Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On the shoulders of giants...

One of my favorite quotes:

“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” - Sir Isaac Newton

To me I always find it strange when people refuse to study openings because they claim it's just wrote memorization. And to be fair, there is some memorization involved, but I think far less if you do it right. Let's make a quick mention of a very popular opening, the Najdorf. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 black plays 5.. a6!? This is one of a few moves available to black in the position, but why when black has only one piece developed is he playing this move a6? It somewhat violates many opening principles. It doesn't develop a piece or really even prepare to develop a piece. Nb5 isn't exactly threatened in the position although if black intends to follow up with e5 in some variations this square is protected. However, if we look in many Sicilian lines, Nb5 or Bb5 even when they're sacrifices are important ideas, but certainly time can be taken out to play this a6 later if it can be done now, right??? Well, black is making a useful move that he will almost certainly have to play later in order to see what white does next and also prepares some moves that he will not necessarily play. For example, black would love to play 5.. e5 without including a6 if it weren't for the problem of Bb5+ now white can go to f5 either after 6.. Bd7 7. Bd7+ 8. Nf5 or just 6.. Nbd7 7. Nf5. I'm sure 90% of the players who play the Najdorf below probably 1800 don't even know why a6 is the move there when there is a simple reason that is much easier to remember than the move itself. I think for the most part if you really understand and opening when you encounter a new theoretical move you will understand the logic of it. If you find yourself uncomfortable when your opponents play strange moves in your pet lines, it's probably time you took your pet opening out for a walk in the park to see what's really going on.

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