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"In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame." - Jose Raul Capablanca
"If a chess statistician were to try and satisfy his curiosity over which stage of the game proved decisive in the majority of cases, he would certainly come to the conclusion that it is the middlegame that provides the most decisive stage." - Alexander Kotov
There is an incredible number of openings available to the modern player. All of these many families of openings have their own distinct sets of objectives. They contain instantly recognizable positions and pawn structures that set them apart.
Your goal is to decide what kind of game you like to play. You have to figure out what positions you enjoy working in. Then it's a matter of working on your favorite openings and making them work for you.
The openings are divided into 5 volumes, basically classifying them as Kingside openings, Queenside openings and Flank Openings. Irregular Openings are another option if you want to take the road less traveled. And then you can roll the dice with gambits but we can touch on those a little later.
"Occasionally an opening is used against an opponent who is known to favor it himself. The idea is to force him to fight against his own weapons, when he will have to face not only real dangers but very often imaginary ones as well." - Tigran Petrosian
There is a very strong case to say that the Sicilian Defense just might be the most important opening out there. 25% of all games start with the Sicilian and it's not hard to see why.
It is the most successful response to White's 1.e4. White wins 52% of games in the Sicilian, barely more than half.
Honestly it feels like the Sicilian is too big to even be considered as one opening. It's more useful to think of it as a vast complex of several related openings that can transpose seamlessly from one to the other.
We will look at the Sicilian over four sections precisely because of it's sheer size.
The English Opening is the most important Flank Opening out there. It's one of the most popular openings in the game. Top GMs make sure to make it part of their repertoire. The English features regularly in top level chess.
Flank Openings rose to prominence during the Hypermodern Era in the early 20th Century. The Hypermodern approach involves allowing your opponent to occupy the center. You will set your pieces up on the flanks to control central squares. These pieces eventually support attacks on the center as you undermine it later on.
Irregular Openings are rarely seen in practice. They range from interesting ambushes to just plain silly schemes. Some of them warrant further investigation, others should merely be reserved for comedy.
Flank Openings are home to the Hypermodern player and Irregular Openings are well off the beaten path
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