What is a novelty?

Elsewhere on the internet there has been some debate on what constitutes a novelty and what does not. Some people think that it is a move not played before; others think it is a new idea. Then there is the whole computer aspect of it. If a computer plays or mentions it; is it a novelty?

In Quality Chess we are trying to make useful books to those wanting to prepare for their games in the most effective manner possible. Most people will use a combination of books and databases, while some will only use databases. For this reason we have always gone by the “not in the database” definition.

We encourage our authors to indicate when a move is new. We always tell them to give sources where appropriate and to credit all ideas by other people to them. Therefore you will frequently find in our books a N and a comment saying that another person has analysed this in xxx publication.

We also tell our authors to write the truth. You will not find many examples of over-optimistic evaluation in QC books. Not only is it rather low to write in this way; making it unpleasant to go to work. We also think it is a poor business strategy.

Regarding novelties; I did not put up an article first, as I did not want to prejudice the view from people frequenting this blog. It could have been split in other ways, but this is what we could think off in the office and what others suggested. The result indicates a difference of opinion, but does not suggest that we are out of touch, so we will continue to do what makes sense to us and what keeps our books consistent.

70 thoughts on “What is a novelty?”

  1. I understand the “not in database” approach but sometimes a move has never been played because nobody repeated the line after a refutation appeared in a source (book, magazine). So that move is a novelty as per your definition but nobody in the chess world would consider it in that way. Of course it’s possibile also to construct an opposite scenario. I make an engine play one million game against itself in a certain variation and then publish the database with all those move being technically a novelty but of course that would be highly stupid. So in my opinion a balance of definition is required. If a move has been suggested/mentioned in a well known context it shouldn’t been considered a novelty even if never played. If instead it was played in some obscure context (engine vs engine or two low rated players online) then it should be awarded the novelty status.

  2. Jacob Aagaard

    I just do not see the problem. If it has been mentioned in a source with analysis you find relevant, you mention the source, as well as give the move an N. But in some cases, bad books have been written that you would not consult even if all your other books were stolen (exaggeration to make a point, obviously). If the move is in there, then your N leaves you open for a long and ridiculous debate.

    However, we all use more or less the same database; and when we prepare for a game, we all use it to some extent (maybe except Magnus).

    I can see why there is division. Both arguments make sense. I find our definition more practical; and it does not exclude referencing other people’s work when it has been visited.

  3. Shurlock Ventriloquist

    the new ‘n’ word … hahaha … sayre’s law invoked … the idea postulated by the ‘vicitm’ party that gm shaw wrote nessie in a hurry to make a quick buck is perhaps the funniest thing i have heard chessically in a few years … this has all been some great drama here but now that the SLAV book is out i have to get cracking on actual work and not following all these great and mildly entertaining heavyweight internet mud-wrestling bouts

  4. On chesspub you give a quite different view about the poll compared with above article, why?
    “44% agrees with Buecker’s definition. I am sure that he has called on all his friends to vote, which probably means that 44% independently voted for a different definition than we use…”

    People having followed the discussion on chesspub will certainly understand that the topic of novelties is related with John Shaw’s book. On chessvibes the reviewer GM David Smerdon tells us that just 270 pages of the 650 pages are sufficient to form a decent opening. The rest is nice to read. So if the emphasis is on wanting to prepare for games as mentioned in above article then why do we have the other pages written?

  5. Today there is also the let’s check from Chessbase which stores automatically who was first analyzing this position. As the database is growing, I hear more and more players consulting it regularly.

    I remember last year Nikos Ntirlis made here a comment of Anands database which contains more than 20 Million games: http://www.qualitychess.co.uk/blog/?p=2191 Personally I am always chasing for extra games: computergames, iccf games (locked for the public but I still get them via a contact),… so I believe my database is pretty different from most people. Just trusting the latest megadatabase is not very ambitious.

  6. Jacob Aagaard

    I don’t see your point. Maybe because you mess 3-4 different things into the same sentence and are unable to see a joke.

    Btw. did you notice how after three weeks of abuse and libel, no action was taken, but when we spoke up, the thread was quickly closed? Don’t ever question the moderator :-).

  7. Define “N” in the front matter of the book however you please– e.g., N: a move that has never been played in any game in the Chessbase Megabase 2014, updated through TWIC Volume 1012. Then you will short circuit this silly debate and no one can complain.

  8. @katar
    Actually it would be going above and beyond to refer to the specific database used. Maybe just say, “N: Novelty – a move that had not been played in the databases cited in the bibliography as of the time of writing.” Then it’s less hassle and you wouldn’t even need to update it from book to book.

  9. @katar
    That is exactly what i did on my blog after i got some comments from readers on how to interpret correctly the annotations. So I would take it much broader than only the N sign but also for all other symbols used in the book. It becomes of course more difficult when several authors are involved as everybody has its own style.

  10. I read some of Stefan’s posts on the chesspub forums and his standards are so impractical that nobody would bother writing chess books anymore.

  11. Novelty = something what was not played on highest level or is not played reasonably regularly or is not well known. The fact that some move was lapidarly mentioned as sidenote somewhere does not mean it is „consumed”.

  12. Master McGrath

    Interesting discussion. I had missed the earlier discussion over at ChessPub; interesting stuff there also.

    Definitely authors and publishers need to be able to set their own conventions. I’d never be upset if someone chooses a different approach.

    I had voted for the last definition above, which seems the most intuitive and useful. Obviously the caveat has to be “as far as we are aware” because there is too much analysis and commentary out there to be entirely sure that something is definitely new.

    Personally I prefer it when ‘N’ means new in this book (a.f.a.w.a.a.), and if Smith found it first to write Ne5! (Smith).

  13. This morning I was thinking about this question (what is a novelty) and thought…after the publication of the book the “novelty” will be probably played by many…so what is the usefulness of the symbol N after all? Why not avoid it altogether?

  14. If an author lists his sources (books, periodicals, databases) in a bibliography i would expect that a new move (novelty) is not already mentioned in one of this sources.
    In other words: A move marked as “N” should be an “invention” of the author.

    By the way: I never judged a book by the number of “N”s in it. Of course i appreciate if the author gives some new and original analysis. But i don’t need a “N” because i think that every line given without an indication of external source is “invented” by the author (and his engine).

    1. I agree as far as “if you know about the move from one specific source” you need to quote it. No one disagrees. If you know it is given various places, because the engine gives it straight away, there are different opinions. I would credit it, personally, but I don’t feel it is disrespectful not to credit it; nor do I in any way think that you are copying someone’s work or believe that a court of law would think so for a minute.

      I just think a book comes across better if it accredits the important sources. Thus it will make the reader like you more and read more of your books, leading to greater income. So any accusations (elsewhere on www) that we are cynically not giving other sources are just lame. It would be bad for business.

      Obviously we are trying to put in our own work on top; but we do not believe that the fact that we show that we can read will hurt sales. I believe that 99% of all our customers are actually uninterested in who found the idea first; they only care about the usefulness and reliability of the material they buy. And this is what I try to focus on.

  15. @garryk
    I find the N-sign for the student very interesting as it attracts the focus to where one can find new ideas without being forced to read everything. This can be especially effective for a game-preparation when little time is available.
    Naturally once the new move becomes more popular then this surprise value decreases quickly.

    Still I find it interesting to read novelties in books so we know when and by whom the idea was found. History always interests me as it presents a view on how and why things developed in a certain way. It also sometimes gives a better understanding of how today a certain opening is played.

    If authors ignore the chronology of novelties then you lose this historical aspect which I regret.

  16. @brabo
    I agree if the novelty brings a new way to play a certain position…a major improvement…an original idea…but not if the novelty is just a single move that every top player probably already has in his arsenal waiting to be used…

  17. @garryk
    Well it depends. Sometimes 1 move, especially a sacrifice can be enough to understand the idea behind without the need of showing the complete execution. In other cases you have to show more to understand why it is an original idea. A nice example is the history of the 2 Gajewski gambits of which i wrote an article. The first move of both gambits was played (much) earlier but the real value of the idea was only shown by the Polish GM Gajewski.

    Besides it is not because every top player has it in his arsenal waiting that somebody can not claim to have first found the novelty. A discovery is always attributed to the one whom makes the first claim and not the one whom discovered it first. You could of course ask what is the value of claiming such discovery.

  18. @brabo
    Anyway…I understand your point and we both could imagine examples where a single new move is important or is meaningless…probably best of all is katar’s suggestion…define “N” in a clear way and conform to it along the book…reader will judge is the “N” is relevant or not…

  19. Also, you did not ask or respond to direct comments (again), while inventing a straw man that ignores history he knows. Man up!

  20. @Jacob Aagaard
    When you write a book of 650 pages of a romantic opening like the Kings gambit then I find it just basic to include also his history in it. Maybe you are right that 99% is not interested in the history but I doubt the correctness of this figure. The kings gambit is not the same as other gambits or openings. I do believe if people are interested in this opening that certainly more than 1% is attracted by the rich history. Now that could be a really interesting poll.
    – Would the history of the kingsgambit interest you if you would pick up the opening or do you only care of the most accurate modern evaluations? So is this an added value for that kind of book or not?

    The historical aspect of this romantic opening is clearly ignored in the book of John Shaw. My choice is naturally in favor of the historical aspect which is one of the reasons why I am very fond of the serie Kasparov Predecessors.

  21. @brabo
    Let me once in a blue moon agree with brabo. John’s book is impressive but the historical aspect is a little lacking. Sorry if I don’t have a link in support of my idea! 🙂

  22. If you say that it’s only a novelty the first time a move appears in a game in database X, then by definition that means that no move in a book can get an “N” — it’ll be a novelty the first time someone actually plays the move in the book and gets the game in TWIC, being mentioned in the book doesn’t make it a novelty after all.

    Or the other possibility, if mentioning an unplayed move in a book does merit pointing it out by “N”, then they were already novelties when mentioned in previous books, so shouldn’t get an “N” the second time they are mentioned in books.

    I would find it slightly odd if the same move could be legitimately be given an “N” in several books (with the newer ones listing the old ones in the bibliography), just because the move wasn’t played in the meantime.

    All that said, it’s really not that important, is it? Most of the time the only thing I care about is “has my current opponent ever considered this move seriously” and you don’t point that out with symbols in your books 🙂

  23. Jacob Aagaard

    You are like the reviewer saying about Avatar: well, I don’t like sci-fi… I would certainly have written the book differently than John, but so would everyone else. I like the plurality.

    You still have not attempted any defence of your claim that I declared war on Buecker, when I replied to his three weeks defamation of John’s and eventually my character. I say it again; Man up!

  24. @brabo
    I have played the King’s Gambit in the past (long ago), and I was primarily interested in strond moves, not in the history. If I would be interested in history I would probably rather read a history. That is not to say that the history of an opening cannot be interesting, but only (i.m.o.) insofar as it is relevant for your understanding of the opening as it is played today. By the way, how do you define the ‘history’ of an opening anyway? I would guess sort of a chronological account of lines, refutations, improvements, news lines, refutations, etc. I think for the King’s Gambit that would take several 1000s of pages.

  25. @Ray
    PS: in that respect I do think John’s book has covers some of the history of the King’s Gambit, since e.g. in the chapter on the Modern Defence he first covers all the earlier white tries for an advantage (to no avail) and then goes on with new analysis into new directions. What’s unhistorical about that?

  26. @Jacob Aagaard
    I quote some of your statements in your last post on chesspub and try to clarify why I consider this a war declaration. People can judge if I am too harsh or not. In fact it is not my war so I prefer to stay out of it. It is the reason why i didn’t answer first but you insist.

    “I see now that it was a poisoned chalice”
    That is not diplomatic. You could just say that you didn’t realize that there were expectations connected with the gifts but to call something a poisoned chalice is not the way to set up a discussion.

    “Any idea of violation of copyright is pure nonsense.”
    Using words like nonsense is again not diplomatic. You could just state that you would like to see which laws were exactly broken and surely if anything wrong was done, you will do the uttermost best to correct.

    “The idea that we should have a big advantage over other publishers because we do not respect copyright is ridiculous on so many grounds that I get lost in them.”
    Here you show that you didn’t read properly Stefans comments. Stefan just stated that adding the historical part (via research and crediting) would give Quality chess a big advantage over other publishers as they neither add the historical part. Here in fact we touch the topic that probably much more than 1% is interested in this aspect. You make hasty conclusions based on superficial reading which is not the right way to create a proper discussion.

    “Buecker’s accusation includes the ludicris assertion that John somehow wrote the King’s Gambit quickly to make money. Anyone who wants to think that through and know anything about anything, will laugh until they pass out.”
    Again written without any diplomacy. Stefan never wrote such statements. This just adds oil on the fire.

    “Buecker clearly understands this and has taken it personally and his constant attacks on John (and now me also) are nothing less than a case of personal slight run amok.

    The fact that the moderator has not removed some of the most obscene comments or asked Buecker to rephrase it in a way that would not leave ChessPublishing open for libel suits are beyond me. Sure, we would never sue, but I don’t refrain from breaking the law just because I might get caught. I also consider it common decency. You can argue that libel is a civil matter, but this does not really avoid my request for civility.

    About the vote on our blog (which I am happy to see is no longer referred to as manipulated). 44% agrees with Buecker’s definition. I am sure that he has called on all his friends to vote, which probably means that 44% independently voted for a different definition than we use…”
    This whole chapter doesn’t add anything to the content except showing clear hostility.

    The moderator left the thread open as long Stefan came up with chess related content (making references to books, analysis,…) but once the chess related content disappeared it really made no sense anymore to continue. B.t.w. I adopt the same policy which is the reason why I sometimes don’t react anymore. If all chess related content has disappeared then I drop out.

  27. @Ray
    “PS: in that respect I do think John’s book has covers some of the history of the King’s Gambit, since e.g. in the chapter on the Modern Defence he first covers all the earlier white tries for an advantage (to no avail) and then goes on with new analysis into new directions. What’s unhistorical about that?”
    It is a start but every historian will call it amateurish. Writing about history means spending many hours in researching through all kind of materials, documenting, crediting,… So I am expecting much more than what is included today on that domain.

  28. Jacob Aagaard

    I did not in any way pretend that I was polite to Buecker. But again, YOU ARE DODGING THE QUESTION and trying to make it about something else:

    A) Why is it a war when we fight back? While when he defame our character it is not?

    B) Do you really think I do not have the right to make fun of someone who defames and insults me?

    Please answer these two questions and don’t dodgy it any further. You can then dislike my language in my defence as much as you want.

  29. @Jacob Aagaard
    A) I still have the feeling that Stefan was bringing up chess related content with references to books, … (mainly about the history which I also find interesting). I agree that often it was on the limit but also the moderator had this opinion as he let it proceed. However in your reaction I see very little chess related content. Yes there is some but it is really deeply hidden in the rest of your reaction. I don’t have the feeling that you have the intention to discuss something only to fight. As the fight element dominates from your post , I figuratively used the words “declaring the war”.

    B) You have probably the right but is that the most decent way to act? If you feel yourself incorrectly treated do you really have to settle the score? Should a publisher, grandmaster,…. not try to stand above all those quarrels?

  30. @brabo
    Well, I guess that’s your problem then. Like I said, I have a different view – I am primarily interested in the current state of chess theory when I buy an opening book (sorry, I don’t own a Bilguer), and to call it amateurish sounds pretty arrogant to me. Apparently you know every historian and besides that you know what every historian thinks. I only have to find one historian who thinks otherwise to proof you wrong, but I won’t bother. You seem to forget that publishing is a business; many hours of research costs a lot of money (or do you think chess authors are just writing for a hobby) and it’s just a simple cost-benefit analysis. Assuming the market works (I have the funny idea you won’t agree with that assumption – I’m waiting for your counter-arguments) the mere facts that these opening theory / history tomes are currently not on the marktet would be a fair indicator of a lack of demand. Or maybe there is this famous ‘gap in the market’, which you could fill by writing such a book (free advice).

  31. @brabo
    What makes a pubisher or grandmaster so special that they shouldn’t participate in discussions? I have a PhD myself, which probably also means that I should stand ‘above such quarrels’? A little history: in the 19th century (which you seem to value in another thread because of the noble and sporthsmanship values) such quarrels would be fought out in a duel.

  32. If there is any declaration of war in the chesspub thread it clearly is Bückers attack on John Shaws first post, accusing him of plagiarism and stealing of ideas.

    To my impression to self proclaimed guru of the King’s Gambit is upset that he is not mentioned on each and every page of John’s book.

  33. @Ray
    I don’t know if you follow the chesscafe site (now in some sort of temporarily maintenance mode) but there are at least 3 authors writing regularly about history:
    – Past Pieces by Olympiu G.Urcan (last article about Charles Seymour Taber : 1862-1916)
    – Inside Chess by Joel Benjamin (last article about 1989/4)
    – The Kibitzer by Tim Harding (last article: Looking back: Chess in 1914 and 1864)

    Now that is just one website but I can give several others full of historical articles. All this shows there is interest for history in chess despite what here is claimed. Don’t forget that people reacting or voting here are only a small % of the chess community mainly having the same opinions.

    Is my statement too arrogant that the historical work done in the book is amateurish? Maybe. Anyway why do you care as you are not interested anyway in history. I am just ignoring pieces which I am not interested in.

  34. @Ray
    A discussion is bringing up elements, links (yes hated by some people here),… so both sides try to convince each other or at least try to explain their view. We try at all costs to avoid playing the person but try to stick to the topic. I completely miss this.

    Now some people will not agree (which is ok) but I do believe that people on the first row should be extra cautious about how to react compared with the average Joe. A publisher, grandmaster is clearly not the average Joe so people are looking to those frontrunners and will act the same way to some extend.

  35. @brabo
    You’re again twisting my arguments. I’m wondering if you do this on purpose or because of ignorance? I never said there weren’t many people interested in chess history as such – please read my post again and now properly. As a matter of fact I am interested myself in chess history and I like e.g. the recent book on Nimzowitsch published by McFarland a lot (although that will probably not be up to your stellar standards). I was in my post however talking about the COMBINATION of a state of the art opening BOOK which is SOLD FOR MONEY (not a blog or something like that) and a scientific exposé on the history of the opening in question (THAT I am indeed not interested in). Can you please give me a concrete title of a BOOK which combines these two aspects? I really think you are fighting against your own ghosts!

  36. @Ray
    If one opening is history on its own then it must be the Kings gambit. I do understand that you bought the book because you are interested for playing it in tournaments but I would be really surprised if not a certain % also just bought it because of the historical connections. You are clearly satisfied as you got what you wanted but is this shared by everybody? It is that angle that I am using so certainly not willing to twist your arguments.

  37. @Ray
    Small but important difference. I called the historical coverage amateurish. Analysis, text, … is clearly very professional. I focus on the content not people.

  38. Jacob Aagaard

    a) Certainly there was a lot of chess related stuff in my posts. But you are right, I mainly focused on the parts where he was libeling and defaming Quality Chess and John, as well as just insulting me. I cannot see that he can bring it up and I cannot talk about it in the same tone.

    Now if I go into a chess club and hit you with a chess board and you punch be, do you really think people are going to say that the first was justified, because it was with a chess board?

    b) I like the way you think that I should be too good to be sarcastic while my professionalism and thus livelihood is under attack. At the same time you use every possible chance to attack and insult us.

    This makes you a troll and as John says I have had my fun and needs to go back to work, we would kindly ask you not to comment on our blog any further.

  39. @Jacob Aagaard
    I feel sorry for how the discussion has ended. I’d like to say briefly a couple of things. Sometimes we all (myself included) forget that Quality Chess (and Jacob in particular) has done great things for our game. Everybody errs but every mistake QC can do is one hundred times compensated by the merits. Remember how chess publishing was before the appearance of QC.

    On the other side, this web space, even if of property of QC, has become a social gathering for many of us. Perhaps QC didn’t intend it to be this way but it become anyway. When you open a space to the public, some controversies are almost inevitable and, until they degenerate, even useful.

    We are all adult and – let me say – decent chess players, so we should all know when the discussion is fruitful and when it’s harassing. I understand Jacob’s position but feel sorry that couldn’t be avoided. It’s a pity.

    The world is holding the breath for what is happening in Ukraine and we can’t even discuss in a civil manner if the king’s gambit book had better have an historical chapter. What can I say? I feel sad.

  40. garryk :
    we can’t even discuss in a civil manner if the king’s gambit book had better have an historical chapter.

    That wasn’t even close to the point. It was only one of the many ways of trying to avoid answering questions or to avoid the main subject of the “discussion”.

  41. @garryk
    I can fully understand Jacob’s reaction, even if ‘some people’ would argue that he should be ‘above’ this. From my perspective, brabo has been arguing for the sake of argument all along – I can’t remember ever having read a single positive post / compliment etc. by him. If I say ‘A’ he says be and the next day if I say ‘B’ he says ‘A’. E.g., if Jacob gives the training tip to better be well prepared when having sharp forcing opening variatons in your reportoire and not restrict yourself to the engine’s verdict, brabo says that’s not realistic for ‘most’ amateurs while in another thread / post he says he gathers all the games he can find and just using Megabase is not very ambitious. And on and on it goes in the same way. It’s just not very constructive in my humble opinion and quite annoying to refuse answering direct questions.

  42. @brabo
    Well, as a matter of fact I do expect you to answer a direct question such as name me a book which combines state of the art theory and history on a scientific level. But please – I’ve had it so this is my last reaction since it’s impossible to discuss with you.

  43. @brabo
    I do understand your personal wish for a section on history in a King’s Gambit book (and probably there are some other people as well with such a wish), but my claim was and still is that there is no business case for such a book. If there was, it would have been published.

  44. Brabo, it’s unfair to attack the King’s Gambit book on the fact that its history is “amateurish”. It’s an opening book, intended as an opening book, and never claimed to be anything but an opening book. It’s not an attempt at writing a history of the King’s Gambit.

    Don’t judge it as something it was never trying to be, that’s silly and just makes you look like you’re only trying to attack QC.

  45. To be clear: Brabo has not been asked not to comment on this blog because he was criticising us or disagreeing with various ideas. He has been asked to leave because his relentless criticism of everything is taking control of this blog. He absolutely has the right to have his opinions, but this is our site and we do not want them here. Many people have said they are fed up with him, not just us. And these people are not shy from criticising us or demanding higher standards from us, so it is by no means to silence criticism, it is just the same as in a restaurant, where one customer is poisining the experience of everyone else and thus shown the door.

    While this is a public space, it is also own and paid for by Quality Chess and thus we can set the ground rules, as long as we do not violate any laws. Asking Brabo to abuse has nothing to do with who he is and everything to do with his behaviour. Thus there is nothing wrong with doing this.

    We will not delete his comment; which might make the end of this post look a bit odd. So I guess I will put up a publishing schedule to compensate :-).

  46. Jacob Aagaard :

    A) Why is it a war when we fight back? While when he defame our character it is not?
    B) Do you really think I do not have the right to make fun of someone who defames and insults me?

    This is how I felt when I responded to a criticism of Paul Krugman by stating my own views. I admit my views are unpopular and perhaps very wrong, BUT I simply stated them. I did not call the criticizer of Krugman names nor did I ask GM Aagaard to censor people because I could not bear to read opposing views. In came people with a different perspective—I was called a “ranting idiot,” attacked ad hominem, and censorship was demanded. No problem, as a gentleman I dropped the issue since this is a chess forum. I am glad that others feel the same when they are attacked.
    On the issue of this thread, I both enjoy chess history for its own sake (I complimented GM Aagaard’s “Dutch Stonewall” on these very grounds) and as a chess hack (1625—granted I am a beginner) I like books that give me a line in a given situation. I have Mr Shaw’s book in case my From contra Bird ends up a King’s and I found his book very direct and useful for my limited purposes. This whole line of criticism implying that credit is not being given where due as some kind of cost saving device is absurd. This is a cheap shot probably rooted in jealousy or pettiness. This is chess, not medieval scholarship. Some reasonable effort should be made at proper citation, and I think Mr Shaw’s book meets that standard. There is no reason that every book needs to take a historical approach.

  47. @brabo: As you very well know, that paragraph ends “In this groundbreaking work, GM John Shaw shows that the ultimate Romantic chess opening remains relevant and dangerous even in the computer era.”

    So that’s what I’d expect in the book. Analysis that shows that it is relevant and dangerous even in the computer era.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top