So yesterday I played my second league game for the University of Bristol. I was slightly familiar with the position my opponent, rated ECF 176 (about FIDE 2020) chose with the white pieces. Perhaps a better description is, it's not like I have never seen it before; however, I haven't played it all that much at all, moreover, I definitely haven't studied any opening lines for it.
This quickly lead to a big time advantage for my opponent who obviously plays this line all the time as white. Unfortunately I did not know who I was playing beforehand so preparation was out of the question. So despite having about 40 minutes left once we got into the middle game, playing against someone with half an hour more than you and no time increment is pretty challenging.
"memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have"
I kept going, I managed to finally get a good position and perhaps at some point a good advantage (with equal material), however, time became more and more of a factor leaving me with 7 minutes vs. my opponents 15-20 (I managed recover some time!). Eventually, I was forced to make my moves in under 30 seconds (since there was no time increment!) and this led to an unfortunate move giving my opponent easy targets. The extra pressure resulted in an eventual blunder by me. So what are the lessons to take home from this game?
Basically, any rated league/tournament game I play where I am familiar with the opening lines, I manage to go out of the opening with a time advantage and put all the pressure on my opponent. Making moves so confidently definitely gives you a psychological edge, so, I need to make sure my repertoire has no gaps. It almost doesn't, there are only a few lines where I need to brush up. Soon, I should have a good idea of what to do regardless of my opponent's first moves.
So despite anything negative anyone might say about memorising opponents, claiming its all about understanding the position, well, it's all fine to go about it that way when you are already a master or have limitless time available to you, or a great teacher perhaps. However, if you don't, surely it is a lot quicker to memorise the lines and get good positions out of the opening so you can play on an even ground where both players need to think! Eventually, by memorising you will also build an understanding of the positions.
So I will go on memorising more variations, it's pretty quick I find, and very very useful thanks to a software tool I developed (name to be revealed very soon!). Time to learn some Catalan lines. If anyone is interested in memorising lines with me, contact me and perhaps you can gain some early BETA access! Oh, and no, memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have!