Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Memory: Openings

Two things came together for me recently, that has modified the way I look at opening study. The memory course my wife bought (see this post), and an application of Soltis advice on reviewing annotated games from "Chess Study Made Easy"

My general approach has not changed. I think it is a waste of time for most class players to memorize opening lines, because you will rarely get to play them. There are too many good, but not the best moves in class play. The deepest I have ever reached in my preparation in class play has been move 10. Study whole well annotated games with general lessons is best. Game collections of a favorite grandmaster are great, or one with particular lessons in mind.  Use the opening knowledge you gain from those games. Try lots of things to provide a good foundation. Keep your king safe, fight for the center, and develop your pieces.

Those of us in high class A or rapidly improving class A players, can start to memorize opening lines and try to prepare a comprehensive repertoire. The rest of this post is for us and those better than us.

I believe that understanding the positions are more important than memorizing the moves that produce the position. Many positions can be reached by various move orders, so it is important to recognize the position from a transposition sequence. Also, the better one understands the requirements of a position the more likely you will pick the best move, even if you have forgotten your preparation.

A position is best understood in the context of at least one whole game, preferably well annotated. Opening books that do not have complete games are only for players that already understand that opening well.

The most suited lines for study are ones from a recent failure to play the opening well in a tournament game.

The New Approach

On each day that I can do this, I will study a game from an opening book. The first session will be a deep study. I will start the second session at least one hour after completing the first, the third four hours after the second,  a fourth review the next day before I start other work, and a fifth time that evening. Each subsequent session should be shorter than the prior, so little time is needed for the second day. One could do this once a week on the weekend.

The first session will take the most time, but I will try to make it under one hour.  I will go through the game three times as Soltis suggests.
  1. The first play through will be a quick run to just get the idea of the game. 
  2. The second play through will be entering the game into the computer. I will read the text annotations and skim the major variations. I will select/adjust the tabiya I use to select games for review. 
  3. The third pass will be a deep dive using the computer. I will enter all variations with Fritz. I expect to use one "game" in Fritz per chapter of an opening book, except for the cleanup chapters. I will think about how things transpose with other games. I will print out the "game" for use in the 3rd-5th sessions.
The second session will repeat a careful following of the variations in the game with two boards. I will cover the moves in the book, and try to guess the next one. I will start from the initial position and play various move orders from memory to reach the start of the variation.

The third session will use two boards to focus on repeating the main variations I have documented for tabiya from memory.

The fourth and fifth sessions will repeat the third session focusing on what I cannot remember from the previous day.

On days when I don't have enough time for the first three sessions, I will work on other things. The second day should just be a few minutes, so I should be able to fit it in. If I overlap opening study, then I should work on completely different lines, or the same line from black and white.

Maintenance sessions will be done by regular viewing of recent master games from my repertoire. When viewing games, I should note when the game departs from my repertoire, and if I should schedule research time to dig into the game.

I have tried this a few times. Modifying this post as I learn how things work. I think this will be successful.

Update: I just went through a game that had too many lines for this too work. I need to modify the first session to restrict the amount of material I am trying to memorize. A particular game may need to be split into several passes. I need a supplementary document to identify the separate passes, and the first session on subsequent passes.

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