Friday, July 20, 2007

An Aside on Opening Preparation

Just thought I would clarify my stance on opening preparation, prior to the next installment of my series.

I think it's important to analyze your games--even online blitz. Part of that analysis should include how the opening was treated. Of course, you'll also be looking for errors in tactics, endgames, and strategy as well, but I don't think the opening should just be ignored, regardless of your chess strength.

If you do not want to maintain an openings repertoire, and just fly by the seat of your pants, then you could keep your opening study down to spotting gross errors. However, if you've ever bought an opening book with the intent of playing certain lines routinely, I strongly feel you need to understand the suggested moves, and have followed the main line through the opening so that you understand what each side is aiming for. If you're plopping money down on opening books, but just "looking up the answer" to what you should have played, or just trying to memorize lines, you're wasting time and money. You owe it to yourself to try and understand the lines you want to play, and I believe that studying openings in this limited but focused way can improve your chess as a whole.

For example, perhaps you learn that Black plays ...d5 at some point to prevent e4. If you understand that, and your opponent omits the "book move" of ...d5, that serves as an alert: Perhaps it would be good for you to push e4 in response. Or perhaps Black normally avoids exchanging a bishop for a knight, and your opponent doesn't. That suggests that winning the bishop pair may be a good idea.

The main lines of your opening are models of good opening play. Understanding them helps you to find good opening moves for yourself, and directs you towards reasonable middlegame strategies.

When you're not analyzing your own games, go ahead. Study tactics. Study endgames. Play through master games. Practice martial arts so you can strike the button on the clock with the reflexes of a cobra. Whatever you think helps your game more, or whatever tickles your fancy. Knock yourself out.

However, when it comes to analyzing your own games, I think you need to consider the game in its entirety, including the opening. Don't just focus on the knight you dropped in the midgame, but also the tactic you missed that would have regained it; the endgame you could have drawn a piece down; and the opening error that led to the difficult position you blundered in.


transformation said...

most excellent. im right there with you. i have a thousand or two thousand of my games to look at and will.

i have a big GM unit first.

warmest, david

transformation said...

i rarely quote fellow bloggers, but did so today with you.

wang said...

As alwyas an excellent insightful post. Of course I could be biased because I analyze my own games religiously now.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I have always wondered why many coaches stress that you go over your losses. At my level, I typically have just one less mistake in my wins as I do in my losses :)

wang said...

BDK - I think you might be surprised oftern I have a chance to save the game after a mistake. It is often not the first mistake that dooms me.