Game Spotlight: Learning an Opening

One of the most popular requests by club players is to learn openings.  To a large extent, this is based on a misconception that knowing an opening very well will win more games.  For the most part, this is wrong — you’ll get more wins by improving your tactics and endgames.  That said, it’s a bit more complicated.  While you won’t win games in the opening, you can certainly lose games there.  It also depends on the exact opening.  Some of them require more study than others.

The main point to understand here is that the exact moves aren’t the most important part of an opening.  Yes, you need to know them (and understanding is better than memorizing, because it gives you information about what to do if your opponent deviates from known lines).  But what an opening does is create the battleground for a middlegame, and this is what needs to be studied.  Start with the most fundamental variation, learn what to do in the middlegame it creates, and slowly build from there.  Also, give yourself time.  Getting to know how to play a middlegame with some level of competence is going to take quite a few games.  Have patience and you’ll get there.  Skipping around from opening to opening because you aren’t having immediate success will just ensure you don’t learn at all.

Let’s look at the King’s Indian Defence.  The most important variation is the Mar del Plata, where Black conspires to create locked pawns in the centre of the board.

Black allows White to build a large centre of pawns while setting up pressure with pieces, eventually striking at the centre with …e5.  A move later, White is forced to lock the pawns up — but Black arranged matters so both Knights end up on the kingside.  So the middlegame begins.  Black will attack on the kingside by pushing the f- and g-pawns to open up White’s defences and mate.  White will attack on the queenside, trying to gain some material while surviving the attack.  There’s some extra details as to how both sides go about this, so let’s see them in action:

Our biggest tournament of the year is coming up in one week!  The NCC Open will be August 23-25.  Details for signing up, our schedule, etc. are here.  Note that if you sign up after Saturday (August 17) there will be a surcharge, so don’t wait.  The deadline for signups is Tuesday, August 20.  We’re also crowdfunding for the tournament to help with venue fees, table hire, and so forth through M-Changa.  There’s not much time left for that, so if you can help out please do.

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