I've played the French and Queen's Gambit, which tend to lead to more closed, positional play. I've played these openings consistently for roughly 25+ years now, with no set opening before then really. I did try to learn both the Center counter, or Scandinavian, and the Danish early but eventually gave up and played random moves (I was quite young). After that it was Petrov for a year, then on to closed games. I'm currently 38 and have been at closed positions now for 25+ years. By consistent I mean every single game I've played since then. If it is relevant my USCF is around 1500, with a peak of 1620.

  • It's a tradeoff between the experience you gain playing open games which will improve your play in closed positions which blow up and the lack of experience of open games which will impede your play in open games.
    – magd
    May 10, 2016 at 7:50
  • I don't know that's its really that cut and dry, particularly since my choice was really between no opening at all (as I said, I was quite young and rebelled against the idea of a set opening) and an opening. My objective as a player has always been to just get out of the opening and win decisively in the middle. Closed openings get into the middle game quickly, with less memorization (not saying there aren't complications). However, if I were to actually start memorizing lines, and put more time into the opening, I feel I'd improve my play immensely. May 10, 2016 at 7:59
  • Well that's a different question and if you want to memorise lines then do that.
    – magd
    May 10, 2016 at 8:32
  • ^I didn't ask a question in the previous comment. May 10, 2016 at 8:41
  • Don't split hairs. You brought up a different issue, the question of memorising lines. I gave you my response. Do whatever you want.
    – magd
    May 10, 2016 at 9:02

4 Answers 4


From a strong expert:

Just because I find open games to be more fun, I would suggest playing more open games. Also a variety of openings will expand your knowledge. (Looking at your tournament history, you may already have enough knowledge.) Just like you don't quit smoking in one day, don't switch to overly aggressive opening. Try the Scotch, Vienna, or Giuoco Piano. These openings requires the learning of more opening traps, but they should improve your quality of play.

Assuming that you have the time to invest in studying an opening, learn the common positions and plans. If after trying this style you feel uncomfortable, go back to playing the closed/positional games. If the game is not fun, it is not worth playing.

When I reached expert level, I switched to a more positional game because I thought this is what was supposed to happen. I lost many games because I hid my talent.

Some GM said that he switched to d4 because he got lazy as he got old. Anna Zatonskih said that with d4, White can make more mistakes before losing the game. You could be hanging on to the safety of known avenues.


My advice is to change openings only if you don't enjoy them and to practice tactics for when a game opens up. This is because:

  1. The aim of the opening is to reach a playable middlegame. You reach a playable middlegame in any reputable opening, whether it is the wide open King's Gambit or the closed Advanced French
  2. If you enjoy the openings you play, stick with them. Chess is a game afterall, and if you are having fun with the openings you use, then that's great!
  3. Most games can be opened up if the opponent wants to do badly enough, so practice tactics to be prepared for open games. Think of the French Exchange Variation for example
  • My responses to your list is given: 1) Although I agree with you ultimately about the goal of the opening, there is more memorization required for certain openings to achieve this. For example, there are certain lines of the Sicilian that can go very long and deep, move wise. I had a tendency to avoid those. 2) Agreed! 3) While positions can be opened at a cost, I was quite good at making opponents either pay too much to open the position up, or, memorizing as few lines as necessary to get into the middle game with, at most, a slight disadvantage. May 10, 2016 at 14:21
  • Now, as it currently stands, I'm thinking I could avoid the slight disadvantage that cost me MANY games. I can remember many of my games where a pawn advantage was key one way or another to victory. How much of a rating boost I would achieve from trying to change openings is unknown, however, I really don't think spending more time on tactics is the way to go to get the fastest improvement. May 10, 2016 at 14:29
  • @PaulBurchett: I can't answer what the best way for you to improve your game is in the comments I'm afraid. If you like, feel free to ask a new question, or to look at existing questions tagged as 'learning'
    – user1108
    May 10, 2016 at 14:38
  • My case is an odd one. Don't take too much offense that you can't give advice, as I think it took much introspection to reach certain conclusions, I feel. If anything maybe this thread is useful in showing that even the rule "tactics first" can have exceptions! May 10, 2016 at 14:41
  • 1
    No problem, and no offence taken @PaulBurchett.
    – user1108
    May 10, 2016 at 14:44

I think you should be playing open games, tactical chess, not positional chess and closed/semi-closed positions. Positional chess is inherently more difficult than open, tactical games. It's sounds to me you suffer from the classic idea that "closed" positions somehow protect you from tactics. If you are "afraid" of a tactical fight, become better at tactics! That is a learnable skill. Positional play is way more difficult and requires a deeper understanding to become a "positional" player, which maybe you think you are, or more accurately, you think that is what you want to become. But, most games die by tactics. I've never lost a game to a player who outplayed me positionally - in the end, tactics decides it almost all the time. Of course, be aware of positional motifs in a tabiya, but that is experience talking there.

You should go out swinging as a C-player and trial by fire instead of ducking for cover at every opportunity. "Closed" positions for 38+ years as a C-Player should tell you something. It ain't workin'.

You're chasing the wrong kite. You need to be at least 2100+ to even think about defining your "style" in that respect.

I would go for the most violent openings you can find - Scotch, Giuoco Piano, Kings Gambit - at Class C you don't worry about theory in the least. Just know enough to get into the middlegames and take the gloves off and punch each other in the face. Last man standing.

FYI: USCF 1871

  • I'll respectfully disagree. Class C says so little in comparison to my 6 mathematics papers and my disposition as a kid! Two with referees. Conjectures 1 and 2 are out there. Conjecture 3 on the way! No way I'm wrong on any of them! May 10, 2016 at 20:00
  • To add, at Cat C, there are no exceptions to what you should be studying. It should be 1: Tactics; 2: Endgames; 3: your own losses; 4: Annotated Grandmaster Games.
    – Priyome
    May 10, 2016 at 20:03
  • For most Mark, you're right. May 10, 2016 at 20:27
  • Some of the great classic masters of chess tried to define chess in mathematical "terms". Today, it is known as dogma. And I'm sure you're right in saying you can be brilliant in math and no-so-brilliant at chess.... skill in one does not translate to the other. Chess is not Math, and Math, not chess. Chess is much harder. Math is simply a lesson in practice mechanics.
    – Priyome
    May 10, 2016 at 20:48
  • So one of your contentions is that chess is harder than mathematics. Mathematics is much more than practice mechanics. This definition misses the creative aspects of mathematics. I'll comment on the rest a bit later, not on my phone. May 10, 2016 at 23:53

Your question is interesting but not to the point, if you allow me to say. You are speaking about openings and your problem is not about opening. When you say you have been playing closed openings for years, what do you really mean? Are you playing those out of interest or out of fear or prudence? I would advice you, given your rating, to restudy from the beginning the game of chess. Study all of its history with commented games and try to make progress tactically. Practise and practise again until you get a grip on tactics: this is the major step to mastering the basics of chess. You should be prudent: books for beginners and weaker players always insist on ideas, and they are right, but you should not forget that a minimal mastery of concrete tactical chess is unmistakenly necessary. There is no progress without this. Playing closed openings closes road for your progress. There are good books for you to study: just think of Yusupov's course in several volumes, for instance. You read the book with a board aside (computer also) and you think what you want to play and what could be annoying to you. Then when reaching your conclusion, you look up with computer assistance and finally you try to figure out why computer moves are better than yours. This is a very rude way to learn but you will make progress. You can keep on playing your openings, they are not bad, but play them with an open mind and try to master tactics. You rating will then go up. I know this is not comfortable, but there is no such thing as comfort when trying to progress. Maybe you will even lose elo points in the beginning, and so what, if you risk nothing you get nothing. Just try, it's a game, open and closed. Open games are more dangerous in the short term BUT you have to master them to understand what underlies closed positions when those get opened. Closing positions is not an aim in itself, it's just a means. Sorry for being so direct but i really want to help you ahead. Greetings!

  • I understand the basics. Pins, skewers, forks, combinations, etc. As I've stated, I've played competitively for years, before leaving tournament play after college. I still dabbled, just never spent the TIME to memorize lines, I just enjoyed playing. Tell me, do YOU play out of fear? May 10, 2016 at 8:16
  • When I say I understand the basics let me just say quickly that I played scholastically for 12 years, and won state trophies every year, save for one which I couldn't play in. May 10, 2016 at 8:20
  • Btw, I defined exactly what I meant by playing closed openings! May 10, 2016 at 8:23
  • Do you not agree that both 1.d4 for white (versus 1.e4) and the French are both closed? Whereas the Scandinavian, Petrov, and Danish are more open? May 10, 2016 at 8:24
  • I cannot help you more. You don't seem to accept what i say: if you have only a 1620 USCF rating, there is something wrong in your chess education. It is not a question of types of openings played, sorry to say. Free to you, of course, to not accept my advice. And whether your openings are more closed or not, i really don't know. Look at the recent French games at top level by Harikrishna. And yes, i am scared when playing, so should anyone be, except geniuses like Tal, and even him...The name is simply "prophylaxis". Sorry, if i have been rude, but i wanted to be honest and help you really. May 10, 2016 at 8:44

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