Friday, January 27, 2017

Self Forks

Children grow up fast. Last month I bought already the 3rd bike for both my children. Funny I never bought a new bike for myself. Today I use the city-bike of my late mother and before I biked 20 years on the dismissed one of my dad. Despite lacking luxury I always liked to bike a lot. From the moment it becomes warmer, I bike every day to my work which is there and back nevertheless more than an hour/ 22 km biking.

20 years younger I even used such city-bike to do quite some distances. I remember that I more than once biked from Roeselare to Bruges and back which is nonetheless 70km. In Bruges I visited the chessclub still located in the center (Beenhouwerstraat ?). It was the first time that I met a still very young Steven Geirnaert following lessons given by Walter Kardinaal. Next I also almost always visited the problemist Sylvain Kellner at that time still living in the center of Bruges. I composed some problems myself (see e.g chesscompositions) and he always had something interesting to share.

I wrote for many years every month to Sylvain via the ladder match in the column for problemists published at the clubmagazine of Bruges. Unfortunately I lost contact with him. First he moved out of Bruges to the nearby village Assebroek but we stopped corresponding after the board of the club of Bruges decided to forbid non-club members to take a subscription at their club-magazine. In the meanwhile I already was playing for Deurne so some people found it inappropriate that a competitor for their first team could read their club-magazine. Briefly this was a kind of password avant la lettre (see this blogarticle).

I don't know if Sylvain is still alive as I guess he must be otherwise already above 90 years old (somebody knows something more?) but I remember the most his impressive collections of peculiar problems. He called it  his rariteitenkabinet (collection of curiosities). I suspect some of the problems published on this blog like Excelsior can be found in his collection too.

Today I play almost exclusively standard chess but I never lost my interest for curiosities. Last I encountered a very strange theme self-forks in one of my games. My opponent Frederic Decoster (playing coincidentally for Bruges) produced a fantastic idea in our game played at Leuven attracting a number of kibitzers around our board.

It is pity that this well played game was destroyed at the end by both players running out of time otherwise this self-fork would have got more attention.

After the game I looked for similar examples from standard practice. I learned there exists different types of self-forks. Frederics is one in which you provoke the fork but it also possible that you put the pieces yourself in a fork. Some readers will for sure recognize the high-level game below played a few years ago.

Less known but definitely as cute is the game played at pokerstars isle of man international chesstournament 2015. Here there was no preparation/ opening-knowledge at all involved.

A wonderful collection of all kind of self-forks from standard games can be found on the site I fork myself, or let the the fork happen.

All examples in this article are about a pawn giving a useless fork. Now I wonder if this is also possible with other pieces. Likely except knights we have to call it rather double attacks instead of forks.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hyper Modern French

Last year my son collected a number of prizes. Especially money he likes as he was able to buy 2 boxes of lego, a trendy step, 2 footballs,... Briefly although he earned the money by playing chess, nothing is invested to improve his chess capabilities. Therefore he was quite disappointed to find out that he got a voucher to spend at chessconsult when he won the Antwerp championship for the category of -8. Fortunately I knew how to cheer him up as I exchanged the voucher with my cash and used the voucher myself to buy 2 new books: Nadorf x Najdorf and Timman's Titans both published in 2016.

In the meanwhile I finished Najdorfs book. We all know the opening but the person Najdorf is after this death (1997) already largely forgotten. This book tries to bring him out of the oblivion and I think they managed this quite well. The books reads very smoothly and also the selected games are well analyzed. Especially the countless anecdotes make this book a real joy. One is about why Najdorf didn't play his own opening anymore in his later years. There is nothing wrong with the opening but he didn't like to fight against the much better opening-knowledge of many youngsters while his strength mainly positioned around technique and creativity.

Some will state the same about the Modern French. The theory exploded in this opening due to its enormous popularity. I got it 5 times on the board in standard-games about which I wrote in my articles (see e.g. the modern french, the modern french part 2, switching colors part 2, ...). That is really a lot if you take into account that I only play approximately 15 standard games each year. Also today several systems are discovered which allow white to put pressure. An idea which I prepared for a next encounter, was introduced a few months ago accidentally by the strong Dutch grandmaster Benjamin Bok.

Not surprisingly we see more and more players looking for new ideas in the French opening. The 20 years old strong German grandmaster Matthias Bluebaum is for sure a pioneer in this area. More and more he likes to play with the sequence of moves to sidestep the preparation of his opponents. His influence upon the hyper-modern French opening in which Nc6 is delayed or even sometimes cancelled, should not be underestimated. His fresh strategical ideas gave this hyper-modern approach a serious boost. Even some super grandmasters have noticed this and gave it a shot. This year the Indian top-grandmaster Pentala Harikrisha scored a sensational victory in Altibox Norway Chess with this line.

Forewarned is forearmed but I shamefully had to admit in the last Open Leuven that I didn't understand anything about the opening. Besides I was totally surprised that the 47 years old Jan Rogiers had such hyper modern opening in his repertoire. That explains of course why I quickly got into troubles in our game and only an incredible counterattack avoided a big rating-upset.

My analysis causes doubts about the full correctness of this hyper-modern system but I expect we will still see new developments. Besides those rich strategical positions are excellent to play for a win with both colors. A noteworthy statistic is that all my 6 standard-games in this opening had decisive results while always respecting the rating-logic.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Familychess part 2

Almost everybody frees some time around new year to visit their family. It is a very hyped period in which everything is about fortune and happiness but the reality is rather different. The preparation of the festivities is often creating a lot of stress and some family-members which you fortunately only meet once per year, still manage every time to irritate you. You can choose your friends but it is much harder to ignore family.

I am not going to complain here about my family. Especially my relation with my parents-in-law is very good. If they are visiting us in Belgium for a month during the summer or we visit them in Ufa as last 2 weeks, I am always surprised by their endless patience and concern about us. They clearly put their children and grandchildren in front of their own interests. I don't know if this is something typical for Russians but this is for sure not granted in Belgium.

Anyway despite good relations it is hard to have a conversation going beyond some chit-chat with the family. Most of us have very different interests. One likes very much football while the other doesn't care at all who won last the Champions League. A big exception are the foods and drinks which are normally abundantly available on any family-party. Also in Russia they know how to spoil their guests.  Of course parties have their own local characteristics. I noticed that the table always has to be overloaded by different dishes and drinks as you can see on below picture made at a visit of a cousin of my wife.
Last year we discovered an exceptional good restaurant and I had little trouble to convince my family-in-law to make a revisit. Afterwards I found out that Balkan Gril is according to tripadvisor at place 8 of best restaurants in Ufa. As a real bon vivant I enjoy such culinary excursions enormously. 
By the way you can find on youtube a funny clip about how the waiter serves the dish flambe.

So food and drinks play an important role at family-parties but it is of course more enjoyable if you have other things in common. Therefore I find it a good idea to try to find a hobby as parent which you can do together with the children. 4 years ago I teached my children the rules of chess (see cheating) and I am happy that today one of them still likes to play.

I find anything what my children do interesting but it is a bonus if you also like to do the same stuff. Besides my son very well realizes that he has a big advantage compared to the other children with a father able to help him any time with any problem (within the boundaries of fair play of course). Today we already see that he has a considerable lead with probably a temporarily biggest accomplishment of a first place in the final standings of the F-series of the last Flemish Youth-criterium.

Naturally I hope that we can play in the (nearby) future some tournaments together as some other families do in Belgium. On the other hand a confrontation at the board will definitely create some extra tension. I am not going to give presents as others do (see Familychess part 1) as I have to show the right example. On the other hand exchanging preparations or knowledge of openings will be obviously done extensively.

I also take this last element into account when I have to prepare against a descendant of a chess-family. In 2011 I played below game against Patrick Boons.

In the last Open Leuven I met at the board his brother Bert Boons. I didn't find many useful games of Bert in the database but still I won quite some time on the clock due to my rehearsal of my analysis made upon my game against Patrick.

Another well-known Belgian chess-family consisting of already 3 generations are Daniel, Arben and Bardyl Dardha. Also here we see an overlap between their repertoires especially of Arben and Daniel. In my recent game against Arben played in the interclub I followed for some time my preparation which was based on a game played by the son Daniel.

In my article openingchoices I already indicated that external elements heavily influence somebodies repertoire and this article just confirms this. That doesn't mean that family-members will automatically copy each others repertoire but you should take the possibility into account. Besides my son plays today very few systems which I also play. I did advise against the Dutch. Anyway my knowledge of most openings is more than sufficient to help him at the level he plays today.