Monday, December 04, 2006
On Talent, On Openings Study (Dont!!!)
1. On talent

When I was a teenager, I liked girls. Well I still like them now, however that time I was broke. So I figured the only way I can impress them would be to study the guitar. I will buy love for a song I said to myself. Plus, I could dress like a homeless man, and people wouldn't care just because guitar players are expected to look like flood victims - this is very important as i had no money to buy expensive shirts. But the only problem is, I cant carry a tune. Cant figure out a song in my head. I couldn't even differentiate Do from Re. Took me ten years to achieve some sort of proficiency. But by that time, the girls don't want songs anymore. They want guys with car and bling2xs, and guys who try to serenade them with songs are now called "nerds". Go figure.

But there were guys who they just pick a guitar and immediately play something they've just heard. It was just amazing to me. Here I am studying scales and stuff, and this guy just plays it all from his head. That convinced me that there really is such a thing as "Talent". You can kill yourself trying to master something that for all intents and purposes flows like water in another..

Ok now, why am I telling you this? - its because of this comment

>you sound like a naturally very gifted chess player. impressive! thx, dk

Well I sure hope i have talent.. however, i cannot be considered as possessing as having an abundance. Most of that rating was earned via study. Specifically, studies of tactical exercises. The seven circles, CTS, puzzle books.. You name it. Then, here are some of the books I've read from cover to cover

1. Judgement and planning in chess - Euwe
2. Chess Fundamentals - Capablanca
3. Simple Chess - Stean
4. Fred Reinfeld book whose title i cant recall
5. Art of Checkmate - Georges Renaud, Victor Kahn
6. Art of chess combination - Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
7. Art of Attack - by Vladimir Vukovic

Plus a score of books Ive partially read. Title like "Tal's life and games", "Chess advantage in black and white", etc... etc.. I was solving chess puzzles while my wife was giving birth to our daughter.. She almost left me.. After that I've not dared solve puzzles in her presence..

(Sometimes, i wonder if all these hours I've spent in chess would had been better spent in something else. Like trying to get rich perhaps? So i can buy cars and bling2x so i can finally get the girls? haha..)

However - there is something that I've noticed from studying all those books. Some books I've felt like i was reading the secret to life.. However some books, particularly opening books, have had a very detrimental effect on my game.

This has led me to -

2. Why I don't study opening anymore

It is my whole hearted advice to a newbie, or to anyone with low enough rating to NOT study openings. You know why? Its because all those memorization of lines kills a players maturation of judgment and planning. Take me for example. Instead of thinking for myself, I've almost become a slave to variations.. My opponent will make some move which i think is weak, and I wouldn't care about it because its "not the main line". This line of thinking affected other areas of my play too. I was always constantly trying to steer the games into a variations that i know. And if it diverges, then i became lost.. And besides you cant shutdown your brain and start thinking only on move 10. A battle is won before it begins it was said. You walk into a battle sleepwalking and all you'll get is punch in the face i gather.

Also - You know, I've been thinking. What are opening variations but fragments of games played long ago. Of course it carries with it significant analysis but - why do i need to know if GM Kramniparov used the move order x,y,z in the Kan variation of the French defense to defeat GM Topalipov. Understanding another's thoughts is hard. Heck, sometimes I don't even know what I'm doing.

Then it occurred to me too - why am i following them? I've followed the government, my boss, sometimes even my wife. And then I'm gonna relax and play a game only to follow somebody there too? Why cant i live my own life in the board at least?

So screw that. I decided not to be peon anymore. I wont be a serf and follow another's lead. If I'm gonna win, it will not be because if followed a book. I will win with my own skill and my own way.

(Then, if you want I'll give you my winning games for you to follow. After all I won didn't I. Why don't you follow that variation I used? But that's silly right. I ain't no GM so why follow my opening repertoire. But then why does a "hypothetical" 1200 player follow a GM. To a 1200 player, does it really really make a difference whether you follow a 1700 player instead of a 2500 player? You know, we both can defeat a 1200 player easily so why pick one instead of the other. Is a GM win "better" than a 1700 win? Thats like trying to kill somebody. A 1700 might get in a single bullet, and a GM might pepper him with 100. But the end result is - he's dead. He cant be anymore dead from a single bullet than a hundred. And yes, its a bad analogy - but I feel you need to know these things..)

So I dropped any sort of opening study. Sure if I remember something that worked, ill try to use it. After all why throw knowledge away? Sometimes an opponent will catch me unaware in an opening trap. But its okay. Those times are few and far apart. Compared to what i think I gained, its no contest. - You know the other things that Ive been studying. The positional concepts like outposts, square strategy, etc.. etc.. Well I think I'm learning them more now because i am thinking about them from the beginning of the game. Like, instead of thinking about the book line, now i think "Hmm, lets see do I create an outpost, or do I use a white square strategy? hmm, how about this.. how about that..". Sometimes, i almost feel like a kid in a candy store when choosing the "lines".

Now of course I'm just 1700 alright. I might never improve from here on using "my system". But I am convinced that right now, at this very moment, studying endless variations is pointless. And don't worry, someday I'll teach you the nezha variation of (insert opening name here)

posted by Nezha at 11:06 PM | Permalink |


  • At 5:21 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker

    The trouble with following your own system is that you have no one else to blame when you fail. As I found out myself.

  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight

    Good points. I like studying the opening (not memorizing it) because otherwise I end up in time trouble thinking through all of these crazy options before I've even hit move 10. Even just playing memorized lines out to move 10, doing basically no thinking until then, is better than ending up at move 10 with half the time off my clock. Since I almost always use all the time on my clock, it's a matter of time allocation: I'd rather spend it on the middle and endgame where opening study will definitely not help me.

  • At 1:37 PM, Blogger takchess

    In Master of the chessboard,Reti had the comment. That knowledge of chess variations are just a sham, there is more truth in one chess idea than strings of variations. I thought this was inconsistant of todays players with their many opening books (I am guilty as charged )

  • At 6:24 PM, Blogger Nezha

    To Tempo:
    lol - haha..

    To BDK:
    I started out that way to. Perhaps in time you will also have a change of heart :)

    To Takchess:
    True, all too true.

    Btw: Is Master of the chessboard any good? I'm thinking of buying a book recently. "My System" is my target. But I can always change my mind.