Monday, June 2, 2014

Creating a repertoire

Recently a surprising letter was published on schaakfabriek. I am not going to discuss the subject of the letter but I do want to zoom out a fragment in which players confess to spend a lot of time at chess. The definition 'a lot' is obviously vague but the fact that almost all of the signers have some sort of master-title, let us believe there is a link between the level of a player and the time spent at chess. Nothing new of course as I already mentioned many time on my blog about the 10.000 hours rule. However here a whole bunch of Belgium (top-) players indirectly confess that their results didn't arrive by coincidence and that is not something I've read before.

The same fragment also tells us in which domains those players spend a lot of time. The 2 first domains mentioned, are linked to openings: to study openings and to prepare against opponents. Also this is remarkable as this small group of players indicates that openings are for them very important. Looking to the average clubplayer then I notice a very big difference as openings are by far not so important for them. At which strength do we have to consider studying openings as a substantial part of chess?

First we can't deny that studying openings has a strong correlation with how strong the personal ambitions are. To study openings is for most of us not one of the most attractive aspects of chess so perseverance and willpower are mandatory. Ambitions are closely connected with somebodies rating as described in my article ambitions. Nevertheless even more important than ambitions is naturally the effectiveness of studying openings. I once calculated that the difference for myself between a good and bad opening is about 80 ratingpoints in performance, see article to study openings. Further we also see a considerable increase of effectiveness once the opponents have more than 2250 elo. A possible explanation could be that players at that level can better maintain an opening-edge but I have to admit that my data is really too limited to make serious conclusions.

Although it is a fact that strong players have to fear much more a game-preparation. They have much more of their games published in public databases. In my article the list of strength I clearly indicated that above 2200 rating, games are inserted on a regular base in the databases. At contrary to the average clubplayer, these strong players don't possess the luxury to play many years without any worries the same (dubious) openings. Something which I already stated on this blog in a comment. So I dare to conclude that studying openings and therefore creating a serious repertoire becomes from 2200/2300 elo really important. How is such repertoire created?

In the article which games to analyze I indicated that 80% of my analyses are made on my own games. I guess today about 3/4 of that time is used to study openings which permits me mainly to create depth in my repertoire. I don't find this redundant as my opponents prepare themselves on the material which they can find about me. Thanks to those intensive analyses for which there is no sufficient time during a game-prepartion, I am able to survive the openings. It is also the only alternative that I have with the scientific approach compared with players frequently deviating. Attentive readers will certainly have noticed that I regularly publish pieces of those thorough analyses on this blog. E.g. Linton Donovan thankfully absorbed some of the material written in my article tactic to defeat the strong FM Martin Ahn, see game. To not become the victim myself of my own publications, I admit sometimes to hide on purpose some fragments. I try to limit this to the bare minimum so only the most sensitive elements are removed and often not much relevant anyway to the content of the article.

It is insufficient to create a good repertoire based solely on the own played games (something which I only found out by experience). Besides depth it is also important to work in the width and for this I mainly use game preparations. That game preparations are a very good incentive for a lot of players to study openings, was earlier affirmed in a reaction of the Belgium FM Tom Piceu which already was covered in my article the fake truth. The previous 2 interclub-seasons in the Belgian first division were for me an ideal catalyst to make serious progressions in my repertoire. More than 75 hours were spent at game preparations in only the season 2012-2013 as recorded earlier in the article the list of strength. Despite no direct results this was not a lost investment. All analysis (using among other things the method of the green moves) were always inventoried in a personal white and black opening-book on my computer.

This season I already could reuse a lot of those game-preparations. This not only let me win a lot of time but also permitted me to dig deeper in the repertoire of possible opponents (no luxury with the big imbalance between the smaller and bigger clubs of the first division). Because of this I was able to get a very decent opening in my game against Dejan (described in the article camouflage). Another advantage of my repertoire becoming more mature, I noticed in round 10 when suddenly the Dutch IM Henk Vedder popped up as opponent. He never played earlier in the season in the Belgium interclub so it was a total surprise. Nevertheless I got a very nice advantage out of the opening and it is really a pity that I was not able or didn't dare to face fully the complications. Maybe some time-shortness also played a limited role too as I always need a lot of time to remember an old analysis. I don't want to make a silly mistake in the move-order.

I played my 10th and 11th move quickly so I guess Henk did suspect my acquaintance with the nonetheless rare variant. His choice for a passive but more strategic 11..Qa6 instead of the explosive 11...Nxb4 is understandable. Surely not a wrong choice as I had looked at it extensively in 2009 in consequence of the repertoire of Mher Hovhanisian (see an expanded black-repertoire). When last year in the top-tournament of Dortmund (which was won surprisingly by Michael Adams) this variant popped up in a game, I was of course curious to check at which extend my analysis would correspond.

Thanks to the recent intensive game-preparations I was able to expand my repertoire but for some players it does not end here. Eventually you are still lagging behind on the latest developments if you only base yourself on played games of yourself or of the opponents. To be maximally competitive it is important to follow up all the trends. New books, magazines,.. must be bought at regular intervals. More about this was already covered in my article the sequence. Creating a repertoire is not only something which takes a lot of time but it is also never finished. I often envy less experienced players as this less beautiful side remains for them limited.


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