Follow by Email

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chess theory at the class or club level

Most of us chess players fall into the class or club player level, meaning we aren’t experts or titled players. On that same note, most of us have not been playing serious, competitive chess since we were four, or seven, or even ten. The large majority of us, even if we do actively play in tournaments, play for the fun and love of the game. Sure, we love improving, but is GM really in our future?

So, what is all the talk about this line or that line being refuted, busted or archaic? Those phrases affect the FM, IM and GM most, because their understanding of the game is so deep. It’s their job to keep up on and memorize theory so they can remain competitive.

I’m going to assume that most of the folks reading this blog entry do not have a chess title of any sort, and lose games regularly due to silly mistakes. I know I do. So, if we botch tactics, screw up the move order in openings and thoroughly rot at endgames, what the heck does it matter that we are playing archaic lines that have been thrown out at the highest level? It doesn’t. Really, it is that simple.

This is especially true, in my opinion, when we get to openings like the Sicilian. Each Sicilian variation carries with it tons of theory and sharp lines. If your rating is 1450 and you like playing c5 against e4, I say, “Go for it!” Just don’t expect to get the results that a 2500 rated player will. 1...c5 may be theoretically the most powerful response to 1. e4, but it doesn’t win on its own. You also have to be a good player. Get the basic move order down, pick a variation you like and keep playing it. Don’t listen when some 1700 comes along and tells you that the Najdorf options have all been exhausted and so it isn’t worth playing. It is simply and completely untrue.

I don’t like learning a lot of theory, so I enjoy lines like 1. f4 or 1. Nf3 right off the bat, which turn into “chess” almost immediately instead of rote, memorized lines that anyone can bang out in a few seconds. If you want to learn theory, pick up the QGD or play 1. e4 and study like mad. The point is, that whichever line you decide to play, archaic or not, is going to be competitive at “our” level. If you are 12 years old and have a 2300 FIDE rating, of course it’s going to be different for you. However, if you are somewhere at mid-class level with the rest of us and dream of breaking 1800 some day, play whatever the heck you like. The theory means exactly zip.