I'm a relatively new player (1400 on chess.com, best game I won OTB was against a 1800) and I finished going through a tactics book. I still do tactics puzzles almost every day, but I realized I don't really "understand" the openings I play and I usually struggle strategically. I thought I would look at games with the openings that I play (Caro-Kann, London System, Ruy Lopez, Vienna, etc). I was wondering, is it better to look at games with a certain opening from only one player at first? For instance, I know Karpov played a lot of Caro-Kann and I really like his style of playing, so should I just go through games he played and try to understand the moves? Or would it be better to look at all Caro-Kann games? I'm a bit confused on what to do I must admit. At least for strategy I can read a book, but not so sure for openings.

EDIT: I'm asking the question because I'm afraid that studying only one player will make me miss some important theory or examples. Is that true or not?

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    "is it better to look at games with a certain opening from only one player at first?" Seems too opinion-based to really answer. If that is all you do, you risk getting just a partial understanding of an opening, limited to that player's repertoire. But, it seems like a reasonable place to begin, especially if it keeps your interest. You said something in passing about books at the end. Most of the major openings have beginner-friendly books on them. I recommend the books by Cyrus Lakdawala. They are fun books which revolve around complete games. But, his style isn't to everybody's taste. – John Coleman Feb 23 at 20:47
  • Thanks, this is basically the issue I was wondering about (getting a single opinion on something). I will look at those books! – Saegusa Feb 23 at 21:21
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    You should look at illustrative Caro-Kann games, ideally annotated. Not all high level games have a good educational value and even when they do, you might miss ideas if they are not pointed out. But you definitely should study games by stronger players to develop your feeling for middle- and endgame positions and the long term plans both sides are trying to accomplish. I would suggest going by variation: Study games in the Exchange Caro, Classical Caro, etc. so you can learn and pick your favorite plan against each idea White has. – B.Swan Feb 24 at 18:17

At 1400 on chess.com, openings aren't your main issue. Five moves of theory should be fine. Your opponent will throw in a Rb8 when you're attacking his king anyways so you won't be in theory for long. At your level, chess is 99% tactics.

However, the concepts behind said 5 moves are still important to know and understand. Like in the Caro-Kann, Nd7 stops white from playing Ne5, but playing that in the 2 knights trap will get you smother-mated so you need to be careful.

Sticking to improving... The best way to learn is to play while writing down the moves. Play longer games (15-25mins+ and stop writing at 5 mins on clock). Once you've played, try to compare what you played with theory. Then try again and again. Doing that will also help your tactics and board vision so it definitely is an 'all-around' trick for improvement.

Karpov (and most top level) games have a lot to learn from, but not for someone who is new as his concepts apply to middle and endgame. Often they are minor improvements on past positions. They're nice to look at with a stronger player though, but if you want to test yourself, evaluate 2000-2200 rated OTB games and look for improvements in those.

Lectures are also important and Youtube has a lot of lectures on openings. They explain a lot of the basics you might miss at first, but don't be hard on yourself if you forget some points during your games - unlike in person lectures, you can just rewatch it after 2-3 games of yours. One I like a lot is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChxLXqMph7cRG_MHIIhlZ7A as he offers solid, yet offbeat ideas to counter specific lines.

So to answer the edit question. It's false, practice and playing your own games is what will make you remember ideas. Studying a player will have no effect either way, it should only serve as a complement to your own play.


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