Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Old wine in new skins

Quality chess has regularly nice blogarticles to create traffic to the site, advertise their products and naturally eventually to sell more. They don't avoid on purpose controversial subjects. Recently a fun game from the Belgium interclubs was shown, see blog. In round 8 of the Belgium interclubs former Belgian champion Bruno Laurent scored a sensational victory over the known IM Cemil Gulbas. In a chrystal-clear game with incredible sacrifices black was forced to resign in a measly 23 moves. However quickly it was remarked that everything till move 16 was played already in 2012 in the game Ivanisevic - Dzhuaev and the amelioration till the final move are all the first choice of the today's top-engines. No not a new case of fraud but a model-example of a successful game-preparation as I have shown some examples earlier in my article de sterktelijst. Black had played the same opening before and Bruno obviously has an eye for taking advantage of this.

So far nice to know but nothing shocking. However then the author, the Scottish grandmaster John Shaw claims that Cemil could've easily avoided the defeat if he kept his repertoire up to date. Now this i find very short-sighted especially if you play barely games yourself (4 fide-games in the last year). If you only follow the games published by twic then you need to check each week more than 1000 if something important is mentioned. Those important games (averagely 10?) must next be screened with an engine to find improvements. Now twic is not the only source of info. There is also correspondence-chess, books, sites,... My experience tells me that very few amateurs are up to date with their repertoire. I often profits from this, see my blogarticles: iccfrevolution in the millenniumSwiss gambit, ... Being up to date (and I don't mean to have a perfect knowledge but just knowing the recent games played on grandmaster-level) not only demands a continuous effort but also an enormous perseverance as it is often very dull material. Even prof-players often don't succeed to keep up with the latest trends as you can see in the game Sergei Zhigalko - Pavel Pankratov played in the just finished Bronstein Memorial, which was won by the the Georgian top-grandmaster Jobava Baadur and in which our known Armenian player Mher Hovhanisian achieved a second grandmaster-norm.

Keeping up to date a repertoire is not something easy. I even dare to state that an amateur with limited amount of free time for chess, should simply forget to make such goals. Now to be successful in the opening it is not always mandatory to come up with something new and spectacular. Sometimes refreshing an old forgotten line can be also sufficient to score a convincing victory. This formula was used in the fourth round of the interclubs by my Lithuanian opponent Sarunas Sulskis. Nevertheless he took a (calculated?) risk as he already had used it once in 2009 against the Lithuanian IM Mindaugas Beinoras and that game i also had noticed during my preparations. However due to the extremely long list of possible opponents (see de sterktelijst) I needed to make choices which made that I gave priority to different more tactical openings.
[Event "Interclub Eynatten - Deurne"] [Date "2013"] [White "Sulskis, S."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C97"] [WhiteElo "2550"] [BlackElo "2347"] [PlyCount "63"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 {(I experimented also in blitz a lot with the Graf-variant. However as I was not prepared for the Graf-variant, I preferred to stick to my standard-choice the Chigorin.)} (11... Nd7 12. dxc5 dxc5 13. Nbd2 Qc7 14. Nf1 Nb6 15. Ne3 Rd8 16. Qe2 {(In 3 online blitz-games I already won this position with black. I am mentioning this to better understand the follow-up in the game as we achieve via a difference sequence the exact same position.)}) 12. dxc5 {(Afterwards my opponent told me that former-worldchampion Fischer played this exchange only after Nbd2. This is an important nuance as now in the game black gets better opportunities. However in his preparation when flying from Lithuania to Belgium my opponent noticed that I always play cxd4 after Nbd2 which prevents his idea and he wanted to avoid at all costs a theoretical battle. )} dxc5 13. Nbd2 Rd8 {(I vaguely remember that I already encountered this on the board about 20 years ago but as I did not possess at that time any databases, that game was lost. For this match I prepared myself for 5 opponents. I had noticed that my opponent had played this line once in 2009 but more than the played move, I did not prepare. If you can meet several dozens of different systems then you need to make choices and in my preparation the chosen game-continuation did not look too critical. )} 14. Qe2 Nd7 {(After a long reflection I choose for a setup as was more or less known from the Graf-variant. However here c4 as Nh5 look more critical with excellent play for black. )} 15. Nf1 Nb6 16. Ne3 Be6 $6 {(A known theoretical mistake which I was not aware. F6 or g6 look just playable but it is not easy.)} (16... f6 $5 17. Nd5 $5 Nxd5 18. exd5 g6 $1 $146 {(An important improvement on the top-correspondencegame Simon Webb - Rotariu Gheorghe which was won by white in 2002.)} 19. b3 c4 $13) 17. Nf5 $6 {(The preparation of my opponent Sarunas can not be very broad as here he misses a transposition to the famous game Robert James Fischer - Paul Keres. Already in 1962 white showed that the strongest move is Nd5 which maintains an advantage and eventually was converted into a win.)} Bxf5 $2 {(I underestimate clearly the dangers on the king-side. F6 is recommended. )} 18. exf5 f6 19. h4 c4 20. h5 Rd7 21. h6 gxh6 22. Nh2 $6 {(White keeps a firm initiative with this move but still stronger was Nd2 to put the knight on the dominant e4 square. )} Kh8 23. Qh5 Nb7 24. Ng4 Nc5 25. Bxh6 Rg8 26. Re3 Bd8 $2 {(With less and less time remaining I do not find anymore the right defense. Nd5 was here correct with a nasty but not immediately lost position. )} 27. Rg3 Rf7 28. Rd1 Nd3 29. Bxd3 cxd3 30. Rgxd3 Rd7 31. Rxd7 Nxd7 32. Qf7 1-0
Afterwards my kind opponent told me that nobody less than former world-champion Robert James Fischer played this concept several times so it certainly has some punch. I need to add an important nuance as Fischer played the exchange only after Nbd2. Here Saranus chose for immediately exchanging the pawns as he noticed in the preparation when flying from Lithuania to Belgium that I always answer Nbd2 with cxd4 which avoids the idea. However by exchanging earlier, black does get extra interesting possibilities which white agreed to accept as long it threw me on unknown territory. Now very extensive the preparation of white can't be otherwise he should have known the improvement on move 17 which yes was played by nobody else than Fischer.
[Event "Candidates Tournament"] [Site "Curacao"] [Date "1962.05.12"] [Round "7"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Keres, Paul"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C96"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Nd7 12. dxc5 dxc5 13. Nbd2 Qc7 14. Nf1 Nb6 15. Ne3 Rd8 16. Qe2 Be6 17. Nd5 {(The key-move which guarantees white an advantage. )} Nxd5 18. exd5 Bxd5 19. Nxe5 Ra7 20. Bf4 Qb6 21. Rad1 g6 22. Ng4 Nc4 23. Bh6 Be6 24. Bb3 Qb8 25. Rxd8 Bxd8 26. Bxc4 bxc4 27. Qxc4 Qd6 28. Qa4 Qe7 29. Nf6 Kh8 30. Nd5 Qd7 31. Qe4 Qd6 32. Nf4 Re7 33. Bg5 Re8 34. Bxd8 Rxd8 35. Nxe6 Qxe6 36. Qxe6 fxe6 37. Rxe6 Rd1 38. Kh2 Rd2 39. Rb6 Rxf2 40. Rb7 Rf6 41. Kg3 1-0
Of course also a lot of amateurs know the value of surprising with old openings. Kingsgambits, Aljechins,... are openings which are still today very popular in the club. Nonetheless it also can go very wrong if you have a strong ambitious opponent which not only follows up the latest developments in the theory but also invests time in studying the classics. Below story was already in short told on the fefb forum by GM Luc Winants but I assume it is for most people still unknown and adding some interesting details certainly makes it more enjoyable. 

Some resources state that the strong American player Frank Marshall specially reserved his 'Marshallgambit' for former world-champion Jose Raul Capablanca. In 1918 Marshall introduced and surprised with this gambit Capablanca but it became a sore defeat as Capablanca defended brilliantly and the game became a classic.
[Event "New York Manhattan CC"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1918"] [White "Capablanca, Jose Raul"] [Black "Marshall, Frank James"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C89"] [PlyCount "71"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 {(Some authors claim that Marshall reserved this gambit specially for Capablanca.)} 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 Nf6 {(In 1938 Marshall himself introduced the refinement c6 which is still today popular.)} 12. Re1 Bd6 13. h3 Ng4 14. Qf3 Qh4 15. d4 Nxf2 16. Re2 Bg4 17. hxg4 Bh2 18. Kf1 Bg3 19. Rxf2 Qh1 20. Ke2 Bxf2 21. Bd2 Bh4 22. Qh3 Rae8 23. Kd3 Qf1 24. Kc2 Bf2 25. Qf3 Qg1 26. Bd5 c5 27. dxc5 Bxc5 28. b4 Bd6 29. a4 a5 30. axb5 axb4 31. Ra6 bxc3 32. Nxc3 Bb4 33. b6 Bxc3 34. Bxc3 h6 35. b7 Re3 36. Bxf7 1-0
This game was analyzed countless times, also by Kasparov in his book Garry Kasparov on my Great Predecessors, Part 1. Kasparov's serie certainly was a profitable business as many players possess it partly or even completely (I already mentioned some parts myself here, see the neo scheveningenkasparov's pircthe influence of wks on openings). It is not surprising that players use pieces out of the books to test in practice. The Belgian FM Ruben Akhayan took up the same gambit in his interclub-game of round 5 against the strong Dutch IM Twan Burg.
[Event "TCh-BEL 2013-14"] [Site "Belgium BEL"] [Date "2013.12.01"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Burg, T."] [Black "Akhayan, R."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C89"] [WhiteElo "2490"] [BlackElo "2254"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2013.09.22"] [WhiteTeam "Amay 1"] [BlackTeam "CREC 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. Re1 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 Nf6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Ng4 14. h3 Qh4 15. Qf3 Nxf2 16. Re2 {(Ld2 is recommended by Kasparov and developed in the 1950s.)} Ng4 {(An improvement and even salvation claimed by Tarkatower and Kasparov on the classic Capablanca - Marshall.)} 17. Nd2 $146 {(This move is nowhere discussed but gives white a clear advantage. )} (17. g3 { (Indicated by Kasparov as the critical continuation.)} Qxh3 18. Qxa8 Bxg3 19. Qg2 Qh4 { (Lh2 looks a bit stronger.)} 20. Nd2 {(Kasparov states that there is still a lot to play for but my engines just calculate that white is winning.)}) 17... Nf6 18. Qxa8 Bg4 19. Qe4 {(A fantastic queen-sacrifice after which blacks attack largely comes to a hold and white gets 3 pieces for the queen.)} Nxe4 20. Rxe4 Qg3 (20... h5 21. Nf3 Qg3 22. hxg4 h4 23. Bd2 h3 24. Re2 {(This is surely blacks best chance but it is not pretty as whites pieces are working already very harmoniously. )}) 21. Nf1 Qd3 22. Re3 Bh2 {(A blunder in an already very difficult position which ends the game at once.)} 23. Nxh2 1-0
It is surely not my purpose to laugh with black but I do find it very remarkable how white succeeds to improve the analysis of Kasparov. Less weird it becomes when I also mention that white is an ambitious correspondence player and even recently made a SIM-norm. Young strong OTB-players still working hard for correspondence chess is something seldom seen. If this is also skillfully exploited on schaaksite then suddenly an increase of 18% new members is recorded for correspondence after years of decreasing interest. 

So serving old wine in new skins is certainly not without risks. Now some people will consider it rubbish but I do find that it gives something extra, magical to follow once in a while an old classic and pretend to be one of the former champions. This dimension can chess960 as was recently propagandized in Moscow never give to us.


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