Originally posted by Habeascorp
In a recent game against an opening i am unfamiliar with rather than buy a book/otherwise research the opening i checked out the games explorer 1900+ database and simply played the most successful opposing moves until my opponent varied. (i ignored spikes where only one person had played a move)
This will not win you games but maybe stopped me losing in the opening. Any examples of this sort of policy going horribly wrong?
Plenty. Often there is a large body of older games where the line in question has been successful, until someone discovered a novelty which renders the old line poison. There are fewer new games with the novelty than old games without it, so the stats are misleading.
Also, many times you will be led into lines where correct play is not so clear: as long as your opponent stays in book, this may not be a problem, but as soon as he deviates (as most of your amateur opponents will) you are now in a position that may not be at all clear, or to your liking or consistent with your preferred style of play, and now you don't know what to do and your database doesn't tell you. An error is only an error if it can be properly punished; many times an erroneous move may end up being strong if the reply does not correctly punish it.
I haven't used opening databases with any of my games here. I don't like chess by numbers and I don't like being the dummy pushing wood on behalf of a database dictator. I found in the past that I had insufficient understanding both of chess and of databases to use them competently. Now I think through openings using first principles, and have far more enjoyment in the game; I'm also learning more, and even playing better.