Saturday, December 27, 2014


After the Open of Leuven, Stefan Docx told me that he liked the positions which I obtained in the Dutch. However only my first move didn't appeal to him. It is therefore no coincidence that on chesspub the opening is categorized under the daring defences. Deliberately weakening f7 also called the Achilles of blacks position is obviously risky.

The achilles not only plays an important role in openings in which the f-pawn is pushed. Also in many other openings this weak spot is attacked. A few examples to illustrate this theme. I start with the feared Cochrane gambit.

I never studied this seriously but it looks playable for white. In the second example we see again the same players at work but this time in a trendy variation: the anti-Moscow gambit which I already used in one of my first articles, see my novelty in Wijk aan Zee.

The playground of this variation almost completely shifted from standard-chess to correspondence-chess probably because white scored terribly and the compensation isn't easy to find. From my own practice I can show a rare line which was in my repertoire till 2004. I only got it on the board in standard-chess once.

Not a well played game but again a nice example of how hard it is to defend against such sacrifices without preparation. For online blitz or bullet these gambits are very lethal.

Not only in the opening is f7 (or f2 for white) a weak spot. Also further in the game we notice that the achilles remains a headache which many players got into troubles. I found on the internet a nice collection of combinations in which the achilles plays a key role. It is difficult making a choice out of it but I like the combination of our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen in his game of 2011 against the Chinese topgrandmaster Wang Hao.

Recently I got a golden opportunity to play a beautiful combination using the Achilles.

I looked a few seconds at Bxf7 but never thought it could work against a tactician like Stefan (obtaining only a few days earlier an IM-norm in Le Touquet. It often strikes me that tacticians are very good in the attack but in the defense they regularly make mistakes. A missed opportunity or something we can consider as an oddity? In any case Steven Geirnaert believes that we shouldn't too easily minimize mistakes. We should look for ways how to avoid them and improve our play. Of course he has a valid point. On the other hand I am surely not the only one missing such tactics.

A few months earlier an example of such blindness between grandmasters was published in the great column of grandmaster Lubomovir Kavalek.

If players from this caliber miss something much simpler then I can quicker accept my mistake. Of course one doesn't get many chances in his career to play such extraordinary combinations so it always will feel as a missed opportunity. 


Addendum 26 Augustus 2015
Despite playing 20 years of competition, only last couple of years I started to review and study the old grandmasters. Again and again I realize that I should have done this much earlier. I discovered a few days ago via the book "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" the game Mikhail Tal - Wolfgang Unzicker played in 1961: which includes some of the same motives Nh4/Ng5 as my missed combination against Beukema. We can only guess what if I had discovered Tals game just before my game against Beukema.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


If you read the previous article then it is clear that chess has changed a lot. The usage of engines or more broadly electronics have heavily impacted our game. Surely not everybody is happy about this. I even have a strong suspicion that because of this some players have stopped playing chess as they lost interest. There exists a real danger that the creative side of the game is minimized. We are today very much dependent from those electronic aids.

This dependence sometimes also creates silly situations if something goes suddenly wrong. Probably some readers will remember the transmission-error in the 10th game of the recent WC. Top-grandmaster Fabiano Caruana joked on twitter that maybe it was a try to give a few million viewers a collective heart-attack.
Anand - Calrsen: 19...Bxg2 ???
While this only lead to maximally some irritations, it becomes more painful when a technical error impacts the course of a game. Such thing happened in the recent game Karjakin - Caruana played in Baku for the fide grandprix. A transmission-error was the reason why Karjakin got very quickly already in timetrouble. In those top-tournaments players have access to rooms where they can get snacks or drinks. Karjakin relied as usual on the screens in those rooms to know when he had to move but he realized far too late that something went wrong. Later in huge timetrouble - 10 moves in 2 minutes without increment - Karjakin didn't manage anymore to scrutinize sufficiently the complications in initially a favorable position and lost nonetheless.

Later on e.g., several players asked why there was not an arbitrary time-correction in favor of Karjakin which compensates the transmission-error. Many considered the victory of Caruana as not sportsmanship. However arbiters aren't allowed to judge based on emotions but have to define who is liable. Of course I don't have access to the contracts of the top-players but I suppose that the screens in the rooms where players can rest, are only informative. I don't think it is possible as player to claim any compensation or to give notice of default.

Some people also consider the behavior of Caruana as incorrect. If you executed your move then it is normal to warn the opponent that his clock is running. This is not only difficult or forbidden, see article 4.9 but can we really state that you aren't a gentleman when you don't warn the opponent? Is time not a crucial element of the game just like the pieces which we carefully move on the board? Anyway I notice that even for the most ordinary casual games a clock is installed which dictates the tempo and often has a large influence on the result.

Accurately keeping track of the time (but also the recording as in the article the sadistic exam) is the full responsibility of the player. I won't hold back to profit from some negligence of my opponent. In 2 recent consecutive games my opponents forgot to press the clock. Well in such situations I will pretend to think very hard. We can be best friends off the board but in a game I don't give presents. However I do warn my opponent if I am completely winning and a running clock only prolongs the game unnecessary.

In one of those 2 games, the one against Stijn Bertrem, something peculiar happened. While I had to move but his time was running, I took off my watch and put it next to the clock. I regularly do this as I don't like wearing a watch during a game. While thinking, I often put my hands against my head and at that moment I don't like to feel any pressure on my wrest from the watch (steel of about 100 gram). After putting the watch down, Stijn looked at it and at the same moment noticed that his clock was still running. In fact I gave him unintentionally a hint. The hint is nothing special but I do want to discuss the habit of putting the watch on the table during a game.

I am aware this is a bit strange and I am careful that the watch isn't stolen but I am surely not the only one. Without doubt the most famous protagonist is former world-champion Garry Kasparov. It is a well-known anecdote that at the start of any game he puts his watch next to the board. When he puts the watch back on his arm then it is in most cases a signal for the opponent to resign. Somehow I think this is is logical as when you have a clearly won position then no further deep reflection is needed. So I don't believe Garry tries to play any psychological game.

When 2 months ago Loek Van Wely in his Unive Chess festival of Hogeveen demanded the participants to wear some bands which would register their heart-beat and transmit the data then I really wondered who is that crazy to agree. In an official game you don't experiment but money seems to be a very good incentive. Even Jan Timman was persuaded. I may belong to the first generation having learnt to work with computers but some experiments and electronic aids are really not for me.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Using databases

"Preparation is half of the work" was written by guest-writer Hypekiller5000 in the previous article. In other words, a good opening has a not negligible influence on the final result of the game. Even on my modest level I already showed 2 years ago that such effect is visible, see study chess-openings. It is not a surprise that players, knowing me better, try to avoid the bigger mainstreams against me as e.g. Tom Piceu leads Bruges through 1st division or just recently in Open Gent when afterwards my opponent confessed to read my blog. This is a disadvantage of writing this blog which I accept. In the end also my opponent takes a gamble of playing something which he doesn't know very well and of which he can't be sure that I haven't analyzed it already, see the boomerang.

If players are less familiar or ignore my preparation then I have often a significant higher chance to profit from a superior opening-knowledge. The most striking examples on my blog are described in the article the list of strength. After the umpteenth example on my blog I got the comment from MNb that I am pretty good in preparing games. Later he clarified this statement: there is creativity needed. Well in this article I will explain that creativity is often minimal and every player is able to arrive to the same conclusions. Much more important than creativity is discipline, organisation and a good methodology.

The title already betrays that I use intensively databases or also called plugging in jargon. A good book about plugging doesn't exist (a.f.a.i.k.) yet. There exists documentation about how chessbase functions but no guide about which steps you need to follow to optimize your chances in a short timeframe of preparing successfully. Besides I was struck by how many players were almost completely uneducated about how to use databases. So it looks appropriate to write an article in which I will present by means of screenshots a step by step approach how I prepare.

In the last round of Open Gent I was paired against the Belgian FM Marc Lacrosse. The pairings were announced around midnight while the game started at 11 AM. I am not a robot so I need some night-rest. If we deduct another hour for driving with the car from home to the tournamenthall then it is evident that little time remains to prepare. On top Marc answers my Spanish with the Open Spanish variation of which he is a big expert. 51 games played between 1987 till 2013 I found from him in the megadatabase as you can check in the screenshot below.
51 games Open Spanish of Marc in the database
Few professionals have such big collection of games in this opening. By the way I don't have any illusions about the fact Marc very likely played a multiple of games with this opening so his knowledge of the opening is much more than what the database shows us. On the other hand I played only 4 standard games in this opening. 3 of them continued with 9.c3 permitting the Dilworth attack and which I don't consider interesting anymore today, see for the reason why at my article copycats. In 2008 I played for the first time the mainline with 9.Nbd2 but only against a 1700 elo. In short I hadn't looked at the Open Spanish for many years and my ready knowledge was therefore very limited.

What to do when you have 150 points more than the opponent, little time to prepare, playing the standard repertoire is jeopardizing the winning chances and the final rankings + prizes are at stake? Well obviously you deviate but this doesn't fit in the scientific approach. Now I also don't like to be slaughtered. Next I try to describe how I mitigated the risks and even succeeded to transform the disadvantage into an advantage.

More than a decade ago I prepared myself for tournaments by repeating homemade analysis. However not only was this increasingly difficult due to the ever growing number of games but also I experienced a ridiculous low return. I spent a lot of time at repeating lines but it was rare that I could use something during a tournament. Recent years my tournament-preparations look very differently. If I played not much chess in advance then a few days before the tournament starts, I do tactics at chess tactics server. I don't look at anything else or don't practice anything special but I do spend at least an hour to update my databases.
- Twic in which tournament-games played in countless locations can be downloaded till 1 week ago.
- Enginegames of 3 sites: Ccrl, Sddf and Tcec
- Correspondence-games of ICCF but for that I contact a friend. As mentioned in an earlier article their database is still inaccessible for the public. I did discover a few days ago that it is possible to access it via Openingmaster but against payment.
So I can collect all material for free. In addition to updating the databases, I also update my engine openingbook, see how this works in the article green moves. If this is combined with a good engine like Houdini and/or Stockfish running on a modern portable then you are very well armed for preparing games during the tournament.

It has little sense to do those efforts if there is insufficient time to prepare. Well if the first part is about organisation then the second is mainly discipline. You don't sleep out but put the alarm at 6 AM. Breakfast happens during plugging. Only for the shower, an interruption is necessary but I anyway need a break during 4 hours plugging. My lovely wife prepares some food so I can also eat something during the game (play is during lunchtime). Discipline of course is closely connected to motivation/ ambitions which I don't lack yet at contrary to many other players (of my age).

4 hours to challenge an expert in the opening of which he has 25 years experience, is still very little. In such short time-frame it is impossible to make profound analysis so it is a matter of using a good methodology. Hereby I employ 3 tools which I manage via the Fritzinterface:
- the database with tournamentgames to define the moves of my opponent.
- the engine openingbook to define my moves and the ones of my opponent.
- the correspondence database to define my own moves.
So no expensive Chessbase interface as you don't need that at all. The premium package of Chessbase costs today 370 euro. It seems some players are paying this amount as otherwise the price would be lower but this is just exploiting the monopoly-position.

Lets start with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4 which is the start-position of the Open Spanish. To define what white should play, I use in first instance my (self-made) engine openingbook. For positions of which many games can be found in the database and there is a clear distinction between the candidate-moves, this is by far the quickest and most efficient tool. With a simple click on the button "F11" I get the result so quicker does not exist. Pay attention that I very often use keyboard shortcuts so it is important to know some of them. This seems not something obvious as in Open Gent a +2100 player attentively watched how I was plugging and asked how I could get the output like in the first screenshot. Well for such output you need twice to press "ALT+Q". This keyboard shortcut permits to switch between 3 outputs: description of the games, list of the moves of the games and mix of short description + some moves of the games.
Openingbook for whites 8th move
Above screenshot nicely demonstrates that dxe5 is the critical move in the position so I also select it. Now some attentive readers will notice (looking at the first screenshot) that Marc played a move earlier also Be7 instead of d5. This is correct. In 1995-1996 Marc chose 4 times for Be7. However in all the other games d5 was chosen. So it is logical to give priority to d5 and if some time is left then we return to Be7. It is not redundant to also look at old lines of somebodies repertoire because if a player smells a rat then sometimes an old love is chosen. By the way Marc admitted that he was considering this option as he knew me from a few years interclub when we were playing together for Lille EDN.

From move 9 onward I switch from the engine openingbook to the correspondence database to quickly detect the critical mainline. The engine openingbook doesn't give a clear distinction anymore between the candidates but this is quickly solved by using a filter on the correspondence database. With the shortcut "F12" we open the database and with the combination "CTRL+F" we open the filter. The filter which I use is a selection of the won games by white in the last 4 years. Below a screenshot of the data which I entered besides of course the position.
Input filter correspondence-database
The result of such filter can be viewed below. Well that is not fully correct as I first change the output via the keyboard shortcut "ALT+Q" so a list of the moves is shown.
Output filter correspondence-database for whites 9th move
In a glance we notice that 9.Nbd2 is today considered as the most important line as most games are won with that move in correspondence-chess. Because engines are excessively used in correspondence and the games are played on a very slow pace, it is safe to state that those are the highest quality games. I repeat this process for each of my moves and I try immediately to memorize them.

Meanwhile I define the answers of my opponent by watching the earlier games he played. I notice he answered 9.Nbd2, 7x with Bc5 in the period 1987-2001; 2x with Nc5 in 2010 and 10x with Be7 in the period 2003-2013. All this can be deducted from the first screenshot but often it is handy to just run a new filter on the tournament-database but then specifically on the position after 9.Nbd2 and Marc Lacrosse as playing with black.

So I give priority to 9..., Be7 but again I don't forget to look at the other moves when there is time left. 10.c3 seems to be the critical move for white so we look again how Marc replied in earlier games. After 10.c3 he played, 3x Qd7 in the period 2003-2004, 5x 0-0 in the period 2008-2012 and 2x Nc5 in 2013. Despite 0-0 was played more often, I still will give priority to Nc5 as it was played more recently. We again repeat this process for move 11 so after 11 moves we are for now having as mainline:1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.Bc2 d4

If we now apply the earlier described filter on the correspondence database then we notice that the harvest becomes small but is still usable.
Output filter correspondence-database for whites 12th move
Only 13 games but in 10 of them 12. Nb3 was played so I select that move. Now we have a problem as there are no more games in the database from Marc with 12.Nb3. How can we guess what black will play. Well for that I use again the engine openingbook in which all relevant tournament-games are included. Somebody playing 25 years the same opening will likely be aware about what top-players play in this position.
Openingbook for blacks 12th move
12...d3 seems to be the preferred choice by most top-players (the engine-book is only built with games of strong players). I again give priority to 12...d3 but I don't forget to look at alternatives when some time is left. For whites 13th move I again use the filter on my correspondence database. The output tells us that 7x Bb1 is chosen against 3x Nxc5 in the won games for white. So 13.Bb1 is selected. A move earlier no more games could be found from Marc in the tournament-database so I use again the opening-book. I repeat this process till whites 26th move !! The complete critical mainline is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3 13.Bb1 Nxb3 14.axb3 Bf5 15.Be3 0-0 16.Re1 Qd5 17.Bd4 d2 18.Re2 Bxb1 19.Rxb1 Nxd4 20.Nxd4 Bg5 21.g3 c5 22.Nf5 Qd3 23.Nd6 Qg6 24.h4 Bxh4 25.Rxd2 Be7 26.Ra1

The last white move seems only known in correspondence-chess so not earlier played in tournament-chess or at least there are no references in my tournament-database. So it is impossible to further predict what black will play but that is not anymore necessary. Even if the complete line appears on the board then you still have a position in which games were won by white in correspondence-chess. Very likely black will not be aware of this information or otherwise he deviated earlier. It must be sufficient now to replay the remaining correspondence-games to get an idea how the game can further develop.

Does this process take a lot of time? No with pen and paper in the hand, you can quickly make notes of the selected moves. Using some keyboard shortcuts reduces the process for 1 single line to a few minutes. Another few minutes to better understand the final position and you can switch to another line. In 4 hours it is possible by using this methodology to check a lot of variations. In any case Marc was impressed by what I showed in the post-mortem.

And how about the opening of the actual game? Well it is no surprise anymore that the critical mainline popped up as otherwise I wouldn't have an article. Of course Marc somewhere deviates but for the rest of the story I refer to the viewer. The annotations were added afterwards.

Coincidence or there is something valid in my usage of databases? The truth probably is somewhere in the middle. I believe in the approach as I see results. This year again 7/9 in Gent but with a significant higher TPR of 2383 elo.

So little creativity but organisation, discipline and methodology are the keys. Now I don't claim that anything everywhere can be solved with it. There are still many positions which can't be answered with this method and which still demand a lot of extra analyzing. There also exist some traps which I will describe in another article. The reader must understand the article as a guide to solve a huge number of opening-problems in a very short time-span.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Kasparov on Kasparov part 3

The newest book of Kasparov arrived and... it is a small disappointment. Pity that I have to start the review in this way, but I really was expecting him to discuss the worlchampionships after the Karpov-area and now it seems there are barely 10 pages per WC (Short, Anand and Kramnik). Kasparov went in such depth in his games with Karpov that I assumed a similar approach would be used for his other WC-matches. Kasparov managed to make the long string of draws in the first match to look interesting. But about each non-Karpov match only 2 games are shown, e.g. of the match with Kramnik only 2 games and 2 fragments. And that while - a.f.a.i.k. - the match against Short was the most spectacular of all the matches which he played. Beautiful openings and middlegames, a Western challenger, some arguing outside the playingroom, a good coverage by the BBC, in brief finally a match with some spirit - a big contrast with the matches against Karpov which mainly took place on the board and produced marvelous chess. The attractiveness of those matches was solely depending of Kasparov.

A global minus-point is that the book only counts 3 + 1 chapter. For a book of 501 pages this is too little. The first chapter (pages 7 - 170) treats immediately already “Short, Anand and Las Palmas”, which is a reflection of the brief coverage of those WC-matches (Short 24 pages, Anand 17 pages). This is a gigantic cut compared with the attention given to the matches from 1986 and 1987 against Karpov ( a full book!) and a forecast of the mix WC/ tournament-chess in this and the next chapter. This mix isn't good for the structure of the book - it would have been much better if the World-championships were covered in separate chapters and in between the often very successful tournament-results. With the chosen approach the chapters are too big and they don't form a unit in time nor theme. So why was this classification chosen? At the end of chapter 1 Kasparov calls the tournament of Las Palmas 1996 the modern variant of the AVRO-tournament of 1938 - the new and old topplayer (Aljechin/ Kasparov and Capablanca/Karpov) against the youth. The end of an era - since then Kasparov plays against the new generation. It is a valid argument (which does not absolve that the chapter was better split in several smaller parts). 

Chapter 2 (Second Peak) covers Linares 1997 (page 171) till the lost match with Kramnik (page 330). Also here I can agree with the end of the chapter but not with the size.

Chapter 3 (Life after Death, pages 331-460) lasts till his final tournament-game (against Topalov in Linares 2005). Also logical. That chapter 4, the fourth wheel on a tricycle is pity, but it is what it is.

What I notice at the content is that it looks he could only prepare well on Karpov in a match-situation. Short and Kramnik surprised him completely with their openings and also by extra chess-worries those matches clearly kept a bad aftertaste in Kasparov's mouth. This also generates the impression that Kasparov poorly prepared himself and that it was not him steering the situation but the opponents. Here not "Kasparov the Great" was playing but just Kasparov the super-grandmaster. About those moments he clearly doesn't like to write. Fortunately for the match with Kramnik we can use the detailed description of Bareev in the book “From London to Elista” (no idea if books of such level are available about the Short and Anand match).

On the other hand it is only a semi-disappointment as the tournament-chess which he played since 1993, is very well explained. Not fantastically but good till very good. Good because the keygames are well covered and now explained by the analysis of "the master". Kasparov played so many model-games that even summarizing them in this short review is a bit too much.

My personal favorite is Shirov-Kasparov (a model-example for everybody playing the Svechnikov with black), but this time I use the opportunity to show a "normal"game of Kasparov. Nikolic was for a long period just not top 10, but he was a regular customer in top-tournaments in the 90-ties. Nevertheless Kasparov scored 13,5/16 against Nikolic. In this game Kasparov sacrifices temporarily a knight to complicate Nikolic's task but Nikolic plays well. As a consequence this is in fact a very high class game, the analysis can easily resist the engines of today. Only due to timetrouble-errors black lost the game. The game is covered over 6 pages with comments - not only moves - i copied the comments of Kasparov on move 9, 13 and 15. The annotations are from Kasparov.

It becomes clear from the analyses that Kasparov refreshed the analysis with an engine afterwards. At move 16 he shows an improvement on his analysis by using a computer in 2012. The level of the analysis is high and gives a good image of the rest of the games in the book (comparable with the analysis of the other books). The next game (Kasparov-Shirov from the same tournament in Horgen 1994) is by the way once called " the game of the 21st century". Kasparovs rook-sacrifice against the bishop of b7 is still not found by engines today (see a previous article on this site). If the analysis are of excellent quality and readable (not a jungle as Hubner) then the attached comments are often colored. If Kasparov wins then it was almost against all odds. If he loses then he was a bit sick, his mind absent or just a bad day. Apparently a healthy Kasparov never lost.

And still I can't call the collection of games fantastic as a number of games are only fragments - sometimes of only 1 move. Then it is a bit of a delusion to announce the book as a collection of 100 best games after the matches with Karpov. I expect at least 100 complete games. And I am sure that Kasparov can present more stuff, considering his oeuvre - it would improve a lot the empathy with the covered tournaments.

For sake of clarity, there are more than 100 games, but the + 100 games are in chapter 4 with the simul-games, rapid and blitzgames. This chapter goes through the complete chronology (which is a bit pity - it is a missed chance to get some variety with the 440 pages of Kasparov the Great), but it is nothing more than a collection "best of" less important games. The games in that chapter averagely get 2 pages - a clear difference with the "real" games of the first 3 chapters.

Kasparov touches very briefly his usage of the first Chessbase release - again a half missed opportunity to discuss this. Kasparov also chose not to show any tournament-tables which saves space but it interrupts less the text. It is one big, long text - and the number of anecdotes fall a bit short too - apparently Kasparov doesn't like to gossip about colleagues. He does discuss the incident in Linares with Polgar, when he did/ didn't release the piece and made another move with the knight. According to Kasparov nothing happened - or what did you expect?

At the end he hints clearly that no WC-match is granted anymore to him (probably because of his political ambitions in Russia) but also the other players treat him more like a has-been, somebody to free space to the new generation. Remark that Kasparov till the end of his career was the number 1 at the world-ranking! Personally I think that he stopped far too early; the fact that he still pops up at large events clearly indicates that he will never give up chess. His losses are not only against the world-top, but now also against lesser gods (e.g. Huzman). However Kasparov does show generosity by commenting his last official game (a loss against Topalov in Linares).

Once I made the remark that Kasparov after his predecessors and his own chess-biography could also write about his successors (see bookreview). However now that I read this book, I hope he doesn't. It became clear to me that for Kasparov it is only about himself. He seems not capable of writing in objective praise about what happened after him in chess.

On one side too bad, it would be interesting to get his view about the 10 years after his departure - of tournament chess to be understood (on chess-politics I don't have any illusions - and his criticism that chess is now hidden in remote places like Khanty-Mansyisk or Elista, instead of the forefront like London or New York is very justified). Especially the break-through of the new generation, which Kasparov barely knew (Carlsen, Caruana, Nakamura) would be interesting to get his views upon. However taking into account my previous critiques, namely Kasparov considering himself as the culminating point of chess-evolution, the chances are that his comments won't be so objective.

Maybe the game hasn't changed much since Kasparov and we had to wait till Carlsen won everything, often without sophisticated openings, the trademark (but later also the self-created weakness) of Kasparov. But chess is now more than ever alive, only unfortunately without Kasparov as he could have continued surely 10 years at the top. However the pain of the lost image was too big and in fact he stopped just like Fischer (and Judit Polgar) when he was still at his best. It is not a coincidence  that he often mentions the total-score against other top-players - which are often heavily in his favor. Only Kramnik, Lautier (only standard chess) and Gulko (3/8) have a plus-score (over multiple games) against Kasparov. Probably very few players can show such dominance.

And now that we are talking about engines - almost not a word about the games and matches Kasparov played. Deep Blue gets a half line (!), the other matches are not even mentioned at all and I could not find the game against the world - for sure a gap in the mixed bag of chapter 4.

I conclude that Kasparov better split the book in 2 to at least discuss the WC-matches completely, to expand the fragments to full games and to protect the chronology (the only reason to put rapid and simul-games in chapter 4 seems to be that the 100 best games since 1993 should be together). This would also offer the chance to get the book more organized.

Why is it not done? Tiredness of the project or was 5 books predecessors, 4 books Karpov and 3 books about himself sufficient?

Finally some small remarks. A glance at the index behind - which seems a bit mangled (the alphabetic ordered references to the games are neither time-ordered, neither page-ordered) - shows that Kasparov was mainly playing against the world-top - his preparation against familiar opponents was half of the work. That is why the book consists of 90% games against approximately the top 10 players of the world and only rarely against a lesser god. A remarkable name of these "lesser gods" is by the way our Russian-Belgian player Chuchelov, which Kasparov promotes as a good grandmaster (he is now by the way the second of Caruana). Concerning chapter 4, this is a little minuspoint: other opponents or shorter time-controls produce often interesting games too. And the linguistic mistake "an historic tournament" keeps popping up as in his previous books.

All in all I would give this book 3 out of 5 - it is maybe the worst from the series. This sounds negative, but the other books were also of a very high quality.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Commenting games

Often the winner in top-tournaments is invited to explain his game in front of the camera. This gives the spectators the opportunity to get a glimpse of what the top-grandmaster saw during the game and which emotions he experienced. Personally I find those post-mortems the most interesting and entertaining part of the complete broadcast. Nobody except the players are able to provide those insights so it also logical that a game is best commented by one of both players.

If I demand in my previous article live boards for a commentator then I also realize that this task should not be taken lightly.  Providing good comments on a game which you don't/ didn't play is not easy. I often catch oneself that I am so annoyed by the live comments that I switch off the sound and only look to the variations and evaluations of the engines. So I do understand HK5000 in his last article.

You won't find many detailed comments on my blog about games which I didn't play. Many of the published games from other players have the sole function to illustrate a certain theme. To dissect a game I almost exclusively do when I was involved myself in it. My article which games to analyze explains that I sift to the bottom all my own games. Hereby I imply the 2nd main reason why I often don't comment so deeply games from others. Somebody a bit active as player already has sufficient work with analyzing his own played games. To create high quality analysis needs a lot of time as explained in my article to analyze with an engine.

Of course time is a relative notion as motivation is closely connected. I also notice this behavior on my blog. Most reactions happen by players noticing their own name in the article. To abstain from commenting is much harder in such case which does not mean that I don't want to see comments, at contrary. The delicate balance between time/ motivation was also the reason why I refused polity a few times in the past to contribute at some analysis (e.g. for the praised book of the Tarrasch defense). 

Today anybody can create decent analysis with engines, see article theory. You search in the germane databases for the important games and you scrutinize the moves. Which databases to use and which games are important was covered in my article improvisation. To only prepare your own repertoire is already a gigantic task or maybe simply impossible. It is clear that only a thorough opening-study is made if you are pretty sure that you will reuse this later.

Commenting a game played by others and moreover with an opening completely outside of your own repertoire is no fun. I often read comments which are completely wrong. 2 examples of the internet on which I could not resist to react : schaaksitechessbase. In the book My Great Predecessor Part 2 I even caught Kasparov committing a serious shortcoming in the analysis. It regards the game Bronstein - Ljubojevic of which I already covered a fragment in my article the horizon.

The analysis explains us that 10.Nf3 is the best move but I have serious doubts about that especially because Kasparov admits later that he is not sure if which can obtain some advantage with this move. Besides the critical move 10.d6 is not mentioned at all. Although the move is already known from 1976 so several decades before the book was written. I played 1 standard game in this line.

Of course we ask ourselves what happens if black takes the rook on h1. Online I've won already countless blitz and bulletgames in this variation. A short summary can be viewed below.

I don't reproach anything Kasparov as it is an opening which he never played with any of the colors and probably never studied. By the way the other games of which he does possess opening-knowledge, largely compensate. I do have problems when a commentator hides on purpose elements because it does not fit the story or because it would show some own shortcomings. Unfortunately there are many of such type. Honesty is at my opinion the main asset to captivate the reader or spectator.