My Understanding: How to Study Openings and Related Plans?

Experts don’t need advice. So this article is for intermediate players and for the players who do not want to memorize opening moves, variations and novelties. I have invested some years, bucks and faced some painful losses in order to develop such understanding. I am sharing the same information with you that might be useful to you to improve your chess game.

I have divided this study into three parts.

Pawn Structure:

First of all try to recognize the typical pawn structure that your opening produces. For better understanding we will go through an example.

See the diagram (^), captioned pawn structure is product of exchange variation in Caro Kann defence.
1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. exd5 cxd5

The same pawn structure can be produced by playing the Queen’s Gambit Declined Exchange Variation but colour reversed with following moves

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. cxd5 exd5

My point is that, your work can be reduced to huge amount as you can apply different opening plans in different ones.

What Do Particular Pawn Structures Offer?

Every pawn structure offers something for both, for example in our example it offers White a half open e-file, a good squares for knight on e5 and c5 and better chances to play on king side by playing f4 and bringing rook in to the actions. On the other hand it offers black a half open c-file, c4 and e4 square for knights and better chances to play on queen side.

Finding pawn levers

White is having pawn lever at f4-f5 which generates the weakness either on e6 or isolated pawn on d5 and in some cases c3 to c4 if black plays f6 (weakening the a2-g8 diagonal).

Black is having pawn lever at b4 which produces weakness on c3 and d4 in white’s camp. And if you have exchanged white knight on e5 then you have pawn lever on d4.

How to use above information?

Now if you aware about your pawn structure, its offering and pawn levers, you will automatically find the piece placement and plans for your game.

Considering our example,

Plans for white:
– Placing the rooks on e and f file.
– Knights on e5 square.
– Dark Square Bishop on h2-b8 diagonal and light square Bishop on b1-h7 diagonal.
– Placing queen on e2 to transfer on king side and pressuring on e6 square with the help of f4-f5 lever.
– Playing f4 to bring king side rook into action (Rf3-Rh3 sometimes) and preparing f5 break.

Plans for Black:
– Placing rooks on c and b file (for b4 lever) sometimes on e file in order to prevent white’s f4-f5 break.
– If you have exchanged white’s knight on e5 then you can place rook on d file for d4 pawn lever
– You may exchange white’s dark square bishop by playing Bd6 and placing light square bishop on b1-h7 diagonal by Bg4-h5-g6 in order to reduce white’s light’s square bishop’s pressure on the same diagonal
– Plan for b5-b4 lever and attack on c3 weakness and if your knight is exchanged on c4 white has new weakness on b2.

Of course you have to watch out for your opponent’s plans too.

If you observed carefully I didn’t memorize any moves or I didn’t work too hard to find right plans because of understanding of pawn structure and its offerings but invested so many hours behind developing such understanding of given pawn structure.

Some tips on developing the understanding of pawn structure

– Play the structure from both sides and choose the opening accordingly.
– Study games and observe pawn levers and piece placement rather than memorizing games.

You can also divide same kind of information into pieces for the pawn structure you are playing. That enables you to play with clear plans in your game with related piece placements.

Ashvin Chauhan