Sunday, September 2, 2007

Masters of Deceit?!?

Andy Soltis published an article today, titled: "Many Teachers, Masters of Deceit"

It is very short, but it reads like a crazed page from time to time here in the Errant's Arena.

It actually gives me hope about tactics training, it puts openings back on the table, (which I suspect, is probably correct), and still doesn't provide any path towards "understanding". The salient points...

September 2, 2007 -- CHESS CHESS teachers are masters of the maxim. For everyone trying to play better, they offer age-old bits of wisdom. Among them:

"To improve, you first must study the endgame. It's the most important part of the game."

"The key to the middlegame is learning the art of long-range planning and strategy."

"To play the opening well is a matter of 100 percent understanding and zero percent memorization. Never memorize."

The trouble with these pious pronouncements is none are true.


likesforests said...

"To improve, you first must study the endgame. It's the most important part of the game." I don't recall anyone saying this.

Here's what Capablanca said, "In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else; for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame."

In other words, studying endings doesn't just teach you how to play the endgame well! It has a profound effect on your middles and openings as well. It gives you confidence that you can convert a small advantage. It teaches you about pawns and their structures and open files and what squares pieces like.

Soltis continues, "Why? First, virtually the only games that are decided by endgame skill are those played by masters."

A better question is, after an average player studies endings, how many of his games reach them? Once you know about them, you are more likely to head for them.

In my last 10 games, 40% reached a classical ending (one side has one piece) and another 30% reached a modern ending (two pieces vs two pieces). And I'm no master.

likesforests said...

"And depending on which opening you want to play, memorization can be very valuable. Masters memorize all the time - then tell you not to do it."

That's true. After becoming GMs, they often memorize opening lines. And then advise us to follow the same learning process that they did of studying tactics, endings, and strategy before openings.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Soltis' article is great.

Pawn Shaman said...

Memorizing openings is not a bad thing. Its enjoyable, its fun and it gives us a nice skeletal structure to work with. We need that when we are first learning or else we stray into tactics/strategies that have long since been proven to be poor. This anti-opening nonsense (Im sorry anit-opening memorization before laboriously studying endgame tactics) has gone way to far. Its a fad to an extreme side. In three years we will all be chanting "openings are the greatest learning tool for amateur chess players."

likesforests said...

"anit-opening memorization before ... studying endgame tactics has gone way to far."

I memorized my opening 14 moves deep and my win/loss stats didn't improve. Now I know only a few moves, but I understand them.

"Memorizing openings is not a bad thing. Its enjoyable, its fun."

Then let nothing stop you! That is the best reason to study any chess. :)

I've found a few types of opening study that are profitable in moderation: knowing the ideas behind the first few moves, knowing resulting pawn formations, studying master games, and studying tactical patterns.

Scirus wrote a good article on this:

Glenn Wilson said...

First, virtually the only games that are decided by endgame skill are those played by masters.

Where to start?

1 - I believe this is factually incorrect. (But I do not have proof).

2 - If you checkmate your opponent in a K+R v K endgame I suppose Soltis is not considering that "endgame skill" (a master game would have ended earlier in a resignation).

3 - Rook endings are so common in chess that a small amount of knowledge will go a long way in practical results.

3a - Pure pawn endings are so common ...

4 - The basic checkmates (Q, R, 2Bs) are super basic knowledge you must have and are "endgames."

5 - At rhe lower rating levels even K+Q v K requires some skill to avoid giving stalemate.

True, class players do not need to know all the nuances of all endgames before learning other aspects of the game. But, a balanced approach with some endgame knowledge is essential.

As to openings I like to take the approach of understanding first. Then memorize pertinent lines, especially the sharp ones.

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