Which opening to choose ? (part 1) The first questions ...

Some intuitive players can afford to never focus on the choice of an opening. However, the level of competing growing fast, the question of the choice of an opening comes and ... which one to choose for white, for black ? Each opening can often transpose to other openings and change considerably the temper of the game.

Some points

[1] - Working on an opening requires time, personnal investment in studying the hidden of the place: Do you have the time to study, work on lines, search improvement with the help of computers ?

[2] - Books and computers are of great help. But which one to choose ? Can someone tell me which one is the reference book of the queen's gambit accepted ?

[3] - Defining a set of openings is good, but the books are big, there are a lot of variations and subvariations: which one fits your needs ?

[4] - Going far in the variations requires a good understanding of the ideas of the opening, of the tactical or strategical patterns involved, before to be able to make these lines of play a personnal knowledge: Can you feel that opening ? Could you alone find which line is more on the philosophy of the opening, which one could give you a decisive advantage on your opponent ?

[5] - There are open, semi-open and closed openings: do you like space and open-lines on the board ?

[6] - There are calm, dynamic, sharp and very sharp kind of play: which type of player are you ?

Some advice

In order to define which opening could fit your temper, you should try the most played first.

For example as white:
  • Queens' gambit   1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Cf6 ...
  • Italian                  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4
  • Ruy Lopez            1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
  • Catalan                1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2
  • Nimzo-Indian       1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
  • English                 1. c4

Or with black:

  • Sicilian                 1. ... c5
  • French                 1. ... e6 2. ... d5
  • Caro-Kann           1. ... c6
  • King's Indian       1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5
  • Pirc                      1.e4 d6 and 2...Nf6, followed by ...g6 and ...Bg7

Once you have defined which type of game could be yours, it is important to remind that:

  • Chess is 98% tactics. That means that you won't be lucky enough to find someone playing till the move 15 a variation that you perfectly know. At this point, only your understanding of the game and your tactical sense can help choose the right thing continuation: defensive play, counter-attack, position improvement, combination, ...
  • Whatever your opening is, your opponent's answer must guide you to adapt your play. There are no well-defined systems of 15 moves that fit perfectly against all the answers. To convince yourself, try to always play the same suite of 10 moves against several opponents (including computers) ... and count your wins.

BUT, one day, you will realize that you can't learn all the sub-variations of an opening's theory. So you come to the conclusion that you must restrain your ambition, choosing to play always the same variation, e.g. in Queen's gambit declined you play the Tarrasch and the Main Line (and that's already quite ambitious !)

Combining well defined variations of different openings may help you to define your repertoire. For that, there are good books about 1. ... e5 for black or 1. d4 for white for example. These books propose a set of combined lines in order to be able to answer rightly the play of your opponent. These books are not "opening books", they don't explain an opening in detail, they focus on variations of different openings that can fit a "global and possible solution" to answer the first moves of your opponent. With such a knowledge, you become more confident and can further add other lines to your play.

I know some players who always answer 1. ... e6, other who play only 1. c4 and 1. ... c5. Regarding what comes on the second or fifth move sometimes they choose the variation that they consider the best to meet their opponent's play. That's a good way to begin ! There is no mate in 1, even in 2.


Last, there are beginnings called "Systems"

  • Meran
  • Kings Indian Attack
  • London
  • Colle
  • Scheveningen
In order to reach a playable and solid position at move 5 or 8 of the opening, using such Systems is good.


- you don't fear the first answer of your opponent.
- you always reach the same position for your pieces at move 6 for example


- once your opening ready, you must face the middle-game and proove that your system is that playable !
- if you strictly respect that system, your opponent may know a good line to counter your ambitions.

Next time, we will see what are the recommended lines of some GM for the tournament player at club level.

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