Game Spotlight: Received Wisdom

This is inspired by a story that NM Dan Heisman tells with some regularity.  At one point he was coaching Howard Stern (yes, that Howard Stern) and got Stern to play a bunch of games online using the Riga Variation of the Ruy Lopez.  It’s a variation that basically nobody plays because of reputation — Capablanca won a game against it back in 1915, and based on that game the variation was declared dead.  And yet, not only did Stern have a reasonable amount of success, not one of his opponents played Capablanca’s line.  So what’s going on here?

First, because the variation’s considered dead, most people don’t bother to learn anything about it.  This seems unwise for club players — after all, there’s always somebody who is going to play bizarre lines.  But I think there’s also a more interesting lesson here if we look into the variation itself.  Even if white plays like Capablanca, the result is far less convincing than the reputation would have you believe.  Let’s look at that famous game.

As with everything in chess, it’s most important to understand why.  Don’t just accept what people say without proof.  You may find the reality is quite different than expected.

This weekend, we’ll be looking at the 1960 world championship match between Botvinnik and Tal.  If time allows, we’ll watch the beginning of game 11 of the current world championship live.

We’re also gearing up for the last major tournament of the year.  The Second Jamhuri Cup will be held on December 8-9.  There are a very small number of slots available, so don’t wait on this one.

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