Tuesday, January 26, 2016


If players don't want to take risks then chess will quietly die. In our rich history of chess there were periods in which people feared for this doom-scenario. Fortunately today we see most topplayers show an incredible fighting spirit. Already with the very first moves these players play boldly and aggressively as I showed in my article g4 in the najdorf.

This beauty is of course frequently covered by chess-websites and in magazines. There probably exists no better propaganda for chess and it is at the same time a role-model for many amateurs. However as often there is also danger. Although still some people believe elo-inflation exists, I on the other hand am convinced that today's + 2700 players show the maximum level a human can achieve. It is extremely difficult to fully understand this and therefore it is also often underestimated. It looks all very simple if you look at their games with an engine  (I knew it).

Only at the board things look suddenly much more difficult even if it just concerns following the footsteps of the top-players. Last I witnessed how the French IM Jonathan Dourerassou choked on board 1 against our strong Jan. Jan isn't always following current events so was not aware about Wei Yi's 21st century immortal game. Of course Jonathan hoped to profit.

If the attack is not crashing through then you are simply material down. Still it doesn't seem to scare people of sacrificing in almost every game. I don't just mean gambits but also sacrificing material later to create practical attacking chances. It is often not fully correct but the opponent is put under pressure. A small gamble which always creates fun games and sometimes even a beauty-prize. Who doesn't dare, never wins. That was probably also what my opponent in round 5 of Open Leuven thought. By the way didn't I state in my article "how to win from a stronger player", creating chaos is a clever strategy?

Everybody can sacrifice material but it is not easy to justify this. I expect the number of failures is likely much higher than the amount of success-stories despite the perception created by the news. Even an extremely dangerous attacking player like the American IM Emory Tate who recently deceased, played 2 sorts of games, see the tale of two emory tates. Besides aging only makes things worse. You clearly can see how older attacking players lose quicker ratingpoints compared to equally older more positional players.

Of course there are situations in which a draw and/or rating are unimportant. I don't think we should criticize Anands exchange sacrifice in the 11th and also last game of the world-championship 2015. If you see an opportunity to rectify the matchscore with only 1 game remaining then you should try this.

A similar situation I recently encountered in my last round of Open Leuven. Of course Marc Lacrosse drew lessons from our previous game (see using databases) and therefore tried to surprise me. He succeeded which forced me already early in the game to take risks.

My pawn-sacrifice was too optimistic and you shouldn't give Marc such advantage. So I didn't have to wait anymore for the prize-givings. On the other hand Marc afterwards prolonged his success by achieving a second place in a Spanish tournament for -2300 players with a 2400 rating-performance.

Maybe the best standard for our material is the computer. Engines have become so strong that they can except a few rare cases tell us exactly how a sacrifice can be refuted. It is no coincidence that Nakamura lost against Komodo the only game without getting any material handicap and got instead 4 tempos.


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