Look b4 You Leap

As I have pointed out before, the manner in which most opening study takes place is bizarre. The focus on move order helps teach the beginner to avoid known traps, but keeps the student focused on the map rather than the terrain, on rote memorization rather than on cognitive development. Move-orderism waves aside the existential truth that the combinatorial complexity of Chess renders memorization a hopeless chore and sets the student the task of enumerating the nine billion names of the Almighty, as it were.

There are players, both now and in the past (Weaver W. Adams comes to mind) who achieve some success in Chess without ever growing beyond the front-to-back move-order mindset. They are not great artists, but they are often competent technicians and produce interesting games, especially in correspondence where they can consult the libraries the maintenance of which is their primary contribution to our game.

In the category of library maintenance, a supremely entertaining website is Marek’s 1.b4 Encyclopedia. Marek Trokenheim offers those who contribute funds to his labor of love a collection of over 200,000 annotated (apparently leaning heavily upon the silicon deity) games in 1. b4, the Orangutan Opening which Savielly Tartakower claimed to have been advised to play by an orangutan named Suzie at the Bronx Zoo. The opening sometimes bears the humorless-but-no-more-edifying Soviet name the Sokolsky Opening, or colloquially the Polish Opening.

Marek is troubled by his recent discovery that 2409 games of the collection are altered or composed games that never took place as described.  But more games are on the way: he also organizes ongoing theme tournaments in the various lines of the Orangutan, which he has heavily indexed and categorized, a monumental and inspiring edifice of move-orderism.

The most famous early game in 1. b4 was Tartakower – Maroczy, New York 1924 which Tartakower missed winning by an endgame slip on move 47.

Jacques Delaguerre