Monday, August 3, 2015


They still exist, players not using any engine/ computer. At the Open of Gent an FM even told me that he is such dinosaur. The kind is slowly extinguishing as any young ambitious player works nowadays with Chessbase. I even noted on the site of go for grandmaster that special courses were given to learn how to work with Chessbase.

Most players know in the meanwhile how to ask an engine what the best move-sequence is in a position. You put the engine in "infinite analysis" mode (you can use for this the shortcut ALT+F2) and each time an evaluation becomes more or less stable you press the spacebar. Automatically this command selects and plays on the board the first choice of the engine. "Let's check" which I talked about in my article interfaces, also uses the first choice of the engine.

Pressing the spacebar isn't only extremely simple but also very quick and efficient. In an open tournament there is often very little time to prepare but thanks to the spacebar you can check quite a number of critical lines. Today we see regularly the use of the new term spacebarring by the new generation of players as e.g. in the chessbase article: You've just been spacebarred. The strongest engines are today playing hundreds of points better than the world-champion so it logical to use this during the preparations in a legal way to your advantage.

This sounds very nice but once playing a (much) higher level we start to notice that our opponent finds exactly the same critical moves which just neutralizes our study-advantage. Of course the opponent also has a computer and possess the same top-engines. To out-prepare such player we need to make an extra effort by using once in a while not the spacebar. I explain by using an example which I developed a few months ago for my game against the Russian grandmaster Vyacheslav Ikonnikov.

In my article surprises I wrote that I checked his 400 games played with black after 1.e4. This means I also looked at his recent games of 2014 against Alexander Seyb and of 2012 against Yuri Solodovnichenko despite it only concerned his back-up system for the Kalashnikov.

It is a very modern line which became mainly popular by the efforts of the American top-grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. In the meanwhile we see many strong players following this new fashion in the French. Even the young Belgian FM Thibaut Maenhout won a nice little game with this opening in the past Belgian interclubs.

First thing which I do when preparing a system to which I am unfamiliar with, is to check what correspondence-chess tells us (see my article using databases).  Often the most difficult questions are solved by those games. Naturally we shouldn't forget to look at the slightly weaker alternatives for which our spacebar is very useful. The result below is not bad at all.

Even if the opponent has made a perfect homework then still you have an endgame which is slightly better for white but likely defensible with some accurate play by black. I assume most players will be satisfied with such result against a 200 points higher rated opponent. Well naturally this is sufficient to achieve a good result but I prefer to search still something extra. Wouldn't it be fantastic to find a concept which can't be discovered by spacebarring, which never was tried before and forces the opponent to find a long string of very difficult engine-moves?

The opponent believes he will obtain a draw via a slightly inferior but tenable endgame but instead finds himself in a minefield in which 1 sub-optimal move immediately means a disadvantage/ loss. Objectively Qf4 isn't better than Rb8 as it only leads to full equality. However without serious study the idea is in practical chess much more dangerous.

World-class players use this technique continuously as can be seen in e.g. my articles iccf or harakiri. However using twice the same idea is often senseless unless you play for a draw with white against a stronger opponent. Such deploring behavior we last saw in the game Samuel L Shankland - Peter Leko.

Recently in the penultimate round of Open Gent I had a dilemma for my game-preparation against Bart Michiels. Should I play the very sharp line of Burak Firat which I published in detail in the article switching colors part 2 and of which the mainline ends in a perpetual check or should I play something else with unclear complications? What if Bart read my article, still remembers the mainline, approved the analysis and decides not to avoid the draw because it is too risky. I am just an amateur trying to implement in each game something scientific so I considered it rather silly to miss a chance playing a real game with a grandmaster. As a consequence I decided to play something different and of course I lost once again. Well the loss wasn't so obligatory but that is something for another article.


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