In this article, we are going to look at why openings are indeed important, but why you shouldn’t worry too much about this area of the game if you’re a new or fairly inexperienced player.
We will discuss what you should make sure you are focusing on, and also talk about why, while openings are important, they are not necessarily the most important aspect of the game. At least not at this stage of your development as a chess player.
A lot of people think that the way you play your opening is the most important aspect of the game, and that it sets the tone for the rest of the game. In many ways this can be true, but many players often fall into a trap where they get stuck studying openings, looking for the “perfect opening move”, and lose sight of the rest of the game as a result.
First, we should discuss why people often get it into their heads that the opening is the part of the game which matters most. Maybe it comes down to a psychology issue – many people feel that how any game begins determines the rest of the game. Take American Football, for instance, where many viewers of the Superbowl feel that the entire game is decided by the opening coin toss. That is to say, whichever team gets the first play is the one most likely to win. And in fact, the statistics for the game seem to back that up, but it is of course important to also remember that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Put simply, just because the team which went first wins a lot of the time, does not mean that the team which goes first will win every time.
Related article: 2 Reasons Why Your Openings Fail (And How To Fix It)
So how does that relate to chess? Well, many chess players get discouraged when their opening moves do not go according to plan, and that can set off a cascade of bad decisions which lead to them losing the game. Therefore, it is likely that new players will be further discouraged by these losses, and will begin to correlate the loss with that initial failure. Boom, now all of a sudden that player thinks they have to focus entirely on the opening of the game in order to become a grandmaster.
This is not the case, though. While it is important (and great) to take full advantage of your opening, the rest of the game is far more important in determining the outcome. Let’s say, for instance, that you somehow managed to find the perfect opening move, and you play it to great success against your opponent. Did you suddenly win the game? If not, what do you do next? If you spend all of your time looking for that perfect opening, you will not know how to follow it up, and any advantage you gain from that opening will fall flat since you will not know what to do next.
So what do you do? Should you give up studying openings entirely? Of course not. The opening of a game of chess is an important stage, and it would be a good idea for you to understand the basic principles of a good opening and how to apply them. But, likewise, you shouldn’t get yourself hyper-focused on this aspect. You need to also understand the game of chess as a theory, and learn about the tactics you can apply in any aspect of the game.
Moderation is key here. Over-analyzing any single aspect of the game will likely lead to you forgetting to study the other aspects. Like the bodybuilder who skips leg day and can’t do anything but curls as a result, you risk weakening all other aspects of your game if you decide to only train one part. The real improvement you will see as a chess player will come from studying all 7 skills in the model equally; making the active decision to improve every aspect of your game.
Even just moderate improvement in each aspect will suit you better than marked improvement in just one aspect. Understanding each area of the game and how they relate to one another will serve you far better than thinking that one area is the most important and failing to do anything with the others.
But what about that perfect opening? Does it exist? If it does, wouldn’t it be valuable to keep practicing openings until you figure it out? Sure it would be, if it did exist. But the fact of the matter is that chess is not a one-sided game, and for each opening you may think is perfect, your opponent may have a way to counter it or neutralize its value. This is the very reason why our model spans 7 skills and not just one. You should always hope to and try to apply a great opening, but since we know that you aren’t going to gain a checkmate from the first piece you move, we have built our model on teaching you the appropriate skills, tactics, and mindsets to capitalize on that first maneuver and use it to facilitate your victory.
It is easy to fall into the mindset that if you could just improve that one aspect of your game, you would be unstoppable. However, this judgement is as shortsighted as thinking that the winner of the Superbowl is determined by a coin toss. As in all aspects of life, victory often goes to the most prepared. The more you study the game, the more you practice the tactics and strategies we outline here, the more likely you will be to apply those things effectively and take the victory as a result.
If you want to learn a few specific openings to help you get off to a good start then you can check the chess improvement study plan. In point 5 of the study plan I suggest a few openings that are solid to play, yet easy to learn.