An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Building Chess Opening Repertoire - Video Tutorial

This is a 3-part tutorial for building a chess database with all your openings. The process is also described in my book "How to Study Chess Openings".

If you intend to store your opening preparation in a computer database, this method will save you a lot of time with a well tested approach.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Study Chess Openings – Guide Ebook

I have just published a new ebook that summarizes many of the writings on this blog, with many additions and revisions. It covers many aspects of opening preparation that I think are largely missing in current chess literature and I had to struggle to discover on my own, of course with great help from my mentors over the years. It is available on Amazon and Kobo.

From the introduction:

There is an interesting paradox in the chess community - many coaches and teachers warn players of all levels against the excessive obsession with opening theory and yet the vast majority of chess materials in digital or printed form are dedicated to specific opening variations or positions. While everyone admits that memorizing variations will never guarantee success in over the board or online encounters, there is clearly a demand for products that help chess players of all levels to successfully navigate through the first stage of the game. At the same time, there is a lack of detailed discussion regarding how seasoned players (expert level and above) structure their work on chess openings, store their analysis, come up with new ideas, prepare for tournament games and so on. Rather than provide another set of variations, key positions and critical games in a specific opening area, this book is meant to fill this gap and help the reader to make sense from all the information that is out there and save as much time and energy as possible, while still building a bulletproof opening repertoire. The book is aimed at any chess player who wants to improve their opening play and is looking for some guidance in that area.

Despite the large proliferation of computer chess software, there is a lack of explanation for how to tie to it effectively to one's study of openings. In the most advanced book on the subject, 'Opening Preparation', published in 1990s, the renowned coach Mark Dvoretsky, while giving great coverage for other topics, described the system for storing opening analysis on paper cards, with a side note that this was outdated and software should be used instead and that this was a large topic deserving a separate discussion. Since then there was a deafening silence on the subject in chess books, at least partially inspiring this publication, which outlines the system for storing opening analysis that served the author well for almost a decade.

Good opening preparation is all about picking the right direction for opening research and investing time into fine-tuning the understanding of favourable positions that are most likely to occur in our games. The basic premise throughout the book is to base one's opening preparation on 3 E's:

  • Enjoyable - the positions that you analyze during opening preparation should appeal to your chess taste, and the process itself should feel pleasant and creative. See the section on 'Creativity' for more details.
  • Effective - ultimately it should bring good results during tournament games, and be targeted at the positions that are most likely to occur on the board. This is covered under sections on Cutting Opponent's Options, Transpositions, and so on. Our choice of opening variations is more likely to make our work effective than anything else.
  • Efficient - this not as important as effectiveness, but we still don't want to waste time and analysis, so various computer tools are suggested to optimize the 'how' of opening analysis, save our work, and efficiently retrieve it.

While it has plenty of examples and annotated games, this book deals with opening preparation in general. For books on specific openings, the reader might want to explore other books in the "Opening Preparation" Series:

1. Introduction
2. Building a Repertoire - Motivation and General Principles
2.1. Opening Preparation - Therapeutic?
2.2. Gaining Advantage on the Clock
2.3. Acceleration of Play - How Faster Time Controls Affect Preparation
3. Building a Repertoire - How to Do This
3.1. Developing repertoire - Write it Down!
3.2. How To Make a Tree in Digital format
3.2.1. Step 1 - Obtain and Format the Database with ECO list of Openings
3.2.2. Step 2 - Select and Tag Openings that Belong to your Repertoire
3.2.3. Step 3 - Add Custom Analysis in a Separate Database that Contains only Repertoire Openings
3.3. Example of a Specific Opening Preparation - Two Knights Defence for Black
3.4. Building Repertoire - Cutting out Opponent's Options
3.5. Reducing Material to Learn - Transpositions to the Rescue
4. Creativity
4.1. Ideas That Work Across Openings
4.2. Noticing Patterns - Seeing the Forest for the Trees
5. Learning from the Grandmasters
5.1. Jonny Hector's wins against 4.Ng5 in the Two Knights Defence
5.2. Short approach against the Scandinavian
5.3. Pavasovic attacks with Isolated pawn
5.4. Nadezhda Kosintseva plays with Isolated Pawn to beat the French
5.5. Ilya Smirin's games Vs The French, Delayed Castling, attacking Pawn Chain, etc ...
5.6. Studying the Classics
5.7. How to Find New Chess Ideas
6. Common Mistakes During Opening Preparation
6.1. Trusting your Sources without Applying your Intuition
6.2. The Impact of Computers on Opening Preparation
6.3. Overestimating Opponent's Preparation
7. Opening Duels - Specific Opponent and Opening Preparation
7.1. Alapin Sicilian - How Dangerous is the Kingside Attack?
7.2. Central Gambit - Move Order Tricks
7.3. Najdorf Sicilian - Avoiding Time Trouble
7.4. Queen's Gambit Accepted - Opening Advantage does not Guarantee Success
7.5. Queen's Gambit Accepted - Choosing a Pawn Structure
7.6. Repairing the Repertoire
7.7. Following the Middlegame plan
8. Memorizing Openings
8.1. Information Overload
8.2. Memorizing Chess Openings
8.3. Why Less Is More When it Comes to Opening Repertoire
8.4. Anand on Studying Chess with Computers and Memory
9. Summary - Checklists
9.1. 10 steps to a Better Chess Opening Repertoire
9.2. Checklist for Maintaining Opening Repertoire in Digital Form
9.3. 10 Additional Reasons to Build an Opening Repertoire
10. About the Author
11. Symbols and Abbreviations Used in the Book
11.1. Position Evaluation
11.2. Move Evaluation

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Book Review – Learn from the Legends: Chess Champions At Their Best

As a fan of chess books about history and personalities, I found Mikhail Marin's books to be a sweet spot that merges the interesting stories with instructive material in the most seamless and natural way. In Learn from the Legends: Chess Champions At Their Best, by virtue of the author discussing each player's favourite type of positions or material balance - the reader gets to see how subtle superiority in understanding of those positions allowed great champions (Rubinstein, Alekhine, Tal and others) to outplay their opponents again and again. As the patterns are well explained the reader cannot help, but want to pursue each topic in their own games and study. The book has a lot of deep analysis, but one does not feel overwhelmed with variations because they are all tied together with ideas that the author is consistently trying to illustrate. Highly recommended!


PS. In fact this approach of finding themes in games of top several top players is quite a popular inspirations for chess books, and I used a similar idea for my book The Break - Learn From Schlechter, Botvinnik and Kramnik where I explore the topic of unexpected pawn breaks and sacrifices.

The Break - Learn From Schlechter, Botvinnik and Kramnik 

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