A question and answer column by National Master Andy Lee
Q: How do you choose which opening to play?
A: That's a tough one! The opening is the part of the game that is most analyzed but often least understood by chess players. I've played a lot of different openings over the years, and I'll try to explain how each of my choices worked for me.
When I first began playing in tournaments, I played the wild and crazy Danish Gambit. I would sacrifice two pawns, get all of my pieces out, and attack in style:
As I improved, I began to encounter new defenses: players with black would play the Sicilian, the French, and the Caro-Kann. However, few of my opponents knew what to do if I opened with the queen pawn, and many of my games took the following path:
Of course, black didn't play perfectly to reach this point, but that was part of my strategy: not many kids knew how to fight against the queen's gambit successfully.
As black, I grew to love the French Defense. Although it was cramped, I got very good at learning how to fight back in the center. Here is a typical example:
It helped a lot that one of my early coaches had himself played the French for many years. Having a chess hero or two can really shape your opening selections. After I reached a rating of 1700, I bought the book Kasparov on the King's Indian, and I decided to dedicate myself to this complicated opening:
Nowadays, I play many more openings than the examples above. Each one I learn teaches me something new and interesting about chess! Every opening is a new tool that I can use to win games. Overall, you should be playing openings because you are comfortable with them, not because a coach or parent tells you to. You also shouldn't choose an opening just because the grandmasters play it. Remember, if you are more comfortable with the opening than your opponent, you are the favorite to win the game!