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Even at highest levels players make significantly but human mistakes. On the other hand there exist a great opening theory with lines studied in deepth, especially the mainlines. Isn't the precision of theory evaluation and human imprecision contradicting? Is it generally difficult to punish small opening sins even at the highest (human) level (Evans-Gambit, Cozio defense, 1. ... a6)? If so is the fact that most advanced players learn and play some kind of mainlines just some kind of gentlemen's agreement? Or do they score significantly better?

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    Personal opinion: Definitely not, I have FM strength but no specific (variant) knowledge about any opening...and always am on the fritz after ten moves. Stockfish/Lichess says +0.2 after 1.e4 a6, add 2.d4 b5 for +0.6 and still a 50/50 in game statistics, so this is hardly a convincing example for your vast generalization. (Also: opinion-prone question, try to reformulate, e.g.: do main lines score significantly better?) Jul 21 at 18:58
  • Thank you for your answer, I'll try to reformulate it in the way you mentioned. 1. ... a6 should just be an example, but of course an extreme one. I've could also choosen Evans-Gambit or the Cozio-Defense. Jul 21 at 20:08
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    @HaukeReddmann what database shows you 50/50? When I enter 1.e4 a6 in the lichess masters database, White scores 60% instead of the usual 54%. After 2.d4 b5 the score goes up further to 62%. That is a significant difference. That being said, "bad" variations can still score ok if they are relatively unknown, since then many players might not know how to punish them.
    – koedem
    Jul 22 at 0:05
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    Or rather, which database I meant. Maybe you mean the database for all games played on lichess? That indeed looks much more even, although I interpreted the question as whether it scores significantly better for strong players (and presumably in long games).
    – koedem
    Jul 22 at 0:22
  • @koedem: Indeed, I just went on the Lichess analysis page. (And also indeed, biases introduced by player strengths must be taken in account first before one can give a valid answer.) Jul 22 at 6:53

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