How to build an opening repertoire or
If you want to become an efficient player who produces stable results, you need to eliminate variance as much as possible. Opening theory is huge and if you just take a look at the HIARCS Opening Book for instance then you will see that you won’t probably be able to memorize even half of the lines about openings that you are actually playing.
The key to a good opening repertoire is to cut down the number of variations. Besides that, developing an opening repertoire is an on-going process. You can’t just lock yourself in your room and come out a few years later after you have found the answer to every single theoretical problem.
So how do you go about this task?
The solution is rather simple: The backbone of your opening repertoire should consist of forced draws! Once you got the draw locked up, you can look for an advantage and replace one line after the other with something that is supposed to give you an advantage.
This approach also has a lot of practical benefits: Against stronger opponents you either force them to play more dubious openings against you or you simply gain rating-points by drawing. Against equal opponents you reduce the variance to zero and you’ll never have a bad day that way. Last but not least, against weaker players you can still go for more risky lines while they are less likely to find the refutation over the board. Look at this as your margin of safety.
For instance: You want to play the Catalan, but you have no idea how get an advantage if black just takes on c4 immediately and you don’t simply want to end up in an unclear position being a pawn down, where the onus is on you. This could be your solution:
Now the trick is to play for a win in every other line, except for this one. You just keep this forced drawing-line in your repertoire until you found something more promising to attack the black setup.
The nice touch behind this approach is that it doesn’t always have to be such a simple line. You can add more complex forced draws to your repertoire where your opponent can go wrong more than once. Essentially you are freerolling your opponent that way. Here is an example where Karjakin simply forgot his preparation and wasn’t able to solve the problems over the board:
Don’t expect this to be an easy task. Keeping the position under control is extremely difficult. Once you understand this, you will finally realize that guys like Leko, Radjabov, Dominguez and Bacrot are indeed sophisticated artists. Their rating proves them right.
In the future, I will attempt to provide forced draws or lines that lead to more or less dead positions for pretty much every single opening. I fully am aware that playing for a draw with white is considered to be a crime against chess, but playing for a loss isn’t that great either.
Disclaimer: The lines provided on this website were all checked with Stockfish and come from games that were played on the highest level. Do I ignore interesting continuations that may even lead to an advantage? Yes, I do! The purpose of this website is to provide lines that lead to a draw. Looking for ways to win would be the next step. If you understood the overall concept and if you can read between the lines, you know where to start. Chess is a draw, so don’t be surprised if you can’t find a win. There is one exception to my approach: If looking for a draw is just as complicated as looking for an advantage, I will provide the line that is supposed to lead to an advantage.