Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An acrimonious debate on the Dragons forum

An acrimonious debate has been going on on the Forum, to which I post occasionally. It began when a couple of people, myself included, found what we took to be errors in an article by IM Andrew Martin. When these criticisms were pressed against him, he responded to one critic by criticizing what he took to be his excessive use of databases and playing programs, and the fact that he posted anonymously.

I posted the following message to it, which I share here, in hopes of sorting through the confusion that seems to have been generated.

I think we need to distinguish two, perhaps three different questions. (Well, now I guess I've distinguished five!)

1) Does the Moles variation really bust the ...Qa5 variation? Or more precisely

2) Does Andrew Martin's article successfully show that that ....Qa5 is busted by the Moles variation?

I think the jury is out on 1, but I'm inclined to think the answer is "no" on 2, given the fact that there are some fairly obvious improvements in the Movsesian-Bergez game and some Ward lines that Martin failed to respond to. My intial recommendations for improving Black's play didn't require any computer to find, they are thematic ideas that should be familiar from the study of similar variations.

3) Do databases and chess computers help us find the truth about critical Dragon lines?

I think this is difficult to argue with. At least computer programs like Fritz lack a certain kind of bias that we find in even the best annotators. A computer has no idea who won a game it's analyzing, and so it's not going to be biased in favor of the idea that the person who did win the game should have won it, as many of even the best annotators are. Of course, it helps when you can use your chess skill to "drive" the computer, and know how to compensate for the computer's biases and weaknesses. Also. let's face it. Critical Dragon lines lend themselves to computer analysis in ways that, say, the French Defense does not.

4) Do databases and chess computers help you play chess better? Well, maybe not. Dennis Monokroussos once told me he had qualms about recommending the Dragon to a student because he feared the student would start relying on databases and programs in an unhealthy way.

5) Should the study of opening variations be left only to players with appropriately high ratings? The charge of "Armchair Grandmaster" suggests that the answer is yes. I also know that, for whatever reason, I am a better Dragon theorist than I am a chessplayer. Is this a bad thing?

1 comment:

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