Remembering Playing 1.e4

If you want to know your opening repertoire well, you need time to memorise it. Some of it will make a lot of sense and some of it will be concrete, but counter-intuitive. Sometimes a line a tempo down is no worse, for example.

I just played a blitz game where I successfully remembered all of John’s analysis on the Alekhine, but ran out of time… As online blitz games have no relevance for the real world, I am still pleased by being able to get all the way to +-. After this I missed mate in four and lost on time in a totally winning position. But who cares…

The main reason I remembered the line, was because of an attractive shot in this position (did not really happen). Often these types of anchors and little nuggets of information helps us remember what comes before.

White to play. What is the strongest continuation?

Find the game here.

15 thoughts on “Remembering Playing 1.e4”

  1. Pattern recognition is a funny thing but definitely is stronger when there is an ‘aha’ moment. I know GMs can instantly compare positions to famous examples they know for instance and as soon as I got the hint it was the Alekhine I knew it was the Nxf7 line (which Tal bottled out of taking and played g3) and tactics around the pinned bishop and dodgy king position helped me get the main move and the tactical motif that made it work then it was a case of working out the details . Unfortunately it’s the less spectacular moves of theory eg prophylaxis, small pawn push, which of 2 almost equally attractive captures etc that i find hard to remember. Do GMs do anything else to help remember- mnemonics, memory palaces , visual reinforcement along the lines of chessable etc to help consolidate the lines? Maybe Jacob can tell you what he recommends his trainees

  2. @JB

    What works for one person may not work for everyone; but for what it’s worth, I find I learn a new opening or variation best by first playing a game or two with it, and only later looking up the details of where I could have played more precisely. I guess the fact that I’ve already put some effort into figuring out how to play the position makes the correct continuation stick in my mind better than if I studied it without the benefit of playing it over the board.
    Well, that doesn’t fully answer your question but it might be something to think about, as I imagine most players tend to study openings in detail before playing them in serious games, whereas I do things in reverse. If you don’t want to risk an early opening accident in a rated game, you could try out such ideas online, or in training games – anything that forces you to think hard before you start memorizing any detailed lines.

  3. @Andrew Greet
    This seems and sounds very much like the step Tony Buzan recommends while mind mapping. Write down what you already know about something before you start to learn from a book, etc. You set up the hooks to put new knowledge on. You also direct you mind to look for specific information from the text you are going to learn from.

    Playing a couple of games with a new opening creates the hooks to put the knowledge on, in a chess context.


  4. Interesting that Jacob advises that to know your opening well you need the time to memorise it. Many chess boooks advise that it is more important to understand the opening rather than memorise moves.

    How much of an opening repetoire is it possible to memorise? Can anyone possibly memorise all the lines given in one of the GM repertoire books? I believe that in a previous blog post Jacob mentioned that he set one of his students the task of memorising all of the lines that were in bold. Even that seems like a huge challenge for an average club player like me.

    I have found chessable an excellent way of memorising a couple of openings and would like to see QC opening books on chessable. I think opening books are more suited to the chessable format than say tactics books like the Woodpecker method where I don’t want to play the moves on the board – I want to look at the position and calculate the solution in my head.

  5. Hi Jacob.
    I am Missing some new book of you , after your great ” think inside the box ” I Strongly need read more about your ideas / exercices! , you are planning to do something like this?

  6. It’s for Jacob to clarify to what extent he thinks it’s necessary to memorize an opening repertoire, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t mean every move of every variation in a book.
    A lot depends on the type of openings you play. To take an extreme example, if you decide to play the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn you will have to know a certain amount of forced variations to avoid being mated by move 20. But for most openings, a few basic lines and some understanding of typical piece placement and middlegame plans is enough to get started; and from there it’s a matter of fine-tuning and adding to the details as you go along. Obviously the more forcing lines and traps there are in a given opening, the more you will need to memorize those details. Having a certain amount of ‘chess culture’ also helps; the better your overall understanding of the game, typical pawn structures and so on, the easier it is to learn an opening.

  7. you dont need to remember all lines move by move ( impossible)
    you need to remember all lines by evaluation, then you will find moves.

  8. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    Rodney wrote: “Many chess books advise that it is more important to understand the opening rather than memorise moves.”

    I am pretty sure this advice is meant for students who spend *all* their time memorizing opening variations. Memorization in chess is both important and unimportant. It’s possible to find evidence both ways.

    Khalifman – Bareev, Corus 2002 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Bd3 Ngf6 6.Qe2 c5 7.Nxf6 Nxf6 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Bd2 O-O 10.O-O-O “A double pawn sacrifice which Khalifman had analyzed some 15 years earlier. All that he remembered, he said, was that it is good for White.”
    –Tim Krabbe, (#162)

    “Maybe things would have been even better if Fabiano had not forgotten his preparation in game 10.” (Q. Did he…?) “Yes, this can happen, of course. You prepare a lot, there’s much to learn. And then you mix up moves in a line or you simply forget the moves. Such things have happened to everyone.”
    –Rustam Kasimdzhanov,

  9. It is correct as stated that I think remembering the bold moves is a good idea. Chessable is a good tool, but in the past I have just put into chessbase files what I wanted to remember and then gone through them on the training mode, speaking the moves out.

    I describe this in Box for sure?

    And yes, I will write more books. I have had a poor year, health wise, with a huge respiratory infection in late December last year and have not fully recovered yet. But I will…

  10. @Jacob Aagaard

    Any hints on how you can improve your visualisation? I can find combos 4-5 moves deep but the further down the line from the initial position I go the less I am able to see the resulting position in my head or have enough confidence that all the pieces I’m visualsing are in the right place to make a committal move based on that position- I would be terrible at blindfold chess and if others call out the moves of a game I can’t visualise it to follow it if its not an already known position (opening theory or well known game)

  11. @JB
    Yes, sure. I would take random games from the database and play them through in my head. Look at the position after a fixed set of moves. Slowly expand it. Over a few weeks you get that down. Then I would take a book with complicated variations (and lots of them). For me it was Fire on Board by Shirov. Play through the most complicated positions on a board and follow the variations in your head. (I still do this). Finally, when you are fluent, forget about the board altogether and do the same. Within half a year you have developed flawless world class visualisation (hopefully).

  12. Stage 4 – that I have not mastered is to follow the variations Sam Shankland tells you accurately in your head…

  13. @Jacob Aagaard

    Mr. Aagaard, I know that this is a old thread, but I have a question that sometimes does’t let me sleep properly during the night. Why Quality Chess had published more 1.d4 books and less 1.e4 books. I know about Parimarjan Negi Books, and his latest book about minor defenses, but what I want to say is that there are less books on critical lines resulting from 1.e4 like the English Attack in the Najdorf, The Ruy Lopez and against the Petroff. Or is just that the 1.d4 have been better received by players? The Negi’s books on the French, Caro, Philidor and Sicilian are great, but I fell like there are some “holes” in the repertoire of an 1.e4 player. I also know that is just a thing of tastes and fashion. Thanks

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