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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Opening Repertoire How-To (Read 20275 times)
MNb
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #29 - 05/17/21 at 10:31:56
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As I hope to provoke some thoughts I suggest something completely different: buy a book from GM Viktor Moskalenko. Or more - I own four since last week plus have read The Diamond Dutch. As I'm an old hence inflexible patzer it took me a long time to take over his approach, but I find it rewarding. He continuously stresses the importance of creativity, trying new angles, challenging theoretical consensus and looking for dynamic ideas. He even does so in dull (Slav Exchange) and static openings (Dutch Stonewall). They may not improve on existing theory, but hey, the time is gone that White tries to prove an objective advantage anyway.
Again, given that he's a GM and I'm far from it it is very demanding for an amateur like me. But I simply don't know any author on openings who encourages the reader to do his/her own research as GM Moskalenko. Not even GM Ivan Sokolov, who has written some excellent books as well.
  

The book had the effect good books usually have: it made the stupids more stupid, the intelligent more intelligent and the other thousands of readers remained unchanged.
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an ordinary chessplayer
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #28 - 05/17/21 at 06:40:53
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Yes Edited:
(@Cathexis)
, great post. I think anybody who reads that will have a very good idea whether they want to watch those videos. Not sure why I forgot before, and equally not sure why I remembered now, but Larry Evans did something similar.

Evans (1975) The Chess Opening for You (note - this book is in English Descriptive Notation), contents:
  • 1. Know Thyself (5)
  • 2. Choosing an Opening Repertoire (25)
  • 3. For White Only: A Universal System (37)
  • 4. Connections Help (67)
  • 5. A Complete Defense to 1.e4 (89)
  • 6. A Complete Defense to 1.d4 (117)
  • Index to Openings (151)
  • Index to Opening Moves (152)

For white he covers the King's Indian Attack, for black he covers the Center Counter (Scandinavian) and the King's Indian Defense. I say covers rather than recommends, because what he recommends in the first two chapters is that each reader figures out for themself what openings they should be playing. In chapter 2 he lists the openings from MCO (71 openings), in alphabetical order, and labels them as Active, Passive, or Risky. Here is a sample:
  • Queen's Gambit Accepted 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 Active for both
  • Queen's Gambit Declined 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 Passive for Black
  • Queen's Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 Passive for White
  • Queen's Pawn Counter Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 Risky for Black

I always thought the choice of the Scandinavian versus 1.e4 was very clever, because if you play the King's Indian Attack starting with 1.e4, as in chapter 4, then 1...d5 is the only reply that prevents you from reaching it. Unfortunately, his analysis of the Scandinavian is not very good. Evans played both the King's Indian Attack and the King's Indian Defense, but I don't think he play the Scandinavian much, if at all.
  
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Lanark
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #27 - 05/17/21 at 06:13:47
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cathexis wrote on 05/15/21 at 12:35:43:
On You-Tube Nakamura & Gotham Chess have a lengthy series of opening Tier-Rankings, but at three levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.


I haven't found the videos for the "Advanced" level yet, only Beginner, Intermediate and GM level.
Intermediate was defined about 1200 to 1800 iirc. Has anyone seen the suggestions for players above Intermediate but below GM level?
  
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cathexis
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #26 - 05/16/21 at 21:01:44
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I can give you some of what you want. Its too bad I can't post a screen shot of the final rankings board. I cannot give you an example of their decision making criteria - it is so much material that no single example would be correct over the whole thing. The videos for Intermediate alone are approx. 3hrs. total. About 7-8hrs  for all 3 Tiers. Approx. 50 (!!) openings and/or gambits are dealt with. So for any f/up questions you really need to try a view yourself. They also skip a few; so the NID was part of Intermediate, but got missed for GM-Level entirely which much annoyed me. BUT,.. not to be a Debbie-Downer here is some info you might find helpful:

Levels top to bottom are:
Legendary/Solid/Legit/Maybe/Tricks/Garbage

But in some listings:
Legendary/Unbreakable/Legit/Really Bro?/Tricks Only/Garbage - these I think for Beginner's levels.

Using the final rankings for Intermediate (and choosing just a few for example purposes):
Legendary: Caro-Kann/KID/Ruy Lopez/Bongcloud
Solid: NID/Petrov/Reti/London System
Legit: Catalan/Pirc/French Defense
Tricks Only:JeromeGambit/PortugueseGambit/BenkoGambit/Grob
Garbage: Gruenfeld/Benoni/Latvian Gambit/Berlin Defense

To compare with Beginner & GM levels at each's top and bottom rankings, here are just a few:

Beginner:
Legendary: Evan's Gambit/London System/Caro-Kann/KID
Garbage: Gruenfeld/Benko Gambit/Advanced Caro-Kann/Exchange French

GM-Level:
Legendary: Ruy Lopz/Najdorf/Berlin Defense/Gruenfeld/KID
Garbage: Scandi/Giuocco Piano/Alekhine's Defense/4 Knight's Italian

There is so much more,... In all selections Nakamura had final say. You might note that KID crosses all levels at top tier and I think is the only one to do so. They were done live stream with Gotham Chess, so very chatty. The order I listed each opening within any given level is also relatively where Nakamura would put it as against the others. So, Beginner: Garbage: Gruenfeld is about as bad a mistake as a beginner can make. While the Ruy Lopez & Najdorf are the creme de la creme of top tier. BTW, he was kinda cagey in his discussion of the Berlin somewhere in all this, implying he might have some tricks he didn't want to tip to potential opponents. Remember I told you that for when you next face him. If he plays 3...Nf6, best hit him with 4.d3 to avert trouble. Wink

Hope this was helpful,

Cathexis

  
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an ordinary chessplayer
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #25 - 05/15/21 at 18:07:07
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cathexis wrote on 05/15/21 at 12:35:43:
On You-Tube Nakamura & Gotham Chess have a lengthy series of opening Tier-Rankings, but at three levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Multiple parts at each level. They are ranked from "Garbage" to "Legendary."

This kind of ranking is great. Of course I have zero interest in youtube for myself, but many people will prefer it. Is there any chance you could give a slightly more detailed summary? How many rankings are there? Garbarge to Legendary, but what are the ones in between? Even better would be an example opening at each intersection of ranking and level. Then people could get an idea of what the levels mean and what the rankings mean. Or if that's too much work, maybe just an example of each ranking for the Intermediate level. I have no idea what Nakamura would consider intermediate, but I might be able to guess if I saw a few openings named.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #24 - 05/15/21 at 12:37:09
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 02/25/21 at 19:28:44:


Thanks for the link.

GM Serper recommended against studying the games of Carlsen. He recommended studying the games of Wesley So. I take it that Carlsen's play is a little too deep, but So's play is more classical and provides comprehensible examples.
  
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cathexis
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #23 - 05/15/21 at 12:35:43
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On You-Tube Nakamura & Gotham Chess have a lengthy series of opening Tier-Rankings, but at three levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Multiple parts at each level. They are ranked from "Garbage" to "Legendary." For example, The Gruenfeld (IIRC) is ranked garbage for beginners - not because it is garbage, but because it is a waste of a beginner's time to try to tackle it. The discussion proceeds in a leisurely manner, often with snarky humor along the way. Some choices are just for yucks, like "Bongcloud" is Legendary for Advanced. Because they are tier-rankings they don't dwell on any details, just opinions on this vs. that. Openings can move up or down the list based on how they judge average ability at various levels.

Anyway, I found it really interesting and it did give me ideas. I'm not citing it as the be-all and end-all of opening rankings. Instead, I'm suggesting that having a World-Class GM tell you what openings are strongest for you at various levels of experience seemed a kind of Sillman-like approach that might be adapted to meet some of your needs. People like to have choices. Fair warning: They were live feeds and are long and meandering at times. 

FWIW,

Cathexis

If you're curious to see, the finale for Advanced is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HShiBcGbfeA&t=819s
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #22 - 05/15/21 at 12:33:26
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ReneDescartes wrote on 02/25/21 at 16:38:26:
One could also teach a little middlegame skill in each chapter along with the opening ideas that depend on the techniques.


That is a good point. Consider play with (or against) an isolated queen pawn. One can get some mileage out of the Qd3 Bc2 battery, however at some point one needs to deepen one's knowledge. While this may start as an opening idea with specific moves, at some point it becomes a middle game skill.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #21 - 05/15/21 at 12:10:52
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 05/15/21 at 01:35:26:
But all the sources I have looked at recently actually make a big assumption, that you already know which opening to study. Building a repertoire has to include a step where you make the choice


I like the Smerdon/West list.

You make a good point also, namely how to choose a repertoire. To some degree, that proceeds from the listed steps, but I think especially step 2:

"Start to play the opening in less serious outings, either online, in blitz games, or with friends."

Experience helps reveal whether you actually like the opening and find it compatible with your style and abilities.

Perhaps young players can benefit from direction from a coach or  more experienced player, however I suspect that is far from guaranteed.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #20 - 05/15/21 at 06:12:05
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 05/15/21 at 01:35:26:

But all the sources I have looked at recently actually make a big assumption, that you already know which opening to study. Building a repertoire has to include a step where you make the choice.

Indeed, it always surprises me that that step is left out most of the time.
« Last Edit: 05/15/21 at 08:33:39 by TD »  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #19 - 05/15/21 at 01:35:26
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This is pretty good, it's both a book review and an article about how to study the opening: 
Vanessa West "How To Really Learn An Opening - Review: First Steps The French" Chess Life Online (2019.09.29)
https://new.uschess.org/news/how-to-really-learn-an-opening-review-first-steps-t...

She quotes five steps from David Smerdon (2015) Smerdon's Scandinavian, and notes "The key to Smerdon’s advice is alternating between studying and practice games."
  1. Read the chapter introductions (of an opening book) and illustrative games. 
  2. Start to play the opening in less serious outings, either online, in blitz games, or with friends. 
  3. Go back and check the theory for the lines that caused you problems. 
  4. Start to play the opening in 'real' games. 
  5. Learn the theory in more depth.

But all the sources I have looked at recently actually make a big assumption, that you already know which opening to study. Building a repertoire has to include a step where you make the choice.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #18 - 05/14/21 at 18:05:30
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FreeRepublic wrote on 05/14/21 at 14:51:10:
I am truly bemused by the logical 7...Nbd7 6...Nbd7 which is so old that I learned that it was second rate a long time ago, only for it to become cutting edge more recently. Had I used my own eyes, instead of relying on the judgment of others, I might have been decades ahead with many scalps on my belt.

Maybe. Or maybe it's risky and blacks needed an engine to show them how to defend successfully, which is just a different way of relying on the judgment of others. Or maybe the problems are still the same but modern players don't ever look in old books, in which case ignorance is bliss, but they might be better off relying on the judgment of others. I'm all for self-reliance, but if you are going to play a line judged inferior, you had better have some improvements in mind.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #17 - 05/14/21 at 16:08:08
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FreeRepublic wrote on 05/14/21 at 14:51:10:
Some of the discussion may have tilted towards new players learning the opening

On my part this is intentional. If you go back to my first post, the idea is to provide relevant advice for different levels of player. I thought if I started out with advice for the experienced players I would never get around to the advice for the inexperienced players. Before I read Soltis, I read Ehlvest (2018) Grandmaster Opening Preparation, but I'm holding off on that post.

Of course others can comment on any level that interests them.

I used to have trouble as black against the English. So I started playing it for white, and strong opponents quickly showed me the best ways to answer it. There's no magic, it's just another opening that black has to learn. And being black, sometimes you may end up in a position that you don't really like. That's actually only a problem if you let it drive you crazy, and start making irrational moves as a consequence. For instance, trying to "force" the game into some channel that you like, as opposed to simply making the moves required by the position.
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #16 - 05/14/21 at 14:55:17
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Correction last paragraph:

I meant the logical 6...Nbd7!
  
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Re: Opening Repertoire How-To
Reply #15 - 05/14/21 at 14:51:10
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Thanks all for the many excellent posts. They demonstrate effort and insight on your part and can prove valuable to anyone who takes the time to consider them.

I have skimmed the posts and intend to examine them further. I may have too many ingrained habits, both good and bad, to actually change my ways.

A few random thoughts follow.

I have generally accepted the conventional wisdom not to memorize variations. However I have certainly done so as a biproduct. For example, if one always starts from the initial position and plays out to a tabiya and possibly beyond, one will memorize the moves to the tabiya. It is pointless to say memorization does not occur. In fact it is useful that it does occur.

It is good to acknowledge that there is too much information. This is especially true in the electronic era. Hunting down all games, books, etc. on an opening can be counterproductive. On the other hand, if one enjoys an in-depth look at a variation, then dig to your heart's content. You may take a hit by not being adequately prepared for other openings, but that may be O.K.

Some of the discussion may have tilted towards new players learning the opening. Related, but somewhat different, is the case of experienced players learning a new opening. An example follows.

As black, I've long believed that one should tackle the English opening directly with 1...e5 or 1...c5. I periodically make attempts, yet I keep trying to finesse the English out of existence through transposition.

The latter approach always has issues. For example, 1c4 e6 2Nc3 d5 3d4 does indeed force a transposition to the QGD. However it makes no effort to limit white's options in the exchange variation (4cxd). (I prefer 1d4 Nf6 2c4 e6 3Nf3 d5, when cxd is less effective.).

Reverse variations do not reverse! Consider 1c4 e5 2Nc3 Nc6 3Nf3 f5 4d4 e4. I am learning this line, which I suspect is quite adequate for black. Isn't this a reversed Sicilian Grand Prix Attack? No! After 1e4 c5 2Nc3 Nc6 3f4, black would never play 3...Nf6 as white has 4e5. Instead black plays 3...g6. Well can we reverse that with 1c4 e5 2Nc3 Nc6 3g3? One can, but black is under no obligation to play 3...f5 entering a reversed Grand Prix attack.

We have probably all learned to evaluate a position through such concepts as material balance, space, development, pawn structure and king safety. However there are many tempting shortcuts: looking at row evaluations in ECO, reviewing the commentary of titled players, game statistics, and engine evaluations. I have little to add here but the need to strike a sensible balance between a truly chessical approach to evaluating positions (and openings) and the use of shortcuts.

In the Najdorf example provided in an earlier post, I would definitely look at game statistics. The lines that score better would get my attention.

That is not to deny that some line might irrationally catch my eye. An example is the Polugaevsky variation, 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7.f4 b5!? 8. e5). Looking it over I might conclude that it is too wild, or just not good enough. Only time would tell.

I am truly bemused by the logical 7...Nbd7 which is so old that I learned that it was second rate a long time ago, only for it to become cutting edge more recently. Had I used my own eyes, instead of relying on the judgment of others, I might have been decades ahead with many scalps on my belt.
  
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