The linked interview with GM Boris Gelfand, conducted for ChessBase by IM Sagar Shah, is one of those rare ones with a top-flight player where it's not just for PR, they are candid and offer genuine insight into what really matters in chess. The full interview is well worth the time, here I'll highlight some of the former World Championship Candidate's views on opening study, which is a theme of this blog:
Coming to your openings, you usually begin the game with 1.d4 and recently you have stuck to this move. Are you not afraid that your opponents would come prepared with computer analysis?
BG: Of course I am afraid, but it’s a risk whatever you do! If you prepare a lot of moves, you cannot go too deep and your opponents might be better prepared. Also, I play a lot of different systems, sometimes the Catalan, sometimes 3.Nf3 and 4.Nc3, and I keep varying. I don’t think my opening repertoire is narrow.
What is your opinion about the opening? Should players focus on the openings since young age or they should first work on other phases of the game?
BG: I think it is always better to focus on other aspects of the game apart from openings at an early age. Let’s say learning basic endgames, to get some tactical alertness, to learn pattern recognition, to study the classics. I think all these are much more important than focusing on the openings.
At some point, however, one would have to learn openings. At that moment how would you advice players to go about working on this first phase of the game?
BG: It’s different for different people. I believe that young players must try to follow the repertoire of a player whom they like the most. You can easily get the opening ideas and you are also able to follow the complete games. For example, if you like a classical player you can take Kramnik’s repertoire. But you also have to be alert. You cannot just blindly follow the sharp lines. Your idol might have worked a lot while you just don’t know what to do! I would also suggest playing openings that suit your style.