Lesson 7 - Chess Game Phases: The Opening
"By the time a player becomes a Grandmaster, almost all of his training time is dedicated to work on this first phase. The opening is the only phase that holds out the potential for true creativity and doing something entirely new."
- Garry Kasparov
Ok... here is the context: you are sitting in front of a chessboard set up with the starting position. You are the player leading white pieces and your opponent is anxiously waiting to see what will be your first move... what should you play? How will you start the game?
Of all the phases of the game, the opening is the most documented one. Several theoricians and masters studied, analysed and documented the different moving sequences that can be played at the beginning of the game. The reason for such attention is really simple: the starting position is always the same! It is possible to study specific moves and variations that can be played by both players and determine if an opening moving sequence is promising or not by looking at the results obtained in the history by high level players having used these opening lines. Nowadays, computer and chess engines are also participating in the documentation process.
The game of chess is rich in possibilities. From the starting position, many opening lines and defense systems are available to the players. There are so much possibilities that the theoricians elaborated a system to classify the opening lines. Also, the most popular openings have names... but do not worry: it is not required that you learn them at this time since the most important thing for new chess enthousiastics is to understand and assimilate the ideas and objectives of opening principles.
The ultimate goal of the opening in chess is to put the king to safety and reach at least a balanced position for the middlegame battle. In order to reach these goals, both players need to follow this main opening strategy principle: develop the pieces quickly and efficiently!
The player with white pieces has the advantage of playing the first move. This advantage is not enough to win but if they play well, they can use this advantage to gain the initiative early in the game, by dictating the direction of the battle and imposing his will. One of White's objective is then to fight to keep this initiative until the middlegame is reached. Black on their side will work hard to restore the balance of the position and reach a middlegame where they have chances to win the game or secure a draw. This does not forbid them to seize the initiative or win the advantage if the opportunity presents itself! Both players must then be really careful as the game could end abruptly... even during the opening.
Some theoricians and studious masters looked back in history to study high level games played by our talented predecessors. Their work has contributed to find out that the player controlling the central squares of the chessboard (d4, d5, e4 and e5 squares) had usually more chances of winning. Both players must then fight fiercly to gain this advantage and the center becomes the main target during the opening.
To sum up in one sentence the couple of key points we just discussed, we can say that the objectives during the opening is to obtain a balance game by giving shelter to the king and fight for the control of the central squares.
Now that we know the objectives, let see the principles that will guide us in achieving them on the next page.