Monday, December 26, 2016

The expert part 2

A few days ago I read another funny anecdote in the book Ivan's Chess Journey Unravelled. Ivan explains that he and his opponent the Latvian strong grandmaster Alexei Shirov got a standing ovation after that their game ended in a spectacular draw. The game was played in 1994 so before engines were strong enough to give accurate evaluations. That means nobody knew that the game was full of serious mistakes.

In those days chess was still magic. You had fans sheering for their heroes. Today an absolute world class-player like Wesley So has only a fanbase of just 3 members. Engines show us every day that everybody makes many mistakes so not much appreciation for talent still exists.

I am not fond of idealizing people but that doesn't mean that I can't sympathize with the results of others. Of course I do follow the first steps of my son in chess but I am also interested in the games of my team-mates and other friends. Besides kibitzing national or international games can be fun too.

Obviously some players are more attractive to follow than others. The rating plays naturally a role. I notice in each broadcast that the games of the reigning world-champion Magnus Carlsen are a magnet. Except the rating also somebodies style and theoretical knowledge are important for me. The strong British grandmaster Nigel Short is famous for this experiments with openings which we normally only see in games played at the club. The strong Ukrainian grandmaster Andrei Volokitin and the Greek grandmaster Vasilios Kotronias are interesting for me because of their refined opening repertoire.

Experts of openings which I play myself are good to follow and study. In my article switching colors part 2 I talked about the Turkish IM Burak Firat, meeting 17 times the same line on the board. However even better is to look at players above 2600 elo, selecting their opening-lines much more solidly and professionally. Anyway we already know that Botvinnik told Kasparov to learn an opening via studying the games of the best players.

Nowadays most players play a big variety of openings (which was covered in my article the list of strength) but there are still a few exceptions whom stick to a much more narrow repertoire. In this category belongs for sure former European champion and Russian grandmaster Vladimir Potkin. In the last 5 years he chose in 81 out of 104 games for the Sicilian after 1.e4. Further he answered 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 almost always (66 out of 69 games) with e6. Vladimir is a real expert in the Sicilian Taimanov as can be seen in the game below against the Russian super-grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi.

It is of course  not a coincidence that we see almost an identical copy of a game published in my article ambitions part 2.  After that game Benjamin confessed that he had studied the games of Vladimir.

On the other hand I noticed that Vladimir since 2015 switched to a6 again. I assume that he wasn't fully satisfied about the line and then even an expert will make some changes to his repertoire. Now he chooses the modern Negi concept as so many others. That line was earlier already covered in my article to shoot a mosquito with a canon.

Anyway I guess Vladimir had recently not much time to work on his own repertoire. During the candidate-finales as during the world-championship he assisted the challenger Sergei Karjakin with his preparations. A good worker for the openings is always useful but I assume Vladimir also influenced the opening-strategy of Sergei. We clearly see a difference between Magnus and Sergeis strategies
WC Strategy

The yellow moves tell us where Magnus deviated from earlier games in the championship. The blue moves are the ones of Sergei when he deviates. It is clear that Magnus is almost always the first one to do (10 - 4) and besides he does it very early. The Ukrainian super-grandmaster Ruslan Ponamariov wonders himself at Chessbase what Carlsen has shown us at the world-championship. Well maybe that it is possible to stay world-champion without going into big theoretical fights.

Finally we should not ignore the fact that Sergei came very close to get the title. Opening-experts are still playing an important role today for amateurs and finalists of a world-championship. Kasparovs tweet about the lack of preparation of Carlsen definitely contains some truth.


A nice article fitting to this theme is  Can You Still Specialize In An Opening?

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