Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lesson 4: Opening zinger

Lesson tonight. It was OK. We went over a few of my games first. Besides missing some sweet tactical shots (of course!), he pointed out that I need to be more aggressive, that I tend to play very cautiously even when I have some good captures (especially pawn captures). Fritz points this out to me constantly. I still have a blindspot for pawn moves and captures, often I don't consider them when I have them, or when my opponent has them as defensive possibilities. I need to consider all defenses to my moves, all captures, and think them through (especially if the result seems unclear to me: if I think it through it could turn out to be quite a nice move!).

Another useful rule he pointed out, which is from Lasker: don't pin the king's knight to his queen until your opponent has castled kingside. That way, if he tries to chase away your bishop, you can safely move the bishop back to h4, and if he gives chase with the other pawn, he has severely weakened his castled king. This is very useful!

Finally we discussed some different opening options (even though I'm not working on openings really: ha!). I said I was sick of the closed Ruy as black and wanted to play the Open Ruy since it is more tactically oriented. He suggested a crazy version of the open Ruy, the Riga variation, one branch of which includes a crazy bishop sacrifice by black, which unfortunately leads directly to a draw. [The crazy line goes: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc5 a6 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. 0-0 Nxe4 7. d4 exd4 (the Riga move) 8. Re1 d5 9. Nxd4 Bd3 10. Nxc6 Bxh2+! which leads to a draw.] Flear says it is sound. I said it didn't seem like the kind of opening a GM would play, that it is the kind of opening I'd use for a while but later discard as too kooky. I want something that I'll want to keep. I jokingly added, I want an opening I can play when I become a GM. "You'll never be a GM," he said, not joking. While I know it is true, I still felt crushed, like I had just lost 50 games in a row. Not good mental prep for my five-game tournament this weekend. I need to get over it.

Brought in from longer response in comments:I'm not in this to be a GM. I started out hoping to reach 1200 at ICC. Now my goal is to reach 1500. But the rating is really not the object: I'm in it to have fun, to improve my game so that I can enjoy it more and appreciate it's beauty, not just to prop up my ego by being out of the bottom 50% at ICC. Love of the game should set north on my compass, not a goal of becoming a GM. Which I will never be. But I don't think it's cuz I couldn't. It's beacause, given the life I have chosen, I will not.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a load of crap. Becoming a GM is just like any other endeavor. It doesn't take a genius or special skill - it just takes a lot of time and discipline.

If anything about the research that has been done on GM's it's that they aren't different from anyone else except they've played a a huge number of games and have studied a ton.

Frankly, I would drop him if he were my coach. What a thing to say!

1/26/2007 01:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe he is trying to motivate you.. haha..

But, I guess maybe thats his way of telling you not to worry about openings right now. Maybe it will distract you from concentrating on the other stuff (tactics, etc)

I know a lot of players who don't study openings deliberately, and they get by. Me, a few 1900 and 2000 players.

Just my two cents.

1/26/2007 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Nezha: yes I think you are right that his point was that I don't need to worry about having an opening that GMs wouldn't play.

Jim: I would like to think you are right. But to become a GM I'd probably have to quit my job and do chess full time for 10 years :) Seirewan said in an article at chesscafe that nobody over 30 can become a GM if they are new to chess. That it just isn't possible. I hate that he said that. I would really like to prove him wrong! But alas, I've got a life, job, family and it would be a huge mistake to let my ego take me on such a time-consuming risk that would most likely end up costing me what I value most in life. I'll bet there are already counterexamples out there. If not, we just need J'adoube to be the one to run the four-minute mile, which is also impossible.

Note I think that the community of GMs perpetuates this attitude. It is taken as accepted fact, but it is based not on any sound psychological research. Even if it is true that it has never happened, I think it is because age is confounded with responsibilities: when you are over 30 and start chess, you likely already have a career, family ,etc, and there just isn't time to do it.

What made this particularly hurt was that I respect him, he is an IM, and he is my coach and has seen me in action for four sessions now, so it seems like he'd know! If I were younger and more stubborn (another confound) I'd set out to prove him wrong.

Perhaps with my recent trend of improvement I was getting too big for my britches. I am only rated 1300 at ICC: hell I'm like 967 in USCF.

I'm not in this to be a GM. I started out hoping to reach 1200 at ICC. Now my goal is to reach 1500. But the rating is really not the object: I'm in it to have fun, to improve my game so that I can enjoy it more and appreciate it's beauty, not just to prop up my ego by being out of the bottom 50% at ICC. Love of the game should set north on my compass, not a goal of becoming a GM. Which I will never be. But I don't think it's cuz I couldn't. It's beacause, given the life I have chosen, I will not.

1/26/2007 02:11:00 AM  
Blogger Dinomike100 said...

The coach was correct, it is EXTREMELY difficult to become a grandmaster if you don't start playing seriously when you are a kid. I think a few GMs did it, but the older you get the harder it is.

GMs aren't different from anyone else with the exception that most of them started playing chess seriously when they were kids, and the ones that didn't and become GMs were probably geniuses.

I wouldn't drop the coach because he is giving you honest feedback, even if it's not something that you want to hear.

I have heard that most adult players tend to reach their ceilings around 2000, although 2200 should be achievable if you put in A LOT of work.

So maybe not grandmaster, but if you really want to you can probably make master.

1/26/2007 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger Dinomike100 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/26/2007 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Dinomike100 said...

Oh yea, forgot to mention:

If you're looking for a solid opening to play as white without many lines to learn, I would recommend the English. Black can't do anything sharp against it. I think the worst he can do is play in such a way as to make you transpose into a complicated D4 opening or give black equality and not play D4.

I usually play something to the effect of:

1. c4
followed by nc3, d3, g3, Bg2, Nf3, 0-0 in varying orders (depends on what opponent does)

It saves a lot of hardrive space in my brain.

1/26/2007 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Dino: I agree for the most part.

Without knowing the causes, it isn't clear why this historical fact that adults don't become GMs very often (if at all) is true. The causes could be genetic (we have a critical period for really mastering symbolic games, so that it is as likely for someone to become a GM as to learn a second language without an accent after the age of 30), psychological (people over 30 have lives full of other responsibilities), cultural, etc.. Without empirical research, all we have to go on is anecdotes and personal experiences. Such things are important, but don't reveal enough.

It is ridiculously hard to become a GM. There are many IMs who do chess full time, but never reach GM. For that matter, the US has tons of national masters in the same boat. Is it motivation, lack of skill, or some of both? It depends on the person, I'm sure. For many it is probably both. Could Einstein have become a GM at age 30, if he trained for 10 years? I would bet yes. What about your average mathematician? Probably. It's an interesting question. Frankly, I think there is something like a critical period for rapid acquisition of public symbol systems like language and chess, so kids have an advantage. A big advantage probably. There are immigrants who are immersed in English for years who moved here when they were 40, and it is impossible to carry on a conversation with them. There are others who are amazing with the English language. My hunch: genetic and cultural factors both contribute, and we don't know where we are on the bell curves until we try.

If I had sought advice on this, or seriously said I wanted to be a GM, I would certainly want honesty. But it really caught me off guard and I'm still not sure what I think or should have brought it up publicly here.

By the way, nice blog. I'll have to sidebar you!

1/26/2007 03:04:00 AM  
Blogger wayward son said...

I think that a big part of it is simply time put in. If a child starts playing chess at 7 and is passionate about the game then he/she could have put in 10,000 hours by the age of 18 - 20. That is a huge head start over someone starting as an adult and we just can't come close to catching up.

1/26/2007 06:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you. Being a GM has very little practical usefulness and has a large opportunity cost.

Who would want to be a GM? Not me. What's the point? Those two letters have meaning to only .1% of the population, and a lot of those are old men. "GM" won't allow me to help people (like, say, MD or JD). My ego is big enough already; i don't need a chess title to enlarge it further. Nor do i need a GM title to enjoy the game or to play blitz and talk trash with my buddies rated 1600-2000.

Not being a GM is a sign of a diversified intellect which is not invested wholly in chess.

"But is any professional chess player really sane? It has been said that every great man has been a great chess player, but was there ever a chess player who was a great man? Of course not, and never will be. It is impossible. Great skill at chess is not a mark of greatness of intellect but of great intellect gone wrong."
-New York Clipper 1906, on Pillsbury's suicide attempt

Your teacher's comment was a compliment.

1/26/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

The Riga variation isn't really a forced draw.  White has alternatives to 8. Nxd4, and even the "main line" that you mention continues 10. Kh1! Qh4  11. Rxe4+! dxe4  12. Qd8+! Qxd8  13. Nxd8+ Kxd8  14. Kxh2, reaching a position in which White, unfortunately, tends to do quite well.

2/01/2007 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger phorku said...

You should drop your chess coach unless you have the angry teen

mentality and want to disprove everything you are told you can't

do.

Did you ever hear about the study where they took a bunch of

troubled students and put them in the same class and told the

teacher they were gifted, and put the gifted kids in a class and

told the teacher they were under performers? Even if you never

heard of it I am sure you can guess the results. He is already setting limits on your ability...

While it is unlikely you will ever be a GM never is a very long

time.

I also don't buy that kids learning faster than adults crap.

Your biggerst hinderance to your chess is your responsibilities.

I believe many of those kid / adult studies are flawed

(confirmation bias - see student example) There are probably

other flaws in the study.

I also think that it is total crap he wants doesn't want you to

play the Bishop's. You spent time and money on the opening and

you like it. 2 Bc4 does not attack anything my ass. I have bagged many opponents in the opening picking up a pawn and my oppents right to castle with the premature pin on the king's knight. Not to mention the crushing pressure you can get on the f file with the Vienna variation we like to play. B on c4 Doubled rooks on the half open f file... In fact I am so in love with the f file all my openings move the kings pawn ahead of the knight except for the Scandy.

Sorry for the late comment but I have been mighty busy.

2/02/2007 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Phorku: thanks for the comments. I am still not sure what I'm gonna do. I'll give it a few months. To some degree, I do have that trait of wanting to prove someone wrong. In this case, however, it would destroy me :)

2/02/2007 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Chivers said...

Some of those piece sac lines v the Ruy are very hard to play for white (I speak from painful experience.) I thought the variation he suggested was inferior, though, but I may be mistaken.

Btw, re:

"Another useful rule he pointed out, which is from Lasker: don't pin the king's knight to his queen until your opponent has castled kingside. That way, if he tries to chase away your bishop, you can safely move the bishop back to h4, and if he gives chase with the other pawn, he has severely weakened his castled king."

There are lots of things like this that are inherent in many chess openings. Btw, 1.Bg5 h6 in many openings when ..O-O has been played can also often be met with 2.h4, if there's still a rook on h1.

2/06/2007 05:28:00 PM  

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