up OTB quite a bit for me during chess tournaments at work, but there are numerous respectable systems to play for both white and black. To boot, some of these systems run 15+ moves deep! I'm sure the average GM can rattle these lines off without blinking an eye, but I'm wondering what the optimal approach to openings might be for the average patzer like me considering most OTB games go out of book between moves 3-6. In the interests of SCIENCE~! I have a few questions:

    1. Which openings do you know well?
    2. Which/how many lines do you know in a given opening?
    3. How deep do you know these lines?
    4. At what point (average guesstimate) do your OTB games go out of book?
    5. Do you find that knowing your lines gives you an advantage despite your answer to (4) above?
  2. 05 Jan '10 18:59
    Originally posted by PBE6
    I have a few questions:
    1. Which openings do you know well? Najdorf, Fajarowicz & Evans (that means that I know them better than any other, which does not mean I actually know the opening all that well )
    2. Which/how many lines do you know in a given opening? Not many
    3. How deep do you know these lines? Sometimes deep, but that only means that I know one line, it is very narrow; the deep line would give no room for "sidelines"
    4. At what point (average guesstimate) do your OTB games go out of book? 3
    5. Do you find that knowing your lines gives you an advantage despite your answer to (4) above? I never leave the opening with a concrete advantage
  3. Standard member wormwood
    If Theres Hell Below
    05 Jan '10 19:27
    openings are probably one of those things you never learn 'fully', there's always more to do, and usually much more than you have time to study. and you won't remember everything forever anyway, it all needs to be refreshed. so you need to optimize somehow.

    beyond the basics like opening principles and the first few moves in the main line, I think the first real stage of completeness is to learn all reasonable tries up to the first tabya. that means having an idea what to do against all tries against your first move, and knowing it well enough to blitz it. all the basic traps and complications in the first few moves. how deep depends on your specific repertoire. - all this is already a huge project and will likely take years to grind properly in. most of us amateurs aren't there yet, but it's still just a fraction of what the big boys know.
  4. Standard member randolph
    the walrus
    05 Jan '10 19:30
    If you're wondering how many moves deep you should study your lines, you're doing it wrong. To me, there are two types of openings; those that you learn by "feel" and those that you learn by moves. "Feel" openings for me include the Queen's Indian and the Dragon Sicilian. I learned these openings by playing numerous blitz games and then, when I was defeated by a tactic that I hadn't seen before, looked it up and found the right move for the situation. "Moves" openings are like the Traxler or the Budapest, when you don't just learn the moves up to a certain point; you learn everything that you can get your hands on. So I can't list all the lines that I know in the Dragon. But I can tell you exactly how to bust the Fajarowicz Budapest.
  5. Standard member nimzo5
    Ronin
    05 Jan '10 19:41
    1. Which openings do you know well? listed in order of depth

    Accelerated Dragon - uogele, maroczy and early deviations- prepared these lines for a simul vs Spassky in 2004 and have kept it ever since because I am lazy.

    QGD Exchange variation - nge2, nf3, with all major plans for White.
    Alapin Sicilian - since it is about 80% of what I see vs club players
    kid ne1 classical
    Benko line as white
    Mainline Benoni
    lines vs dutch stonewall and lenningrad
    classical/rubinstein nimzo indians
    lines vs budapest
    moscow/bot semi slav
    nimzo/bogo complex as black
    Closed Sicilian Kasparov Variation
    trompowsky lines as black


    2. Which/how many lines do you know in a given opening?
    my comprehensive black repertoire in bookup is probably 400 lines or so, I probably know half of them or more cold. For the stuff I know cold, it is partially because I can verbally explain the ideas behind them. Despite having a good memory I am not the best at cold line memorization.

    3. How deep do you know these lines?
    My defenses vs e4 I know extremely well, as in many variations I know well into the middlegame and often I have practiced the most common endgames that arise.
    vs d4 I known the principle lines for development and some key middlegame ideas. Since adding it in September I have yet to play one game OTB with it. Vs c4 I opt for the symmetrical solely to cut workload. Against class b or lower I will deviate intentionally in many openings solely to make the player work on their own.

    4. At what point (average guesstimate) do your OTB games go out of book?
    last tournament-

    game 1 I deviated on move 6 and sac'd a piece on move 10 vs an FM.
    game 2 I deviated on move 11 or so in an English opening vs a class b
    game 3 my opponent made a move order mistake on move 14 in the kid classical vs a class A
    game 4 I went out of book on move 7 in an albin countergambit vs a master
    game 5 In book till about move 13 in an alapin sicilian vs a class b

    5. Do you find that knowing your lines gives you an advantage despite your answer to (4) above?

    versus strong opposition (masters and up) it is critical to know your openings well. Experts and Class A players (1800-2199) it helps to know your openings well
    Class B and below the game will almost never be decided by opening knowledge.

    When I look at my play in the QGD I can see the value of knowing my opening theory. I adopted it in 2003, for the first two years in tournaments I would either draw or lose and with more experience/exposure to the ideas I now predominantly win or draw with it.
  6. 05 Jan '10 20:49
    Originally posted by randolph
    But I can tell you exactly how to bust the Fajarowicz Budapest.
    Cough it up
  7. 06 Jan '10 00:37
    One of the biggest troubles with playing real life (or, otb, as it seems to be so quaintly referred to on the internet) is that most people play between 20 and 30 games a year. Out of these, half should be black where you are subject to whites theory anyway, and the other half you will get to play your own stuff - provided that black does not come up with some wierd deviant move to take the game out of book.

    Now, this means you will rarely get to employ any highly studied theory because 1.you will not often get a cooperative opponent who goes along with it long enough to get to a nice position for you and 2. it is very difficult to remember the precise moves from an opening which may well have been learned several years earlier and not yet had a chance to be used.

    Having said this, I play, or at least have a system against the following openings.

    I always open 1.e4 as white, apart from rare occasions in blitz where I have got sick of an opponents theory and want to mix it up a bit.

    Sicillian:

    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 (although, recently I have been experimenting with Qxd4)

    if black plays ... Nf6 and a6, d6, e6 (all the same black system really, just different move orders) then I like to play into something like Nc3, Bc4 Qe2 etc... against the schvennigan and najdorf.

    If black tries playing e6 early, or plays a kalasnikov, pelikan or accelerated dragon then I like to capture the knight on c6 and play g3 and Bg2 and keep the game fairly steady, picking at his centre pawns.

    If black plays a dragon I like to play one of the more main lines of the yugoslav attack but will usually swap off dark squared bishops, allow the c3 exchange sacrifice and attempt to hold the rook until the endgame

    Wierd type of moves tend to get met with g3 and a safe type of closed game to avoid any nonsense.

    Alekhine: A tricky one, this, I have not yet found a perfect solution but I have been trying the chase variation which goes 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.c5 Nd5 5.Nc3
    Also, the system of 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nc3 is ok for white and avoids any main line stuff which, you can be damn sure, black will know better then you do!

    French: The exchange variation is a useful all purpose system 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 - playing a stronger opponent it offers good drawin chances and against lower graded opponents you get a chance at grinding them down while also frustrating them majorly as this is the kind of thing most french players REALLY hate to see - white not throwing material recklessly up the board trying to fluke a winning attack, while they gobble up everything offered and usually defend to safety - the exchange offers no major structural weaknesses or positional inbalance.

    Caro Kahn: the panov botvinnik attack 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 is a nice aggressive system, and just the sort of thing caro kahners are trying to avoid - they can capture the c4 pawn and leave white with an isolated queens pawn, but if you keep the board crowded with minor pieces in these sort of positions, black tends to get himself in a horrible tangle as his pieces do not have anywhere sensible to develop to and you can develop good initiative with the space advantage.
    If black does not capture on c4, eventually it is worth pushing it to c5 and trying to force your pawn majority through on the queenside - this is also quite a nasty cramped game for black to suffer.


    Pirc - 150 attack is always fun and can yield good attacking positions where mates are possible, although the e4, d4 and c4 pawn wall system is quite handy too - you can keep the game closed and attempt to win on the queenside - beware of black counterattacks agaisnt your king though, they can be very fatal.

    scandinavian- one of the hardest lines to meet as white as these buggers almost never play a consistent theoretical game and so you end up having to invent new moves every time. I have been experimenting lately with playing g3 and Bg2 and trying to clamp down on the queenside - I won my first attempt with it in a league game but it was a bit of a swindle really, so still needs time to perfect, but is nevertheless a setup which should be workable.
    Also, the Tyrannosaurus gambit needs a mention here, 1.e4 d5 2.Nf3?! dxe5 3.Ng5 - a nice active game, where black is forced to open the board up, which is usually not in the style of such players so you are playing a psycological game here.

    ruy lopez - the exchange variation is a nice line and very simple for white to play 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a5 4.Bxc6 dxc6 - whites entire plan now revolves around swapping all the pieces off, playing d4 to create himself a pawn majority on the kingside and then pushing them forward to win while black cannot free up his queenside pawns. This is such a long term plan that even the mighty engines cannot see it and is featured in one of my best wins against a banned user Game 4137275
    the main lines are also good, and probably even better for white - I like the closed systems myself - but involve great deals of theory and are best not messed with unless you have really learned them well. I know quite alot of theory on my main system and a little bit on all the others, just enough to get me though, but I tend to avoid the critical lines in case my opponent knows more about it then me.

    Against the petroff I play a relatively ordinary system, recently finding a great new innovation which I did not realise existed until watching a lecture by danny king.
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 e6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Bg7 7.Qd4?! Bf6 8.Qf4 - the queen is now untouchable by any black forces trying to further molest it and can contribute heavily to any big attackqhite wishes to launch on the kingide.

    Against the elephant gambit - take the pawn and run - you can hold it more or less all of the time as white.

    Against the latvian gambit - dont try too hard to hold the pawn, unless black is not keen to recapture it. A move I have found to be reliable and strong against blacks setup is to play Bf4-g3 - this seriously stunts any black attempts to break open the kingside and leave you to get on with developing and breaking through on his queenside.

    As black, I play the sicillian or e5 against e4 and d5 or g6 against d4 or c4 - anything else I just make it up on the spot and try to go with the principal of gaining space in the centre against flank systems.



    There you are, I am sure there is plenty I missed out but at least it shows you what hard work playing 1.e4 is compared to 1.d4 and why it is the real mans opening!
  8. Standard member randolph
    the walrus
    06 Jan '10 02:20
    Originally posted by heinzkat
    Cough it up
    Ok, I can't tell you. You got me. I used to play against it a ton and was completely booked up on it, don't know how well I would do now. It starts with 5. Nbd2 and ends with white in a better-to-crushing position.
  9. 06 Jan '10 17:55
    An opening is learned when it gets a PHD degree
  10. Standard member wormwood
    If Theres Hell Below
    06 Jan '10 18:08
    Originally posted by Ice Cold
    An opening is learned when it gets a PHD degree
    gambits have street smarts.
  11. Subscriber Paul Leggett
    Chess Librarian
    08 Jan '10 02:15 / 1 edit
    This may sound a little weird, but my opening knowledge isn't built around lines as much as it is built around positions. The opening I know best is the King's Indian Attack, but I don't play it "purely", as I transpose into the Reti or even some lines of the English depending on what black does.

    I don't really have strings of moves memorized, but I do use memory in the sense that, in a given position, I know what the plans are, and I already know the typical candidate moves (I think of them as "The Usual Suspects" ), and I base my play on that.

    I also have a good idea of poor or bad moves that are typically played in KIA positions, and how to exploit them. For instance, in the KIA vs the French Defense (1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 with a subsequent g3, Bg2, and Nf3, transposing), the move ...Qc7 is usually a mistake, and I know how to exploit it. I just checked a database, and I think I know those line moves into the upper teens, but it's really not memorizing the moves as much as it is knowing what to play in each position.

    I sure hope I am making sense and not babbling! I guess my point is that if you really understand an opening, you won't have as much "per se" memorization, as your understanding of the positions will naturally lead you to play moves that are normal for the position.

    Paul
  12. Standard member orion25
    Art is hard
    08 Jan '10 12:33
    Originally posted by Paul Leggett
    This may sound a little weird, but my opening knowledge isn't built around lines as much as it is built around positions. The opening I know best is the King's Indian Attack, but I don't play it "purely", as I transpose into the Reti or even some lines of the English depending on what black does.

    I don't really have strings of moves memorized, but I ...[text shortened]... ions will naturally lead you to play moves that are normal for the position.

    Paul
    its not wierd at all, I "know" the english that way too...
  13. Standard member nimzo5
    Ronin
    08 Jan '10 14:25
    the danger in memorizing move sequences is that you can go down some line you have memorized but never really thought about- and when your opponent makes an out of book move, you may very well be busted.