15 September 2015

Opening Preparation Using Engines

The August 2015 issue of Chess Life (CL) had a thought-provoking article titled 'The 7.Qf3 Taimanov Sicilian' by IM Erik Kislik. The subtitle -- 'Going deep in a line that avoids Bb5 options and keeps tension in the position' -- might scare away some people, but I found the piece interesting for two reasons: it discusses modern opening preparation using engines and it analyzes a variation that might arise in my own games (as in Time Enough for Taimanov).

IM Kislik -- where had I heard that name before? First he came up in a quote from a post earlier this year, TCEC Season 7:-

The 32 openings that will be seen in season 7’s Superfinal have been selected by IM Erik Kislik, one of the world's top (and hardest-working) opening theorists, a chess teacher, writer and advisor to grandmasters.

Then he authored an article in the April 2015 CL, titled 'The Thoresen Chess Engines Competition', the same TCEC that I had already decided was post-worthy. It was nominated for the 'Best Features Article' category in the 2015 CJA Awards, but lost out to two other articles that I discussed in Editing Matters.

Notwithstanding all of these overlaps with my own current interests, the latest piece on the '7.Qf3 Taimanov' stands on its own merits. It starts,

Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson wrote in his excellent book Chess for Zebras that the vast majority of players personally identify with "their" openings on a level that transcends the game.

That sent me scurrying off to skim the book, where I found the discussion in chapter two, 'Psycho-Logics', under the section header 'Identity'. That brief diversion reminded me that I'd already featured GM Rowson in a post about Rowson's 'Three Types of Theory' on my chess960 blog -- yet another overlap of interests.

There are so many such statements in Kislik's one-page article that I would probably end up copying the whole thing here. In the interest of 'fair use', I'll just mention a few more. Second paragraph:-

One of the most widely disputed questions in modern chess is "What should we analyze?"

If that's the same as the question "What opening repertoire should I play?", then I wholeheartedly agree. If not, then I don't understand the question. Third paragraph:-

My proposal is simple: we should create one sample main line for almost all sensible Black tries and try to analyze it out as best we can, assuming a line isn’t so obviously better for White that it is not worth looking at.

Yes, that sounds like repertoire again. I could excerpt similar statements from the rest of the article, but it's an exercise where everyone can benefit individually. The article concludes with five pages of analysis on the Taimanov variation that provoked it, which I'll study when I actually need it in one of my own correspondence games.

I'll be on the lookout for more work by Kislik. His Wikipedia page, Erik Kislik, is today little more than a collection of links to external references, but that might easily change.

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