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Friday, October 12, 2012

What? Me Worry?

What? Me worry?
 From a Chessbase article appearing recently titled The State of Elite Preparation

What would you do if you knew for a certainty that the best you could hope for with all the opening preparation in the world, was a minimal advantage, and the most likely case was no advantage at all? That is very much the quandary of the absolute elite nowadays, a problem that lesser mortals such as those merely rated 2700 do not face quite yet. Back in the day of Garry Kasparov, or more specifically, when he was the domineering force classified as being years ahead in the opening, the level of preparation was very unequal, depending on the player himself and the quality (and number) of seconds to feed him his secret moves. While the words “depending on the player himself” might sound like equal footing, it meant that if you were 100 Elo stronger than the others, you had that much of an edge in analysis as well.

Fast forward to 2012 and the situation is completely different. Everyone has a team of tireless seconds, and they are the same seconds for everyone: Houdini, Rybka, Stockfish, Critter, Fritz, etc. These seconds are already considerably stronger than the highest rated human, and readily available to all. When Anand chose an opening in the world championship, he did not even need to unleash any great novelty for the opposing team to be all over it, knowing the world champion felt there was something, and analyze it to death. By the next day, with ten computers running all day and night, any potential danger had been effectively neutralized. No one is “years ahead of the rest” in opening preparation. In fact, no one is even months. This is especially true of the absolute elite who tirelessly work to patch up any broken links in their armor.

What is one to do? The solution varies somewhat from player to player. Some will deliberately take extra risks, knowing the road they are walking down is unsafe, much to the delight of the spectators, but less so to the loss of the player’s equanimity. When it scores points, the player is readily described in reports as “brave”, and “fearless”, but when it loses, they are labeled as “foolhardy” or “unwise”. Magnus Carlsen seems to have his own solution for the moment: since no edge is expected, do not bother chasing one. Leave ultra-analyzed theory as soon as possible, without going so far as to be actually worse, and play chess. It is the reason for openings such as the Philidor...

I don't really feel sorry for those elite GM's; it's just another problem they have to face and most of us would love to have such a problem.  As it is, chess for all us down in the trenches will still be rife with blunders no matter what the opening.  In fact, maybe it's good for chess because perhaps we will be seeing more Philidors.  Or maybe Ponzianis, Alapin Openings, Nimzovich Defenses, Budapest Defenses, Polish Openings or even as Miles once played against Karpov, 1...a6

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