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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) Sam Collins' bias towards White (Read 2443 times)
ReneDescartes
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #16 - 06/27/17 at 19:21:13
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TopNotch wrote on 06/27/17 at 04:57:05:
Pessoa wrote on 06/21/17 at 10:57:58:
For quite some time now I have been having the feeling that Sam Collins, in his updates for the Anti-Sicilian section, has a rather strong – and hence, in my view, unjustified – bias towards White. His latest update ("Plenty of success for White") urged me to have a closer look[...]

I think there is a slight natural bias, as he is a lifelong proponent of the Anti-Sicilians for White. Mikhalevski when he ran the KID section and and not being a KID player himself was biased towards White, the reverse was true when Joe Gallagher did his stint for the site.

Now we have John Watson, a lifelong Frenchie, and surprise surprise, Black has answers to all his woes.

As a subscriber you have to filter out these biases, figure out the subtext, ignore the spin and add your own critical analysis to help inform your own judgements.

Never take an annotator's word/analysis or conclusions as gospel. There is nearly always some bias:

A couple of personal revelations I'd like to share further illustrate the point:

Smerdon in a number of updates has expressed the opinion that the ending arising after the following moves is slightly better for White: 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 dxe5 8.dxe5 Ndb4 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Na3. I on the other hand think its just dead equal after both the common 10...Bg4 and the less common 10...Be6.

Watson in particular and McDonald to a lesser extent really like the Guimard French for Black against the Tarrasch and have promoted it in many updates over the years. Nevertheless I have never believed the hype, and have always concluded and still do that the Guimard is comfortably better for White and in more than one mainline. For instance: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nc6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 6.Bd3 f6 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.Nf1! e5 9.Ne3 Nb6 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 Qxe5 12.0-0 Bd6 13.f4 Qf6 14.a4 a5 15.Ng4 being just one rather problematic variation these days, which though covered by Watson et al, they have still managed somehow to understate its potency.

I'm sure other subscribers can relate and or have similar experiences.

Also, the notion of an objective assessment of a position falls apart if you try to make it  too precise. Mathematically, there are three possible assessments--absolutely won, absolutely lost, or absolutely drawn. The rest, including the whole apparatus of "slightly better," etc., exclusively concerns the flaws of imperfect players. So "easier to play" and "objectively better" blur into each other. And, of course, different imperfect players have different flaws! Authors doing a good job will disagree a little.

So if Watson evaluates a position as equal and a White proponent as not quite equal, then, call it what we want, neither one need be making a gross error. I agree that this kind of  variance (also relative to one'si own assessments) is normal. Critical reading is as important in chess as anywhere else.
« Last Edit: 06/28/17 at 11:45:58 by ReneDescartes »  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #15 - 06/27/17 at 07:56:45
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About statistics lets quate Mark Twain "There are lies, damned lies and statistics".
That the numbers are not even close to match each other is clearly a sign of only wanting to show only whites ideas and not new succefully black ideas or games where black eqalices without problems.

About 2 Nc3 could it be that  MegaBase statistics are filtered by ECO codes so games that became Open sicilians are not is those statistics?
There are a few lines in closed sicilian, particually e6 line, where whites most challenging move involves transposing to open sicilian or else black will equalice at the spot?
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #14 - 06/27/17 at 05:55:34
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@Topnotch, that is a good reply and very civilised. In the other thread on whether the forum is dying, perhaps this thread is an example of why ChessPubbers are not posting. They get shot down very quickly. there is no engagement, just a standard "biased" "prejudiced" response from a platform.
Now, I better run before I get shot down as well.
  

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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #13 - 06/27/17 at 04:57:05
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Pessoa wrote on 06/21/17 at 10:57:58:
For quite some time now I have been having the feeling that Sam Collins, in his updates for the Anti-Sicilian section, has a rather strong – and hence, in my view, unjustified – bias towards White. His latest update ("Plenty of success for White") urged me to have a closer look.

In the archives (Anti-Sicilian section) I found 231 games commented by Collins since 2010. He mainly discusses five systems / move orders. In the respective games, White scored:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ : 57,5%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 : 77,3%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 : 76,7%
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 : 83,3%
1.e4 c4 2.c3 : 54,5%

By contrast, in the "top games" of MegaBase 2016, played since 2010, White scored:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ : 50,2%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 : 57,2%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 : 49,6%
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 : 47,0%
1.e4 c4 2.c3 : 46,5%

Quite a different picture, isn't it? Of course I know that very often the result of a game has nothing to do with the result of the opening, and in his comments Collins regularly points out ways for Black to equalise. Still, as a Sicilian player, I find it depressing how often the games he chooses for his updates end with 1-0.

Come on, Mr. Collins, the Anti-Sicilians are not that good for White! Please, redress the balance! 


I think there is a slight natural bias, as he is a lifelong proponent of the Anti-Sicilians for White. Mikhalevski when he ran the KID section and and not being a KID player himself was biased towards White, the reverse was true when Joe Gallagher did his stint for the site.

Now we have John Watson, a lifelong Frenchie, and surprise surprise, Black has answers to all his woes.

As a subscriber you have to filter out these biases, figure out the subtext, ignore the spin and add your own critical analysis to help inform your own judgements.

Never take an annotator's word/analysis or conclusions as gospel. There is nearly always some bias:

A couple of personal revelations I'd like to share further illustrate the point:

Smerdon in a number of updates has expressed the opinion that the ending arising after the following moves is slightly better for White: 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 dxe5 8.dxe5 Ndb4 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Na3. I on the other hand think its just dead equal after both the common 10...Bg4 and the less common 10...Be6.

Watson in particular and McDonald to a lesser extent really like the Guimard French for Black against the Tarrasch and have promoted it in many updates over the years. Nevertheless I have never believed the hype, and have always concluded and still do that the Guimard is comfortably better for White and in more than one mainline. For instance: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nc6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 6.Bd3 f6 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.Nf1! e5 9.Ne3 Nb6 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 Qxe5 12.0-0 Bd6 13.f4 Qf6 14.a4 a5 15.Ng4 being just one rather problematic variation these days, which though covered by Watson et al, they have still managed somehow to understate its potency.

I'm sure other subscribers can relate and or have similar experiences.


  

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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #12 - 06/26/17 at 20:23:35
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all of this time running statistics could have been used studying the open Sicilian!
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #11 - 06/26/17 at 18:57:24
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gillbod wrote on 06/24/17 at 20:42:16:
Instead of judging bias by the outcome of the chosen games, I'd rather judge it by the quality of the analysis.

Also, asking authors to not be sympathetic towards the lines they play is a bit unfair, IMO. It is the fact that authors play and believe in these openings that makes their opinions worthwhile in the first place. E.g. Michalevski's Open Spanish coverage and Scherbakov's Triangle coverage.

Although I fully understand if you'd like more black ideas to be presented if you play the Sicilian as black. But this could be done by asking for it, rather than an accusation of bias.

With this said, I'm a subscriber, but don't play the Sicilian with either colour, so I'm not really qualified to comment on Sam's coverage. I generally skip through the Anti-Sicilian updates superficially.

I could not agree more strongly.

Today it is so easy to cast aspersions on people for thinking as human beings, taking any inequality in statistical results or deviation from some expected statistical norm as indicating "bias" (what a word to use here!).

For example, take the idea that there must be something fishy in the data if 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 scores under 50% (as it does in my Megabase2017). Many, many factors come into play. One must ask not only who is using the line, but when they are using it. Perhaps in tournament situations where one player is in a mind to avoid a sharp game? Are there a lot of early draws that look like draws by agreement, as with the Queen's Gambit or Exchange Slav? If you follow the lines out until they transpose to an open Sicilian, White retains some advantage in every line-why? Is the difference between 49% and 50% more important than the difference between 53% and 54%, aside from the slight proportional difference? After all, it is not as if the opening loses some game by scoring under 50%! And statistical measures fluctuate randomly; estimating to what degree is a tricky business even for statisticians, so maybe it means literally nothing. In short, it is a misunderstanding to think that the statistics on an early move such as this, and in particular a result under 50%, is a measure of the quality of the line--exactly the kind of misunderstanding that we see in Collins' case, namely taking statistics to be prima facie evidence of a problem, or even to be the problem itself.

Is the result of the game any measure of the opening content? No. Would a book combating Magnus Carlsen's openings be flawed because it contained so many games Carlsen won from equal positions. No!

Do you really need your opening analysis text to be a pep talk?

The way to good content, like the way to good teaching, is to let good practitioners work--work as dedicated human beings, without interference based on superficial measurements or specious criteria. Editorial advice from an experienced human being using his or her whole brain is one thing; running writing through a mindless threshing machine is another.
« Last Edit: 06/26/17 at 23:45:23 by ReneDescartes »  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #10 - 06/24/17 at 20:42:16
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Instead of judging bias by the outcome of the chosen games, I'd rather judge it by the quality of the analysis.

Also, asking authors to not be sympathetic towards the lines they play is a bit unfair, IMO. It is the fact that authors play and believe in these openings that makes their opinions worthwhile in the first place. E.g. Michalevski's Open Spanish coverage and Scherbakov's Triangle coverage.

Although I fully understand if you'd like more black ideas to be presented if you play the Sicilian as black. But this could be done by asking for it, rather than an accusation of bias.

With this said, I'm a subscriber, but don't play the Sicilian with either colour, so I'm not really qualified to comment on Sam's coverage. I generally skip through the Anti-Sicilian updates superficially.
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #9 - 06/24/17 at 14:42:59
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First of all, a huge thank you to Pessoa for raising this issue and doing all the work on this thread. I think it's fascinating. 

I had the same thought as Isa Vulpes about the selection process.  I do wonder whether the other sections might also have a White bias or whether this is something you expect to see only with the anti-sicilians and other more general lines.  I could see a Black bias occurring in some of the more specific sections.  If I was writing a section on a particular defense, say, the French, the Dragon or the Kings Indian, I would certainly be looking for Black wins to present to the fans of that defense.

As to what all this means to 2.Nc3, it might be worth noting that 2.Nc3 can lead to different systems.  Open, Closed, Grand Prix, 3.Bb5, etc.  So you probably have to be more granular to see what is really going on.  I've seen it said that White generally scores 54%, so if, just as an example, the Closed Sicilian scores 50%, you are giving something away from an opportunity cost perspective.

I should add that, for most of us, I don't think the statistics matter very much, at least within a reasonable range.  Better to play what you like and understand than to try to play a higher-scoring line that is totally beyond you.  The stats are interesting, but they are based on how the pros are doing, and, at the end of the day, it's your individual results with the opening that matter the most to you.
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #8 - 06/23/17 at 11:19:40
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 06/22/17 at 21:33:57:
Sorry if you took offense.

I didn't take offence. You made a valid point, and I was just wondering what "evenly matched" might mean in terms of ELO difference.

I have to agree that MegaBase's "top games" statistics after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 is a bit misleading. One point is that, after 2.Nc3, White quite often plays Nf3 and d4 anyway, which normally leads to an Open Sicilian after ...cxd4 Nxd4. But that alone shouldn't explain a white score below 50%. The main reason presumably has to do with the difference in playing strength – perhaps 2.Nc3 is essayed more often than not by weaker players against stronger ones …

To get a clue how well the Anti-Sicilians with 2.Nc3 do if the players are "evenly matched", I did the following analysis.

First, I looked at the games annotated by Sam Collins in the Anti-Sicilans section. Of those, 18 games began with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3; they are classified under the ECO codes B23, B25 and B30. (As noted above, White scored 83.3% in these games ...)

Then I did a search in MegaBase 2017 with the following parameters:

Position: after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3
ECO: B23
ELO: both White and Black 2400 – 2500 ("evenly matched", so to speak ...)

The result: 732 games; White scored 55.1%.

I repeated this procedure for three more ELO intervals. The combined results for B23:

B23      
ELO interval      number of games      White's score [%]
2400 – 2500      732                          55.1
2500 – 2600      308                          51.3
2600 – 2700      70                            57.9
2700 – 3000      20                            47.5
total                  1130                        54.1

Obviously with this method one does not find games where, say, White was rated 2590 and Black 2610. But my ChessBase 13 does not appear to provide any easy ways of searching for games where the ratings of the white and black players differ by not more than a specified amount. At least I haven't found any ...

However, I think the numbers above give us a first valid estimate.

The analogous results for B25 and B30:

B25            
ELO interval      number of games      White's score [%]
2400 – 2500      292                          52.1
2500 – 2600      95                            48.9
2600 – 2700      28                            51.8
2700 – 3000      8                              68.8
total                  423                          51.7

B30            
ELO interval      number of games      White's score [%]
2400 – 2500      128                          57.4
2500 – 2600      50                            57.0
2600 – 2700      21                            73.8
2700 – 3000      4                              75.0
total                  203                          59.3

If we combine the results for all three ECO codes (1756 games played by – more or less – evenly matched players), we get an average white score of 54.1%, which must be close to what White should expect to achieve in most "regular" openings.

By the way, Megabase 2017 tells me that, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3, in the "top games" White scores 47.3% after 2…Nc6. Go, figure … Huh
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #7 - 06/22/17 at 21:33:57
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Sorry if you took offense. I think the statistics you quoted did support your original point. It's just that since I usually play 2.Nc3, the numbers there jumped out at me.
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #6 - 06/22/17 at 15:56:18
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 06/22/17 at 15:33:46:
If a healthy developing move like 2.Nc3 cannot score 50% for white, there is something wrong with the data. If the players are evenly matched, I would expect to see something like 50,5%.

What is, in your opinion, the biggest difference in playing strength (or ELO, for that matter) that would be acceptable for the players to be called "evenly matched"?

What is the lowest rating for such an analysis? Should games be included where both players are rated around, say, 1200? 1300? 1400? ... ?
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #5 - 06/22/17 at 15:33:46
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I hate statistics.

Collins: 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 : 83,3%
This is the sort of number we used to see for an opening like the Grob, based on only half-a-dozen games.

MegaBase 2017: 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 : 47,0%
If a healthy developing move like 2.Nc3 cannot score 50% for white, there is something wrong with the data. If the players are evenly matched, I would expect to see something like 50,5%. What does Mega2017 show for 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 ?
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #4 - 06/22/17 at 14:18:11
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IsaVulpes wrote on 06/22/17 at 12:19:09:
Does White scoring well necessarily have to be some kind of bias, and not just that those are more crucial games to cover?

Yes – an interesting thought. But ...

If this were true – i.e., if there were no bias – how then to explain the rather obvious differences between the white scores in the games selected by the different writers? For the same lines? Would you say that, e.g., Jonathan Rowson did not look for the most crucial games in the Rossolimo? (That would constitute a different kind of criticism ... )

IsaVulpes wrote on 06/22/17 at 12:19:09:
On the other hand, if White tries something new, and it works (!), it becomes crucial.

I think one could easily turn this argument around: If Black tries something new, and it works (!), it becomes crucial, too. E.g., there appears to be a recent trend in the Rossolimo with Black preferring to answer an early Bxc6 with ...bxc6 instead with ...dxc6 (the latter having been considered almost forced for a long time). If it turns out that White gets no advantage whatsoever after ...bxc6, it certainly becomes crucial, and the score should be close to 50%. The Rossolimo with ...bxc6 might even stay crucial for a while, if only because White – unsuccessfully – tries one new idea after another against it, and in the chesspublishing updates the black players are regularly shown precisely why these new white ideas were unsuccessful. This, however, would presumably need a writer with a certain bias towards Black ...
   
There are other – yet admittedly rare – examples where new ways to handle a position with Black are so successful that White feels urged to seek salvation in altogether different lines. To quote Alexander Delchev from his book The Most Flexible Sicilian:
"The most dangerous plan against the Taimanov has always been the English Attack – 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nf6. In 2013 Black has developed a new way of meeting it – 8.0-0-0 Be7! 9.f3 b5 10.g4 Nxd4! 11.Bxd4 Bb7 which brings terrific results. White even began to avoid it and switched to 8.f4 ..." 

Another point. Suppose the writer responsible for the Anti-Sicilians section is a devoted Sicilian player himself and also firmly believes that after 1.e4 White's position is already beyond repair – to quote a classic, tongue in cheek. Now he notices a new idea for White played succssfully (1-0) in an important game. He could then choose this game for his next update. Or he could wait for a couple of weeks to see if there is another important game in which this new idea is refuted (0-1). He would then choose this game for his next but one update and quote the first game only in the comments. This "strategy" would not naturally get a vast plus score for White.

Now consider the other case. The writer responsible for the Anti-Sicilians section is a firm believer in Fischer's "1.e4 is best by test" and thinks the new idea for White mentioned above is a killer. He then proceeds to publish the first game in his next update and "tends" to overlook the second game or "hides" it in the commentary to another one. 

Finally, let me repeat what I wrote in my initial posting of this thread:

"Of course I know that very often the result of a game has nothing to do with the result of the opening, and in his comments Collins regularly points out ways for Black to equalise. Still, as a Sicilian player, I find it depressing how often the games he chooses for his updates end with 1-0." 
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #3 - 06/22/17 at 12:19:09
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I'm not a subscriber so I can't give any sort of "proof", just a random thought: Does White scoring well necessarily have to be some kind of bias, and not just that those are more crucial games to cover?

Say you have a well known equalish position.
If Black "finds" something new, it'll just be "In this position, which is already known to be a draw, Black now tries something new (why even?), and it's also a draw.", which isn't the most interesting thing to go over.
On the other hand, if White tries something new, and it works (!), it becomes crucial. Does this actually bring an advantage? Was it just a surprise? How should black respond to equalize? etc

Which basically means every White win with a new/rediscovered try has to be put under close scrutiny (to find a way for Black to equalize / figure out if it's actually the way forward for White), while Black wins will usually be born from outplaying White in equal positions (not too relevant for an opening page), and draws will often just be "You've seen this before, and I've talked about this before, they got an equal position and the play that followed was logical".

This way, you'd naturally get a vast plus score for White in the analyzed games - without any sort of bias (as in "This opening is the greatest, look, 70% win in the game I look at!"), but just because those games tend to be the most important ones to look at (for both sides).
  
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Re: Sam Collins' bias towards White
Reply #2 - 06/22/17 at 11:51:25
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GMTonyKosten wrote on 06/21/17 at 14:31:37:
I'm curious to know the scores for the other writers in this section, are they all biased towards White?

Well, some of them are, but not all.

Let's begin with Gary Lane. I did some statistics on the 515 games he has annotated in the Anti-Sicilians section which were played between 1990 and 2004. He mainly discussed the lines given below.
The scores attached to each line are: White's score in the games annotated by Lane • White's score in the "top games" of MegaBase 2017 (played over the same period of time, i.e. 1990 – 2004).

Gary Lane (515 games, 1990 – 2004):
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+      57%  •  51%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5      70%  •  56%
1.e4 c5 2.c3                        62%  •  49%
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3                      68%  •  47%
1.e4 c5 2.d4                        64%  •  33%

Obviously Gary Lane's selection of games also showed a distinct bias towards White. To some extent, I suppose, this can be explained by the openings he prefers (preferred) to play in his own games. According to MegaBase 2017, with White he usually opens with 1.e4, and with Black he meets 1.e4 almost exclusively with 1…e5.

Analogous stats for other writers:

Jonathan Rowson (146 games, 2004 – 2006): 
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+      38%  •  52%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5      52%  •  56%
1.e4 c5 2.c3                        54%  •  49%
(Rowson with White: 1.e4, 1.d4; with Black: 1.e4 c5)

David Vigorito (179 games, 2008 – 2010):
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+      40%  •  50%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5       60%  •  58%
1.e4 c5 2.c3                        59%  •  48%
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3                      44%  •  48%
(Vigorito with White: 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4; with Black: 1.e4 c5)

David Smerdon (298 games, 2013 – 2016):
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+      65%  •  51%
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5       68%  •  57%
1.e5 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3           77%  •  50%
1.e4 c5 2.c3                        53%  •  46%
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3                      60%  •  48%
(Smerdon with White: 1.e4; with Black: 1.e4 e6 and 1…d5, but also 1…c5)

Other writers who have contributed a lot to this section over the years are Andrew Martin, Richard Palliser and John Shaw. However, the number of games they've looked at in the various Anti-Sicilian lines seems too small for any stats to be meaningful.

From the above, I think, one can conclude that some bias in the writers' selection of games originates in their own opening preferences. This observation is corroborated by Sam Collins' repertoire: with White he mainly plays 1.e4; with Black he meets 1.e4 mostly with 1… e5 (but also with 1…c5). (Let me add that the stats I gave earlier on the lines looked at by Collins are from MegaBase 2017, not from MegaBase 2016).

It stands to reason that similar tendencies are likely to be observed in other sections, too. It's a very natural thing to happen, I guess, and in principle that's fine with me, but of course the bias towards White or Black shouldn't become too strong.
« Last Edit: 06/22/17 at 14:29:01 by Pessoa »  
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