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  1. Forum
  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. How do you take advantage in the opening?

We all know the rules of the opening. But, what methods, procedures, "tricks", etc, do you use to reach a superior position in the opening? I have my own opinion about that, so I'd like to know your impressions. In the meantime, thank you so much for your attention and participation.

Modern opinion is that you can only get an advantage if your opponent commits a mistake. So to gain an advantage you must steer your opponent away from positions familiar to him or steer towards positions you know he handles badly.

For me, the problem is rather recognizing & utilizing the actual advantages of an opening position. In the opening, you usually have the least amount of possible moves and mostly a lot of moves lead to the right goal. But if you are trying to play for one certain advantage, you'll have to recognize it clearly and build up your additional opening according to that advantage. Now if you only learn theory by heart, you can forget about that, but even if you are a principle player, it can be really tough to recognize these slight nuances in some positions. Unfortunately, if you play one move your advantage does not support, your position might be rubbish by the next move.

So I often try to create opening positions I'm feeling comfortable with, regardless of what Stockfish might say (except if I know the correct line). If you feel good while playing you'll most likely play better - and as you get better (as I got better), your (my) feeling for a position starts to become more and more similar to the engine's evaluation.

Utilizing the advantage is another thing. If you see the advantage you sometimes get impatient and try to take use of it immediately although you often have to wait until the middle game for it to really come into play. The aspect of timing can be very crucial in chess. Sometimes you even see the advantage, but you have no clue how to take progress using the advantage. This is the toughest problem and here it's just creativity, I guess you have to try.

I think those are the main problems I've encountered (and for some examples am still encountering) in opening positions.

I don't think there is any fixed way to exploit the advantage of weak openings. Sometimes, the situation is such that the position can be immediately exploited with a quick mate or winning a pawn or a piece. But more usually it is not easy to immediately convert the advantage into something more tangible. The right thing to do in these situations is to continue to play well; continue to develop and continue to formulate a plan.

Of course, it also depends upon what sort of weakness the opponent's opening has - it could be lack of development or loss of space or a blunder leading to loss of material.

In my opinion, very weak players tend to blunder away pawns or even pieces; however, for stronger players (around 1400) it tends to be lack of development by moving a piece twice or bringing the queen out too early.

Two guidelines:

1. If you are ahead in development, start something going and open up lines for your better pieces.
2. If you are behind in development, don't start anything and keep things closed until you have caught up. This is especially true if you have not castled!

Depends on the time control and who am I playing with, the shorter the time control or the weaker the opponent the more speculative my chess can be without getting punished out of my reckless tricky moves and I can get away with it.

Nonetheless generally, against people around my level or higher I just assume that my opponent is not gonna blunder in the opening and I play for the long run with slight advantages which eventually add up, if he does commit a mistake that's nice for me, otherwise I don't wanna get into a bad position just to force him into a mistake cause chances are I'd get refuted.

I think this depends on the moves played in the opening. As white if my aim is to build a big center, but my opponent plays the Albin counter gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5) I will unlikely continue to seek the space advantage I had planned on with my first move.

Speaking to @ChessIteration 's point, what I think is important is to understand what the dynamic advantage is that you have in the position (space, pawn structure, piece activity), what your opponent's dynamic advantage is, and how they interact. It's likely that in any main line theoretical discussion these advantages are traded equally. My goal is typically to do my best to understand what's strongest about my current position, try to leverage it, then rinse and repeat.

When I choose an opening as part of my repertoire I try to keep in mind how rich the resulting positions can be, strategically and tactically. I aim to play openings that have great depth and can expose me to difficult but rewarding struggles. As a result, I don't play unsound openings that pigeonhole me into a particular style of play for the entire game.

For example, after 1.e4 c5 I have the choice to enter into the open Sicilian with 2.Nf3 and 3.d4, where, depending on the line, I might have an opposite sides castling attack game, a slow defense against a same-sides castling pawn storm, or some sort of centrally-themed fight for d5. The game might involve more passive play, or require all-out aggression from both sides. The variety of positions will always teach me something new, expose me to a different but equally valid struggle, or test my current understanding of the position.

One alternative opening I could choose after 1.e4 c5 is the Smith-Morra gambit: 2.d4 cd4 3.c3 dc3 4.Nxc3. If I chose this path, what kinds of positions would I see? As anyone who's played the opening, or against it, can probably relate, the positions almost invariably look the same. White's dynamic advantage rarely transforms from anything other than having the initiative. Black, put in a similarly boring spot, doesn't play much with dynamic advantages and instead just keeps the pawn and tries to parry white's tricks.

When I think about choosing an opening, I try to put it into context like the open Sicilian/Smith-Morra relationship. I ask what kinds of fascinating problems I'll be able to solve, what kind of gritty struggle can my opponent and I get ourselves into, how will I learn more about chess if I play this opening for 100 games? 1000? If I seem confident that the territory is interesting, variable, open for interpretation, I'll likely learn it and play it. If, on the other hand, I foresee stale positions where I develop my pieces to the same exact squares, rehash the same single advantage I get from that opening, or have a paucity of variations I can enter if my main line starts to lose its luster, then I will likely not incorporate it into my repertoire.

I've learned theoretical sound opening moves. This has enabled me to make strong moves in my games right from the start. This builds a strong position right away and increases my chances of winning dramatically.

Your earlier experience with certain openings can be a good indicator for building your winning repertoire. If you have taken notes of your games and created a history of them in a database for instance, I suggest you go through them and analyze your overall results with all the different openings you have played so far. This exercise should provide you with some statistics as to what openings you played the most and which ones you had success with or not. Try to figure out if you liked playing certain openings or not and why that was. This is a big signal for your preferred playing style! Also try to figure out in what measure the opening played an important role in the outcome of the game.

You have to play like a machine making your opponent uncomfortable. Like e nygma.