Is watching super-GM games bad?

Talekhine93

At least at the untitled levels of playing strength?

I can imagine even titled players struggling to understand what goes on in the games among the best of the best, but having a title means that you're already a well-rounded player for the most part, with no truly and hopelessly fatal weaknesses in any phase of the game. Even Janowski, who notoriously detested endgames and was fittingly bad at them compared to the real technical marvels like Lasker and Capa, still played not too far from their general level, and would absolutely clean my clock if he came back from the dead right now. I wish I played at least as well as he did.

I like watching top-level games like I like seeing what's considered to be peak performance in any sports discipline whatsoever. I also have super-GMs I root for, as well as some I might even detest. It's all normal, but I don't think I can learn from those games. Does watching them, then, influence my mind badly when it comes to my own games? (I've been around 1800 on Lichess for years now, if it helps to know.)

Nicator65

It's not detrimental, but there are faster ways to learn chess for most out there.

For example, if there's a GM whose style "fits" you, then you'll learn more and faster by studying all of his games systematically by openings, i.e. if he plays a certain variation of the Gruenfeld then you should check all of his games with it (Black and, or White). Furthermore, you should check all the other opening systems he plays and check if some or all are suitable for you as well.

You may ask why "openings". Well, the vast majority of opening systems, no matter if simple or complex, are about carrying out a specific plan or choosing from a variety of specific plans according to the circumstances (typically tactical details and personal tastes). These plans can be fulfilled in the initial moves or deep into the ending, reason why most of us need to check the full games and repeat and repeat, much like an athlete in training, until the game in front of us is clear to us in the form of what is each of the players trying to do and how is the rival opposing.

The difference between studying chess this way and randomly is that when studying the same kind of systems and positions (handled by a GM or a few GMs) the student is building knowledge and understanding on a smaller but solid scale rather than trying to figure it out something he hasn't seen before or isn't that clear for him yet.

 

Dmitry_Osetrov

no

Dmitry_Osetrov

thats good

Talekhine93
Nicator65 wrote:

It's not detrimental, but there are faster ways to learn chess for most out there.

For example, if there's a GM whose style "fits" you, then you'll learn more and faster by studying all of his games systematically by openings, i.e. if he plays a certain variation of the Gruenfeld then you should check all of his games with it (Black and, or White). Furthermore, you should check all the other opening systems he plays and check if some or all are suitable for you as well.

You may ask why "openings". Well, the vast majority of opening systems, no matter if simple or complex, are about carrying out a specific plan or choosing from a variety of specific plans according to the circumstances (typically tactical details and personal tastes). These plans can be fulfilled in the initial moves or deep into the ending, reason why most of us need to check the full games and repeat and repeat, much like an athlete in training, until the game in front of us is clear to us in the form of what is each of the players trying to do and how is the rival opposing.

The difference between studying chess this way and randomly is that when studying the same kind of systems and positions (handled by a GM or a few GMs) the student is building knowledge and understanding on a smaller but solid scale rather than trying to figure it out something he hasn't seen before or isn't that clear for him yet.

 

Interesting perspective. I completely agree with the last paragraph.

Two questions, though:

1. How do I know which GM "fits" me? If it's just based on my admiration of their style, I might be able to determine a few of those (say, Morphy, Alekhine, Tal, Petrossian, Spassky, Kasparov, Kramnik), but if I'd have to base them off of my own actual strengths, then that's way tougher to determine.

2. I know which openings I generally like playing, but there are always plenty of offbeat systems and variations and responses even in the first five moves, and I don't think I can reliably study them all as a part of a unified thought system. Also, what if the GMs that "fit" me don't play the openings I like, or more likely - what if the variations they used are too outdated to be sound? A few people said that it's best to study the games of players from the pre-Botvinnik era, as they're much more conceptually understandable and much more theory-lite; but all I can find in Morphy's games are gambits in the openings my opponents won't even let me play, and all I can find in Alekhine's games are the Ruy Lopez and the Orthodox QGD, the two openings that are done to death and that I DON'T want to play! What am I even left with?

NoahmanX

Watching super-grandmaster games in highly beneficial. Because of human psychology, we are imitators, in the sense that we tend to imitate the people we listen to or are exposed to. This is part of the reason how babies learn to speak, and how people pick up accents in language.

It is well known however that there is a lot more than just the way we speak that people sort of "pick up". Even mentalities and attitude is heavily influenced by the environment. This is why a lot of "successful" people try to only surround themselves with positive things. Take bodybuilders for example, a lot of bodybuilders like Phil Heath, Yates, have pictures of other famous bodybuilders around them when they are working out in order to remind them to stay sharp, or work harder. Even just listening to champions in other sports can help improve not just your chess but your lifestyle. Good influences are important, especially to the younger generations. 

Everyone was once young and dumb, we all need some sort of person or thing to look up to. This is where the archetype of the hero by Carl Jung comes from. The purpose of the hero is to give us something to aim at and aspire to be, but at the same time remind us of ones current state. 

Sure this is all fine and dandy but what does this have to do with super-grandmaster chess games you might ask? Well, we remember pretty much everything we see, hear or learn. Maybe not consciously we can recall all of it, but it is still there. While this might not be obvious, an example one might be able to relate to is: if you were in the shower and out of nowhere you remembered a dream you had months ago despite completely forgetting you had one, and thus the brain or the unconscious must have had it stored somewhere. Carl Jung has a reasonable explanation for this in his book Man and His Symbols. The way he describes memories is like a dark stage with only one light. In order to illuminate another part of the stage you must leave what is lit in the dark. what Jung means is that, in other to remember this bit of memories you have to forget some other memories. 

So, just seeing super-grandmaster games is good for you. This is because you will unconsciously imitate players you are exposed to, and remember the games just not consciously. However, it is much better to consciously remember the ideas and games you have seen that way recollection is easier. 

The players one is exposed to first is going to greatly influence your playing styles. A personal example, I was first exposed to Paul Morphy which influence my style by making me more tactical then positional. I think the reason for my natural tactical ability has to be correlated to the fact the that I had studied every game by Paul Morphy when I first learned the game. Likewise, I was exposed to Magnus Carlsen early on as well, I believe I gained my natural endgame intuition from my expose to Master Carlsen's endgame technique. Another example, I know a player who studied Petrosian as their first player and their playing style has been greatly influenced  by him because they tend to play like Petrosian.

Just from studying all of Steinitz's games for a month my tactics went up by 100 points, and a similar thing happened when I studied Lasker. Studying Capablanca somehow made me more aware of piece harmony even if I was not consciously looking for it. This is why I am studying all of the world champions in order. I keep learning new things from them and imitating them. Currently I am studying  Petrosian, and in my club, players have pointed out to me that my ability to see an exchange sacrifice has become much better. Exchange sacrifices was something Petrosian was most notorious for, so I wonder if there is a correlation.

Hope this helps you.  

Nicator65

@Talekhine93: 1. You can't know in advance until you analyze some of his games and, for that matter, you don't have to limit yourself to world champions only. If you have a nice tactical vision then you'll probably find Nakamura's games a good source of ideas of how to move the games into the positions where's you'll be more precise or perform better than your opponent. If you rather build webs around your opponent leaving little to no room for tactical surprises, then you may find Ulf Andersson or Michael Adams more to your taste. Be as it may, you have to test the systems they play in casual games to see how comfortable and successful you are when using them.

2. I never said you had to study an opening but the games (including middlegames and endings) of an elite player using specific opening systems. Even if you don't ever use those systems at least the knowledge and understanding of the plans will remain with you –at least for some time.

This is the thing: Most fans don't evaluate positions. They think it is about "White is slightly better", "White is better" and so on when an evaluation is about what probably follows next and which are the chances of success in the likely scenarios. The precision when assessing is different from player to player (even for GMs) and from typical to atypical positions. So try to work on someone else's path when choosing what suits better for your strengths while masking your own weaknesses in the game.

Talekhine93
Nicator65 wrote:

1. ...you don't have to limit yourself to world champions only. If you have a nice tactical vision then you'll probably find Nakamura's games a good source of ideas ... If you rather build webs around your opponent leaving little to no room for tactical surprises, then you may find Ulf Andersson or Michael Adams more to your taste...

...2. I never said you had to study an opening but the games (including middlegames and endings) of an elite player using specific opening systems. Even if you don't ever use those systems at least the knowledge and understanding of the plans will remain with you –at least for some time ... So try to work on someone else's path when choosing what suits better for your strengths while masking your own weaknesses in the game.

1.Got it. I remember a famous Nezhmetdinov game with some dancing Knights in the centre really influencing me and helping me win one of my KID/Dragon positions as Black a few years ago. Also, I have mad respect for Ulf's otherworldly solidity, so since I'm a slow-minded rapid player, that seems like the route that's smarter than, say, the Naka one... although there could be some very legitimate counter-arguments to this line of thinking.

2. So, I should try to pick up on a middlegame style reached through a certain opening? The trouble lying therein could be in the vastness of different characters of positions that could arise from said openings, as well as any digressions without obvious punishments. It's hard to temper your... temperament, which could be one of the reasons Tal lost in his WC rematch, but I'd rather at least play like Tal and have such a stylistic drawback instead of just sucking at everything.

Also, what do you mean "at least for some time"?

daxypoo
you know what helps?

i will watch one of these events on twitch with a streamer giving analysis

if there arent a ton of viewers it is easy to ask questions and get answers in “nearly real time”

so not only to you get analysis from the streamer but you can have you questions/ideas answered as well

i have been watching chess weeb a lot lately (denes boros) and he is very interactive with the chat as well
Nicator65
Talekhine93 wrote:
Nicator65 wrote:

1. ...you don't have to limit yourself to world champions only. If you have a nice tactical vision then you'll probably find Nakamura's games a good source of ideas ... If you rather build webs around your opponent leaving little to no room for tactical surprises, then you may find Ulf Andersson or Michael Adams more to your taste...

...2. I never said you had to study an opening but the games (including middlegames and endings) of an elite player using specific opening systems. Even if you don't ever use those systems at least the knowledge and understanding of the plans will remain with you –at least for some time ... So try to work on someone else's path when choosing what suits better for your strengths while masking your own weaknesses in the game.

1.Got it. I remember a famous Nezhmetdinov game with some dancing Knights in the centre really influencing me and helping me win one of my KID/Dragon positions as Black a few years ago. Also, I have mad respect for Ulf's otherworldly solidity, so since I'm a slow-minded rapid player, that seems like the route that's smarter than, say, the Naka one... although there could be some very legitimate counter-arguments to this line of thinking.

2. So, I should try to pick up on a middlegame style reached through a certain opening? The trouble lying therein could be in the vastness of different characters of positions that could arise from said openings, as well as any digressions without obvious punishments. It's hard to temper your... temperament, which could be one of the reasons Tal lost in his WC rematch, but I'd rather at least play like Tal and have such a stylistic drawback instead of just sucking at everything.

Also, what do you mean "at least for some time"?

1. Okay.

2. You should try to understand where is each player trying to put his pieces, the whole lot of them including pawns, and why. That's each side's plans. This may seem trivial but it makes a huge difference in how precise you become when solving the same type of positions.

On the "vastness of different character of positions", it applies when you play a whole lot of different opening systems. Otherwise, we have to recognize our limitations in time, memory and relevant cognitive skills for the game and focus on just a few systems, because –believe it or not– the majority of positions have just one precise plan and very few ways to carry it out with enough precision as to make it effective no matter what the rival does. This thing of identifying the precise plan and carrying it out with accuracy is affected by our knowledge and skills as much as our temperament for the game, the reason why we try to play systems that suits us better, the same as some athletes choose 100 m races instead of 10.000 m or heavy lifting instead of swimming.

On the "at least for some time", it has to do with your own recognition of what suits you better along the time or because of the circumstances. Karpov became World Champion playing 1.e4 and achieved magnificent results with it, but in time he switched to 1.d4 and obtained, according to Elo, even better results. When I began playing chess I played the Najdorf because Fischer played it, but I wasn't good enough at tactics nor my knowledge covered all the bases when facing real opposition, so I switched to something with more complex ideas but less theory and fewer tactical shots right from the go. However, not because I avoided tactics at one stage it meant I was good, so in casual and blitz games I focused on –subjectively– leading the game into atypical and heavy tactical situations (Tal and Ljubojević games served me well). Of course, this meant that I lost a ton of blitz and casual games because I wasn't playing what I had to but what I wanted to, but it paid off when I switched to what I knew and did what I had to in official competitions.

Talekhine93

Nicator65, you make it sound like just sticking to a first move or two in each opening is not only feasible, but simplifying enough. Sure, maybe no one's gonna play the Grob against me, but you cannot play, say, the same 1. d4 setup against all mainstream defences, either; not to mention that you can't even play d6 and Nf6 as Black and expect that the Pirc and the KID are going to have similar enough positions. And in that odd case when I do have to face the Grob, I still need to know how to deal with it, so I have to waste time on it just so I don't get surprised and defeated by it out of nowhere. And what about the Hippo and other hyperflexible setups? Not to mention that I need to avoid getting outprepared in a mainstream opening more than anywhere else.

Nicator65

I believe that you're looking for an answer that will cover all the bases. In chess and in life there's hardly such a thing. If you plan to understand and communicate your thoughts using the Internet it's a good idea to learn English, although it won't help you much if you plan to do some fieldwork in non-touristic areas in South America. Then, should you use your limited time learning but a few words in Spanish and in English? It depends on you much will you need to use those languages, in terms of frequency and complexity.

In chess, and in general, you try to increase your knowledge brick by brick, step by step. In his youth, Karpov played 1.e4 e5 only, but in his early twenties, he included the Sicilian in his repertoire. As you may imagine, the initial attempts were close to disastrous for him, but he eventually got the grasp of the lines he played often. It was the same when he switched to 1.d4, as he had to learn a whole lot of different replies for Black. Nonetheless, his Elo peaked when he was playing 1.d4 instead of 1.e4.

It was Karpov too who said that just about anyone can become a GM but very few have enough time during his life to do it. So it may be better to use our chess study time wisely, with a focus on what we have to deal with often and accepting that until we have time to spare there will be some hazy or dark areas.

Chess_Kibitzer_2020

If a top grandmaster players an opening line against another top grandmaster it is probably a sound line. It doesn't mean you will do well playing it as you have to understand the position.

 

Talekhine93
Nicator65 wrote:

I believe that you're looking for an answer that will cover all the bases. In chess and in life there's hardly such a thing. If you plan to understand and communicate your thoughts using the Internet it's a good idea to learn English, although it won't help you much if you plan to do some fieldwork in non-touristic areas in South America. Then, should you use your limited time learning but a few words in Spanish and in English? It depends on you much will you need to use those languages, in terms of frequency and complexity.

In chess, and in general, you try to increase your knowledge brick by brick, step by step. In his youth, Karpov played 1.e4 e5 only, but in his early twenties, he included the Sicilian in his repertoire. As you may imagine, the initial attempts were close to disastrous for him, but he eventually got the grasp of the lines he played often. It was the same when he switched to 1.d4, as he had to learn a whole lot of different replies for Black. Nonetheless, his Elo peaked when he was playing 1.d4 instead of 1.e4.

It was Karpov too who said that just about anyone can become a GM but very few have enough time during his life to do it. So it may be better to use our chess study time wisely, with a focus on what we have to deal with often and accepting that until we have time to spare there will be some hazy or dark areas.

So, how much of one's overall chess study time do you think should be spent on learning how to combat uncommon openings? I don't wanna build my knowledge brick by brick if the bricks need to hit me in the head first... it literally messes with my head like a head trauma.

I remember a game I played in Van Geet's Opening as White, upward of five years ago. It went 1. Nc3 d5 2. e4 d4 3. Nce2 e5 4. g3 (I was going for a reverse KID kind of setup), then my opponent played f6 (which didn't occur to me that he could do, because it's a weakening move in many other openings), and whatever happened next, all I know is, I've never felt so helpless in any chess game before. My whole idea was shut down from the outset, and I quickly lost. That's NOT a brick you wouldn't like to dodge after all.

If I don't find a way to make my whole chess understanding coherent, the only dark areas are gonna be under my eyes.

Nicator65

"So, how much of one's overall chess study time do you think should be spent on learning how to combat uncommon openings?"

Enough to have a somewhat clear idea of what are you trying to achieve. For instance, just knowing that there's something called reversed King's Indian or King's Indian Attack doesn't imply anything specific about the pieces and pawns dispositions nor how should or can they evolve.

In your example, the pawn structure d3–e4 vs. d4–e5 usually calls for Pf2–f4 for White and Pc7–c5–c4 for Black. If White can't set control or enough pressure against e4, then as Black usually commits with Pf7–f6 to support e5, then White pushes Pf4–f5 and works on a piece and pawn attack across the g and h files, positionally justified by his Kingside space advantage. Should you want to know how such plans are carried out against unaware opposition, then check games from the 40s and 50s from Bronstein, Taimanov, Najdorf, and Gligoric (they all were experts in the KID as Black). Investing time in the understanding of such pawn structures' play is not only worth but a keystone, as they occur –by transposition– in a variety of opening systems.

Finally, you must have heard or read that it's important to analyze our own defeats. This may be about setting the game into an engine seeking for tactical misses or points of inflection, but when playing positions we're not familiar with is more about checking similar games from GMs to identify the plans and tactical justifications we missed during our games... so as to not to repeat our mistakes in the future.

kindaspongey

"... A typical way of choosing an opening repertoire is to copy the openings used by a player one admires. ... However, what is good at world-championship level is not always the best choice at lower levels of play, and it is often a good idea to choose a 'model' who is nearer your own playing strength. ..." - FM Steve Giddins (2008)

"... [annotated games are] infinitely more useful than bare game scores. However, annotated games vary widely in quality. Some are excellent study material. Others are poor. But the most numerous fall into a third category - good-but-wrong-for-you. ... You want games with annotations that answer the questions that baffle you the most. ..." - GM Andrew Soltis (2010)

"... there are major advantages to studying older games rather than those of today. The ideas expressed in a Rubinstein or Capablanca game are generally easier to understand. They are usually carried out to their logical end, often in a memorable way, ... In today's chess, the defense is much better. That may sound good. But it means that the defender's counterplay will muddy the waters and dilute the instructional value of the game. For this reason the games of Rubinstein, Capablanca, Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Harry Pillsbury and Paul Keres are strongly recommended - as well as those of more recent players who have a somewhat classical style, like Fischer, Karpov, Viswanathan Anand and Michael Adams. ..." - GM Andrew Soltis (2010)

https://www.chess.com/article/view/questions-from-chess-players

Talekhine93
Nicator65 wrote:

In your example, the pawn structure d3–e4 vs. d4–e5 usually calls for Pf2–f4 for White and Pc7–c5–c4 for Black. If White can't set control or enough pressure against e4, then as Black usually commits with Pf7–f6 to support e5, then White pushes Pf4–f5 and works on a piece and pawn attack across the g and h files, positionally justified by his Kingside space advantage. Should you want to know how such plans are carried out against unaware opposition, then check games from the 40s and 50s from Bronstein, Taimanov, Najdorf, and Gligoric (they all were experts in the KID as Black). Investing time in the understanding of such pawn structures' play is not only worth but a keystone, as they occur –by transposition– in a variety of opening systems.

Honestly, I wish I remembered more than just the emotions about that game, but I'm 90% sure that what happened was the following: Black managed to get ...g5 and ...Ng8-e7-g6 in, establishing a vice grip on the f4-square and nipping my whole gameplan straight in the bud. What happened more commonly in similar situations without ...g5 was me getting the f4-break in after all, but then closing the centre by playing f5, followed by Black's long castling. Those pawns look really dumb when they are not all up in a King's face.

Whenever I lose and it's not due to a trivial early blunder or a timeout (of a game which I'd've won otherwise), I analyse that loss immediately afterwards (if I'm not too busy playing the rematch), but I really don't like checking with an engine, at the very least not before I review the whole game without it and come to my own limited-sighted conclusions... but most often I pinpoint a few moments where I could've gone better, then I move on.

Talekhine93
kindaspongey wrote:

For this reason the games of Rubinstein, Capablanca, Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Harry Pillsbury and Paul Keres are strongly recommended - as well as those of more recent players who have a somewhat classical style, like Fischer, Karpov, Viswanathan Anand and Michael Adams. ..." - GM Andrew Soltis (2010)

https://www.chess.com/article/view/questions-from-chess-players

I think Fischer, Karpov and Anand could already be tough to understand, if only because of the theory advancement and the fact that Anand is still active as a super-GM. Fischer's games are often very conceptual in their rationality, but at other times it's just a memorisation fest like the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf or similar... and Karpov played tons of games against KASPAROV. 'Nuff said.

I was gonna say that Keres's games aren't all that simple either, but then I remembered I had actually been thinking of Kotov-Geller from the USSR Championship 1949, so as much as I admire Geller's razor-like sharpness, that ain't it. Perhaps Keres would be a good starting point of study for me, as his career was long and varied enough for him to participate in the openings that I actually play? I'll investigate.

Meanwhile, in Silman's article you posted, he just mentioned several old masters and then all the official World Champions before Karpov, so that's less useful to me than what Soltis had to say.

Nicator65

@Talekhine93 So you're talking about White pawns on c2–d3–e4 and Black pawns on d4–e5–f6... and Black pushes g7–g5, making it easier for White to open lines precisely where he has a space advantage (the Kingside). Should White pieces have been posted with some sense of harmony or coordination, that should have been bad for Black, no matter where the Kings were as if Black had amassed enough pieces to prevent an invasion on his Kingside then it would've meant his Queenside must have been left unprotected, and White would have easily opened lines there starting with Pc2–c3–xd4.

On this particular subject, you should also check the Advance Variation in the French Defense with the pawn structures c3–d4–e5 against c4–d5–e6, where White castles short and Black castles long: It may surprise you that White's best plans go around advancing the pawn coverage in front of his own King, and not to checkmate the rival but to open lines and getting invasion squares for his own pieces, positionally justified by his space advantage on the sector.

Now, this thing of "invasion squares" may feel a bit abstract, until we see some examples of invasion and flanking. Take the following game:

 

bong711

Chess enthusiasts watch Super GM games because they idolize them. Who would watch former WC Karpov? Or former WCC Challenger Gelfand and Short?  Players can learn more from Karpov, Gelfand and Short than today's Top 10 players. They don't watch former Chess Stars.