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My opening repertoire consists mostly of openings that score respectably at the club level but rarely appear in high-level play, and far more rarely as any high-level player's primary choice rather than a secondary or tertiary surprise weapon. I'm interested in studying games played by strong (preferably 2500+ FIDE) players who genuinely believe in the theoretical strength of these openings, fervently enough to play them as primary weapons, willingly walking into their opponents' preparation rather than relying on surprise. For example, players as strong as Magnus Carlsen have pulled out the Dutch Defense on rare occasions, but I'm more interested in players like GM Vladimir Malaniuk, who played the Leningrad Dutch against 1. d4 about three times as often as everything else put together and even managed to hold a draw against Kasparov with it, and GM Simon Williams, whose primary weapon against 1. d4 is the Classical Dutch. Similarly, many GMs trot out the Dragon Sicilian with varying rarity as a secondary weapon after the Najdorf or the Sveshnikov, but I'm only interested in players like GM Gawain Jones who statistically prefer it over all alternatives and play it regularly against the likes of Carlsen.

What's the best way to go about this search? I can search for whoever has the most games on record in a given line, but I've found that that often just leads me to players with an exceptional quantity of games on record in general. I can search for the highest-rated games in a given line, but that just turns up superGMs playing that line for the first time in about six months as a shock tactic. I can Google "grandmasters who play the Whatever", but surprisingly that too leads to players who only occasionally use that opening. I can't even go by authorship of opening books; it's entirely too common for a GM to write an intro gushing about how the Such-and-Such has been their dearest and most reliable ally in 30 years of tournament play, but for the database to show that they tried it out for (at most) a scant dozen games and then promptly went back to the standard Berlin/Nimzo repertoire. And of course, Kasparov played nearly everything at one point or another and contributed importantly to the theory, so that's a frequent confounding factor in any search (notice how often devotees of any given opening will boast that Kasparov himself played it, quietly implying that it was his main weapon). Is there a better way to specifically look for players who prefer a given opening line and play it more frequently than the alternatives?

As a wonderful bonus, it would also be great if there's some way to filter for recency. Carlsen for example has a surprising proportion of Dragon games on record for a superGM, but apparently hasn't played it since 2014, so even if he may have believed in it before, he clearly hasn't for some time.

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    You could write simple code that evaluates performance in the given line, wins/games with a cutoff number for the games played, so you don't get someone with a 100% winrate in 2 games. It would first look at all players with at least X games in the variation, then evaluate their performance and sort from best to worst. Or you could rank their "devotion" by looking at the percentage of their games in a given variation, which is also not hard to do, but I have doubts about the quality of games you will get if sorting by devotion. – B.Swan Aug 18 at 21:36
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    @B.Swan I was thinking of doing something along those lines, finding players more "devoted" to the chosen line than to any other (not necessarily over some base threshold, though that could work too), then sorting that list of "devoted" players by rating. Not difficult, probably wouldn't take super long to calculate, especially if I search in descending rating order and stop at the first X hits. Trouble is, code is always an answer, and it's always the least convenient answer. XD Was hoping I'd get lucky and that there'd be an existing database that does this. – KnightFork Aug 19 at 1:41
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The opening explorer at 365chess dot com shows which player played the position at hand most often, while also showing most recent examples.

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  • That works reasonably well in most cases, but there are holes. The results can be skewed by a player with an exceptional quantity of games on record. Korchnoi shows up in the results for English players, despite having preferred 1. d4. – KnightFork Aug 19 at 17:09

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