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ccmcacollister 30 ( +1 | -1 )
UNSOUND OPENINGS ?! I noticed a debate going on in the Traps thread about certain openings and whether they were unsound or playable. So starting this thread to discuss the soundness of various openings or whether unsound.
And also, why do the strong players such as IM's/GM's etc. stop playing particular openings?
ccmcacollister 252 ( +1 | -1 )
A couple comments: First I'd like to offer the general comment; I think that when GM's et al begin to refrain from practicing the white side of a particular opening it is almost Never due to some great improvement from BL suddenly rendering that opening Unsound for WT. And that two other circumstances will be prevalent quite a lot more than 80% of the time.
The first: WT may abandon an opening when a BL resource is found that makes it drawish, or allows equality where WT used to have a "pull".
Second: Openings may be dropped when an alternative opening begins to provide superior winning chances for WT, or winning chances with less risk, than the other opening. So players may migrate to that "new" opening.
***
A case in point of number-2: Why are there not more WT players entering systems such as Evan's Gambit, Scotch Game, Giuoco Piano, and King's Gambit ?
In the case of the first 3 I believe that a large part of the reason is they became notoriously drawish if BL is content with that result.
And regarding the latter, plus the first three, imo there is another very strong reason. Stated in two words it is "Ruy Lopez" .
***
When I surveyed two years worth of games selected for publication, the Lopez had an incredibly high winning percentage for the WT side in games that were decisive ... in excess of 79% (!) for WT.
.....
Even a superb tactician and creative genius at the board, GM David Bronstein, who never fears complications, chose the Lopez as his main weapon vs ...e5 and sometimes called it the Ruy Lopez Attack. He played many KG's as well and some Vienna and Bishop's openings ... but would go to the Lopez more than 4 times for every KG he played, in his self-authored collection "200 Open Games". Fischer, Tal, many other GM's go to the Lopez first. Does this mean that all other systems vs 1...e5 are unsound? I think not.
***
If someone were to call them unsound, and issue a challenge to take the black side, then it seems to me they should be willing to give Draw odds. In other words, to be willing to RESIGN the game if they cannot WIN with the Black pieces. That is the definition of unsoundness after all ... to be unplayable. Not just inferior, nor drawish, but a Losing proposition.
And this is just one example. And I would apply the same criteria to anyone claiming
that a Black opening is Unsound. An unsound game Must Lose against best play. Otherwise it is not unsound, merely uncomfortable or impractical.
So it seems to me. . . .
}8-)
*****************
schnarre 23 ( +1 | -1 )
Hmmnnn.... I think playing style figures in as well: finding openings that fit. This may simply change over time (I used to open with 1. Nf3, until I started using 1. a3 which I've used ever since).
roland_l 82 ( +1 | -1 )
Good stuff cc. This is the kind of discussion I need. I always wonder if certain openings are just plain inferior/unplayable, and don't spend much time on them. I love the romantic/tactical aspect of the Kings Gambit, and have tried it, but I always get the nagging feeling that I'm setting myself up for a loss simply by trying the opening when I face someone who is a good defender. After all, if they can hold out through the middle game, its me with the weak kingside and bad pawnstructure etc. etc.

Albin counter gambit also looks interesting, but many view it as inferior. I just don't know. Therefore I've been playing mostly Sicillian, French, Ruy Lopez, and Semi-slav. Classic openings that are still played a lot by GM's.

Should I quit worrying and go for those 'shelved' openings?
brilliance 96 ( +1 | -1 )
... As so often in discussions about values that are abstract, it is essential that there is a general agreement of the subjects definition. The key word which the discussion will evolve around is "unsound". So what is seen as unsound?

I hope we all can agree that an opening at one level can be unsound and at another level of play can be sound, even superior to the alternatives given. Thus, we can conclude that the discussion should focus on higher level of play where there is a slighter margin of error. What's the level then? 2200+? 2400+?

Then, we must come to another agreement. Focusing on statistics, where should the line be drawn for an unsound opening (how high win/draw/loss %)?

Of course, other concrete questions must be taken into consideration. Is this a cc, OTB or blitz discussion? Is there always ONE best move? How can it be decided when a winning position is reached that deems an opening unsound?
ionadowman 143 ( +1 | -1 )
I suspect... ...that expressions like 'playable' or 'unsound' are not as objectively motivated as one would like to believe. The Damiano Defence is probably unsound: Black loses a pawn by force on move 3, without a shred of compensation (see how subjective one's language can become!). So probably is the QP Countergambit. What Craig has identified is that some openings might offer more than others of what a player wants. The popularity of the Ruy is its 'richness': its scope has not been exhausted yet. The King's Gambit, by contrast, is seen as too narrow in scope to form a major part of a GM's repertoire.
Personally, I very rarely play the Ruy on account of that very richness. There's too much to know. Facing the Ruy (usually because I was hoping for a 2 Knights') I make life easier for myself by playing narrower lines like the Schliemann. Is the Schliemann sound? Probably only barely. It certainly isn't very broad in scope. Equally, the Latvian Gambit (another favorite of mine) is (just) sound, however difficult an opening for Black.
Perhaps the issue boils down to what you consider Chess to be: an art, a science, or a fight. If it is a science, then the soundness or otherwise of a line of play ought (at least theoretically) be demonstrable. If it is a fight, then the 'soundness' may be less a consideration than confronting one's opponent with problems. If an art, then maybe there is a balance to be struck. How one arrives at this balance might be termed "style".
Cheers,
Ion
bucklehead 28 ( +1 | -1 )
Just BTW The Damiano only loses a pawn on move 3 is black is careless: 3 Nxe5 Qe7 is the sounder approach, while the execrable 3...fxe5 is the real loser. It's still a stinker, of course, but an unsound opening never beats itself--you still have to kill it over the board.
roland_l 21 ( +1 | -1 )
My definition of 'unsound' ... ... as an intermediate player would be an opening that is incredibly hard to reach equality with. I'd have to play exactly and/or my opponent would have to play weakly for me to get equality or advantage out of the opening.
ionadowman 1 ( +1 | -1 )
... See?
Cheers,
Ion
spurtus 13 ( +1 | -1 )
snarre, you said you open with 1.a3 ... I'm curious what your reasons are for playing this opening?

Thanks,
Spurtus.
schnarre 40 ( +1 | -1 )
Spurtus It happened a little over a decade ago, when I browsed the games of Anderssen's match with Morphy. After going over the 3 games that Anderssen played it, I thought I would give it a try--it worked out quite well (I won all my White side games in a OTB tournament--4 in all). After defeating my chess computer (a Fidelity Designer Master 2265) with it, I've stayed with 1. a3 since!
spurtus 2 ( +1 | -1 )
schnarre but how, why does 1. a3 work?
ionadowman 30 ( +1 | -1 )
1.a3 Anderssen won his first match game with Morphy with 1.a3: a positional masterpiece. Morphy's 1...e5 is what White hopes for. 2.c4 gives White a Sicilian Defence with the a-pawn already usefully advanced 1 square. Now, what White does about 1...d5 is anybody's guess!
Cheers,
Ion
ccmcacollister 0 ( +1 | -1 )
1.a3 ...g6
gunnarsamuelsson 21 ( +1 | -1 )
good point In the olden days they rarely played g6..with this move it doesnt work so well for white..he cant go on and try and get some reversed color thing.it just becomes a useless move..
schnarre 29 ( +1 | -1 )
Hardly... At some point or other I've faced every Black reply move (even 1...Nh6 on one occasion--that was a doozie). I traditionally stick to 2. c4--the Anderssen "Classical" for want of a better term--regardless, & 1...g6 is not insurmountable; in actuality I've found Black's strongest reply to be 1...f5 (I play 1...c5, going for symmetry).
ionadowman 34 ( +1 | -1 )
An interesting discussion... ...worthy of its own thread, methinks. What is the attraction of 1.a3, schnarre?
Is it one of those non-committal openings that says to one's opponent: 'OK, Dude, let's see what you got'? Or does it have more of an 'active' point? (I've never had the guts to play it, myself. It's as if, in a cricket match, one wins the toss and puts the opposing side in to bat. One thinks about it, but it's not 'done'...)
Cheers,
Ion
schnarre 52 ( +1 | -1 )
Hmmnn... I find 1. a3 to be quite flexible: from this White can see if he/she is facing a Classical or Hypermodern player, & proceed accordingly. As stated, I stick with 2. c4 as my second move, though White can transpose to other lines--the Mengarini has the move order 1. e4, 2. a3, 3. Nc3....
If White essays 2. d4, in a delayed Queen's Gambit or Catalan, 1. a3 automatically negates the Nimzo- & Bogo-Indian lines by denying their traditional target square of b4.
If you're interested ionadowman I can list a few of my better games for you to browse. Just let me know.

Cheers,
schnarre
i_play_slowly 42 ( +1 | -1 )
Success rate for 1.a3 The Chesslab database includes 37 games that began 1.a3 in 2005: 15 victories for White; 17 victories for Black; and 5 draws. On the basis of this success rate, we can conclude:
a) The opening is not as bad as it looks (akin to Mark Twain's observation that Wagner's music is really much better than it sounds)
b) Fischer is right; all opening theory is baloney
c) When the game is fixed anyway, why not have some fun?
andrewthemanyhued 1 ( +1 | -1 )
If 1.a3 is so good Why not reply 1...a6?
schnarre 9 ( +1 | -1 )
Indeed... I've encountered that a couple of times, though I've found it less than ideal.
ccmcacollister 50 ( +1 | -1 )
The Question ... IF one is going to use their extra tempo as white without aiding development... is a3 the best use. In other words, is there no better use of it than to play a3, of all the moves on the board? I'm not calling it unsound by the way (Nor even that it should not be played). There are some justifications too, that I can see. But mainly involving human nature, not the objective board. Primarily, people can tend to get confused when trying to play positions "Reversed". Or miss some subtle nuance where the slight difference matters.
schnarre 100 ( +1 | -1 )
Hmmmnn.... If one wants to first study an opponent & seek weakness via a "wait-&-see" move, 1. a3 is I believe the better option to moves like, say, 1. f3; further, one isn't constrained to simply playing "reversed" positions, but can transpose to more conventional lines thereafter (see my earlier post).

A few of my past games with 1. a3:

-> gameknot.com
-> gameknot.com
-> gameknot.com
-> gameknot.com
-> gameknot.com

...& the following, though not an 1. a3 game goes with the topic of "Unsound Openings" (& is a bizarre one, even for me):

-> gameknot.com

...Cheers!
ionadowman 68 ( +1 | -1 )
Most of schnarre's... ...5-game list are Reversed Sicilians - which is just the thing to hope for when playing 1.a3. The advanced a-pawn is a decided asset in the ensuing play, as these games indicate. But the 2nd game in the list is interesting not only for the tactical melee, but for its first 2 moves. 1.a3 d5 2.c4!? - a 'classical Benoni' reversed (?), with the a-pawn advanced! Now, the Modern Benoni frequently (though not invariably) features an advance of Black's a-pawn (...a6). The question is, is White's thrown forward pawn after 2 moves an asset, a liability or neither (or indeed, both)? I like the concept (the Modern Benoni is a long-time favorite of mine). Has anyone a more objective judgement to offer?
Cheers,
Ion
schnarre 17 ( +1 | -1 )
Let's see... you might find this game interesting:

-> gameknot.com

Cheers,
Schnarre
ionadowman 96 ( +1 | -1 )
Nice K-side attack... ...with an unexpected 'long march' by the Q to effect a breakthrough on the other flank. Quite a strategic game! Could Black have made a better attempt to win the stranded knight from about move 15, though? Or would such a try merely have compromised his K-wing? As it transpired, the move a3 was a marginal asset at best, but that was due to the way the game became a K-side battle. Had the game developed into a Q-side struggle, or a dichotomy in which Black pursues K-side aims, whilst White counters on the opposite wing, then a3 would be of positive benefit. What would have happened, though, if Black had felt himself able to counter White's K-side action with an attack against White's castled K on other flank? Maybe the advanced a-pawn would have represented a weakness that would help Black's counteraction. H'mmm. Thanks, schnarre: you've given me a lot of food for thought... :-)
Ion