Every chess season, I try to improve my knowledge of opening theory by trying out a few new openings. Opening theory is just one aspect of chess, and frankly, some might consider it the least important, compared to the Middle Game and End Game. The idea is, when playing with players of similar strength, the game is usually decided in the End Game (and sometimes the Middle Game). But my problem is that against tougher opponents, I usually find myself at a disadvantage out of the opening, and end up with an inferior end game. Some preparation in opening theory simply should not be dismissed.

In my first season (2010/2011) at the Kingston Chess Club, I tried to avoid theory by playing less theoretical openings, like the English Opening, the Polish Opening, the Modern Defense, and the Nimzovich Larsen Attack. I also experimented with the French Defense. I avoided e4 as White like the plague, afraid to play against the highly theoretical Sicilian Defense. I adopted a hypermodern approach, attacking the center from the sides, and then occupying the center with pieces instead of pawns.

In my second season (2011/2012), I developed my understanding of the English Opening, since the plan in the English Opening was pretty clear. I also tried using the Sicilian Dragon as Black (despite my fear of the Sicilian) since it looks a lot like the English Opening but in reverse. I was quite happy with my study of the Sicilian, as an introduction to more elaborate theory. I also learned the Grunfeld Defense against the d4 player. I actually liked both the English Opening and the Grunfeld Defense. But the Sicilian Dragon and their cousins (the Advanced Dragon, and Hyper-Accelerated Dragon) were too predictable for me. So I decided to drop those.

In my last season (2012/2013), I started using the Vienna Gambit as White, and Owen’s Defense as Black. I was no Ionger afraid of the Sicilian response to e4, since the Vienna Gambit would transpose to a closed Grand Prix Attack, which I learned up as well. I fared well against weaker opponents, but against stronger opponents, I had to try something more positional. I tried the Sicilian Tarrasch as White. I also started learning the London System, which I used as White and Black. I still use the English Opening occasionally. My attempt at the Caro-Kann did not go so well. I did contemplate learning another variation of the Sicilian, but it was too much to learn up mid-way through the season.

So for the upcoming 2013/2014 season, I’m contemplating what openings to keep, and what new openings to learn. I may give the Sicilian another punt, perhaps the Najdorf or the Scheveningen. I don’t quite like the French as Black because, like the Sicilian Dragon, it’s a bit predictable (i.e. there’s a lot of theory, and I don’t know enough to get an advantage, so the outcome for me is always predictably bad).

Looking at this article, it seems like I know a lot of openings. But I just know enough to say I know it, but not enough to be an expert at any of them. Still, I have my favorites. And having tried a few of them, I can say that I now know them a bit more than before. Part of the reason for changing my opening repertoire so much, is to surprise my opponent. But at some point, I should stick to a small set of openings, and develop a deeper expertise in then. I guess I’m still deciding which openings to stick with. I should decide soon.