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“How to learn openings”

Perhaps there is no such a chess lover who would not want to learn how to play better, would not seek to get rid of the flaws in his game. At the same time, it seems to many that the main obstacle that prevents them from improving is a poor knowledge of the theory of openings. And yet another amateur, having obtained the long-awaited opening leadership after a long search, looks through it, sighs and … puts it on the bookshelf for a long time. In fact, if you think that it is necessary to study all the options given in such a textbook, you can be scared. Try, remember them all, where to get time for this?

Alas, there is still a naive opinion that the master therefore plays masterfully because he studied all the thick chess manuals from cover to cover. But there are many chess players of the second and third categories who know the opening theory no worse than other masters. But such a chess “scientist” of the second category will sit down to play the tournament game, and his opponent will make an unexpected move about which nothing was written in the book … and everything was lost, defeat cannot be avoided.

And in chess you can’t live by someone else’s mind. To play well, you must first clearly understand the meaning of what is happening on the board. “Studying chess textbooks only paves the way along which you need to learn how to think independently,” ex-world champion M. Euwe rightly pointed out.

In order to better understand the problem of studying the theory of beginnings, first of all, you need to decide what are such , are they mandatory and strictly unique?

Why is the path of the debut guide to the reader’s heart difficult? Options, options, options spread across all pages of such a book. Their abundance may seem boring, unusually difficult … But this is not so. It is only necessary with all clarity to imagine that these options are fragments from the games of the strongest chess players of the world, which were played in tournaments and matches. They reflect bold creative searches, a wealth of ideas, the joy of discoveries and the bitterness of failure. Does this mean that there is no other possible continuation in the position? Of course it doesn’t!

Chess wrestling is diverse, it is fraught with countless different possibilities. Many years ago, M. Chigorin said that in every debut, “template book options can be avoided, while achieving not worse, if not better, results.” And really. It is important to understand the main goals of the opening, the ideas of opening schemes, only this will give you the opportunity to find the right paths in the vast ocean of options that arise at the beginning of the game.

Note from the editors of
We strongly recommend that you remember the phrase “It is important to understand the main goals of the opening, the ideas of opening schemes …”. Knowing the basic ideas of a debut, it is easier to find the right moves in emergency situations. By “contingency”, we understand the opponent’s moves made not according to the rules of this or that debut. As mentioned above, many amateur chess players do not know how to react to non-book moves.
Debut options are based on tournament practice. That is why they are constantly changing and improving. If you compare the recommendations made by theorists 5-10 years ago with those given now, you will be amazed – there are so many changes in these estimates. And this is understandable, chess art is constantly evolving, creative work is ongoing, and a search is underway for a new one. With all certainty, it can be noted that finding a new thing in the opening theory is not only a matter for the masters, it is quite possible for every chess fan. “Interesting, serious discoveries in the field of openings happened to be made even by weak players … These discoveries were checked by first-class players and then applied by them in practice,” wrote M. Chigorin.
The story of the “hero of our time” of the Volga gambit is characteristic. When the analysis of this gambit, prepared by Kuibyshev chess players led by the candidate for the master B. Argunov, was published in the journal “Chess in the USSR” (No. 2, 1946), experts greeted him with undisguised skepticism. “What do Black get for the sacrificed pawn? Nothing or very little, ”the critics said. The purely positional idea of ​​the gambit did not immediately reveal itself and justified itself: to create pressure on the queenside and along the diagonal f1-a6, cause weakening in the white camp, and gradually organize an attack. Tests have shown that this idea is very vital. Attitude to the Volga gambit has changed dramatically. A new section of the opening theory has appeared, now the brave gambit is a frequent guest of major competitions.

What practical conclusion can be drawn from all that has been said?

First of all, one cannot blindly and unconditionally take for granted what is written in various chess textbooks or in the comments of grandmasters and masters. Say the commentator claims that White has the edge. But if you start to understand the position, maybe you will not agree with this opinion. It is necessary to understand seriously, without rushing, avoiding early conclusions. And in chess analysis, you must “try on seven times before cutting off once.”

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