I'm just fascinated by all the cool and (usually) thoughtful debate that goes on in the chess blogs these days; since I got into the chess blogosphere back on January 30, 2006 there has been a major increase in both the number of chess bloggers and the quality of posts and comments.
Blue Devil Knight's brief post here set off a lively debate with this quote from Dan Heisman's new book:
It does not matter who gets the advantage out of the opening, if one of the players is likely to lose a piece to a simple tactic in the middlegame. Losing a piece from an advantageous position will almost always result in a lost position. So study tactics, not openings, until you almost never lose pieces to simple tactical motifs.
Fair enough, though of course the commenters are an independent lot who are not afraid to disagree with anyone, even a Master and leading author and teacher. Good for them! Independent thinking is how ideas get debated, honed and improved.
Meanwhile, Grandpatzer has put up some excellent posts on developing your opening repertoire (Prelude, Part One, Part Two) that focus on his specific lines, but contain principles that we could all benefit from considering.
The previous Grandpatzer, the late Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby, advised in his book to memorize the first 8-10 moves of main line, aggressive tactical openings like the Sicilian Dragon and King's Indian as Black, saving time and energy, getting clear plans to play for and mastering some key traps that can lead to quick wins against lower-rated players. While there is a lot of merit in his approach, it makes one pause when considering that John Nunn wrote a 320-page book that didn't begin until White's ninth move in the line that Colby recommended--then notes (in the earlier edition that I own) that he only reached this position in about a third of his own King's Indian games! Joe Gallagher wrote an excellent 192-page book on what to do when White avoids the King's Indian as early as move 2!
Looking at this from the perspective of someone who has a few hours per week to study chess it's obvious that I'm never going to master all the variations in these books; the best I can do is memorize the main, main lines and understand what I'm trying to accomplish. That's they key to then dealing with the first move that is 'out of (my) book,' because if it's not the main line I know and love then it's not necessarily bad, but it's either going to allow me to go ahead with my plans in that opening (dominate the dark squares, kingside pawn push, whatever) or it's going to give me a new opportunity elsewhere to do something else. Every move controls new squares and weakens others.
'They' always say that understanding the opening is more important than memorization and that's what they mean. I think both have their place, and that this topic deserves a Part II.