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.

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.

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.

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.

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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