Friday, May 14, 2010
HOW HARD IS IT TO LEARN A NEW CHESS OPENING?
It seems the answer is: "No harder than it ever was." But, "How hard was that?" you might ask.
It's intense. I usually gather materials such as books and DVDs. Here's a few for The Catalan that I have been studying:
1. FCO by Paul van der Sterren. Fundamental Chess Openings. On pages 24-26 he gives an excellent overview (I recommend this idea). He gives typical move orders (and there are many) and it is classified under the Queen's Gambit rather than its own opening. This is a good start. $29.95.
2. Then, play the Catalan by Nigel Davies. Nearly 200 pages of details and yet at times it seems there could be more IF I had all that extra time to study. What I did do was input (into ChessBase) about 35 games from the book which interested me. I read Davies' observations and preferences, which were not inconsiderable. Davies can play sharp positions after suitable peparation but he seems to prefer solidity. On the other hand he will give you many games of others. $24.95.
3. Chess Opening Essentials 3 (Indian Defences, Complete) by Djuric, Komarov, and Pantaleoni. Even though this is a fianchetto, it is on White's side of the board! Hence, I do agree with van der Sterren's classification. But what does COE have going for it? Some repetition of the first two recommendations above, but an even further subdivide of: Open Catalan (Black takes the pawn on c4), the Semi-Open Catalan (like the previous but with the addition of ...Be7 instead of ...Bb4+), and the Closed Catalan where Black doesn't take on c4 or doesn't immediately play ...Bb4+. It's 17 pages including some special games played by top exponents. This "quickie" review of play and possibilities makes this book an excellent choice for study if you also want to look at some other things too. Part of a 4 vol. series (we expect vol. 4 within a month). Plus there are a number of reading aids to track players and different openings as well as key, color-differentiated diagrams. $32.95.
4. DVDs?? Nothing I know of.
Don't forget, there are a lot of complexities in this system. I played over a training game last night with a friend who knows something about this from the white side, though he played black against me. His assessment was that "many players with the black pieces don't know what they are doing." Since that was true for me (as White) also, I figure we may be starting on "even ground."
However, White also has many move orders and can sometimes get into Catalans from the Reti. But White can be faced with a Gruenfeld or a King's Indian (etc., etc.) and I am not at this moment prepared for those. The series on Kramnik's repertoire by Khalifman is great but that is about 8 or 10 books now with some of them being temporarily out of print. That's a lot of studying... but they are terrific for reference purposes.
Hence, if I go into a tournament, I will not be totally prepared at this time. It's a good reason for starting with 1. Nf3 and a bad reason for starting with 1. Nf3 (i.e., 1... Nf6). At this time it may be "Die and Learn." But because Black often plays screwball moves when faced with 1. Nf3, I may be okay after all (this time).
So I have referenced three books for one 3 page opening (in van der Sterren's book).
Lastly, this is how to build up your other opening preferences. After a while, you will have for yourself a set of openings which you prefer to play (rather than a repertoire, which I think is an "overused" term.)