Thursday, January 16, 2014

Opening Stage of a Chess Game

Gyula Breyer, the talented Hungarian master had called the above position one of the most difficult positions of Chess! It is true. How to start the game is an interesting and confusing decision a player has to make before starting
the game. 

Many amateurs do not understand and appreciate the importance of good, accurate Opening chess play. "Well begun is half done" is very much true on the chess board. Especially in higher levels of chess, the choice of opening is crucial to gaining a competitive edge over the opponent.

Recognized sequence of opening moves is referred to by some names. If the Black player determines the changes in sequence it is referred to as Defense. There are hundreds of openings with each opening leading to thousands of variations.

Broadly, all openings are classified into 'King pawn openings', 'Queen pawn
openings' and 'Flank openings'. The ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) classifies all these openings into clear systematic groups named by unique "ECO Code", which makes it easy for players to search for and study openings based on this code. Today this Code has become the world wide standard to index the openings and their various variations. In the ECO, the grouping of all openings is by Open games (double king pawn), Semi open games (single king pawn), Closed games (double queen pawn), Semi closed games (single queen pawn), Flank openings and Unusual first moves for White. The 'Indian systems' are the most popular defenses to the Queen pawn openings and are included under semi closed games.

An opening where material (usually one or two pawns) are sacrificed to gain a
lead in development is called as 'Gambit'. If the opponent plays his own gambit in response to a gambit, it is called as 'Counter-gambit'. Both gambits and counter-gambits, whether accepted or declined, usually lead to exciting tactical chess.

An opening system which is a general method of development that can be used against several different openings is called as a 'System'. Popular examples are the 'London system', 'Colle system', 'Stonewall attack' and 'Hedgehog system'.

Sometimes a particular opening usually played by Black (as a defense) is played by White; this is referred to as 'Reversed'. There is an important tempo gained in such formations but such opening need deep positional insight to play well. Popular examples are 'Sicilian reversed' (English opening), 'Reti opening' and 'King's indian attack'.

Often, after the first few moves of a particular opening, the position resembles the position which can be reached from another different opening. Such moves are referred to as 'Transpositions'. Strong players use such transpositions to intentionally take the opponent out of the book, because, quickly adapting the plans to suit the changed middle game position is required to survive such games.

Each opening formation is given a name. Sometimes the grandmaster name itself is given because a strong master popularized it or sometimes because a grandmaster won a famous game playing that opening for first time. Sometimes the name of the place is given to an opening because it was some tournament at this place that the opening became popular. Many opening names do not indicate anything and few opening names seem to be absurd wherein their nature of game contradict the name.

Opening traps are usually first studied by beginners learning chess and are many times the best way to win against a weaker unsuspecting opponent. There are several traps in each of the openings and all such traps are based upon a tactical idea or theme.

To end this article, i would advise beginners to not learn any opening by rote, or not to memorize the opening moves. If there is a deviation from the standard sequence of moves or if there is a transposition, then the player does not know how to continue and may get into an inferior position from the opening itself. It is very important to understand the fundamental concepts of each opening and the positional differences in the variations of an opening.