(Part I was here)
It took me three weeks to get back to the subject but I promised Part II, and I always try to keep my blogging promises...
I had gathered some other people's opinions in Part I and now I'd like to share some of my own with you.
I'm now convinced that the vast majority of chess study time should be spent on tactical/calculation improvement (see the 80/20 Principle) but what of the time a player allots to openings? What should he or she be studying in order to get the most improvement for the time expended?
Some players like uber chess blogger Micheal Goeller have noted that they spend most of their time studying openings because that's what they enjoy. Since Michael is already a USCF Expert I think we can conclude that that's his prerogative...in the meantime, for us between say 1200 and 2000 USCF what is the most efficient method of opening study?
If we've been playing club or tournament chess at all most of us have already settled on certain systems and defenses, but in case you haven't, my first recommendation is to avoid basing your repertoire on trappy or offbeat openings. If you memorize the traps you'll get some quick wins against lower-rated players, but these openings are not of lasting value, and I think they can somewhat stunt your development. As you climb the ratings ladder you'll find fewer and fewer victims and more opponents who know the weaknesses of your chosen offbeat system. However, I see nothing wrong with gambits as such, especially with White and 1. e4. The King's, Scotch, Danish and other gambits are a fine choice if they suit you and the type of game you like, but don't adopt them because you think they'll help you learn tactics--a lot of authors have given this advice over the years, but playing the Ruy Lopez, Italian Game and or Four Knight's Game will result in plenty of tactical opportunities for both sides at the lower levels, believe me.
I mainly have in mind things like 1. g4, the Latvian Gambit as Black and so on. I strongly advise doing a little experimentation and discussion with people who know your game and then choosing one opening move (e4, d4, c4 or Nf3) for White and one mainline defense for each as Black. Plan on sticking to your choice for awhile and not switching because of a loss or two. If you're playing the Ruy Lopez or Queen's Gambit with either color I'm sorry, but you're going to have to blame any losses on your own mistakes and not on the opening!
Even if you've already invested some time in the Double Muzio or the Basmaniac Defense or whatever, there's still time to change and get back on track for your long term development.
In Part III I'm going to finally get to my opinions on how to use your opening study time...stay tuned.