Extend Your Opening Repertoire

Following on from Nigel’s profound Process Goals post, I have been setting myself some process goals in the past year or so. For years I played the same openings all the time, with the result that although I became familiar with a limited number of patterns and middle game motifs I had a large gap in my understanding of chess by playing too few types of position. One outcome of this was probably spending too long thinking when I got into unfamiliar territory, and I often got into time trouble. I made it my mission to extend my opening repertoire, and that remains a work in progress.

One of the openings I adopted for the first time in 2012 was the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Having spent years playing the King’s Indian Defence pretty much exclusively against 1.d4, I thought this was a huge adjustment to make, and was rather daunted by the task. However, I surprised myself with how straightforward it was, and how logical the opening seemed to me. It also introduced me to many beautiful classic games from the likes of Capablanca and Alekhine’s 1927 World Championship match all the way through to present-day examples. With a bit of practice online, it wasn’t long before I was wheeling it out over the board in league games and tournaments. My initial results were a bit hit and miss (but no worse than when I used the KID!), but now I can safely say it is one of my better performing defences.

The nice thing about learning a new opening is that it can teach you lessons that can be applied to other openings. Playing in the Surrey Individual Challenge Cup in Surbiton last summer, FM Steve Berry played the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack, Classical Variation against me. Previously I would have played 1…e5 and …Nc6 and he probably would have got the kind of position he wanted with ideas like f4 coming to open up the centre. Instead I decided to play the solid QGD set-up and without any difficulty secured equality out of the opening. Not bad considering I had only just started playing the QGD that year.

Angus James