Learn Chess Openings the Easy Way!

This blog post will help you to learn chess openings easily with a simple system.

Any opening you put your mind to.

Sounds like some hyped up bullshit, right?

Wrong. 😀

You’ll also be able to build your foundational knowledge in chess and improve your overall tactical skill and strategic knowledge.

Lastly, you’ll get access to a host of awesome new tools for your chess study.

This content was going to be used for a 1-1 lesson with one of my students, but I thought it was so useful for everybody that I had to share it with you guys.

So…Let’s Learn Chess Openings

Last week my student emailed me some of his games and although they seemed ok, I noticed that there are still a lot of holes in his knowledge which need to be filled.

He also is having a lot of trouble with the Sicilian Defence and given that he has a full-time job (plus studies), he doesn’t have the time to study the reams of variations which exist in the Sicilian.

My proposal is to scrap the opening and play an opening which is still sharp (if you choose the right lines) and has much less theory.

I’ve outlined a method for learning this opening as quick as possible, while also filling in some holes in his understanding as mentioned above.

Here’s the method:

1. Choose the Opening

I have suggested he learn the French Defence for reasons mentioned and think this opening will be quite reliable for him as he improves.

It will also require less theory and extreme accuracy than the Sicilian.

2. Find and Study the Opening’s Wiki page

I’ve recently noticed that most main openings have very detailed wikipedia pages and was very impressed by the information given about each opening.

Information about the history of the opening, the main lines (and sidelines), plus famous practitioners of the opening are given and there is seriously enough information for the average player to learn all the main details about an opening from that one source.

Here is an example of the French Defence’s wiki.

The content of this page should be studied deeply and over the board, with notes taken on all relevant information. Especially the main options your opponent has and your best responses.

3. Study the Experts

Check the wiki page for the main practitioners of the opening and download a database of one of these player’s games.

Study the way they play your opening in detail, paying attention to recurring plans, piece paths and tactical ideas in the opening.

You can find databases of most top player’s games on this page.

If you don’t have ChessBase, use Arena, ChessX or SCIDvsPC to open the .pgn files.

4. Training Games

By now your knowledge in the opening is getting quite deep but you still have no experience in playing the line.

  1. Download and install Arena plus either the Rodent II or Prodeo 2.0 chess engines and install the engines in Arena.
  2. Choose the Henny personality in Rodent or the Tal personality in Prodeo and play training games in lines that you don’t feel completely familiar with from your prior research.
  3. Analyze your games with the Stockfish chess engine to find the “truth” in the position and improve on how you played against the training engine (Rodent/Prodeo).

5. Engine Tournaments

Have strong but human-like engines play tournaments (in Arena) from key positions where you made mistakes (in your training games) and study the improvements in detail.

6. Restudy all of the material because:

Repetition is the mother of skill”

All of the material will soon “click” and the opening will really make sense now. You’ll be familiar in most positions and have more inside knowledge than 90% of your opponents.

You’ll also begin to develop an intuitive feel for the positions that arise and if you get caught out, repeat the process in the line you were caught out in!.

Videos:

To make this process easier for you guys, I’ve recorded a couple of quick videos of myself going through this process and I hope you like them. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Here are the videos. 🙂

Notes:

  1. For best results, you MUST play through all chess material (theory from the wiki page, openings expert’s games and training games with engine/s) over the physical board. NOT on the computer screen.
  2. If you have any questions about this method, ask in the comments section below.
  3. Here is the brilliant game which the engine beat me in (for those who are curious)

I hope you guys can use this method to completely reengineer your openings repertoire in a very short time.

I’m optimistic that you could master all of your openings in less than a month and then have more time to focus on the important things in chess like tactics, endgames and strategy.

Just know that your trusty coach Brendan will be here to guide you every step of the way… 😉