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pandemona 232 ( +1 | -1 )
Selecting simple openings with clear plans! What with all this talk of "What should I play against the Singing Snocone variation of the Najdorf at the 115th move??" and all the exasperated answers of, "It doesn't matter! You'll win or lose on tactics whatever you do!", it seems there's a consensus among many players that - rather than select the top-performing statistical opening - it's better to pick something simple and straightforward in which there is a clear plan to follow and the themes can be easily grasped.

So out of curiosity: Give your bare-bones repetoire for White and Black composed only of these straightforward, understandable openings!

I'm going to open with my guess:

As White:

1.e4 e5 2.f4 fxe4 3.Nf3 - King's Gambit, a wild opening but White's goals are very clear! Attack f7 and defend your king with economy. White has to learn a few critical lines here to defend against Black cheapoes.
(alternatively 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb4 and the Ruy Lopez, though quite complicated and well-researched, at least offers a certain resemblance to the next two repetoire suggestions. Also requires that White pick up a few lines to negotiate some of the confusion around moves 5-7 or so.)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb4 - Sicillian, Rossimolio variation. Prepare and then play d4 with moves like O-O, Re1, c3.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb4+ - Same again, but pay attention to the slightly different feel of the position.

As Black:

1.e4 d5 2.exd Nf6 - Scandinavian, gambit form, whatever this is called. Avoids the maze of theory in Ruy and Sicilian and gives Black good activity. Because Black's down on material, he must pay attention and play actively rather than boring opponent into a draw.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 - QGA. Black's plan is clear-cut; first prevent white from playing d5 and then place pressure on the d pawn with the expectation not of winning it but to instead tie up White's pieces in the defence.

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb5 - English 'Sicilian', advantage that it is VERY similar to systems player will be using as White. Needs to look at a few lines and be wary that, as one tempo down, defending the e pawn against Nf3 might be tricky.

I'm aware there're a few problems with this selection, noteably the QGA, Scandinavian and KG are very different to the similar, thematic Sicilian/English openings I've suggested.

Ideas? Improvements? Total rehauls? :)

~ Stephen / pandemona
gibo 47 ( +1 | -1 )
your ideas seem quiet good to try to avoid theoretical lines. You have missed many critical lines against 1.e4, such as what you play against cao-kann, scandinavian, french, pirc, alekhine and im sure there are others. If your trying to avoid theory I would not recommende 1.e4, I believe 1.d4, c4, or Nf3 would be a better choice. Also the kings gambit is quiet theoretical and you do need to know a fair bit of theory in that line.
peppe_l 346 ( +1 | -1 )
IMHO People say "you win or lose because of tactics" because its true :-) Of course to be fair endings and strategy are important as well. But to me it looks like lots of chess players live in illusion - if I play same openings Kasparov plays, I will have MIGHTY weapons against my opponents. This is not true, Kasparov wins primarily because he is Kasparov. He can play 1.a3 and wipe out pretty much everyone. If you take his opening repertoire away, he will still be amazing player. But if you take his tactics, endings and strategy away, he will become Garry The Patzer. When it comes to statistics, I agree there is some sort of consensus. And to be more exact, consensus among STRONG players.

I truly believe chess is a game of understanding, not memorization. But I am not saying openings like Stonewall Attack are necessarily good because they are easier to grasp. There is a temptation to play mechanical, automatical moves. True such openings are effective vs fellow amateurs, but very limiting when it comes to chess improvement. Then again if you choose super-complex lines, you will not understand them well enough, and even though you can have good results (because your opponents wont understand them either), once again it is hard to improve. Especially because you have wasted time for opening theory instead of studying more important stuff like tactics! If you ask me it is ALWAYS better to play openings you can understand, even if it means your opponent can understand them too. And if your openings allow you to experiment with different types of positions and plans, good! I have never understood chess players who want to AVOID different positions, eg "I hate closed games, I hate quiet positions, I hate endings, I want to always play d4-f4-e3-Nf3-c3-Ne5 and go for the king" :-) No matter what openings you choose, you will be forced to play different types of positions, and you can bet lots of opponents are willing to exploit your weaknesses by transposing to positions you dislike.

It has been years since I studied chess, so I can be completely wrong. And my own "repertoire" is not best choice for a player of my level, IMO. I play 1.c4, even though I know 1.e4 and 1.d4 are PROPABLY better when it comes to chess improvement.

But lets imagine I want to improve at chess. I choose main lines (because they are instructive and it is easy to find annotated games where they are played) but skip theory-heavy melees to save time for reading my "ABCs of Tactics" and "Easy endings for Patzers"...



1...e5 2.f4!?

Because my attacking & piece play sucks :-)

1...c5 2.Nc3

For now, to skip theory-heavy lines and practise my strategy.

1...e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2

To skip complex lines after 3.Nc3 Bb4 and practise IQP positions.

1...c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2

No reason to skip main lines, not too much theory and even if I run out of book moves, general knowledge of CK (my defense as Black :-))) is sufficient at my level.

1...d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5

No Austrian Attack theory, thanks! Active, easy-to-understand move. As far as I know 4.Bg5 is pretty strong system against Pirc, too...?

1...Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3

Classical, simple strategy. No over-extending or state-of-the art theory lines (as far as I know).


1.e4 e5

To practise tactics and piece play.

1.d4 d5

To practise classical chess strategy...

Please note I am not saying my "1.e4 repertoire" is good or better than any other repertoire. It is merely my example of what I MIGHT choose if I had to start playing 1.e4 here and now.

Just my two cents.

pandemona 66 ( +1 | -1 )
gibo The choice of e4 was deliberate... time and time again, I hear the advice, "Beginners should play in open games! You'll lose, lose, and lose again, but you'll gain the understanding of tactics and piece play. Play closed games and you'll slowly be squeezed to death without ever understanding why."

As for the other stuff.. caro, french, etc. etc... you're right, I don't really know how I'll approach those yet. (Though I'll be taking a look at peppe_l 's suggestions - thanks for those, peppe_l , I knew you'd be an early reply to this thread :)).
peppe_l 7 ( +1 | -1 )
Actually I have to replace 1.e4 e5 2.f4 with 2.Nf3 - there is no way I can play 1.e4 and skip Ruy Lopez! :-)
gibo 69 ( +1 | -1 )
peppe_l you have no elaborated as what to play after Nf3, assuming black replies Nc6 (there is still the matter of 2...Nf6) what will white play then? I used to play c4 to avoid theory. But then I found I got position that I just didn't understand and didn't play well. I'm not scared of theory and therefore now play soley 1.e4, but there are many lines, the sicialian as example, where if white does not know what he is doing he will get inferior positions.
For those wanting to avoid as much theory as possible there are many simple lines based primarily on 1.d4, these lines are not as theoretical. One example is d4 nf3 g3 bg2 0-0 and take it from there.
cryptos 37 ( +1 | -1 )
Play the Lopez. I've just started playing the Lopez (Ruy, not Jennifer) properly as white, and have to say it has a straightforward plan as white, first to pressurize the centre with Bb5, and then to work to play d4 when the bishop gets knocked back, weakening the queenside. This is definitely the opening if you want to learn strategic ideas, as there is a new finesse on practically every move.:)
groove 306 ( +1 | -1 )
"What should I play against the Singing Snocone variation of the Najdorf " - LOL

I agree with much of what has already been said by the other guys. Openings that have simple and clear plans, yet avoid masses of theory? Hmm... That's a tough one for me actually, but my opening repertoire is limited to a handfull of openings that I play regularly and consistently.

As white: Off the top of my head, I'd say the English - Botvinnik system. It's solid, can be aggressive, and has easy to understand lines of attack. It's also difficult to play against. I find myself having a difficult time playing against it, even when I know what is coming. However, it's difficult to force a Botvinnik setup unless Black allows you, but I think the English gives you the most chances for transpositions into untheoretical lines that your opponent may be unprepared for.

King's gambit with e4 is solid and easy to understand, but like what has been said.. It can be theoretical, so you have to be reasonably familiar with the lines. However, it's easy to play and has clear cut ideas that are easy to understand. However, I wouldn't play it if you weren't tactically minded and didn't enjoy open games.

As black:

Definitely Scandinavian defense. I've taken a keen interest in this opening as of late, and am actually impatiently awaiting my Bad Bishop dvd "The Scheming Scandinavian!" (Anybody else love these dvd's?) This defense will definitely take a few e4 players by suprise, and has many opportunities for good counterplay and tactics as black. It's also pretty easy to learn.

Against d4, definitely the Dutch Stonewall attack. I love this easy to play opening, and the great thing is that it can be played as either color! However, I would avoid opening with 1. ...f5 if you plan on playing the Stonewall because white can play the Staunton gambit with 2. e4! and that is one nasty gambit to play against. I would recommend transposing from 1. ...d5 It's an easy to understand opening, and can be played aggressively with tactics in mind, or positionally. It's very flexible.

I would avoid any version of the Sicilian! lol As much as I love the Sicilian, it can be such a headache sometimes in preparing for the myriad of white responses. I think I spent a good couple of hours studying maroczy binds this weekend due to playing 4 maroczy's in a row! That being said, I absolutely love the Sicilian dragon, but it can definitely be a gigantic headache sometimes, and is full of theory.

I'm one of those people that doesn't necessarily agree with the statements from players about "opening's don't necessarily matter, just pick something simple and work on your middlegame and endgame". I think opening study can give you a tremendous advantage, and let's face it... openings are fun to study! I think it's a bad idea to go as long as possible in avoiding opening theory, because you've got to tackle it sometime and it can definitely help out your game. However, take this advice with a grain of salt because my openings are generally pretty strong, whereas my middle and endgames are not;)
bonsai 90 ( +1 | -1 )
pandemona: I'd say the King's Gambit is really not an opening that is easy to understand or has easy plans (well, to an extent it's a lot about attacking the opponent's king...). I'm not sure whether it's easy to find something with clear plans after 1.e4 e5, but I suppose the lines you suggest in the Sicilian are vaguely strategic (although 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6 has definitely more to do with plans than the Re1/c2-c3/d2-d4 variations).

In the Scandinavian the 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd4 3.Nc3 Qa5 variations tend to be much more about having a clear plan (e.g. c6, Bf5, e6, Nf6 just developing sensibly) than the 2...Nf6 variations, which seem to be more confusing.
In my opinion the QGA is fairly difficult to play as black, it seems to be white who has lots of fairly straightforward ideas, while black is fairly passive. E.g. Dutch (whether Stonewall or Leningrad or whatever) systems are much easier to play as black and can be used against lots of first moves by white (1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3, 1.g3...).
jstack 97 ( +1 | -1 )
Kings gambit There may be a lot of theory, but if you know the kings gambit you don't have to worry about learning any other system for 1. e4 e5. If you don't play the kings gambit, you have to be prepared for quite a variety of systems. For instance if 2 Nf3 you have to be prepared for the lopez, petrof, and philodor. To me its easier to be on top of Kings gambit theory than to have to know theory on a variety of different systems. From a preparation standpoint this gives the advantage to white. After 1. e4 e5 black has to be prepared for lopez, Italian game(including Evans gambit), center game(2. d4), goring gambit, danish gambit, ponanzai(2. c3)...well you get the idea. For the same reason, I play the closed sicilian after 1. e4 c5. rather than having to learn all the theory of the every possible sicilian variation. And after 1. d4 f5 as black I know the positions I will be getting into. This also works after 1. c4 f5. All these openings are openings I can understand, I am not just memorising moves, I understand the general idea.
premium_steve 50 ( +1 | -1 )
even less theory for the vienna... 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3
it's very playable, and opponents are usually caught off guard by it.

I don't mind this particular variation: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 (white can vary here with Bc4 or g3, I think) 3...d5 (this is probably black's best. other lines can lead to quick loss if played carelessly. d6 is probably ok and exf4 too if played properly, though i'm not sure)
4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Qf3
now black can play 5...f5 or 5...Nc6 with equality or maybe better, but i don't think it's too bad for white and i will play into it anyway.