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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) What does being an 'openings expert' really mean? (Read 10776 times)
an ordinary chessplayer
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #23 - 03/07/18 at 16:02:27
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brabo wrote on 03/07/18 at 06:34:47:
I don't like that people make claims without backing this up with proof.

Well I almost never provide proof of anything. Sometimes I provide evidence, sometimes not. Even when I am 100% convinced of my position I more often just state it as an opinion. Basically I try not to put too much effort into convincing other people of the correctness of my ideas, which anyway are not better than some of the other smart people here and elsewhere.

brabo wrote on 03/07/18 at 06:34:47:
Just read the commercial advertising on Chessbase about the Hiarcs 13 openingbook: https://shop.chessbase.com/en/products/hiarcs_13_book : " Hiarcs 13 customers who already have the Hiarcs 13 Lite opening book will be delighted to know the Pro book adds up to 50 Elo to the strength of the program."
As Chessbase is trying to sell then very likely 50 points is an absolute maximum.

Since this is book lite vs book pro it does not directly refute my claim. I'm not saying my claim was correct, I'm just pointing out your evidence did not prove it wrong.

brabo wrote on 03/07/18 at 12:38:54:
In my club there is every year a Fischer Random tournament. I am not interested in that kind of chess so I normally don't participate. However looking to the final standings then I notice that there is a very strong correlation with the standard ratings see e.g. http://www.skdeurne.be/Nieuwjaar/FR2018.php
or http://www.skdeurne.be/Nieuwjaar/FR2010.php

It is just another proof of how little opening-knowledge influences somebodies rating.

Again, this may not prove what you think. It's possible that openings knowledge correlates rather well with middlegame and endgame ability.
  
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ReneDescartes
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #22 - 03/07/18 at 12:49:32
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Bondefanger wrote on 03/07/18 at 12:14:23:
First off - sorry if I offended some by using the word "suck" to mean "very bad". I didn't expect that. I'll try to use more bland words in the future.

It's not the word "suck, " but reasoning from an exaggeration that sucks. (I thought was happening in your post, no offense intended.) I was also using your expression to comment on the reasoning of those players previously mentioned who react to being called opening experts as if they were being disparaged, some of whom may also be using the same "transition from quantity to quality." Everyone has his own style--mine is more formal, but a diet of bland writing bites the big one.
« Last Edit: 03/07/18 at 17:28:56 by ReneDescartes »  
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brabo
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #21 - 03/07/18 at 12:38:54
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In my club there is every year a Fischer Random tournament. I am not interested in that kind of chess so I normally don't participate. However looking to the final standings then I notice that there is a very strong correlation with the standard ratings see e.g. http://www.skdeurne.be/Nieuwjaar/FR2018.php
or http://www.skdeurne.be/Nieuwjaar/FR2010.php

It is just another proof of how little opening-knowledge influences somebodies rating.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #20 - 03/07/18 at 12:14:23
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First off - sorry if I offended some by using the word "suck" to mean "very bad". I didn't expect that. I'll try to use more bland words in the future. Smiley

I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular, just trying to explain why someone wouldn't take it as a compliment to be called an opening expert.

"Expert" in an area is usually a compliment, but I think it is different in chess, because we have a good measure of our total strength. Then being called an "expert" is just a description of us as being lopsided players, and is just as much a critique of our skills in the other parts of the game.

If someone of equal rating described me as an opening expert, he thinks that he would beat me easily in chess960.

BigTy wrote on 03/07/18 at 00:43:27:
Thus, can we really isolate opening study and the opening phase from the rest of the game?


If we all got an established chess960 rating, could opening expertice then be measured by the difference between ordinary rating and chess960 rating?

An "opening expert" could then be someone who would underperform with 200 rating points in chess960. Smiley
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #19 - 03/07/18 at 09:20:43
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 03/06/18 at 22:04:01:
I think "the opening" represents about 1/3 of a chess game, and therefore about 1/3 of ability. I don't agree in *general* that the opening is the least important phase of the game, but that can certainly be the case. On the other hand, for a player who is weak in the openings, it can be the most important phase. From what I observe, the typical player spends anywhere from 50% to 100% of their study time on openings. But we can't say a priori this is wrong, because in addition to the player's own ability, it also depends to a great extent on the opposition's approach. In some respects opening study is like an arms race. Unilateral disarmament is hardly the answer.

I still have 2 important remarks.

1) I see a lot of amateurs which have very little opening-knowledge. However they are still able to overcome this deficit quite easily by clever selecting their opening-moves so avoiding any theoretical or sharp unknown positions. In the past some FMs have been playing 1.a3, 1.e3 ... just to avoid any of my theoretical knowledge. With black things are much more difficult of course. A often used strategy for black willing to avoid desperately theory is to play systems behind 3 rows see e.g. http://chess-brabo.blogspot.com/2014/04/universal-systems.html

2) The typical player is extremely lazy. They will only spend effort if there is a direct return. So automatically the opening will be their first station to stop as that is the most likely thing to see on the board. Most of my students don't work seriously at home. They are only willing to look at some chess when they know the pairings are out to check what the repertoire is of the opponent. In other words don't waste time by looking at the typical player.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #18 - 03/07/18 at 06:34:47
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 03/06/18 at 22:04:01:
But the difference between master-level openings knowledge and absolute-zero openings knowledge must be way more than 50 ratingpoints. This is easy enough to test by an engine self-match, one side with opening book turned on, the other turned off. The 50 ratingpoints you report must be at the upper end, after the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

I don't like that people make claims without backing this up with proof. Engine self-matches have been done in the past regulargly between with and without openingbook.
Just read the commercial advertising on Chessbase about the Hiarcs 13 openingbook: https://shop.chessbase.com/en/products/hiarcs_13_book : " Hiarcs 13 customers who already have the Hiarcs 13 Lite opening book will be delighted to know the Pro book adds up to 50 Elo to the strength of the program."
As Chessbase is trying to sell then very likely 50 points is an absolute maximum.

Besides recently top-engines mostly have cut down on openingbooks as they saw that the engine was able to very often improve upon existing theory. In other words it was playing better without openingbook as existing opening books were full of errors.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #17 - 03/07/18 at 00:43:27
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 03/06/18 at 22:04:01:
brabo wrote on 03/06/18 at 20:02:44:
Besides my article http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.be/2012/07/schaakopeningen-studeren.html contradicts that openings have a big influence on somebodies rating. The conclusion of my small research project was that studying openings has a direct impact of only 50 ratingpoints.
I don't read Dutch, so I can't really critique your research project. But the difference between master-level openings knowledge and absolute-zero openings knowledge must be way more than 50 ratingpoints. This is easy enough to test by an engine self-match, one side with opening book turned on, the other turned off. The 50 ratingpoints you report must be at the upper end, after the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

I am reminded of the quip about self-esteem: It's only important for those who don't have it. Although it is *possible* to play an opening without any prior knowledge, using just general principles and brute-force calculation, OTB it takes way too much off the clock. Even meeting a novelty on move 15 is hard enough, never mind move one. So we prepare ahead of time.

I think "the opening" represents about 1/3 of a chess game, and therefore about 1/3 of ability. I don't agree in *general* that the opening is the least important phase of the game, but that can certainly be the case. On the other hand, for a player who is weak in the openings, it can be the most important phase. From what I observe, the typical player spends anywhere from 50% to 100% of their study time on openings. But we can't say a priori this is wrong, because in addition to the player's own ability, it also depends to a great extent on the opposition's approach. In some respects opening study is like an arms race. Unilateral disarmament is hardly the answer.


Opening books these days often analyze positions deep into the middle game, or even the endgame, or have a complete games format, which doesn't necessarily specify where the opening ends and the middle game begins. Thus, perhaps we have to agree on where opening study becomes middle game study in the first place, which seems much harder to do than to define where middle game study becomes endgame study (I would generally define this transition as the part of the game where promoting a pawn becomes more important than king safety, and hence the kings generally become active).

So, if the average game is 30-40 moves, perhaps the first 1/3 of the game could be considered the opening phase, but some opening lines are so long that a critical tabiya is not even reached until move 20 or later. So in that case are we still in the opening, or is it now 'middle game theory' ? Likewise, many openings lead straight into an ending by force, with no real middle game at all...

What is my point? I am not exactly sure, but I am one of those players who spends too much time on opening study, yet because it is usually the strongest part of my game (opening depending, some lines I play horribly), I am often able to get a clear advantage which carries into the middle/endgame and win by just playing good chess after the opening phase is complete -- with both colours. Furthermore, going back to my point about it not being clear where the opening ends and the middle game begins, I would argue that most of this time I spend on opening study is going towards middle game study, and sometimes endgame study, as well. I remember very few long variations move for move when playing real games, but the fact that I know the typical pawn structures, plans, tactical motifs, etc. better than my opponents often allows me to just find strong moves and get an advantage without really remembering more than the first 10 or so moves (again, opening depending).

Thus, can we really isolate opening study and the opening phase from the rest of the game?

Just some food for thought....
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #16 - 03/06/18 at 23:00:44
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The importance of opening theory is relative to the time format - in blitz you can start with 1.a4 and still win, in corr the opening phase pretty much decides the result as the engines can handle the rest once it's equal or better. OTB you save some time on the clock and feel more confident knowing the plans.

Btw, wouldn't "opening authority" be a better term? I guess "Expert" might be interpreted as irony/sarcasm. Especially since some countries use grades like national master, expert etc and iirc expert=around 2000-2100...
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #15 - 03/06/18 at 22:04:01
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brabo wrote on 03/06/18 at 20:02:44:
Besides my article http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.be/2012/07/schaakopeningen-studeren.html contradicts that openings have a big influence on somebodies rating. The conclusion of my small research project was that studying openings has a direct impact of only 50 ratingpoints.
I don't read Dutch, so I can't really critique your research project. But the difference between master-level openings knowledge and absolute-zero openings knowledge must be way more than 50 ratingpoints. This is easy enough to test by an engine self-match, one side with opening book turned on, the other turned off. The 50 ratingpoints you report must be at the upper end, after the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

I am reminded of the quip about self-esteem: It's only important for those who don't have it. Although it is *possible* to play an opening without any prior knowledge, using just general principles and brute-force calculation, OTB it takes way too much off the clock. Even meeting a novelty on move 15 is hard enough, never mind move one. So we prepare ahead of time.

I think "the opening" represents about 1/3 of a chess game, and therefore about 1/3 of ability. I don't agree in *general* that the opening is the least important phase of the game, but that can certainly be the case. On the other hand, for a player who is weak in the openings, it can be the most important phase. From what I observe, the typical player spends anywhere from 50% to 100% of their study time on openings. But we can't say a priori this is wrong, because in addition to the player's own ability, it also depends to a great extent on the opposition's approach. In some respects opening study is like an arms race. Unilateral disarmament is hardly the answer.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #14 - 03/06/18 at 21:52:31
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brabo wrote on 03/06/18 at 20:02:44:
Stigma wrote on 03/06/18 at 18:52:40:
ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
I'm sure that nearly everyone on this forum would agree that, of all the skills mentioned, opening knowledge is the least important below GM level;

I can think of one highly respected user I believe would disagree with that, based on our recent discussion of the value of computer analysis, namely brabo.

You are changing my words. I never stated that my computer analysis was just about the opening. I put countless hours in also analyzing the middlegame and endgame. Besides my article http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.be/2012/07/schaakopeningen-studeren.html contradicts that openings have a big influence on somebodies rating. The conclusion of my small research project was that studying openings has a direct impact of only 50 ratingpoints.

Sorry for misunderstanding. I saw a lot of interesting posts on openings on your blog, and I assumed that was the main point of analysis... or at least the easiest to make use of.

With opening analysis at least it's pretty clear what to do with it: Decide which lines you want to play and learn it, either in advance or right before a game.

It's a bit harder to use middlegame and endgame analysis. My idea has always been to use such analysis to point me to systematic gaps in my knowledge/understanding, and then I would find good study material (books or games from the database) to fill the gaps. But I get the impression you have more faith in a direct effect of analyzing a lot, without necessarily seeking out extra material.
  

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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #13 - 03/06/18 at 20:02:44
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Stigma wrote on 03/06/18 at 18:52:40:
ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
I'm sure that nearly everyone on this forum would agree that, of all the skills mentioned, opening knowledge is the least important below GM level;

I can think of one highly respected user I believe would disagree with that, based on our recent discussion of the value of computer analysis, namely brabo.

You are changing my words. I never stated that my computer analysis was just about the opening. I put countless hours in also analyzing the middlegame and endgame. Besides my article http://schaken-brabo.blogspot.be/2012/07/schaakopeningen-studeren.html contradicts that openings have a big influence on somebodies rating. The conclusion of my small research project was that studying openings has a direct impact of only 50 ratingpoints.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #12 - 03/06/18 at 18:52:40
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ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
There is no logical distinction, but the connotations of the two words may be a little different in American English, at least to my ear. Perhaps "booked up" is a little more relative and "opening expert" is a little more absolute, for example; the latter also seems more extreme to me.

Being good in the opening is not the same thing as knowing a lot of theory.

A player who knew just the rules, or even Max Deutsch, could learn a lot of theory without understanding much more about chess than a parrot does about English. It is this connotation that I think draws a reaction. On the other hand, "he's booked up" carries a connotation of "beware"--hence it is only said of players that one has a decent respect for.

Of course, no one would really call a parrotlike player an opening expert.

This last point is important. A true opening expert isn't clueless about the typical strategies, tactics and endgames of his chosen opening(s).
Apart from that, the word "expert" simply has very positive connotations for me, regardless of field. Could be just a language difference. But maybe there's something about North American culture, with its often divisive politics, that make people more distrustful of experts in general, and especally of experts who are on the other side of the political spectrum. I'm tempted to respond that if an expert isn't doing his very best to be objective, s/he isn't behaving like a real expert anyway.

ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
And if a decent player is better in one phase of the game than his overall strength, that's no reason to disparage his skills in other phases of the game: yes, of course, there must be a compensating deficit, but the differences are generally not so great as to warrant embarassment or a disparaging verb, except perhaps with tactically sharp kids who are bad at endgames.

A friend of mine is an IM and, most people agree, an openings expert. But he's also a good positional player and endgame player. He puts this combination of strengths to use very cleverly: In most cases, if he gets a calm position from the opening he can expect to gradually outplay many opponents, while in sharp positions he is very likely to be "in book" based on his own analysis with engines, usually for a few moves more than the opponent. The ideal ploy against him would be to get him into a sharp opening he hasn't looked at (or not enough, or can't remember), but that's easier said than done.

ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
If you really were terrible at tactics and competent in openings, your games would look like the recent Polly Deutsch-Magnus Carlsen  game.

Polly Deutsch  Grin

Whenever I coach young players, I tell them they are free to try different kinds of openings and positions, but there's one thing that's not optional: They have to spend time training their tactical eye. If you're better at tactics than your opponent, you're likely to convert your won positions and turn around many drawn and lost ones by exploiting their blunders. It's a no-brainer really, since tactical pattern recognition is also very easy to train! But I know there are people who disagree even with this, however obvious it seems to me.

ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 12:47:01:
I'm sure that nearly everyone on this forum would agree that, of all the skills mentioned, opening knowledge is the least important below GM level;

I can think of one highly respected user I believe would disagree with that, based on our recent discussion of the value of computer analysis, namely brabo.
  

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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #11 - 03/06/18 at 18:13:17
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Bondefanger wrote on 03/06/18 at 08:38:43:
So the negative connotation to being an "openings expert" or "booked up" is that people know that you must really suck (relative to your rating) at something else.

So what is it? Can't you spot elementary tactics? Can't you handle your clock? Do you break under the slightest pressure? Can't you win completely won endgames? The speculation is on, the moment someone is identified as an opening expert.

I agree with ReneDescartes that such disparaging words are not called for. Everyone has their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, so we shouldn't be that hard on others. People could call me an idiot for losing concentration and half-points in so many endings, getting into too many time troubles, never having played classical defences with Black, etc. etc.

It's entirely possible to be, say, 2200 strength in the opening and roughly 1800 strength in all other parts of the game. Then your speculation and hunt for the big weakness would come to nothing. Though of course you would still conclude getting that kind of player out of book with an opening surprise is a good idea.
« Last Edit: 03/06/18 at 19:30:36 by Stigma »  

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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #10 - 03/06/18 at 12:47:01
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Stigma wrote on 03/06/18 at 07:17:32:
ReneDescartes wrote on 03/06/18 at 00:31:40:
Perhaps being called an opening expert makes players feel as if their good results are mostly being attributed to memorization, whereas being called, for example, booked just implies that they work hard.

I'm not sure I see the distinction you are making. Doesn't it take a lot of work to become an expert? Besides, "booked up" can also carry the connotation "knows lots of moves but doesn't really understand them".


There is no logical distinction, but the connotations of the two words may be a little different in American English, at least to my ear. Perhaps "booked up" is a little more relative and "opening expert" is a little more absolute, for example; the latter also seems more extreme to me.

Being good in the opening is not the same thing as knowing a lot of theory. A player who knew just the rules, or even Max Deutsch, could learn a lot of theory without understanding much more about chess than a parrot does about English. It is this connotation that I think draws a reaction. On the other hand, "he's booked up" carries a connotation of "beware"--hence it is only said of players that one has a decent respect for.

Of course, no one would really call a parrotlike player an opening expert. And if a decent player is better in one phase of the game than his overall strength, that's no reason to disparage his skills in other phases of the game: yes, of course, there must be a compensating deficit, but the differences are generally not so great as to warrant embarassment or a disparaging verb, except perhaps with tactically sharp kids who are bad at endgames. If you really were terrible at tactics and competent in openings, your games would look like the recent Polly Deutsch-Magnus Carlsen  game. I'm sure that nearly everyone on this forum would agree that, of all the skills mentioned, opening knowledge is the least important below GM level; but if it is the least important, it requires the mildest compensating deficit as well, and so gives the least cause for disparagement of one's other skills. --In this way one might try to show that it is irrational to object to being called an opening expert.

Except for this: investing a great deal of time in becoming a good parrot as well as a good chess player does not exactly connote wisdom.
  
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Re: What does being an 'openings expert' really mean?
Reply #9 - 03/06/18 at 08:38:43
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If you are better than your rating at some parts of the game , you must be worse than your rating at other parts of the game.

So the negative connotation to being an "openings expert" or "booked up" is that people know that you must really suck (relative to your rating) at something else.

So what is it? Can't you spot elementary tactics? Can't you handle your clock? Do you break under the slightest pressure? Can't you win completely won endgames? The speculation is on, the moment someone is identified as an opening expert.
  
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