The Streatham and Brixton season may be halfway through, but mine is about to begin, with a game on Sunday. Which means I have to think all the thoughts about my opening repertoire that I should have been thinking over the last six chess-free months. But I've never been able to work properly without the pressure of a deadline and this applies as much to opening preparation as to anything else. You never have to get it done - it can always be put off for another game or another month or another season - so I never really get it done. Not properly. I read, or flick through books, I make decisions that I promptly change the following day and then change back just as swiftly once I remember all the reasons for the original decision.
What to play against 1.d4, if White doesn't allow the Nimzo? For years, now, I've been pondering whether to play the Queen's Indian Defence. The Benoni? Too risky. The Bogo? Not quite good enough. The QGD? Too hard to generate counterplay. The Semi-Slav? Bg5 is a pain. Yet at one time or another, I've "decided" I would play all of these. I have books on all of them. I have four books on the Queen's Indian Defence.
The best of these is probably the most recent, Peter Wells' volume in the optimistically-entitled series Chess Explained. Still, if the series title is misleading, the writing is not: Wells, who has written some justly-praised guides in the past, has produced another good one. Good enough, I hope, for me to use it as the launch-pad for a new opening experiment. At least until until I decide it's too theoretical, too passive, unsuitable for email chess, unsuitable for use against weaker players, unsuitable for use against stronger players, unsuitable because of various move-order issues arising from 1.c4 or 1.d4 - or because I play a couple of games with it, get beat and give it up as a result.
(I have, as I recall, played it before - but only once in an OTB game. I won. I gave it up nevertheless. Now that's what I call unreasonably high expectations.)
The other books I have on the Queen's Indian were written by Bogdan Lalic - always an author I like, as our styles are similarly dull - by Yrjölä and Tella and by Jacob Aagaard.
Aagaard has written some good books, but his Everyman Queen's Indian Defence is some way short of classic (although not down to the level of some books produced by that publishing house: the absence of effective proof-reading is unfortunately all too manifest in all too many of them). Still, it's workable enough, or so I thought after buying it - and I read it pretty thoroughly, by my standards, anyway, in the lead-up to a tournament I played in Oban, in the west of Scotland, in November 2004. (It was the second time I'd played that tournament: the first time, I played on top board in the final round, lost and won nothing, although my game subsequently featured in the Telegraph chess column.)
Travelling to Oban entailed a flight to Prestwick, a train journey into Glasgow and then another, slow but spectacular, up into the mountains to the north and then a final descent towards the coastal town. I read Aagaard's book for most of the journey and in my hotel room afterwards (and would probably have read it between the station and the hotel, had not my mobile rung, leading to a long conversation with a tearful friend about the sudden death of her cat). I was satisfied with my work and resolved that, if I drew the Black pieces in my opening game and my opponent gave me the opportunity, I would give it a try.
So off I went to the tournament hall, in the hotel where I was staying, to look up the draw. My name was on the right hand side: I did, indeed have the Black pieces. Top board, too. I looked to see who I was drawn against. My opponent was International Master Jacob Aagaard.