Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Opening Approach (Part 1)

JavaManIssa left the following comment to my last post.

"How are you going through the opening book? It's not good to memorize lines, understanding key ideas behind openings is what should be done. In the end not only will you have memorized the mainlines (without trying..) you'd also be able to go out of the book and still be fine! :)"


While I appreciate his concern I guess I should clarify my approach to opening study.

I never have once planned on or believed that “memorizing lines” is the key to successful chess, chess doesn’t work this way. What opening preparation does if approached correctly is give you insight into why moves are played. Study enough openings and you will come to the same realization I had.
{Even now J’adoube is paying good money to learn what I told him for free. [grin]
1) Screw CT-Art and start studying mating patterns.
2) Chess playing is about piece activity.
Seriously Jim I was really glad to read that Dan was stressing those points, it made me feel like I wasn’t off the mark with my own approach to gaining the most benefit in my training. Especially since I was one of the first Knighted de la Mazan’s to scrap the “sacred” approach. }

What I do believe is that opening preparation will solidify my understanding of developing with a plan. It will provide me with a frame work of moves that I can play without hesitation until my opponent branches into unfamiliar territory. Thereby saving precious time on my clock that can be used in other areas, I would rather enter into an equal middle game position, but with more time than my opponent any day.
Ideally chess should flow seamlessly from one phase to the next. Before I can say I have “learned” an opening, I have to understand the themes involved. What are the key squares, which minor pieces thrive in this pawn structure, any long term weaknesses and strengths, is maintaining pressure critical to my or my opponent’s success? What long term plan was used successfully in the past? Why was it successful?
I'm not saying I can do all of those things yet, but it is something I'm working toward.
End of Part 1.

6 comments:

Jim said...

Sancho,

Dan doesn't like studying mating patterns - he thinks the Polgar book is a waste of time. While he thnks it is a good idea to do some mate tactics, he prefers his students study material that has a much higher proportion of outright material captures or material exchange wins. He says this occurs much more often in games than checkmates - which has got to be right since you can only checkmate once in a game and material tactics occur much more often.

Memorizing opening lines is still important. Even though it is only the beginning of understanding an opening, you have to have the lines committed to memory before you can start going off on all the tangential postions.

For instance, even though I have become versed in the Pirc or KID, I still know that thematically White wants to push e5, and that Black doesn't want to exchange the dark squared Bishop, etc. So, obviously, the strategic goals of an opening are important to learn, but you still have to mentally "own" the book lines.

Sancho Pawnza said...

"Dan doesn't like studying mating patterns - he thinks the Polgar book is a waste of time. While he thnks it is a good idea to do some mate tactics, he prefers his students study material that has a much higher proportion of outright material captures or material exchange wins. He says this occurs much more often in games than checkmates - which has got to be right since you can only checkmate once in a game and material tactics occur much more often."

Jim,
Keep in mind that I am talking about the first steps beginning players should take to understanding chess, and something players like myself should take to correct fundamental weaknesses in their foundation. (Starting from the beginning and working their way back up through the ranks. One can’t grasp Algebra if they slept through basic math.)
While I do agree with the importance
of working through exercises that focus on "higher proportion of outright material captures or material exchange wins" and whole-heartedly agree these occur more frequently than mates. (Mate only happens once in the course of each game)
I still firmly believe that these should come second to studying mates.
All tactics are a direct result of the primary goal of chess. (Capture the opponents King)
Otherwise we wouldn't have any objectives.
Even if I am attempting to win a pawn I am still doing so because I plan to maintain my advantage all the way down to a possible King + pawn vs. King ending where I plan to promote the pawn into a Queen and then checkmate my opponent.
All new players have to be able identify the various forms of mating patterns.
(According to Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn’s book “The Art of Checkmate”
there are 23) I’ve never counted them personally but I will take their word on it. :)
All one has to do is look at the instructive “Legal’s Mate” to see that winning material
always comes in second to checkmate.
Legal’s Mate which really should be called the King or actually “Queen of Traps” because that is what seals the deal and can take place in many variations. Here’s one of the many possibilities: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bc4 Bg4 4.Nc3 h6? 5. Nxe5! Bxd1?? 6. Bxc7+ Ke7 7. Nd5++
Of course Black doesn’t have to take the Queen and with best play would only end up
a pawn down and behind in development when the smoke cleared.
But White is able to snatch the pawn on e5 with impunity because of his/her understanding of the mate theme.
Once a beginning or refresher course player is sound in the basics then proceed to the
"higher proportion of outright material captures or material exchange wins" exercises.
Like Dan said these do occur more often than mate and should be studied in duration that is proportional to their frequency. Meaning one should spend a heck of a lot of time in this phase of study.

Nezha said...

>> Dan doesn't like studying mating patterns

Really? wow!!!

Pawnsensei said...

I've heard the same ideas from an IM so I am encouraged to agree with Sancho.

He's the one that suggested I concentrate on Polgar's book for now and memorize at least the first six moves of the major openings.

PS

King of the Spill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
King of the Spill said...

Sancho,

your post makes imminent sense to me. It's obvious that your not memorizing them out of context. I bet it is reinforcing those positional concepts that can lead to tactical threats.