Monday, November 7, 2016

Strange material imbalances part 2

End of last year I bought my very first chess-clock at de denksportkampioen. Ben advised me the DGT North American which should be good price-quality. From somebody playing chess more than 20 years this probably sounds a bit weird but contrary to America all tournaments here provide chess-material for the players. Besides till a couple of years ago I didn't even possess a chessboard because I prefer to make my analysis directly on the computer. Not only the computer is a strong partner to analyze but it is also very easy to save the work in a database.

I bought the chess-clock because my son wanted to try to win a "real" game against his father. To give him a real chance and at the same time make the games also attractive for me, a handicap was introduced. At the beginning we had to explore which handicap would be optimal. Eventually we discovered that the handicap of 1 minute against 20 minutes for my son and an additional 23 points extra (one pawn = 1 point) for him, produced the best challenge.

These handicap-games allowed me during last year also to measure clearly his progress. Each time he won with a handicap, the handicap dropped with a point. If he lost then the handicap increased again with a point. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to experience that I couldn't get more than a draw with a handicap of only 4 points. My son made little progress last year in his step-books but it seems just by playing you can also learn a lot.

The handicap-games also let me appreciate again the power of the pawns. Especially when your son removes 4 center pawns then you quickly notice how hard it is to create something useful with the remaining pieces. The French chess-pioneer Philidor knew already that the pawns are the soul in chess. This quote dates from 1749 but is still applicable today. A modern brilliant application of this can be seen in one of Kramnik most recent games at the chess-Olympiad of Baku. This game brought Kramnik individual gold at board 2 and a personal record-rating of 2817 at the age of 41.

The final position of the game shows a strange material imbalance. Black is a rook up but is helpless. 

We don't often meet positions on the board in which a piece has to fight against an army of pawns. Probably the unpredictability plays a role hereby. Chessplayers don't like to play volunteerly a position which is alien and very hard to evaluate correctly. This maybe explains why my opponent Ian Vandelacluze in the 3rd round of Open Gent avoided on purpose such type of position with an objectively inferior move.

We are no engines which can play correctly such strange material imbalances so I do understand why my opponent found it too risky. By the way in the game he achieved comfortably a draw with his inferior played move although profiting from my time-trouble.

Many puzzles exist in which one color has a mass of pawns and the other not. However there exists a big difference with the rare positions from standard games. For each puzzle there is always a clear solution. In practice such solution is often not available. I very much prefer this open end which permits fascinating analysis.

Brabo

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