Any serious club player wishing to improve should prepare their openings properly. I know looking online at multiple free database sites with millions of games and choosing the moves order based on shown percentages is the most common action these days. Players do that and believe they are well prepared and of course do not need anyone to tell them otherwise; also who has time to read books today? Is it even cool anymore? You can google so many things and get acceptable returns, why would chess be different? The thing is one does not really know an opening just by learning or googling an opening move order! Not knowing what the opening ideas are (require more careful and selective googling or reading from proper books…) and furthermore not the known plans, attacking themes and specific combinations, handicaps those falling in this category decisively.
Over the board (OTB) play and correspondence have always been different. In OTB a good memory, chess sense and a good combination of strategic and tactical skills are important as we all know. Correspondence chess is a different animal for a couple of simple reasons: players have days and not minutes to make a move, plus by not being in the same location each can use all sort of tools and documentation to help them out with their move choices. In correspondence chess playing the opening badly is suicidal and not spending the time to do the analytical work required to figure out what the opponent is doing even if you don’t know much is unacceptable. Playing correspondence chess can also allow engine assistance; each given choice at the beginning of the game requires a proper approach.
The game I present today was played in an International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) sanctioned tournament where both players could use engines to assist them with their play. This is important because one must be aware of it ahead of time and use engines. It is possible Black did not use them at all or properly: it is not enough to just let an engine start digging in the position and then just select one of the top engine choices after a few minutes; more or less a monkey can do that and no matter how good the engines are today, when both players use them in the same time, the one using them better will always win. Let this game be a good example in this regard!
What can we conclude at the end of it? Black had a vague idea it needed to attack the queenside castled position using a minority attack. It also expected White’s attack on the opposite flank to take a long time until all White pawns and pieces would be mobilized. Both expectations were wrong and adding insult to injury Black also deserted his kingside castled position. White’s attack was intuitive and swift. It is the desired, expected and needed approach in today’s chess to get a leg up on your opponents. Play or change your play in this direction! Take the time to study an opening you want to start using. Go beyond scratching the surface with a couple of minutes googling on dubious sites or following the free recommendations of every Tom, Dick or Harry. Do not be impressed by the sheer number of games in a database, but by their quality. In the end hard work is always rewarded…
If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!
Valer Eugen Demian