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Blog post about theory and class/club players

  • #1

    The blog can be found here: http://derekodomchess.blogspot.com/2011/07/chess-theory-at-class-or-club-level.html

    But I'm also listing the entry below.  Care to discuss?

    Chess theory at the class or club level

    Most of us chess players fall into the class or club player level, meaning we aren’t experts or titled players. On that same note, most of us have not been playing serious, competitive chess since we were four, or seven, or even ten. The large majority of us, even if we do actively play in tournaments, play for the fun and love of the game. Sure, we love improving, but is GM really in our future?


    So, what is all the talk about this line or that line being refuted, busted or archaic? Those phrases affect the FM, IM and GM most, because their understanding of the game is so deep. It’s their job to keep up on and memorize theory so they can remain competitive.


    I’m going to assume that most of the folks reading this blog entry do not have a chess title of any sort, and lose games regularly due to silly mistakes. I know I do. So, if we botch tactics, screw up the move order in openings and thoroughly rot at endgames, what the heck does it matter that we are playing archaic lines that have been thrown out at the highest level?  It doesn’t. Really, it is that simple.


    This is especially true, in my opinion, when we get to openings like the Sicilian. Each Sicilian variation carries with it tons of theory and sharp lines. If your rating is 1450 and you like playing c5 against e4, I say, “Go for it!” Just don’t expect to get the results that a 2500 rated player will. 1...c5 may be theoretically the most powerful response to 1. e4, but it doesn’t win on its own. You also have to be a good player. Get the basic move order down, pick a variation you like and keep playing it. Don’t listen when some 1700 comes along and tells you that the Najdorf options have all been exhausted and so it isn’t worth playing. It is simply and completely untrue.


    I don’t like learning a lot of theory, so I enjoy lines like 1. f4 or 1. Nf3 right off the bat, which turn into “chess” almost immediately instead of rote, memorized lines that anyone can bang out in a few seconds. If you want to learn theory, pick up the QGD or play 1. e4 and study like mad. The point is, that whichever line you decide to play, archaic or not, is going to be competitive at “our” level. If you are 12 years old and have a 2300 FIDE rating, of course it’s going to be different for you. However, if you are somewhere at mid-class level with the rest of us and dream of breaking 1800 some day, play whatever the heck you like. The theory means exactly zip.

  • #2

    For real.

    I joined chess.com so that I could play games against people of my level, discover new stuff for myself through playing, and enjoying the game. Learn from other peoples mistakes as well as my own.

    When you get to a certain level in any competitive sport (where you are competing against an opponent rather than just trying to go faster, or something) you need to study your opponents strengths and weaknesses, including what you know they must have studied, because it will affect thier play - no use learning a way of beating a strategy you know they will not attempt because there are well known weaknesses...

    However, a lot of us are here to learn about our own game as much as anything else. And for that you need to learn from experience, and for that you need to play both the known archaic lines and the unknown ones as they occur to you on the board, and indeed whatever occurs to you as being the best play at the time. If you abandon a line before you have learned from playing it, losing and winning with it, then you will never learn as much from it, and the lesson will remain theoretical.

    Of course, a lot depends on why you play. If you are at the level where you have to break new ground to win, then the last thing you want to do is spend ages re-inventing the wheel.....

  • #3

    You bet.  Well said.

  • #4

    I know plenty of club players who play "bad" lines and score very well with them because the title players don't play them!

    That is, because most of the club players are studying the games of the super-gms', they've never seen an albin counter gambit or a danish, or a wing gambit -- and because they've never seen it, they don't know the first thing to do about it. 

    I never laughed so hard as I sat watching a local danish player being lectured by the guy he just beat soundly as to how the danish is a poor opening and that he shouldn't play it. "Ummm, excuse me, but didn't he just beat you?!"

  • #5
    Kingpatzer wrote:

    I never laughed so hard as I sat watching a local danish player being lectured by the guy he just beat soundly as to how the danish is a poor opening and that he shouldn't play it. "Ummm, excuse me, but didn't he just beat you?!"


    A scenario which recurs with remarkable frequency in chess...  Smile

  • #6

    I agree and believe beginners and intermediate players shouldn't even bother to learn openings (opening principals are a different matter). Can only club players play what they want though?

    I submit a game from one of my favorite GMs, the berserker Jonny Hector, in which he embarrasses an FM with 1.h4?! That will ruin your prep....and your day....and your self esteem.


  • #7

    There is a lot of truth to the OP's remarks.  The bottom line is that at the club level almost anything is playable. 

    I also am surprised when I hear club players say they won't look at a book like Alekhine's Best Games because "all of that stuff has been refuted" etc.

    My guess is that Kasparov would make Alekhine look silly in the opening, but that you're typical club player would still be crushed right out of the opening...

    Having said all of that, I'm also surprised when I hear club players who refuse to play any main lines of any opening because "I'm not letting my opponent use Kasparov's preperation by playing all those main lines he wants to play."  They are main lines for a reason and to avoid them at all costs just seems extreme.  Especially since there are so many playable variations.

    For example, you won't see my play the Yugoslav Attack against the Sicilian Dragon.  I know for a fact that most Dragon players will know the theory far better than I.  However, you will see me play the Be2 variation.  It may not be the most popular line, but it's still a main line with hundreds of examples in the databases...

  • #8

    Your post reminds me of an early scene from "The Sting" starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman.  The grifters are discussing how to  play the mark and one suggest the wire.  Another says "That old thing?"  Newman says "Its so old he may not know it".  Another old grifter says "I'm not sure I know it."

    So they decide to play the wire because it is so old.

  • #9

    Completely agree, most people shouldn't worry that Radjabov has found a new move order that 'refutes' your opening because your opponents wont know it, and if they do it's still probably not enough to be a tangible refutation at the class level.

    Most important is getting to positions you are comfortable playing, not those with the biggest theoretical advantage. Just ask Magnus.

  • #10

    Yeah, my whole bloody repertoire's been refuted, but I still have fun. (plus the odd scalp)

  • #11

    Over the long term, for the ambitious player, I belive it is more important to learn main line openings because if/when you do break out of the club level, you may find the need to do some upgrading to different openings.  I'd rather learn a stronger opening in the first place instead of playing the mediocre stuff and upgrading when moving up.  It's less work on openings over the long haul to do it that way.


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