Books and openings

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MJMcCready
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Books and openings

Post by MJMcCready » Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:43 am

How much impact can a well-written book on a poor choice of opening have? When I say poor I really mean unorthodox or rarely played, purely for example 1.b4. It seems as though some openings are better than people give them credit, mainly because the literature produced on them is suspect and unexplanatory. I'm not sure if I want to say what I just read because I believe the author is a forum member but its fair to say what he wrote about his favourite opening left a lot to be desired, and if anything, was downright off-putting. Can anyone think of a good book on a poor/much less played opening? GM Timothy Taylor's book on 1.f4 wasn't too bad a read I must admit.

How do we bridge the gap between the character of an opening and the literature written on it if it is the literature written which we go to? Furthermore, and to the side somewhat how do we assess the strength of it? If I read a book about the Sicilian Dragon by GM XXXX, is it really a book about the Sicilian Dragon or a book about the author and what he thinks is good to play. At club level theory is much less significant than at GM level and oftentimes entirely irrelevant. It's little more than a general observation but its seems like whenever books on chess theory are written, particularly on opening theory, the target audience is never borne in mind. I still remember studying a line in the Marshall Gambit in the Lopez that ran 44 moves deep. Unsurprisingly in the 31 years that have passed since, it has never appeared once.

Nick Ivell
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:02 am

Smerdon's book on the Scandinavian is good. I can recommend it for the club player.

IanCalvert
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Re: Books and openings

Post by IanCalvert » Sat Aug 15, 2020 11:25 am

"How much impact can a well-written book on a poor choice of opening have? "

IMHO

I am aware of very little chess literature on avoiding or mitigating a poor choice of opening: for those players with specific opponents which mean choices are practical/sensible.

Simon Webb's comments in the "How to trap Heffalumps" chapter of "Chess for Tigers" (2005) are typically insightful , if dated.

"Don't imagine your opponent is a tremendous opening expert, just because he is a good player. The chances are that he will be trying to get you ' out of the book' so that he can outplay you from there; so unless you know that he is a great expert on the opening you would normally play it is best to follow a book line and wait for him to deviate. In this way at least you will start off with a good position."

In these days with wide use of databases and engines certainly more information about specific opponents is available.

In addition , I think there may well be a case for answering the question separately for White and Black.

I have been a 1b3 player for over 40 years and a Scandinavian player for over 20 years against all opponents of whatever grade. I guess against some opponents they are " a poor choice of opening ".

The impact of the numerous books, well written and otherwise, on quality of position out of the opening and enjoyment of the specific game of chess is very frequent and sometimes large. These days , for me, pre and post game engine and database analysis complements book impact.

John Hodgson
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Re: Books and openings

Post by John Hodgson » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:49 pm

“I consider it the author’s duty to examine and explain typical middlegame and endgame positions in as much (if not more) detail than the opening stage …This is difficult, because it can involve teaching chess generally rather than a particular opening.” (Jonathan Rowson, ‘Understanding the Grunfeld’, 1999)

Looked at this way, a ‘good’ opening book will be good not for the choice of opening but for how successfully it teaches chess in general. Given the availability of databases and engines this is probably even more important than it was in 1999. So a good book on an unorthodox opening may be better than a database dump of an orthodox one (but a good book on an orthodox opening is likely to be better than both).

(the Rowson book was and still is outstanding, in my opinion)

Tim Spanton
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Tim Spanton » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:55 pm

MJMcCready wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 4:43 am
How much impact can a well-written book on a poor choice of opening have? When I say poor I really mean unorthodox or rarely played, purely for example 1.b4. It seems as though some openings are better than people give them credit, mainly because the literature produced on them is suspect and unexplanatory. I'm not sure if I want to say what I just read because I believe the author is a forum member but its fair to say what he wrote about his favourite opening left a lot to be desired, and if anything, was downright off-putting. Can anyone think of a good book on a poor/much less played opening? GM Timothy Taylor's book on 1.f4 wasn't too bad a read I must admit.

How do we bridge the gap between the character of an opening and the literature written on it if it is the literature written which we go to? Furthermore, and to the side somewhat how do we assess the strength of it? If I read a book about the Sicilian Dragon by GM XXXX, is it really a book about the Sicilian Dragon or a book about the author and what he thinks is good to play. At club level theory is much less significant than at GM level and oftentimes entirely irrelevant. It's little more than a general observation but its seems like whenever books on chess theory are written, particularly on opening theory, the target audience is never borne in mind. I still remember studying a line in the Marshall Gambit in the Lopez that ran 44 moves deep. Unsurprisingly in the 31 years that have passed since, it has never appeared once.
There are no poor openings - only people who play openings poorly

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:13 pm

Just on a point of fact, I think Timothy Taylor is "only" an IM. Though you are not the first person to say nice things about that book.
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

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MJMcCready
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Re: Books and openings

Post by MJMcCready » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:39 pm

I'm reluctant to admit it but against 1.e4 I play 1. ...a6, and have been for a few years. I've been laughed at many times but rarely come out of the opening worse because is more transitional than people think. It's not the joke the vast majority see it as. I've had titled opposition on the back foot with it more than once. Similarly, the Staunton Gambit in the Dutch defence is derided yet if you don't know what to do against it, you will be in real trouble with it.

I'm pretty sure opening theory is, on the whole, not to be trusted. The very best in the world aren't going to reveal their closely held secrets for all to share, and what is shared is often poorly expressed. Apologies if I sound cynical but several years of playing 1. ...a6 at all levels has shown me it does not deserve the reputation it has.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:48 pm

MJMcCready wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:39 pm
Apologies if I sound cynical but several years of playing 1. ...a6 at all levels has shown me it does not deserve the reputation it has.
It give rise to transpositions, so a knowledge of positions where an early .. a6 is played is necessary. The Tiger Modern structure where Black plays g6, d6, Bg7, a6 is popular and three of the first four moves could be played in any order.

Simon Rogers
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Simon Rogers » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:52 pm

[quote="Tim Spanton" post_id=250012 time=1597499728 user_id=551

There are no poor openings - only people who play openings poorly
[/quote]
I think Tim has got this spot on.
I am guilty of not doing enough work on my openings and relying too much on tactics in the middlegame.
I certainly play a number of openings poorly, especially with Black.

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MJMcCready
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Re: Books and openings

Post by MJMcCready » Sat Aug 15, 2020 6:54 pm

I'm not quite sure what you mean by doing enough work on openings. Provided that you don't make mistakes in them, then you've done enough I'd say. The vast majority of amateur players are over reliant on opening theory with some suffering with delusions of grandeur over their conflated knowledge of that phase of the game. And though at best poxy in the endgame due to an imbalance on time spent on the separate phases of the game, they don't let it bother them.

Simon Rogers
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Simon Rogers » Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:41 pm

I mean study not work.
I don't do enough study. I make too many mistakes in the opening especially with Black.

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John Clarke
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Re: Books and openings

Post by John Clarke » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:14 pm

Who was it said something like: "below master level, all openings are sound"?
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

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MJMcCready
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Re: Books and openings

Post by MJMcCready » Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:06 am

Well whoever it was, I am in agreement. I don't see the point in coming out of the opening with a small advantage when you are left with a position that begets mistakes almost. If you don't understand the middlegame to follow, what was the point in playing it in the first place. Just to come out ahead? If you're 2600+, yes I get it but for those of us under that I don't.

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Joey Stewart
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Joey Stewart » Sun Aug 16, 2020 11:03 am

The only real reason to play 'wierd' openings is if you are up against someone who is not a very creative player but has learned loads of theory (Caro Kahn and French spring instantly to mind) just to try and rattle them and , horror of horrors, force them to actually think in the opening!
Lose one queen and it is a disaster, Lose 1000 queens and it is just a statistic.

Simon Rogers
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Re: Books and openings

Post by Simon Rogers » Sun Aug 16, 2020 11:05 am

At my level it's not about getting a small advantage. It's making sure you don't fall for any traps and and getting a good position with well developed pieces.
I have favourite Opening and Middlegame books and favourite authors which I would like to start new topics gradually in the future.

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