The Evolution Of Chess Openings

It’s interesting to consider which chess openings should be learned at each stage of a player’s development. From what I see at tournaments (both adult and junior), not much attention is given to this.

Some pretty good coaches recommend teaching principles such as developing quickly and occupying the centre etc.This certainly seems better than teaching inappropriately advanced openings, yet I still think they can be missing an opportunity. Certain openings can be very useful in that they can help teach important principles, and these tend to be older openings. In the early part of the century it was considered good to play openings which strictly followed the principles. Things only got more sophisticated than this when players sought to get the better of their rivals with more sophisticated schemes in which the principles were interpreted more flexibly for concrete advantages.

In this respect let’s consider the Queen’s Gambit Declined. The variation used by Capablanca in the game given below follows the principles beautifully, and as such can be considered very good for educational purposes. But if players go for greater precision they can lose much of this value, for example the trendy 3…Be7 develops a bishop before a knight and 6…h6 would weaken the king’s side. And this in turn can lead to these sorts of moves being tried in less favorable circumstances.

The lesson must be that players who are further down the totem pole might be well advised to look at older games in order for them to build their understanding in the way that chess ideas evolved. And this has a rather disturbing implications for the idea of top level chess as a spectator sport.

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.