Saturday, 19 May 2007

Chess improvement 8: Extending your repertoire

Garry Kasparov stated that a player should always be looking to broaden and deepen their opening repertoire. Some motivating factors for this might be:
  • to find improvements and avoid variations that caused difficulty in previous games
  • to surprise a regular or well prepared opponent
  • to improve our chess playing ability by exploring different types of position
  • the simple desire to try something new

I'll share with you a story about a technique that I used to extend my opening repertoire:

For many years, almost without fail, I've played the King's Indian Defence as Black against d4. My results were generally good, but I wanted to introduce some variety (regular opponents were well prepared for my defence, there were some lines were I didn't feel comfortable, and I felt that repeatedly playing the same strategic ideas by rote was stifling my creativity and making me lazy at the board).

Back in the late 80's I'd seen a game by Ljubojevic in the Semi-Slav that I really liked. I'd wanted to try the opening and plan, but didn't have the time / resources to build up a sufficient Black repertoire around the other alternatives that could follow 1 d4 d5.

Watching Kasparov's DVD review of the Queen's Gambit gave me the confidence to explore the opening further and led me to revisit Ljubojevic's game. Added to that line in the Semi-Slav, I also spent some time on the Cambridge Springs and on Lasker's early ... Ne4 in the orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined.

I wasn't happy with the position that Kasparov reached in the Cambridge Springs, so did a quick database search for other ideas tried by strong grandmasters: the search revealed 3 recent games that gave me a different approach to try in the variation.

Comforable that I now had a skeleton repertoire, I've been 'getting a feel' for 1 d4 d5 positions as Black by using it in Internet blitz games.

Summing up:

  1. Base your explorations around a key game where you like the strategic plan and ideas
  2. Try to find a good but easily absorbed overview of the opening (a DVD is great for this)
  3. Make sure you can identify plans / positional concepts that you feel comfortable with
  4. Use the Internet to build up experience and feel for playing the opening

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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.