When should one start studying opening theory?

On one of the Forums of http://www.chess.com someone asked whether it was necessary for him to study opening theory. My reply was something like:

I think players worry too much about opening theory and about learning by rote certain lines that they think will help them. Of course, at higher levels a knowledge of opening theory is pretty critical. But far more important is to have an understanding of opening principles – which you clearly do have.

Keep playing stronger and stronger opposition and if you keep winning you certainly shouldn’t worry about opening theory. I do recommend looking through some of the classic chess games of the old masters – the natural way people learn chess is to start off in the style of the old masters and then move through the 20th century. Studying some obscure variation of a hyper-modern opening is not going to be much help to a beginner or to a player starting off. If you can find some early games from pre-1900 – hopefully that are annotated and explained – and look at these it will help you in your understanding of opening principles and your tactical ability. Tactics trainer on chess.com is also very good – don’t know whether you have to pay to use it but it’s good.

Full article at


interesting chess blogs

There are loads of great chess pages and blogs on the internet. Here’s a short list of some of my favourite ones:

Goddesschess writes mainly about the history of chess

Jim West on Chess provides chess news and game snippets

ChessBlog is run by the 12th Women’s World Chess Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk

Spraggett on Chess seems to give mainly chess puzzles and some other interesting things

Susan Polgar’s site is, of course, great for serious chess players

The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog provides lots of really great puzzles

The Kenilworth Chess Club provides a whole list of blogs

What do ratings mean?

In this blog I occasionally will refer to chess ratings. What do they mean?

Well, I am normally referring to the ELO rating system. The following ‘meanings’ may be useful.

less than 2600 = Grandmaster
2400-2600 = International master
2400-2400 = Master
2000-2200 = Expert
1800-2000 = Class A
1600-1800 = Class B
1400-1600 = Class C
less than 1400 = Beginner

I play mainly on chess.com using what is effectively correspondence chess. The get an official over-the-board (OTB) ELO chess rating you have to play in official OTB tournaments. I tend not to do that these days. So the ratings on chess.com are indicative and not official. My highest rating on chess.com was just over 2000 but I am currently a Class A player. Class A and Class B are effectively the level of playing in a chess club.