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trond ♡ 170 ( +1 | -1 )
Learning openings, is it worth it? I would like to improve my chess (who doesn't), and have realized a long time ago that the largest black hole in my chess knowledge is openings. I have a strong tendency of getting inferior or only equal positions after the opening (especially OTB), but after that I can usually put up a good fight for the rest of the game. The opening knowledge I have is mostly experience-based.

So, I have finally started looking at openings (more than 4-5 moves deep). I actually enjoy it! But I have started questioning how much improvement I can get out of opening study. I did a quick calculation on the possible positive effects of opening study, and the results I got were rather depressing.

Let's say I learn an opening really well, and say that instead of having a 50-50 chance against opponents of the approximate same strength, with my favorite opening I have a 70-30 score.

Now here is the depressing (and extremely hypothetical) calculation:
50% of my games is with the right color (white/black) to play my favorite opening
30% of the time, say, will my opponent not take the game into some other opening variant
70% of the time I will win with my favorite opening (opponents of same strength)

What have I gained from this? I will win 20% more games every time I get to play my favorite opening. Not bad you say?

Only 30% out of 50% of my games will be with my opening => 15% of the games
Out of these I win 20% more than I used to before opening study => 20% out of 15% is only 3%!!!!

So I end up with winning only 3% more of my games by learing an opening really well?! That's a rating improvement of about 25 points. Not very impressive if you ask me.

I'm looking forward to your comments. Someone please prove me wrong.
thalagor ♡ 49 ( +1 | -1 )
The thing about knowing an opening well is not knowing the moves, but knowing the concepts! Hence you'll improve most openings as you research one, and not only improve the opening you research. Knowing opening ideas will help you with your middlegame strategy and it will help you know where you might be able to attack in different kinds of positions. At least this is what I've improved the most since I started looking into openings more deeply.
bucklehead ♡ 97 ( +1 | -1 )
Another factor... the clock, at least in OTB: I gain time relative to my opponent if I'm better equipped in the line we're playing. Depending on the kind of time control you play, this can be valuable or not. I doubt it's significant enough to turn your life upside down to memorize hundreds of lines.

My goal in opening prep has always been 1) get me to a playable middlegame while 2) avoiding the potholes. Where I have time, interest, or prior knowledge, I can play something a little meatier (I don't feel like I need to play the Exchange version of the Ruy Lopez, for instance). But I'm not going to neglect my kids to memorize my way to the Dilworth Attack, cool though that is, on the off chance that I'll run across it in the next decade or so.

[As I write these things I savor the irony of the fact that *at this very minute* I'm doing repertoire work. But over the past several months I've been overcompensating for the fact that I've done almost no repertoire work for twenty years.]
i_play_slowly ♡ 21 ( +1 | -1 )
Both Tarrasch and Capablanca recommend... ...making progress through endgame studies. Learning openings is an endless task. With your present rating, I assume you're familiar with the ideas behind the openings, as outlined by Fine.
indiana-jay ♡ 275 ( +1 | -1 )
Wow, you really think like a PhD! But here's my opinion about it.
But allow me to first assume that my rating is 1800.

When I first learnt opening, say about 1500, the most beneficial was from
understanding the concepts. Most player of this rating don't understand
the concepts like tempo (early development), isolation, etc, so playing
gambit was a great choice. And more, by knowing the opening lines
in gambit variations, I was equipped with dangerous weapon.

Against opponents up to 1700, mostly I got more favourable middlegames!
But that's it. They don't know well about opening (even the concepts),
but they were all experienced players which automatically know better
middlegame tactics, and may be a bit about end game theories.

At the top of my performance (1800), I could win against a master but
often lost in the end games. Against Chesmaster 2000, I won a pawn or
two in the middle game, only to have draws in the end games! So I
changed my strategy, I didn't want to reach endgame! I created complex
position in open games (Computers become weaker by needing more time
to calculate the more possible moves!)

Opening-middlegame-endgame is like triathlon. All important (swimming,
cycling, running). You need to master all of them. You just need to know
where the bottleneck is at any time.

IMO, endgame is the heart. In endgame we seek checkmates and
promotions, in the middlegame we seek absolute winning endgame
positions. By knowing the endgame, we have clear objectives in the
midlegame and opening.

IMO, learning chess should probably follow this process:
1. Start with learning endgame till you master it. This is probably boring.
You need to read books, and cannot implement into a game right away.
But it is a must, or you will loose many winning games, and you would
say: "I was already win! I just blundered myself!" LOL.
2. While you progress with endgame, learn a bit about opening. The more
your rating (opponent's rating), the more you need to master opening.
3. Middlegame? It's just from a lot of play and studying GM's games. And
this is what I believe will improve you the most in your likely rating.

And I have 2 suggestions to improve:
1. Choose open games (Giuoco, Ruy Lopez, King Gambit, etc)
2. Search grandmaster's games in chessgamesdotcom (probably for
certain opening). Choose the winning side and play. Think (hard!) for
yourself before you hit the button. Do you have same idea with the
grandmaster? If not, is his idea better? Why?

I believe, that will improve you the most than studying more advanced
opening, even endgame. That is if you have time :P Me? I always want
to do it, just 1 second for every move, but still too busy :(
ccmcacollister ♡ 134 ( +1 | -1 )
But trond ... What will happen if you know TWO openings really well! Statistically :-)
The opening you know best maybe one that Everyone you played knows really well too & perhaps you've diverted disaster?! But if they dont know your next one so well, perhaps you will get a huge win increase. {IMO you need more data.}
In your present favorite, are you really giving it a workout to take advantage of your superior knowlege of it ... playing to maximize your opponents chances to go wrong and not being overly cautious? You can tell by whether you are actually getting some won postions from out of the opening. Are you trying out some of those postions they call "unclear"? {I've found even Experts can be opening victims some of the time in corr. And Masters can be in OTB.}
I like your statistical analysis and liked to do that myself. In my opening I found it helpful to find the move numbers where I would most likely err, and the move range where I most often gained advantage. And it really helped me to be more alert thru those areas for otb play. Just reducing the weak moves I was making on #18 & 22 helped me a lot !
Seeing you also do stats, I have to believe we agree;more knowlege is better than less and predict a 98.5% probability that you do continue your opening studies !?
trond ♡ 131 ( +1 | -1 )
Well... If I learn two openings, that is 6% more won games if I rely on the same calculation as I did when starting this thread (it adds up as you learn more openings, you know). The calculation is speculative, I know, but I wanted to provoke people to think a bit about it. Using a lot of time studying openings will not get you far in itself. I know people here on GK and in my local club that know tons more about opening theory than I do, but who are rated (several) hundred points behind me.

Craig: you're 100% correct in your prediction. I will continue studying openings, preferrably those that I have a good chance of playing quite often, but that still gives me a chance of gaining an edge if my opponent isn't careful (not one opening against everything). I suspect studying one opening thoroughly will pay off in other openings as well, as I probably will learn some ideas that are generally applicable. My problem now is that I'm not agressive enough (in the opening), often ending up in a passive position in the middlegame. This is happening too often OTB, where I don't have that much time to think about the moves (unlike here).

However, I will not neglect the other stages of the game while studying openings. I will not let the opening monster eat me alive!