An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

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MJMcCready
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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by MJMcCready » Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:00 am

Paul Cooksey wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:26 am


The irony here is that reviews which correctly point out that a book is not suitable for an advanced player seem to damage the books reputation, even though we all know that it is highly unlikely that a book suitable to teach someone 1500 who does not know theory in a particular opening will also be suitable for a 2500 who knows the existing theory. I think MrMcCready is perpetuating the myth that the only good books are books that expand theory. In the maths analogy, there are good GCSE-Level books and bad ones.
No it's not that. I just think that on the whole books on chess theory are poorly written. Most who write them possess an understanding of what they write about but communicate it poorly or don't have clearly defined objectives or readers in mind. I think the most telling factor of all, which is often left unanswered particularly regarding opening theory, is why aren't the very best players in the world writing about it? Some books clearly are instructive and helpful because the author has the talent to communicate his ideas effectively, Rowson for example, but such texts are few and far between. On the whole the genre is replete with those who play chess well but write poorly. It's not really about content more so how and why its communicated in the way that it is.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:11 am

MJMcCready wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:00 am
I think the most telling factor of all, which is often left unanswered particularly regarding opening theory, is why aren't the very best players in the world writing about it?
The obvious reason is that they don't want to give away their secrets. Game annotations though and short articles in NIC Yearbook are written by top players from time to time.

Paul Cooksey
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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by Paul Cooksey » Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:52 am

MJMcCready wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:00 am
No it's not that. I just think that on the whole books on chess theory are poorly written.
This seems to me an entirely different point to the academic value of books on chess theory. I suspect that books written by professors of literature are more eloquent than those written by professors of geology. But the latter probably more useful if you have an interest in rocks.

Roger has already explained that top players advance chess theory through their games not by writing books. The discussion on the French reminded me on an interview after a game when a reporter asked Peter Svidler for his opinion on a particular variation, and he replied "I don't know, someone has to ask Evgeny" Bareev was the leading theoretical expert for Black at the time. But the only way Evgeny would reply is in a sufficiently important game, as Peter implied.

But again my main point is about the purpose of the book. If you want to know whether it is more accurate to play cd4 before f6 in the mainline of established Tarrasch theory you don't need a top GM to tell you. You need a qualified teacher, not an eminent professor. If you are preparing the French to play in the candidates, you might want to employ GM Potkin.

Rowson is a much better writer than most authors of chess books. But if you are, say, 180 and want to play the Grunfeld, Kovalchuk's more recent book will be more useful than Rowson's more stylish one. Of course you might still enjoy Rowson's more.

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MJMcCready
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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by MJMcCready » Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:39 am

Paul Cooksey wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:26 am
I'm not sure it is ever wise to take Mr McCready's posts seriously, but I am quite interested.

I think there is definitely discussion of chess that meets a loose definition of academic. Notably the discourse between Dorfman and his "Method" and the Dvoretsky school. It has the main hallmarks of academic discussion between eminent theorists, in that it became a bitter personal feud lasting decades with occasional name calling.

Yes, there is some evidence but it is infrequent and specific rather than holistic. What we see more of in chess is inter-textual discussion and constructs, which you could argue are the precursors to discourse itself. If we take how certain academic disciplines have progressed over the last 50-100 years, for example Literature and History. Discourse has altered the very nature of both, and the plurality of voices has benefitted both greatly. No such developments have occured in chess literature as a genre. You don't see books being written about women's chess or feminist critiques of 20th century chess for example. You don't critiques over methodology (not that much evidence of that exists), and rarely if ever do you see much if any evidence of research -which most titled chess players think of as hard work and best avoided!

It's true there has been some overall improvement and there are titled players who write well. But the feeling I am always left with is that on the whole chess literature, as a genre, is stagnant and exceptionally poor. When academics publish material they have more than a vested interest in the subject matter. For most of the books written on chess the author usually has a passing interest only, and his primary interest for writing is almost always his own personal profit. Coming from an academic background, I find that hard to stomach.

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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by Paul Cooksey » Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:51 pm

The idea that mass market books of chess are written primarily for profit is doubtless true. Much as it is for mass market history and literature books.

Has the system for chess discourse advanced in the last 100 years? Of course. 100 years is much too easy, it includes Informants notation system in the 60s. Even at 50 years, if I say I assess a position as -1.3 everyone today knows exactly what I mean. If I talk about a superfluous knight or a critical moment, every master knows what I mean.

Have chess opening books stagnated? Compare, for example Winning with the Scotch from the 90s and The Modern Scotch from this year. Are there books expanding our understanding of chess? Gelfand's Positional Decision Making in Chess is staggering, Game Changer is groundbreaking. No evidence of research? Good grief!

But where we came in, an opening repertoire for club players. I'm sticking with my analogy that it is the academic equivalent of a GCSE maths textbook. I can't see the absence of feminist critiques of chess books proving anything, any more than the minimal feminist interest in basic maths. If either was a social science, I would think differently.

Mike Gunn
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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by Mike Gunn » Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:42 am

(As I think I have pointed out before) there are several different types of opening books and there has been a change in fashion (and titles) over the last 25 years or so. 25 years ago it was all "Winning with ..." and "the Complete ..." and these titles have now g.one out of fashion. If you list the different types we have:

1. The encyclopaedia
2. General guides/ surveys of all openings
3. A "comprehensive" book on an opening (or variation) which features all common (sub)variations but no complete games.
4. A "comprehensive" book on an opening (or variation) which features complete games thereby covering most (sub)variations.
5. Repertoire books.

All these different types of book can be useful in different ways. I think the MJMcCready criticism is unfair in general and in particular of the Lev Psakhis book "the Complete French" (a type 3/ 4 book). Although this book is quite dated now 20+ years ago for me it filled a gap between types 1 and 2 and type 5. At that time I was trying to improve my understanding of the French defence and I was giving a lift in my car to a 200+ graded player on our ways to different sections of the the Surrey Congress. I asked my colleague a key question which was vexing me: "... under what conditions is it a good idea to play "f6" to challenge white's centre?". He replied "... there is no general rule, you have to consider each case on its merits. Look at all the examples of where black plays f6 in the book by Psakhis and try and understand what is going on."

Any set of games or fragments of games can be useful if you study them and try to understand them rather than just memorise the moves.

PS I have always thought that "Theory" is really a misnomer, a more accurate word would be "fashion".

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Re: An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Post by MJMcCready » Sun Sep 27, 2020 3:25 am

John Moore wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 8:42 am
MJMcCready wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 1:30 am
Hmm, strange stuff. So how is development or progression possible without discourse ? All you get in chess is some GM putting on paper whatever he is thinking about at the time. I still remember seeing two Batsford publications in the mid 80s about the Sicilian Dragon, and in one line they both reached the same position but in one book it was winning for white, the other winning for black. It's rarely if ever been the case that the author is good enough as a player to write about chess. Having something published is almost always some half-arsed attempt in increase sources of revenue because they've already gone as far as they can go and can't profit any further over the board. There are exceptions but they are in a small minority.
Development or progression in chess happens through new games by strong players which are then referenced in databases or in the better quality chess books.
Look we both know, since its always been the case, that development or progress is blunted by the edifice it has emerged from, which in itself sets limitations. Coupled with the fact that the elite never ever publish material (after all why would they) and can thus repediate at the drop of a hat what finds itself into print. That alone is sufficient. Factor in most book safe written by titled players whose career is waning and the topic chosen is one designed to increase profit thus beyond personal integrity. Add that very few who write can write well, most are at best distinctly average or below to varying degrees? It's rarely the case that they are educated enough, good enough at chess, have a geniune interest in the content, and some more than little ability to communicate what what know. Factor in the process behind which a publication undergoes is not worth commentating on. Chess players see research as work and effort. So for something to go into print what we get is some titled player calling up mates and the publishing company, with a casual agreement to follow providing that money can be made. Compare that cess-pit to academia and its a minute a laugh. Academics aren't usually one-trick ponies for the simple reason than the procedure to have things published is convoluted and credible. As I did when I had to defend my thesis. You have to stand in front of noted academics and explain yourself. This gives rise to discouse and conjunction,the product being a developed artifice, thorough and probing. Betterment is the name of the game. That does exist in chess but its a peripheral phenomena because the whole point is missing completely. Do you know what that is? Do you want me to tell you? OKay I will but you bloody well hang your head in shame as you should. To survive seminaras against correctly named and well-established intellectuals is hard work. Some whimiscal idea about an opening you aren't bothered too much by is the norm. It's uncritical, ususally the sort of thing the very best would laugh at. Academia is progressive, noble. Chess literature oozes laziness out of every orifice it has because the general public are naive and can't question what they do or buy. For the most part chess authors are charlatans. It's very rare that they ever say anything they understand the presuppositions they are well and truly bound by. Certainly in terms of chess history all we learn from that is there is there are two kinds of people in this world: academics and scum, some of which are suprisingly into chess realizing that's a waste of life more or less. As we know, those who buy chess book regularly should be shot. But since murder is currently illegal, they just carry on. Literature in chess embodies self-interest and alreads has done even though getting one a year worth reading is one hell of a struggle. Academics write because the content of their work really means something to them, the being part of department, they are always open to revision.

Chess is nowhere near that honourable. It's just a bunch of titles players who couldn't make it, a sub-genra whose career is most likely in decline or has reached as far as its gone, hence the necessity of additional streams of revenue, churning out many abocve them would be very dismissive of for an audience far too diverse for them to handle. I find it highy amusing to cpmpare chess-literature and academic publications; the process within which they develop and take shape is critical throughtout and far too easy to get a handle on. some chess book with poorly explained objectives, as a purchase, is a classic example for the unthinking general public falling for the same stunt again. Don't go beyond the world of academia: everyone in it is scum and daily life is a commiseration at best...if you are stuck between what to do here -and I want to point out I am only told this, rather than desent into chess literature, i've heard long afternoons sniffing bags of glue with trousers on where you can see your arse as a better alternative.

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