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After learning the fundamentals, should one start learning openings or should there be something else in between?

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Moving from fundamentals to memorization of openings is probably not recommended. I would instead recommend learning the fundamentals of openings (controlling the center, developing minor pieces, don't bring out the queen too early (usually), pawn structure), and then, as you say in your comment, focusing on tactics practice.

If your goal is to play fast games, then studying openings is certainly going to help you increase the speed out of the gates.

If your goal is to improve your slow game, which is probably a good idea for most beginners: my recommendation is to consider each opening move as carefully as you would a move later in the game. Many openings are as tactically tricky as the middle game, so it pays to be careful.

Just my opinion. Obviously, there is a point where learning some openings will be helpful.

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    +1, I think the most common studying mistake that lower rated players make is spending too much time on memorizing. – Andrew May 15 '12 at 1:35
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    @Andrew, and then promptly forgetting or if you do remember it, the line is only played against you exceptionally rarely. – Robert Kaucher Jul 27 '12 at 18:21
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    @RobertKaucher, haha good point. If you study games in the opening you're interested in, that helps far more than sitting with your engine-of-choice for hours on end IMHO. – Andrew Jul 27 '12 at 18:50
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I don't believe in 'learn this, then learn that.' Instead, you should be working on improving in general. Tactics are always good; you'll be learning them your whole life. In the meantime, learn a few openings. Not the just the memorization, but the reasons the openings are the way they are.

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I believe studying the openings is a good way to go. Now, you don't want to memorize it. Instead find a book or some site that thoroughly analyzes the openings. Why?

  1. You will learn of a way to approach a game with the type of style you prefer. Experimenting with different openings you get to learn more.

  2. The opening is thoroughly studied and understood. Therefore, when you learn about each move, you will have in-depth knowledge where the 'whys' are completely explained. That way, you learn how much thought goes into each move, what is considered, how strategy is created and executed. When you play games with these openings yourself, you'll get the feel for its strengths and weaknesses.

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Once you have learnt the moves of the game, in my opinion it's time to have some fun and start playing lots of games, gain some experience and catch the chess 'bug'!

A good way to do this would be to search online for your local chess club and go along a few times.

Once you have the 'bug', then you have more motivation for serious study later. In my opinion, in the early days, the best way to learn is to play lots of games, preferably against stronger players.

Try to be ego-less, you are likely to lose a lot of the time!

Keep a chess notebook with the score of the game and another page for notes where you record a single thing that you can learn from the played game. If there isn't anything obvious to you, see if you can get a stronger player to go through your game with you and suggest things that you could work on.

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Traditionally speaking, yes, after the fundamentals rules of chess have been learned, moving onto openings makes the most sense.

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    I often hear that even after the fundamentals, one should spend a considerable amount of time on tactics before openings. – xaisoft May 14 '12 at 19:02
  • That's I believe based on the assumption you'd be playing great or equal players, though if playing players below your skill level, a single good opening master would give greater returns than a single good tactic, right? – blunders May 14 '12 at 19:08
  • @blunders, for the discussion here, it's a mistake to compare the returns of a "single good opening" against the returns of a "single good tactic." Improving one's tactical play doesn't mean learning/memorizing some individual tactics, it means improving one's overall tactical awareness, calculating ability, etc. Tactical know-how is needed with every single move in a game, and that is why improving in that realm is generally much more useful for beginning players than is opening theory. – ETD Jul 27 '12 at 17:43
  • @Ed Dean: Yes, I know... but given the other player is on equal ground, learning one better opening in my opinion is more important than one better tactic. Curious, did you comment on my answer to get me back to the Chess.SE site... :-) – blunders Jul 27 '12 at 22:16
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After learning fundamentals, learning "book" openings is a good way to add structure to your game. You have to start somewhere, and the opening is a good place to start.

JR Capablanca based his game on "fundamentals" and was ignorant of opening variations (for a Grandmaster), but he was a world champion.

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