Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Theory Hounds?

How theoertical do your games tend to be? How soon is it before you're unable to follow a previous game, either of yours or somebody else's, or some line you've read in a book?

So far this season I've played half a dozen times and on average I have to start thinking for myself on move six or seven. OK, that's a pretty small sample but as I recall it was a similar story for the 30 odd games I played last year.

So how about you? Theory hound or free spirit?

10 comments:

ejh said...

I'm a theory hound and proud of it: I think it's important. My score in openings I've played a long time (open games, King's Indian fianchetto) is noticeably better than in other openings, and that's not coincidence.

Mind you, I have got far far far too many books...

Jonathan B said...

So on average, Justin, how many moves of theory would you get to play in a game?

I'm curious ... because although I think I know certain of my openings quite well I often don't get to play them because the other guy varies.

E.g. I've only had the opportunity to play a mainline Winawer (3. Nc3 Bb4/4. e5 etc) twice in my last dozen or so games against 1. e4.

Anonymous said...

For me the advantage of knowing certain openings, and the the theory on those openings, well is that it gives you more confidence to deviate at the first opportunity if you see a possible alternative to which you're attracted.

And it's never too early to start looking - I get in to the habit by giving myself up to 5 minutes on move 1.

Any connection between this and habitual time trouble in purely circumstantial... ;)

Richard

ejh said...

So on average, Justin, how many moves of theory would you get to play in a game?

It's harder to say exactly than you'd think, because sometimes you're still in theory when you don't realise it at the time. So I looked at my last ten White and last ten Black games taking the view that I was only "in theory" if, when playing the game, I was reasonably sure that I was still in a position I'd seen before. And the answer was 8-9 moves with White and 10 with Black.

It can't be stressed too often that the real point is to have had the position on a chessboard while thinking about it, rather than to have seen it in a book: while the latter is sometimes useful (if you remember that Black is supposed to play, say, 10...Ne8, then that can help you work out what to do on moves 8 and 9) the real point is what happens when you're put of theory. The point isn't to "catch" anybody in anything, though occasionally that does of course happen: and it's certainly worth avoiding being caught in something yourself. And it can also be helpful to know it better than the opponent simply because they will become unsure more quickly and make the first inaccuracies.

But the idea is to give yourself a better chance of knowing what you're doing. And if you've seen the positions before, preferably several times, you've got a much better idea of what sort of things you should be considering doing and why.

There's no substitute for experience, no substitute for knowledge and no substitute for work.

ejh said...

Incidentally it may be worth saying what I nearly said to a clubmate of mine the other day. Which is a better way to prepare an opening: for one hour before a game, or for two years beforehand?

Tom Chivers said...

I'm not proud of being untheoretic, but untheoretic I am: last night as black after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 O-O 5.Ne2, I was in a new position to me...

ejh said...

Yes, but next time you play it you won't be, and if you do the work on it now, you'll not just be more experienced, you'll be better informed.

Wahrheit said...

When I play people rated over 1800 USCF they tend to be a lot more theoretical, and I've had a couple with a 2100 that went 18-19 moves of Gruenfeld Defense theory, but at my level and with the people I play I'd say 10 is rare, and 6-7 is the norm. In a recent big open I played a game where Black's (1681) first two moves were a6 and h6, always good for putting the opponent on his own resources. I did punish him in the end, however.

Anonymous said...

Learning 10-15 moves beforehand just ruins 1/3 of the game.

Richard

ejh said...

It can do and this is particularly so in correspondence chess - I recently played a Semi-Slav where my opponent deviated from known theory on something like move 24 and I don't think we got to move 30 before we agreed a draw. It happens: up to one player or other to find an improvement, I guess.

However, those 10-15 moves can involve the creation of a game sufficiently dense that you do pack a great deal of thinking into the rest of the game. It's not at all unusual for me to find myself on the Black side of this line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbb2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 (the fact that I could do that from memory probably tells us something). But I've never had an uninteresting game from there.