When to start learning chess openings?
Created at: 2020-12-17 ; Last updated: 2020-12-27
When should I start learning chess openings? Or should I do so at all?
Often when learning chess openings is mentioned somewhere there are critical comments about it. They say it’s a waste of time, that knowing the opening principles is enough, and that learning tactics and endgames is more important anyway.
I would like to start by pointing out what GM Daniel Naroditsky said about this during his “Back to 3000 ELO” series.
I don’t believe in this whole thing that beginners should not learn openings. When you hit 900-1000 that’s really when you should start learning openings.
Not learning openings will hold you back tremendously and learning openings at an early stage actually helps you not only acquire results, which last I checked people want to win games, but it helps you cement general chess principles when you know your openings well and get good positions. When you get good positions you have a greater chance at fostering the right kind of habits.
You should definitely have a repertoire, you should memorize some of the main lines and you should understand them.
– GM Daniel Naroditsky Speedrun 1170
To summarize, learning openings will help you get into good positions and reinforce good chess principles.
Is it better to learn tactics?
The criticism I hear most often is that tactics are more important. I don’t want to deny this for absolute beginners. If you are still at the level where you often leave your pieces hanging, it is clear that learning tactics is more important than openings.
But there has to be a point where this is no longer the case and learning openings and tactics is equally important. And I believe, like Naroditsky, that this is much earlier than many believe.
Knowing an opening can help with tactics. Getting good positions will aid you in finding and applying tactics.
It helps in not coming right out of the opening without knowing what to do or even being behind. With just a little bit of opening theory, you can learn the general plans and goals of the opening. This can help place the pieces on active and useful squares, which all helps creating possible tactics.
Maybe Endgames are more important?
I think for learning endgames should come after openings and tactics. How often do you get into an endgame as a beginner or even as an advanced player? I don’t think very often.
Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t practice endgames but I think it should be done for the fun of it and not because it helps you win more games.
Are opening principles enough?
Anyone who watches the Back to 3000 ELO Speedrun by Daniel Naroditsky (highly recommended) will quickly notice how often Daniel ignores chess principles in the later episodes. And this is probably not because they have changed in the last few weeks. Knowing when to ignore the principles in order to pursue a more important goal is an important knowledge to have. If you always just follow the principles, it will be difficult to train this skill.
And this is where opening theory can help. If you learn different openings, you will often encounter situations where the principles are violated. This is how you learn to identify situations in which the principles should be disregarded. I think this also helps to become a more creative player. Often you can apply the patterns you have learned from one opening to other new positions.
I think learning openings has a too bad reputation for what it actually does. For absolute beginners, it is probably true that tactics are more important. But I also believe that learning openings even at the early stages is valuable and can help to develop as a chess player.
Want to start learning openings? Find out how to effectively learn openings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should you learn openings?
Learning openings early on can help foster the right kind of habits. If you follow a repertoire, you are less likely to make mistakes early in your chess career which can be difficult to eradicate later. Additionally, knowing openings will help you get into positions you know well, which will give you an advantage over your opponents.
When should you start to learn openings?
As early as possible! Some people say it is a waste of time to learn chess openings early on, but they are wrong. The opening is one of the most important aspects of chess. Knowing opening will help you get results quickly, resulting in a more fun experience.Back
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