Thursday, August 14, 2014

King's gambit with Nf3

While the "refutation"of the King's gambit with Bc4 only arouse my curiosity, it was mainly the anti-dote against my favorite system of the King's gambit with Nf3 which worried me. I already play approximately 20 years the Fischer-defense. I am not aware of any anti-dote, at contrary as in recent years I more and more got convinced of the viability of blacks system. Besides we see also today top-grandmasters still choosing regularly for this setup.

The available excerpt on the official site of quality chess doesn't give a hint about the anti-dote but thanks to some reviews on chessvibes and Marsh Towers I was able to find out more. In the reviews is explained how white tries to get a favorable transposition to the Quaade-gambit via 5.g3.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Pf3 d6 4.d4 g5 5.g3 !?
I have already played with blacks position after move 4, 5 official games and about 320 online blitz/bullet games but never I met 5.g3. On top a quick check with the engines let us understand that the idea is not easy to answer. Did John Shaw discover something or was this already known? I recently was able to look into the book and it stroke me that nowhere is mentioned from where 5.g3 originates. Not one example from practice is covered in the book. So the author invented the idea. No as I did find 5 games in the megadatabase  of which 2 white-games of the Dutch grandmaster Harmen Jonkman and 1 of the Russian grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev. Besides the latter player, Vadim is one of my favorite players whom I invariably replay his games when I accidentally come across them. Maybe the reader still remembers his introduction of 2.Na3 against the Sicilian in the Russian Superfinal of 2005. Something he still dared to repeat at least 8 times even against + 2600 players.

To ignore the history of the King's gambit is too bad (see my article manuals) but to present ideas as new in a book is at least dubious. You could claim that the earlier mentioned mega-database games were all lost by white so are irrelevant but a.f.a.i.k. an idea should be evaluated on its value and not only on the score (or the rating of the players, see blogarticle theory). On the other hand I have to admit that the author is the first to really initiate an attempt to popularize the idea. Loyal readers know from the blogartikel SOS that I am rather sensitive for that kind of details.

Enough about the origin of the idea as now we want surely to know how dangerous and interesting the idea is for practice. Beginning of June I started with a study of the idea lasting several weeks without looking in advance at what John Shaw tells. I was up to date with my analysis of the own played games so some time remained till Open Gent to make some extra opening-analysis as I did earlier e.g. for the Aljechin see article. By the way in an open tournament the chance is considerably bigger to meet opponents choosing for an experiment with e.g. the King's gambit and on top are also informed about the latest developments.

Not peeking to what the book says, has the advantage that one can look open-minded to the position which permits easier to find new ideas. This way I indeed found an interesting concept with f5 which checking later wasn't covered in the book.

I surely don't claim any advantage for black after f5 but it does seem very well playable. Somebody blindly following Johns book, can be forced quickly to think independently which in this explosive position isn't so funny.

Next I had a look to g4 which the engines recommend. We enter hereby the Quaada-territory. I spent a lot of time on the different sort of positions as this is very virgin territory and a lot of subtleties decide about what is and what is not playable.

In the book a much simplified view is given of the possibilities so partly misguiding how complex the task is for both players. I do have to admit that the type of position seems very attractive for the true King's gambit adept as white has nice compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

Next I covered Bg7. My analysis completely overlap the book but I am less optimistic about whites chances in the mainline after replaying a recent key-game.

Is the author not familiar with this game as it is clear white had to fight hard for the half point or worse was this game on purpose ignored? In the book games of 2013 are used so weird. Finally I don't want to deny the reader of a very interesting possibility which not by coincidence also seems to give the best chances to refute the idea.

After the 8th move the author writes: "This is exactly the sort of position I want to reach with white in the King's Gambit. It's sharp, interesting and little explored with just five games from this position.... In such virgin territory it is impossible to give a comprehensive coverage." So the reader is left alone in the line which I consider as the most critical against 5.g3. Isn't it the task of the author to make a serious in depth analysis (as usually done in top-correspondence)? My idea of 6... , Bd7 is not covered and is as interesting as 6..., fxg3. Besides I also show several refinements and schemes which are useful for the 6..., fxg3 line.

Despite the remarks I do have to admit that the book is really good. It comprises a complete overview of the existing relevant theory with correct evaluations (although sometimes they are a bit too subjective). However I do understand too the comment of MNb on my previous article. Somebody possessing already a lot of material about the King's Gambit will find few or no new findings which have been worked out for weeks as I did for this article. The book is a reference for otb-players but a correspondence-player can just better consult the databases and make the research with an engine.


Friday, August 8, 2014

King's gambit with Bc4

Many clubplayers still play today regularly the king's gambit despite the dubious reputation. The exact evaluation of the positions is for those amateurs less important than getting a complex position on the board in which uncompromising chess can be played. Therefore I still don't understand very well which market John Shaw with his monumental book about the King's gambit wants to tap. 680 pages counts the book so clearly no simple literature in which an amateur will peek when having a break. I recently asked Ben of the denksportkampioen how many copies he already sold and if I remember well then it were about 15. That is not much for a quality-book (which it surely is) but it does correspond to the number of players which I esteem not only aspiring uncompromising chess but also are an adept of the King's gambit.
Naturally the book got a lot of attention in reviews on the internet. Most comments were rightly discussing the refutation which the author found against the Bc4 line of the King's gambit. Former-worldchampion Robert James Fischer played this opening with white several times so I was curious what exactly was discovered. Opening-books I still don't buy but thanks to chesspub I was able to get a pretty good idea of where the hot potatoes were. Below a summary of the most important lines.

So the refutation with 3..Nc6 sounds to me rather optimistic. Black has comfortable play but an advantage I don't dare to claim for black. I already play for quite some time 3...d5. It is surely not better than 3...Nc6 or today's more popular 3...Nf6 but it has the advantage that white in most cases is playing on territory which I know better. Recently in the cup-competition I got it twice on the board.

Rapid-games I haven't played for a decade but as mentioned in my previous article I am annoyed by problems of inactivity so decided to subscribe anyway with the motto "better something than nothing at all". Rapid-games don't fit in my scientific approach and I like blitz more for fun. So I participated mainly as preparation for the Open of Gent. I am by far not the only one looking at rapid-tournaments in this way, see Bart Michiels statement on Schaakfabriek: "My next tournament is the olympiad and I searched a rapid-tournament to become in good shape." I am digressing from the subject so time to return to the King's gambit with Bc4.

In the quarter-finale the opening was encountered a first time thanks to Marcel Van Herck. Marcel already has the King's gambit for decades on his repertoire but I didn't expect any dangerous novelties. This was a bit optimistic as afterwards he surprised me by telling that he knew the content of John Shaw's book. Marcel noticed a few weeks earlier how I suffered in a variation in some blitz-games so he decided to test me with it.

The positive element from the game is that whites opening contains a few interesting elements which are worth repeating. In the semi finales I encountered the opening for a second time thanks to our president and former Belgian champion Robert Schuermans. In the normal rapid-games Robert embarrassed me with openings I've never seen him playing before. In the tiebrake-blitzgames he reverted to his standard repertoire which I considered a dubious strategy. Since a few years Robert also plays the King's gambit in Fischers style so with Bc4. It is well known that Robert is a big fan of Fischers chess, see eg. the interview on radio 1. Robert chose contrary to Marcel for the more fundamental approach with 5.Nc3 which I consider more critical but he run into a better armed opponent.

Eventually with some luck I was able to play the final and accomplished my objective of getting into good shape. However also Robert extracted something from the cup-games. In round 3 of the Open of Gent he played to my surprise the same opening against the French FM Julien Lamorelle. Soon I  paid more attention to the developments on his board than to my own board.

I can well understand that the opening won't become popular among professionals but for mortals this opening is surely sufficient to have hours of pleasure. A clear refutation doesn't exist for now and more a romantic player does't need.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Practical endgames

A long game doesn't always mean an interesting game. My interclub-game against Tom Piceu took 53 moves but was in fact decided already after 27 moves. It is surely for some part nonsense to state that the number of moves is linked with activity as I insinuated in my previous article. On the other hand I did encounter last season some complex endgames on the board which I believe are interesting to show the reader. 

Of course I start with the interrupted queen-endgame against Bart. Initially I find the right moves but with the draw at reach, it still goes wrong.

With this loss I had exactly a break-even for my fide-rating and with the relegation to 2nd division which was already confirmed for some time (see the wild west) you could argue that it didn't matter much. However honestly I have to admit that this loss came as a big blow. Indeed Bart did present in a clever way some problems but without my amateurism it should never given any success.

It was not the only queen-endgame which I encoutered on the board. In the Open of TSM I played 4 games of which 2 for rating. One game for rating I lost in a dramatic way against Steven which I earlier discussed on my blog, see the sadistic exam but also the second game didn't go smoothly. I wasn't able to cash an extra pawn against Jan Gooris.

I was unhappy after the game with the result but if I look at the endgame now then I just have to admit that a win was never there. Maybe with a slower tempo (after move 40 I only got 15 minutes extra so we played mainly with 30 seconds increment) I would've been able to create more problems but even then it is very unclear if this would force a mistake from Jan. Anyway I found it a pity that the competition already ended in december so in the following months I only played a few games interclub. The ghost of inactivity is difficult to repel.

This season was surely not all misery in the endgame. In my articles a moral victory and universal systems I already showed how I was able to hold slightly inferior positions. However those examples are light beer compared with the endgame below which I was able to draw in an incredible way against the French FM Ludovic Carmeille.

Such half points taste very sweet. An other spectacular escape happened in my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Dejan Bojkov (extracts of the game were already discussed in camouflage and einstellung effect). The win was surely not trivial for black.

I was a little afraid that he would like to win solely on time which is one of the biggest disadvantages of playing without an increment but fortunately it remained sportsmanlike. Anyway I won't complain about my endgame-results.

Can we train ourselves in these type of endgames? Well if we review the different positions then we remark that they are all unique. It are practical endgames which you can't find in any books. It is even doubful if it is interesting to study them as the chance is minimal that something can be reused in another endgame. I like delving in the complexities of endgames so I spend a lot of time on it but I won't recommend the work to players which hate these endgames.

On the other hand a certain basic knowledge of endgames sounds to me not redundant. However also that is not anymore a certainty if you hear Nakamura telling us how he didn't know the Vancura position so he had to distillate the right moves on the board himself. A completely different sound gives the recent work Grandmaster preparation endgame play of Jacob Aagaard in which the study of the endgame has been raised to a new (higher) level. He expects from the ambitious student that the tasks are solved in a peaceful environment. That way skills are acquired which are useful for tournament-chess.

On the book clearly an enormous effort was inserted. Nevertheless quickly a lot of critics were given of which the author clearly wasn't pleased, see his reaction on Quality chess. The tasks are too difficult was one of the most heard critics. Even the German grandmaster Joerg Hickl complained that he could only solve 10%. The fact that in many examples the correct move was missed even by players like Ivanchuk, indeed proofs that it is difficult. On the other hand finding the right move in a problem is easier than in practice as mentioned by Glen in a reaction on my article 'the expert'.

We can only speak of serious training  if done in a peaceful environment in which it is possible to concentrate properly on solving and studying endgames. This is how the author refutes the critics. However today we see that a lot of practical endgames must be dashed. Surely with the ever more becoming popular 30 seconds increments we can mainly trust our instincts and some minimal calculations.

With a slower tempo (like in the Belgian interclub) I still believe such trainings have their usefulness. It is not that we can copy some combinations or schemes in practice but it does stimulate our thought process how to solve certain problems. I also believe the effect of the trainings is temporarily and must be often repeated. You could maybe compare it with making IQ-tests. You won't become smarter with solving IQ-tests but you can improve your score on such test with making similar tests in advance. It was also detected that the effect quickly diminishes when no further tests were done. Studying practical endgames is not something trivial. Each amateur has to decide for himself if the effort is valuable or not.