My friend IM Jeremy Silman just wrote a fantastic article for Enjoy!

The Art of Stealing

A chess professional has to do many forms of chess preparation: If he’s having trouble in endgames and technical positions, he has to do a detailed study of that phase of the game. If he finds that he often fails in sharp positions, he needs to do everything possible to iron out this flaw. And, of course, he also needs to go over all his games (especially losses) to see what he did well, and what he did poorly – once he figures out the poor part, it’s back to the grindstone in an effort to fix all his chessic ills!

Preparation is a never-ending part of a chess professional’s life, but one area that always seems to be riddled with holes is a player’s opening repertoire. No matter how hard you work on it, new moves constantly crop up from all corners of the globe that challenge your favorite lines. Thus databases and magazines need to be carefully scrutinized so that you’ll be forewarned about some hidden “bomb”, thereby preventing it from crashing down on the board and turning your favorite opening system into mush.

Since theory changes minute by minute on the world stage, a player’s openings can never be as safe or as effective as he would like them to be. And, because memorizing a bunch of book lines just doesn’t cut it, a real pro needs to fortify his systems with new moves and ideas, and new interpretations of old ideas.

Since staying on top of the game is a 24/7 process, a true chess professional doesn’t have much of a life outside the game. In fact, even if the hunky chess god manages to somehow score the attentions of a young lady for an evening, he’ll be so obsessed with the millions of variations swirling around in his brain that, as her lips draw close to his, he’ll be thinking, “Damn, how do I answer Kasparov’s new idea in the Sicilian? This is a nightmare! I must come up with something or I’m toast! And what about Anand’s bust to my Philidor’s Defense? I think Vishy did this to me on purpose! He’s out to get me! But what can I do about it? What am I going to do?”

Yes, all chess professionals live in a permanent state of hysteria. And, while our dates might take that far away look in our eyes and the drool that’s pouring from the side of our mouth as the first sign of infatuation or even love, they never guess that it is indeed love/devotion/passion – but for the game, not them.

Since the opening workload is so enormous, and since the cutthroat world of chess is so overwhelming, every player (without exception!) has to fully embrace one of the most important and useful preparation strategies available: The art of stealing other player’s ideas!

This “stealing” comes in a few forms:

* You pay other players to come up with new stuff, and they give it to you (with a signed statement that they will never use it … it’s yours and only yours!).
* You take other player’s recommendations and make them your own.
* You work with other players and, hopefully, they’ll come up with some neat ideas that you can use before they do!

I remember a situation in Toronto 35 years ago – a famous grandmaster was playing for first place in the final round but didn’t know how to meet his opponent’s ultra sharp system in the Sicilian. Since I was known to be an opening expert in those days, he asked if I had anything interesting against this system and, when I said yes, he offered to buy it from me. So, like a drug addict and his pusher doing their business away from judgmental eyes, we consummated our unholy deal in the privacy of his room – I handed him several pages of analysis and he handed me cold, hard cash. Months later, thanks to the game he played, the line I sold him became all the rage and the pundits sang songs of praise about the grandmaster’s creative genius.

The most common way of finding a new scheme, system, or analysis is by looking for games with a strange new move – the stranger the better since most players will discount it as garbage. A serious look might convince you that it’s actually quite good, and after some work you’ll be ready to unleash it against an unsuspecting opponent. The same holds true for game annotations like, “Also interesting is 23.Nb5!?” The word interesting translates to, “I just thought of this so I’ll offer it as filler. Of course, I’m too lazy to see if it’s actually any good, or even if it’s playable.”

The well trained chess pro’s eye leaps at every “also interesting” note, and tries hard to ascertain whether or not it’s legitimate.

And finally we come to my favorite opening prep technique: working with another player and, if they show me some amazing new idea, playing it as quickly as possible and claiming it as my own! There’s nothing like the look of fury on my analyst partner’s face when I use an idea he’s worked on for 2 years to beat a world class player in the last round for first place! After I collect my huge check, I always make a point of avoiding him for a few months until the memory of my “crime” fades. Then I’ll call him from out of the blue and see what other ideas I can wring from his fertile mind.

Here is the full article by IM Silman with game analysis.

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