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Common Mistakes In Chess Openings

Posted March 19th, 2015

Written by WCM Claudia Munoz

Do you focus on playing a vast number of openings? Do you skip over unfavorable lines?

As chess players, we make common mistakes while studying, preparing, or playing our openings. Here are some common mistakes you may be making.

1.Quantity over quality.

It is so easy to just study a different opening every week. Although this gives us a great variety and an extensive repertoire, we should look for quality over quantity. It's important to know each and every one of your openings as best as you can.

When I was younger I analyzed most of Bobby Fischer's games and I noticed that although his repertoire was vast, he focused primarily on 1.e4.

Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer

2. Ignoring unfavorable lines.

When we study openings, we tend to skip over unfavorable lines, thinking no one will use them.

Unfortunately, here is where we make mistakes. The unfavorable lines may seem dubious to you but to someone else they are not. If I had a dollar for every time I was told "oh that is not a good variation" only to lose against it, I would be rich!

Blunders and mistakes in a game are not blunders and mistakes unless you notice them. Usually when your opponent uses unfavorable lines, they are hoping that they know more about them than you do. Therefore, if you do not look out for unfavorable lines, you will never know how to capitalize on them. Not every opponent we play is a master. Keep that in mind.

3. Forgetting your own style.

When we study master games containing the same openings we play, we tend to copy every single move. We eventually forget to add our own style to the game because we are so caught up in playing just like the master. We have to understand that we are not that player. Each and every one of us has a different style of playing chess.

For example, when I first started to study Paul Morphy's games, I wanted to play just like him.

Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy

I would sacrifice everything I could and play as aggressively as possible, but most of the time it did not work. I had to learn that I was not Paul Morphy! I focused on learning the ideas behind his play but also added my own personal style.

4. Focusing too much on the opponent.

When preparing for an opponent, we tend to make drastic opening changes. We get caught up in trying to stop our opponents from achieving their goals on the board and we forget what we want to do.

It is very risky to make opening changes in our preparation before a round. It is not impossible, but it is risky. It is extremely important to play your game by playing what you know instead of focusing on playing what you do not.

Remember the opening sets the tone for the game. Do not make these common opening mistakes while studying, preparing, or playing your openings. I hope you learn from my experiences and incorporate them into your game.



Choosing a Chess Opening

Posted March 2nd, 2015

Written by WCM Claudia Munoz

Do you feel like you need to change your opening? Are you a new chess player and don't know where to start? Openings are very important because they are the way we start a game. They set the tone for the middlegame and endgame. If you are not careful, an opening mistake can give you an unequal position, leading to a tough game.

Deciding among the hundreds of openings can be a little hard because if you choose the wrong opening, you may feel uncomfortable throughout the whole game. Therefore, when you are looking for an opening, first concentrate on your style of play because this will help you choose which opening complements your style.

When I started playing chess, my father used to tell me that how a person lives outside the chess board is how he is on the board.

In other words, if a person is passive outside of chess, that is mostly how he or she plays on the board.

To find your own style, follow these tips.

In a notebook, write down what characterizes you as a player. For example, are you an aggressive or passive player? Do you like open or closed games? In your current opening, which piece do you struggle to activate the most?

Once you understand your style, you can begin researching for the right opening for you based on the answers you wrote down. You will need to analyze master games by using chess databases, and read chess encyclopedias.


All openings have an ECO code (Encyclopedia of Chess Opening), which classifies them into different systems. I suggest you understand the ECO code system before you begin your search.

When you find the opening you would like to play, you will need to become a student of it. In other words, you will have to submerge yourself into understanding every aspect of it.

How can you understand a new opening in a short amount of time?

First, you need to determine the three main lines of the opening you want to play. While you study them, you will gain the basic and fundamental knowledge of the opening. It is extremely important to understand that memorizing the lines of an opening does not mean you "know" or "understand" an opening.

You have to fully understand the concepts and ideas behind them in case your opponent deviates from the main line. Studying top master games is extremely important.

One thing that I have learned is not only to study games where my opening wins but to study the draws and the losses, as well.

As you do this you get a general idea on how to better play the opening because learning from other people's mistakes allows you not to make them.

While you are researching the opening you need to keep an eye out for several things:

1. Transition from the opening to the middlegame and endgame.

2. Look for general plans of attack.

3. Recognize weak squares.

4. Learn development patterns.

5. Be aware of piece placement.

Last but not least, keep an eye on the endgame of the opening you chose, because you will notice a common denominator in them. This information will also improve your game because both the opening and the middlegame are linked with your endgame.

Image result for don't give up

Overall, when you first start out playing a new opening, you might hit some bumps on the road, but remember it takes practice. Learn from each mistake and fix it. This experience is like learning to ride a bike, you may fall down but continue on and don't give up!


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