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Can you become a master without memorizing openings?

SirMigraine
seattlewag wrote:

Migraine I should have stated things differently, not come off as impractical as I probably did. I will likely familiarize myself with openings now that I'm becoming more serious, I'm just not going to memorize all of them 30 moves at a time. I am not going ruin my enjoyment of the game by playing it rote. Bobby Fischer himself said that largely destroyed the beauty of the game, that's why he came up with Fischer Random-which remains an option if I can't be eminently successful at conventional chess without playing like a robot. I'm going to study openings from a tactical standpoint, but I am not going to commit every optimal move for every possible situation or variation, to memory. I think that might be what drove both Fischer and Paul Morphe out of their minds, but what do I know? Not openings!

I do try to develop my Knights and Bishops as early as I can, many might even argue too early in some cases. I'm in the habit of trying to pin pieces to the king and queen, almost as soon as they come out. I also try to get my knights to the center of the board where they are the most powerful, at least in the early game, as soon as possible.

Getting back to openings, it occurs to me that having played almost exclusively against machines, bots and programs with extensive opening books, on a relatively high level, for many years, that I probably already have some familiarity with openings I wasn't even aware of. Pattern recognition and such. Obviously that's not mastery by any stretch ... but it's not the way of a dilettante or novice, either.

got it thx

Ilampozhil25
seattlewag wrote:

I'm a newbie and haven't figured out how to reply to individual posts yet, so I'm going to have to thank both of you, barondali and sir migraine, here. This is great information and exactly the sort of encouragement I was looking for. I know my opinion is probably controversial but I'm just not going to play the memorization game, I see it as having largely ruined chess. I'm going to look up Kahn, thanks again Dali. If either of you are still here, how many Grandmasters do you guys figure, have something akin to a photographic memory?

if you can see a " next to the post number, click it. then in the typing interface, that message will appear. You can edit it whatever way you want, like I bolded some of your text.

seattlewag
Ilampozhil25 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

I'm a newbie and haven't figured out how to reply to individual posts yet, so I'm going to have to thank both of you, barondali and sir migraine, here. This is great information and exactly the sort of encouragement I was looking for. I know my opinion is probably controversial but I'm just not going to play the memorization game, I see it as having largely ruined chess. I'm going to look up Kahn, thanks again Dali. If either of you are still here, how many Grandmasters do you guys figure, have something akin to a photographic memory?

if you can see a " next to the post number, click it. then in the typing interface, that message will appear. You can edit it whatever way you want, like I bolded some of your text.

Got it, thanks. 

Ilampozhil25
seattlewag wrote:
Ilampozhil25 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

I'm a newbie and haven't figured out how to reply to individual posts yet, so I'm going to have to thank both of you, barondali and sir migraine, here. This is great information and exactly the sort of encouragement I was looking for. I know my opinion is probably controversial but I'm just not going to play the memorization game, I see it as having largely ruined chess. I'm going to look up Kahn, thanks again Dali. If either of you are still here, how many Grandmasters do you guys figure, have something akin to a photographic memory?

if you can see a " next to the post number, click it. then in the typing interface, that message will appear. You can edit it whatever way you want, like I bolded some of your text.

Got it, thanks. 

you're welcome

seattlewag
B1ZMARK wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

What about photographic memory guys? I have a prodigious long-term Collective memory, but my flash memory is not the least bit formidable. I really struggle with games like concentration, but maybe that's because I've never really tried to develop it mentally. Playing without looking at the board seems like an esoteric concept to me. Can one actually learn to play mental chess, or is that a gift you have to pretty much be born with or develop very early on?

It's an acquired skill, unless you have an actual mental disorder where you can't visualize things in your head (forgot what it was called). Photographic memory definitely will help, but not as much as you think.

I have more than my share of psychiatric disorders, but hopefully, God willing, I won't have to add anymore cognitive impairments to the Magna Carta of mental health records. Imagine the state I would be in, if I went full OCD on openings! New York probably. Little joke there to lighten the mood :-)

seattlewag
seattlewag wrote:
B1ZMARK wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

What about photographic memory guys? I have a prodigious long-term Collective memory, but my flash memory is not the least bit formidable. I really struggle with games like concentration, but maybe that's because I've never really tried to develop it mentally. Playing without looking at the board seems like an esoteric concept to me. Can one actually learn to play mental chess, or is that a gift you have to pretty much be born with or develop very early on?

It's an acquired skill, unless you have an actual mental disorder where you can't visualize things in your head (forgot what it was called). Photographic memory definitely will help, but not as much as you think.

I have more than my share of psychiatric disorders, but hopefully, God willing, I won't have to add anymore cognitive impairments to the Magna Carta of mental health records. Imagine the state I would be in, if I went full OCD on openings! New York probably. Little joke there to lighten the mood :-)

Among other travails, I have ADHD issues that might stem from a head injury I sustained in a bike accident in my early teens. That doesn't help my short-term memory to be sure, but strangely I think the concussion may well have rewired my brain to strengthen both the eidetic memory and ambidexterity that seems to facilitate a more fluid relationship between the right and left hemispheres. That doesn't even begin to compensate for the quality of life I've given up owing to depression OCD addiction ... but on occasion, I surprise myself. During one especially misguided summer when I thought I was going to be pre-law or carve out some sort of public service career for myself ... I basically memorized all roughly 8000 words of the United States Constitution (admittedly not that impressive alongside Paul morphe committing the entire Louisiana legal code to memory, while he was in law school). Probably took me 36 hours, but if I hadn't screwed around, I could have done it faster.

jamesstack
llama47 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Anyway, I'm wondering if I can be competitive just studying tactics and analyzing games? 

First of all, top players don't memorize openings all day. They're extremely good at all parts of the game, even parts people don't write books about... openings are just a tiny part of chess, and a part that most beginners obsess over.

Indeed! Did you see Caruana's round 8 game in the candidates? Impressive endgame skill on display! It took an inaccuracy on his opponents part to win but it was still impressive to me.

DerekDHarvey

Remembering the move order?

seattlewag

I just spent a considerable amount of time on a post that chess.com evidently deemed an inappropriate violation of their so-called Community guidelines, and deleted without any verification! I can't say what I'm thinking right now, or who or what I'm thinking it a b o u t, but the readers can probably make a pretty accurate inference. All I said in the post is that this interface is the most hostile I have ever encountered in a forum, when it comes to the bugs and incompatibility issues Android operating systems and communication apps seem to be teeming with. I can't even put the cursor down to clean up the Epic amalgamation of revolting foulness that Google speech autocorrect and the Google keyboard are leaving in place of the words and punctuation that I might have preferred, because each and every time I do, the visible text reverts the way back to the beginning of the post. That wouldn't be a big deal if I only had to correct an error here and there, but there are not enough hours in the day to deal with what I've encountered in every lengthy post thus far! I've enjoyed my time on here otherwise, but if the admin is going to treat Diamond members this way, I guess I'll make myself scarce. Deleting a post that had no real objectionable material which no human being had even laid eyes on– the censure came immediately after I hit post-is an egregious way to run your forum.

Okay now I remember that I did use one mild swear word to describe Google out of frustration. The correct response to that would have been to delete the word and give me a warning, not Auto delete the entire post that took me 30 to 40 minutes to write and edit because of all the problems with Google and your 4 mm interface that sometimes only makes one line of a very lengthy post being typed out, visible.

seattlewag
tjkoko wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Is NM National master? In any case thanks for patronizing my thread.

Google is your best friend.

That would not surprise me in the least, given the quality of my social life.

seattlewag
jamesstack wrote:
llama47 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Anyway, I'm wondering if I can be competitive just studying tactics and analyzing games? 

First of all, top players don't memorize openings all day. They're extremely good at all parts of the game, even parts people don't write books about... openings are just a tiny part of chess, and a part that most beginners obsess over.

Indeed! Did you see Caruana's round 8 game in the candidates? Impressive endgame skill on display! It took an inaccuracy on his opponents part to win but it was still impressive to me.

I never thought the top players did sit around all day memorizing openings. What I was trying to find out before I commit all the hours, is if it's even practical to try and compete with those who do play all of the best-known openings from memory, if one does not do the same? Thanks for the tips.

seattlewag
B1ZMARK wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Is NM National master? In any case thanks for patronizing my thread.

I do not think ih8sens was being patronizing.

Patronize is a tricky word I probably shouldn't have used, owing to its multiple almost seemingly contradictory meanings. The most popular definition, which you cited, is "condescending." The other two primary definitions are closely related and mean to support, promote or even sponsor, but to varying degrees. For instance, as I read the entries in several dictionaries, it wouldn't be inappropriate to use the term to signify an ongoing relationship or sustained support over time - eg, a "patron of the arts" might be a benefactor who makes a yearly donation to the local symphony orchestra and ballet. I used the term in the context I did, to acknowledge the contribution a master level player makes to any tactical discussion, particularly one started by a noob.

JackRoach

I'm patronizing  you for using the word patronize.

seattlewag
ih8sens wrote:
B1ZMARK wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Is NM National master? In any case thanks for patronizing my thread.

I do not think ih8sens was being patronizing.

 

Patronizing has opposite meanings depending on context.

Patronizing can mean 'visit', or 'act superior'. In this case I think he just was thanking me for my reply, which is just a slight misuse of the word.

Depending on which dictionary you consult (I looked at several), it might be imprecise, but I don't think it's incorrect.

llama47
seattlewag wrote:
jamesstack wrote:
llama47 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Anyway, I'm wondering if I can be competitive just studying tactics and analyzing games? 

First of all, top players don't memorize openings all day. They're extremely good at all parts of the game, even parts people don't write books about... openings are just a tiny part of chess, and a part that most beginners obsess over.

Indeed! Did you see Caruana's round 8 game in the candidates? Impressive endgame skill on display! It took an inaccuracy on his opponents part to win but it was still impressive to me.

I never thought the top players did sit around all day memorizing openings. What I was trying to find out before I commit all the hours, is if it's even practical to try and compete with those who do play all of the best-known openings from memory, if one does not do the same? Thanks for the tips.

Many low rated players memorize tons of openings moves... and it doesn't help them at all... so yes, you can compete with that pretty easily.

The opening is the most forgiving phase of the game. You can play a lot of nonsense and have a fine position... and when you play nonsense their memorized moves can't help them.

In an OTB tournament game, me vs my opponent 1900 vs 1900, the game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6

Well I wasn't in the mood for this guy's million moves of memorization, so I played g3 and soon after b3 for some double fianchetto nonsense. He even grimaced when I played b3, because it was obviously not a "good" move...

...and I won that game because I played better chess. I hadn't prepared that line at all, and I haven't played it since then.

llama47

I little more frequently than 1 out of 10 OTB games I do this... I'll make a few moves in a row that I know are not the best, just to be sure they're out of book... and now that I'm thinking back on those games... I almost never lose them (and I often win them) tongue.png

seattlewag
llama47 wrote:

It's an interesting question... I think the answer is no, but not for the reason you're thinking.

It's "no" because by playing thousands of games with other players around master level, you're going to learn from the games... whether you steal the openings they play, or come up with novel moves, you'll still have openings you're familiar with and those you aren't.

It's sort of like asking whether a beginner knows as much as a self taught ______  (fill in the blank with any skill you like).  The answer is "no" because the self taught person knows things and the beginner doesn't.

---

But ok, that's not answering the spirit of the question. The OP probably is asking whether you can be a 2200 player without buying opening resources and spending a long time memorizing GM moves... most people will never be 2200, but it's still low enough that you don't have to know openings in that way.

You may have missed my clarification in an earlier post. It's one thing for a player to familiarize himself tactically with openings, that's just plain old uncommon sense as they are the most played and very often the strongest moves tactically, at that point. Where I draw the line, is spending untold hours committing them to memory, including well-known variations Etc. I really think that takes the art and beauty out of the game, as one of its most attractive potentialities from a purely recreational standpoint, is the unpredictability of an opponent that forces innovation and novelty in your tactical response. This is one of the only very practical benefits an avid chess player enjoys, directly applicable to his or her evolutionary development and life skill sets, as it improves one's critical thinking organizational and quantitative reasoning. I guess if you're viewing the game from the perspective of a Grandmaster however, the ego probably can't risk being caught off guard by a n otherwise much weaker player.

seattlewag
llama47 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:
jamesstack wrote:
llama47 wrote:
seattlewag wrote:

Anyway, I'm wondering if I can be competitive just studying tactics and analyzing games? 

First of all, top players don't memorize openings all day. They're extremely good at all parts of the game, even parts people don't write books about... openings are just a tiny part of chess, and a part that most beginners obsess over.

Indeed! Did you see Caruana's round 8 game in the candidates? Impressive endgame skill on display! It took an inaccuracy on his opponents part to win but it was still impressive to me.

I never thought the top players did sit around all day memorizing openings. What I was trying to find out before I commit all the hours, is if it's even practical to try and compete with those who do play all of the best-known openings from memory, if one does not do the same? Thanks for the tips.

Many low rated players memorize tons of openings moves... and it doesn't help them at all... so yes, you can compete with that pretty easily.

The opening is the most forgiving phase of the game. You can play a lot of nonsense and have a fine position... and when you play nonsense their memorized moves can't help them.

In an OTB tournament game, me vs my opponent 1900 vs 1900, the game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6

Well I wasn't in the mood for this guy's million moves of memorization, so I played g3 and soon after b3 for some double fianchetto nonsense. He even grimaced when I played b3, because it was obviously not a "good" move...

...and I won that game because I played better chess. I hadn't prepared that line at all, and I haven't played it since then.

Yeah that's pretty much what I wanted to know in a nutshell. It will probably change my thinking on the issue, once I see it play out for myself. Somewhere along the way I got in the habit of thinking there's little 2 no creativity in the opening games of high level players, but it appears that's not the case at all. Appreciate the revelation.

llama47

Yeah, a lot of people demean chess in that way... by which I mean they see it as an intelligence test that's only effective if you're not allowed to study for it.

But chess isn't something so trivial. It's a skill like anything else. You don't think less of a car mechanic for study and practice.  You don't don't think less of a violinist or mathematician for study and practice... but with chess it's suddenly unfair.

---

But I suppose my critique of your thinking a little unfair for a few reasons... first of all for beginners there's no other way to remember an opening than pure memorization. They don't know why a move is played, so they "spend untold hours committing them to memory." Meanwhile someone like me can memorize quite a few moves after only a few days, because I mainly work on understanding why the move is good... after connecting it to an idea, I can remember it a month or two later with no problems even though I only spent a single session on it.

Another difference is to a beginner, there isn't very much going on in a position... that's not to say they don't work hard at the board (sometimes they work a lot harder than their higher rated opponent!) but to them the winner is determined by not giving away pieces for free. So they calculate and calculate and calculate... and if their opponent has memorized, then from the beginner's POV, they've skipped all the work.

But to a more skilled player, the problems they're trying to solve at the board are far too complex to be tackled by calculation. A 7 hour game wouldn't be nearly enough. A game would have to last months or years... the opening in particular is too complex to tackle at the board, so  memorization of that phase wont be an anathema to a strong / experienced player.

Another misconception you seem to have is that if you've memorized something then after the memorization runs out the position will play itself. That's simply not true. What an opening does is set up the themes of the battle that will take place. If you've memorized 15 moves but don't understand the position in front of you, then you can lose on move 16 or 17... which is a pretty common among beginners, to blunder (tactically or positionally) immediately after their memorization ends. So for example when I work on openings, I write notes. Moves are given context. That way when my opponent deviates from what I've memorized (or I simply run out of memorized moves) I know how to play.

Another misconception is that the middlegames you reach via instinct will be richer than ones you reach via memorization. If I played based only on understanding and not things I'd seen before, then I'd basically be playing the way I do in blitz... and since my style is pretty safe, I'd often reach boring middlegames. In contrast, with memorized moves I can reach middlegames that are rich in strategy and tactics... but again to beginners all positions are equally confusing, and all positions are mostly about trying not to give away pieces for free, so they don't understand this.

llama47

Well, that turned out to be a lot longer than I'd intended, but those are my honest thoughts on it, FWIW.