Thursday, January 17, 2019

Desperado part 2

Since 2014 IMF claims China became the biggest economy in the world. However today there is still a lot of discussion about the interpretation of their figures see e.g. Is China's economy really the largest in the world? .  Obviously I don't want to go into details here as I only touch the topic to address the huge transformation China made in the last decades. It changed from an underdeveloped country to a superpower which causes today anxiety in some countries.

Not only economically China made enormous progress. We see in almost any domain that the Chinese have acquired an important position. This is also valid for chess. Last year China obtained for the first time double gold at an olympiad but few will still remember that China was only some decades ago not much bigger of importance than a small country like Belgium. Fide doesn't offer much support but after some painstaking hours of research I was able to create some remarkable statistics about China. My first graphic shows the evolution of the average elo of the top-10 players during the last 3 decades. To compare I used as reference Russia (only from 1993 onward as earlier fide categorized the Russian players under the Soviet-Union).
In my article about elo-inflation I wrote that many players are not aware about the fact that inflation is directly linked to the number of memberships. From above graphic we can clearly see this in the elo-evolution of the Chinese top-players compared with the Russian top-players. If we look at the rankings then this effect is magnified. In below graphic I show the evolution over time of the average-ranking in the world for the top 10-players.
We notice that Russia is still number 1 today but China is very close. Besides the strongest Chinese player has now a higher rating than the strongest Russian player. Of course I talk about super grandmaster Ding Liren whom as the first Chinese ever broke the 2800 elo-barrier a couple of months ago. He achieved that in a remarkable way about which several journalists have written. Liren didn't lose any game during a period of 15 months. Finally the counter of undefeated games stopped at 100 against often very strong opposition. Out of curiosity I checked my personal database to find my longest streak of consecutive undefeated games. The maximum I recorded was 37 in the year 2011 but it only gave me a TPR = 2300 elo so many of my opponents were rather weak.

Unfortunately this splendid performance of Liren also created again jealously among some players as the reaction of Sergey Tiviakov at Chessbase proofed. I educate my children not to cheer in the proximity of the defeated opponent after winning a game so it wasn't very tactful of Sergey. Anyway the loss of Ding Liren  is quite special worth to investigate closer. In that game there occurred a very special desperado of the queen. In an earlier article I talked about the desperado-pawn in which a doomed pawn makes a last move just to win a tempo. In a queen-desperado we see a different dynamic. The queen is threatened and can be saved. However instead of that the player chooses to play the threatened queen to a square where it still can be captured. 
In above position black's queen is threatened by the royal fork Ne6+. However instead of saving the queen, black plays a desperado-move with it as white's queen is also hanging.

On I often solve some tactical exercises. The most difficult ones are sometimes very special positions. One of them I remember involved the theme of the queen-desperado. Below position is extracted from the collection of exercises I made on that site. In the solution there pops up 1 queen-desperado but you can even see 3 consecutive queen-desperados in the temptation.
A last example of the queen-desperado I encountered while analyzing my last Belgian interclub-game of previous season. Without a computer it is impossible to discover it as the desperado only appears in some very complicated tactical line.
In each example of the queen-desperado we see that both queens are hanging. This doesn't look surprising to me as there are likely very few other situations in which such drastic move is good. If a reader knows such different situation of a queen-desparado so without hanging queens then I am curious to learn about.


Friday, January 11, 2019


End of last year the Belgian government felt. Most likely this means Belgium will enter once again a long period of instability. Journalists will for sure have a lot of fun to cover the messy developments and won't deny any opportunity to stir some more troubles between the politicians. Today we shouldn't rely upon the media to get neutral and ethical reports. Most don't shy away from using information which isn't approved by any party.

For the politicians it will be very important to communicate very carefully with whom and how. In the past there were many blunders of which the famous notes on the lap were probably the most horrible and simultaneously funniest ones. Personal notes often with important strategical information are laying casually on the lap of a minister which allows an attentive photographer to make some snapshots of it. Afterwards the photo is enlarged so the secret often juicy details can be discovered and shared with the public.

Afterwards the information always creates a debate if the so called blunder wasn't done intentionally by the person. Sometimes it is just a way to leak dirty information to the press. Exactly because of this dark side, many people enjoyed the joke of Bart De Wever when he wrote "Curiezeneuzemosterdpot" = "Snoop" on a note during the governmental negotiations of 2011. He knows better than any other politician how to use the media to his own advantage.
Meanwhile we are 8 years further and a lot has happened about privacy. We don't only see more and more people protect their data (see e.g my article password) but we also see that the laws in Belgium but also broader in Europe have become much stricter concerning sharing of data. Nevertheless we still see some people underestimating the dangers of open profiles. Besides it is not only Average Joe but even an absolute superstar like challenger Fabiano Caruana made recently a big privacy-blunder by blindly trusting the people around him. A media-campaign to create positive publicity about the Caruana-camp created accidentally a leak about the analysis made for the world-championship. The video was taken offline 15 minutes after the publication but the harm was already done. 
Afterwards nobody of Caruana's camp wanted to comment about the video. Initially people thought it was a strategy to mislead the world-champion Magnus Carlsen but the more the match continued, the less likely that scenario became. Caruana played the openings mentioned in above screenshot before and after the moment of the release.

Therefore the discussion of the authenticity of the video turned already quickly to the damage created for Caruana. Did Carlsen get an important advantage by this video or should this be nuanced?  Former-worldchampion Anand thought that the video-blunder didn't influence the match (see article of espn). Still in game 11 so several days after the release of the video, Carlsen did enter line 21 of the video, a Russian opening with 9...Nf6! more than likely after having analyzed it deeply with his team.
After this game some grandmasters wondered why Carlsen even with the unethical foreknowledge was still not able to get the smallest advantage with white. Did Carlsen and his team not analyze it properly as there aren't so many critical lines to check?

Well not only Carlsen was criticized for his openings. Also Caruana got some harsh comments from some grandmasters. One of the them was the American grandmaster Gregory Serper. He didn't understand why Caruana kept avoiding the mainlines of the Svechnikov see Fabiano Caruana what went wrong?  In the past the mainlines have created many lovely victories for white against the Svechnikov.

Myself I played several times some of the mainlines (see e.g. a theoretical duel in the Svechnikov) but meanwhile I also know after countless hours of analysis that white has little or no hope anymore to seek some advantage in this opening. I even had a lively discussion about this with the Venezuelan IM (today GM) Jose Rafael Gascon Del Nogalco-winner of Le Touquet 2017. In round 6 of Open Le Touquet 2017 he won convincingly against the Belgian player Matthias Godde and in the postmortem I wasn't able to convince him initially that white has nothing in his chosen mainline of the Svechnikov. Well of course which master would trust some unknown kibitzer not even participating at the tournament. Only when I showed him my deep analysis on my computer about the opening, made 1 year ago, he started to realize that I wasn't selling crap. It can be a coincidence but I couldn't find any recent games anymore from him playing again the same mainline.

Recently I even saw somebody renaming the Svechnikov as the Sicilian Berlin just to emphasize that many other players recognize the solidity of the opening. Anyway it is nonsense to insinuate somebody can switch in a couple of days to the mainlines of the Svechnikov and on top of that can also discover some interesting new ideas which would disturb Carlsen. Also today I think there exists a lot of misunderstandings about how easy it is to create such new interesting ideas. You don't get them by just looking at what some engines tell you in a position. No in my article studying openings part 2 I described how it takes me often more than 1 week to find a couple of new ideas in 1 specific variation. In other words even during a world-championship with helpers and a network of computers in most cases nothing more than some patch-work can be done.

A couple of months ago I also experienced how difficult it is to find the right solution for a specific opening-problem. In round 6 of the last Open Leuven I played against the Swedish grandmaster Ralf Akesson. In 3 previous encounters he answered with the Sicilian opening but as he got into troubles each time (see e.g. happiness) I expected him to variate. Besides I also noticed that recently he played a couple of times the Caro-Kann. In that opening he likes to play a number of lines of which some of them were new for me. In the end I guessed right once again as indeed 1 of the prepared lines popped up on the board. However this time my approved preparation-method using databases came short although this doesn't explain the complete story.
Only at home after many additional hours of analysis I discovered 9.c3 is the critical test for this line. If I need so much time to find the solution of such little side-line then one can imagine it takes months to study a big opening. This can't be done during a normal preparation of a game nor even during a match. It is something which needs to be done long in advance and even then you need to make choices as we can't look at everything. For myself I decided to reset my priorities this year. It was the 4th standard-game with the same color against Ralf. Instead of waiting till the next encounter I made the preparation now while having plenty of free time and stored the results in a new database. Meanwhile I already finished such preparation upon 4 players which I regularly meet in the circuit.
Extract of a white-preparation against Ralf Akesson stored in my new database of players

In the future I only need for a new encounter to refresh the earlier made analysis and add if necessary recently played new openings of the opponent to the database. That will for sure speed up the work compared with starting each time from scratch like before. Be aware this isn't the same as what chessbase offers to prepare for an opponent as my database already includes my own choices and novelties which I would like to play. Last week I read accidentally that the Swedish grandmaster Axel Smith recommends to create a database of specific preparations for players in his book from 2013: Pump Up Your Rating which won a couple awards.

I believe a snoop is a good feature for a chess-player but only that isn't enough to become stronger. Also many hours of study must be done in an opening to profit from the information. Creating a database of preparations on potential future opponents will help. At my level the impact of such work will be rather limited as many of my opponents are weak with little to no games of them available in the commercial databases. Also it is useful to only do such preparations for opponents which you meet likely again the nearby future. Learning new openings is not a waste of time but the chance is very small to meet again that one stranger on the board having played just one casual tournament in the neighborhood.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An extra move part 3

About 7 years ago I started reading the 12 part-series of Garry Kasparov see the Neo Scheveningen. I finished all 5 books of his predecessors. The first book about Modern Chess Revolution in the 70s I didn't purchase as it is not much relevant for a fidemaster today. On the other hand the 3 books about his world-championship-matches against Karpov were very interesting. Finally Kasparov also wrote 3 books about his own career so beside his games played in the matches against Karpov. Of those books only the last one intrigued me although Hypekiller gave a rather negative review on this blog about it.

So I conclude my journey at 9 out of 12. The last book on Kasparov was definitely the least as Hypekiller warned us in advance but I don't regret the purchase. I was mainly interested in finding out what Kasparov tells us about the current openings and that aspect is well covered. Despite he already ended his career in 2005, many of his opening-analysis stay even today valid. He was always a pioneer in the openings. Many of his analysis confirm what I meanwhile discovered myself or even extended my knowledge of certain variations with new interesting ideas.

I am not going to summarize all those analysis here as that would be impossible in one article and also would likely violate copyright. However I do want to make 1 exception for a special position. I earlier wrote about twin-positions in my articles an extra move part 1 and an extra move part 2. Well thanks to this last book I found a triplet of positions with 0, 1 or 2 extra moves arising from the opening. First I couldn't believe it but after some research in the databases I got confirmed that each of those 3 positions are occurring in multiple games played at master-level. Therefore I think it is very interesting to figure out how the result is influenced by the extra move in practice. I start with the position without the extra moves which I even once got on the board in a standard game (see the earlier mentioned article of the Neo-Scheveningen).
283 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2288 and he underperforms with a TPR = 2276.

The same position but white to move pops up less in practice but has been played successfully by Garry Kasparov.
21 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2362 and he overperforms with a TPR = 2415.

Finally above position also exists with the extra move g4 so white still having the move. The most important game with that position is probably between the strong Russian grandmaster Evgeny Alekseev and the strong Armenian grandmaster Sergei Movsesian.
36 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2427 and he overperforms with a TPR = 2546.

First thing what I notice from above statistics is that the more extra moves, the higher the average rating of white. I earlier wrote how little openings influence the result of a game (see to study openings). Later a reaction of a Belgian IM countered that statement as things go differently for masters. Well above statistics do indeed hint that stronger players put a lot of attention to the opening.

In the past there were many handicap-matches in which one color get 1 or multiple extra moves. I think it is therefore interesting to define a formula in which we link a tempo to a certain rating-gain. If we ignore tactical positions then it appears that the advantage of an extra move is rather limited. In above example we see that the first extra move generated an improvement of about 65 elo at the (relative) TPR. For 2 extra moves it increases to 131 points. From those 2 figures we can deduct that handicap-games based on extra moves between humans and top-engines are rather useless. It takes at least 6 extra moves to bridge a gap of 400 ratingpoints. How many interesting positions exist with so many extra moves? Only games with a material-handicap are competitive between humans and engines and even in that domain there are big limitations see comebacks part 3.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Last round in the Belgian interclub for the first time in my career I forfeited the game. Well in fact it was my son withdrawing as I didn't manage to bring him to the playing-hall. This season is not easy for my family to organize the transport. I play for Deurne while my son plays simultaneously for Mechelen. Last season half of the teams played at home while the other half played away each round. That made it possible to shuffle Hugo between the teams so he could always play at home. However this year Mechelen decided to play all teams together home or away. So this meant we couldn't avoid anymore "far" away matches.

46km from Kontich to Turnhout can't be considered very far away but if you take public transport then it takes one way still 1h 40 minutes. Besides you can't expect a 9 year old boy to do this trip alone which means mom and sister are forced to accompany him. My wife doesn't drive by car so they have to use the public transport. You could of course wonder if this kind of effort isn't excessive for playing 1 single game against somebody rated below 1300 elo.

Eventually their train was cancelled and the next one would come the earliest more than one hour later. I didn't have a backup-plan so the only thing left was to inform the team and the opponent that I couldn't avoid the forfeit anymore. I was embarrassed as I let them down. I knew in advance how unreliable trains are in Belgium but the club persuaded me to let Hugo play anyway. I won't repeat this anymore. Nobody benefits from such failure. I wrote 6 years ago on this blog already how much I detest forfeits see forfeits in the interclub.

I always considered it important to keep promises. Recent years I became more flexible in this as I became much more dependent of elements I can't control like family, work,... So today it happens that I make an appointment of which I know in advance that I maybe will cancel it later. I don't want to justify it but it is just the choice I make to optimize my time. I notice most arrange the same way their schedule. It is the evolution of which I talked in my previous article about the growing individualism in our society.

Many tournament-organizers understand today that you need to take this into account if you want to revert the current trend of decreasing participants. Today a lot of potential participants would drop out if you force everybody to play every round in a tournament. So that is why we see more and more tournaments allowing participants to take voluntary byes on the condition it is announced in advance. By informing the organizers in advance it allows them to remove the people taking a bye out of the pairings so everybody willing to play still has an opponent.

Some organizers take it even a step further to improve the attractiveness of their tournament by also given half points for the not-played rounds. The advantages of this are less fluctuations in the pairings and people taking a bye will barely feel any competitive disadvantage. Especially that last element caused some players not to take any bye in the past as too often their tournament would become uninteresting.

Many amateurs but also professionals like to use these byes. In old times you often had to decide between 2 tournaments when they overlapped. Today it is possible to play them both as you just take one or more byes for the first round(s) as it often doesn't matter for the final standings. A tour de force using the Swiss gambit was performed last summer at the Masters of BrugesThe Spanish grandmaster Oleg Korneev didn't play the first 2 rounds but still won the tournament. He surprised everybody by playing only 7 out of 9 rounds but was in the end proclaimed as tournament-winner thanks to the tie-break of winning the direct encounter against the co-winner see below game.
It is a well played game of Oleg but many wondered if the tie-break should've not been changed here. Can we state that somebody playing less games has more right to win the tournament? Of course the rules of the tie-break were known to everybody in advance but shouldn't we consider to change them for a next edition of the tournament?

Besides by playing fewer games, you are also fresher in the remaining games which is an advantage over the loyal participants playing all games. I doubt this was the case for Oleg but in the just finished Ilse of Man we saw many players taking a bye during the tournament. 19 from the first 100 players having played the last round, took use of this possibility. However even more remarkable is that the 3 first finishers in the final standings: the Polish top-grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszekthe Azerbaijan top-grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch and former-worldchampion Vladimir Kramnik all took a bye. Below you find a crucial game of the tournament-winner Radoslaw winning against the British top-grandmaster Michael Adams played in round 8.
If the tournament exists next year keeping the same format then I expect to see much more byes. The winners have likely unintentionally proven that it is often more interesting to not play chess each round than playing all rounds.

It is of course perverse as a tournament is organized to let people play chess. I think we need to revise the byes. Maybe the prize-money must be adapted to the number of pairings somebody has been subjected to. At least we must make sure that players having played all the rounds are favored by the tie-brake above people having taken one or more byes.

The prizes in the last Open Leuven were split in case of equal points so the tie-break wasn't very important. Still I did notice that a tournament-performance isn't a good system to use to rank the players when the rules allow participants to get half points for byes. For the first time in my career I took 2 byes in a tournament as Open Leuven overlapped with Open Le Touquet. I had only played 19 standard games in 2018 which is very few and Leuven was my last chance to get some more practice. Friday 2nd of November I was still at noon in Le Touquet supporting my son while in the evening I showed up in Leuven to play myself the 3rd round. With only 1/2 I got as opponent the 82 years old Belgian Karl De Smet whom gave me a good fight. At the end of the game I felt exhausted but I anyway managed to validate my big rating-advantage.
I also won the next 2 rounds and suddenly in round 6 I joined the leaders. Some players joked if I would also perform a Korneevke following the example of Oleg Korneev at the Masters of Bruges. That would've been an even bigger stunt but in the end didn't happen. In round 6 I was defeated in a good game by the Swedish grandmaster Ralf Akesson and at the same time also later tournament-winner. However I still managed to win the last round and catch the -2300 rating-prize (100 euro). In  the final standings I was placed in front of other players with equal points having not taken any byes thanks to the better TPR. TPR is calculated by taking the percentage-score in combination with the average rating of the opponents. Obviously by not playing 2 rounds my percentage-score is much better. Also the opponents in the first rounds drag the rating-average drastically down.

I don't doubt that we need to allow byes if we want to attract more participants in a tournament. Still I think we made things too profitable for the players taking byes. The nice participants playing all rounds should not be penalized. A well organized tournament also guarantees a fair split of the prizes between the winners. I have made a couple of proposals but I don't doubt that a smart guy can invent something better.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Holidays part 5

In the last Open Le Touquet (French tournament) my 9 year old son surprised us all by winning first prize in the category 1400-1599 elo. I knew that he made progress but I didn't expect a +1700 TPR otherwise I would've not subscribed for the Open Leuven. I had decided in advance to skip the prize-givings of Open Le Touquet to play the 3rd round of Open Leuven in the evening. Obviously my son wasn't happy to miss his moment of glory but fortunately he forgave me quickly when I was able to pass him his 100 euro prize the next day via the help of some Belgian chess-friends.

I heard next year the tournaments won't overlap. This brings us back to how it was last year and I assume many Belgian chess-players will like that. It allows to close the tournament of Le Touquet calmly and still enjoy a bit holidays at the site. Last year we decided to spend the remaining time by visiting the setting of the extremely popular french movie: Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis.
The super funny movie from 2008 is probably not so known in Flanders but in France more than 20 million people bought a ticket which made it the most watched ever movie in France. The story is about a post-office-director whom misbehaved himself and was relocated from the warm south to the cold north naturally creating some hilarious situations.

While searching this location in the North we made a mistake by first driving to Berck instead of Bergues or also Sint-Winoksbergen called. Our children were not amused by the lost time but I don't mind so much when having holidays. Eventually we reached the correct Bergues and there we found even 9 years after the release of the movie still plenty of information about the locations in the film used via the office de tourice with even a real Ch'ti-tour. The village clearly profited the previous years from the many tourists which were the result of the movie see article in the nieuwsblad.

This combination of playing a chess-tournament and visiting the settings of a nice movie, was a pleasant experience so this year we made plans to play the Open St Antonin. St.Antonin was used as location of the feel-good film The Hundred Foot Journey from 2014 with the British star-actress Helen Mirren and produced by a.o. the top-producer Steven Spielberg.
The film describes 2 competing restaurants which after many conflicts eventually start to join forces. However I have to warn the visitors of the movie-locations as you can't find the restaurants in St Antonin as they were fully built in the film-studio. Still there remain places in St-Antonin worth a visit which popped up in the movie like the very beautiful historical center. Also for this village the movie created a boost of tourism which you can read in this article: Visit the village from the film the hundred-foot journey.

My wife ordered the dvd online so we could watch it together but the trip itself to St Antonin didn't happen. We started very late checking the details but especially the distance (almost 1000km) combined with the late end-date of the tournament (30 August so only a couple of days before the beginning of a new school-year) made it a difficult. Next year the tournament probably will still exist so we decided not to rush.

Anyway it is not because we didn't visit St Antonin that we haven't combined chess with a setting of a movie this summer. Bruges doesn't need a movie to attract visitors but it is perfectly possible to connect  the open brugse meesters with visiting several locations used in the criminal - comedy In Bruges from 2008 with a.o. the famous Irish actor Colin Farrell.
We visit Bruges regularly as it is for my wife her favorite town in Belgium. Nonetheless she doesn't like very much the movie as she finds the story too dark. So she puts Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis as first, the Hundred-foot journey next and as last In Bruges. I have the same number 1 but I rather prefer to switch In Bruges with the Hundred-foot journey. I find the feel-good film too fluffy.

The combination of playing chess-tournaments and visiting film-settings is probably very few would think of. The link film and chess is normally something we only make when we see a film-fragment about chess. Besides about that combination there exists an excellent blog from the Belgian expert Nikolaas Verhulst see belgianchesshistory. On that blog he discuss many movies with chess but also other media which use chess like cartoons, music-clips, strips, paintings, drawings, non-chess books, commercials, non-chess magazines, non-chess computergames,... Nikolaas complains about the low number of visitors see cipc 47 Bennett cat and window. That is sad to hear as his blog is very well written and it is hard to maintain this when you don't see any appreciation. Personally I find it a bit weird why Nikolaas doesn't split this rich content from his Belgianchesshistory-website as it has nothing to do with Belgium and its history. I hope this small paragraph can give a boost to his blog.


P.s. As a dessert I also want to share the very funny cartoon of Masha and the Bear. They speak Russian but even without knowing the language the humor can be understood. It is very well done (chess is part of the Russian DNA): Masha learns chess from Bear and Tiger. Translations of the cartoon exist in other languages (e.g. Dutch) but often not free available.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


It is not yet cooling down outside so there still remains some time to prepare the garden for the winter. Beside the yearly cutting of branches, I should also not forget this time to fertilize the grass. The recovery of my green after the months of drought has been accompanied with an explosive growth of moss. From the outside it looks all again healthy but if you look closer then you notice that the empty spots have been filled by undesirable moss.

Last summer was very tough for nature. Many plants and trees suffered heavily and some even didn't survive. On the other hand it struck me that some insects prospered from these extreme weather conditions. For instance there were much more wasps than usual as this article testifies: "Twice as much people beaten by a wasp." The insects were a real plaque as you met them everywhere. Chess-tournaments were no exception as after the last round of the Brugse Meesters my son Hugo was also sting by a wasp when playing outside with other kids. Fortunately there was no allergic reaction so the discomfort was rather limited.

Besides also during the games the bugs were very much present. Just next to the playing-hall there was a nest of wasps and despite several complaints the organization didn't manage to solve this problem. I therefore advised my son not to bring anything sweet to the games. So he chose water instead of cola to drink. Anyway during his games he didn't get too much annoyed by the wasps as he was quite far playing from the nest. Less lucky were the players on the top-boards as they were playing nearby. Eventually a wasp caused a loss of a full point to my strongest student Sterre Dauw. Sterre has a panic fear for wasps so naturally things went wrong in round 3 when one of them started to harass him during the game. In the end he played some random moves and spoiled a certain win.
I was following the game live online and first didn't understand what had happened. The Indian IM Vav Rajesh was completely outplayed and the win seemed a triviality but suddenly Sterre stood next to me telling me he resigned. "Wasps are very dangerous animals" was his fantastic dry humor which is typical for him. I still didn't understand why he didn't leave the board till the wasp disappeared.

Anyway he is not the first one and won't be the last one being fascinated about those little species. Some time ago I discovered that an American programmer John Stanback has called his engine Wasp. You can download it for free on his site and it plays pretty strongly: 34th place in the current ranking of CCRL40/40 and a +3000 rating so more than likely stronger than any other human. A good game of that engine can be replayed below.
An engine which can stick can be easily neutralized by switching off the power. However things become more tricky when the pieces itself are transforming into insects. Sure this is not part anymore of standard chess as we now enter the magic world of fairy-chess. A summary of the existing fairy-pieces can be found on wikipedia see antelopes, bisons, flamingos, lions and zebras. I couldn't find any wasp in the list but anybody can develop a new piece and call it as such. Nonetheless another scary insect which is even very popular in fairy-chess does exist: the grasshopper. That piece moves like a queen but with the special condition that each move is combined with a jump over another piece and the landing must happen just behind that piece. There exist quite a number of funny chess-problems with that piece like the one below.

Not every article should be serious. The winter is ahead of us so those dangerous but also useful wasps will be again not annoy us for the next 6 months.


Solution Grasshoppers-problem:
1.Gh3 Gh4 2.Gh5 Gh6 3.Gh7 Gh8 4.Ge7 Gd7 5.Gc7 Gb7 6.Ga7+ Ga6 7.Ga5+ Ga4 8.Ga3#

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


A couple of months ago the weekly magazine Knack published an article about facts and myths of yoga. First it was told that today yoga is an enormous booming business. More and more people are practicing some type of yoga. Also similar kind of activities like Tai Chi, mindfulness, meditation,... are experiencing the same exponential growth. Many in the Western world need to escape from the daily stress. So in the article the author wonders if we don't do those activities just to maintain our hectic life. This sounds something very awkward on the long term as it is very doubtful those escape tools will work forever.

Anyway today the effectiveness is still something under discussion. There is no clear agreement about which positive effects yoga and other related activities have. Sure we can't deny that some people feel better by it but some others barely feel any benefits of it at all. I am therefore against forcing people to follow such courses at school, work,... Let people decide for themselves if they want to spend time at it.

Personally I don't feel attracted to it. I don't need such exercises to feel better myself. Besides I neither believe in anything to do with spirituality. So karma which I mentioned 2 article ago, is nonsense for me. My wife warns me that I will get what I will expect so nothing (every Russian knows the book The Master and Margerita in which there is a chapter about an atheist dying under a tram and the devil forwards him to the void as he believes nothing). However I answer my wife if she expects me after her death then I don't have anything to worry about. Meanwhile I am 12 years married with my Russian wife so I start to know how to deal with her favorites.

On the other hand the horseshoe nail which I received 4 years ago as a present (see my article the lucky one) still has a place in the living room. No I still don't believe in good luck-charms. I just find it a cute and lovely accessory. You don't have to believe in symbols to consider them beautiful. The same is also valid for chess. Sometimes the pieces are forming a weird symbol which let you smile. Something like that happened also in the last round of Open Gent but I lacked the time to enjoy the special position.

The 4 rooks forming a square, immediately reminded me of another weird square of knights which I created on the board in a correspondence game. That case was even more special as I also won that game against a player rated above 2500.
While those are for sure special constructions on the board, things become really extraordinary in chess-problems. The next 3 problems were extracted from a book published in 1907: The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies, Letter Problems created by the famous female-composer Edith Baird. I start with a position in the shape of a heart.
White mates in 2 moves
The next one is in the shape of the number four. The solution is rather ugly which happens more often in this type of problems.
White mates in 2 moves
The initial of my first name and my son's should not be missing of course.
White mates in 2 moves but black also mates in 2 moves
Finally things get spiced up when a story is connected to the position as is the case for the last problem.

A chess-player has out of necessity put on stake his soul at the devil. If the player wins then he is again a free man. Else he would be for eternity belong to the devil. Slowly the devil outplayed the poor guy. Eventually the devil announced mate in 7. However just when the devil wanted to execute the final move, he dropped the mating piece out of horror. He jumped up and ran into the darkness. God had saved the player miraculously.

To make sure the devil plays with his favorite color (so black) I decided to switch the colors of the original problem found at the blog dubbelschaak. That problem is already a revision by the Dutch composer Gerard Smits of the original published first in 1878 by the French Charles Godfrey Gumpuel (he also built the half-automate Mephisto).

Besides there exist several variants of this story with other positions forming a crucifix see e.g sign of the cross chess problem 67214. Composers love to make problems around symbols.

Such strange creations or symbols are much more rare in standard chess. Of course a game has other priorities. If you have met something special yourself in a game then don't hesitate to share it with us in a reaction.



Problem the heart: 1.Kd6 (waiting move)
1...Bc3 2.e3#
1...Be3 2.c3#
1...Bc1 2.c3#
1...Be1 2.e3#
1...Bxb4+ 2.Rxb4#
1...Bxf4+ 2.Rxf4#
1...c5 2.Rd5#

Problem the number four: 1.Ne8, ? 2.Bd6#

Problem the letter H:
white: 1.Nb6+, Kxe5 2.Rc5#
black: 1...Qxc6+ 2.Kd8 Bg5# of 2.Kb8 Qb7#