I decided that I want to learn classical chess. Although I'm rated in the 1400's, I want to really gain a strong understanding of basic ideas and principles in chess and improve my tactical ability. Thus, I want to generally go for open games. I also don't want anything theory-heavy or complex. Just nice, simple, classical/traditional openings and/or openings that involve playing with the innitiative or defending against the innitiative that will are good for learning and also viable at the top level. So the opening repertoire I'm going with now is:

As white:


Versus Sicilian Defence: Alapin Variation

Versus 1...e5, Four Knights Game (regardless of 2...Nc6 or Petroff)

Versus French Defence: Tarrasch Variation which will either lead to the Rubinstein Variation or 3...Nf6, after which I'll try to get into the Nunn-Korchnoi Gambit

Versus Pirc/Scandinavian/Caro-Kann/Alekhine/Modern: I'll just play relatively main lines and/or develop by opening principles.

As Black:


Versus King's Gambit: Decline with 2...Bc5 Versus Danish Gambit: Accept and defend the best I can (after I get destroyed, I'll probably look up how to do it) Versus Italian Game: Giuoco Piano Versus Scotch Game: Main Line with 2...Bc5 Versus Spanish Game/Ruy Lopez: Classical/Cordel Variation with 3...Bc5 Versus Ponziani: Dish out that relatively brief line I learned yesterday from the FCO so I don't get destroyed again Versus Four Knights Game: Play symmetrically and/or develop with opening principles

Versus 1.d4, TRADITIONAL QUEEN'S GAMBIT DECLINED - not the Lasker Variation, but the one where you fianchetto the light-square bishop.

Is this a good learning repertoire?

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    Looks fine to me. – BlindKungFuMaster Aug 17 '15 at 12:07
  • Why do opinion-based questions get put on hold? Every answer to any question is ultimately opinion-based – David May 10 '19 at 11:17

That opening repertoire looks good to me. However, I must warn you about over-focusing on opening theory at your rating level.

Right now I am going through a phase where I am focusing on other areas besides opening theory. Some of the old masters, such as Lasker, didn't even bother with it. Although I'm not sure if he would get away with that today. I do think that a lot of lower-rated players focus too much on opening theory. In most of your games, opponents aren't going to be playing the books moves, so it may actually be a waste of time to learn a bunch of opening theory. Instead it may be more beneficial to REALLY learn a solid set of chess principles, and even more importantly patterns.

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    Your answer says that lower-rated players focus too much on opening theory, but then the next sentence says they don't play book moves. This seems like a paradox to me. Can you explain further? – Larry Coleman Aug 18 '15 at 18:07
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    Hmmm... that's a good point. I should've said that lower-rated players who are seriously seeking improvement tend to focus on opening theory too much. I guess you could counter by saying, "aren't all players seeking improvement?" To which I would answer, most players seek a better rating, but that doesn't imply they are seeking to improve their game. Players can run into the trap of learning book moves without knowing the reasoning behind each move, which (to me at least) defeats the purpose of studying the opening. – UltraSonja Aug 18 '15 at 18:18
  • I'm one of the lower-rated players. I don't know more than the first 3 or 4 moves of my openings by heart, and from the looks of things, my opponents don't either. But you do raise a good point about learning the moves without knowing the reasoning. Someone who did that could easily end up in a position he has no idea how to play. – Larry Coleman Aug 18 '15 at 18:54
  • @LarryColeman There's no paradox. Lower-rated players often spend a lot of time studying the opening, but they don't remember the moves very well and different beginners study different positions. So, even in a game between two beginners who've studied the opening the same amount, it's pretty likely that one player or the other will play a "non-book" move by move six or seven or so. – David Richerby May 9 '19 at 12:47

Yassir Seirawan's Winning Chess series (starting with Play Winning Chess) is ridiculously good. I first read the series when I was 12. Every time I re-read it (aged 15, 17, 20, 22, and so on), I got noticeably better. To this day, I don't know much opening theory (beyond Alekhine's) and I can hold my own against 1600+ even after going without playing for a couple years. It's all about knowing the patterns.

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This looks like a pretty complicated repertoire, so I would focus on my openings as Black first (with White, it's harder to get smashed in the opening) You don't really need that much opening thoery, so I'd rather "learn by doing" (play a bunch of games and analyse them)

The Danish gambit is not a problem at all, just accept it and after 5.Bxb2 d5! 6.Bxd5 Nf6 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qxd8 Bb4 the game is at least equal. Other attempts can be answered by a quick ...d5, like 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 d5 or 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5. You can also be fine against the King's gambit with your move, so I'd focus on Italian, Spanish and Scotch

But maybe we are doing this the wrong way, after all, there are still three main openings to study, and White will always have the ability to choose the one they prefer. That's why I would suggest you to play the either 2...d6 (Philidor Defence) or 1...e6 (the French Defence)

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I would also recommend taking a look at the Queens Gambit Declined: Tarrasch defense, Because you are playing the Alapin against the Sicilian, and the Tarrasch against the French you have a pretty good chance of playing with or against an Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) which can teach you a lot about active piece play. In IQP positions knowing the plans and the typical tactics of the positions are way more important than knowing opening moves.

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