Two chess opening mistakes you should never make

First, let me remind you of the pre-registration for my upcoming book, A Promoted Pawn: My Chess Journey, which will be released within a few days. However, as I said before, you can register for my book in advance.

By registering now, you will be notified a few hours before the book launch. Hence, you will know about our special offers EARLIER than others. Moreover, you will get your questions (about the book) answered by me.

Note: only the first 50 buyers will have the opportunity to send in their questions; the next 100 buyers will be able to read those (Q&A).
designSecond, I’ve prepared a chess lesson for you! :) In this lesson, you’ll learn about two mistakes you should avoid in chess opening play.


  • Do not play openings that seem strange to you, that you can’t understand clearly.

This is a very common mistake nowadays. People play opening lines recommended by a computer or by a certain Grandmaster. Even if a player doesn’t fully understand this variation, he often relies on the recommendation of a strong GM. Let’s see how this works in practice.

R. Swinkels – T. Burg
1.d4-d5 2.c4-c6 3.Nf3-Nf6 4.Nc3-dc. I don’t need to comment on these opening moves, as they’re not important for our topic.5.a4-Bf5 6.Ne5-Nbd7 7.Nc4-Nb6 8.Ne5-a5.
White to move

Some of the previous moves may look strange. However, this is a popular variation and has been played many times by strong Grandmasters. I guess this is the reason why the Black player decided to implement it.

Now let’s pass the opening stage and come to the position where opening theory ends.
chessBlack to move

So far Black has reproduced his opening knowledge and got an approximately equal position. Now it’s time to think independently. Let’s see the game continuation.

16…Rfd8 17.Qb3-Nc8 18.00-Qb6 19.Qa2-Qc7. Obviously, Black is doing something very wrong. He just doesn’t know what to do here.
chessWhite to move

20.Rfd1 -Bd6 21.g3-Qb8 22.Qb3- Ne7 23.Kg2-Bc7. Well, I think you have got the point already. Black can’t understand what to do. He lost this game very soon after. Why did it happen?

Do you think he’s a weak player? No, he’s an International Master with a rating around 2500.

You may think that he just doesn’t know the typical middlegame plans for this opening. However, the problem is not here. From the very beginning of this game, he played the moves without a real understanding of them. It’s not surprising that he could not handle the subsequent position.
chess understanding
My recommendation is very simple: you should play the moves that correspond toyour chess understanding.

This recommendation is applicable to the whole game, including the opening stage.


  • Do not try to recollect an opening line if you don’t remember it firmly.
Often, a player gets an opening position he studied some time ago. Thus, he knows something about it but doesn’t remember it clearly. In such cases, people will often try to recollect their knowledge during a game.

Pinero C. – Gascon J.
Black to move

I know the Black player and he told me what he was thinking about during this game.

He’d remembered a game between Beliavsky and Kasparov. In that game, Kasparov played e5 at some point and then placed his c6-knight on d4. Then when Beliavsky attacked the knight with the Ne2 move, Kasparov played c5 and got a very active position.

It’s tempting to follow Kasparov’s moves. So Black played 7…e5 quickly.

After 8.d5-Nd4 9.Nge2 Black realized that 9…c5 doesn’t work well. White can play 10.dc-Nc6 11.Nd5, followed by 12.Nec3 and a very strong position.

Therefore, Black decided to play c5 after an exchange: 9…Ne2 10.Bxe2-c5?!

White answered with 11.dc-bc 12.Rd1 and now Black is losing. He can’t protect the pawn with 12…Ne8 because of 13.c5 (using a pin).

Why did Kasparov’s idea work so badly – simply because it was used in a different position.

Beliavsky – Kasparov
Black to move

Instead of the immediate 7…e5, Kasparov played 7…a6 8.Nge2-Re8 9.Nc1 and only in this position 9…e5.

When you try to recollect an opening theory during a game, you stop thinking by yourself. Often, it leads to very strange moves and annoying losses.

This is a common mistake, and even top Grandmasters like Anand fall into this trap.

Here’s my advice to you: if you don’t remember an opening theory FIRMLY – do not try to recollect it. Use your general understanding and think for yourself.

Note: if you want to learn ALL the opening mistakes you should avoid, you can check my opening courses.