There are two types of chess players out there: those who study chess openings all day long and those who never do. There are a lot of misconceptions about studying openings for club players.
It seems like many of them don’t understand why they should or shouldn’t study chess openings. In this article we will discuss six very important reasons why a player should study chess openings regardless of their rating.
1. Study chess openings to be in control
One of the most important reasons to study chess openings is to understand how and where to develop the pieces. Knowledge is power and chess is no exception. Many novice players don’t spend time even on basic opening preparation. That’s why the opening is a brand new experience every time. Novice players simply react to whatever their opponent is doing without having their own “pet line”.
These players are never truly in control of the game because their opponent obtains the initiative and controls which direction the game will go in.
2. Study chess openings to obtain a “home field advantage”
Novice players follow their opponents’ lines but that’s not how strong players approach the opening. Stronger players have multiple opening lines prepared beforehand. Based on the current position they start forcing their opponent to follow one of the preferred lines. Doing this provides something similar to a home field advantage in sports.
I am sure you agree, it is far more comfortable to play in familiar positions. It’s much harder if a player needs to spend time figuring out how to play something they’ve never encountered before. The opening is the phase of the game with all 32 pieces present, making calculating a much harder task.
Studying openings provides a chess player with optimal responses and strong ideas. A lot of work has been done investigating how to develop pieces in the quickest and most effective way. This is something called opening theory. It really makes sense to study openings and use this knowledge in games.
3. Study chess openings to avoid traps
There is something that most chess players are afraid of – getting caught in an opening trap. Playing an unfamiliar opening is like exploring unknown territory. It can be full of landmines, ready to go off right under your foot. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of opening traps out there. Studying openings will help you steer clear from those traps, while avoiding many unpleasant surprises in the games.
No one wants to play a piece down or have an uncastled king, facing a powerful attack right in the opening. Opening preparation helps to prevent these kinds of opening catastrophes. No need to reinvent the wheel!
4. Study chess openings to get an edge
Opening preparation not only helps you stay out of trouble, it also helps you get a good position in the middlegame. Everyone loves playing chess when all of the pieces are developed, placed on good squares, the king safely castled away, while also possessing more space and superior activity.
This is something any player can obtain by sound opening play. It’s much easier to play in a slightly better position. You can concentrate all your attention on generating powerful attacks instead of focusing on equalizing.
5. Study chess openings to avoid time trouble
Knowing exactly what to play in the opening is very important. It can save a lot of trouble and literally guarantee at least equality in the middlegame. Good opening preparation can save time for when it really matters. There is no way to predict what kind of middlegame a player will face in the next game. It’s not possible to study all of the endings either. There are tens of thousands of those and one would need way more than one lifetime to master them all.
That’s why studying chess openings is so important. It is possible to predetermine what direction the game will take, and focus only on relevant middlegames and endgames. A player will be able to save time in the opening phase of the game, and to use that time in complex positions later on. No-one wants to have one minute on the clock left in a complicated position. Study chess openings to take care of that!
6. Study chess openings to have a clear plan
Studying openings involves much more than just an understanding of the first ten opening moves. Good opening preparation involves in-depth analysis of various middlegame positions following the opening. Studying openings helps to identify those positions. As the opening and middlegame are interrelated, developing pieces should be done with a clear idea of what kind of position needs to be achieved.
From that understanding a good middlegame plan can be formulated, whether it’s a minority attack, creating a passed pawn, an attack in the center or something else. Working on that plan from move one is very important. Even if your opponent deviates from the main lines, a player will still be able to recover and continue following the plan.
Studying chess openings is very important regardless of the player’s rating. It may be true that players rated below 2000 should not spend all their time on the openings. However, they definitely need to play the opening well enough that they don’t end up in losing positions. All middlegame and endgame knowledge is useless if a player consistently finds themselves a piece down by move 15.
Thus, studying chess openings is very important for overall success!