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Monday, May 2, 2016

Is OTB Chess Starting to Face CC Problems?

     As mentioned in the previous post, CC has it's issues with draws and time controls and opening preparation has become ever more important. It appears that OTB chess at the top levels is starting to see some of the same problems. 
     GM Igor Smirnov's claim is that top players use 90-95 percent of their training time on opening preparation, but he doesn't recommend the rest of us do the same. The fact remains that at the top levels opening preparation is one of the main factors of practical success. Smirnov adds that it used to be OK for class players to use assorted offbeat and gambit openings, but nowadays it's not such a good idea because even at lower levels, if your opening is not objectively good you will get into trouble. His recommendation is to play “normal” openings which adhere to sound strategic ideas. In that he is in total agreement with with GM Alex Yermolinsky, so there must be something to it. 
     Today when we play over games by two 2800s the opening lines can extend forever and the result is often based on who had the better home preparation and memory. As someone observed, those that try and play more creatively don't stay among the world's elite for very long. 
     Many “novelties” are prepared with the help of an engine. Wolff Morrow pointed out in his article (see previous post) that the majority of wins on ICCF come from creating lasting advantages and complex middlegame positions that come about from clever opening preparation. This means researching hundreds of thousands of games from various archives to prepare an overall opening plan against your opponent. This is becoming commonplace in chess as it's played by top OTB GMs, too.
     Correspondence chess has its problems with time controls. Morrow points out that the ICCF has adopted the rule that you can make a claim if the 6-piece endgame tablebases contradict the 50-move rule and this was done to combat those annoying slow movers. Some players adopt the "Duliba Method." Former US CC Champ Edward Duliba advised that you should move as slowly as possible and play on 6 months after you would normally resign. The reason is that it may annoy and anger your opponent and annoyed and angry players will not play their best, so it increases your winning chances. 
     Time controls issues are starting to creep into OTB chess, too. In the recent issue of Chess Life Nakamura, commenting on the new slow-rapid time control used at the Zurich Classic tournament, said it was interesting, but initially hard for him to get used to. He blitzed out 20 (opening) moves then realized he had 40 minutes left.   Then he would take 20 minutes trying to understand the position, then start to panic because he was running short of time. It took some getting used to. 
     Nakamura went on to say that Kramnik is right when he said that at the top, chess is approaching the point where 80-90 percent of the games are drawn. That's just like in correspondence chess. When they actually reach that point, the “fix” may very well be in the time control. 
     GM Giri also pointed out that in blitz it's annoying to face an opponent who has blundered and you are winning, but your opponent won't resign; he plays on, blitzing out moves while the winning side, in an effort not to throw away the win, has to spend a few seconds on his moves. The result is that the inferior side gains a few seconds every move. OTB's version of the Duliba Method! 
     Back in August of last year IM Greg Shahade voiced a different opinion about today's chess that was interesting.

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