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.

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.

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.

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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