30 April 2013

Not Lost at the Outset

After GM Portisch and The Mysterious Third, the next point on 'Black Is OK' - 12 Discussion Points is psychological.

People do not win too often with the BLACK pieces because they do not even want to, and that’s why White has a psychological advantage.

This is a good time for a digression to 'Chess for Zebras' by GM Jonathon Rowson. The book is subtitled 'Thinking Differently about Black and White', the last chapter is 'Black's Advantage', and the first section of that chapter is has the same name as my first post in this series on Adorjan: Is Adorjan OK? (Hmmm!). The bulk of that section deals with eleven of Adorjan's points, one less than the number I selected (double Hmmm!). [I read the book a few years ago and posted about it on my chess960 blog: Rowson's 'Three Types of Theory'. This is a case of (1) egregious plagiarism, (2) an active subconscious mind, or (3) a remarkable coincidence. You'll have to accept my word that it's not (1), but I have no idea whether (2) or (3) is the real culprit.]

Back to Adorjan's assertion that 'White has a psychological advantage', Rowson wrote,

This strikes me as an exaggeration, which, by his own admission, is not untypical for Adorjan. However, our pre-game attitude is definitely affected by the color we are due to play with. [...] If players thought about the game as a whole more than the first phase of the game, they might approach their Black games more confidently.

He went on to explain,

This is why I think it is important to broaden your ability to play different kinds of positions and have a wide repertoire of mental attitudes. To do well with Black you need to be less dependent on the initiative and more comfortable with defending, counterattacking, and endgame grinds.

This is an excellent suggestion and reminds me of the saying 'In the Sicilian, White wins the short games, while Black wins the long'. As for skill in 'defending, counterattacking, and endgame grinds', two players come to mind -- Karpov and Korchnoi. This also appears to be Carlsen's area of unique expertise.

Rowson underscored another important point when he wrote,

I have always felt that a simple point knocks the steam out of Adorjan's ideas: 'White is better' and 'Black is OK' need not be mutually exclusive claims.

I agree wholeheartedly, although I also believe that it is part of Adorjan's basic message. In another post on my chess960 blog, Random Position, Random Results?, I mentioned that Adorjan admits a 55:45 ratio of White wins to Black, which corresponds to an advantage of a half-tempo for the first move. That is far from being lost at the outset.

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