Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Martin and the ...Qa5 Dragon, Revisited

On the Dragon forum (here and here), IM Martin's recent TWIC Theory article has come up for discussion. (As it has on this blog. The initial mention is here, and the heavier lifting takes place in a first and then a second follow-up post - and check the comments as well.) In particular, I want to draw attention to the following exchange:

First, Andrew Martin, responding to "Mnb":

Mnb-you write that my article has 'severe shortcomings'. Please be specific,give your analysis and I will try to look at your suggestions objectively.

Please also give me your full name.

As with the 1 e4 forum,I am tiring of anonymous critics who,let's face it,may say anything they please under cover of a pseudonym.


Next, Mnb's response:

To IM Andrew Martin,
a much stronger player than I can ever dream to become.

As I have written a few times before, my full name is M.Nieuweboer. Not very interesting, is it? Measured in ELO-points I am a nobody. MNb is just an abbrevation. Like Markovich, Dragonslayer and TalJechin, the pseudonym is not meant to hide my identity.

1.You have not mentioned the game Blackstock-Hollis, Marlow 1971. This is fixed by Dragonslayer in this thread, who quotes Golubev.
2.You have not analysed Movsesian-Bergez, Cappelle 2002. Reppert in this thread and Monokroussos on his site have made clear, that the not so difficult 16...Bh8 is an important improvement.
3.In the 14.Rhe1 line you only mention 15.Bxf6 exf6 16.Nd5 Qxd2 but do not investigate 16...Qd8 17.f4 which is far less clear according to Ward.
4.A less strong reproach is not mentioning 18...Nf6 in the Movsesian-Bergez game, which has been analysed by Kindermann on his website - conclusion: unclear. But I have since long noticed, that English and American authors have the habit of neglecting German sources.

Three remarks. The fuzz about your remark on Dragon propaganda specialists is much exaggerated. If anyone would call me an Iljin-Zjenevsky propaganda specialist, I would be proud of it.
Anyone publishing books, articles or posts containing analysing exposes himself to criticism. One should not take that personally. I did not mean it that way.
My criticism does not mean, that I think negative about your article. In the first place, I never could have written it myself on such a level. In the second place it contains an important contribution to the theory of the Qa5 line.

But. The title of your article is 10...Qa5 refuted. That is of course a perfect way to draw attention - I like such firm statements. At the other hand such a title obliges you to consult the available sources thoroughly and to look seriously for possible hidden resources which might save the 10...Qa5 system. In this respect I maintain my opinion, that your article has shortcomings. Of course it is possible, that you have repaired them in the meantime - I do not know. But with my current knowledge the 10...Qa5 is not refuted by the setup you recommend.
It is not a shame at all to change opinion, if further/other analysis contradicts your initial statement.

Now I have the opportunity, I want to point out something I have noticed in several of your articles. As an example I take the Haldane Variation. After reading it I became enthousiastic. The first thing I did, was a database research. Within a few minutes, I found a game - forgotten which one - which clearly improved for Black. You can imagine, that I felt disappointed. My verdict - with much hesitation - is, that when you recommend some variation, you tend to neglect the best line for the opponent. Maybe this makes you a propaganda specialist yourself?

I appreciate it very much, that you will take time to reflect on my remarks. I am aware, that you have better things to do in your sparetime than reacting on the grumbling of a patzer like me.
Thanks again and greetings,

Finally, Martin's rejoinder:

Shall I give you a big tip Mnb, which will improve your chess strength at once. Put away the computer and the database and start thinking for yourself.

If you let these tools do the thinking for you the whole point of chess and playing chess is negated. Maybe there are many in the chess community these days who do not recognise this fundamental point.

Then,when you obtain the master title, it's time to take out these professional tools and get to work.

Use books, not databases,nor playing programs. Oh, and your own head.

Farewell to this thread which has moved way off-topic


While Martin is certainly right that overreliance on computer software can certainly be detrimental to one's development as a chess player, his reply to Mnb is rather odd, for several reasons.

(1) The dismissive tone seems inappropriate, as Mnb was polite and altogether on-topic in his reply.

(2) Martin asked for analysis and Mnb provided it, or at least pointed out where it could be found.

(3) Dismissing software and the like completely changes the topic. The issue isn't whether Mnb could survive a head-to-head match with Martin in the Dragon (or in any other opening, for that matter), but whether Martin had (a) succeeded in busting the ...Qa5 Dragon or (b) was justified in making such a claim. By referring to extant sources - some of which Martin could have accessed before writing his article - Mnb was offering reasons to think (a) and (b) were unproved.

(4) Martin's plug for books and dismissal of database sources seems odd - what's the relevant difference? Why would, e.g., Rogozenko's Dragon CD be pernicious but Martin's forthcoming Dragon book be virtuous? Both are sources of information, and both can and do contain unanalyzed source material (raw game scores) and material with analysis and explanation. If using a database undermines one's chess development, then so does using a book.

(5) The suggestion that one use one's "head" rather than databases or playing programs is a false dilemma. Why not both? Indeed, the burgeoning of ever-younger GMs worldwide is very likely at least partially the result of the computer revolution.

Perhaps Martin was simply having a bad day - hopefully he will choose to reply to the questions raised by Mnb, Reppert and others. Readers, please keep me alerted!


  • At 12:31 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    I also agree with you, Dennis. MNb's response seemed quite reasoned and polite. It certainly did not come across as an attack. However, I had to read Mr. Martin's response twice and each time it left me puzzled as he didn't respond to the MNb's statements, presented false choices, and seemed rather curt. I'm not inclined to judge him based on this one response, but I am curious to see if he will include some of MNb's analysis in further columns.

  • At 12:39 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    P.S. Mr. Martin's other responses on the message board (linked from Dennis' original message) seem quite polite and friendly though, and he comes across as being glad to have stimulated debate. So, perhaps he was having an off day when he wrote the message above. Regardless, his analysis does provide food for thought and I enjoy going through it searching for lines I can use that perhaps my opponents have not come across yet.

  • At 5:34 AM, Anonymous Johan said…

    Ooooooh dear, read the thread and i must say that i think Martin didn't had a bad day but was stepped on his toes because even a "not inspiring to get a chess title" player could have such easy, founded, critisime on his recent work.

    Sure he was polite to the others (who also posted under nicknames) since those comments he could answer, but it seems, to me, that he couldn't answer MNb's comments so he choose the easy way out by being (all the sudden) a jerk.

    I always thought with high regards to IM Martin (like i still have for Dennis) but this side of his personnality Martin better hides. An author will always generate critisimn. If you can't deal with that then don't write.

    My two cents,

  • At 3:02 PM, Blogger CelticDeath said…

    Ditto to the above. Andrew obviously has a problem taking constructive criticism.

  • At 9:16 PM, Anonymous MNb said…

    Thanks for these comments. I came to similar conclusions.
    The irony is, that in the debate on the Qa5 variation of the Dragon I am on Martin's side. I woulde really love to see it busted. So I repeat my question on chesspub: what about 16...Bh8 17.Rxh5 gxh5 18.Qf4 and I do not know what to think about this?
    Concerning using pseudonyms, my name is M.Nieuweboer and I am just too lazy to type it all the time.

  • At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I also find Andrew Martin's comment about putting away databases and computers in order to "think for yourself" very amusing and ironic since in looking at 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O Be7 13. Qe2 O-O 14. Kb1 c5 15. d5!? in his annotations of the game Nijboer - Gagunashvili in his February 2005 update on, he says "My own feeling is that Black, armed with a very strong playing program, must examine 15...exd5" [emphasis added]

    So much for thinking for yourself!!!

  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Victor Reppert said…

    For MnB's benefit, let's try to answer. On 16....Bh8 17. Rxh5 gxh5 18. Qf4 let's try Bf6 19. Nd5 Rxd5 20. Bxd5 Qb6 21. Bg5 Ng6 22. Qe3 Bg7 23. g3 Ba4 and I think Black's OK here.


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