The Comeback Trail, Part 2

Continuing on from my previous article I want to talk about how the game has changed and what I might need to do to adjust. The big thing to happen in the last couple of decades has been an explosion in the use of chess databases and engines which mean that even club players need to watch out for home cooking.

If you visit Chess DB you might well find some of your own games. Can your opponents then prepare for you with a one click download of your games and then feeding them into Komodo or Stockfish for comment? This is certainly something to bear in mind and becomes an ever more serious issue if you have more games up there.

How can we avoid or neutralize hostile preparation? To my mind there are several ways to do so:

1. Stay on top of the lines that you play so you keep track of any theoretical developments and analyze everything with high powered engines.

2. Choose openings which are essentially irrefutable, such as the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Be prepared to play long games.

3. Play lines in which there are numerous reasonable choices further down the line and the positions that arise are not particularly suitable for engine analysis. Such openings will most likely feature a delayed contact between the forces that you find, for example, in the Reti Opening.

4. Cycle between a number of offbeat lines so that your opponents will find it difficult to prepare in much depth for all of them.

5. Use a combination of the above methods.

For club players I recommend only number 2, the reason being that classical positions with clear pawn structures are the best for developing positional understanding. Moving up to 2300+ players, with a deep understanding of different of different pawn structures, number 3 becomes a good approach because they are more likely to be able to bamboozle less knowledgeable opposition. For those with more time to study openings (and do essential work and maintenance on the rest of their game as well), then 1 and 4 start to enter the frame as approaches to consider, though many players do this at the expense of studying other aspects of chess.

What approach would work for an older GM who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time studying and maintaining openings? Me for example? Probably number 3 should be the primary approach, though mixing in a dollop of number 4 might be a good idea as well. Of course a lot depends on who you expect to be playing, with soundness carrying a premium if the opposition is going to be strong. But basically I don’t expect to be playing much against the 2700 club, at least not at classical time limits.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.