Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Confessions of an Opening Studier

I don't think I am giving too much away here that hasn't already been said in the past, but I am old.

Back when I first started playing really competitive chess, we had just gotten Commodore Pets in the computer lab.  hmmm... chiclet keyboards in that fancy ABCDE layout!

It would be years before we had Battle Chess, and we could enjoy kicking the crap out of our computers.   I was no David Levy, but a crappy assed D-class player, and no computer could withstand me, not even my fidelity standalone that my parents gave me.   I learned chess the old fashioned way, by playing blitz in smokey cafes and reading dingy old opening pamphlets about crazy-assed openings and checking out books from the library reading about such things like the Ruy Lopez, and the French Defense.  I am so old, that the French defense was considered a staid boring defense, and not a tactical minefield that it is known today.

There were no computers, no Lazlo brick, no Idiot's guide, nothing but the barest guides about forks and skewers, and these nearly incomprehensible endgame guides that every knew were full of errors therefor they would rarely read.   So we hit the opening tomes.   And these were our sole educators.  The only place where we could gain some theoretical understanding. Where we learned different lines and tried to figure out how to take out our opponents by move 7.  All of our advanced knowledge came from these.   I remember Yasser beating everybody by playing the English opening.  Nobody knew anything about what to do if your opponent opens c4.  Nobody studied it, there were no to few books.   Yasser is an extreme talent, but it was clear to me that his opening understanding in the English left him in fine, fine stead against his opponents. 

This is entirely different than the world that my son lives in.  The technological achievements are amazing.  The best playing person in the world is my laptop.  Always available to help review his games.  But never played, because what's the point?  He has PCT to guide him through the process of learning tactical layouts.   These templates in his brain exist without names nor paths of how to get there.   He realizes that there are weaknesses to his training, but has a tough time articulating them, and it is very difficult to find ways to include them in his current regime.   And it is not necessarily clear that this is the best use of his time right now.   He plays the Reti and the Barcza.  Openings that were not even that well known nor played hardly at all, by anyone, in my time.  His path may end as a D class player as well, or may well exceed it.   It is not at all clear it will be due to his talents or his training.  But the world is different.

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