Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Setec Astronomy

In the 1992 hacker movie, Sneakers, Martin Bishop (played by Robert Redford) finally realises that the name "Setec Astronomy" does not actually mean anything. It is in fact, an anagram for the phrase,"Too Many Secrets".

And this brings me to my topic for today. Greg, in an earlier post, mentioned how chess players tend to guard their opening repertoire secrets very tightly, holding things very close to their chest.

Do you openly show people your opening repertoire or do you guard your many many opening secrets (too many secrets?) tightly?

For example, in social blitz games in the club, do you or do you not divulge your opening repertoire?

Me? I play a wide variety of openings, Sicilian, Ruy Lopez, Philidor, French, Scandinavian etc. so I'm not too bothered if someone learns about it. In fact, I'm too low down on the pecking order for players to be concerned about it.

Some higher rated players get more and more secretive (that's to be expected) about their opening repertoire and rarely give away their game. That's because if future opponents learn about their repertoire, the latter can quickly look up a database to find the best continuation to play to achieve even the minimum advantage.

How then do these players guard and train their opening repertoire, if not over the board?

I can gather only a few possible solutions.

The Internet is probably one of them. Using an anonymous handle, players can play lots of online blitz games using their preferred opening repertoires, refining it, correcting errors etc.

The other alternative is to play it against a computer opponent. Fritz has a wonderful function called Opening Training that allows it to follow any opening book and will replay the moves it finds in the opening book. This is a great way to fine tune and remember your moves for your opening repertoire. The slight problem with Fritz is that it acts and thinks in a non-human way.

The last choice is to get a training partner whom you can trust. In fact, it's great to have a training partner. Both of you not only get to grips with each other's opening choice but it also helps you to prepare for that opening should you encounter it over the board.

Incidentally, if you're a geek, Sneakers is probably the best and last hacker movie to come out of Hollywood ie. a movie that actually does not insult the audience nor rely on any special effects to carry the movie. Of course, the scene of Mother (played by Dan Aykroyd) holding up an old 90s-style modem definitely shows how far the technological world has come since then. And no, Die Hard 4 does not count, it's just filler about a Mac geek and some guy standing on a flying aeroplane.


  1. 'Sneakers' is one of the "3 favorite movies" in my profile. It's rare that movies or tv portray hacking or chess or really anything correctly. 'Hackers' didn't have much going for it. Except Angelina Jolie. ;)

  2. just so you know, i continue to read everyBody and that definitely includes you. just too busy to write any at my blog. im not out. just too busy. on top of my gmC project, i have 1,300 GM games i am annotating. im not kidding. non stop. take care and this is my only comment in a week+ save temposchluckers 1810+ elo... warmest, dk

  3. This is the advantage of not having a minimal opening rep. I wouldn't keep it secret anyway (the Pirc, solidified when I drew a GM in a simul with it, and King's Indian stuff.)

    The way I see it, there are so many other reasons why we lose games besides openings, it's not a big deal.

  4. At my club, I'll play main line openings with most people, though many of them don't know openings anyway. Against anyone who can consitently give me a decent game (at least 1200) I'll play my pet lines. There's no worry if they know, because I'm unlikely to ever face them in a real tournament.

    I'm definitely more guarded when I'm at a tournament, because I depend on the surprise value of my 'off-beat lines.'

  5. likesforests: Hackers was awful. I never actually did watch finish the movie.

    dk: cheers, best of luck for your GMC project. well wishes.

    LEP: WOW! You drew a GM with the Pirc? Impressive!

    es_trick: Off-beat lines.... I don't play off-beat lines and usually head straight into mainline theory although sometimes, I mix up the move orders just to confuse my opponents what opening I was playing (which also had the unfortunate effect of confusing me as well). :)