I have been playing the game for about 40 years (started at five). Love it. No cheating or luck. I'm not too good at it though... Never read a book on it until last year when I got my ass handed to me by a friend, who unbeknownst to me, was a competitive national champion. I used to just like to play the game, figuring out strategies on my own. After reading up on openings, mid and end games, I'm sad to report that the top players have a strategy and series of moves to make in response to their opponent's opening move, or vise versa. I have no interest in memorizing strategies.
i'd say you are right to a point. World chess championships...they are prepared for their pponent. I watch top level games often though (like 2000 elo), and they are all flying by the seat of their pants...or I should say, following chess principles/fundamentals.
Im roughly about a 1400 elo player. Been playing and studying for a year. I found the interactive lessons on chessmaster 12(pc), to be the most helpful and gave me an awe inspiring appreciation of the game. Taught me about pins, forks, skewers, etc.
With 40 years, u must be pretty decent. I would love to have a game sometime.