Thursday, June 26, 2014

The expert

You win for a first time from dad, big brother, a friend or even better the teacher and you get caught by the microbe. I suppose many have started with chess this way. Both players have the same tools (16 pieces) and battle for victory on a board of 64 squares only by moving the pieces. The player with the best and most creative ideas wins. That is the picture which a lot of films use. The spectator sees naturally the smartest person win.

So it does not surprise me that regularly emotional reactions appear on my blog when I discuss game preparations, studying openings or last on my previous article. The image of an honest intellectual battle between 2 individuals is abruptly broken. Databases, books, coaches, preparations, training, experience, money, time,... influence drastically the chances in modern chess.

Players rarely will tell something about how much money, time and efforts were spent to improve. It is not cool to tell that the chosen line was already completely prepared at home. Today there exists a taboo on working at chess. However because of this a lot of less experienced players get a wrong view of what competitive chess includes. This blog often breaks this taboo which doesn't make me popular of course.

That a taboo exists, can be also detected in a reaction of my article The Czech defense. I called somebody an opening-expert and immediately the person started to counter that he doesn't consider himself an expert. The term "expert" has a negative connotation. It is not proper to win a game with the support of a superior knowledge of the opening. I consider such position completely redundant as everybody has its own favorite systems. I do know one nice player defining the first move with a dice. However also he knows something about openings as last Friday after our cup-match he surprised me by sharing the information that I deviated from the recommendation of the recently published and colossal book of the kingsgambit written by John Shaw.

So every player with a bit experience is in some openings a sort of expert. Now it is clear that not all experts are equal. An interesting question is if it would be possible to know an opening that well that one can't be surprised anymore. Can you become a super-expert in an opening so you don't need to fear any preparation anymore? Well I am afraid the answer is no. Bart told me after the game that he spent a lot of time studying the opening and I believe him but still I succeeded to copy an idea of a game which was unknown for him. To overestimate the experience or underestimate the preparation is something which I notice regularly. I remember a game against the Armenian grandmaster Sergey Galdunts in which I discovered on one of his favorite systems a novelty, posing him troubles.

I had looked only a half hour at this opening but it was already sufficient with the aid of the engines to find something interesting. Afterwards the strong Armenian grandmaster Vladimir Akopian joined the analysis of the novelty. My opponent was very surprised that my short preparation was superior than his expertise. How is it possible as besides 11 published games in the database with the opening, a similar amount of games played with the opening was not registered in the databases.

If grandmasters now and then make this judgmental errors then obviously we see it more often with less experienced players. Some examples on my blog are the articles Swiss gambit and revolution in the millenium in which I successfully achieved an advantage with a preparation in an opening of which I had no experience at all contrary to my opponents.

The reader having read the reaction of Kara on my previous article will probably conclude that I am a big exception and normally an expert doesn't risk so much. Well I still want to show an example of another Belg only 40 points higher rated on the Belgian rating-list, Bruno Laurent. The game was already mentioned in my article old wine in new skins to proof that keeping a repertoire up to date is for most players in-achievable.

So black suffered a very serious defeat despite being an international master and having a large experience with the Pirc. Is it completely senseless to be an expert? Of course not but you have to weigh up carefully the risks. Did my opponent have a lot of time to prepare? Does my opponent usually prepare seriously for this games? Do I have some new ideas in stock? In a lesser extend also other aspects play a role like the type of position, the match/ tournament situation, the rating difference,... to make the right choice. Surely sticking at all costs to a repertoire is not optimal and a slick competition-player will in good time variate when expecting danger.


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