Knowledge of the different chess openings is crucial, especially as you develop into a stronger chess player. When learning openings, you shouldn’t focus on just memorizing lines, because once you come out of the opening, you will not know what to do next.
The best approach is to learn the reason for making such moves, and the strategic ideas involved in the opening.
In this article, we will discuss 5 of the best ways to learn chess openings effectively. Having a sound understanding of the opening you play can put you at an early advantage in the game. In some cases, you can quickly crush your opponent right out of the opening.
Here are the 6 best ways to learn chess openings:
- Use Chessbase Database
- Play Blitz Match To Practice Your Opening
- Learn From The Masters
- Read Opening Books
- Stick To A Few Openings
- Watch Your Favorite Streamers
1. Use Chessbase Database
The most effective way to learn chess openings is to have a large database of games. Software like Chessbase or Lichess.org has its own database of games and chess openings. However, I recommend that you use chessbase because it has over 8 million plus games, which is larger than Lichess Masters database. Plus, chessbase comes with a ton of features.
Chessbase will show you all the games played with a particular opening. This includes the success rate of each opening in percentage, as well as draws and losses.
The statistics you get from Chessbase will help you decide which openings are good and which ones are bad.
Chessbase comes with a lot of cool features that will help you get the most out of your training. You can filter games by a specific player. For example, if you want to study the London Opening but you only want the games of Magnus Carlsen, then Chessbase can filter the results for you.
For every opening you explore, Chessbase will show you the top move in the position which will help guide you along your training.
The best part is that Chessbase provides an overview explaining the strategic and tactical ideas of each opening. Almost every grandmaster use chessbase when preparing for their opponent. They can easily pull up their opponents games, analyze where they went wrong, and prepare a line to go after their weakness.
If you want to learn chess openings the right way and you’re serious about improving your game, chessbase is the way to go. Check out chessbase here
2. Play Blitz Match To Practice Your Opening
Studying openings is useless if you don’t actually apply them them in your real games. However, you may never get the chance to play a particular opening you’ve analyzed if all you play are long format games.
After you’ve studied an opening, you should play a lot of blitz match with that same opening. This will help you encounter many different variations of that opening, thereby strengthening your repertoire.
To make the most out of your blitz training, you should set up the opening position on the board. For example, if you are learning how to play the King’s Indian Defense, then you wouldn’t want to play a game from the starting position because your opponent can deviate into something else.
It’s best to setup the opening you are practicing, and then play a game from that position.
The more blitz games you play, is the more knowledge you will gain from the opening.
Chess website such as lichess allows you to set up your own starting position
When practicing with blitz games, your opponent may not play the opening you’ve sudied. That’s why you should set up the board to your desired position.
3. Learn From The Masters
If you are going to learn an opening, it’s best to learn from the best. You should choose one of your favorite chess players and learn from his or her games.
For example, if you want to learn the Slav Defense for Black, then you may want to study the games of Vishwanathan Anand as he his known to excel in these types of solid openings.
On the other hand, if you are interested in learning the London Opening, then a player like Magnus Carlsen should be your pick as recently he’s been destroying his opponents with it.
When you learn from only one chess player, you quickly adapt their playing style as opposed to learning from 10 different players. As you grow into a stronger player, you could start learning from more than one player in order to stretch your knowledge. But for beginners and intermediate players, it’s recommended to stick to one master.
When it comes to choosing the right chess player, chessbase can assist you with that. Chessbase can filter the best players of a specific opening. You’ll be guaranteed to learning from the best!
4. Read Opening Books
A chess book will teach you the different strategies of a specific opening. Chess opening books can give you valubale insights and provide you with some of the most popular games played in history with that opening.
It teaches you all the different variations of the opening, as well as the different traps you can use on your opponent.
It’s important to choose the right opening book for your skill level. Some books are just way too advanced and complicated, and all they give you are a ton of different variations which never actually appear in your games.
You should choose books that covers the basic ideas of the opening and that are rated over 4 stars. One of my favorite opening books is Modern Chess Openings.
It has the largest catalogue of openings and variations. This is a very convenient resource to have, especially if you are into discovering new openings, or if you want to recall a specific line.
5. Stick To A Few Openings
Many players make the mistake of venturing out into several openings, instead of just learning and mastering a single opening at a time.
I’d rather be scared of an opponent who has played 10,000 games with just the slav defense, than an opponent who has played 10,000 games with 20 different openings.
A player who sticks to one opening is more dangerous because he knows all the different variations, traps and strategies of that opening. It would be much more difficult to beat him.
I usually tell my students to stick to one opening until they have mastered it completely. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn from other openings. In fact, it’s good to learn different chess openings because you’ll understand the game of chess better. For exmaple, if you only play e4, then you haven’t truly mastered your positional understanding of chess.
A player who plays d4 will have a better positional understanding of the game because these types of positions require strategy and positional knowledge as opposed to e4 which is mostly tactical.
Nevertheless, while it’s good to learn more than one opening, you shouldn’t over do it by studying 100 different openings. This could result in what I call “The Law Of Diminishing Returns” a term that one of my vice principal used to stuff down my head, when I wanted to venture off into more than one activities at school.
Your opening repertoire for black should include 2 openings against pawn to e4, and 2 openings against pawn to d4 (at max). Against e4, I recommend the French Defense or the Sicilian Kan as these strategies are more straightforward.
Against d4, I recommend the Nimzo Indian Defense against the Queens Gambit, or you could just play the King’s Indian Defense.
If you are playing white, then you should learn the Queens Gambit. But if you play e4, then you should be prepared for all of Black’s responses which includes the Siciliand Defense, King’s pawn opening, Scandinavian, Caro-Kann among many other defenses.
6. Watch Your Favorite Streamers
Learning chess nowadays is easier than back in the days. Now you have platforms like youtube and twitch in which you can watch some of the best chess players in the world stream their games on live tv.
Some of them are genorous enough to offer free lessons on their channel where they explain the meaning behind their moves and the different openings they play.
One of the best streamers I’ve come across is Grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky. You can learn so much from his videos which would help to improve your understanding of chess openings. You can check out his channel here
Other popular streamers include GM Hikaru Nakamura and even the World Champion himself Magnus Carlsen.
Studying chess openings is not about memorizing lines and variations. You have to understand the reason behind the moves, so that you can emerge into the middlegame with a clear plan.
A player with no plan will tend to make a lot of blunders in their games because they don’t know what to do. They’ll just make random moves over the chess board. These types of players are very reactive to every move their opponent makes.
A player with a sound understanding of the opening he is playing will make fewer blunders because he has a clear strategy in mind.