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Chess World Online Chess Forum - Better to stick to a few openings or better to play lots of openings?

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  Play ... Latest Forum Posts > Chess Forums > Chess Openings
  Better to stick to a few openings or better to play lots of openings?

Seamus

Chess rating: 2144



 Topics started


Ireland
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Mon Dec 24 2012 3:11PM | MsgID: 16075458


Personally, I enjoy middle games most; endgames quite a lot. For me, the opening is a way of getting into the middle game. In any case, it isn't entirely in your own hands - the opponent is constrained by what you do; but you are constrained by what the opponent does.

Except for the very gifted, the keys to good openings is experience and memory. When I started on this site, not having played at all for decades, I decided to go down the "narrow but deep" route - a few openings, but deep(ish) knowledge. I remembered preferring queenside as black, so always opened with Q4 (or d4 when I was being raffish). My opponents didn't hesitate to offer me variety - QGD, Gruenfeld, Tchigorin, Baltic, Slav, Nimzo, Dutch, Benko, Budapest, et al.

Rather different with black. OTB I'd always liked the Winawer, though the Poisoned Pawn tended to be a sickener. So I opted to open with K3 (e6) almost regardless of what my opponent offered.

If the opponent went for the French, again there was no shortage of variety (Advance, KIA, Exchange, Winawer, Tarrasch, Classical, and irregulars such as the Wing Gambit). If he decided to go for the English rather than a French (or having started with Q4,went on with QB4), I would opt for the Dutch. Because I enjoyed the Dutch nearly as much as the French!

To return to the original question, there is no universal "better". It all depends on how your mind operates, what sort of play you enjoy, how strong your opponents tend to be (I came across an opponent rated some '00s above me whose opponent average rating was over 100 less than mine), what sort of tournaments you play in (I only play knockouts), how many games you play at a time, how much time you devote to this site, and so on.

The thing is, if you are strong and experienced, you are equipped to deal with greater variety; if you are weak and inexperienced, too many openings (or too many games; or too many moves, too quickly taken) will lead to slower improvement. But slower need not mean less enjoyable. And surely the objective is enjoyment?



GoBoSox

Chess rating: 2812
LCF 2026




 Topics started


United States
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Chess goodies: 6
Mon Jul 9 2012 12:19AM | edited: 12:21:52 | MsgID: 15604408


Hi SteveCS,

A real dilemma that we have all faced...

any one opening has enormous amounts of material - so just mastering one opening is a major challenge... a quick look at the French variations shows the Advance, Burn, Classical, Exchange, McCutcheon, Rubinstein, Steinitz, Tarrasch & Winawer - all with their own sub lines

so develop a line in your sub-variations that give you practical chances

Fortunately (unfortunately) we're not playing in a championship match where opening preparation usually makes an important difference -- when playing Spassky, Bobby Fischer knew that he had to change his openings - he rarely played anything but the KID & Najdorf Sicilian as Black plus it was well known how much he favored 1. e4 as White - Spassky & his team were surprised that he opted for the Benoni, Nimzo, Pirc, Alekhine plus offering up 1. c4 in a few games really had Spassky out of his prep... similar stories were told by Kramnik regarding his selections of openings versus Kasparov (etc)

So basically, playing too many openings can easily get you in a busted position - especially, if you walked into something prepared - this happened a lot to me but also vice versa... if your in a state with a small rating pool you really have no choice (vary openings) - plus you needed to study those good players and see what they play(ed) and for each, you needed to devise an opening plan... back in the late 70s & early 80s - you needed to go to a lot of tourneys - go to the boards and see what they played (then head back to your board and make a move) - from there you had a chance to cause your future opponent an opening problem... of course all good players do this now and with all the databases - it's just easier to prepare - my thought then was opening prep was all important but later determined that other factors - mostly endings that really needed more work - getting to know those endings that offered winning chances and then devising plans to get there is just as important... of course, cleaning up the opening variations (less dubious lines - no King's Gambit) is part of the process -- perhaps less fun but winning is better!

---
[Quote from: "SteveCS"]
[Quote from: "Stephen96"]I've always thought it's best to play a lot of openings so as to gain experience in lots of different types of positions.

But noticed that a lot of people will always play the same openings. I am always looking for ways to improve my game and maybe I'm making a mistake by knowing a little about lots of openings, rather than lots about a few openings?

I also notice a lot of GMs also play the same openings, but since they are so good they probably have experience and know what positions suit them.

What are your thoughts? Is it better to stick to a few openings or better to play lots of openings?



Hi Stephen96

I used to play regularly OTB but for years without any well-defined 'repertoire'. I recall many occasions on the way to a match considering if I would open 1.d4 or 1.e4, and if I should answer 1.e4 with 1...c5, 1...e5 or 1...Nf6. Eventually I soon realised that just floundering about with openings was daft so I set about trying to develop a more compact repertoire with the idea of really getting stuck into understanding it as much as possible.

...

Good luck

/S





dartking

Chess rating: 1948
LCF 1894




 Topics started


United States
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Fri Jun 22 2012 1:20PM | MsgID: 15561654


i believe that you should play a variety of openings. you'll find the positions your comfortable with and i'm sure those types pf positionsyou get a feel for the middlegame and recognize the endings that derive from those middlegames. can be found in many openings.



SteveCS

Chess rating: 2380
LCF 127 Fide approx. 1885




 Topics started


United Kingdom
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Chess goodies: 9
Fri Jun 22 2012 9:47AM | MsgID: 15561165


Originally posted by: "Stephen96"
I've always thought it's best to play a lot of openings so as to gain experience in lots of different types of positions.

But noticed that a lot of people will always play the same openings. I am always looking for ways to improve my game and maybe I'm making a mistake by knowing a little about lots of openings, rather than lots about a few openings?

I also notice a lot of GMs also play the same openings, but since they are so good they probably have experience and know what positions suit them.

What are your thoughts? Is it better to stick to a few openings or better to play lots of openings?




Hi Stephen96

I used to play regularly OTB but for years without any well-defined 'repertoire'. I recall many occasions on the way to a match considering if I would open 1.d4 or 1.e4, and if I should answer 1.e4 with 1...c5, 1...e5 or 1...Nf6. Eventually I soon realised that just floundering about with openings was daft so I set about trying to develop a more compact repertoire with the idea of really getting stuck into understanding it as much as possible.

But where to start? I had been reading about players aiming for positions that suited their temperaments and how, when preparing for particular opponents, the top players will try to steer the game away from their opponent's preferences. Then it occured to me this must be intrisically linked to the choice of opening, and that my results might help identify my preferences. I had scoresheets from a few hundred games to look at, so I sliced-and-diced them by result/colour/opening. This was a real revelation that clearly showed where my 'preferences' and 'weaknesses' were. I used this analysis as the foundation for my opening repertoire.

This was many years ago and I have continually refined and expanded the repertoire since then, although the key openings have not changed. What you choose to do with yours is up to you but I would recommend this as a great way to get started, particularly if you have a large sample of your own games to get you started.

Good luck

/S



bystander

Chess rating: 2183



 Topics started


Netherlands
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Fri Jun 8 2012 10:14PM | MsgID: 15524087


As my time for both playing and studying chess is limited, I stick to a few openings.
So I can devote the time for studying chess also to other subjects. I prefer to study complete games (opening, middle game, endgame) with already have been analysed by others. When I am looking to the opening I try to understand of a game, I try to understand it better, but not spending too much time on it. Half of the time I spend on master games, half of the time on analysing my own. I computer with a big database also helps to understand more of the opening.



NL2

Chess rating: 2205



 Topics started


England
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Thu May 31 2012 11:34PM | MsgID: 15501444


It is certainly true that understanding (as opposed to memorising)a wide range of openigns will improve chess ability. You are able to recognise opening and middle game patterns and themes in more situations.

However, for most of us the limitations of time tend to mean concentrating on a few well-tried opening systems, especially OTB. I like some of the suggestions here about gradually changing your repertoire by one opening each year. I tend to do this only when I keep losing a lot with one particular system, or just get bored with it.



Earl of Norfolk

Chess rating: 2504





 Topics started


United States
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Chess goodies: 59
Sat Apr 21 2012 2:45PM | MsgID: 15384099


Originally posted by: "Theseus"
Here, in the correspondence environment, one can play as many opening as one likes because one has always reference to theoretical material... Over-the-board (OTB), one is reliant on memory so it's wiser to restrict the amount of necessary theory; thus a more compact repertoire is best.




My thoughts exactly. When I first joined the site, I looked at it as practice for a return to OTB play, so I played the same restrictive openings here that I would play OTB. It did help in the couple of OTB tournaments I played in since joining Chessworld, but now that I can no longer rely on my health to get me through a gruelling weekend tournament, I play only on the site and so I now play a wide variety of openings and find it's a lot of fun.



bnolan

Chess rating: 1999
LCF 1906






 Topics started


United States
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Chess goodies: 5
Sat Apr 21 2012 12:40PM | MsgID: 15383805



I find that if I play only one set of openings, my play tends to get stale; I play a lot of moves that are "thematic" for that opening, and fail to see other potentially better moves that don't fit the patterns.

Having said that, I do think you need to specialize in an opening for about two years before this becomes a problem.

What I have done is define a repertiore for play against higher rated players, and one against lower rated players. About once a year, I calculate my performance rating for each opening to see where I might need some work. Then I pick one new opening to learn which replaces an old one in my repertiore. This way I get a mix of specialization, plus I am always learning something new.





Theseus

Chess rating: 2215





 Topics started


United Kingdom
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Sat Apr 21 2012 7:55AM | edited: 8:00:50 | MsgID: 15383151


Here, in the correspondence environment, one can play as many opening as one likes because one has always reference to theoretical material. However, if one goes down that path, beware, because as I've found to my cost, the time needed to research certain positions or strategies can exceed the time available for play (depending on how much time one has for one's hobby, of course).
Over-the-board (OTB), one is reliant on memory so it's wiser to restrict the amount of necessary theory; thus a more compact repertoire is best.
Nevertheless, even in correspondence games, I find it better to hone my skills in a minimum of openings in order to limit the amount of data my aging brain has to process.
I suppose it really depends on one's objective: to broaden opening knowledge? - then play as many as possible; to improve one's game? - then limit to a few related systems.



Stephen96

Chess rating: 2319
LCF 2012






 Topics started


United States
Give chess goodie
Sat Apr 21 2012 4:48AM | MsgID: 15382915


I've always thought it's best to play a lot of openings so as to gain experience in lots of different types of positions.

But noticed that a lot of people will always play the same openings. I am always looking for ways to improve my game and maybe I'm making a mistake by knowing a little about lots of openings, rather than lots about a few openings?

I also notice a lot of GMs also play the same openings, but since they are so good they probably have experience and know what positions suit them.

What are your thoughts? Is it better to stick to a few openings or better to play lots of openings?