Professional Opening Preparation
by Chess Grandmaster Igor Smirnov (UKR)

Read the following article about Professional Opening Preparation by

Chess teacher GM Igor Smirnov.

Hi! I am Igor Smirnov, International Grandmaster and a chess coach. I am pleased to welcome you to the new lesson:
Professional Opening Preparation

Today I won some blitz games against Dominguez (who was a World blitz champion), Blitz is a lot of fun.

OK, I’ll be more serious now. Once again I’ve realized how it is important to be well prepared in an opening stage. When you play against a strong opponent, opening preparation exerts a strong influence on the final result.

That’s why top players use 90-95% of their training time on opening preparation. Though I don’t recommend you to do the same, it is still a very important topic. In modern chess it is definitely one of the main factors of your practical success.

I will be glad to give you some recommendations about it in the lesson “Professional Opening Preparation”:

Today, it is extremely important to be well prepared for a tournament game. Computers make opening preparation an extremely powerful weapon. That’s why professional players usually spend from 2 to 6 hours on their pre-game preparation. If you will not be able to neutralize your opponent's preparation, you will probably be in huge trouble.

This aspect has become so important that it is really a huge separate topic, which should be mastered by every modern chess player.

In this chess lesson, I will give you some practical advice about it. Let’s begin.

Here is my first advice to you: don’t play dubious openings. In the near past, it was normal to play openings, which are not totally correct. People played King’s gambit (1.e4-e5 2.f4), Center gambit (1.e4-e5 2.d4), Bird’s opening (1.f4) and other stuff like that. In that time it was OK, but now it is definitely a wrong way to play.

When you use such an opening line one time, your next opponents will expect it from you and will prepare against it. If your opening is not objectively good, they will really find some unpleasant ideas for you. You will start getting troubles, start losing, and eventually will have to stop playing the opening in the future.

However, of course, there is a right solution. You should play normal openings, which correspond to the basic strategic ideas. Then you may not worry about your opponents’ preparation too much, because no one can refute correct openings.

If Earth is really round, then no one can disprove it. I hope you understand what I mean here. If you play good openings, then even Kasparov will not be able to refute your choice!

Now we are faced with a new question: how can you detect whether a given opening is good or not? In general, you should orient on your general strategic understanding. However, it may not be so clear to you. In this case, there is more simple recommendation: detect how many players over 2600 rating play this opening. So you may just believe in their strategic understanding and in their practical experience.

If you see that a lot of strong players play a given opening line regularly, it certainly means that it is good. If they use it occasionally or don’t use it at all, then you should consider another line.

Let’s discuss the next practical situation: you are playing a game and your opponent is making his opening moves very quickly. He is obviously using his pre-game preparation. What should you do then?

Well, of course it is an unpleasant situation. Most often, a player starts getting nervous, starts thinking hard and tries to find some strange move, hoping to break his opponent’s preparation. However, such strange moves can simply be a mistake. That’s why players often get in to trouble in such situations.

Here is my advice: you should not to be afraid of an opponent’s preparation in strategic positions; but you should break his preparation as soon as possible in tactical positions.

Let’s recollect the bottom line: we should neutralize an opponent’s computer most of all. That’s why it is a huge mistake to go in to a tactical variation, when your opponent is better prepared.

Computers are very strong in tactics. So, sometimes, your opponent can win the game quickly just by following his computer analysis.

An opposite situation happens in strategic positions. Though computers are extremely powerful, they are still not so good in positional situations. Another important thing is that there are no forcing lines there. Therefore, your position can’t be refuted.

We may conclude that a strategic understanding of both players is the most important factor in strategic positions. That’s why we may not fear an opponent’s preparation.

Let’s discuss another practical situation: you have prepared for a game and are ready to play against your opponent’s opening. When the game begins, an opponent suddenly plays something totally unexpected, something he has never played before.

Again, it is obvious that he has prepared this line especially against you. What should you do then?

If you are not ready for such a situation, you will not feel very comfortable there. On the one hand, you want to play your opening line, which you know well. Moreover, you maybe don’t know other lines well enough to use them.

On the other hand, you want to avoid an opponent’s preparation. So what is the solution?

I recommend you this: you should not play your usual opening, but turn to something new as soon as possible.

Let’s discuss it more specifically. Let’s say your opponent played the first move 1.d4, while in all previous games he has played 1.e4. Usually you play King’s Indian defence against 1.d4 (just for instance). Of course, your opponent has prepared something against King’s Indian and he probably studied all these lines. So it makes no sense for you to go there, unless you want to fight against his computer.

The better idea is to play something totally new: you can play Dutch defence, Nimzo defence, or anything else you have never used before in official tournaments.

Maybe you will play the line you are not well versed in. However, you should not be afraid of it, because your opponent won't know it either! Thus, you will both be in the same situation and the stronger player will win.

It is definitely better than to fight against his pre-game computer preparation.

As I said in the beginning of this lesson, an opening preparation is an extremely important thing nowadays. It is really a separate art in modern chess. In this lesson, I’ve told you a few simple practical advices about it.

If you want to know all the secrets of a professional opening preparation, I recommend you the course “The Grandmaster’s Openings Laboratory”.

It will give you the whole system of an effective opening study and the full opening repertoire on the Grandmaster’s level.

Thanks for your time! Bye for now!
by Chess teacher GM Igor Smirnov

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