Columns | November 25, 2009 19:20

Salieri down the Rabbit-Hole

Salieri down the Rabbit-HoleNow that I've finally accepted that I probably won't be World Chess Champion, it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to set goals in chess. What's worse, I've noticed I am trying to force my will upon my opponents by different means than winning the game.

If you play blitz or bullet online, you've probably encountered opponents who, after normal opening moves like 1.e4 or 1.d4, play stuff like 1...a5 followed by 1...h5 or 1...a4, or some other sort of nonsense setup. I used to intensely hate these players, because they seemed to destroy the beauty of chess and chess opening theory in such an obnoxious way- even if it was only bullet! - but some time ago during a game of 1-minute chess on ICC, I was shocked to realize that I myself was playing 1...a5 and 1...h5! After the game, which I won, I felt strangely satisfied. What the hell was going on?!

This happened to me at a moment when I had lost seven or eight games in a row. Moreover, I had lost all games quite unfairly (or so I thought), either by losing on time in a completely winning position or by allowing a simple mate after a nicely conducted attack or defence. I even lost one because, in a position with a queen and rook extra, my router suddenly crashed and I was disconnected from the ICC server. In short, I was suffering from Nimzowitsch's classic Why do I have to lose from this idiot syndrom so familar to all mortal chess players. I had already lost over 100 virtual rating points and I was really fed up with this crap. And this is when I suddenly started to play, almost by instinct, 1...a5 and 1...h5.


Mikhail Tal

I think it was an extreme form of a very familiar, in fact totally trivial, aspect of chess: forcing your will upon your opponent. Everyone does it to some extend, but some players seem better at it than others. Was it really a concidence that Tal's games were so full of crazy sacrifices? Surely this was a matter of style, whether consciously or subconsciously chosen by him. Looking at Tal's games, it's easy to understand the despair some of his opponents must have felt when they were yet again confronted with some weird sac or freaky concept. No matter how hard they tried, they were powerless to stop it.

But most players aren't Tal, and to be able to exert some form of pressure or will-power on your opponents, most of us chess mediocrities need to resort to different means. Some try it by imitating Tal, i.e. sacrificing pieces and pawns regardless of whether it's even remotely correct. It's a very tempting life style, often seem at club level, but its adherents often pay a high prize: if not sheer ridicule, at least they have to suffer at the board when the smoke has cleared and they're down two pieces without compensation.

4...Rb8I now realized I, too, had been doing this all along in my chess career, albeit often in milder forms. When playing stronger players, I would often try to 'impress' them by manoeuvres they were unlikely to have foreseen. It was as if I was saying to them: 'You may be a grandmaster, but I bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?' I recall one game in which after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 I surprised not only my opponent but all my teammates by playing the move 4...Rb8!? Yes, there was an actual idea behind it, and even if the fun only lasted a short while, it was priceless at the time. One of my very own '15 minutes of fame' moments.

Yet I must acknowledge that despite the attention it got during the game, playing 4...Rb8 really wasn't about being original, or about imitating great chess players, or even about enriching opening theory - it was about dragging my opponent down with me into the unknown jungle from the first moves on; to force him, like Alice, to fall together with me down the rabbit-hole into an unknown wonderland where both players don't know what's going on.

But why did I want to go to Wonderland so desperately, instead of just going to, well, chess land? Lack of confidence? Or the arrogant idea that I'm better in 'irrational positions'? I looked again at the bullet games I had lost before I played ...a5 and ...h5, and suddenly I noticed a pattern: in all these games, my opponents had played extremely monotonous, almost automatic openings, setups like 1.d3, 2.c3, 3.Qc2, 4.Nbd2, 5.Be2, without even looking at what I was doing. This had annoyed me profoundly, and by playing ...a5 and ...h5 I was trying to tell my opponents not 'Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?' but rather, 'Hey, there's more to chess than just your own set-up, you know?'

Well, of course trying to teach my opponents a lesson with ...a5 and ...h5 was not one but a couple of steps in the wrong direction: sure, chess is a deep game and it suffers from shallow and superficial treatments such as the setups that my opponents chose, but my own play was even worse than that! It wasn't even boring chess, it was plain anti-chess. What I should have done was just refute their setups by logical, natural play. But unfortunately, I simply lack the talent to do this. And here's the real problem: mediocrity. I think it's the root of all hatred and envy in the world, especially on the internet.

In the movie Amadeus, the character of Salieri (wonderfully played by F. Murray Abraham), a rich and devoted but ultimately mediocre composer, devises a plan to kill his 'idol', Mozart. Not because he hates the genius, but because he hates God for giving him, Salieri, the capability to love music without end, but denying him the talent to compose music the way Mozart, that 'giggling dirty-minded creature', so effortlessly can. By killing Mozart and subsequently claiming that he, not Mozart, composed the divine Requiem mass for Mozart's death, God would be forced to listen how Salieri, the 'patron saint of all mediocrities in the world', got all praise for such a heavenly composition.

And God would be powerless to stop it. Salieri starts salivating at the very thought of getting even with his creator. It's one of the most powerful movie scenes I've ever seen. Salieri's plan is evil, of course, but I can't help sympathizing with him for attempting to fight his destiny and the unfairness of life in general. It's Salieri, not Mozart, who is my hero (at least when we ignore the music they composed).

That's why I think I'll keep on playing moves like 4...Rb8, and perhaps even 1...a5 (in bullet) from time to time: anything's better than to succumb to the bleak pragmatism of automated opening play. I will not go gently,  I'll show my opponent and the world (or even God, if he existed) that I won't accept my mediocrity. If I'm not going to be World Champ, at least this way I can still make a difference - even if that, too, like Wonderland itself, turns out to be just an illusion.


Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Tom's picture

Great article. I regularly find myself drawn to silly openings in 1+0 blitz, eg 1.e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8, or as white 1.d4 c5 2. Bf4 cxd4 3.Bxb8 Rxb8 4.Qxd4 (the point is a7 is hanging.) But rather than curse myself for not pursuing "logical, natural play", I try to remind myself that these openings are reasons not to play 1+0 at all . . .

Vlado's picture

Well, I wouldn't say that I am a good chess player, but still I don't understand people who play 1+0 or even 3+0 time controls. This is not chess, this is adrenaline and hormones. I have watched such games from time to time and have seen good players (better than me) miss mate in 2 or 1 which even I see directly on the board. IMO, playing blitz games is a sure way of moving the emphasis in chess and falling in love with battle and aggression. Ultimately one will start hating this game.

Arne Moll's picture

It depends on how you want to define 'chess', Vlado. If you agree chess is about intuition, positional understanding and tactical ability, then 3 0 and even 1 0 are very much 'chess' indeed. Don't believe me? Have a look at 1-minute games played by GMs such as Nakamura and Schmaltz. Even if they occasionally miss a 'simple' tactic, their games are in general very instructive and interesting from a 'chess lover' point of view.

Vlado's picture

Maybe you are right, Arne. When I wrote my comment I didn't mean any GM games. I was thinking about average players. Since I am a bad patzer, bullet games only bring frustration to me because my blunders increase exponentially with shortening the time control :-).

Arne Moll's picture

Well, if we're talking about average players, the point is that it really doesn't matter if it's 1 0 or 120 0: lack of understanding reveals itself in all time controls, even if we correct for blunder-rate. Kasparov once said Shirov is a chess 'tourist'. Imagine what he must think of us! :-)

Castro's picture

:-) Why people keep giving importance to absolute nonsenses like that Kasparov produced? It puzzles me. Well, it indeed put him along Capablanca ("Look at them: They think, whereas I know!") or lots of others who had amusing fantasies and arrogances (Bogoljubov, Stauton, Deschapelles, Tarrach, Janovsky, Fischer, ...), at least for a reason!

Arne, nice article. The only thing is I don't like games of less than 5' (playing nor watching).
I'll be longing for your impressions after converting yourself to the "Damiano"! :-)

CAL|Daniel's picture

I think you are looking at this the wrong way. The enemy of great is the satisfaction of good. If you find joy in the mediocrity of 4... Rb8 and other such dumb moves, you are only hurting your own development. Aside from being the best or world champion, you can still strive to improve your own understanding.

Nonationalism's picture

What about lines in the Sicilian where white plays Rg1 or English with Rb1? Also dumb? Seems to me a move like that is either good or bad but needs testing first.

CAL|Daniel's picture

If the position is 100% different it may no longer be a dumb move. In the position given in the article it is dumb, in the positions you are suggesting (since no move order was given) it could be anything from ?? or !! . I don't know.

Muadhib's picture

I often deliberatly play moves in the opening that I just "know" aren't good, but I really want to see WHY the move isn't good - how my opponent is going to take advantage of it, and whether he will take any advantage from it at all.

KaibaCorp's picture

Nonationalism, in the case of Arne, the move is 'dumb' because the position does not require it. In my opinion the move is too early, and White can avoid and minimize the advantage of Black's Rook in his following moves.

Arthur's picture

Very good article. Salieri was no Mozart but he composed music at the level of a GM. He felt the same jealousy that some of Kasparov's challengers may have felt. Happily, Kasparov is still with us...I guess we don't have GMs as sinister as Salieri.

Ritch's picture

If you want new fresh chess ideas why not just play Chess960?

Regarding 1+0 and 3+0 tine controls. I dont understand why they dont play with +3 or even +1 second increment; that would add a lot more quality to the game without affecting the emotion of the speed.

Steve's picture

Excellent and lucid article. However, I would like to disagree with the premise that Salieri was mediocre. He may not have been equal to Haydn, Bach or Mozart, but he could hold his own among the well known of his time, like Gluck, Chimarosa, Couperain, Rameau,... etc. Although, I loved the movie, it did not descrive Salieri accurately. He did not participate in the Requiem's composition, never claimed that Mozart's requiem was his own and he wasn't there when Mozart died. As for 1,2,3,5 min chess, I leave to others. My teeny little brain doesn't work fast enough !!

Arne Moll's picture

@Steve, I agree with the real Salieri, that's why I wrote 'the character of Salieri', to indicate the movie is fiction, not fact. In fiction, of course, everything is allowed as long as it works.

@Ritch, Chess960 is a good alternative, but it's not the same as chess: it doesn't have the same rich history and deep familiarity. But more importantly, for me this 'down the rabbit-hole' mentality also manifests itself in other stages of the game than just the opening.

@CalDaniel: it strikes me that you don't give a reason for why you think the move 4...Rb8 is dumb, which makes me think you're just saying that because you've never seen it before.
I for one don't see why the move must necessarily be dumb. If white takes on c6, which he often does in the Scotch, the rook will be usefully placed on the b-file, for instance there are also some lines in which Black can play, with a knight on d5 after c2-c4, Bb4+ and then after white plays Bd2 the bishop on b4 is already defended so Nd5 can go (e.g. to f4) without having to take on d2 first.
By the way, the main idea of 4...Rb8 was to play, after 5.Bc4, 5...Nxd4 6.Qxd4 b5 but this doesn't work because after 7.Bd5 or 7.Bb3 Black can't play c6 or c5 (trying to trap the bishop) because of Qe5+ and the rook is hanging. Anyway, this is just concrete tactics, it plays a role in every opening line.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Playing 1... a5 and 2... h5 in bullet is good for starters, the real thing of course is the typical bulletopening 1... c6 and 2... f6 and then get the king from e8 to c7 as fast as possible i.e. preferably f7-e6-d6-c7, and win! I met it several times as white, and tried it as black too, not without results!

Peter Doggers's picture

Apart from the fact that I find the word "dumb" not very suitable for describing moves, I think calling it that without giving it too much thought is, well, at least ?! too. Keep an open mind! The move 6.g4 against the Scheveningen or 5...e5 in the Svesh were once laughed at too.

GuidedByVoices's picture

Playing 1+0 over the internet only shows mediocrity in a different way: there should be something better to do with your life! Why should you be trying to show better high-speed-mouse-skills at all?

I would strongly recommend to play not too much on the internet. It's not only about rubbish openings, but also all those silly guys playing over and over with a naked King against loads of material and time in front of them.

On ICC I have been told "you will never be as good as I am" by a guy rated 200+ over me, but who was throughly outplayed (2 pieces down when kibbitzing that!) or "I'll let the admins know you are using a computer", only because you play a book endgame accurately...

All in all, Internet chess may still be fun, but it does not show that you play good or bad chess... It only kills time (sometimes a lot)...

Michel83's picture

@ GuidedByVoices

Ah, people on chess servers are incredibly rude and unfair. They'll insult you, they'll accuse you of cheating, they'll abort games against weaker players out of fear of losing virtual (!) rating points, they'll try to play on time in completely lost positions, they'll claim wins on disconnection if you are slow and more...all that jazz. That's the Internet, a strange mix of anonimity, lacking social boundaries, ego-compensation and predator-instinct.

In the end I just play on the Net out of training, because I don't have the time those days to play in a club. But I agree it doesn't say too much about my chess, it just keeps me in tune.
I still love the social part of chess, sitting there with another person and analyzing a game later, and I like fair game- both doesn't exist on the Net.

So I guess playing on the Internet is ok if we expect neither politeness from the people nor to get a proper statement about our chess. It's just a way to train (or eg to try out new openings- and I'm talking about proper ones).

GuidedByVoices's picture

Internet chess is great in another dimension though... Sitting comfortably with a good cup of coffee, watching top tournaments in real time... With insighful comments from very strong GMs like Nakamura in the kibbitz window (set filter 2, to avoid stupid kibs about Fischer)... Trying to anticipate the moves / plans from say Aronian or Kramnik is a superb training tool...

And I agree with you, Michel83 on everything... 3+2 or 5 +0 to keep your tactic skills sharp or to try new decent opening setups is good training... But playing 1...h5 in a 1+0 game is senseless...

Arne Moll's picture

Senseless ... what is senseless? 99,99% of all people on earth will probably regard playing chess in general as senseless, let alone studying it in depth. Life itself is pretty senseless. The important thing is to have fun, right? Or at least to enjoy or learn from the things you're doing, such as playing h5 and a5 at the appropriate moment. To say something is senseless, now there's a senseless thing!

GuidedByVoices's picture

@ Arne Moll...

To begin with, your figure 99,99% must be wrong because 0.01% of the world population is 620,000 and that must be the number of active chess players living only in Asia... Now most people I know (and from extensive literature I've been reading for many years, including mass news releases), regard chess as a great intellectual challenge. If instead of posting out of the blue, you browse through the National Institute of Health website dedicated to scientific publications ( and search using some combination of keywords including "chess"... You will get a huge number of papers; among them, some which I like the most:

van Harreveld F, Wagenmakers EJ, van der Maas HL. The effects of time pressure on chess skill: an investigation into fast and slow processes underlying expert performance. Psychol Res. 2007 Sep;71(5):591-7.

Jastrzembski TS, Charness N, Vasyukova C. Expertise and age effects on
knowledge activation in chess. Psychol Aging. 2006 Jun;21(2):401-5.

Bilalic M, McLeod P. How intellectual is chess? -- a reply to Howard. J Biosoc
Sci. 2006 May;38(3):419-21.

Ferrari V, Didierjean A, Marmèche E. Dynamic perception in chess. Q J Exp
Psychol (Colchester). 2006 Feb;59(2):397-410.

van der Maas HL, Wagenmakers EJ. A psychometric analysis of chess expertise.
Am J Psychol. 2005 Spring;118(1):29-60.

Eisele P. Judgment and decision-making: experts' and novices' evaluation of
chess positions. Percept Mot Skills. 2004 Feb;98(1):237-48.

McGregor SJ, Howes A. The role of attack and defense semantics in skilled
players' memory for chess positions. Mem Cognit. 2002 Jul;30(5):707-17.

Gobet F, Simon HA. Expert chess memory: revisiting the chunking hypothesis.
Memory. 1998 May;6(3):225-55.

Now, go and tell the government of the most powerful countries on Earth to stop funding scientific research about chess.

Another point to consider is the nice effort put forward by Karpov and the likes, to introduce chess in schools. In fact, my own country (Chile) has just passed a law to enforce this. If MPs, most of them dreadful and mean professionals to my mind, understand the positive impact of chess for the young developing mind and YOU do not, then it's entirely your problem, Arne.

There are so many positive links between chess and quality of life that I'm not going to write them down here for you... But only in the context of public Health, name *1* GM who has gone down with Alzheimer disease. Do not waste your time, the answer is *NONE*... Human brain likes chess as a mean to stay sharp, you see...

So, if chess is good for 99,99% of the human beings (to make good use of your own figures), then why should one play 1...h5 in a 1+0 internet game and then call oneself a "highly creative player", and even further quote Tal (= senseless)... Man, you have got guts!

Do not reply to this posting before reading the papers I pointed above, to be on a similar discussion ground...

CAL|Daniel's picture

I think both Arne and Peter missed my point which is a true crying shame. I expected as much from arne though since he would take it personally rather than see the gem of truth. Oh well, it is only yourself you destroy.

Arne Moll's picture

@Guidedbyvoices. You must be truly guided by voices, since your comment is, well I suppose the expression is 'not even wrong'.
Regardless of the fact whether chess can or should be studied, I was of course using hyperbole to make a point about how it all depends on how one defines 'sense'. To state the obvious: I think something has 'sense' if a person thinks it makes sense. So if you think studying chess makes sense, be my guest, I agree wholeheartedly, but don't say playing 1 0 is senseless when many people think it's actually great fun.

@Cal. You still haven't spelled out your point nor the reason why you think Rb8 is dumb. I don't take it personally at all, but I am getting quite curious what 'your point' really is.

Michel83's picture

@ GuidedByVoices

I mostly play 5 (3/4/6/7) + 2/ "real life" I can also play 5+0, because I know most opponents will take a draw if I'm a queen up but only have 10 sec left. On the Internet they won't, so I ALWAYS play with increment. Also I find it better for chess when there's a way to avoid losing on time if you're fast enough even when down to 0.

@ Arne & Voices

Personally I find 1+0 senseless too, but then again Arne is right...what is sense? 1+0 might be senseless for chess-improvement, but as long as people enjoy it...I mean, "having fun" is enough as a sense I guess.

@ CALDaniel

Woah! You own the gem of truth! Damn, can I have it too? Pretty please?

CAL|Daniel's picture

yep just scroll up michael its quite an obvious point that many of said before me so its not "my own." I suppose its the simplicity of the point that escapes people. Though your rude sarcasm is noted; it is only you that misses out.

Jo's picture

One mans gem is another's platitude

GuidedByVoices's picture

@ Arne Moll:

The way you make use of “hyperboles” leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, I am happy you were not even close to refute any of my arguments about the impact of chess in modern society. Period.

Chess is not only about subjectivity, it is also a beautiful, deep, coherent and complex discipline. None of these features may be reached or even approached in 1+0. If you and a vast minority of "players" make "sense" of this pathetic cartoon of chess, it might be subjectively OK. But please, spare us the silly articles about it.

I'll set you a challenge: come up with one of your own 1+0 *best* games, fully and deeply analysed and persuade me that it is chess as we know it. Surely, when playing 1+0 you are using the pieces and the rules, but you are not actually playing chess; you are rather playing with the mouse or beamer, showing your opponent you have got the "quickest hand"... How cool, full of sense and enjoyable experience is that...

Anything below 3+2 or 5+0 in senseless. And here is the argument to support that: if Ivanchuk, one of the greatest chess talents ever, collapsed playing 5+0 in the Blitz World Championship, what does make you think you can play decent chess at 1+0... And if you can’t, then why to play this rubbish at all? A subjective sense of joy? Give me a break!

GuidedByVoices's picture

@ Arne Moll:

Further to my last posting, here is a hyperbole for you:

Say every day you are given the following choice for lunch, at the very same price: a nice, stylish restaurant offering an Argentinian-style steak with a glass of top French wine OR a burger with coke in a dirty McDonald, next door... Would you consistently choose McDonald? They are both *food*, but...

Arne Moll's picture

Guided, if you define 'chess as we know it' first, I'd be happy to oblige. But something tells me that you will provide an equally subjective definition of this yourself. In fact, I challenge you to come up with YOUR best game ever and persuade me that it is 'chess as we know it'. As far as I'm concerned, 'chess as we know it' is defined by the FIDE Laws of Chess. You got a better idea? I'm happy to hear it.

Anyway, this whole line of argument is competely pointless. I actually AGREE with you that chess is life-enriching, beautiful, deep, coherent and complex. I think that's perfectly clear not only from this column but also from all my previous ones, but apparently it isn't to you. Actually, it's precisely because of this complexity and beauty and deepness, that I think moves like Rb8 can't automatically be dismissed, nor can 1 0 as a discipline be dismissed.

You seem to think blunders and bad moves only occur in bullet games, but of course that's just nonsense. Mistakes and even blunders occur in every chess game ever played, whether by amateurs or world champions. Unless you can provide some sort of objective measure, say a percentage, of blunders per game above which we should call a game 'NOT chess as we know it', your whole definition of meaningful and meaningless chess is pure bollocks.

More painfully, I suspect you have never played 1 0 in your life and are saying things you know absolutely nothing about. Otherwise, you would know that interesting, exciting and even correct chess is very much possible in bullet chess. I could give thousands of interesting examples, but go ahead and convince yourself on ICC or any other chess server and have a look at the 1 0 games of players like Nakamura, Schmaltz and even many lesser gods. Their bullet games feature all aspects of chess that you think makes it beautiful and meaningful: opening novelties, creative ideas, strategy, prophylaxis, tactics, endgame skills, etc.etc. And yes, human weakness too. What's so bad about that?

The Ivanchuk-argument is obviously bogus and you know it. Glenn Gould didn't like Chopin - surely that doesn't mean Chopin's piano concertos are 'rubbish'?
The fact that Chucky can't play blitz when the pressure is high only says something about him, not about the discipline. I've seen GMs mate their opponents in KBN vs. K with barely 10 seconds on the clock. A player like Morozevich has played several fantastic attacking bullet games featuring correct double rooks sacs and queen sacrifices, which are published everywhere on the net and in books on blitz and bullet chess. Schmaltz and Nakamura are known for their extremely instructive prophylaxis moves during bullet games. What do you call that except skills, talent and strong nerves? How is this not chess in its truest, purest form?

But even if after this you STILL don't agree and want to call all bullet games 'rubbish', how can you be so patronizing as to decide for OTHERS that they can't derive joy from this? Who are you to decide?

Fortunately, we both love chess for different and equal reasons, the only difference being that you apparently want to deny me the pleasure of playing bullet. On a final note, I never said bullet is SUPERIOR to other forms of chess, nor that it is the ONLY form I enjoy, or enjoy the most. But from your MacDonalds argument it seems you think I always would prefer junkfood, as you would no doubt call bullet. Well of course not. But that doesn't mean I never go to MacDonalds. Can't you see the difference?

My conclusion is that you really have no idea what you're talking about, so I'll leave it here.

Johan's picture

@ CAL|Daniel

It's a true crying shame that you're not giving arguments for your statements. This couldn't be too hard since you call it obvious and simple. As you can read it would be helpful to many people.
Also for me, because your creative use of Voltaire's line gives me the impression that you don't understand both the meaning of the quotation and the meaning of the article by Arne. But your attitude makes it very difficult to discuss this.

Personally I think that people who call things they don't understand "dumb" and furthermore accuse people of things they do themselves ("rude") are lacking manners and common sense.

GuidedByVoices's picture

Wow Arne, you manage to fully change my point of view with the strong points you have just raised!

Now I consider 1+0 so important, that I'll rush to buy the hundreds of books written by GMs about internet bullet chess; of couse I won't miss the BBDB 2009 either (Big Bullet Data Base 2009 with 5,000,000+ games for those who do not know about it)... I feel also very lucky that the sponsors of Linares 2010 were recently persuaded to finish off these non-sense "classic" time-controls, so they are going for Linares 1+0 bullet now! All these facts contribute a lot to bring about even further support to your enlightened visions about bullet (or "rubishllet")...

I'm also walking away from this little discussion right now...

CAL|Daniel's picture

My attitude? Read your own words, I think your insulting nature indicates who has the attitude problem.

Michel83's picture

@ CALDaniel

Only because many people make the same point it doesn't make it more the "truth", it's still subjective. People disagreeing with you don't automatically "miss out on the obvious", they might understand your point and still disagree.

But I have no interest in joining your conversations which have the sole purpose of finding out who manages to look more important and who is better in talking down to others; that's a pretty boring game.

But let me point out I was not meaning to be rude, that's why I added a " :p " at the end of my last post. Smileys mostly indicate "I'm kidding", I guess that's also known buy important serious people like you guys. So although my "rude sarcasm has been noted" you can take me off your blacklist and cheer up.

I'm out. Enjoy your conversations.

lol@Rb8's picture

CAL's point is quite obvious to even the most casual observer. You don't have to strive to be the best ever!! - simply to want to improve yourself to the best you can be. By playing garbage opening moves, you may still have an enjoyable game of chess but you can't improve. You are limiting your potential and your understanding with dumb moves like these. Of course all such moves are playable at lightning/blitz time controls ... however I would doubt you would play them in a FIDE rated event where both rating points and prize money (not to mention your dignity) is on the line. To think of it .... Rb8?! Giving away a free tempo for no reason, you play move that does not develop. It goes against all opening principles ever developed or played by any of the great players let alone mediocre players.

Interesting that you guys have such an insulting nature on this site? Do you enjoy talking down to others? Or do you attack them personally because you cannot understand/logically refute their positions? I am sure that Johan and Michel83 will now attack me too for defending CAL... but the lucky part for me is I won't return to see their insults.

Johan's picture

Chess is indeed a beautiful, deep and complex game. Keeping an open mind is a quality that will bring one more progress (and fun) than a blind following of dogmas. I wish I had the courage to play 4..,Rb8. I've played 1.f3 on several occasions (followed by g3,Nh3 an Nf2) which not only gave me some points but also some fun. It is not in the same league as Rb8 but it goes against several opening principles. I am not afraid to repeat it.

The reason I challenged CAL|Daniel a little was mainly because of his funny (at least in my eyes) remark "The enemy of great is the satisfaction of good." In my eyes this is based on a misinterpretation of Voltaire's "le mieux est l'ennemi du bien" which means that the little step from good to the best can take too much effort to make it worthwile. Because I think this makes no sense in relation to Arne's remarks I wrote my comments. But maybe I'm wrong and there's another explanation that CAL|Daniel could give.

There's nothing in Lol@Rb8 explanation of CAL|Daniel's comments that I agree with, but since he is the quickly-shout-something-and-run-type there is no need to react.

I never have the intention to insult anybody and I don't think I've done that. When somebody uses strong words and obviously expects others to take that like a man, that person shouldn't be surprised if he is treated the same way.

CAL|Daniel's picture

LOL@Johan. I love how you say in the same sentence that you don't insult people with the very sentence before is AN insult. You have no honor sir. I did not paraphrase Voltaire; I paraphrased Heraclitus. It is not a funny line but a quite gem of truth that has been retold many since. It is too bad you don't understand mine or my only friend's points but that is okay... sit in darkness and never see the light again.

Arne Moll's picture

The funny thing with many comments to this article, pointing out how I missed 'the obvious point' etc., is that I mostly AGREE with them! That said, I think these people don't seem to realize that there are more ways to look at chess than just from a logical, rational 'i must play the best moves otherwise I won't improve' point of view. I mean, of course improving one's chess is a very noble and obvious motivation for playing.
But, as in art, I think in chess it's also possible to have a more 'postmodernist' or 'avant-garde' attitude (I think postmodernist art is often quite ugly, still, it's interesting, too, if you open your mind to it). In my opinion, chess is also a reflection of human psychology and the human mind can be quite irrational. To make a comparision: chess is not only Tolstoy, but also Dostoyevski. Not only Steven Spielberg but also David Lynch. Not only Rembrandt, but also Picasso. And not only Mozart, but also Miles Davis.
That's why I think it's a little one-sided to judge moves like Rb8 strictly on their objective value only, just like it's one-sided to judge a man's behaviour by a guide of good manners. It just won't get you very far in life.
It's interesting people get so angry because others like bullet or other forms of 'stupid' chess. In my opinion it shows a deep fear for the unknown and the irrational, not only in chess but in life in general. That's not a condemnation but - for me - just an interesting obeservation about chess players. I may write about it again on another occasion.

Len Ganley's picture

Best, possibly the only, song about online chess:

Arne Moll's picture

Hahaha that's absolutely brilliant, Len, thank you very much!

CAL|Daniel's picture

very well said Arne.
@Len Awesome! I have seen only two other songs on chess before and neither was this good!

Michel83's picture


LOL, I have the feeling you didn't read my posts. I actually said that I have no interest in insulting anybody and pointed out that my first post was supposed to be a joke (bad one if you want) emphasized by a ":p"-smiley. I was just trying to poke CAL and didn't know it would be taken so seriously. So no worries, I have nonintention to insult you either. Funny though that you critisize me for something (personal attacks) you are doing yourself.

And now I sincerely wish you guys a good evening. What a waste of energy and rush of negative feelings because of one harmless ironic joke- I will learn from this.

CAL, what's the Heraclitus-quote? Just out of interest.

noyb's picture

Well said! I don't think I've ever read another article on chess that captures it's essence so well. Bravo!

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