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I have decided I wanted to understand one basic opening against 1. e4 and one against 1. d4 as black. After watching a few videos on multiple openings and systems, I decided I wanted to try and pick up the Caro-Kann. I was wondering if it's sensible to build an opening repertoire there. More specifically, is it possible to do it without chessbase? Is the free stockfish analysis reliable? What steps should I take to ensure my analysis isn't flawed?

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    Yes, it is possible to do it that way, but very time consuming. Whether the analysis is reliable depends on what you mean by that. The engine will not lie to you, but if a position is equal to SF11, is it equal to you too? Very often not. Then it would not be reliable. But you will have this problem with any engine. In any variation you analyse, you should not be overly concerned about ultra soundness (oh not the position is +0.2! where have I gone wrong), but rather about whether it is clear to you how the game should proceed and whether you can handle it (and of course whether you like it..) – B.Swan Dec 4 '20 at 18:39
  • Thanks, this is a very good point. Maybe I should just write down the basics and then analyze games in that opening like Arun J mentioned. – Saegusa Dec 4 '20 at 18:41
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    I would suggest you look at games by strong players in the Caro-Kann. Preferably from times before engine evaluation dictated opening play, as there are many unnatural ways to play the openings given by the engines. You can then move towards more modern practices after you have some grip on the themes. I will give you an example of very modern CK play, the Caveman: 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. Bg5 Qb6 6. Bd3 Bxd3 7. Qxd3 Qxb2 8. e6. The engine starts to give White an advantage at depth ~40, before that it claims Black is better. This variation would not exist without engines. – B.Swan Dec 4 '20 at 18:47
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    Yes, this is a way to study openings and the resulting middlegames. You do not need chessbase for that though! There are many free chess databases, and even Lichess has an opening explorer (the book symbol symbol under the move list). Online I like to use the chesstempo database, offline I have the Caissa database – B.Swan Dec 4 '20 at 18:52
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    @B.Swan it can be "unreliable" in the sense that the browser version of Stockfish can be much slower than a native binary. So it may be preferable to download a proper Stockfish binary and run on ones computer. Though it might still be nice to accumulate ones analyses in a lichess study. – koedem Dec 4 '20 at 20:12
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Create a private Lichess study and add your game references there. As you keep adding more of your learnings and research, the study will develop into a full repertoire. You can also export as png, so you can always switch to other software if you find a better option.

https://lichess.org/study

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  • Yes this is what I did, I created a study for the Caro-Kann and I was wondering if the engine evaluation was good enough, and if I needed to see other games like what you can do with chessbase. Didn't think of adding in my own games though, I will definitely do that! – Saegusa Dec 4 '20 at 18:42
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    You can always supplement the engine evaluation of the opening (only ok) with the opening explorer (click that book button at the bottom right and make sure it's set to "masters games only"). That way if you want to explore a line further, you can click any of the games that pop up there and see what type of middlegames can arise! – NoseKnowsAll Dec 4 '20 at 20:20
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I want to give you a small suggestion related to B.Swan's comment:

The engine will not lie to you, but if a position is equal to SF11, is it equal to you too? Very often not. Then it would not be reliable. But you will have this problem with any engine. In any variation you analyse, you should not be overly concerned about ultra soundness (oh [no] the position is +0.2! where have I gone wrong), but rather about whether it is clear to you how the game should proceed and whether you can handle it (and of course whether you like it..)

I think it is best if you build your study based on your understanding first, before checking with an engine. The reason is as B.Swan mentioned, namely that what an engine can cope with is often not what you can cope with. So what you want is not the best move based on very deep tactics, but the best move based on what you can analyze. No doubt, this means that you will not play as well as the engine, but because of that you may play better than if you tried to mimic the engine. The reason to check with the engine is not to ensure that you have found the best move, but rather to ensure that you have not from any position in your study chosen a move that can lead via deep tactics by the opponent to a disaster for you!

In other words, you use your own skill to find your own moves, but use the engine to find opponent responses to those moves to make sure they are not mistakes or blunders under best play. Such an asymmetric use of the engine is more likely to improve your play than to attempt to follow only what the engine prefers best, because humans simply do not have the same high-fidelity storage capacity as computers.

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  • Thanks I think that's a really good point, I started doing this. – Saegusa Dec 6 '20 at 22:57
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There’s no need to buy chessbase (although I’m not arguing against it if you want to do so). Chess.com actually has an excellent database of masters games available to free users. The Lichess opening book is compiled of 2 million+ master games but only a small number of these are available as a pgn for you to load in the Lichess analysis board. I think chesscom is the better resource for this.

The flip-side of this is that the chesscom opening book is crippled for free users. I’d recommend using the chesscom games database and the Lichess opening book and between the two, you pretty much have chessbase.

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