Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camouflage

Most players do anything to avoid the preparation or superior opening-knowledge of the opponent. Several of those evading-strategies were discussed on this blog:
- play an opening of which no own games are registered in the database: : coincidencesurprise with the Dutcha Dutch gambitBelgian interclubs apotheosis, ...
- deviate quickly from any existing theory: the lucky one

Each of these strategies are based on the assumption that the opponent can be the easiest defeated by not playing the standard repertoire. Now how can one know this in advance as it is very unlikely that having a standard repertoire is useless. An absolute answer obviously doesn't exist but there are means to estimate the chances pretty well. From most (European) players whom reached a certain level, you can find games in the commercial databases. Armed with an openingbook (see article green moves) one can quickly detect if somebody knows a lot or little theory and if he is acquainted with the theory of a certain opening in his first game or only after several games played.

For most local (top-) players i have of course few remaining secrets. I am playing for about 20 years in the chess-circuit and i have played 1 or more games against most Flemish topplayers. Besides by writing this blog everybody gets an open view on how I think and decide my openings so I don't have any illusions. Nevertheless I won't claim that all my opponents are aware about this blog and know me well. No surely for foreign players I am still often unknown which makes that they will much less likely deviate from their standard repertoire.

When playing against a (relative) unknown player, a strong player will try to deduct information from the developments in the game. If you know that the opponent deviates first from his standard repertoire (by screening in advance his games in the commercial databases and while you didn't deviate yet) then you can be pretty sure that the opponent prepared something. On the blog of the Ukrainian grandmaster Igor Smirnov it is justly stated that from competitive perspective in such situation you have to deviate as quickly as possible from the standard repertoire to avoid playing against his computer instead of against the opponent. In his uploaded movie Igor gives an example. Somebody plays exclusively e4 but only for that one game against you he played 1.d4 so it is very clear that he prepared something. Coincidentally I showed on my blog see article chess intuition what happens if you don't deviate in such situation: a scornful defeat. You have to read my article the scientific approach to understand why I didn't deviate.

Beside deviating deliberately it is also possible to deduct from the speed of moving if the opponent is aware or not of important opening-information. In a long game somebody out book, will spend time to find a plan and produce moves. Especially in positions with a tactical character it is important to avoid the knowledge/ preparation of the opponent surely if you didn't study recently (thoroughly) the theory. To avoid this I have applied already a few times camouflage-techniques. I lose on purpose time to let my opponent believe that I am out book.

As expected the opponent does finally deviate from his repertoire but in the meanwhile I have reached what I wanted: a nice advantage in the opening with plenty/ sufficient time on the clock. This is something which is much harder to achieve without camouflage. The camouflage is always a delicate balance-exercise. On one side you want to use as little as possible time to camouflage the knowledge/ preparation as the extra time is useful for the rest of the game. On the other hand you need to spend sufficient time to make the camouflage successful. Another example was against Jan Van Mechelen also in 1999.

Jan smelled a rat and eventually deviated which limited the damage. Maybe I had to spend a bit more time but that is of course difficult to judge. Recently I used the camouflage with success in the Belgian interclubs against the Bulgrarian grandmaster Dejan Bojkov. Surprisingly he not only permitted me to play 22 moves of preparation but also to achieve some opening-advantage. I suspect that my opponent never expected me capable to be so well prepared on this specific variation. It was only the second time in 9 rounds that Dejan played first board and on top he has a broad repertoire.


Despite Dejan had it all once on the board, he also spent a half hour so I assume that he doubted a lot to deviate or not from the theory. Probably he even looked for interesting risk-free alternatives. Anyway I found it remarkable and during the game I had some troubles to hide my joy when I finally got some reward for the often many boring hours of preparation spent at home.

So camouflage can be a weapon in the psychological battle of playing the opening. Now the reversed is also applied by some players. By playing quickly one insinuates that the opening was studied seriously while in reality it isn't. The opponent becomes intimidated and prefers to deviate from this repertoire. Former second Jan Smeets once said about Topalov that Topalov always plays the opening fast. Sometimes it is preparation but sometimes it is just bluff. The opponent never knows (except his seconds). See chessvibes.

To apply such psychological tricks you first have to know a certain amount of theory. I am curious if some readers have similar experiences and are willing to share them here.

Brabo

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