I learn chess openings a little differently to most players…
The average club player learns chess openings by getting a book or course, learning the main lines, and then parroting them in their own games.
This is great for very young or serious players who have a ton of time to study openings – but then there’s also the need to study tactics, strategy, endgame theory etc, as well, so you’ll need a lot of time to invest in your chess this way.
But for the regular adult who has a full-time job, kids and a family, there’s very little time for this stuff.
I myself used to play highly theoretical lines like the Najdorf Sicilian, as well as the Semi-Slav Defense as black, and although I knew them well, there are still so many new ideas popping up in the “main lines” on an almost daily basis.
I once landed in a lost position after about 14 moves in the Sicilian, just because some kid “booked up” a brand new, razor sharp line against me (I drew the game in the end, thanks to his poor technique – phew! 😕 )
So what’s the solution?
How I Learn Chess Openings Now
The solution for busy chess players is to learn a group of very narrow, slightly less popular openings that place you in a position where – and listen closely…
1) Your preferred style of play can dominate, and 2) you will know the plans much more deeply than your opponents.
These are what I call Guerrilla Openings.
Don’t worry, I’m going to explain how you too can learn chess openings in this way. 😉
As mentioned in one of my computer chess posts, my playing style has now become somewhat tactical and aggressive, so I have chosen openings which fit the criteria bolded above, which are also sharp enough that without perfect play, the pendulum of initiative might easily swing in my favor.
Let’s see an example.
Example: One of My Chess Openings for Black
The Caro Kann Defense, Bronstein-Larsen Variation.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6!? (4…Bf5 is normal) 5.Nxf6+ gxf6!
This opening is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
- Much less well-known
- Narrower (Fewer options for white, and can reach the key position by move 5)
- Sharper (a little riskier too, it must be admitted)
- Engines don’t understand it (in a way, this is useful disinformation 🙂 )
But again, if you play this position, even against a decent Chinese player as I did – who is playing natural (non-engine, but still strong) moves – you can equalize the position with little effort if you have learned the plans better.
I won the above game in around 30 moves, with plenty of time left on the clock.
The reason I mentioned (twice) that my opponent was Chinese, is that generally speaking, players here in China have very good opening knowledge – this is probably related to their fantastic memories.
How do you think the game would have gone if I played one of the main lines?
My guess is that if I’d played one of the main lines 5…Bf5 or 5…Nd7, it would have made the game a very tough fight, in which my “booked up” opponent was armed to the teeth.
As it went, he wasn’t sure what to do, allowing me to equalize and take over the position within several moves.
Isn’t it Risky? Playing “Unsound” Openings, I Mean…
Firstly, genius… You AREN’T playing against Stockfish.
Your average opponent will be between 1350 and 1900, and opening choice at these levels has MUCH more to do with understanding and familiarity, than the objective merit of the opening.
Second, If you are the type of person who doesn’t have time to study openings for hours regularly…
Playing main lines is risky!
And with the white pieces, you have even more flexibility in choosing openings that suit your style, while still reducing the options for opponents.
I mean…just two minutes ago while taking a break from writing this blog post (procrastinating 😳 ), I won this game.
How can we explain beating a 2200+ National Master in 18 moves – using just 34 seconds on the clock?
Well, I made it a Guerrilla Opening on move 5 when I played the very unusual 5.Ne5 in the Slav Defense.
You’ll notice I reached the Slav Defense by transposition of moves (the usual move order for this sequence would be 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.Ne5) and this gives the opponent much less of a clear picture of where I’m heading and what I’m intending.
It also allows me to avoid certain lines I don’t like (such as sharp gambits which are at black’s disposal after the normal move order).
I have studied the positions after 5.Ne5 myself, having worked out plans against black’s main options, as well as running various chess engine tournaments (like the one in this post) from the main position.
This gives a massive insight into the position, while 99% of non-master opponents will know nothing about the resulting positions.
Here’s the game in its entirety.
If I were to become serious about chess and get back into tournaments, I’d first take to the task of converting my entire opening repertoire to Guerrilla Openings and learning them all perfectly.
Since they are so narrow, there will be substantially less theory to learn, and the rate at which the theory changes is much slower.
If you want to learn chess openings in this way, let me know and I’ll go into my own process in more details with videos, PDF cheat sheets and more – but for now, I hope this insight into my own method was interesting for you.
In fact, here’s an idea… Drop your email in the box below, and I’ll shoot you an email as soon as the followup post is ready.
You’ll discover how to learn chess openings that are suitable for your style, barely known and sound!
And I’ll share several Guerrilla opening ideas for both attacking players and positional players.