Monday, May 11, 2009

Spy vs. Spy

One of my favorite features of Mad Magazine was the Spy vs. Spy comic. The twists and turns and the convoluted traps that the spies set for each other were so outlandish. Just like chess, the ideology of Spy vs. Spy was a clash between black and white.

A few months back, a commentator at Drunknknite's blog mentioned that games from the Far West Open had shown up at Mark Crowther's The Week In Chess, issue #754. I became a little concerned because I hadn't even published the paper copy of the 2009 Far West Open games bulletin that was being paid for by subscribers at $7 apiece. To my relief, I found that TWIC contained the games from 2008 which by convention were released to the public about a month before the 2009 tournament. All was copacetic.

Games being produced in an event are a small way to advertise for the tournament if people playing through them happen to notice where they were contested. I was a little tickled that a website about high class chess that I had followed since the early days of the internet was publishing some of my games. I believe that the ChessBase Megabase databases derive most of their new material from reconditioned TWIC data. I don't know this for a fact, but why duplicate the labor of entering games?

A year from now, a few more of my games may appear in ChessBase Megabase 2010. Right now the Megabases contain three of my games from the 1993 Illinois Open when I beat Expert Erik Karklins, smashed NM Kevin Bachler in a Saemisch King's Indian, then lost to Karklins' son SM Andrew Karklins by a hair in a queen ending. If ChessBase takes all six of my games from FWO2008, then I'll become 5.0-4.0 in their files.

Having been a collector of scoresheets for a half dozen years now, I appreciate that the games are being preserved for posterity. In fact, someone emailed me before the Far West Open and asked if I had his games from the previous Western States Open because he had misplaced his records; I was able to supply most of his games. But the games archive is also available for reconnaissance. Myself being included with sterotypical paranoid chessplayers, I experience reluctance relinquishing my opening secrets to a public which can include my next opponent. On the one hand, it would be a long-term advantage to have people rectify my opening holes. But given a choice, I think I would almost always prefer winning a game to learning something from a draw or a loss. If I give up the element of surprise, won't my results be poorer?

For a while, I've been reluctant to collect games from my fellow club members to put on our website, partially out of laziness against producing more work for myself. But I mainly feel as if I do the players a disservice by leaking their opening secrets or their middlegame and endgame tendencies to their opponents. One of my friends is dismissive that this is just crazy talk and nobody but titled payers have the discipline to study stuff like this, but I suspect this same person utilizes the club games database for reconnaissance. My main concern is that the Las Vegas team could be getting the upper hand in our yearly matches because of an advantage in information.

One response is to change up your game. I'm trying to embrace this idea in my own game with mixed results. I had spent a dozen years relying on English, Sicilian, and King's Indian before I dropped the latter two for the Modern/Robatsch/Rat with improved results at first. But my game lacked the tactical flourishes that my strong peers were seeing, so I began to go toward open tactical games, switching out the English for irregular King-pawn systems and abandoning the Modern in favor of the Scandinavian and Budapest. I even flirted with the 1.f4 Polar Bear in one game with unsatisfactory results. More recently, I've been trying to learn more main line stuff, but almost all my games leave book early.

I'm annoyed at Chess Publisher for going defunct and taking most of my blogged games off the information superhighway and into the Hotel California. But on the plus side, I'm sheltered from reconnaissance for a while. I haven't heard any clamor for me to fix those past broken posts, so it will go to the bottom of my to do list for now.

Note: I started this post on May 11, but didn't get around to polishing and publishing until June 7.