The inexperienced (and not only) players often ask themselves what is the most appropriate way to prepare for a game. Should it be a general opening preparation, or a psychologically orientated work against a concrete player? I believe that both should be recommended and applied.
The first thing that we do is to build an opening repertoire, a stable home-made weapon that will keep us away from great surprises. We need to have reliable lines against each of the opponents’ principled possibilities. These lines have not only to be memorized well, but to be well understood. If a line ends up with the verdict +/=, minimal advantage for white, and we are that side, we will definitely be satisfied with the opening part. However, we should not forget that after this stage, there comes the middlegame, and this advantage should be increased, and finally converted. That means that we need to know what to do after achieving the advantage, to have a general plan. Do we play on the king’s flank, in the center, or on the queen’s wing? These questions should be answered at home. Every quality opening preparation should end up with a good plan. The assessment is not that important, even an equal position can be in our favour, if we like the character of the arising positions, have the general idea what to do, and like what we are about to do. Here comes also the concrete approach. Let’s say that tomorrow we shall play against an opponent who enjoys positional maneuvering, plays well and loves endgames, but calculates poorly lines and does not feel comfortable in complications. Let’s imagine that we have the black pieces, and he plays 1.e4- open games. Let’s also imagine that we play both 1…e5, and 1…c5. Which move shall we choose against him? The answer comes in accordance with his style; the natural decision is to go for the sharp Sicilian, where the chances for mistakes from him are more significant.
Our style will also guide us in building the repertoire. If we are aggressive players, with strong memories, we should opt for active lines straight from the opening. Quiet lines as the Exchanged Ruy Lopez are not our cup of tea!
After we know ourselves, we go to the next stage- collecting the chess material. We choose a line to play, and then try to find as many annotated games by experts (masters and grandmasters) to understand the arising positions. Those men have worked on these lines, there is nothing wrong to use their know-how. Have a look at the recently published analyses by IM K. Karakehajov here: online-chess.eu, you might find something interesting to build up your foundation.
After this process, we are already quite sufficiently armed. We can make a couple of things in addition: analyze alone, or with a friend of ours some more games in the line, and play some friendly games in the chosen opening. This will help us memorize the lines, and avoid some typical mistakes.
We are now sufficiently armed, and have no fear of anyone.
P.S. This will not end the process of the preparation, as the lines are nowadays developing with enormous speed. Whenever we have time, we can have a look at the fresh games and analyses of our openings and upgrade them.
GM Dejan Bojkov - www.dejanbojkov.blogspot.com