My college studies of engineer were not taken lightly in contrast with many of my fellow-students. I studied my courses at least 3 times seriously so I knew the materials thoroughly. As a consequence my results were always very good. This profound method of preparation I also inherited in chess. Even today after almost 20 years playing chess, there is still very little or no diminution of my (very) intensive game-preparations. However I also have to admit that big differences exist between a modern game-preparation and my formerly exam-preparations.
First there exists no limit on the amount of subject materials for a game-preparation in contrast with most classical exams. So as a chessplayer has to make choices e.g when stopping the preparation is reasonable or not. A question which I recently asked, is if it pays to spend time rehearsing the studied materials or that time better can be spend studying extra lines. Or a very similar question is, how much time one should spend per move? The answer naturally depends of a number of factors like how fast and well can the person memorize, how many (new) lines must be remembered,... Nevertheless I do believe most players choose if under time-pressure to spend as little time as possible repeating stuff as it is still possible via calculations and deductions to puzzle with the remembered fragments. Of course it is no surprise that sometimes something goes wrong when puzzling.
There are also big differences in study-conditions. When I prepared for my engineer-exams then my surroundings deemed it very important that I was not disturbed. This way I could easily study 12 hours concentrated in 1 day. Today a game-preparation is tolerated by my surroundings but they also expect that I am at the same time available for other tasks. A preparation on a Saturday is as a consequence often nothing more than a string of more or less free half hours (with 2 small children it is never 100% quiet) between the many other activities (weekly groceries, driving the kids to the dance-school, art-school or swimming courses,...) Such chaotic way of preparing obviously influences the quality of the study. I will try to sketch a real example of such chaotic preparation in the continuation of the article. Or more specified, I will tell the part which is directly connected with the played game.
In the last round of the Belgian interclubs nothing was anymore at stake for Deurne. Our team was already relegated so only some personal success could still be achieved. Due to circumstances I would play first board, so the chance was real that I would meet the new Belgian grandmaster Bart Michiels. Obviously I prepared myself properly for him. In our previous encounter he chose the modern french but I estimated the probability low that it would be played again. This time it wouldn't be a surprise anymore and if Bart followed a bit my blog then he would realize that I take my preparations seriously. Now as earlier mentioned, I am not somebody leaving a preparation open to chance so in spite of I decided to study seriously the opening of our previous encounter.
The first thing which I looked at, was a concept from the correspondence-game to which I already earlier pointed in my previous article so with 0-0-0. Because I didn't meet the opening on the board anymore since my game (so from 2012) and as a consequence hadn't studied it anymore seriously, I believed it was the right moment to check the game with an engine more closely. Besides Bart could do easily the same if he read my blog.
I considered the concept ideal to combat Barts style but I didn't dare to play it due to the discovered hole at move 13. After our game I asked Bart if he read my blog and knew the antidote on the concept of 0-0-0 too. Bart confirmed that he had read my blog. It would've been a big surprise if a grandmaster didn't use the available free foreknowledge but his answer on the anti-dote was rather confusing. He answered that he already once replied successfully with c4 in practice. However the only game which I could find that Bart played successfully c4 after 0-0-0 was a line without the moves Be2 and 0-0 so I guess Bart didn't know the gap on move 13 (which doesn't mean that he couldn't find it at the board). It wouldn't be the first time that a (strong) player didn't take the opportunity to benefit maximally from the available info on my blog. Below I show the pretty interesting game in which Bart played c4 after 0-0-0.
The mistakes let me believe that such type of positions is not a bad choice against Bart if I would be prepared for it of course.
So in any case I searched for an alternative which I found in a concept earlier mentioned in a reaction of TheUnknownOne. I made a quick glace of the consequences if Bart would choose for an identical setup as in our previous encounter and found out that I could play a nice novelty.
White probably doesn't have a tangible advantage but the resulting positions looked appealing for white. Besides I was almost 100% sure that the idea 11.Nb5 would be a complete surprise which would give me at least a serious gain of time on the clock.
However a week earlier I also read on chesspublishing.com that the strong Swedish correspondence-player Thomas Johansson claimed that black can immediately equalize with 9...,f6. I am not subscribed at the site (something which I warmly recommend to any player aspiring master-titles) but I was anyway able to rapidly find the reason. Now equality in correspondence chess doesn't mean a dry and dead position in OTB so I kept searching for some interesting ideas but more than below correspondence-game I didn't succeed.
So again I was not satisfied about the result and felt obliged to continue my quest. A weird but interesting game I found in the engine-database.
A bit too weird for me because I couldn't fully understand why exactly now Qe2. Besides the remaining time was too limited to spend a serious study at it so I put the idea aside. The concept of the next game which I show is much easier to understand.
The lines which I looked at, seemed attractive to me. On the other hand with a move like a3, the door is wide open for all kind of interesting or not black continuations. In other words the probability is high that black would throw me immediately out of book and without any experience this is not funny.
So what to choose? I did't want to study again something new from scratch as I was running out of time because still other openings needed to be reviewed. Is the final position of my original analyses on the recommendation of Thomas really that pessimistic? I decided to recheck the line and found some interesting ideas which finally convinced me to give it a chance. After this long article it is surely no surprise anymore that yes, the whole line popped up in our game.
If a 200 points lower rated player achieves a position against a grandmaster in which he can control and black must be careful thanks almost exclusively due to the preparation then I do consider the preparation as very successful. The Belgian IM Geert Van der Stricht remarked afterwards that such fate is something unavoidable as higher rated player but I don't fully agree with that. If you play twice the same opening against the same person then one can expect that the opponent will be (well) prepared. The resulting position is mainly the responsibility of the player and not some sort of luck.
That I managed to mess up the nice position, is something for another article as there is still much to tell about that. With this article I made at least an update of the interesting Modern French.