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Openings and Scattered Thoughts

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Chess does not change. It is the player who changes. And perhaps this can be seen and even analyzed from a psychologicl point of view. Chess is a wonderful tool to self-examination. Chess is your Mind in action. This is why I think that in the matter of our game, the sum of the parts is greater than  the whole itself. Don’t believe it?

In CC you do not need to memorize openings. (This is one of the differences in relation with OTB Chess). CC players use books, magazines, databases personal notes , etc. Another difference (and there are many) is that CC players may have several games in progress at the same time. And a third difference would be that there are no professional players in CC. But there are World and European Champions, there are GMs and IMs, and so on. All of us struggle to maintain and improve our ratings, try to become IMs or GMs, etc. Different people, different approaches to Chess, different motivations, different personalities, different reactions to victories and losses…

In the particular matter of openings, I suppose there are several approaches too: there are players with a clear idea of the openings they want to use and , consequently, they employ them on a constant basis with the adequate update, and there are players who like using different openings depending on their mood at the time of starting a new tournament. Some players prefer complicated openings while others try to avoid long, involved variations and prefer getting out of the book (databases) as quickly as possible.

In my case (the one I best know…) I have played different openings/defences during my CC practice. At first (28 years ago) I used the set-ups I was using for OTB Chess: 1. e4 , the Sicilian  and the Nimzoindian/Queens Indian/Orthodox . As soon as I became more and more interested in playing CC, I began to use those other openings that had attracted my attention when studying GMs’ games: the English, the King’s Indian Defence and the Sicilian. Shifting from the English to the Queen’s Gambit is a natural step, so for a long time, I became a CC 1. d4  player (while for OTB Chess, 1.e4 kept on being my main option. (I remembering reading an article in a Correspondence Chess Bulletin in which the matter of the first move was discussed no databases/computers yet-.The author defended that since CC and OTB Chess were so different, the openings should be different depending on which king of  game you were going to play. ) All opinions should be respected.

Today, in 2014, we do not use stamps and postcards to play CC (there are events still arranged under that formula though, but the major part of today’s CC is played through the Internet). The amount of information is immense and most of the players can have access one way or another to it. (I still remember how over 30 years ago some games were published months after they had been played and this if they were published, with professional OTB chessplayers trying to get as many local and foreign Chess magazines as possible to try to get information about the latest TNs’… On those days “the Soviet chessplayers” were feared like the plague: they seem to be factory of new players and unknown opening novelties found by the players themselves, their trainers or even some obscure player in a remote region to be used in their games against the rest of the world. -In this respect , when I was a boy I read the following  story: Before the Candidates’ Final between Petrosian and Fischer in Buenos Aires 1971, Petrosian had to play against V. Korchnoi. A relatively unknown player, the then Candidate Master V. Chebanenko, found a TN in the Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian. He left his finding in a sealed envelope  that had to be given “to the winner of the Petrosian-Korchnoi match”. A wonderful example of loyalty to true Soviet principles! -Another version states that , in fact, the novelty 11…d5! had been found by Suetin -Petrosian’s second- and kept secret for nine years But aren’t nine years too many years to run the risk of other people, even Fischer himself, finding this move???)

To me, Chess -apart from many other things-, is also a self-psychological tool. I mean I try to understand myself through Chess (once again let me recommend GM Rowson’s books and Abrahams’ “The Chess Mind” among many others). So, today I still continue using different openings as White while as Black my all-time hypermodernistic approach has changed perhaps not towards full classicism but to a more eclectic approach (in short: these days I prefer seeing my Pawns on the centre than seeing my opponents’ ones with me trying to attack them from the sides…) So the Sicilian in its various forms keeps being my pet defence against 1. e4, but against 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3 I prefer a more classical approach, avoiding extreme defences like the Benoni or the Grünfeld. Even the Nimzoindian/queen’s Indian are being substituted by set-ups with the move …d5 (Orthodox or Ragozin, for instance. BUT WHY?

Another important matter concerning the differences between OTB Chess and CC is that in CC you never see your opponent. So, is the human being ready to accept a fight when the fighters cannot see one another?. Then,don’t we try to apply analogical processes to a strange situation because our mind needs some guidelines to act?. If so, how this process is done?. Once again, what I am writing is only my personal experience but after nearly 30 years playing CC I have noticed that the rating of the players involved is the first red thread everybody tries to follow. (The second would be te outcome of previous encounters with the same opponent). Since I do not want to state certainties, I will put it down in the form of questions:

When you are playing against some opponent with the SIM,IM or GM title, haven’t you noticed s/he never accepts a draw offer unless the position is absolutely drawish ? The same when your opponent is 40/50 or more ELO points above you. Isn’t it? 

When you meet that same titled player or the one with more ELO points that you and in a first encounter you had made a relatively easy draw as Black, if you have to play against him again, hasn’t it happened to you that s/he changes his opening for another perhaps more complicated one? (These days I m playing -as Black- against an opponent above me in the ranking. I had played before against him and in a Najdorf I had got an easy draw as Black against his 6.Be2 variation. This time I knew he was not going to play 6. Be2… And in our game he has just played 6. Be3 (!). The thinking process is clear: “I have more ELO than my opponent so I’m better than him. This time I will play aggressively to smash him because I’m better:”)  How many assumptions does this way of reasoning contain???  But “assumptions” both in Chess and life can be absolutely devastating: they are related to analogies and suppositions, and , in my humble opinion, they may lead you to a parallel non-existent world, especially when you continue linking one assumption after another to justify or explain your decisions. (After all, ratings are comparative evaluations, games have to be played and there are many circumstances surrounding the players and the process of playing Chess. In 1972 Fischer nad never beaten Spassky : some draws and three clear victories for Boris could have been considered  a terrible handicap for the American…)

When one takes something irreal as real, then the consequences derived may be also very real. And curiously, this seems to work only for bad consequences…

As time has been passing by, I have become an absolute relativist concerning Chess.Chess is so complex that every game always shows a sort of  a rather unstable balance. This is why games continue being won and lost. No matter if you are aided by a computer. In the end the computer find moves because the manufacturer has added an evaluation element.  In the end again, you have to play one move in a position and this implies analyzing, evaluating, using your intuition and experience, using your ability to anticipate your opponents’ threats/ideas, and so on. BUT all ths take place into your mind. Can we be sure the process we are using are correct????

(In the meanwhile, the human being keeps playing Chess throughout the world. Isn’t it wonderful?)

Zeppler

Kraemer and Zeppler. Mate in four moves.

QChess.

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Written by QChess

September 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. The problem at the end here caused me to wrack my brain for a night and a morning. Finally I asked the computer, and it can’t even find a mate in three. It declares mate in 8. Is there a mate in three answer given by the composers?

    Paul Lyons

    May 27, 2015 at 8:40 pm

  2. Dear Sir,
    Thank you very much for your interest in the blog. You are right. The first source of the problem contained two mistakes. I had to check and re-check my archives to find the correct position from a different source. On the other hand, it seems it is a mate in four though some publishers still say “mate in 3″… moves now. Please accept my most sincere apologies.Unfortunately I have also found problems with mistakes, and sometimes it is very difficult to detect them. -On one occasion, I spend 70 hours on a problem with one such mistake…
    (I hope I will be able to continue wtiting in the blog in the near future).Thank you very much again, and please accept my apologies.
    Q.Chess

    QChess

    May 28, 2015 at 7:15 am


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