Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Which games to analyze?

In my blogarticle Analyzing with an engine I mentioned that a lot of players consider analyzing as a necessary evil to score points or make progression. It is obvious that an activity which isn't pleasant, is restricted to the minimum. Therefore it is important to make a good selection which gives maximum return. Despite that I in contrary with the standard amateur-player like to analyse, I also have to make choices. It is simply impossible to check everything. 

A.f.a.i.k. there exists no consensus of what exactly is the best material to use for analyzing. Because analyzing is a bit like studying, I neither believe there is a best method for everybody. Therefore I don't want to write this article about what the best games are to analyze but I prefer to give a more personal insight of what I do daily as homework. Besides just being busy with certain positions will very likely already have a positive influence on your game.

I guess that today 80% of my analyses are made upon my own played games. The remaining 20% goes to gamepreparations, specific openings, input for blogarticles or just randomly found interesting positions. I doubt strongly if this is a good split but I don't care very much as optimal return isn't what I am chasing after as I am only an amateur. The motivation of this analyzing work can mainly be found in my vision of playing which is based on the scientific approach and the pleasure which I experience in investigating of what happened or could have happened on the board and more particularly in my own games.

As not every own played game is as interesting, it is clear that I don't put in every game as much analyzing work. Blitz or bulletgames I review seldom or never. An exception I make when a player manages to beat me several times with a certain system but even then I don't go deeper than just quickly checking with an engine and database the opening. On the other hand for serious games (in which time was available to record the moves manually) I use a much more thoroughly analyzing approach. I mean a system of analyzing which I explained in my blogarticle Analyzing with an engine.

I assume for most people such intensive analyses of own played games will sound incredible but today I can easily show my personal database of 650 own played games which are fully commented with a broad variety of different lines. Besides if you look to this blog with more than 100 articles which often contain very extensive analyses of own played games then one already can deduct that I reuse a lot of what I built long time ago. The oldest example on this blog dates from 1996, see chesscompositions which corresponds to the start of the digitization of my analysis.

So I am aware that my urge to analyse is rather an exception than the rule. A strong Belgian FM even admitted on this blog that he doesn't make his analyses that extensive, see his comment under my blogarticle an extensive repertoire for black. Also a known player from Zottegem once asked me the question if the chance isn't small that such games like a Dutch gambit repeat. Well as mentioned earlier in this article, I don't analyze purely for a maximum return which doesn't mean that I don't learn anything at all from the analyses. On this blog I've written already several articles which proof that one can harvest from earlier made analyses, see : an obscure line in the Viennathe boomeranga Dutch gambit and a Dutch gambit part 2. There is more to find on this blog but these are the most striking articles.

If you clicked on the links (or you simply still remember the articles) then likely you noticed that in a first meeting with the sidelines that I achieved a bad result (loss or draw against a much lower rated player). In this blogarticle I want to demonstrate that one can not only learn from bad results. So I go a step further with stating that one can learn from each seriously played game even if you won from an opponent much less experienced and played in a obscure sideline. To support this claim, I will show 3 games chronologically which i all won in a side-variation of the bishopgame which Linton considers inferior but at my opinion is somewhat undervalued.

The fist time that I met the line, was in 2003 in the Open of Le Touquet. I treated the opening in the same fashion as the standard mainline of the bishopgame but quickly experienced that white was a bit bitter. Only in the endgame I was able to beat my opponent thanks to some crafty moves.

In the previous clubchampionship of Deurne I noticed in my preparation (yes even against a 1700 rated player) that Bb4 instead of Bd6 is very interesting as a normal concept of Nc3-Bg5 becomes impossible. This time I came on top out of the opening but after some inaccuracies and likely too optimistic play I let the position slip. Again only after move 40 I was able to get a decisive advantage despite the big ratingdifference.

Finally I got in round 4 of the previous Open Gent again this line on the board and this time my opponent had bad luck as I still remembered the analysis very well. We got the same middlegame but this time I knew that I better first control the queen-side before to engage any other actions. This knowledge-advantage together with the big time-advantage made it obviously an unfair battle.

In the 3 games I achieved the same result but the way how was totally different thanks to the continuous improvement of my knowledge based on analyzing the own played games. It is widely known that analyzing your own games is important but few know that also from won games something can be learned. Also if you don't learn anything from your won game, you can be sure your opponent will do. Analyzing won games is also a method to stay a step ahead of your opponent Of course if one lacks time then one should give priority to the lost games but I see often that time isn't the real reason as chessplayers often prefer to do something different than going over their own played games which lets us return to the introduction.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Chessintuition part 2

In the 3rd round of Open Gent I suffered a strange and unexpected defeat against a 200 points lower rated player, Gilles Regniers. Now I immediately have to add that Gilles is likely underrated as he won very recently the Open Flemish championship despite the fact that several higher rated players were participating, see final positions. So strange and unexpected has to be linked with the course of the game rather than the ratingdifference.

Already in the opening I made a remarkable mistake. During the game I wasn't able to remember the openingstheory. I have that more often when it concerns a variation which I did study but didn't pop up earlier in my practice. During the prizegivings Thibaut Maenhout told me that I am not the only one suffering with this kind of problem. The key to solve this problem is of course a lot of rehearsals till it is branded in the memory but my motivation and priorities ignore this solution. Now forgetting the theory doesn't mean an insurmountable problem if you play the white pieces as long you choose to play pragmatically a solid continuation (14.g3) instead of the most critical one. However I am not a pragmatic player as shown in my blogarticle the scientific approach . So I chose for the risky idea with the exchangesacrifice which I noticed in a similar position, see game below.

Also in my game against Gilles you will notice that I first play a4 to continue afterwards with Ncb4 and cxb4. I was aware of the differences with the Anand-Van Wely game but didn't see a direct refutation of the idea when I executed it. Only a few moves later I already regretted my decision when I discovered that the apparently innocent differences do have a crucial impact on the evaluation of the position.

Black has lost the big advantage and in the final position I can now make an easy draw with exchanging the queens. Engines have still problems today to notice that white has a fortress in this type of positions. However I wasn't satisfied with the draw and I assumed playing risk-less for a win, was still possible. Afterwards my opponent was surprised to hear that from me but I had some good arguments. First I possessed the advantage of Capablanca. He claimed in 1932 that the tandem queen+knight was stronger than queen+bishop, see the historical article from Edward Winter. Hereby I immediately have to add that the correctness of this claim is being disputed today, see e.g. this article. More important is that white controls the key-square d5 to place a dominant knight which can't be exchanged. The strength of such trump can be seen well in the correspondence game below which I won.

Finally I knew from a previously on this blog discussed Svechnikovvariant that white in similar pawnstructures can keep on playing for a win with (temporarily) a pawn down. A recent example from correspondence in which white had success, can be replayed below.

Adding up everything, made me very optimistic about my chances which explains why I avoided several easy drawingvariations later during the course of the game. Initially it looked all very nice till I pushed too far and lost my way in the complications. Even then a draw was still possible but switching to defense with little time remaining didn't work anymore.

This game clearly shows that trusting different patterns, themes,... is no guarantee for success. In an earlier blogarticle about chessintuition somebody made the remark that intuition is just applying learned knowledge. Often it isn't that simple. Except in particular openings, no position is exactly the same as another one. So each position has its own characteristics which means you can't blindly apply some knowledge. Applying the right knowledge at the right moment is also intuition. This you can't just learn from a book. Obviously experience helps to better evaluate. A similar sound can be heard by the present worldchampion in this youtubemovie.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Dutch gambit part 2

Do you know what a topplayer like Kramnik does on a restday just before he will play the first game of the worldcupfinal? Fishing see e.g.chessvibes ! Despite it is a very popular sport in Russia (my Russian father in law is also an ardent practicer), a lot of people were surprised that a professional like Kramnik wasn't busy the whole day with preparing the game. This however doesn't mean that Kramnik didn't care much about the result but rather that he believed resting was more important than plugging for hours on the computer. This is possible on the condition that the preparationwork was made earlier so maximal some refreshing of the memory had to be done. So preparing a game for Kramnik doesn't mean memorizing intensively green moves as I described in my previous blogarticle but rather a relax reviewing of some notes and mainly resting.

Easier said than done but how could Kramnik know in advance that Dmitry Andreikin would be his opponent in the final? Well for sure he didn't know in advance which automatically means that he studied all possible openings in his repertoire prior. Strong players make sure that they have a profound knowledge of all possible systems against their repertoire. A similar sound can be heard on chessmasterschool where grandmaster Andrei Istratescu (same person from my artcile  met een kanon op een mug schieten) states that a lot of players reach a limit because they don't do sufficient efforts to complete their repertoire. Important hereby is to note that the word ' complete' is stated in capital letters. A limited study of the theory causes weaknesses and a chain is only that strong of its weakest link. Besides reinventing the wheel is senseless and very timeconsuming.

From the intro we can deduct that preparing a game based on green moves is certainly not a professional approach. The usage of green moves could be compared with reading a bookreview instead of the book itself. We all know that reading the book is much better but sometimes we don't have or don't want to free the time. A similar remark was made by Kara in the comments of my blogarticle van patzer naar gm intro en calculation. Stefan Docx's remark was also witty when he heard in the bookstand that I was searching for green moves. The remark must have been something like "In the Dutch there are many green moves." 

There is of course a double meaning in this remark. My preparationmethod (based on green moves) as my stubbornness to stick to my rather dubious Dutch defense (with a lot of green moves for white) is considered amateurish. He has right of course but today I can not or do not want to spent time in a more professional approach. I have a full time job and a young family which I give priority. So I just do what I please with my stopgaps like green moves or playing somewhat dubious openings like the Dutch. 

If you play 20 years a somewhat dubious opening like the Dutch then there is the big advantage that you've encountered somewhat every possible system already. Moreover contrary to e.g. Najdorf or Gruenfeld, the Dutch is much less subject to theoretical novelties. Geert Van der Stricht told me after Open Gent that in 2000 he was completely up to date with the Najdorf but in recent years theory has changed so fast that it also became for him an impossible task to know all possible variations. In other words each disadvantage has an advantage. In the continuation of this article, I will extricate a recent example in which like in my former blogarticle een hollands gambietje I will use my years experience of the Dutch to get a quick advantage in the opening. I chose as title "A Dutch gambit part 2" as we will discuss a gambit with a strong relationship with the gambit of part 1.

The oldest game in my personal database against the h3 system of the Dutch dates from 1998. My very brief knowledge of this system was at that time based on the book Dutch Defense from Larry Christiansen and Jeremy Silman published in 1989. In the book was mentioned that accepting the sacrifice was dangerous for black and safer was d5.

From above game I learned not to wait with c5 as that defines my counterplay. Only in 2003 there was a followup . A French expert of this system challenged me with a refined move-order but I found a good anti-dote and overtook the initiative later. If I remember well then this game was published in the perished magazine Vlaanderen Schaakt.

Despite that I made a good result with d5, I started later to doubt if the opening was well played. In the book Win with the stonewall Dutch published in 2009, was stated that the plan with Bf4 was very efficient in this sort of stonewallpositions which explains why I tried something very different in the next game. The game became extremely sharp with naturally a number of mistakes.

The most important lesson which I learned, was that black better chooses for d5 once white has played g4. In a recent game of Open Gent I was able to show my acquired knowledge. I answered g4 immediately with d5 and I didn't wait with c5 but played the move from the moment it became playable. 

This was obviously not a perfect game but it does show why it can be advantage on my chesslevel to play the same opening for many years on the condition that you stay alert and are willing to learn from each game.