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.
[Event "FIDE World Rapid Championship"] [Site "Dubai UAE"] [Date "2014.06.18"] [Round "13.1"] [White "Viswanathan Anand"] [Black "Fabiano Caruana"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2770"] [BlackElo "2840"] [PlyCount "125"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 b6 {(I already mentioned this early b6 on my blog but it is the first time I notice that it is played by a top-grandmaster.)} 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. Qe1 f5 11. a3 {(On my blog I recommended Nb5 here as interesting. It would not surprise me if Anand was already for him on unfamiliar territory.)} Bb7 12. Bb5 Qc8 13. Kh1 Ba6 14. Bxc6 Qxc6 15. Rg1 Rf7 16. Qd2 Nf8 17. Nd1 Ng6 18. Nf2 Nh4 19. Nxh4 Bxh4 20. a4 Rc8 21. Rgc1 Rfc7 22. Nh3 Be7 23. Ng1 Bb7 24. Nf3 a5 25. Bf2 Qe8 26. c3 Bc6 27. Qc2 Bd7 28. Be3 Rb7 29. h3 c4 30. Rg1 b5 31. axb5 Rxb5 32. Raf1 Qh5 33. Kh2 Ra8 34. Bc1 a4 35. Rf2 Be8 36. Nd2 Qf7 37. Nb1 Qf8 38. Na3 Bxa3 39. bxa3 Bg6 40. Re1 Rb3 41. Rff1 Rab8 42. Re3 Qe8 43. Rfe1 Rb1 44. Qf2 R8b3 45. Qa2 Qb5 46. Rg1 Qb6 47. Rge1 Qd8 48. Rg1 Qh4 49. Rg3 Bh5 { (With little time left Caruana does not see the win.)} (49... Rxc1 50. Rxc1 Qxf4 51. Rc2 Bh5 52. Rf2 Qc1 53. Qc2 (53. Qd2 Qxd2 54. Rxd2 f4 55. Rg5 g6 56. Rc2 h6 $19) 53... Qh6 54. Rxf5 Bg6 55. Rxg6 Qxg6 56. Rf2 Qxc2 57. Rxc2 Rxa3 $19 ) 50. Qf2 Kh8 51. Rf1 Ra1 52. Qd2 Qe7 53. Re3 Rbb1 54. Ree1 Qb7 55. Qf2 Bg6 56. Qh4 Qd7 57. Bb2 Rxe1 58. Rxe1 Rxe1 59. Qxe1 Qb5 60. Qd2 Qb3 61. Bc1 Qb1 62. Qb2 Qxb2 63. Bxb2 1/2-1/2
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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