(1) at what rating level is a good chess database essential?
(2) when do most players 1800-1900 (where I think I'll end up) deviate from theory? Do you come up with your own novelties, or just chose a less played move from theory that seems to have decent results? (Which seems to eventually lead to a situation where its easy to deviate.)
I generally try to let me opponent deviate first...good way to learn main line theory, and I often get a small edge b/c their deviation is not optimal.
93 ( +1 | -1 ) Don't use opening theoryMaking use of opening theory forces a player in a certain line of thinking. Off course these lines are well tested and have proven their value, but still you're stuck following other peoples ideas until the theory ends. Then what? Purchase an expensive database or search through the internet on the latest development, follow the most common played moves?
I tend to follow the simple rules of opening development and try to avoid standard opening lines. I know how to play two openings (one with white and one with black), but most of the time I just follow my instinct or interesting ideas/gambits/side lines without much theory. This way I create my own theory which I understand. I know what to do, which plans to follow and the game is more natural to me.
Also, I do not like studying. Playing like this saves me time and effort.
113 ( +1 | -1 ) Don't reinvent the wheelAll players should study openings.
1. If you play correspondence chess (or server based, such as GameKnot), you should use a database. It need not be large and expensive. You can use any number of online databases with no more cost than you already spend on your internet connection. NICBase is a small, very selective online database, for example. The GameKnot database can certainly point out lines that offer good prospects of courting disaster.
2. I deviate from theory when a) I neither know nor comprehend the theory. b) When the "theory" is based on weak players' games. (ChessBase online, for example, has some games between players rated 800, and many from scholastic championships among the very young.) When the moves in the database ("theory") only come from such games, I don't think the results are significant. c) When I want to try one of my own ideas.
3. Slow games on servers and correspondence games are an excellent way to learn opening theory. In fact, that is one of the chief benefits of slow chess. Players who choose to ignore databases throw away these advantages.