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I've only played 1.e4 as white so far (in clubs, tournaments, online, everywhere!), in the past 5 years since I learned chess. And it has been very fun, but I want to explore the dark side as well, as I do enjoy watching good positional play in GM games.

I'm sure some of you have attempted this before. I'd like to know what your experience was. Was it radically different? Did you experience withdrawal symptoms from not playing 1.e4? Did you have to learn a lot of theory just to get a playable position against well prepared Nimzos/Slavs, etc?

P.S. I know pretty much no theory in most openings beyond, say 4 or 5 moves.

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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't think 1.d4 itself really makes the game slower; you can use 1.d4 to play aggressive chess. Kasparov and Alekhine did. Likewise, you can play positional chess with 1.e4, e.g. Ruy Lopez, (especially Karpov's handling of it).

So if you want to practice positional chess you don't need to switch to 1.d4, and if you switch to 1.d4 without changing your mindset, you won't necessarily be playing positional chess.

I first tried 1.d4 after playing for about a 1 year. I was really fascinated with the Qd3 and Bc2 (or Bb1) set up and tried to drive away black knight form f6 and mate on h7, basically my whole plan revolved around that. I didn't find 1.d4 much harder to play or anything like that, but I am sure you are a stronger player than I was back then :).

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If you have no real opening knowledge anyway, switching shouldn't be any special problem. Just start playing it, and afterwards you lookup what the pros do in the opening you played.

You could also get a book. I think that until you're rated 1900 or so (and possibly until much higher), all you need is a book that explains the ideas behind all the openings. I also think that Van der Sterren's Fundamental Chess Openings (FCO) is fantastic for that purpose. It goes way further than what you already know about 1.e4, and you can use it to learn about all the openings. It's all text, no tables of moves.

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Allow me to suggest 1. c4. You can aim for a number of Sicilian Reversed positions that will be familiar already, from the other side of the board, and with a move in hand.

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1. ...c5, and I have to face the English, which I dread. –  chubbycantorset Jan 16 '13 at 21:00
    
@chubbycantorset, that's one way to look at it, though of course you'd have an extra tempo compared to when your opponent plays 1.c4. And hey, if you dread facing the English as Black, why not inflict that on your opponents? :) –  Ed Dean Jan 27 '13 at 3:34
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I made the switch to 1. d4 when i started getting on online chess teacher, if you can afford it, i highly recommend 2 hours per week with a GM or IM.

GM Vladimir Kosyrev (Tankist on ICC) taught me all my opening knowledge as black and as white, it was extremely helpful.

Although it is very important to know ideas of early opening moves as well, GM Yasser Seirawan helped with that, read his books, study the games he goes through. Brillancies is one of them

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An e4 opening tends to lead to more open, tactical games, featuring attacks on the king. D4 leads to more closed, positional games, featuring endgame advantages on the queenside.

To become a "good" player, you need to learn to play both types of games well. If you're good at one kind, but want to progress, learn to play the other. Even if it is the "dark" side for you.

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1 d4 in combination with 2c4 (usually) may require more memorization to actually be fully 'booked' than 1 e4 does, however, it tends to be much more 'forgiving' if you don't memorize loads of variations but instead 'understand' what's going on. I had good success with it. There is a reason it's the 'work horse' of the grandmasters.

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