After bumbling through a whole bunch of games I decided something that I imagine is pretty common, that I wanted to learn some real openings. On of the most popular chess tropes has to do with learning end games before openings, and I’m sure this is fine, but having at least an idea of what normal development looks like was extremely useful to me.
So I looked some things up, mostly playing e4 as white and e4 e5 as black, and playing some terrible slav against d4. This phase didn’t last very long — I have 171 blitz games in the book opening with e4, and have played it seldom since.
After getting terribly confused by all of the possibilities with e4 I decided to switch to d4, this time I studied up, using memchess. It’s really hard to learn openings when you barely understand the game, and even harder when you are playing below 1000 rated since your opponents will still be playing what might as well be random moves and it is hard to know how to best exploit them, especially if you still don’t really understand what it means to take the center and develop.
I have played about 250 games starting with d4 as white, and got very comfortable with QGD, QDA, and Slavs, though I found myself rooting for QGA pretty heavily. As a note, at the same time I started playing d4, I started playing the sicilian as black, also practicing heavily on memchess to get the variations down. I’m pretty certain this has paid huge dividends. Another funny side note, here are the most popular replies I have seen to 1. e4 c5:
If we switch over to master games, you’ll notice how unpopular and unsuccessful 2. Bc4 is:
I ended up studying this line a decent bit trying to figure out what I was doing wrong that the masters clearly were doing right. Eventually I came to the conclusion that 2…e6 and replying to nearly anything with 3…Nf6 was a pretty good idea, and that seems to have worked over the sample I have.
This brings me to my current stage in openings, and probably through about June 2017. At some point around then I watched many videos from St. Louis Chess Club, random youtubing, etc.. and decided (with some credit to Simon Williams I think) that it was a good idea to start playing the dutch defense against d4 and the english as white. This idea wasn’t as much to confuse opponents and steal wins, although I admit that is satisfying when it happens, but more to give myself simple (hah) opening systems that don’t require a lot of theory and that can give me lots of repetition of tactical and strategic themes as I try to improve my chess.
Going back to my games as white for a benchmark, I have 230 games starting with 1. c4, so about a third of my play to date.
The english and the dutch and sicilian defenses have seen me through most of my progress, and I’m quite happy to have dabbled with them all, though the prior pattern of switching things up seems to be strong, as I am currently experiencing some wanderlust.