06 August 2011

A Logical Contradiction

This week I spent some time cleaning up my Every Move Explained series (see Last Proofreading? on my main blog) and was reminded of a relevant quote by GM Korchnoi that I used in the game 1969 Sarajevo - Kovacs vs Korchnoi.
Modern opening theory helps the weak, strange as it may seem. One can learn and even understand a variation without having a high chess qualification, but true strength manifests itself in positions which have been studied little or not at all. In playing [his previous move], White, in contrast to the positions in fashionable variations, quickly moves away from the well-trodden paths. As early as the next few moves, he is forced to think for himself, and this, as is well known, is the most difficult.

I've noted in the past that one of the arguments against chess960 is that, by obliterating opening theory, it somehow helps the weaker player against the stronger player; see, for example, More Arguments Against Chess960, although I could have used other sources. This seems contradictory. If opening theory helps the weaker player, how can the absence of it also help the weaker player? Who's right, Korchnoi or the chess960 critics?


Ichabod said...

A "stronger Chess player" is like someone with "a higher IQ." IQ can measure so many different things, and so can Chess strength. A Chess player can be strong in tactics, positional play, endgames, or opening preparation. FRC eliminates one kind of Chess strength, and I think that was the intention. I think that was the only intention. People have all sorts of ideas as to the purpose of FRC. But all I've ever heard Fischer said was that he wanted to eliminate opening theory to encourage originality and get rid of certain types of match fixing. I think he was trying to make it harder for the "weaker" player, if "weaker" is taken in the sense that the player has gotten where he is by memorizing openings more than other aspects of Chess skill.

biffmeatstick said...

Levon Aronian says that chess960 is the future of chess.


I got the first comment at chessvibes.

HarryO said...

Mark the resolution to the "contradiction" from my point of view is that there could be confusion between the "absence of something" as if it is the same as a logical negation. For example the opposite of salt water is not fresh water. It is just water either in the presence or absence of salt.

Same idea in the Chess960 post where you substitute salt with "theory". In other words what actually helps a person to live is water. What actually helps a chess player to live is to play chess. The theory is not the point and so you could say that theory does both or neither and so there is no contradiction.

You could make the philosophical point that theory is like salt in that it eventually pollutes all games. Just like salt water, theory and the game coexist peacefully, but if people try to play the game in the presence of excessive theory, the people will loose interest in the game (the equivalent of loosing interest to live if you drink salt water).

And so Chess960 is the most pure form of Chess because it is equivalent to fresh water. As Aronian says, it will do us for the life of our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

Just my two cents worth and you will probably disagree.