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Friday, March 18, 2011

Bad Advice

      In 1956, on a television quiz show called Twenty-One, a man named Harold Stemple, after winning $69,500 (in 1955 that was the equivalent of well over a half a million dollars today), suffered a scripted loss to a more popular contestant named Charles Van Doren. The latter’s name became synonymous with being a genius and it was only in 1958 that it became known the whole thing was a fraud and ultimately involved grand jury investigations, congressional investigations and the cancellation of TV games shows.

      I mention this because in a letter to Chess Review magazine written prior to the public learning of the fraud, it was suggested the Charles Van Doren be given the book Modern Chess Opening to memorize and thereby he would be able to challenge the Russian hegemony in chess.
      We laugh at the absurdity of the idea that memorizing MCO would make one strong chess player. Or do we?  In a recent forum it was asked how one memorizes openings. One answer was to play lots of blitz games and compare your games to the books afterward hoping some of it will stick in your memory.
      Some players are taking the approach of the guy who wanted to have Charles Van Doren memorize MCO. Masters are masters, not because they have better memories than the rest of us, but because they understand chess better. Also, since chess is about understanding, how are you supposed to learn anything unless you study it? How does rushing through anything help you understand it? Would this person suggest the best way to prepare for a  test in school would be to blitz through the material, take the test, then go back and see what answers you missed and if you do it enough times maybe someday you’ll get a 100 on the test?
      When I was learning how to factor binomials the process just escaped me until one day I did one problem, the same one, over and over again. Finally, after about a hundred times, the process involved in solving them finally dawned on me and the others were easy. Why do we try to make chess different?
      Take the following position from the Torre Attack after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 Be7 4.Nbd2 d5

      From this position White should develop his minor pieces: Ne5, Qf3, O-O and centralize his R’s. If Black plays …cxd4 then White should recapture with exd4. The “assault pattern” White is trying to achieve is Qh3, Re3, Qh4 and Rh3.
      On the other hand after if Black elects a K-Indian setup with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.Nbd2 d6

      Then White should play e4 at once then Pc3, place the f1B on e2, trade d4xe5, overprotect his e-Pawn, play Nc4, Bf1 and advance the Q-side P’s.

      Granted this is not a lot of information, but if you understand how to play these positions and have played over about a hundred master games with each setup, you will have a pretty good idea of how these positions should be played and when you check you play out against the “book” you’ll be surprised at how far you have followed it.  You follow this procedure with whatever opening you select.

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