Wednesday, July 9, 2014


If we don't consider the psychological aspects in chess then only the theoretical evaluation of the moves remains. The move of which we expect it is crucial for the theoretical evaluation of a position, is considered in chess-jargon as critical. I always spend a lot of time searching the critical moves which has been covered many times already on this blog: correspondence-chess, green moves,...

I don't know if it was a critic, astonishment or simply a remark, fact is that Bart obviously was right to state afterwards that with 8.Be2 in our mutual game I didn't choose for a critical continuation. Keeping in mind that I was already aware about this in advance of the game, probably some readers will consider this in-consequent with my earlier article the scientific approach. Even Kara wrote in a reaction that he would've chosen for a different and from theoretical perspective more interesting move.

I don't have to take up responsibility for my opening-choice but I do want to clarify a few things as I believe it also includes some interesting elements for other players. First a critical move is not always the best practical move. A critical move puts maybe more pressure on the opponent but also often on yourself . In my previous mutual game with Bart I chose the critical move in the endgame instead of going for a secure drawn-endgame with a pawn less. In the end I got punished for this audacity as I made the first mistake myself.

In a lot of openings with a solid reputation (like the Marshallgambit, the Berlin,...) it is often also very tough to pinpoint the critical move (exactly because nobody was able to show a clear advantage). Besides often the most interesting lines are also the ones which the opponent has analyzed. A recent nice example in which we detect those risks, is the crucial game of the rapid world-championship on board 1 between Anand and Caruana in yes once more the Modern French.

Anand survived with a scare. However this example neither proves that choosing a critical opening is nonsense. I only state that a proper judgement must be made of the risks. With sufficient training, study in advance choosing a critical continuation is most likely ok. Now I am not quickly scared of taking (too) big risks in an opening (see e.g. chess intuition part 2). However playing something complex like 8.a3 without training, study or being sure it is a critical line and that against a player rated 200 points higher, I consider too much and neither scientific.

Once the choice made not to search further for a critical variation it is still good to have an alternative prepared. To choose a dubious opening-line is a solution which a lot of amateurs (even strong ones) do. I don't like it as it is not only risky but also completely against my scientific approach. Vary with an opening not part of the repertoire is another possibility which is rather easy when playing white. It is less risky that the previous solution but an opening-advantage is unlikely obtained and it is neither scientific. Finally you can also choose to play the standard repertoire but insert sufficient ideas. With ideas I don't mean "killer" - novelties which are important for the theoretical evaluation of the position. The purpose of an idea is mainly to win time on the clock and to reach a position in which one feels comfortable. Such ideas are rather useless in correspondence-chess but have proven many times their advantage in OTB-chess.

This strategy of interweaving a standard repertoire with ideas is nothing new and is already used since long by top-grandmasters. I still remember very well how Anand in 2007 conquered the world-title in Mexico by applying 4 different ideas against the invincible Marshall. I already touched the story in my article Tanguy Ringoir is Belgian champion but this time I do want to show also the concrete games.

Anand was not interested in refuting the Marshall which probably is anyway not possible but created each time new unknown problems on the board for this opponents. Not every game will be won with this method but a return of 75% is surely not bad for Anand. There are some big advantages with this approach. First you still are in the comfort-zone of the standard repertoire so even if black diverts with something less solid then you are normally not immediately out of book. Despite that the idea doesn't guarantee any theoretical advantage, you will surely not be worse either. The biggest asset of course is that you studied the idea already at home with the engines while the opponent most likely didn't.

The big disadvantage of using ideas, is that most often they can only be used once in a serious game. After publication the potential opponents will quickly find an anti-dote with the engine. So once an idea has been consumed, you have to look for something new. This is impractical for most amateurs, will many think but in fact it is not that difficult. Finding an idea can be done in a fraction of the time compared with a killer-novelty as there exist some handy tools. MNb indicated that I am pretty good in it but I believe after reading my tips that the reader must be able to do the same.

1) Copy ideas from recent OTB-games which stayed under the radar of the international news. A lot of players are aware what top 2700 players play in their repertoire but also players in the segment 2300-2700 often bring interesting new ideas. It is also important that the games were recently played so the chance is small that the opponent met the idea in the previous years by accident.
2) Copy ideas from correspondence-games even it was only a draw for white. Very few players consult those games. Besides problems can be solvable in correspondence but in OTB it can be very difficult.
3) Let the engine check multiple lines. Sometimes the 2nd or 3rd best move presents an interesting idea. My favorite button is the letter 'y' , see Fritz manual for more info. I force the program with this button to ignore his favorite choice and look to the next best move. The big advantage compared with calculating multiple lines is that you get much quicker results. This is not only because less must be calculated but also because no time is lost due to switching between multiple lines.

So with a minimum of time and efforts everybody can successfully implement ideas. Next to the element of surprise it also can be used as patches till more time is available to work seriously at the repertoire. I am convinced this is for amateur as prof an excellent tool for competitive tournament-chess.


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