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Do the Opposite!

Do the Opposite!

Gserper
Jul 11, 2010, 12:00 AM 36 Tactics

One of the best things I ever watched on TV is the episode of "Seinfeld" called "The Opposite".   There George Costanza announces "My life is the complete opposite of everything I ever wanted to be!" and then Seinfeld convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”.  And when George decides to do the complete opposite of what he would do normally, his life becomes a success! Watch the episode and you'll see how he managed to pick up a hot girl with the line: "Hi, I'm George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."

Besides being funny, this episode gives you an interesting idea.  What happens if you indeed follow George's example?  Say, you regularly lose money on the stock market (most people do!), what if you bought stocks exactly when you would've sold your whole portfolio and sell them when you think they would "go to the moon"?  Actually, this is exactly how Warren Buffet made his Billions.  Here is what he said himself: "I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful."

Since this is a chess website, you can ask me, how the "Do the Opposite" can help your chess in general and (since my column is devoted to openings) how can it help your openings in particular ?  Well, in order to do the opposite, let's see how the majority of chess players study openings.  First they buy a nice book (DVD, video) with a promising title (like "Beating the Sicilian") and then they study it, trying to memorize all the variations.  The result is usually a disaster.  Besides the possibility to mix up some variations or just forget them during an actual game, there is always a risk that when your opponent plays a move that wasn't analyzed in the book and you are on your own, you can make some silly mistake because you don't really understand the variation, you just copied the moves from the book.  But even if everything goes according to your plan and your opponent plays the exact moves you were preparing it still doesn't guarantee success.  Let me give you an example and you'll see what I mean. Imagine that you just bought a book called "Winning with the Scandinavian" by Ron Harman and Shaun Taulbut (published by Henry Holt,1993).

You studied the book from the very first till the very last page. And in your next game your opponent is kind enough to follow the variation that can be found on page 47 of the above-mentioned book. But in the position featured on the following diagram, instead of the recommended "9.Qd2 and White's advantage is small" he plays a different move.  What move?  Try to find it!

 

Yes, this is what can really happen: you follow the book's line only to lose your Queen and resign without playing one single move of your own!  And I am not really picking on this particular book.  This problem is quite typical.  Want another proof?  Here is the shortest game Vishy Anand ever lost:
What happened there?  In the latest volume of one of the World's most respected publications- Chess Informant- Anand noticed a recommendation 5...Bf5 with promise of an equal play.  Vishy was young then and played this awful move without checking.  As they say, the rest is history...
So, if we want to do "the opposite", maybe instead of using all the books, videos and software to memorize the variations, we should just understand the ideas of the openings we play?  Then we will be able to find a decent move in any position and if disaster strikes and we play a bad move, then we don't have anyone to blame and at least we learn something from our own mistake.
The whole idea of my "Openings for tactical players" series published on chess.com every Sunday was to show that the ideas are more important than the knowledge of particular moves.  I discussed this subject extensively in this particular article:  http://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-study-chess-openings
I was happy to find a confirmation that this method indeed works from a game played by the very top chess players. I was especially pleased that my article about the Veresov opening (http://www.chess.com/article/view/openings-for-tactical-players-veresov-opening) was published on May 1st, 2010 and exactly two weeks later GM Nigel Short employed this forgotten opening in his match against rising star Anish Giri rated 2642. Of course I doubt that GM Short was inspired by my article, it was probably just a coincidence, but his game answered some of the questions people left in the comments to my article.  They questioned if the Veresov opening wasn't refuted yet and I especially like one particular comment:  "It is difficult to believe these games were played in 20th century. Were his opponents really of master level or he was playing club players? Most GMs play like Tal against club players."
So, the next game does look like it was played by Tal, but Black is not a club player :)
I present you the game as a puzzle, so you can match your attacking skills to the fantastic display of GM Short. You won't find there any unbelievable combinations or sacrifices, but the energy of every single White's move is very impressive.  If you want to replay the whole game from the first move, just click "Solution" and then "Move list".
So, if you want to try this "Do Opposite" method learning of openings, you might want to check my article ( http://anand.chess.com/article/view/how-to-learn-an-opening-in-one-hour) where I discussed the alternatives to boring memorization of opening variations.  As a  model I used a line which was popular about 50 years ago and in the end of the article I wrote: "If you are playing a 2700+ Grandmaster, then your little opening trick will probably just amuse him.  But for an average club player (meaning under ELO 2300), this is a very dangerous weapon to meet."  Funny enough, just three weeks ago GM Nigel Short used the same exact line to beat Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon (rated 2668). Which leads me to two conclusions:
1) This approach works even against 2700 rated GMs
2) Maybe GM Nigel Short does read my articles?! Smile

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