Opening Repertoire: How to Choose One?

Apr 03, 2023 Openings

Choosing an opening repertoire is a very difficult task for a beginner. What do I play with white? Today I play Caro-Kann, tomorrow a French, a Najdorf Sicilian… This question has plagued me for many years, and I have researched a lot on this topic and acquired a lot of information on this subject. Today we’re going to discuss that, and I’m going to demonstrate several ideas that you can use to get that ability to choose your first opening repertoire!

What is an Opening Repertoire?

The idea of the repertoire is for you to choose the positions you play. So for example, I’ll go Ruy Lopez against 1…e5, Alapin Variation against the Sicilian, Advance Variation against the French, etc. And as black, against 1.e4 I will play the French Defense, against 1.d4 the Dutch Defense, etc, and so on. And so, you study games in these variants and improve your results over time.

Why Have an Opening Repertoire?

For a beginner player, it is not necessary to spend a lot of time in the openings, since normally the games do not end in the opening, knowing the basic principles is more than enough, and focusing on what decides the games at your level, focusing mainly on tactics.

As the player evolves, he will need to deepen his knowledge if he wants to improve, and having a repertoire fits in perfectly with that. The player chooses what to play as White, and I would recommend choosing a defense for Black against 1.e4 and another against 1.d4.

Having chosen these openings, the player can write down (on Chessbase/Lichess/ or even in a notebook) the ideas he is going to play, thus making a first draft. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, it’s just a brushstroke with a focus on what you need to remember. For example:

Opening Repertoire

Openings Philosophy

All very beautiful, and easy in theory. But how can I choose my openings? What would be the best openings for an evolving player? All of these questions are pretty hard to answer, and I’ve had these problems myself, as I change openings like I’m changing clothes (ie, every day), and without direction, you can make the same mistake.

But let’s go: Which openings should be chosen? I’ll give you some suggestions, but try to reflect on which would be the most ideal for you: No one owns the truth!

But if you are starting to study the game now, just focus on the basics of the opening, (Controlling the center, developing the pieces, and getting the king to safety). It is not necessary to know more than that, for example, for a player with up to 1500 online.

Initial opening repertoire: repertoire for those who do not have or do not identify with a style of play

Many articles talk about playing style: Do I play more positionally or more aggressively? It’s not always easy to answer that question, and for that reason, I would recommend a very aggressive opening repertoire. Why that?

The idea is that this type of position will help the development of a player’s calculation strength (which will consequently force the player to analyze variants, see moves ahead, in short, develop his ability to analyze), which is an essential skill on all levels. Therefore, the faster it is developed, the better for the player it will be.

An example could be 1.e4, Sicilian against 1.e4, and King’s Indian against 1.d4.

Initial opening repertoire: repertoire for players who don’t have time to study or are lazy

Most players don’t have much time to study chess, mainly because it’s a hobby, have a family, jobs, etc. An idea for these players could be the opening systems, openings where most of the pieces go to the same squares every time (a classic and popular example is the London System since white normally plays 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.Bf4, 4.e3, 5.c3, 6.Bd3, 7.0-0, 8.Nbd2, in that order or several others).

On the one hand, by using this, these players will gain time in studying the opening (since this is not complex at all, based completely on ideas) and will be able to focus on other aspects of their game. However, this can leave the player in “autopilot” mode, and he ends up thinking about his moves, which can become a problem in the future when that player stops playing systems.

Example: Any white system, French against 1.e4 and Dutch Stonewall against 1.d4).

Repertoire idea: Opening repertoire for a player who knows his playing style

When you know the type of position you like to play (for example, I like more tactical positions, with opposite wing castlings and attacking positions), things are easier.

Each opening has its philosophy. For example, Sicilians in general create positions with imbalances, castling on opposite wings, and attacks. A Berlin Variation of Ruy Lopez is already something more solid, more positional, and symmetrical. You can simply choose which ones best suit your style.

Repertoire idea: “Sacrifice” your repertoire

This idea is more suitable for advanced players. I’ll put an example here: Let’s assume that a player has an easier time in positions that require understanding pawn structures and maneuvers. But in the tactical game, he fails with considerable frequency.

It makes sense for the player to force himself to play positions that involve tactical play so that he forces himself to face his weaknesses (if he wants to improve on them, obviously).

And the same goes for the reverse. The player is very good at calculating but is terrible at improving his pieces, in positional play in general. It makes sense to pursue this type of position to improve. Obviously, at the beginning of this experience, you will suffer a little. But in the long run, you will see a significant improvement in your game.

How to Work in the Repertoire

The main idea is: Make a draft of your repertoire, save it in a database of your choice (chessbase/lichess/, etc.) with the essentials, study it, and play (both in person and online). Ending the session, download the games and analysis.

See what your opponents played again about your base. Think, write in your base, and analyze the rest of the game. Note that our main objective is not to study openings, but to study the game as a whole!

But if you want to delve into any openings, we have complete guides for the openings you want! We always try to update and make new guides, so you can have your draft of the opening you want:

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