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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

What if you *were* allowed to play chess like an open book test? 10/13/2017

I’ve said hundreds of times during classes and lectures that openings study is useless because 1) chess isn’t an open book test, you can’t wheel a bookcase of openings literature to the board; and 2) even if you did, inevitably you have to make a move on your own, and there are you are lost in the woods, wandering without your ECO.

An old chess master friend thought: What if you let players play with open books? He figured that the game wouldn’t “start” with the normal initial position, but at some roughly-equal position at the end of some published analysis.

He’s right. What if you had to play two most important games against a slightly stronger opponent, and you were allowed to refer freely to two books? Which would they be?

First of all, you’d have to wrap your precious in brown paper, because any opponent with a brain would render your openings books worthless by stepping out of them as soon as he could.

Let’s say you had of those  all-purpose system-for-all-weather books — those are usually based on a kingside fianchetto, yeah? After 10 or so moves of that, don’t you think you could assess your position and think: “I didn’t need a book to get here”?

Middlegame books — honestly, “middlegame books” are hogwash because the no one can say when a middlegame will begin, or when a middlegame will end. The best you can hope for from an openings book or a middlegame book is that it discusses common pawn structures and the plans that pertain.

I always say people don’t lose short games because they’re bad at openings, they lose short games because they’re bad at tactics.

But taking tactics books to your open book chess test won’t help, either, because you couldn’t find the applicable moves unless you  recognize the pattern on the board — which you should’ve learned already in your studies, if you were studying useful tactics instead of stupid openings.

If you bring two endgame manuals to the board, your opponent will start getting worried in the middlegame because you’ll be prepared for the simplication that is bound to follow.

Go on, ask a trusted master or teacher which two books they’d take to an open book chess game. If you follow the logic, you’d have serious doubts about anyone who’d take openings literature.

Me? I’d take de la Villa’s 100 Endgames You Must Know, because they must occur. At one time or another. these endgames will happen.  And Chernev’s Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings because even if the exact formations don’t arise, somewhere in the middlegame, I can use the index to find the material balances that seem likely to arise, and see — generally — what Capablanca did with them.

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