Please turn on javascript in your browser to play chess.
Only Chess Forum

Only Chess Forum

  1. 13 May '07 09:02
    On p. 265 of John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, he gives the following:

    "
    Haven't you seen it time and again: "Don't memorize openings; just learn the 'principles' behind them" ... "you shouldn't be trying to learn by heart; understanding the 'ideas' is what really counts" ... "young players spend too much time learning openings, when they should be mastering the fundamental principles of the game, and so forth?" This advice is given with a straight face by strong grandmasters whose entire time is occupied by (and whose chess upbringing consisted primarily of) studying and memorizing opening variations and whole games!
    "

    Watson believes that understanding an opening is not enough; it must be memorized. However, I wonder if he still considers understanding the opening important. I hope he does.

    Anyway, I'm not sure I completely agree with his position, at least for most openings. (not the live or die Dragon and Poison Pawn Najdorf) What are your thoughts on this?
  2. Standard member Korch
    Chess Warrior
    13 May '07 09:16
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    On p. 265 of John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, he gives the following:

    "
    Haven't you seen it time and again: "Don't memorize openings; just learn the 'principles' behind them" ... "you shouldn't be trying to learn by heart; understanding the 'ideas' is what really counts" ... "young players spend too much time learning openings, when the ...[text shortened]... the live or die Dragon and Poison Pawn Najdorf) What are your thoughts on this?
    It depends on openings. In sharp forced opening lines (like Sicilian Dragon) you are obliged to memorize them. Otherwise you are risking to lose quickly opponent with better memory.

    In more positional openings (like Reti, English etc.) memorising is not so important, but anyway without memorising main lines you may have serious problems against skilled players to get advantage with white and to equalise with black.
  3. 13 May '07 11:25 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    On p. 265 of John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, he gives the following:

    "
    Haven't you seen it time and again: "Don't memorize openings; just learn the 'principles' behind them" ... "you shouldn't be trying to learn by heart; understanding the 'ideas' is what really counts" ... "young players spend too much time learning openings, when the the live or die Dragon and Poison Pawn Najdorf) What are your thoughts on this?
    The view that knowledge of basic opening principles is enough is so short-sighted it's unreal - for instance:
    1.e4...e5
    2.Nf3...Nc6
    3.Bc4...Bc5
    4.Nc3
    And black can get by on sound opening principles

    1.e4...e5
    2.Nf3...Nc6
    3.Bc4...Bc5
    4.b4!
    And black must know some defensive lines or will be buried alive.
  4. 13 May '07 12:39
    I agree.

    As black I play the benko gambit and I pretty much freewheel based on an idea of general plans in different postions; as white I play the Max Lange Attack and you can be damn sure I memorise variations untl move 20 or so.
  5. 13 May '07 17:12
    Interestingly enough, IM Watson just had a new book published (by Gambit Publications) "Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume I". The 335 page book devoted to 1. e4 openings received a very favorable review in the May 2007 issue of Chess Life magazine.
  6. 13 May '07 19:08
    Although knowing a lot of openings inside out would improve the average players rating, personally I don't think it's the best use of his or her time. There are loads of areas where we could all improve which would give better results for less effort (endings, endings, endings!).

    However once you get to Grandmaster standard then your general level of play is obviously excellent in all areas and knowing the openings and latest theory very well is probably the only part of your game which you can work on.
  7. 13 May '07 19:11
    Originally posted by Fat Lady
    Although knowing a lot of openings inside out would improve the average players rating, personally I don't think it's the best use of his or her time. There are loads of areas where we could all improve which would give better results for less effort (endings, endings, endings!).

    However once you get to Grandmaster standard then your general level of pla ...[text shortened]... ings and latest theory very well is probably the only part of your game which you can work on.
    I think you have to make a comparison between improving your level of play and improving your results.

    The Max-Lange attack, and my knowledge of it, have handed me quite a few rating points in the past.

    Endings are important but it has become a cliche to wax lyrical about them. Quite a few of my games don't make it that stage.
  8. 13 May '07 20:41
    Still, between understanding an opening and memorizing it, I have to think that understanding ranks higher.
  9. 19 May '07 04:37
    I get the feeling that Watson doesn't even think knowing the typical ideas of an opening is useful and that everything should be memorized or analyzed independently. For example that in the English Attack of the Najdorf, it's often a position where when White plays A, Black counter on the other side with B. Does anyone else get this feeling or am I just misunderstanding him?
  10. 20 May '07 05:47
    At the beginning of the year I set about improving my opening knowledge by studying the main lines of my repertoire. I soon had to prioritise and narrow this down to studying just one of my openings more intensively than th others - there is so much to learn.

    Given that it's going to take so long to get to grips with just the basics of just one opening then how could I do this and ignore other important areas such as tactics and endgames.

    I think it's fair to say that as well as knowing the main lines of an opening it's also important to develop the skill to exploit a slight advantage that may come out of your better opening knowledge. It's happened to me several times that my opponent has played some weaker moves in the opening - presumably due to not knowing the theory - but then they have gone on to win the game through being a stronger tactical player.

    As for memorising v's understanding I think that the one can follow from the other. By this I mean that memorising can be a step on the road to understanding.
  11. 20 May '07 12:17 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by exigentsky
    On p. 265 of John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, he gives the following:

    "
    Haven't you seen it time and again: "Don't memorize openings; just learn the 'principles' behind them" ... "you shouldn't be trying to learn by heart; understanding the 'ideas' is what really counts" ... "young players spend too much time learning openings, when the the live or die Dragon and Poison Pawn Najdorf) What are your thoughts on this?
    I can't even begin to weigh in on your question. I'm a patzer, I haven't really started trying to learn openings yet, and I don't have Watson's book. But maybe you'll be comforted a little by reading Jeremy Silman's review of Watson's book. Here's several quotes that I thought were interesting -

    "How, you may ask, can an author do too good a job? Well, he stepped beyond the boundaries of the "good old boy" network by offering up information that was supposed to stay secret. By doing so, he's made liars and fools out of most masters, and he's confused the chess-playing masses to such a degree that teaching the game may never be the same again!"

    "I can only guess that this chess anti-Christ doesn't quite understand what he's doing to the ordinary player. There's poor Joe Chess: He learns the basic rules, and takes to heart the golden bits of advice that we all grew up on: "Avoid bad bishops!" scream the classicists. Watson quotes grandmaster Suba: "Bad bishops protect good pawns." He then implores us to give those bad bishops the love they so desperately deserve."

    "But is Watson's truth beneficial to non-professional players? I honestly don't think it is. Beginners, needing a foundation upon which to start, should embrace those rules and ignore John's intellectual ravings. Stronger players, however, will do themselves a favor by savoring everything Watson has said, and running it all through their mind for quite a long time."

    http://www.jeremysilman.com/book_reviews_js/js_secrets_modern_chess_st.html