Game Spotlight: The Next Step

So, you’re in the middle of learning a new opening.  You started with the most fundamental variation.  You’re focusing on middlegame plans for both you and your opponent.  And you’ve looked at any important variations that explain the opening moves.  What do you study next?

It depends on the opening, and what you expect to see when playing.  If there happen to be some variations that are popular locally, it’s worth studying those fairly early on.  Similarly, if you’ve seen something played against you in a tournament, it’s probably worth looking into it afterwards.  There’s a good chance you’ll see it again.

Assuming some variation doesn’t announce itself to you, the idea would be to focus on keeping your studies coherent.  Don’t bounce all over the place, because you’ll forget plans.  Looking at our example, the Orthodox King’s Indian Defence:

There’s two moves here we haven’t looked at.  White could play d5 right away (the Petrosian Variation), or Be3 to develop the dark-squared Bishop before there’s any threat of it getting kicked around (the Gligoric Variation).  These are definitely worth looking at, but not right away.  We should finish the Mar del Plata first, because all the other choices White has here can be thought of as improving on the variation we’ve seen.  It doesn’t matter much what order you look at these, as long as you eventually look at all three of the main ideas:

This is a more aggressive idea from White.  By supporting c5 with the Knight instead of the Bishop, White gets their plan of a queenside attack going faster…at the cost of less defence for the King.

The Bayonet Attack.  White’s idea is to use the b-pawn to support c5, while also threatening to trade Black’s light-squared Bishop off the board by playing Ne6.  Meanwhile, White’s Bishop can drop back to f1 to defend the King.

The different Knight retreat aims to support c5 with the b-pawn, then place the Knight on c4 to put pressure on Black’s queenside and d-pawn.

For the choice you pick, first understand why this could be considered an improvement for White (or not).  Then look at what to do about it.  Let’s look at door number 1:


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