Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Opening Musings

Since starting to play again these last few weeks, I've been thinking about trying out some new openings. I'd like to put something together that I could have fun with and get better with. In general, over my lifetime, I'd like to have several opening choices for each option - not 4-5, but maybe 2-3. Here are some ideas for opening repertoire themes I've been thinking about:
1. An offbeat repertoire - something where I get the first surprise in. Typically, this type of repertoire ends up being a little trappy and I've played these types of openings before. For example, gambit lines with 1.e4 with White, the Scandinavian Portuguese Variation and the Hennig Schara Gambit with Black. More recently, I've been using the Trompowsky and Pseudo-Trompowsky with White, which can be fun too. The advantages of this type of repertoire is that you often have a surprise factor on your opponent, especially if it's a sharp gambit line. The cons are usually you limit the types of positions you learn, perhaps limiting your long-term growth. Also, since less of the best players play them, you may have to study games of lesser known masters (which can still be very rewarding I'm sure). Interestingly, my 1.e4 gambit lines have been very fun to play in blitz lately, and I still remember a lot of the ideas, even though I developed that repertoire about 10 years ago and hadn't played them in years before a couple weeks ago.

2. A classical repertoire - The would involve playing 1.e4 e5 and 2.d4 d5 with Black and either 1.e4 and 1.d4 aiming for main line classical openings. The advantages of this in my mind are that one would get a good grounding in overall chess play, as these openings have been played since the beginning of the game. Similarly, they are still being played by the best players in the world. The disadvantages to doing this is there is less of a surprise factor and usually you might be the one finding yourself in an opening surprise. Also, since these openings are so old, there is a lot of analysis, so stronger opponents may understand them a little more.

3. A similar positions repertoire - I can mainly think of a few examples of this. One would be a hypermodern style repertoire, involving the Reti opening with White and the King's Indian and Pirc with Black. Another might be the use of the English opening and Sicilian Defense to try to reach similar positions. Another might be an opening repertoire that leads to Isolated Queen's Pawn Positions (such as used to some extent by Sveshnikov). The advantages to this is mainly playing positions that are similar and that familiar plans and themes. Conversely, since the positions are limited, again one's overall development might be stunted.

4. Favorite player repertoire - This would involve taking a favorite player and playing selections from their opening repertoire. The advantages to this approach include studying the games of your favorite player to enhance your knowledge, perhaps playing games that fit together somewhat (e.g. if your favorite player is Kasparov, many of his openings will be sharp and tactical whereas if your favorite is Karpov, the openings will tend towards the positional). The disadvantage to this approach is perhaps your favorite player's style may not match up with your natural strengths. Also, if your favorite player is older, the openings played may not be up to date with theory (although I don't think this would be such a problem until higher levels of play, and at that point, one can update the repertoire with more modern games).

In any case, these are some of the themes I've thought about in creating a new repertoire. By the way, I don't think it's the most important thing to focus on openings, but for me creating a new repertoire is fun and I get much middlegame and endgame knowledge from studying the whole games within those openings. I'll update you once I've made some decisions as to what I'm going to do.

As I'm making these choices, I have a few things in mind:
1. I want to be able to hold on to these choices for a while (as I get better), so I don't want them to be total junk trick openings. This doesn't eliminate offbeat openings, as I believe many offbeat openings such as the Trompowsky are perfectly sound alternatives.
2. I want to improve my overall chess game by playing these openings. This would probably eliminate the similar positions approach (at least for now) for a more diverse repertoire.
3. I want openings that are still played a little today. They don't have to be absolute main line, but I don't want them to be too obscure that no 2600+ GM's play them.

I hope my opening musings have been interesting for you, and perhaps they might inspire you to try out something new. Cheers!

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