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Old Indian and Computers

Old Indian and Computers

Aug 20, 2010, 10:20 PM 1

The Old Indian


I am going to start each of these with a similar, if not the same disclaimer.  Computers have changed chess.  But amazingly enough, they can, and are often wrong when the AI vs. an experienced GrandMaster.  Yeah, every will cite Deep Blue.  Too much controversy around whether the Deep Blue team was playing fair for that to even be thought to be conclusive.


Evaluate your games by computer, and what you and your opponent thought was a brilliant move will be considered a blunder by the computer.  But computers have brought one great thing to chess in my opinion - the databases.  You can look up which openings, endgames, etc that have won the most.  Notice it is NEVER 100%.  Brilliant chess players are always finding moves that even computers given weeks of mainframe time cannot find.


But the databases are interesting if taken with a grain of salt.  So with this blog entry, I am going to start with a fairly familiar opening that has gone up and down in popularity - The Old Indian (A53-A55 ECO)


Using the Chessgames.com database, I search for the Old Indian for the year 2000 -2010.   It was much more popular 50 to 100 years ago, but I thought it would be interesting to see how a “romantic opening” has fared in the last decade.


Here is what came out:


White Wins 341 times

Black Wins 170 times

Draws 237 times.






























This was fascinating to me.  With the vast database available, White won 2 to 1 over black with a bunch of draws.  Since this is a primarily white opening  (it seems any opening can be played with reversed colors) that was astounding.   Playing it as white, win or draw 587 to 170 losses.


What does this tell you?  The large draw numbers tell me it is a solid opening.  The large number of wins tells me it gives white a small advantage and since it is not played that often, it must also give a good surprise factor.  It also has some holes.   Black finds ways to achieve solid wins too.   


But in any opening, the opposite color can win.  If that was not true, chess would not be a game.


This opening is not played a lot.  In one of the lectures I heard, the author simply said gambit type openings are no longer used often at high levels. Why?  Because the risk is very high.  With a gambit at a high level, you win or lose quickly as a GM can take a small advantage and turn it into a big advantage.  What is played instead are solid openings looking for small gains and counter-play chances.    Generally speaking, looking for a small advantage to grind out to the end.


My coach has suggested I study these romantic gambit games.  The play is more dynamic and you can learn a lot from how the old masters played the gambits, accepted or declined.  But at the club level, gambits can be a wonderful weapon and a great weapon when it comes to study.


Obviously, gambits are also a great surprise openings.


Study the gambits.  Play them every so often.  Have one in your repertoire from each side of the board.  Another thing my coach has said to me is NOT TO WORRY too much about my rating.  Worry about learning chess.  If early in your career you worry about your rating you may get to Chess.com’s eChess rating of 1200 to 1500 and get stuck.   But if you are working on your game, you will get beat.  But if you get beat and LEARN something, eventually your rating will climb and climb.


When a FIDE Master said that to me, I felt much better.  His opinion means more to me than my rating.   I personally like the Old Indian.  It can be a gambit, but not always.  Easy to play.  A bit risky if you get three pawns in the center.  But fun.  Ultimately, someone like me who is 50+ is not going to be a GrandMaster.  I want to play well, learn and have fun.


Main Line


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6, 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.e4;



















As a side note.  Chess.com has developed a place for kids to learn chess.  A nice safe place that is fun.  www.chesskid.com    Check it out, especially if you have kids or grandkids you would like to introduce to chess safely.  It will look very familiar.  Well, it is because it is from the people here at Chess.com.


Kudos to Erik, David and the design team for a job well done.


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