Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Opening Repertoire

Lately I find myself putting a lot of thought into what openings I want to play.  I know that this is something that a lot of players struggle with, but until the past few months it has never been something that I have struggled with.

Until recently my openings were pretty simple.  As White it was 1. e4 and if I faced a Sicilian it was going to be an Alapin.  As Black it was going to be a Sicilian against 1. e4 and typically a KID with the occasional QGD against 1. d4 or 1. Nf3.  Against 1. c4 I played 1...Nf6 and those often wound up as KID's as well.

About a year and a half ago I had dropped the Sicilian in favor of the French and occasionally a ...Qd6 Scandinavian.

I also started playing open Sicilians as White rather than the Alapin.  I also played some Grand Prix's, but mostly played open.

Those initial changes to my repertoire got me asking myself if playing the same things over and over was helpful or harmful to my development.  I had such little knowledge of certain pawn structures and strategies that it even affected my ability to get the most out of playing through GM games.  Sure, intellectually speaking I understood how to play against hanging pawns.  But because I never saw those ideas in my own games I didn't grasp the strategies as well as I thought I probably should.

So I decided to do something about it.  I started playing 1. Nf3 with the occasional 1. d4 thrown in.  Now I've started to take up the English as well.

As Black I've started playing the ...a6 Slav at times, not to mention expanding my knowledge of the KID overall into other variations other than the mainline Mar del Plata stuff.

Now this has me asking myself is perhaps too much is just as detrimental as too little.  It reminds me of the maxim by the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great "He who defends everything defends nothing."  The chessic version of that would, I suppose, be "He who plays everything plays nothing."

But that takes me to my quandary...I'm not sure what exactly it is that I want to play long term.  Ultimately I'd like to pick a repertoire and spend the next several years truly learning it inside and out.

I am fairly certain that as Black I want to stick with my return to the Sicilian and continue to expand my knowledge of the KID.  I also want to learn more about the ...a6 Slav and the ...Qd6 Scandinavian because I don't want to be too predictable since I tend to play the same people over and over at the clubs I play at.

As White?  Well, that's the crux of it...I don't know what I want to do.  Part of me wants to switch fully to 1. Nf3, part of me wants to switch to the English, and part of me wants to mix it up and play everything.

So I guess that among the lists of things that I need to work on, putting together a repertoire needs to go on that list.

Does anyone out there have experience with playing an extrememly wide repertoire?


  1. Beware the impulse to outpace your OTB experience with opening study. In my experience, opening preparation doesn't really gel until you get the reps in. I'd lean towards keeping it simple.

    1. I hear you, and that's what I have been doing since I started playing again a couple of years ago. Until the past couple of months I would be willing to bet that I was doing as much opening study in one year and your typical player does in one week. I just didn't really study anything.

      Now I find that trend is somewhat reversing. I have been studying a ton of opening stuff. But mostly in the desire to determine what I want to play.

      For the past few days I have worked on learinng the White side of the Worrall System in the Ruy Lopez. Hardly the kind of think that someone who wasn't intending to play 1. e4 should be spending time doing.

      But that's just it...I don't know that I want to stop playing 1. e4. I don't know that I don't want to either. Essentially I feel like I am starting over.

      For the time being I'm just going to play all four main first moves and see what happens.

  2. On a related note, deep preparation and experiencing surprisingly difficult to counter. I still struggle against Pokorski's Colle/Stonewall prep. even though I know it's coming in every game.

  3. I've experienced that alternating between periods of narrow repertoire and periods of 'playing just about anything' has proved rather beneficial for my chess. But in the long term, some kind of specialization is necessary.

    Another approach is to settle on a repertoire, and change a part of it, say every two years.

  4. Laurent, I feel that is the direction I am probably heading in. Right now I'm playing a very wide selection because I'm just trying to figure out what it is that I want to play long term.

    I think that at this point I am more or less committed to the Sicilian (with perhaps the occasional foray into a Scandinavian or French - but rarely!) as Black against 1. e4. But I have no idea what I want to do against 1. d4. I play the KID, but also sometimes play the ...a6 Slav and I don't currently have a real preference as to which way I want to go.

    As White I am a total mess. I want to play 1. wait, 1. c4...wait, no...1. d4. Or maybe just 1. Nf3.

    I just don't know what I want to do there. For the time being I think that I am going to alternate between all four and see what I eventually pursue.