Three Good Ways To Learn An Opening

Most players, when they try to learn a new opening, start by buying a book or DVD about it. Unfortunately their new purchase is promptly consigned to the bookshelf without anything but a cursory glance. Is there a better way?

Several actually, but all of them require active involvement. And I’ll share three of them with you now.

1. Write A Book About It!

This is much better than reading a book because you are actively involved. I tried to learn Alekhine’s Defence this way and thoroughly enjoyed the project, though my career with this defence did not last long.

This option has not traditionally been available to most players because they would want to get it published. But with self publishing becoming ever easier anyone can publish their own book.

There are lighter ways of using this same approach such as preparing to present a DVD or publishing a web site about an opening or openings. Again I’ve used this approach myself, my DVD on the Torre being the start of some much deeper studies.

2. Play A Bunch Of Correspondence Games With It!

This is another approach I’ve used, for example before playing the Keres Variation of the Closed Spanish (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3
O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Nd7) I played it extensively in correspondence chess. You need ‘freestyle’ correspondence tournaments to do this in (where computer databases and engines are allowed) as the process of looking up lines and testing them is what enables you to get to grips with the thing.

Here’s my finest hour with this line, a win with Black over GM Jonathan Rowson:

3. Write Notes In The Margins!

Many people have a taboo about writing in books and this is especially the case with books that are supposed to be ‘good’. This is why battered second hand copies of low star books can be perfect for learning an opening, you lose your fear of defacing it. I’ve used this method too, my adventures in the Sicilian Kan (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6) started with a book that was not particularly well received. Yet it gave me an overview of the system that I could then tinker around with.

It’s also important to take this book with you wherever you go together with a pocket set. And you’ll then be an expert in no time!

Nigel Davies


Author: 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. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: