How do junior players today build an opening repertoire? Do coaches play a role in advising on a balanced set of openings? How much comes from the now-ubiquitous repertoire books? I have the sense that it’s much more structured than it used to be, but am uncertain about the details.
At the beginning of my playing days it was all quite haphazard. There was no coaching, and very few books were available. A choice of opening could and usually did depend on the random chance of borrowing a book, and for me I can identify the inspiration for my choice of the French: a fellow clubmember at Dundrum (I don’t quite recall who it was; Jimmy Joyce, perhaps?) lent me the then-new RHM book The French Defence by Gligorić and Uhlmann. That’s quite a good book, and certainly gives many inspirational victories by Black; perhaps it errs a little too much on the optimistic/motivating side. A little while later I bought John Moles’ book The French Defence Main Line Winawer (Batsford, 1975), which I read cover to cover. I thought then and still think that this is a truly outstanding book, very thorough and rigorous, delving much deeper than almost any other book and thereby conveying a deeper understanding of the opening. The Winawer was thereafter my main line with Black, with significant relative success. Ever since, whenever I see an interesting Winawer I add it to the collection.
If you’re a fellow Winawer fan, you may remember The Winawer Report, a free email newsletter edited by John Knudsen, a correspondence chess Senior International Master. This had a mixture of games and analysis, with articles by various contributors. Sadly it folded after just six issues, the last of which was a little over ten years ago. (One of the promised articles that never appeared was by Jonathan O’Connor, on 7 Qg4 0-0: see TWR-03.) Inspired by the example, I’ve started The New Winawer Report, a monthly newsletter with a different format but the same general idea. The first issue is available at the newsletter’s page here, along with pgn and playable games: take a look if you’re a Winawer fan.