Sunday, February 1, 2015

Challenges

A casual chessplayer is referred to a chessclub if he wishes to play more than just sporadically. In Belgium we have a wide range of clubs as I count 148 in our KBSB and I even don't include the many not affiliated clubs (schools, handel, ...). 

Till approximately a rating of 1800, most clubs can offer sufficient challenges but once you cross this barrier you are more or less forced to play somewhere else too. Open tournaments, liga-championships and interclub are the new competitions at which you participate to make further progression. In Belgium the distances are small so for most people logistics aren't difficult to solve.

However once the rating exceeds 2100-2200, it becomes tougher to find sufficient challenges if you have ambitions. We have here in Belgium only 100 + 2200 players of which almost 20% plays seldom or never. Playing solely in Belgium with a rating above 2300 is not an option anymore for somebody ambitious. Optimal for improvement, is playing against players with 100 or 200 points more. On the other hand 300 points is too much as I described in my article to shoot a mosquito with a cannon.

Somebody whom doesn't like travelling or simply doesn't have the means, has a problem. The British grandmaster Nigel Davies warned on his blog that it can even be dangerous to become a strong player: "Can you improve too much?". It is something which I experienced myself. Till 2007 I often played abroad but after the birth of my daughter I erased any foreign competition from the menu. Though finding sufficient challenges in Belgium is always a quest as I discussed in my article inactivity. Besides big thumbs up for the initiative of  Steven Geirnaert whom organized for players of his region an interesting expert tournament . I can warmly recommend the lovely site built by Frederik Decoster. I just find it a bit pity that the games are password protected while we are no professionals. The tournament is/ was unfortunately not feasible for me (Saturdays I drive half of day around to buy the weekly groceries, bring children to their activities without considering that Bruges isn't close either) otherwise I surely wished to participate.

Today I am already happy when I can play once in a while against a stronger player. In the Open of Leuven I got recently the chance to play against the only Belgium grandmaster which I hadn't met before on the board:  Alexander Dgebuadze. Against Vladimir Chuchelov I played once an instructive stonewall in the Open Gent of 2000. My games with Bart Michiels were covered in several articles like the modern french part 2 and last year I also played a game against Luc Winants (this game will probably be treated in a later article).

Alexander chose as expected his favorite little known system in the French but I couldn't profit from this as with only 15 minutes for preparing, it is not possible to extract much if you didn't study this properly before.

Probably a typical evening-game on a day with a double round as some moves rather look superficial. On the other hand it is an instructive game as next time I will be able to better combat this remarkable pawn-structure.

Last 2 interclub-seasons I was lucky to play in first division on first or second board. Not only was this an enormous challenge about which I many times reported but it also gave my repertoire a serious boost. Because I spent a lot of time preparing, I not only learned a lot from the games but also from the preparation. The new acquired knowledge is now often useful as the 6th round of Open Leuven proofed.

My opponent Jonas Van Cappellen decided to surprise me with a little side-line of the Dutch but I was able to counter with a preparation which I made against the strong German FM Marcel Becker playing for Eynatten as he played the same variation already in 2012.

It took me a lot of time to reconstruct the old preparation but in the end I succeeded and achieved a sharp position on the board in which I could play for the win. Personally I think this was my best game of the tournament.

To search new challenges is an important ingredient to progress. This doesn't mean that chess is only about challenges. Many players keep playing in a club not because they absolutely want to improve but just to have some fun. Fun seems an alien concept but it is without doubt the best prescription to stay interested instead of always setting the priority on higher ratings and titles.

Brabo

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