Sunday, September 7, 2008

Arthur Stevens' Blue Book of Charts To Winning Chess

A pioneer in the statistical analysis of chess, in my honest opinion, was Arthur Stevens. Before the advent of the personal computer, Arthur Stevens compiled a statistical analysis of opening lines, in chart form, of 56,972 tournament games. The charts would show the moves of a opening line, the number of games in which the move was played, and its winning percentage.
Such charts would be valuable to the serious player by saving some time in experimentation and analysis.

It would be easy nowadays to downplay his efforts. Today, one can readily find, on the internet, databases of millions of chess games and the statistics on the opening moves: the number of times it was played, and its won/loss/draw percentage. But Stevens' work was a precursor to this; his book came out in 1969.

I scanned a page from his book, hoping to post it here, but the quality is not good. The page I had scanned was a chart on a line in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann Defense, which starts: 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 If Black plays 3. .. Bf5, Stevens has listed these 4th moves for White: Bd3, Ne2, c4, h4, g4, Nc3, Nf3. The move that gets the highest percentage is c4. His chart shows 33 games with that move, with a winning percentage for White of 79% (note that he determines this percentage by taking not only wins but also one-half of draws).

A chess database on the internet now has over 900 games just beginning with 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. c4. We've come a long way since his time, but he was a pioneer.

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