Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Opening Repertoire Planning

The late Soviet grandmaster David Bronstein once spent half an hour on his second move. After 1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 he thought more than half an hour before playing 2...Nc6. That does not mean that he did not know the opening, he has his reasons for taking so much time (the reasons are not relevant to this article ... maybe a future post).

If you do not want to spend half an hour on your second move then having a opening repertoire is a must. An opening repertoire is an essential tool for all aspiring chess player. Unless you have no ambition except to play the occasional week-end rapid, you will need one. Once you have a proper repertoire in place, you will feel much more confident when you sit down at the board in competitive play. The following is a method I use - it may or may not work for you.

The first step to building a repertoire does not even require a chess board. Get a few sheets of loose leaf blank paper and a pencil. If you have a computer than just fire up your favourite word processor or Windows Notepad.

Now enter the following headings, leaving plenty of space between each heading:

  • Black Repertoire
    • Black against 1. d4
    • Black against 1. e4
    • Black against Others

  • White Repertoire
    •  Open with 1. e4
    • Open with 1. d4

  • White must win opening
  • Black must win opening

Write down what your opening will be against queen pawn under that "Black against 1. d4". Then write down all the variations that you think are likely to encounter. For example if you play the King's Indian Defence as black it will look something like this.

Black against 1. d4
  • King's Indian
    • Saemsich
    • Averbakh
    • Main Line
    • .......

  • Black against Others

    • Reti Opening

    • English Opening

Do the same for each heading. The "must win" heading is the opening that you will use in situations where you need to win, usually in the last round or against your main rival. For example if you defend the Ruy Lopez with the Breyer variation, your "must win" variation could be the Marshall Gambit (or could still be the Breyer).

Once you have planned out your complete repertoire it is your guide and you can start searching for key games for each line or variation. I am not going to go into detail on this part as it needs another article to do justice. Important note - do not put any actual games into this document just a reference to the players and the tournament will do. You do not want too much clutter here. Key games should be stored in a database such as Chessbase or SCID (google it).

Review what you have written and make sure you are comfortable with it. Building a repertoire is not something that can be done quickly and there are no shortcuts. It will take you anywhere from half to one year just to build a basic repertoire. As you play more and more, you will find that you may drop some lines in favour of others or add more lines to your repertoire. A repertoire is  always a work in progress, review it before playing any major tournaments.

Before a game, I will go through this document and decide what opening and variation is likely to be played. Then go through all the associated key games. You will be surprised how much more confident you feel at the board, especially if your opponent plays into your prepared line!

This method has worked for me and hopefully you will gain benefit from it as well.


Anonymous said...


Jimmy Liew said...

Thanks you. I am planning more like this.

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