Friday, January 4, 2013

Lost in Delay

My Chess Hero Dan Heisman says in a tweet:

"Playing openings that delay tactics not only does not avoid tactics, it delays your learning curve on chess' most important aspect"

I am not anywhere near a position from where I can question Dan's judgement but you cannot be a good student if you don't ask questions.

There must be some hidden assumptions behind the statement above which I fail to realize. I do not think that the amount of tactics lost due to the delay or that the time wasted (i.e. the delay) is significant.

Any thoughts?


  1. The only thing I can think he's getting at is that avoiding sharp positions because you're intimidated by them isn't useful to your improvement. So, more about the attitude (fear of losing, which should be seen as an opportunity to learn) than the tactics themselves.

  2. Trying to avoid tactics at all costs, e.g. by swapping pieces at all costs, is not good, but I do not believe that is what Dan is talking about.

    You can delay tactics by closing the position. Is it bad for a developing player to play the French advance variation? Perhaps, but Sam Collins recommended it in An Attacking Repertoire for White. He did, however, drop it in his later 1.e4 Repertoire. 3.Nc3 is the sharpest move. It has the most theory, but your opponent probably will not know much theory that he can use effectively. The exchange variation opens the position. It is not great if your opponent knows what to do, but Morphy used it with great success. I suspect that the majority would not recommend the advance variation.

    You can delay tactics by playing the King’s Indian Attack, where you develop behind your pawns before interacting with your opponent. Again, I suspect that the majority would not consider this to be a good idea.

    The most direct approach is to get in there and fight from the bell, and shrug your shoulders if you occasionally get into trouble because your opponent knows more book. There is a happy medium, however, which is to play sound and reasonably ambitious lines that do not have too much theory, i.e. do not try to avoid tactics, but do not necessarily play the sharpest and most theoretical line available. No easy answers!