Friday, May 18, 2007

Have The Maxims Changed?

Gary Kasparov is writing a book that will discuss the computer era. It was supposed to be part of his great predecessors series, and now it will apparently be a part of the revolution series. I am looking forward to it.

But one of the things that happened during the computer era, which I dropped out of chess like many people do, when forced between a life of cheeto's and a life of cheese, is that almost every opening has been revamped. Their lives re extended with new lines and visions.

This seems to be the obvious activity of being able to shush out new lines, and prove things weren't as bad as before. Back in the early 1980's nobody played the Scandy, or King's gambits. They had been busted. Trappy lines were largely ignored as being obviously unsound. Nary a gambit survived except the Queens Gambit, which everyone knew really wasn't a gambit.

I think it was the combination of the wide proliferation of chess databases, high quality engines that anyone could run, and the development of opening books that drew harsh light where the light hadn't been shown in years. But the truly odd thing... The oddest thing of all, I think. Nothing, fundamentally, has been refuted. More things have been discovered, but we don't say, well we can finally put an end to that chestnut because computers have found new ways to slide out of almost anything.

Before all we had were maxims, and the tiring eyes of grandmasters that looked at dozens of lines, and dismissed things right and left. And suprises were kept secret, and only brought out on the most important of occasions. Now the computers go tirelessly through millions of positions on everyones computers discovering the new and rehabilitating the old.

But it brings us to the question. A question that is important, because these are the rules that everyone learns right after castling and how the horsey moves, have the maxims changed?

More later...


likesforests said...

"Opening Principle #1: Open with a central pawn."

"Opening Principle #2: Don't make any more pawn moves than necessary."

"Opening Principle #3: Develop the Minor Pieces before the Major Pieces."

"Opening Principle #4: Don't Develop the Queen Too Early."

"Opening Principle #5: Castle early."

"Opening Principle #6: Combine Developing Moves with Threats."

"Opening Principle #7: Don't Waste Moves."

"Opening Principle #8: Don't Block the Development of Your Other Pieces."

I think these are fine opening mantras for beginners. Of course, as one learns more about chess by playing and reading strategy or opening books, they refine their understanding of these rules and learn the exceptions.

For example, "Open with a central pawn" might be refined to, "Open with a move that controls central squares." This refinement allows that after 1.d5, both d5 and Nf6 are fine replies for Black. Also, after 1.e4 both e5 and c5 are fine replies for Black.

hisbestfriend said...


I apologize if I sound too much like my son. But Why?

What are the new principles once I have learned more?

Aren't we at that stage?

Do the principles really matter that much? Think of the scandy.

Even if the things we try and teach the beginners aren't really true, how do we know when we are ready?

And in the case of opening principle #1, I think that the advice here may be wrong.

likesforests said...

"What are the new principles once I have learned more?"

They are listed in books such as Winning Chess Openings by Seirawan or Ideas Behind the Chess Openings by Fine. Beyond that, you generally need to buy a book or video specific to your chosen opening.

"Aren't we at that stage?"

Those books are basic enough anyone who's determined, knows the basic rules, and how to read at that level can learn from them. :)

"Do the principles really matter that much? Think of the scandy."

Sure. I smile whenever an opponent makes an early queen move with the exception of a few openings. Often it means an easy win due to free tempos or discovered attacks.

If you prepared a line in advance, or read a book or video on it, that is a different matter. That is why we do fine in the Scandinavian. We know Qa5 and Qd6 are good squares. We know about common threats. David Letterman didn't do so well when he tried the opening without this knowledge.

"Even if the things we try and teach the beginners aren't really true, how do we know when we are ready?"

Ask them. 'Do you feel like reading a book on opening principles?'

"And in the case of opening principle #1, I think that the advice here may be wrong."

That's the most controversial of the opening principles. At least it provides some guidance. I've seen beginners play a3 then h3 first. I imagine they are afraid of bishops! Other guidelines would be fine, too.

likesforests said...

As an example, a game I played as White went as follows: 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 d5? 3.cxd5! Qxd5 4.Nc3 Qc6 5.e3 -- and I've already won two free development tempi due to his early queen moves.

chessloser said...

computers can analyze down to the nth degree, but one thing they can't do is predict human psychological behavior. if you sit down across the board from bobby fischer, chances are, he could do just about anything, make a huge blunder, and you would think "he is doing some grand master level stuff, i am in troube" and you would react incorrectly. i don't think the maxims have changed, but at the same time, lines come and go in and out of fashion based off how people play them, and how they "perceive" them. i think there is a psychological element that isn't quantifiable..or maybe i am just way off the whole point of the post...

svensp said...

Interesting question. I don't think the maxims changed- there are often exceptions to such rules, maybe those changed. But how they changed, I don't know, because I don't know about opening theory.
One main exception could be a tacical possibility that is worth the aberration from the rules. I don't think that one changed.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I think the principles are sufficient, but not necessary for good play. Since they are simple, easy to remember, lead to a reasonable position, and (often underestimated) since most beginner-novice books use these as their guideposts, playing openings that follow these principles makes such readings more relevant for the novice (I'm thinking Fine, Chernev, Basman, Wolff, Euwe, del Rosario).

Of course in every position the principles must be tactically justified, and sometimes breaking a principle is tactially justified.

In our new days of 'rule independent' chess play, it is still helpful for beginners to start with d4 or e4. Also, playing the fianchetto openings typically demands a level of sophistication that beginners don't yet have.

OTOH, if someone is below 1400, the opening doesn't really matter.