Monday, June 7, 2010

Cemetary walks / Openings Indexes

Intro remark the first:
Obviously it should be 'Indices' as the plural of 'index' - but I suspect the term as used has a better 'reach'?!

Intro remark the second:
This post examines the way we itemize and classify our opening repetoire.

As I write these posts I am surrounded by my "matilha" - Portuguese for a pack of hounds. Let's concentrate on my 'pastor alemão', my German Shepherd dog, called Beauty (or "'Bew-chi" as they say around these-yere parts). She likes going on walks - so put on your walking shoes and "Let's go!"

People are friends (unless they try to mug me) but other dogs are enemies and we must be alert. She's a strong 'doggie-woggie' and needs to be firmly held if another dog appears on the horizon. Cats? Well, how often do you see them on a walk? Generally they behave secretively, though not always. I often wonder how they fare when they ensconce themselves under parked cars. Must be a shock when the car starts up. I hope they jump the right way - do cats know about things like which direction the car will set off in?

Beauty likes cats, there's a colony of them hanging out in the local cemetary. "Yo, Dude, let's go hang out at the cemetary - coool!". We wander around the serried ranks of tombs, the paths are paved, very little grass but quite a lot of trees. I let her choose the route (warning - chess analogy imminent!), helped by one of those ratcheted extension leads whereby she can stray up to about 15 feet away from me. If she sees one of the many cats I had better be ready! She doesn't bark, just makes a tentative leap - which the cats studiedly ignore of course.

I see a workman making a new tomb and ask "Is that for me?!".

So Beauty is looking for cats in a fairly random fashion and the discoveries she makes are fresh and uninfluenced by her conscious mind eg trying to find the bigger cats or whatever. The analogy with chess relates to how we choose our opening repertoire - I think that we should avoid allowing our prejudices about ourselves and the game to interfere in our choices. To eliminate the conscious choices, determined by a logic which is perhaps inappropriate (please also see my post 'Consciousness / Religion / Blitz chess'). For example, we may think that we are a complex person and that we should be looking for complex openings such as the Closed Ruy Lopez.

That's no use at all, I suggest! I have come to doubt that I will find a comfortable fit between my personality and choice of opening that way. Let's free things up a little and  ... experiment. More importantly - experiment without making continual judgements along the way. You need to try a lot of different openings before making any judgements. Why are we all so judgemental?

Instead, we should do what Beauty does. Creep along quietly, letting our instincts decide on the route we will take. Well you need a cemetary or its equivalent to walk around.  You need some way of enjoying this whole process (which can all too easily become a boring exercise if approached in the wrong way). And you also need to avoid forcing yourself to make a decision about which opening(s) you will put into your armoury. The decision will arrive by itself - and will be all the better for that (IMHO).

So let me provide same. I have three such offerings. One is pictorial, one is text-based and one is interactive. All are enjoyable 'maps' to get that all-important overwiew - which I don't think you get from a database (which too easily locks us into a particular line).

The Arkansas State University has an amazingly comprehensive list of openings, the moves of which you can click through. It contains a myriad of variations for you to 'walk through'.

Images and Text
These are shown below.

These were copyrighted by Edwin L. Schoen, dated as 1998 t0 2000, to ELS Software. Originally they were located at: - but I had to use the (extemely useful) Wayback Machine to access it. I've contacted him to check what is possible but no reply as yet. I would like to update them some day, but may wait until someone shows interest in my doing so - via the Comments to this post.

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