Morphy, Steinitz & Mormonism

Paul Morphy was a New Orleans born chess genius who wowed the world (or at least that small and geeky portion of it that cares about chess) with his aggressive and imaginative play in the decade before the Civil War. The hallmarks of Morphy’s play were aggresive attacks and complex sacrifices and combinations. It makes for exciting chess and people still study Morphy’s games as much for the wow-that-was-a-cool-series-of-moves fun of it as anything. No serious chess player, however, actually plays like Morphy any more.

William Steinitz is the reason why. Steinitz became the World Chess Champion in the decades after Morphy, and is credited with discovering what is called positional chess. The idea of positional chess is that rather than focusing on the intricacies of tactical combinations and attacks, one should focus one’s attention on the structure of the board. Steinitz convincingly demonstrated that very small and seemingly insignificant moves — the placement of a few pawns early in the game for example — could have dramatic long term consequences later in the game. Put another way, Steinitz showed that deep strategic thinking could generally beat brilliant but unfocused tactical fireworks.

This is an oversimplication, of course. Steinitz and other positional geniuses like Jose Capablanca were exceptionally clever tacticians as well. Furthermore, there have been a lot of post-Steinitz players known for Morphy-esque attacks. (Mikhail Tal comes to mind.) Still, no one seriously denies the importance of positional play in chess.

In some ways this is unfortunate. Today, grandmaster level chess is basically boring. The vast majority of the games end in draws or resignations after one side gains a tiny strategic advantage, e.g. the capture of a single pawn or the mere undermining of a defensive position. The focus on position has placed ever greater emphasis on the opening of the game, which is the part of it that is the easiest to control and predict. The result has been long lines of memorized moves. GM’s will play games where twenty or more moves will be entirely memorized, with each player making moves identical to those made in some previous game that both of the GM’s know. The sheer mental ability required to play at this level is amazing, but the games are dull as dirt.

It strikes me that the fate of chess illustrates a certain logic of mental development. Harold Bloom developed a theory of literature based on the anxiety of influence, the overwhelming sense that one can never escape the shadow of past masters and recapture the pristine originality from which mankind has fallen into the darkness of inevitable cliche. In a slightly different vein, Neal Maxwell was fond of contrasting “exciting exploration” with “plodding implimentation.” (Oh how I missed the alliterations and assonances last October!)

I have been mulling over some the ideas thrown about in comments on my last post on Mormon studies. My facination with someone like Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, or B.H. Roberts does not lie in their status as iconoclasts or intellectual dissidents, although to a greater or lesser extent they were these things. Rather, it is the fact that they were the Morphy’s of their corners of the universe. They did their work when the world was young and open, when queen sacrifices and combinations could still carry the day. Perhaps, however, as some of the commentors argued, we are too late in the day for this sort of thing. It may be that there is nothing but Stenitz left, and we have entered into the era where even Mormonism must be inevitably subjected to the slow and incremental progress of scholarlly professionalism. There is a great deal of force to this argument. To the extent that I dabble in legal scholarship, this is a world that I recognize. The jurisprudence of contracts is thick and old. Progress is slow, incremental, and interstitial.

One may still hope, however, for a Tal from time to time, a player who declares “there are sensible sacrifices, and then there are mine” yet still goes on to win.

30 comments for “Morphy, Steinitz & Mormonism

  1. November 5, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    I agree with what your are saying, Nate, and like the analogy very much. I have argued in the past that part of the problem is that Mormonism as a field of philosophy, literature, history, etc. didn’t develop until cultural modernism was almost upon us. That plus the fact that LDS re-integrated back into U.S. society rather successfully means that there was a fairly small window for Morphy-like moves. Yes there was the blush of the founding, JS, etc., but oftentimes the really interesting stuff comes with the next generation or two as factions try to outdo each other in explaining what it (the founding) all means and what the next course is. We got a little of that with B.H. Roberts.

    And yet: Mormonism still seems rather young. And American culture (academic and artistic) seems to be winding down (or ratcheting up? or almost played out) in some ways.

    I certainly hold the same hope.

  2. Bryce I
    November 5, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    I’ve been thinking about computer chess today, and while I don’t claim to be an expert at all, it seems to me that one thing that computer chess programs have been able to do is to shake up grandmaster play by proving in some sense the weaknesses of some of the conventional wisdom among grandmasters. In a sense, the computer does nothing more than “plodding implementaton”, examining position after position to find the best one. In the course of this thorough examination, occasionally something comes up that challenges what humans normally take to be the best course of action.

    In other words, perhaps there is room for interplay between strategy and tactics, such that one can inform the other.

    Is anyone else thinking of Ben Huff’s post on Kuhnian theology right now?

  3. November 5, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    Nate: Clearly the problem with this post is that you didn’t put a word in the title that screams controversy — good, oppressed, dead, etc. Perhaps it should have been “Mormonism is stuck fiddling with pawns” or “Morphy’s Law: Sacrifice over Incremental Gains” or “Betcha’ there’s no B.H. on the horizon.”

  4. November 5, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    I’d been wondering about this. I had assumed that the names Morphy and Steinitz along with the reference to Chess in the first line would be enough to just get the readers flocking in!

    I think that your point about modernism rapidly overtaking Mormonism is a good one. It can be a bit frustrating (for all of my appreciation for modernism’s virtues.) On the other hand, most of the rest of the poor moderns don’t even have something like Mormonism to cluster around and hope for. It is just continued existence in a crowded world.

    As should be obvious, I am in many ways taken with Bloom’s vision of Mormonism as a vast expansion into empty space. The space, alas, turns out to be rather crowded and the expansion is too slow for my impatient heart. Of course I ought to stop complaining and get to work, but I am — alas — no Morphy. My problem, however, is that I realize that Sunstone, Dialogue, FARMS, and BYU Studies are not in the business of producing Morphys. Nor is Illinois UP or the Claremont graduate school.

    There is, of course, a lot of profundity to Steinitz (if chess can ever really be profound). Deep strategy and subtle plays for tiny positional advantage have their own kind of intellectual excitement. To the extent that I play chess, I am simply not good enough at calculation to pull off Morphy so I have to content myself with a bastardized version of Steinitz.

  5. Robert Couch
    November 5, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    I also really like the chess analogy. Here’s how I would argue against your pessimism:

    First, “dull as dirt” is a slight exaggeration at best. Maybe Karpov’s style of play fits your description, but Fischer and Kasparov were quite exciting to watch. And if you saw game 5 of Kasparov’s vs. Deep Junior (even televised on ESPN2, which my wife would argue is dull as dirt to watch, but exutives apparently think otherwise), the computer’s bishop sacrifice was truly breath-taking.

    But I agree with your main point–the development of positional chess has made it a more tedious game, and scholarly research seems to be trending to the more tedious. But I don’t think learning is inherently this way–the rules that govern the universe are infinitely more complex than the rules that govern the 6 different pieces on a confined 8×8 board.

    True, some disciplines develop a fixed paradigm of acceptability that may rule the discipline for a while, but I can’t think of a discipline where this has been dominate for a long period of time (though I don’t know enough about legal theory to judge).

    In economics, rational choice theory has dominated for quite some time. But the challenges to this paradigm and the proposal of alternative theories have given rise to some truly exciting theoretical and empirical studies (well, I think so, and I think you have enough curiousity about economics to appreciate my point, but I’m probably deepening the pessimism for everyone else who has learned to avoid economists at parties like the plague…). Doing academic research is tedious, but as free-wheeling as Adam Smith’s writings might seem today, I don’t think it was radically less tedious for him to put his intuitive notions of the free market into words and analogies than it is for me to come up with economic models and econometric tests of economic intuitions I want to test.

    I could easily argue the same in math or physics. And I since I think contemporary (continental) philosophy is much more exciting than the philosophy of earlier centuries, I would argue the same for philosophy, viewed as a whole discipline (although I would agree regarding some strands of analytic philosophy *yawn*).

    If legal theory has truly become stagnant, I think it’s the exception–and further evidence that there are simply too many lawyers.

    As to Mormon theology, I agree with William that we’re still in infant stages–after all, how old is the bloggernancle? This is like a 7-year complaining of existential angst….

  6. November 5, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    I hear you. That’s why I’m playing the part of armchair cultural critic instead of off writing the great post-post-Modern Mormon novel.

    As far as Bloom’s empty space goes — my recent post on adispensation historical novels suggests one direction for LDS fiction writers. IMO, one of the problems of Mormon fiction is that it’s been too focused on Mormon social life — there hasn’t been anything that really grapples with Mormon philosophy/theology/discourse. OSC has done some interesting speculative work with his sci-fi and fantasy, but his approach has its limitations (mainly that because he has to maintain a readable, plot-driven focus to his work [albeit with better characterization than your average sci-fi/fantasy novel]).

  7. Rob
    November 5, 2004 at 7:50 pm

    “They did their work when the world was young and open, when queen sacrifices and combinations could still carry the day”

    A couple years ago, some friends were disturbed by the “sanitized” view of Brigham Young’s teachings in the Priesthood/Relief Society manual. However, I think there was still so much in that book that was amazingly bold and refreshing (especially in comparison to the recent HJG lessons). It was nice that we could get a taste of Brigham’s bold moves.

    I think the Bold and Beautiful happens easier in Small and Chaotic universes. The Church as a whole is so big now, with entrenched beauracracies and concerns about positioning, that we can’t imagine a General Authority making huge Triple Lindy type dives into cosmic doctrines. Sometimes they still do things like that in private or small conversations (one 70 used to blow our minds with Space Doctrine when we’d take him out to lunch on my mission) or during leadership sessions of Stake Conference (another reason for the recent change to go with more standardized broadcast talks?).

    Back in the old days, when the whole church was the size of a large Stake, things were wild and woolly. Could we handle apostles in their 20s? Frequent excommunication of apostles? All the chaos of the early days of the Church? I think we still do in many small branches–especially in urban areas with lots of new and minority converts and in developing countries. That’s where we still get really hairy stories and some bold moves by local leaders.

    Hopefully, the local church unites and the blogernacle will continue to provide a space for the occasional Triple Lindy (along with the more numerous bellyflops)–just don’t look for anyone to try that kind of move from the Conference Center.

  8. November 5, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    Mikhail Tal came to mind, then you acknowledged him and ruined my posting …. though the brilliant refutation of the king’s gambit, followed by Spasky springing it on someone who hadn’t memorized it, for some brilliant play.

    Alas, I got pulled into Pawn Power and Capablanca’s book (which is probably one of the worst books ever — and the reason he regained his title from the brilliant challenger, he fogged his mind with the book).

  9. Chad Too
    November 5, 2004 at 9:31 pm

    Great. Now the cast recording from the musical “Chess” is stuck in my head and won’t leave. Thanks. ;)

  10. Matt Evans
    November 5, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    Nate, when I was a young chess player in junior high, I disliked the idea of memorizing chess openings very much. Memorization was antithetical to my view of chess — chess should be a clash of wits, not of contest to see which player was able to tolerate more hours of drearing memorizing. I thought the antidote to such memorization was changing the starting position of the pieces. There are something like 800 different piece arrangements, and it would be impossible for those with the best memories to memorize more than a few openings for each combination.

    A couple of years ago I was pleased to read that Bobby Fischer was advocating a similar change for the same reason, though it’s yet to catch on. Here’s a page explaining Fischer’s Random Chess.

    My plan for deciding where the pieces go was for the players, starting with black, to alternate placing them. I didn’t worry about the rooks being on the ends, either, and simply didn’t allow castling if they weren’t. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any computer or internet chess games that allow you to rearrange the pieces.

  11. Ivan Wolfe
    November 5, 2004 at 10:50 pm

    Speaking of Chess:

    Why is Murray Head’s version of “One Night in Bangkok” so popular in Utah.

    (it’s a cool song and all, but I NEVER hear it on the radio anywhere else – but it gets played almost daily in Utah).

  12. November 6, 2004 at 12:49 am

    Of course, if you want something really hard and impossible to memorize, try Go over Chess. . .

  13. VeritasLiberat
    November 6, 2004 at 1:10 am

    “Why is Murray Head’s version of “One Night in Bangkokâ€? so popular in Utah.”

    Perhaps it’s because it has enough innuendo to be interesting, but not so much that it gets banned.

  14. Jack
    November 6, 2004 at 1:52 am

    “One Night in Bangkokâ€? …the only decent (and I don’t mean virtuous) lyric Tim Rice ever wrote.

    It seems like the wiz-bang fireworks followed by the quiet steady plodding of the status quo is a recurring pattern. I think of Lehi’s experiences verses the rest of the Book of Mormon. With rare exception what follows his exodus is an endless struggle on the part of church leaders to keep the masses living the foundational doctrines of the Gospel. The same with Israel’s exodus, the Jaredites exodus and the latter-day exodus.

  15. Robert C
    November 6, 2004 at 9:11 am

    One Night in Bangkok� so popular in Utah

    Why is [insert any alt 80’s song here, esp. if it’s by the Cure, DM, Erasure, or Howard Jones] so popular in Utah??

  16. Kristine
    November 6, 2004 at 12:20 pm

    So, Nate, would ya quit wringing your hands and just go write the brilliant masterwork of Mormon Studies already?!!

  17. Ben Huff
    November 6, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    Nate, we ain’t had a Steinitz yet, so what are you fretting over? Actually, a Steinitz might be really nice right now! We’re definitely still in the “pre-paradigm” stage on Kuhn’s map. If there’s something about the state of the field that impedes exciting work, it’s that there is too *little* structure to Mormon studies! At least in chess you know the goal is check-mate. In Mormon Studies we don’t even know what the goal is half the time.

  18. Jack
    November 6, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    Ben, the goal *is* check mate – that is, if the majority of mormon studies revolves around apologetics. :)

  19. November 6, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    I like the metaphor, but I’m not sure that it is wholly applicable. While not an aficionado, it seems to me that the transition in chess was due to the success of the new strategy at attaining the goal (that is victory). This was validated by experience. I don’t believe same holds true for Mormon theology. The new “style� has not been shown to out-perform the iconoclasm of the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact I would argue that the iconoclasm outperformed the current style at reaching the goal (expanding the theology)

    It just so happens that I’m traveling this week. I’ve had the chance to reread some interesting things…notably, parts of “Joseph Smith as Scientist� by Widstoe. He spends quite some time explaining that spirit matter is constituted of the ether (which worked very well before Einstein threw down). I also read about the Roberts/Smith “pre-Adamite� debate before the 12, and the ensuing stalemate.

    The impediment of tantamount expositions is simply the adoption of an orthodoxy in the 1930’s which has been institutionalized. The risks of pulling a Widstoe (which by the way is the best, though now impossible, explanation of spiritual matter) is just a risk too great for the institution to take. Moreover the early iconoclasm in the church was set against the institutions of the time (outside the church). Any iconoclasm today would be set against the orthodox institution of the current church.

  20. Adam Greenwood
    November 6, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    the goal = expanding the theology

    I’m pretty sure that the post- Roberts, Widstoe, et al. turn to caution and institutionalization was not an attempt to find a better way to expand the theology.

  21. November 6, 2004 at 9:51 pm

    Precisely, but it is Nate’s goal of interest in his post. I use the word “orthodoxy�, to denote this shift in institutional perspective. As a side note, I’m not saying that the shift to orthodoxy was a bad thing.

  22. Nate Oman
    November 6, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    “So, Nate, would ya quit wringing your hands and just go write the brilliant masterwork of Mormon Studies already?!! ”

    Hand-wringing: easy.

    Writing master work: very, very, very hard.

  23. Ben Huff
    November 7, 2004 at 12:24 am

    The impediment of tantamount expositions is simply the adoption of an orthodoxy in the 1930’s which has been institutionalized.

    Is this a cause or an effect of a scarcity of ambitious theological works?

    Anyway, I’m not sure this has really happened. In what sense has anything been institutionalized? There haven’t been any modifications to the standard works sufficient to count as such an institutionalization. Perhaps there has been a reining in of GAs from propounding speculative doctrines, particularly since correlation. But this is not the same as an establishment of an orthodoxy. Rather, I think we’ve just made our discourse more common-sensical and theologically non-committal. A document like the Proclamation on the Family establishes a few doctrines quite firmly, but these are only a couple of fixed points in a vast theological space.

    The reining in of GAs accounts for a significant fraction of the theological quiet. Our most ambitious theologians were GAs for a while and probably were made GAs in part because they were taking God and the gospel seriously, doing theology being one way of taking God and the gospel seriously.

    In part, however, perhaps we as a people have simply become more complacent.

    As a separate matter, perhaps a knack for working well in an organization has figured larger in GA selection in recent decades, particularly as the church has grown and there have been enough of us that we could be more selective about leaders!

    Anyway, I don’t think there are impediments, not much anyway. There may be fewer of certain kinds of stimuli. Perhaps the high percentage of adventurous types in the early days (to be expected in a mostly convert church which asked you to move to the other side of the world) has been replaced by a more normal demographic. Mostly I think we just need to do the work!

  24. November 7, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    I would argue that there has been an institutionalization of orthodoxy in the church. I don’t think that a new catechism was essential for this to occur. But I do accept that it occurred over a period of decades. I think that the tightening of the reigns of the GAs, as you say, coupled with the other cultural and procedural changes resulted in an inertia that is nothing short of institutional. One could say that the sanitization of discourse from controversy or paradoxical history and commentary are both cause and effect of the change.

  25. Glen Henshaw
    November 7, 2004 at 9:40 pm


    I’m curious. What is Space Doctrine?


  26. David King Landrith
    November 8, 2004 at 12:39 am

    How ’bout hymns? Why hasn’t anyone since Phelps or Clayton written anything terribly interesting or inspiring (with the possible–and surprising–exception of McConkie)? Am I the only one who thinks that the green hymn books aren’t an improvement? And who’s idea was it to replace “yoo-hoo unto Jesus” with “you unto the savior” anyway? (If it was good enough for 150 years of saints, then why not us?)

    Small aside: Have things become so sanitized and establishment driven that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of “Dixie” is no longer available? If so, when did it drop out of production?

  27. November 8, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    Byce: One thing to remember about most computer chess programs is that the really good ones use massive opening books. They have thousands of grandmaster games stored in their memories and use these games to replicate the kind of play that GM does in the opening, ie the repition of well established opening lines. In other words, in a crucial part of the game (the opening), computers are not brute calculators. Instead, they are programed to be the perfect disciples of Steinitz, complete with huge store of flawlessly memorized games.

    Interestingly, however, I have heard some people argue that the computers end up screwing up more often in the late middle game and the end game. They tend to be overly focused on material advantage and don’t always have a good sense of the importance of positional advantage in the end game. In other words, when positional chess ceases to be about memorization and becomes about intuition and depth of strategic thinking the computers become weaker.

    Of course, even in Hobby mode, Fritz always kicks my butt.

  28. December 2, 2004 at 4:56 am

    Hello Mr. Oman:

    Thank you for your article. I am not a Mormon myself, though my experiences with individual Mormons have been quite good, on the whole. I wish you and the members of your Church well.

    I do, however, have problems with the portion of your article related to Chess. The notion that “Steinitz … is credited with discovering what is called positional chess” is one with which I take issue. Steinitz was a brilliant systematizer of ideas, but much of his work is based on an exceptionally careful study of the games of Paul Morphy. We might say that many Chess players see Steinitz as the Plato to Morphy’s Socrates.

    Dr. Emanuel Lasker was World Chess Champion for nearly three decades. He won the title by defeating Steinitz. In the fourth book of his famous “Manual of Chess”, he describes the roles of Morphy and Steinitz thus:

    La Bourdonnais [a great player, b. 1795 – d. 1840] died young in London, and the goddess of Chess, Caissa, very much grieved, mourned for him and forgot to inspire the masters with her sunny look. A dreary time then came over the Chess world. The masters played a dry style, without enthusiasm, without imagination, without force, and the Chess fraternity was full of the wrangles of the mediocrities. It is true, the goddess soon repaired her omission. She flirted – Goddess! pardon me this vulgar expression, but the coarse human language does not know the shades of meaning such as undoubtedly you would be able to express by means of Chess pieces – she flirted, I beg to say, with the English historian [and renowned authority on Shakespeare, whose name has been given to the style of Chess pieces we now use] Staunton and prevailed upon him to organize in 1851 an international chess tournament in London, during the great International Exposition of that year. And then – fickle Goddess – she gave her love to a young mathematician, the German Anderssen, and inspired him to superb combinations. And then — oh the weakness of her – she spied with her great sunny eye in far distant Louisiana a boy, highly talented; she forgot all about Anderssen, guided the steps of the young American, fell in love with him, introduced him to the world and said triumphantly: “Here is the young Paul Morphy, stronger and greater than master ever was.â€? And the world listened and applauded and cried “Hurrah for Paul Morphy, the King of Chess!â€?

    In Paul Morphy the spirit of La Bourdonnais had arisen anew, only more vigorous, firmer, prouder. He never formed columns of Pawns for the purpose of assaulting a firm position as Philidor had taught, he always fought in the centre, only a few Pawns in front, and if he needed the lines open, he sacrificed even these few advanced posts. Should the adversary make use of Philidor’s maxims, Morphy’s pieces occupied the gaps in the oncoming mass of Pawns and opened up an attack, so as to leave the enemy no time for slow, methodical maneuvering. Paul Morphy fought; on good days and on bad days, he loved the contest, the hard, sharp, just struggle, which despises petted favourites and breeds heroes.

    But then the Civil War broke out in the United States and broke the heart and mind of Morphy.

    When Paul Morphy, despairing of Life, renounced Chess, Caissa fell into deep mourning and into dreary thoughts. To the masters who had come to ask her for a smile she listened absent-mindedly, as a mother would to her children after her favourite had died. Therefore, the games of the masters of that period are planless; the great models of the past are known, and the masters try to follow them and to equal them, but they do not succeed. The masters give themselves over to reflection. One of them reflects a long time and intensely on Paul Morphy, and gratefully Caissa encourages him; and the greatest landmark in the history of Chess is reached: William Steinitz announces the principles of strategy, the result of inspired thought and imagination.

    Principles, though dwelling in the realm of thought, are rooted in Life. There are so many thoughts which have no roots and these are more glittering and more seducive [sic] than the sound ones. Therefore, in order to distinguish between the true and the false principles, Steinitz had to dig deep to lay bare the roots of the art possessed by Morphy. And when Steinitz after hard work had bared these roots, he said to the world: Here is the idea of Chess which has given vitality to the game since its invention in the centuries long past. Listen to me and do not judge rashly, for it is something great, and it overpowers me. . .

    . . . . The world would have benefitted if it had given Steinitz a chance. He was a thinker worthy of a seat in the halls of a University. A player, as the world believed he as, he was NOT; his studious temperament made that impossible; and thus he was conquered by a player [Dr. Lasker himself] and in the end little valued by the world, he died. And I who vanquished him must see to it that his great achievement, his theories should find justice, and I must avenge the wrongs he suffered . . . .

    [end quote]

    I think Dr. Lasker is reflecting the opinions of the majority of experts in the Chess community on this subject.

    Incidentally, if you would like to discuss Paul Morphy or play through any of his remarkable games, you might visit this site, which enables you to play through the games of Morphy by simply “clicking through” them and watching the pieces move on a nice interface. You may also post messages. Both these features are totally free of charge. (I post under the name “BishopBerkeley” at this site):

    Also, an outstanding website on the life and Chess of Paul Morphy is maintained by Serendipitous Sarah, a very talented writer. You may visit it at the easy-to-remember URL , or you may follow the full URL:

    It is not only the best Chess biography site I’ve seen, it is also one of the finest biographical sites of *any* kind I have seen.

    Incidentally, I also disagree with your notions that, “Today, grandmaster level chess is basically boring” and that “No serious chess player, however, actually plays like Morphy any more.” (My view is that, in most cases, the more they play like Morphy, the more likely they are to be serious!) But I’ll leave it at this for now.

    Thank you, and please understand I hope to disagree without being disagreeable.

    Good Luck!

  29. William Dyer
    April 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    I’m a connosseour of chess. Did I spell that right? I play against the computer a lot and read strategy books. Chess is a beautiful game. If I can ever beat the computer, then I’ll compete against people online. If I can beat a majority of the best players online, then I’ll enter tournaments.

    Someone in this blog says that nowadays, chess is getting boring; openings in tournaments are memorized to 20 moves or so. I would counter that sentiment and say that chess is more enlightening than it used to be. Sure there is less mystery, but there is more understanding. Is that not good? People who think chess these days is boring wish calculations in opening manuals were shorter-from my perspective.

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