Friday, April 27, 2018

Fashion part 2

My previous article proved that there exists an enormous variety of openings. It is today completely impossible even as super-professional to know all existing deviations in your repertoire by heart. Nevertheless we shouldn't overestimate the value of openings especially at amateur-level. Many of my opponents don't play critical lines at all and just want to skip the opening to get a playable position in which the player with the strongest technique instead of memory can win.

I mean an ambitious player should rather focus the study of openings only at the critical lines. The many less dangerous systems can be checked too but in most cases it is sufficient to develop your pieces and get an acceptable middle-game. Besides even if you concentrate at the remaining important openings then still a lot of study remains as we can see by the testimonies of many professionals.

I believe it is not so easy for an amateur to make the distinction between important and less critical openings. How should I recognize which openings I need to study or which ones can I ignore? A coach can surely help here but not everybody has access to such luxury. In any case it is wrong to believe that openings played by higher rated players will automatically be more profound. As proof I checked my 100 most recently played games which I split in ratinggroups. For each of the groups I defined the average depth of the opening (linked to the deviation compared with earlier played games). I start with the games in which I had white.
For black we don't see any important difference.
So it seems there exists no link between somebodies rating and the opening-knowledge. No that is a wrong assumption. A higher rated player will have a better knowledge about openings. The confusion is created by the mix between opening-knowledge and opening-novelties. 99% of my opponents are followers. I mean that they will rarely use original ideas which are worked out at home in their openings. This isn't a surprise as the rating-groups consist almost exclusively of amateurs spending little or no time at doing individual research of openings.

The real pioneers and leaders of openings are of course our top-players and we should not forget correspondence-players. If we want to know which openings are critical then we should first check their games. This is something I do already for some years see e.g. how I described the preparation of my games in the article using databases or check my article the expert part 2 in which I stated that I focus at the games of +2600 rated players.

However keeping up to date the critical openings is something easier said than done as today we have more than 200 + 2600 rated active players. So every day there are novelties popping up which a professional needs to check. Last the Dutch top-grandmaster Anish Giri twittered that "If more than 2 twics are missing on your laptop then something went wrong in the routines." In my article how much money do you spend at chess I also wrote that I download at least twice per year the free twics but I don't have/ spend the time to filter all relevant +2600 games for my repertoire to study the novelties.

I guess for most amateurs it is the same. You can't expect amateurs working every day at their repertoire. Besides it doesn't make much sense. Much more interesting for us is to use summaries made by a professional which explains all the new critical opening-lines. This allows us to get up to date very quickly by a minimum of effort. Openingbooks and dvds are our first address to check. The disadvantage of those media is that they are very quickly outdated and can't manage to keep track of the latest trends. To really follow the fashion, chess-magazines need to be consulted preferably with the accent solely at openings. I recommend 2 subscriptions: and chessbase magazine.

Of course you will see quite some overlap between both magazines. Although different authors are working for the magazines, the same trends are noticed. That was last the case for the Armenian Winawer-line of the French defense Both published beginning of January a summary of the most recent developments in that system see chesspublishing January 2018 and chessbase magazine 182. Strangely I encountered the line already before newyear in my game against the Belgian expert Nathan De Strycker played  in the 56nd Christmas-tournament of Deurne.
I was lucky that my opponent couldn't remember well the analysis of this line as otherwise the game could've gone differently. As I don't have a subscription, I decided to make my own extensive analysis about the opening. I was surprised that this hypermodern-system is very playable for black see below the summary. I made my analysis using the modern monte carlo-mechansim so by playing many quick computer-games see my article computers achieve autonomy.
So now we finally know who creates new trends and how we can easily detect them. The next question is how interesting this is for the amateur. Well this isn't an easy question as I am not acquainted with the content of the magazines. I guess averagely once per year something could be useful for my standard games. That is not much but also largely depends on my own choices. I almost don't vary my repertoire as I use the scientific approach to choose openings. Also I play few games : I wrote 38 with a standard timecontrol last year in my article surprises part 2.

Briefly almost 100 euro per year for a magazine is a lot of money for me. For professionals the situation is very different. Last the Amercian grandmaster Alexander Lenderman grumbled with the famous Russian proverb "скупой платит дважды" after his painful defeat in 22 moves a week ago against the Amercian top-grandmaster Fabiano Caruana. The opening was treated in the most recent edition of newinchess yearbook 126 (this magazine is released only 4 times per year contrary to the monthly editions of chesspublishing and bi-monthly editions of chessbase) but Alexander missed it while Fabiano didn't.
My Russian father-in-law uses the proverb also regularly. A cheap person pays twice. Losing an extra half point in the US-championship can very well cost many times more than 100 euro see US-prizemoney and I don't consider yet other interests like qualification for the olympiad, the title,...

Let us go back to the mortals and it is doubtful to follow fashion in chess. There will always be players (mainly youngsters) being booked up by the latest novelties. So you do risk sometimes to play against a fashionista but don't panic as openings very rarely decide a game between amateurs.


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