2 dumb/challenging conventional wisdom questions:
- Why would anyone play 1.e4?
- How is Fischer's saying that 1.e4 is best by test consistent with his saying that 'chess is dead'? (Quotes below)
On Question 1: It seems that 1.e4 allows Black to choose the opening because
- French, Sicilian, Scandinavian, Caro-Kann and Alekhine's Defense and Open Game are pretty different, so playing 1.e4 would mean having to be familiar with all of those defenses.
- Meanwhile Budapest, Queen's and Benko Gambit and Grünfeld, Benoni and X-Indian Defense seem pretty similar or at least the differences here are lower compared to the differences in 1.e4 games.
Example: Sicilian Defense
This has a lot of variations. You can't possibly be as familiar with all variations. As Black, White will likely (for some reason) play 1.e4 so it's helpful if one reads books on variations of Sicilian Defenses, say, Pelikan. If someone knew I would play Pelikan, then I guess it would be helpful to study anti-Sicilian books namely the sections on Pelikan. Then again, all that preparation would be a waste if I pick another variation. So, okay that someone would study the rest of the sections of the anti-Sicilian books. But then if one day I just don't play Sicilian, then all anti-Sicilian study would be useless for that particular game. However, you could avoid having to play against Sicilian by simply playing 1.d4 (or chess960).
Similar can hold true for the other defenses. I mean, if you were going to study all those anti-Sicilian books, you'd also have to study those anti-Scandinavian, anti-French, anti-Alekhine books as well too, I think.
It seems that time is better spent studying tactics and endgames and simply playing 1.d4 (or chess 960) instead of spending all that time memorising variations that are not very likely to be played in any 1 game.
Example: London System vs X-Indian Defense
It seems that regardless of whatever Indian Defense black plays I can almost always reach this position.
If Black wants to play Caro-Kann/Slav or Queen's Gambit Reversed, that's fine too. There wouldn't be (as?) much variation.
On Question 2:
If chess depends a lot on opening theory and memorization to the point that keeping chess alive may need chess960, I don't see how 1.e4 is best by test when it seems to allow Black to show off Black's opening theory and memorization in an opening of Black's choosing.
To reduce opening theory advantage, I think 1.d4 is better than 1.e4.
Perhaps Fischer's best by test became only vacuously true when chess died. Idk.
I'm a former chess enthusiast who once reached 1900 on chesscube some years ago. I really hated studying openings so when I was not playing chess960, I played London System for White and Pelikan/1.Nf6 as Black. When I entered a tournament one day, for the first time since I had learned Pelikan, I was surprised White (my opponent who played White) replicated the exact opening theory of Pelikan. I'm assuming White memorised it, in which case I really don't see the point. It's not very likely that Black (some random opponent who would play Black, in this case, myself) will play Pelikan if Black plays Sicilian, and it's not very likely Black will play Sicilian. It seemed that time would have been better spent studying tactics and endgames and simply playing 1.d4 (or chess 960) instead of spending all that time memorising a variation that's not very likely to be played.
In case of wrong assumptions:
Well these are dumb questions so likely some assumptions are wrong, in which case please point and explain why they are wrong.
For example: Okay sure it could be that there is much variation in 1.d4 games even if there isn't as much as compared to 1.e4 games, but -- wait really? How? Even if one keeps sticking to London system? Or is it that it's bad to keep sticking to this one opening so one should really learn 1.e4 or quit for chess960?
Finally Fischer quotes:
In chess so much depends on opening theory, so the champions before the last century did not know as much as I do and other players do about opening theory. So if you just brought them back from the dead they wouldn’t do well. They’d get bad openings. You cannot compare the playing strength, you can only talk about natural ability. Memorization is enormously powerful. Some kid of fourteen today, or even younger, could get an opening advantage against Capablanca, and especially against the players of the previous century, like Morphy and Steinitz. Maybe they would still be able to outplay the young kid of today. Or maybe not, because nowadays when you get the opening advantage not only do you get the opening advantage, you know how to play, they have so many examples of what to do from this position. It is really deadly, and that is why I don’t like chess any more.
Now chess is completely dead. It is all just memorization and prearrangement. It’s a terrible game now. Very uncreative.