Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Couple of Openings Gems

Shortly after the presention of the big Part I of Best of Chess Blogging: Openings, two more posts appeared on the opening that I wanted to share with readers.

Path to Chess Mastery linked to the Carnival and added some thoughful commentary on the subject of amateur chess players and opening study.

Wang's Chesshouse has a self-described looong post on openings that includes a lot of very interesting analysis of his database and the statistical success of various openings. He warns us:

**WARNING: THIS WAS A NON-SCIENTIFIC DIVERSION, I IMPLORE YOU TO NOT READ TOO MUCH WHEN LOOKING AT OPENING STATS***


However, there are some things in there that are exteremely intriguing, especially applied to amateur play. I know enough about statistics to know that the term "statistically significant" can mean different things in different contexts; but here are a few gems that I extracted from Wang's tables:

1)  As has been noted by many in recent years, the Sicilian Defense (1. e4 c5) scores very well for black both above and below the 2200 rating line. However,

2) Some defenses that don't do so well among masters are quite effective below 2200, including Alekhine's (1. e4 Nf6) and the Modern (1. e4 g6) which score about as well as the Sicilian for the lower rated. The same holds true for queen pawn opening with 1. d4 c5 (a less-than-usual Benoni move order) and 1. d4 d6 scoring well under 2200 but not especially so against masters.

3) 1. d4 d5 2. c4 or 1. d4 Nf6 2.c4 is the way to go for QP players of all ratings. 2. Nf3 seems to be less effective. I almost always play 2. c4 myself, not fearing the Albin, Budapest, Nimzoindian etc. However, I wouldn't be too surprised to find that some of the offbeat responses to the queen pawn score quite well under 2200.

I would be interested to hear what readers make of these stats.

1 comment:

ChessAdmin said...

I too looked at the post at Wang's Chesshouse with some interest, but am waiting for the next one, which should deliver the punchline.

I think one of the main take-aways is the division between amateur and master (2200+) openings selection. Unfortunately I can't track down the quote, but I recall one grandmaster saying that any opening below master level is playable. This is probably indeed the case, reinforced by the fact that some strong players (Basman, Miles, etc.) have played very offbeat openings with some success, especially against lower-rated opposition.

It's also interesting to see which of the "dubious" openings continue to see the light of day at the highest level (including the King's Gambit and Dutch Defense) and which are never seen at all these days (Alekhine's Defense). To my mind, that may be the ultimate validation, since the world top 10 generally don't care so much about fashion, only results, but it's still a small sample size, however you view it.