On The Topic of Learning Openings

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Something I’ve talked about over the years is my attempts at balancing my need to learn openings against not spending too much time working on them.

In fact, over the years I’ve tended to err on the side of too little time spent on the openings, but I am gradually trying to rectify that. I am set (mostly) on my Black repertoire currently, but I am certainly not planning on trying to focus on blind memorization.

I know that in order to truly learn openings I need to understand the “whys” of the moves instead of just memorizing them. That brings me to this interesting place. Here are two positions in a sideline of one of the main lines of the Slav. These positions are from the 6.Nh4 sideline of the main line after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5

Here we have two lines we’ll look at. The first is 6.Nh4 Bc8 7.e3 e5 8.Bxc4 exd4 9.exd4 Be7 10.0-0 0-0 11.h3 Na6 12.Re1 and now the knight moves to c7 12…Nc7

The other line we’ll look at is 11.Nf3 Na6 12.Re1 Nb4

The part I need to figure out is why does the knight head to c7 in the first line, but b4 in the second? The b4 square seems to be a solid outpost in either line. Also, the idea with IQP’s is typically to blockade them, and the Black knight is influencing the d5 square regardless of whether it’s on c7 or b4.

I know that I’ll never truly understand openings until I can learn why the different choices here.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

PS. These two lines come from Boris Avrukh’s amazing book The Classical Slav, which while a bit old for serious players is an amazing resource for club players wanting to learn the opening. You can pick it up for a decent price here.