19 “Secret” tips to efficiently learn chess openings

Several strategic studying plans can be implemented to learn chess openings efficiently. One as watching professional games, finding a good coach, use chess engines, or play in varied time controls, all of which can be implemented quite easily.

Chess openings are pre-determined subsequent sets of moves that every player can study and master to acquire an advantage right off the bat. However, we cannot deny that it is such a hassle to learn since it involves a lot of memorization.

As a beginner it can be daunting to learn and memorize chess theories, but I’m here to help! I have been in the same dilemma after all and have overcome the same issue. I think I have some good things to share here that will be of use to you.

I think most chess players will go through this phase at some point, it is important to understand how to efficiently handle this as to not waste time. That is what this article is trying to accomplish, I will try my best to fulfill that goal.

Here are the tips to learn chess openings more efficiently:

1.) Match the opening with your playstyle

Every opening would have a certain theme that dictates the gameplay that the player experience later on, usually if it’s aggressive or passive.

Now, there’s no such thing that only categorizes something as either aggressive or passive, there’s a gradient that determines how much an opening has both.

Only a few openings are truly worth avoiding.

So find an opening that will compliment your preferred style of play, don’t force to learn something you’re not comfortable with.

2.) Observe sample games to efficiently learn the chess opening

This is the next step, you would want to have a certain grasp of how the opening regularly plays out before deciding to master it.

The sample games don’t necessarily have to be expert caliber, just surface-level knowledge that properly expresses the key concepts.

This almost always should disqualify every opening that doesn’t suit your needs, and would allow visualization of you actually playing it.

3.) Learn the fundamentals to learn openings efficiently

After you’ve picked your desired opening, break the rudimentary concepts! It doesn’t have to be deep, just the general ideas.

If the sample games weren’t enough to filter what you don’t want, then learning the basics should do the job.

This would also organize your learning process from more simple to complicated, making comprehension easier.

4.) Grasp the opening’s main line of the opening to learn it quickly

The main line refers to the most commonly played branch in the opening, therefore something you’ll likely encounter.

This line predominantly expresses the themes of the opening, and therefore the one you should be specially prepared for.

Practice the first 8 to 10 moves to get you started, then don’t dwell too much and move on.

5.) Record your findings to efficiently learn the chess opening

This I think is especially important for beginners who are not used to memorizing chess moves, since they’ll likely forget what they’ve learned.

The record could be written manually or digitally through some chess notations, which serves as a reminder for things you’ve already understood.

This makes it easier to go through studying even while commuting or just relaxing, since you can look at the recorded lines much easier.

6.) Learn, not memorize (if you want to efficiently learn the opening)

Very important! especially for beginners that are not adept yet with their chess understanding, learn not memorize.

Chess is a game full of possibilities, preparing for every individual move can only be useful if you’re playing against top-class players.

Understand the recurring ideas, what are the moves within the theory trying to accomplish? and try to absorb that.

7.) Scour for resources to efficiently learn chess openings

Go find as many resources as you can, this would allow much faster learning rate than figuring stuff on your own.

This could take the form of chess books, DVDs, e-books, youtube videos, or chess blogs such as this one.

You can find really good information even for free online, paying for premiums is great once in a while, but not necessary.

8.) Study related traps to learn the opening efficiently

This is the exciting thing that every beginner is anticipating in chess openings, when can I learn the traps?

I am highly against learning traps immediately before the basic themes, as you would likely not understand what the trap is for.

However it is pretty important! you can score quick games especially against someone not familiar with your mastered opening.

9.) Experiment in play to be familiar with the chosen opening

It’s time to play! you’ve learned all the fundamentals, the traps, and everything, now go jump to the world.

Targeted learning is beneficial only up to a point, application and experience will always trump anything.

This is the phase where you’ll realize the gaps in your study routine, then you can make the necessary adjustment for such.

10.) Analyze unexpected lines to truly master the chess opening

This is what I call “treats”, certain surprising moves in the opening that the opponent can attempt to throw you off.

Of course you shouldn’t focus on this early on, but there is a time where it can be helpful to prepare for tough matches.

You’ll naturally encounter this with experience and frequent studies, and if you do, promptly prepare and fill the gaps within your knowledge.

11.) Utilize chess engines to master the opening faster

We are living the best era ever, the world’s digital capability keeps expanding, and we should make use of that.

If you have a simple phone, you can instantly get access to an entity stronger than any chess player ever.

Test your opening knowledge, input the moves, and learn the computer’s suggestions, it will give you tons of insight to increase your repertoire.

12.) Test different time controls on different chess openings

This is another way to completely incorporate an opening in your style of play, which is to engage in different time formats.

Every time control longer or shorter will have a different “feel” unique from one another, an opportunity to fill your gaps.

It would also train you to thrive with the opening in various time sets, which you will eventually need to get used to anyway as a chess player.

13.) Compare statistics to efficiently learn chess openings

There are multiple chess bases that contain quantitative data on how certain openings perform in all chess levels.

Platforms like (chessgames.com) or (chessbase.com) have tons of reputation for giving accurate statistics, something you could use to improve.

It would also tell you the most popular openings by choice, and their win rate against certain replies.

If you are having trouble choosing which openings to master in, try looking at the favorite openings of Alphazero. They are all optimal openings with good stats.

14.) Try playing with computers to learn openings faster

I’ve already talked about using computers for acquiring recommendations, but you could also play them to gain experience!

You could set the level of a chess computer you’ll train with, lower levels for just remembering important concepts and stronger for more challenge.

It could be a good tool to learn the intricacies you might’ve missed when studying.

15.) Prepare openings for popular moves

Now let’s talk about a broader topic, how many openings will you actually need to learn?

Learning every opening theory that exists is not considered practical (since there’s so many of them), therefore we need to focus on those that we’ll likely confront.

Preparing your own e4 and d4 line (as well as responses to such) will be sufficient enough to fulfill your needs, so a total of 4 lines.

16.) Less width more depth when learning chess openings

This is a trap that encased a lot of beginners just learning their openings, going too broad without mastering anything.

It’s a problem since openings don’t really matter unless precursor to advantage, something you can’t do without going deep.

Quote: The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.

-Bruce Lee

Even if you’ve known several openings, you’d still lose if you can’t follow through in any of them, so focus on the few that would give you the results.

17.) Apply the openings repeatedly in order to master it

This is something that’s just needed to be said, if you want to be good with a line then play it again and again.

Studying and resources are cool, but you’ll never become experienced in anything without stumble and falls.

“There is always more to be found by exploring the same subject again and again”. 

-Dion Archibald

Don’t be afraid to lose a couple of games from missing a  theoretical shot, or feeling that you’re not good enough, just go play over and over.

18.) Seek guidance in order to efficiently learn the chess opening

Finding a more comfortable person to talk to can become a good choice for polishing your opening repertoire.

After all, anything that you’ve set to accomplish in life has already been achieved before by someone, and you should make use of that!

A sort of experienced chess coach or a just a friend can give you plenty of insights to how you’re going to execute the steps.

19.) Look for the world-class expert when mastering the opening

This is similar to the previous point but not exactly; you should also find the absolute experts of the opening!

Elite players usually have signature openings that they’ve mastered over the years being applied to their games (Vladimir Kramnik is known for the Berlin defense for example).

Find these games, you’d get to see how to deal with certain intricacies in the opening, as well as how to dominate with them.

Watching the top players is always helpful in one way or another.

Final thoughts

Learning chess openings can be the most intimidating aspect of engaging in this interest.

There are fortunately actions that can be implemented to efficiently learn such without wasting a lot of time.

Personally I don’t have a deep opening understanding at the moment, yet have played a lot of games and become an advanced player; these are tips that I’ve collected before finally going through with it.

Hope it helped you, Sleep well and play chess.