Friday, October 30, 2015

A blessing in disguise

Mistakes exist in all sorts of formats and sizes: small, big, technical, time and fatigue related ones or just silly mistakes. Except a few games we will make in each game mistakes as I demonstrated already in the previous article. To detect mistakes I use extensively my computer but there are of course different methods. A good port-mortem with the opponent can be very enlightening but also a session with a coach and/or stronger player can be educative. Finally if you are sufficient self-critical then it must be possible to find independently already some errors.

By discovering mistakes we realize that some things were missed during the game. The number of mistakes and so also the number of things missed directly correlate with the result of the game. This iron logic explains why many players don't accept luck being part of our game.

However this theory becomes shaky when there exist positions in which we increase our winning chances by missing something. Blundering a piece can never be a good thing, right? Well as you can imagine also here there are exceptions. We start with a recent example from our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen.

On Magnus admitted that he was incredibly lucky not to lose after missing Qb7. I still remember from my practice one such oddity of a blessing in disguise.

I completely missed the fork after capturing the c6 pawn but I was thrilled to discover that I got tremendous compensation. I assume my opponent was also surprised by the developments as how else can we explain his meltdown which followed.

Last in the past Open Gent I experienced again such peculiarity but this time I was the victim. Hereby I do have to applaud for the behavior of my opponent Bart Michiels as without his confession I would've never known luck played a role. I expect few players would admit that their winning move was actually based on blundering a piece.

Well it is not pleasant of course to lose your chances of making a top-ranking this way. On the other hand you do realize on such moments that professional chess must be very tough. True such extreme hiccups are fortunately very rare. Anyway I don't recommend anybody to give away pieces and assume some hidden win will pop up later or you could be very disappointed.


Friday, October 23, 2015


The news-articles which every day brings are maybe not that topnotch as in the days of its predecessor chessvibes (as HK5000 earlier wrote in the article computerchess), the new blogs on which I got to know, surely largely compensate. On everybody can start its own blog which means a lot of garbage must be disregarded before finding the goodies. A nice selection is the one proposed by : recent top-articles. If you still have some extra spare time then I recommend to follow also the blog of the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon

The added value of the blogarticles for shouldn't be underestimated. A well written article can easily achieve 10.000 views. I consider this a lot for an article not covering a running top-tournament although I immediately have to admit that reading good blogs can be pretty addictive. Besides if you know a good chess-blog which I didn't earlier refer to then you can definitely do me a favor by writing it down below in a reaction.

The subjects treated on are very diverse so everybody will find something interesting. There are educational articles (with e.g the famous trainers IM Silman and Bruce Pandolfini), historical articles (the house-specialist is without doubt Batgirl), thematic articles, stories and even cartoons (only Jose Diaz).   Staff-member Pete has a reputation of publishing regularly posts creating controversy. Recently he challenged the reader to criticize the choice of the jury, having awarded a beauty-price out of a huge amount of submitted copies of games played in Millionaire chess open at Las Vegas. The beauty-price has the value of an entry-ticket to next's edition which isn't small if you notice the amounts payed by players for this year's edition.

As the winner contained a huge number of mistakes, many readers were disappointed. White already blunders early in the game his queen but fights back and even wins eventually the game. It is this fighting spirit which mainly pleased the jury. However in a reaction this so called fighting spirit was minimized as white only continued the game to avoid his game being published in some magazine as a miniature. On the other hand perfect play isn't the equivalence of beauty. I played in 19 of my last 100 games without any mistake (if we consider the standard explained in my article annotations)  and none of them can be considered special. I win often games punishing the mistakes of my opponents by simple technical means. I also have a couple of perfect drawn games in which both sides played super cautious and after exchanging most pieces achieved a dry endgame. The couple of short draws neither convince and the few games which do look bright are almost completely based on thorough preparations as in the recent game below.

The novelty arrived at move 28. By the way this is an improvement of my old record covered in my article copycats. Besides I already had seen the novelty at home on my computer and the rest of the game isn't that difficult. No I prefer watching a game with mistakes if this is within certain boundaries of course. Personally I think blundering a queen is too much but which mistakes are acceptable? Let us first have a look of which kind of mistakes exist. I consider 3 categories of mistakes: technical mistakes (linked to the strength of the player), forced errors (mistakes made in time-trouble, fatigue so avoidable in normal circumstances) and concentration mistakes (inexplicable blunders). It is interesting to find out which mistakes are occurring most frequently. For this I again use my personal database (as done before in my article to study openings). Contrary to a commercial database, my games are analyzed and on top also contain lots of background-information about e.g. time-consumption,.. To execute the work in a couple of hours, I only processed my most recent 100 played games.
Chessmistakes details last 100 games played by Brabo
Chessmistakes overview last 100 games played by Brabo
Despite the small-scale study I believe we do see some clear trends. My rating was more or less stable over the 100 games and I played a very evenly spread of player's strength.
1) Concentration mistakes are rare for experienced clubplayers and can't be linked to a rating. Remember my article grandmasternorm for stefan docx in which a double concentration blunder of Stefan was shown.
2) I don't make a distinction between the magnitude of the mistakes but it is not at all a surprise that the number of technical mistakes declines when the rating of a player increases.
3) It is neither a surprise that I commit more technical mistakes against higher rated players as the problems become more complex to be solved. An exception is  the lowest rating-slice which probably can be explained as the result of  playing regularly a sub-optimal move to avoid any complex position. I also want to remark that the actual methods to detect cheating insufficiently take this aspect into account.
4) Maybe the most stunning is the drastic increase of the forced errors in the highest rating-slice for both sides. In this slice my opponent is higher rated so more willing to take risks contrary to my more careful approach against lower rated players. An other explanation is that the problems which need to be solved in the highest rating-slice anyway take more time.

I don't doubt that the number of mistakes also largely depends on the type of player. However I would be surprised if no similar trends can be discovered. If we connect beauty at quality and combativeness then we first need to look at the games between top-players. However the definition of beauty isn't the same for everybody as different accents can be added. So I do understand that a sensational turnaround can be so wonderful that mistakes are just considered as beauty marks.


Friday, October 16, 2015

To disarm

The new generation of young players possess today a wide range of tools to improve of which I could only dream about in my starting years. Live broadcasts with comments from grandmasters, countless high quality books, extremely strong engines, online training-facilities... it is for everybody affordable with a minimum budget.

The negative side of the big stream of information is that it became even for top grandmasters impossible to keep track of everything. So you need to filter but how and what depends of a lot of factors. The entertainment value should not be neglected but more relevant is of course the educative part. In the past the rule was first to work on the weak points as that is where the most progression is possible. Today however there are increasingly doubts about this old rule. Something you do good is often also something you like to do. As a consequence it often takes much less time and effort to work on the strong points. Eventually some recent studies proofed a considerable gain in profit by working on the strong points instead of the weak points. A book about the Kings gambit will be very easy to read through for an attacking player and will surely show quickly dividends in practice.  However forcing the same attacking player to read a book about the Dutch stonewall could be even damaging the results.

So it is not all bad to specialize to some extend in chess. Nonetheless I won't deny there are dangers too. Playing the man is something which you need to take into account especially when the opponent knows your strong points. The success largely depends how successful you can avoid the disarmament of your strong points. A clash of different styles often caused lively discussions in our rich history of chess. We all remember how Botvinnik lost his fist match against Tal but was able to reverse the tables in the returnmatch. We don't even need to go back in time or look to the very strongest players to witness such interesting duels. I noticed end of last year a game played at the Antwerp Liga between Marcel Van Herck and Robert Schuermans in which Marcel outfoxed Robert by simplifying the position and win soberly the endgame.

I couldn't stop smiling when Robert took a week later already revenge again with the black colour. This time Marcel didn't manage to neutralize the chaos.

Robert is for everybody extremely dangerous if he can obtain his favorite type of attacking chess on the board. I also once lost by not finding the right answers in the complications created by Robert or maybe the reader still remembers my article how to win from a stronger player.

From my own practice I remember a recent special case of successful disarmament. A couple of months ago I managed to draw in Open Gent against the surprising tournament-winner, the Russian grandmaster Alexei Gavrilov, while the biggest part of the game I was a pawn down and temporarily even 2. In my preparations I had noticed that my opponent was very dangerous once he had the initiative by employing tactics which is in below example nicely demonstrated.

In our mutual game I didn't hesitate sacrificing a pawn to avoid the positions in which he excells. I even sacrificed a second one when new threats were popping up.

The positional pawn-sacrifices are maybe objectively not completely correct but in practice it worked. My opponent was very disappointed after the game about the result but I don't think that I didn't merit a half point.

How successful you disarm somebody, influences without a doubt heavily the final result. If you don't succeed to neutralize somebodies strong points several times on a row then there exists the danger of creating an angstgegner or also called black beast. It explains a.f.a.i.k partly why some players have mutual scores which strongly deviate from the prognoses made by elo.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

The sequence part 2

The most unique and beautiful about chess is for me the mix of players. I can't imagine immediately another widespread sport or discipline in which age, origin, character, education is so irrelevant. Despite this enormous variety we see each player quickly using familiar patterns which transpose into following routines.

Of course it is absolutely normal to repeat something which has proven its virtue. This not only concerns openingchoices but also style, tempo and even the opponents we want to play against. Routines give us support in the chaos of our complex chessgame but it also is often the reason why players don't progress further anymore.

Very few players are capable to criticize themselves and subsequently leave their comfort-zone. It is not easy at all to try something new and again lose some games to gain experience. A personal coach can not only support with chess related stuff but often can also mentally play an important role. However as mentioned in my previous article a coach is only affordable for a handful (advanced) players.

I have to admit that I also like to follow my routines which I have polished over the years. Playing the same openings for more than 20 years, doesn't show much courage of course. My excuse of the scientific approach naturally doesn't explain everything. On the other hand it is often also very hard to know which direction you need to go if you learn chess by self-tuition. The statistics of this blog often show some crazy searches like recently "how can I always win in chess" which just displays how desperate some people are.

The lack of an instant answer for many questions creates a lot of insecurity. However at the same time this leaves us a choice how to proceed which in itself is an interesting domain of psychology. I played last couple of months 2 games in which some very tough decisions were made. In both games my opponents deviated very likely unconsciously from the standard sequence in the opening so I had to choose between transposing back to the mainline or playing unprepared some interesting deviation.

At contrary to the examples of my earlier article about the sequence it was not at all evident which choice was this time the most optimal one. I don't think it would've made here a decisive impact on the result because of the ratingdifference but it does become much more delicate when the ratings of both players are much closer like in the next example. My young opponent Ian Vandelacluze earlier in the tournament made a draw against GM Alexander Dgebuadze and FM Jelle Sarrau so I was warned.

Ian played the opening in just a couple of minutes while I spent loads of time to discover the differences in evaluation with the different sequence. Only at home after making some extensive analysis with my computer I was able to define 1 moment in the game in which I should've not transposed to the mainline. The attraction of familiar positions proofed to be too big for me. I expect most players would make the same choice as I but I am sure there are also players loving fresh unknown positions which permit more creativity. Despite I won both games, it is absolutely unclear to me what is the best strategy. If you experienced something similar already then let me know the choice you made in a reaction below this article.