Sunday, October 11, 2009

Building A Repertoire, And Mastering It

"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand."

For the last months I've been busy building up an opening repertoire. Not that I didn't have one before, as I've played the same openings for a year or two already. But although I did put some work into it, it never was very systematic nor thorough. Reading books, studying games, blitzing the openings, sure, but I never really focused into it as with tactics. And I probably didn't need to, except maybe considering blitz where it really turned out to be surprisingly useful. There was just always other more important things to train.

So, now I've finally reached the point where I feel it's usefull to dive deep into it, and will be properly focusing on openings for some time. I began booking up on my selected openings a few months ago, going through videos & books and putting all the relevant lines into a database. All of which I've gone through many times already, so I'm somewhat familiar with the ideas, but shaky on the actual variations. Such knowledge is simply not digestable without extensive drilling, and although some of it stays with you, most of the details evaporate fairly soon.

It's still very much a work in progress, as playing a sicilian there's just such a huge ground to cover. I'm also already training the parts I've already plugged in, but still only beginning to cover anti-sicilians, not to even mention polar bear. I've got maybe 30% of the eventual material plugged in, of which I've now drilled (exhaustively) about 30%. So maybe 90% of the drilling still ahead, and also getting rest of the planned material into a database. This might take a while. It's not hard, but time consuming. A year, or two, but months at minimum. There are existing dbs, but I really want to construct my own versions, handpicking what I need.

The method of training is very much the same as with tactics: Drill the positions until they're second nature to you. Effortless, instant recognition of familiar elements and related patterns. -In practice I've got the lines in Chess Position Trainer, every opening as a separate sub-repertoire, from which I drill random lines until I know them inside out. Currently I'm doing lines from move 1 into the end of the line, around 16-30 moves deep generally. In sicilian the first 11-12 are pretty much fixed, so it's manageable. Also, I might not remember people's names, but this is the type of memorization I excell in.

In time I plan to switch into drilling from random positions, which requires accurate recognition of all the elements present in the given position. Out of order recollection. So far it seems that might turn out to be much easier than it sounds, the lines are not only sinking in well but also the triggering details start sort of popping up. Many of which you never knew about before, but somehow just deduce from constant exposure in different but similar positions. The black box of the brain at its best, nonverbally and unconsciously classifying patterns from a jumble of data. It doesn't need reasons or narrative, just feed it huge amount of data and let it do what it evolved to do best.

What I'm seeking to gain with all this, is a basic, rock solid opening repertoire. It won't be 'complete' by any definition of the word, nor it will be final. But it'll provide my brain a blitz-proof model of all mainlines and basic deviations, a geometry I can instantly recollect and recognize with no calculation. A base on which to build further understanding of the related typical middle- and engame positions and schemes. And when it's all in I'll probably start adding other openings as well, just to complement the understanding by learning different types of positions. But that's another project for another time.

Well, enough banter, back to work.