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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is advice?!

On one forum some beginner asked a question to the effect of how good could you get at chess without studying openings. The advice he got was: 1) to study his own games. 2) learn a few opening basics.

First, how’s the poor guy to study his own games when he knows absolutely nothing about strategy, tactics, endings or openings? He won’t have the slightest idea of what he’s looking for. Second, so what if he plays the first few openings moves correctly? If he doesn’t understand anything about the requirements of the position, he’s still going to play like a beginner after running through the moves. I’ve played book openings 25 moves deep against some really strong players, achieved good positions, and then lost. One time I caught a 2500 rated IM in an opening trap and won a N on move 12. I lost the game. Why do things like that happen? They were all better players than me.

I read a couple opening books and a middlegame book or two and studied some endings but the thing that helped me most was just playing over master games. Hundreds or maybe thousands of them. I had books of games by Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Alekhine and an old Horowitz book with several hundred games in it. I always liked tournament books, too. The ones with all the games in them and maybe only a sprinkling of notes. The kind they don't publish any more.

I learned by osmosis maybe? There was always a vague recollection of having seen a particular opening and even more vague were the recollections of how the game went. Playing over those games was enjoyable and it must have worked because two years after learning the moves I played in my first tournament, drew with an 1800 in round one and got a 1667 rating and it never went any lower. I can remember in my early postal games pouring over books looking for similar positions just to see if I could ferret out an idea that would work in my own games.

It pains me to see guys giving and following the same old advice. Advice that really isn’t helping them improve either, but they keep trying.

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