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Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Best Advice I Ever Got

    I was just reading Kevin Spraggett's January 2014 reprint of an article he wrote back in 2011. In it he referenced Nigel Davies article on the same thing where the practice of "computer analysis dumping” was the subject. Both are must read articles.
     Spragget says, "I REFUSE on principle to fall for the commercialized or chess-engine processed information put out by those who want me to later buy their products." He goes on to point out that he sees no sense in buying chess products on openings that promise to make one a better player. "Memorizing why a chess move is good (or not so good) is not evidence of chess skill. It never was, and it never will be." He added, "I limit myself in my chess work to a good data-base program and a free chess engine."
     At the end of the article Spraggett quotes David Bronstein in Zurich 1953 - "The author has tried to avoid weighing down his book with variations. Variations can be interesting, if they show the beauty of chess: they become useless when they exceed the limits of what a man can calculate; and they are a real poison when they substitute the study and clarification of positions in which the outcome can only be decided by intuition , fantasy and talent.” Makes sense.
     I was just looking at the hot new best sellers on Amazon:

Conquer Your Friends with 4 Daredevil Openings: A Cheat Sheet for Casual Players and Post-Beginners. The author (Maxen Tarafa) says "an Opening is the single most important thing you can learn to improve your game. He says he went from a rating of 600 to 1300 in three months using the four move opening he describes in his book. I don't know what those four moves are...if you want to find out, you'll have to spend $2.99 to buy the Kindle edition. This is good for a chuckle, but the same stuff is being pimped on a more sophisticated level to average players.
    Amazon lists books on the Bogo and Q-Indian, acclaimed author John Watson has jumped on the opening book band wagon with a book titled Taming Wild Chess Openings: How to Deal with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly over the Chess Board. He teamed up with Eric Schiller on this one...enough said. Other books are on 1...b6, the Killer Dutch Defense, the Killer Sicilian, the King's Indian (not a Killer) and a complete repertoire against 1.e4, as well as against 1.d4 when White continues with c4 and e4. Also, for added flexibility, both a modern line and a Pirc line are given just in case your opponent plays the "critical Austrian Attack."
     Then there is a book on The Polar Bear System which is said to be dangerous and strong. What's the Polar Bear System you ask? It's the Bird Opening followed by the fianchetto of the King's Bishop (1.f4 and 2.g3).
     There is the Sveshnikov Against the Anti-Sicilians, one on how to play against the Sicilian, and there is a series of what may be the best chess books ever written...for starters there is The Halloween Gambit. This book is the first of a series of eBooks on openings called "Five Minute Chess Openings." Become an expert on openings in FIVE MINUTES and win!!! How great is that?  Other Kindle books in this series are the Fajarowicz Gambit, the Cochrane Gambit, etc.
     There is a book on the Pirc-Modern, the Blackmar-Diemer, The Even More Flexible French (not sure what that is), how to play 3.f3 and 3.e5 against the Caro-Kann, the Sicilian Dragon, and what is my favorite title, A Cunning Chess Opening for Black - Lure Your Opponent into the Philidor Swamp and the list goes on.
     About 45 years ago I had an extensive chess library that was like most average players of today - mostly opening books - and decided to make the push from around 1700 to master. I followed the advice of a local master, ditched the opening books and played over GM games by the thousands and studied K and P and R and P endings and got to around 2100 before having an epiphany. 1) reaching 2200 required more time and effort than I wanted to devote to it, 2) I hated OTB tournament chess, preferring postal chess as it was known in those days because we played using postcards and 3) improvement was no longer a goal; just enjoying the game was enough.
     Anyway, the point is the improvement of 400 points came from playing over games from GM game collections and match and tournament books. Match and tournament books are almost unheard of these days, but they are a great source of instruction.
     Zurich 1953, The Hague-Moscow 1948, San Remo 1930, Fischer-Spassky, The World Chess Championship 1951, AVRO 1938, Trophy Chess, First and Second Piatigorsky Cups, San Antonio 1972, New York 1924 and the best games collections of Tartakower, Reshevsky, Tahl, Fischer, Botvinnik and Smyslov, to name a few, were all great books and I learned more from them than from any opening book. Not that the opening books by Barden, Gligoric, O'Kelly and others were bad.  They were nowhere near being the trash that's published today, but they didn't teach you anything about chess. What learning the openings DID do was get me through as many opening moves as I could remember before blundering.
     National Master Jim Schroeder was watching my game one time and I had played some offbeat opening. When I walked away from the board Schroeder approached me and said, "What are you playing that (expletive deleted) for? Play chess (expletive deleted)!" Best advice I ever got!

1 comment:

  1. I remember Schroeder...what a character! He was genuinely interested in helping kids and prisoners though.