Friday, August 10, 2007

Moving On...

Today I want to throw some thoughts out on selection of your Opening Repertoire and when you might want to consider changing your selection of openings based on results and perceived style. At the end of this short discourse I have listed a few links that might be interesting to those who want to pursue this subject further.

As you may know (Or no know if you are not a reader of this blog), my current repertoire consists of 1.e4 heading towards a Ruy Lopez or a Bb5(+) Sicilian or a Kings Indian Attack against 1...e6 and the various hypermodern systems out there. From the White side, this is how I roll.

From the 'Dark Side', I currently employ a (safe, boring, drawish??) combination of the Caro-Kann and the Slav/Semi-Slav Defense setups that tend to have alot of common strategies between them. It is because of that fact that I made those choices, along with having a good book on this idea of an opening repertoire for Black by Andrew Soltis (a bit dated, but still generally valid, especially at my current level). Against something like the Reti (1.Nf3), I go for a Caro-like setup with d5/c6/Nf6 and bring the QB out to f5/g4 as required and try and get in e6/Nbd7. A simple and solid development scheme.

Most people measure the success of their opening choices based on the results and the level of playable positions they obtain from that opening. I am no different. My current (and soon to be changed) opening repertoire was a result of *years* of layoff from active tournament OTB chess, and a willingness to "protect that which I hold" - yes, I'm talking about rating points - to get myself back into the chess scene, so to speak, without decimating my rating. It is no wonder that I selected the Caro-Kann/Slav setup. It is a very solid system that is tactically sparse compared to other systems. Yet, in the past, I played very active, fighting openings such as the Sicilian Dragon, which tends to become a knockdown, drag-out racing, fighting game from the get-go. You just gotta love Rxc3...

So, why change now?

I have to go back to the reasons I selected my current repertoire to answer that question, and it is clear to me, as a player, that my current repertoire is good for times when I want to play close to the vest, as I did, in coming out of so-called retirement, and to avoid disasterous results and a major blow to ego. SO, at present, I have a opening repertoire that I can use to basically secure a draw with black when needed, and put *some* pressure without too much risk, on Black when I am White.

What is missing terribly from my repertoire now - the hole that is being filled - is an opening schema I can use when I need to play for a win as Black or White. To make this more clear, let's enumerate it here (it would benefit you to do the same - you might be surprised):

As White:
Calm: Exchange Ruy Lopez
Solid: Bb5(+) Sicilian, Closed Ruy Lopez
Attacking: ???

As Black:
Calm: Slav/Caro-Kann
Solid: Slav/Caro-Kann
Attacking: ???

As is evident, I have no real attacking style openings at my disposal at present. This is the hole I speak of right now in my Opening Repertoire.

Attacking Opening Selections from Both Sides

As Black, I am going to revert to my older opening selections that I played in a previous (life? career? decade?) configuration. To this end, against 1.e4 I am to play the Sicilian Defense and attempt to steer the game toward an Accelerated Dragon or Dragon. Against 1.d4, I am to dust off the Dutch Defense and give that a whirl. Both these openings are edgy, fast and dangerous for White if he does not know what he is doing, and do not tend to lend themselves to half-pointers. They also are a good compliment to my current opening repertoire. Of course, it pays to have alternatives in each category, so I will also employ the NimzoIndian against 1.d4. It will come as no surprise to the reader that I already have Everyman Press's "Starting Out" books on all these openings except the Dragon, which is in the mail today.

As White, I am going to follow the advice at first from the article below at chesspublishing.com, and go for:

vs French: Exchange Variation
vs Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (I already play this)
vs Sicilian: 6.Be2 systems
vs 1...e5: Scotch (this will be totally new to me - I have always and forever been a Ruy Lopez guy)
vs Scandinavian: 3.Nf3
vs Pirc/Modern: 4.Bg5
vs Alekhine's: 4.Nf3

I hope this gives everyone some ideas on what you should be doing to improve your game. As a final word on the subject, there is a reason why I am deciding to do this today. Yesterday I probably had the worst day of chess ever in my history, simply dropping pieces, bad moves, missing simple tactics, etc., etc., probably due to complete fatigue due to a taxing work schedule lately. However, it got me thinking about the openings and how I really did not like the styles I was playing and needed a change of pace, so here it goes.

Web Resources
ChessPublishing.com: Repertoire Suggestions
ChessClub.com: A Question of Personality
Chessit.net: How to Become a Chess Master
Chessville: What Makes a Strong Player Strong?

2 comments:

Manny said...

I'm so glad to see a new original post from you. Your blog is one of my favorites, and your posts really teach me something new everytime. Keep up the excellent work.

Mark said...

Thanks Manny!

I'm currently working on a series of Strategic Planning articles that I will post to the blog periodically. It will coincide with the Strategic Elements enumerated in the "Common Plans" posts. My goal is to try and distill the vase wads of information out there on various Strategic Elements like Minority Attack into a few simple guidelines to help us patzers navigate the complex strategic waters of chess.

Good Luck and Good Chess!