That is a very nice way of teaching Geoff. First of all, I truly believe that repetition is the key. It's not just about repetition though (as you pointed out). It's about understanding what is going on too. I read a lot of game collections. I constantly find myself going through the same game multiple times in a row. Remind me, and I will post two such examples from my recent game collection that I am going through (a book or Portisch's games). I know of two games that I played through at least 3 times, and I didn't stop until I understood them (as well I could).
I also believe in a real set and pieces. I can show you thousands of ideas that I have gotten from playing over games on my wood set. I seldom remember a game from chessgames.com. They are nice to look at but dissolve quickly. In fact, I often hand write game scores into books if I really like them. That way, I can give it the proper going over when I am offline.
That variation of the Caro-Kann is very instructive. That was a great game. I recall another game, explained very well, that taught me to play the varaition correctly as well. It was either a Fischer game or a Walter Browne game (maybe even Fischer-Browne lol). My mental database doesn't remember participants. ... It remembers moves and ideas.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bf4 Bg4 7. Qb3 Qc8 8. Nd2 e6 9. Ngf3 Be7 10. O-O Bh5 11. Qc2 Bg6
can also be very instructive.
7. ... Qc8 has the idea of holding the b pawn without trading minor pieces. Why 10. ... Bh5 (instead of 0-0)? It is because black wants to oppose the light squared bishop as soon as possible. Castling would run right into Ne5. 11. ... Bg6 is another nice defense maneuver. It trades pieces, neutralises the bishop (and his path to h7), and threatens Nb4. One more idea (for black) is to neutralise the kingside attack and get in the minority attack (b5, b4, and bxc3). This gets black his play (and many weak queenside squares to work with). The variation gives equal chances, but the kingside attack doesn't take much to become dangerous.
As I said, this can be a very instructive variation.
* Note to readers: This was a column about learning ideas, not teaching a new opening variation. All the new Caro junkies will lash out 5. ... Qc7, and you can't play Bf4. In fact, I think this is in a new repertoire book for black. Just a word of caution and totally off the subject.
It is best to have someone go over your own personal games with you as well. Eekbot once asked me "Why do you take forever to castle in a lot of your games?" I didn't realise I was doing it, but I explained that with a closed center it is hard for my opponent to come up with a plan. By castling early, you give him a target. Attacking the king in his new nest, can easily turn into an entire middlegame plan. I would generally wait and see where the bulk of pieces were aimed and castle the other way. I think he kind of understood what I was talking about. It's not a great lesson, but it did give him something to think about. Stuff like this, you have to have explained (or possibly read). An engine will never break down not castling like that. (Of course it doesn't fear "attacks" to start with.
Keep up the good work Geoff. I think you are on to something good. Thanks to David Tebb too.
* Anyone interested in the Portisch games ???