Monday, March 30, 2015


As almost all of the chess reporting is about top-performances, we sometimes forget that chess is also done recreational. For 99% of the chessplayers the efforts spent to become master aren't fully understood or even appreciated. This was unfortunately shown last week in some harsh reactions on a message of Oscar in which Oscar only mentioned that our new grandmaster Tanguy Ringoir had to pay 330 euro himself to get the title. A more explicit example of this apathy was demonstrated last interclubround in Oude God Mortsel when several players were drinking beer while playing. So I am very well aware that only few players are seriously/ fanatically playing chess as I do.

In my last article I talked about a scientific method to optimize openingchoices but in practice we see that many amateurs are already satisfied if they simply survive the openingphase. Tuning a repertoire is something many don't bother about. However to avoid frequent openingdisasters often players choose for a well-defined collection of side-systems. Some play the same systems for many years or decades, becoming dangerous opponents even for experienced players. The openingrepertoire becomes a part of the identity of the player. This immediately reminds me of Leo Boeye, opening each game with Nh3/Nh6 so always putting his mark.

If you are an amateur only playing locally then it is fully acceptable to ignore openingtheory. However once games of you are stored in databases and you are playing against more serious opponents then it is much harder to stick to this strategy. I guess once your rating surpasses 2200 see the list of force, it is time to adapt. I remember that once I lost a game against a grandmaster and 2 rounds later I got the same line again on the board by a 2300 player. I also lost that game despite better resistance. By the way here we also see the danger of blindly trusting statistics. Somebody finds a weak spot in your repertoire and there are immediately other players ready to use this discovery. In such situation you can't wait for the statistics as otherwise you risk to lose a long string of games.

Now and then it happens that I have to replace a piece of my repertoire which I played for many years. I never surrender easily a variation as that wouldn't be very consistent with the scientific approach I apply in my games. However I do admit that I many times wondered if it makes not more sense to ditch the Dutch in which I spent countless hours to repair lines and instead study some more solid openings. I don't find it easy to say goodbye to an opening at which you spent so much time and energy.

Nevertheless when I am convinced an opening is beyond salvation then it immediately and forever disappears from my repertoire. More precisely I only keep the variation in blitz/ rapid. Competitive players (see playing on the man) will surely find this an excessive decision but I consider it a logical step of my approach to the game. Some earlier examples of such changes were covered already on this blog: see Dutch steps in the English opening or the fake truth. In this article I want to show a extreme switch of repertoire which I recently did.

Maybe some loyal readers will still remember my article Gligorics concept against the Spanish exchange-variation. In that article I described how I started to play the system in 1998 and got over the years very experienced with it but had still some doubts about the correctness surely compared with the much more popular c5. My suspicion became reality when I recently discovered during a game-preparation with houdini and stockfish that a problem exists.
[Event "Analysis Gligoric-variation"] [Date "2014"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C69"] [PlyCount "26"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O f6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Bd6 { (Between 1997 and 2009 I played this move 11 times in standard-games and once in correspondence. It always hurts a bit if I have to drop an opening which I have played so long.)} 8. Qh5 g6 9. Qf3 h5 10. Qc3 {(I encountered already Qd3, h4 and Nc3 but never this weird move. In the database you can only find 1 example. Nonetheless it is exactly because of this move that I stop playing this opening.)} h4 $5 {(Last couple of days I spent quite some time to repair with this move the opening but to no avail. I think it is blacks best chance to defend.)} (10... Bd7 $5 11. Qb3 $1 (11. Nd2 $6 Qe7 12. Nc4 Bb4 $146 {(A clear improvement on the only game which continued with c5. I already discovered the move in 2009 and evaluated the move as playable.)} ) 11... b6 12. Re1 $1 $14 {(In 2009 I only looked at Qd3 but this is definitely superior.)}) 11. Nd2 {(Na3 is slightly less clear even though black surely has no easy equality.)} h3 12. g3 Nh6 13. Nc4 Nf7 $14 { (The most simple is to eliminate the pair of bishops with Nxd6 but also Bf4 looks an interesting option to play for a win.)} *

I didn't find a solution during the game-preparation so in the end I chose to experiment with something new. A deeper analysis of the specific problematic line was planned for after the game.
[Event "Interclub Hoboken - Deurne"] [Date "2014"] [White "Cools, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C69"] [WhiteElo "2260"] [BlackElo "2337"] [PlyCount "163"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O f6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5 { (It is the first time that I play the mainline as I recently discovered a problem in my favorite Gligoric system which I could not fully solve. I guess the chance is very small that Gorik was aware about it but scientifically I found it inappropriate to continue playing an inferior line.)} 8. Ne2 Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bd7 10. Be3 O-O-O 11. Nbc3 Re8 12. Rd2 Bc6 13. Rad1 b6 14. f3 Ne7 15. Nf4 Ng6 16. Nh5 Rg8 $5 {(Here my preparation ended. I still remembered that Stockfish recommends this move and judges the position as equal but nothing more. Today after deeper analysis I rather prefer Ne5 and especially f5 which creates a more attractive type of position which does not mean that it is really better.)} (16... Ne5 $5 17. b3 c4 18. Nd5 a5 19. Kf2 Kb7 $13) (16... f5 $5 17. exf5 $5 Nh4 18. Bf4 Nxf5 19. Nd5 Nd4 20. Nxc7 Re7 21. Nxa6 {(The correspondence-game Hoffmann Frank - Shnyrev Viktor Petrovich played in 2011, ends here in my database with a draw. I think the position is sufficiently interesting to continue playing with black in standard-chess.)}) 17. Kf2 Be7 {(I prepare g6 but the plan is rather long-winded.)} 18. Nd5 Bd8 19. g4 Ne5 20. b3 Ref8 21. h3 g6 22. Ng3 Re8 23. f4 Nf7 24. f5 Bxd5 25. Rxd5 Be7 26. Bf4 Rd8 $5 {(I could not calculate the complications in a few minutes so I chose in the end for the safe but passive Rd8.)} (26... Bd6 $5 27. Bxd6 Nxd6 28. Rxd6 {(It was this exchange-sacrifice which worried me in the game.)} cxd6 29. Rxd6 Rd8 30. Rxb6 (30. Rc6 Kb7 31. Rxf6 Rd2 32. Kf3 Rxc2 33. Rf7 Kc6 34. Rxh7 Rc3 35. Kf2 Rc2 36. Ke3 Rc3 37. Kf2 Rc2 38. Ke3 Rc3 39. Kf2 $11) 30... Rd2 31. Ke3 $1 Rxc2 32. Rxa6 Kb7 33. Rxf6 Rc3 34. Kf2 Ra8 35. a4 Rxb3 $5 {(C4 is a serious alternative but the position stays balanced if I look at the evaluations of the engines.)} 36. Rf7 Kc6 37. Rxh7 $13) 27. Rxd8 Bxd8 28. Ne2 $5 {(Putting the bishop on the long diagonal via d2 must be considered with a not pleasant position for black.)} Be7 29. Nc3 Re8 $6 {(More accurate is c6.)} 30. Nd5 $6 { (Immediately after the game Gorik rightfully admitted this was not optimal. Correct was h4 to use the advantage of the flexible pawn-majority on the kingside. Because blacks rook is not anymore on the g-file, white can now answer gxf5 with exf5.)} Bd8 31. Re1 c6 32. Nc3 b5 33. Re2 Ba5 34. Nd1 Rd8 35. Nb2 Bc3 36. Nd3 c4 37. bxc4 bxc4 38. Nc5 Rd1 39. Ne6 Ra1 $6 { (Black is back in the game thanks to whites mistake on move 30 but now needs to slow down which I forget in my rush. With the simple g5 I could easily stop the pawns on the kingside and white needs to force a draw by chasing blacks rook.)} 40. h4 Rh1 $6 { (I also understood by now that whites pawns run fast. Should I slow down the pawns or I anyway better take the a-pawn. These kind of critical decisions you do not want to take on move 40 with only a minute on the clock left but I had no choice. Of course I take the wrong decision as I only consider Kg3.)} (40... Rxa2 $1 41. Nf8 g5 42. hxg5 fxg5 43. Bg3 Ra5 44. Nxh7 Rb5 $14 {(The a-pawn is still far away from the promotion but white can not ignore it.)}) 41. Bg3 Ra1 $5 {(A doubtful decision to admit being wrong with my 40th move. The 2 tempos play an important role but I could not find anything clearly better.)} 42. Nf8 g5 43. Nxh7 gxh4 44. Bxh4 Ne5 $6 {(More stubborn was Bd4. With Ne5 I still have some tricks but Gorik does not make any blunders.)} (44... Bd4 $1 45. Kg3 Rg1 46. Kh3 Rh1 47. Rh2 Rg1 48. Bf2 Bxf2 49. Rxf2 Rh1 50. Rh2 Rg1 51. e5 fxe5 52. Kh4 e4 53. Nf6 Re1 54. Kg3 $16) 45. Nxf6 Bd4 46. Kg3 Rg1 47. Rg2 Rf1 48. Nh7 Bc3 49. Kh3 Rh1 50. Rh2 Rxh2 51. Kxh2 Nxg4 52. Kh3 Ne3 53. f6 Bxf6 54. Nxf6 Nxc2 55. e5 Nd4 56. Ne4 Kd7 {(My only hope is to get the feared bishop and knight endgame on the board but Gorik skilfully avoids it.)} 57. Kg4 Ke6 58. Bg3 Ne2 59. Nc5 Ke7 60. Bh4 Ke8 61. Kf3 Nc1 62. a3 Nb3 63. Nxa6 c3 64. Nb4 Nd4 65. Ke4 c5 66. Nd3 Nb3 67. Kd5 c2 68. Bg5 Kd7 69. e6 Ke8 70. Kc4 c1=Q 71. Bxc1 Ke7 72. Kxb3 Kxe6 73. Nxc5 {(The a-pawn remains on the board. I continued still a few more moves as we both had only a few minutes left.)} Kd6 74. Kb4 Kc6 75. a4 Kb6 76. a5 Ka7 77. Kb5 Ka8 78. Kb6 Kb8 79. a6 Ka8 80. Ne6 Kb8 81. Nc7 Kc8 82. a7 1-0
So I also didn't manage to repair the line later. This meant that the opening went to the waste-bin although I have a very strong suspicion that nobody knew about the problem. Nor in the big database nor in correspondence games you can find the critical line and white has to find some very typical difficult engine-moves. It is an extreme swap of opening but I don't want to wait till somebody does his homework and shows on the board what I already would know longtime.

Talking about extreme switches I shouldn't forget my opponent of the previous game,  Gorik Cools. In the database I found many games of him from 1989 till 2011 with the kingsgambit but in 2012 he exchanged the opening for the exchangevariation of the Spanish. One of his kingsgambit-games which didn't make it to the databases can be replayed below.
[Event "Hoboken - Deurne"] [Date "2009.09.27"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Cools, Gorik"] [Black "Sadkowski, Daniel"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C20"] [PlyCount "105"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 Bg7 5. O-O d6 6. d4 Nc6 7. c3 h6 8. Qa4 Bd7 9. Qb3 Na5 10. Bxf7 Kf8 11. Qa3 Kxf7 12. Qxa5 Ne7 13. g3 Nc6 14. Qd5 Be6 15. Qb5 Bh3 16. Rf2 Qd7 17. gxf4 gxf4 18. Bxf4 Kg8 19. Nbd2 Rf8 20. Bg3 Rh7 21. Re1 Bh8 22. Qc4 Rhf7 23. Nh4 Ne7 24. Rxf7 Rxf7 25. Ng2 c6 26. Rf1 d5 27. exd5 Nxd5 28. Rxf7 Qxf7 29. Nf4 Bf5 30. Nxd5 cxd5 31. Qc7 Qxc7 32. Bxc7 Bf6 33. Bf4 h5 34. Kf2 Kf7 35. Ke3 Ke6 36. a3 b5 37. Bh6 a5 38. Nb3 a4 39. Nc5 Kf7 40. Nd3 Kg6 41. Bf4 Kf7 42. Nb4 Be6 43. Na6 Bd7 44. Nc5 Bc8 45. Kf3 Kg6 46. Nd3 Kf5 47. Bh6 Be6 48. Nf4 Bf7 49. Ng2 Be7 50. Bf4 Ke6 51. Be3 Bd6 52. h4 Bg6 53. Nf4 1/2-1/2
The type of position in the exchange-variation of the Spanish is totally different from the tactical positions of the kingsgambit. Yet I do believe Gorik made the right decision to make this switch. With the ever stronger playing engines it becomes harder and harder to play successfully gambits on the long term. Besides it is also more difficult to show the same tactical alertness than we were 20 years younger. By the way I read that the writer of the recently published book on the Kingsgambit, John Shaw made exactly the same switch in his repertoire. It looks indeed sensible to realize that we stay not forever young and our identity slowly evolves over the years.


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