Saturday, August 18, 2007

Do they matter at any level?

There was a very interesting story that was posted on the Rybka forum yesterday and it was a bit relevant to some of the current memes being tossed around on the Knight's blogs lately.

Namely there is a wide held belief that openings simply don't matter much for class play.  This belief was core to de La Maza's central plans. But, it conflicts with both the reality of more opening books are purchased than any other kind, and a large desire by all of us to get better and to find hidden secrets that will score us wins.  We have all done it, some are blogging about it. Many of the lessons from the GM to my son at camp were how to play the Sicilian.   But I also suspect that we all believe it's true, and that it gets in the way of our tactical training in both time, and in allowing our brains to focus on simple basic templating which is known to work, and sort of our raison d'etre. 

Anyways, the position in the picture was the beginning of a a round robin tournament between 6 very very capable engines.   With this move order... 

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 f5 4. exf5 Nf6.  

With these interesting results...

1 2 3 4 5 6
1 Rybka 2.3.2a mp 32-bit ** 11 11 11 11 11 10.0/10
2 HIARCS 11.2 MP         00 ** 10 11 01 01 5.0/10 19.50
3 Strelka 1.8 UCI        00 01 ** == 11 == 5.0/10 18.00
4 Fruit 2.3.1            00 00 == ** =1 11 4.5/10
5 Naum 2.2               00 10 00 =0 ** =1 3.0/10
6 LoopMP 12.32           00 10 == 00 =0 ** 2.5/10

This is a pretty striking result.  And it may just show, that at any level, it really doesn't matter what the opening is, it matters more how well (tactically?) you play the game.


Sciurus said...

It is tricky to interpret the results without knowing the details. For instance, some engines may still have been within their opening "book". Anyway, I tend to agree with you, at least concerning play in the class level. Since 6 months or so I am restricting my opening study almost exclusively to playing White (I simply do not have enough time for all the nice colors in chess...). So far, I cannot say that my winning chances with White increased, which would confirm your conclusion. I will write a post on my blog once I have enough data.

likesforests said...

"Many of the lessons from the GM to my son at camp were how to play the Sicilian." -- It must be fascinating learning from a GM. Can you share any insights you two have picked up?

Glenn Wilson said...

If both sides are out of their book and the position is playable for either side then the better player should win more often. But, if one side is in their book then that should be to their advantage either in finding better moves or spending less time.
Is a simple approach to the openings for black (or white) that gets you a playable game.

wang said...

Interesting results. I think as all things in chess, and most things in life its relative. I mean a lot of the kids by me play the Colle or the London System as white. Why? because it gets them out of the opening unscathed and allows them to play through it without spending too much time thus saving their time and effort on the middlegame.

I think it doesn't matter at the class level because your opponent is out of book so soon anyway. At the GM level one tiny slip, one that Fritz would analyze as a .2 pawn "blunder" could mean the game, so opening prep is extremely important to them.

As far as these games, its hard to tell, were they fierce tactics struggles or was Rybka in book longer? Didn't it just win a match because a computer opponent wasn't booked up as far as it was (something like move 18 or so), I think you may have even posted it!
If so it kind of emphasizes the importance of openings at higher levels of chess.

chessloser said...

i've gone back and forth with myself on this, and this is what i've come up with. i need to know enough of an opening to make it to a decent middlegame. if i dont' know the opening, i make stupid mistakes and end up with a horrible lost position, material down, and it's ugly. i don't need to know every variation and line out to move 15, but i do need to know the first 5 moves or so..maybe someday, when i play at a much higher level, then i will need to know an opening in depth...

Temposchlucker said...

The only thing to take care of is that when you are out of book, your opponent is too. No matter if that is on move 2 or 22.

likesforests said...

"The only thing to take care of is that when you are out of book, your opponent is too. No matter if that is on move 2 or 22."

Sage advice. Yes, some opening knowledge matters at my level. Part of the reason I won the below game is because I know the opening much better than my opponent. I know the line three moves deep. ;)