I realize that you get rather a lot of questions from lower-rated players who ask, should I try this? should I play that? how can I improve? Many of you have been extraordinarily patient with these questions over the years; but, still, I have never myself thought of such a question worth asking you until today.
Consider a student of chess who plays in the ELO 1400-to-1700 range. Might it be wiser for such a student to study old opening lines from old books, printed during the precomputer era, than to study the new, computer-analyzed lines?
ARONIAN, CARUANA, AND THE REASON FOR MY QUESTION
The question occurred to me while reading Chessbase's recent report of Aronian's entertaining attack against Caruana during the Candidates tournament. The attack failed; the game was drawn; but, of course, when a titan like Caruana plays black, one does not assume that the draw proved Aronian's strategy bad! On the contrary, both players played this game in a most interesting way, beginning to end; so I am now wondering if Aronian's approach does not conceal an important lesson for a player like me, a lesson I have heretofore overlooked.
The question regards which kinds of opening lines are profitable, or edifying, to study. And by kinds, I do not mean open game, closed game, tactical, positional, symmetric, asymmetric, gambit, with rooks, without rooks, hypermodern, classical, etc. (I like almost all those kinds). I mean what Aronian meant during his recent Candidates game.
Now, if you rate around ELO 1500 as I do, you never really begin to understand a Candidates game without the benefit of master commentary. I should never have discovered any lesson in Aronian's play on my own! Fortunately, Sagar Shah of ChessBase gives us the commentary; and, after Aronian's 8. Be2, this is what Shah writes:
Aronian chooses the classical setup of the good olden days with Be2, Nd2, Qc2 etc. Much more modern and aggressive is Bd3 followed by h3. But once you play something modern, it becomes theoretical, while with Be2 there quite some scope for creativity.
Does this mean that, by trying to play something modern, the ELO 1400-to-1700 player denies himself the crucial opportunity to develop needed creativity?
If so, I had never thought of this before. Do today's computer-analyzed lines impose a sterile, insightless, unprincipled quality upon the player who studies them? Maybe I should instead dust off some hearty old books?
So, suppose that it were indeed preferable to study mainly old, precomputer-era opening lines. What would be a good, available source from which to learn those?
Admittedly, aged in my late forties, I have no pretensions to master chess. I just like playing chess occasionally, but if I could boost my play from 1500 to, say, 1600 or 1700, without turning chess from an occasional hobby to a serious avocation, I should like to do so. This is why, if Aronian has a lesson to teach, I should like to learn it.