Saturday, October 17, 2009

Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it

ONE problem with playing ‘book’ moves is it reveals one's depth of preparation or the lack of it.

A quote from George Santayana (or was it Edward Burke?) goes like this: “Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.” There are many variations to this quotation and like this one which similarly applies to chess: “Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.”

This brings to mind a player’s failure to study openings and games of the masters of old that resulted to a painful loss due to ignorance.

During the 1970s and 1980s when the acknowledged chess bible was the semi-annually published Informator and when chess databases consisted of stacks of index cards or notebooks containing opening lines, it usually takes a month or two before any new opening move (novelty) is published in chess magazines or chess columns after it was played. While new moves or ideas become known to most and while some unsuspecting competitors—chess professionals included—fall prey to them when confronted, it was considered a grievous chess sin if one displays ignorance of old lines.

With the advent of computers a number of changes—mostly drastic and sweeping—chess databases are now in electronic form where the retrieval system is not only fast and efficient but much useful in preparing for a particular chess opening or specific opponent. Coupled with the advancement in communication technology, the Internet included, what was played in one part of the globe could be known by the rest of the world while the move or game is being played (‘live’ games) or just a few hours or minutes after the game. Top professionals monitor top level competitions as they happen to keep abreast with current trends.

The preparation of elite players are mimicked by budding players, particularly the monetary-endowed ones who can afford to purchase computers, chess books, chess software and other training stuffs. While there is nothing wrong in finding one’s self in this fortunate situation, the horrible thing is to see some players in this level boast about their relative ‘superiority’ over their less fortunate victims, or curse under their breath when beaten (‘upset’ is the kindest word commonly used) by apparently ‘inferior’ opponents. In the first instance, the well equipped player already has an undue advantage in that the playing field is not level. In the latter instance, the second player is either the more talented or ‘more prepared’ in coming up with an old (or even antique) move which the first player has not studied at all because his attention is always on what is current or fashionable.

Having modern chess tools at one’s disposal is not enough to propel one at the top. Talent alone, however, to the neglect of available training materials and stuffs could carry one up to a certain level only. To become really successful at the higher level it would be ideal to combine both talent and tools. (Those who do not fall into this category of players play chess for fun, for social reasons or simply for the love of it.)

It is not enough to learn modern chess opening theories one has to know the theories of old as well. It pays to know ‘old’ or ‘antique’ moves or variations (past) in order to avoid surprises over the board; surprises that could lead to a painful defeat specially losing a game like a patzer.

We will feature illustrative examples in our next post to illustrate the points raised here.

No comments:

Post a Comment