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I don't want to waste time on opening preparation. By this, I mean that I don't want to have to understand/memorize the moves or the typical plans in the middlegame. I just want to develop my pieces, castle the king, and connect the rooks. From there, I wish to wing it, try not to blunder anything, and look out for tactics. Is this enough to reach 2000ELO?

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    I think this question has somewhat wrong assumptions. If you play enough and train enough to get 2000 you will automatically learn something about the openings you play. Now, can you get to 2000 without specifically learning openings? I think so, but just because even without focusing on it, by just playing you will still learn something about them. – koedem Apr 17 at 16:15
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    True sort of, but can you get to 2000 without learning openings? We have a chicken & egg question here. I f the OPer would learn tactics, strategy, positional play, and other non openings that he wont learn then he could do it the way you posit. So in the end he learns openings in spite of himself -- IF he makes it to 2000. – expert Apr 18 at 1:20
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This is an opinion based question as there is no way to know. For Bobby Fischer it might have been, but I met Bobby and know that he memorized all the openings.

Would it work for you?
My tournament experience says no.
These days there are too many people memorizing everything along with all the better training for tactics than when I learned.

Your more likely ceiling would be 1500, with possibly 1700 IF you were really good.

After that, positional play would start to be a factor and by 2000 most players would beat you with traps, better/deeper tactics, or positional play.

And since they do know the openings they would come out of most of them with an edge in position as well as the initiative. So just routine play would give them the edge to win if they were at 2000 already. And if they do not beat you in the middle game with strategy then they will win in the endgame because they are far better than lower rated players at endgames.

If you want to make even uscf 2000 let alone ELO 2000 you will have to specialize in ONE opening for white and one for black and become so familiar with them that you do not need to memorize them as the moves will be obvious because you do understand them. And you will have to be totally fluent with ALL tactical motifs and recognize them in different game settings.

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    I think you're underestimating the variability in potential of new players. I've known people who made it to 1800 just by grinding tactics. If there's any kind of normal-ish distribution of genetic potential I would be surprised if there aren't some people out of 7 billion who can make 2000, 2200, or even 2400 that way. – Cleveland Apr 17 at 15:02
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    Then I would think you are overestimating the accuracy of ratings when there is insufficiently widespread competition to avoid pockets of over rated and under rated players. Tactics might get you to 1800 but end games and positional play will beat you if you try to get higher without learning openings, strategy, end games, and positional play. – expert Apr 17 at 15:43
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Whereas the question is very opinionated, I assure you this might strongly depend on the player type. (See the recent book of Müller/Engel.) I had a peak ELO of 2350, clobbering a lot of grandmasters on a good day, and this without any concrete opening knowledge. (Sometimes I even invented a new line ten years before it was played in GM praxis, but those ganeffs never give me any credit :-) Your minimum needs: a good intuition and keen tactics. But woe, in the time of computer outpreparation, it probably doesn't work anymore. Especially if you "don't want to know the plans". You won't get away with that. (Imagine just trading all pieces in the Ruy Lopez Exchange.)

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  • Did you do it without knowing end games, strategy, positional play, as well as mastering tactics? I agree that if you know those then you do not need to memorize openings. – expert Apr 17 at 15:45
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It is not enough. I think you have to respond to your opponent's play. Try to prevent what they are trying to do is the best way, even though you do not have a plan.

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    Perhaps at 1600+/- but if you always respond to the opponent you will be losing more than winning. Initiative driving your opponents responses leads to better positions that win material or have a winning end game advantage. – expert Apr 17 at 15:47
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Personally, I am 1845 ELO and I have not deeply studied any particular openings. Regarding my middle game, I know some basic tactics (grab any hanging pieces, look for weaknesses, gain space, keep your pieces safe etc) and nothing too complex. however, I would recommend doing only 1 opening i all your games and master that opening to the point where you could create your own traps. However, I would not go as far as to say that you should spend time learning particular traps.

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It really depends on whether you're really able to not blunder anything. Surprisingly, it is not so straightforward as it seems. Yet, if you really manage to play like this, I believe 2000 elo is possible.

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    I would disagree. If you do not know endgames then you will lose whenever your opponent did not blunder away material earlier. And if you do not know strategy or positional play they will get an advantage to ensure they do win the endgame. You need a lot more than the OPer hopes is needed for ELO 2000. – expert Apr 17 at 14:17
  • I believe you underestimate the ability of not blundering pieces. 2000 elo is doing this is right and left, due to various reasons. Do you maybe mean the the OP would not be able to convert that advantage? – sleepy Apr 17 at 23:09
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    Based on my experience ELO 2000 is way beyond not blundering pieces. I have played GMs in US, and played internationally too. You need a lot more than not blundering pieces to beat people at 2000 and up. – expert Apr 18 at 1:16

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