Are your improvement assumptions slowing you down?

Are your improvement assumptions slowing you down?

Jan 29, 2010, 4:40 PM |


To specialize or not to specialize….?

They say, that if you want to improve our chess performance, you should know many openings and defenses, and that specialization should come later. So that you become balanced and well rounded player. I don't believe this suggestion fits us all.

Any education, including chess is by nature lopsided and unbalanced. If it is not, then your progress will be sure, but slow. (Of course, if we want to be a grandmasters or over 1900 rated OTB players, then we need it all, especially if we have a good memory.)

If one is going to win or lose games, it might as well be with an opening or defense you know.

This way you get to know all the counter moves against “your” opening. After all, you selected it because it was dynamic, sharp and tactical or because it was strategic, positional and subtle. Sure you can handle both worlds, but one fits your emotional makeup better.

So don’t fight it, select an opening/defense you like and stick with it. Then you will coast into the middle game fresh for battle and ready to use all your thinking skills. And then, after all that middle game practice, you will want to go back and make small adjustments to your pet opening or defense and study more about end game play.

If you have read any of the chess literature not related to chess games, you will find that many high rated players had a lopsided chess educations. Some did not know how to do a knight and bishop mate or even know when castling was illegal. I know of at least one world class grandmaster who asked the TD if it was legal to castle?! Their excuse was, they had not encountered that situation before. Did they know something we don’t or should we assume they were just plain stupid?

I started with the Colle opening system (strategic), adjusted it later with the Zuckertort variation, then Stonewall, and now changing it to the Queen’s Gambit.

So, if your chess study paradigm has been to be well balanced and rounded in chess, you might want to rethink that assumption, in the light of your emotional makeup, and how well your memory performs and your chess goals. (All players with an OTB rating above 1900 can ignore this blog.)

BTW, there are books out there that promote the idea that one or two defenses are sufficient to handle any opening. And as you may already know, some openings require much more knowledge and study than others. So, pick one that fits your temperament and style of play. Just because P-K4 opening is recommended, does not mean your emotional makeup or capability can handle it. And of course, by all means experiment, to find your own way.