Friday, September 25, 2015

The wrong example

In quite a lot of Belgian chessclubs you can find teachers able to explain a number of steps of the steps method. Unfortunately it doesn't go beyond that. A more advanced coaching is only accessible for a handful of players, e.g. those getting a special invitation to join the project go for grandmaster. The majority and particularly adults are completely left alone after the steps method. 

Naturally top-players fulfill for those less fortune ones an unsolicited exemplary function. In my article fashion I already showed how a particular opening suddenly becomes very popular after a top-player started to insert it in his repertoire. If an opening holds against players of +2700 elo than it will certainly be against a much more modest level. That sounds pretty logical but it is too simplistic to believe that this will guarantee success. Every opening has its own characteristics and we don't have all the same style of playing chess.

So the danger exists that we play an opening for which we neither have the knowledge nor the skills. This aspect we also see in the middlegame. A top-player plays a risky concept but apparently wins with ease.

Subsequently the temptation increases to try also such kind of moves like g5 which are anti-positional. If a world-champion doesn't succeed to counter the aggression then somebody with much less talent will neither be able to do. Practice however shows often a very different picture.

Blacks position was already awkward so there were mitigating factors to go all in. Often the best move only delays defeat with a number of moves and there are no points to win with the number of moves. An objectively inferior move can sometimes create sufficient complications in such situations to change the course of the game. Here it failed and only a desperate endgame remains.

I often experienced to my shame that anti-positional moves like g5 are very risky. I still remember very well how I self-destructed a complex position against Geert Vanderstricht by playing twice on a row the extremely stupid g5.

G5 is a standard-move in the Dutch stonewall to initiate a kings-attack but in above example this was of course extremely optimistic. I can even add based on my decades of experience with the Dutch that g5 is always something delicate contrary to example the Kings Indian.

Replaying contemporary games of topplayers is definitely not the way to learn the basics of chess. In the article Knights On the Rim Are Amazing the Amercian grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky warns the reader that successfully breaking the rules fully depends on the strength of a player. Therefore it is surely not redundant to first understand and implement the basic principles. This can be much easier learned by grabbing a book which annotates the games of old masters like Capablanca, Rubinstein,....

Brabo

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Romantic chess

In modern chess top players don't hesitate to grab the opponent by the throat right from the start. Labels as immortal game or evergreen are again used to express our amazement for those brilliant contemporary games. Finally we experience again the atmosphere of the romantic 19th century. The origin of the evergreen can be found in the game Adolf Andersson - Jean Dufrese played in 1852.

Many decades the Evansgambit was one of the most popular openings but this popularity declined once Lasker found a good anti-dote largely removing the sting out of the attack. This anti-dote is even today still approved and played by the leading players as we saw end of last year in the London Classic.

Just like many other gambits from the romantic era it wasn't only the anti-dote which caused the decline. More and more playable setups were found for black which made white vulnerable for dangerous preparations. I like to play a setup with 6...exd4 instead of 6...d6 as shown in the game below from the passed Open Gent.

The ever strengthening engines neither help the gambits. In below recent correspondencegame Nigel Shorts 12.Nb5 introduced in 2003 is dismantled.

No I don't believe romantic chess will popularize again. It makes no sense to sacrifice material while the opponent can play an exact sequence of moves vaporizing the compensation. It is pity but don't cry as Anand stated: for every door the computers closed they have opened a new one.

Further I also want to point out that many gambits despite their theoretical status are still a dangerous practical weapon especially with the faster timecontrols. We are no computers so using the Evansgambit in the right circumstances (opponent/ tempo/ preparation) can still bring success. Finally I also agree with coaches trying to convince their students to try out for some time gambits. Romantic chess is an excellent school to learn abstract concepts like development and initiative. These are basic concepts which should be mastered first before studying more complex strategies discovered after the romantic era.

Brabo

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

G4 in the Najdorf

The internet is an enormous source of information which I daily consult. However we can't just trust everything as much is just rubbish. The American blogwriter Dana Mackenzie wrote a couple of months ago a funny post: " I love the past. Everyone in it is so stupid." with examples of written nonsense which later were refuted by the reality.

Correcting errors is something not always welcomed which unfortunately I many times already experienced. Because of those negative reactions I prefer to wait for others first to react. Only when I see no such thing happens then often I can't stand ignoring further and stick out my neck.

Some mistakes are real myths which you can't eradicate despite countless reactions. One of those myths is that former-worldchampions like Lasker, Capablanca, Aljechin, Fischer,... would easily dispatch our current top-players. Those champions were miles ahead of their contemporaries at there peak. Today we don't encounter anymore such extreme differences of level at the top. This created the perception that those players had something extra. I mean an unique talent which you only encounter a few times in a century and which no current top-player possess.

In my article elo inflation I already demonstrated that there is no proof on any inflation linked to playing-strength. This means the playing strength of our current top-players is higher than their predecessors validating their higher rating. In other words the quality of play of the former world-champions was rather weaker which shines a completely different light on their so called unparalleled talent.

On the other hand I fully agree that it is nonsense to make serious comparisons between players of different eras. The tools and knowledge grow continuously especially the last 2 decades due to the introduction of the computer. In this article I want to show how much the computer has influenced attacking chess at the highest level. As example I use the Najdorf in which white apparently  deploys a quiet setup. I start with a game from my own practice of which the concept was discovered in 1972.

So it took 14 years to discover g4 is interesting and another couple of years to shut down blacks setup for example by the knew world-champion Anatoly Karpov.

Before I start to compare with some recent standard games in the Najdorf, let us first have a look to a crazy idea from a computer-game played last year. G4 is also in this game played but in a postion in which white already castled short which makes a huge difference.

An engine of + 3000 elo doesn't manage to refute the concept. Top-players use daily these engines and are naturally influenced as we can see for example in the next pretty attacking game played at the Ukrainian championship of 2014.

An absolute height of modern attacking chess is achieved without doubt in the new evergreen Navara - Wojtaszek.

The difference with the first g4 game is enormous. Some decades ago a move like g4 was only played after years of contemplation. Such aggressive move was linked to a healthy development (castling long) + control of the center. Modern attacking chess goes much further and is very often based on some concrete lines which were analyzed in detail at home. By the way David Navara admitted after the game that he had looked at the position of move 25 still in his preparations.

This modern evolution isn't only seen in the Najdorf. Last month the American grandmaster Grigory Serper wrote a similar article about the Bogo-Indian: "How to attack in modern chess?". The Bogo-Indian has a reputation of a quiet positional opening but none of that remains if you look to some of the current high class games.

However I don't agree with the advise of the grandmaster. He recommends players to attack from the very first moves even if it is a positional opening. He ignores that all the successful attacks in the examples were played by + 2700 players which have an extraordinary base of skills and knowledge. I expect most players will simply lose a lot of points if they try to copy this behavior.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Surviving

My participation at a tournament never depends of the prizes. It is my hobby so the tempo, the expected opposition, location ... are more important to me. A professional will obviously look differently to this. Recently I read on the blog of Natalia Pogonina that for many professionals it becomes very difficult to cover the expenses.

An important reason would be the diminishing prizes of many tournaments. Is this true or fiction? I made a test by comparing the prizes of Open Gent in 1997 and  2015. The total prizes decreased from 7437 euro to 7125 euro. The first prize decreased from 1859 euro to 1800 euro. The CPI for Belgium (consumption-price-index or inflation) would be around 40 % in that period. Although these are official data, it is well known that this figure is rather optimistic by selecting only a bunch of products while the expenses of each family raised much more. E.g. I managed to sell my apartment in 2009 for approximately 100% higher of the buying price in 2000.

Besides the prizes also the growing number of grandmasters (already mentioned in my previous article) influences the income. In 1997 3 grandmasters participated at Open Gent. That is half less than recent years: 7 grandmasters in 20135 grandmasters in 2014 and 6 grandmasters in 2015. Even a modest total prizes of 3455 euro and a first prize of 800 euro attracted in Open Brasschaat already 4 grandmasters surprising the organizers. So not only the cake becomes smaller but it must also be split by more people. The era that a player like Bernard De Bruycker in the 70ties could make a living from chess in Spain as described in the book What is wrong mister Kasparov? is passed long ago and will surely not return.

I already talked about the negative consequences of this evolution on my blog see earlier articles: professional chess and quitting chess. However there is also something positive about this. First more (strong) amateurs get the opportunity to play against a grandmaster. Furthermore I also detect a much higher competitiveness between the top-players. A decade ago somebody like the Bulgarian grandmaster Boris Chatalbashev was an exception. While his colleagues easily played a few short draws in open tournaments, he was often the only professional playing each game till the end which I could see for myself in Plancoet 2004. Today he still uses the same strategy sometimes bringing him some big victories like recently in Maribor which hosted the Pirc Memorial.

Today Boris is not an exception anymore transforming many open tournaments being completely unpredictable. Very often it is only after the last round that the winner is known. In the last Open Gent we even saw 2 + 2600 players going home without any prize. In Brasschaat the victory was shared by the untitled Stefan Colijn. In Charleroi on the other hand we saw 5 winners despite a firework of deciding games. Eventually Alozyas Kveinys was proclaimed the tournament-winner thanks to a better coefficient although he lost in round 8. His game of a round earlier against Igor Naumkin is a good example of those gladiator-fights.

An interesting opening from white especially if you like to play the Dutch. In our mutual game of 2012 another variation popped up on the board (some fragment of that game was shown in the article sitzfleisch) but I did meet the specific line last interclubseason against Stijn Bertrem.

Due to the developments we also have to notice that including sofia rules became less relevant. I can imagine many grandmasters aren't happy to play in this surviving-mode. Some already decided to get a normal job besides just playing chess. Unfortunately this isn't always good for the results as Mher probably can confirm with the last Open Brasschaat.

Brabo