Monday, February 20, 2017

Anonymous

Apple, google, microsoft, coca cola,.... are brands very well known. However we often don't realize that our own name is also a brand. We all get a label even if we don't like it. The internet plays an important role to make or break somebodies reputation. All what has been written about us, is stored for a very long time. Inevitable this info is used whether appropriate or not.

Once I was asked at a solicitation for a non chess related job which chess-opening I prefer the most. This happened many years ago when I hadn't started yet with this blog. The question surprised me as I had nothing mentioned about chess in my CV neither did I bring it up during the interview. A HR-recruiter once told me not to talk about chess as I spend too much time at it which is a clear weakness. A player spending lots of time at chess activities and not (much) interested to do extra time after the working hours is less interesting to hire.

The internet had of course exposed me as you can google my name and discover I played many tournaments. On the other hand I doubt this piece of information was critical in the selection process. Besides I do expect there are also employers interested in the qualities of a strong chess-player (FM, IM, GM) to use in their company. Naturally it depends a lot of the type of branch but it is not a coincidence that a lot of big brands offer sponsor-contracts to top-sportsmen.

It is evident that a chess-title has most value in the chess world. Strong chess players are a magnet for other players (read paying customers) so many chess-organisations offer a free membership to those strong players. At chess.com you can get free diamond-membership at this link if you have a fide-title. At ICC you only get a free account if you have the IM title and I guess the same rule is also applicable at Playchess. An additional condition for the free account is of course that you relinquish your anonymity. You can't attract players as titled player if your identity can't be verified.

Personally I always get an extra kick when I beat a titled player. Last couple of years I played against grandmasters Gennadi Sosonko, Max Illingworth, Imre Balog, Dmitry Kokarev, Mohmamed Haddouche, John Shaw, Lev Gutman, Viktor Gavrikov.... at playchess. There is a creepy anecdote attached to the last person as 2 months after we played a couple of games, the grandmaster passed away (see chessbase). 1 of the 2 games I managed to win but I needed a lot of luck see below game.

The nice thing about Playchess is that all my games are automatically stored in a database which I can consult with a few simple clicks while studying openings. However it is not the only advantage of the database. Sometimes it is also useful to prepare a game. Some online players you meet in real life. In 2014 I played a short match against Littlefinger. The last game I lost in the Rauzer.

If you consult the profile of Littlefinger at Playchess then you discover the name Frederic Decoster which I remembered when I had to play against him in Open Leuven. To prepare for the game I repeated some of the lines in the Rauzer to win some precious time at the clock. Unfortunately I wasn't able to fully capitalize due to a lack of time in the morning.

Playing online with an open profile makes yourself more vulnerable at standard play. Therefore many top-players have beside an official account also secret accounts. There exists a funny anecdote of Kasparov and Svidler playing blitz online to prepare for their mutual blitz-match but initially both not aware that they chose each other as sparring partner see chessclub.

In my article password I asked for more publications of games to promote chess. On the other hand I do think it is better to choose for anonymity while playing online. The games are (almost) exclusively blitz or bullet so have very little or no value. Besides the number of games can quickly grow to enormous figures which would give future opponents an in-depth view of your repertoire. Today my personal database almost counts 60.000 online games so covering almost any independent line of my repertoire which has some importance.

Brabo

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Experience part 2

Somebody having followed lately a bit the super-tournaments, knows that currently the American top-grandmaster Wesley So is hot. He is today undefeated for 56 games against serious opposition. He won during the last half year Sinquefield CupLondon Chess Classicachieved gold with America at the olympiad and now also won Tata Steel Chess Tournament one point ahead of the reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen. At 2822 he is virtually the second highest rated person on earth (see 2700chess). Magnus has the first place since July 2011 but this can soon change.

His success didn't arrive just out of the blue. Wesley talks in an interview at Chessbase that he hasn't used the internet for a year except to check some important mails. He neither has a cell-phone to avoid any distraction. I joked at schaaksite that strong players don't waste their time at discussions but Wesley is very serious. He is a model-example of hyper-professionalism.

Despite this extreme dedication to chess we still detect gaps in his knowledge of openings. Wesley won a marvelous game in the 5th round against the Indian top-grandmaster Pentala Harikrisha but Chessbase later noticed that everything till move 14 was already played earlier in the high-class game Vladimir Kramnik - Ian Nepomniachti played at Dortmund in 2015. It is very weird that Wesley used 64 minutes to get to the position at move 14.

Earlier I wrote on this blog an article about camouflage but spending 64 minutes to hide your knowledge of an opening is definitely nonsense. Besides Wesley afterwards also admitted that he didn't remember Kramniks game. The anecdote once more confirms what I wrote in an article of 2014 that it is incredibly hard to create and maintain a repertoire up to date.

This problem is of course less critical for an amateur. Openings have a rather modest influence upon the final result of a game (see e.g. to study chess-openings). On the other hand I am still ambitious and I want always to insert something scientific in my games. Therefore I don't want to close my eyes for the opening-problems which I encounter.

Only recently I realized the full magnitude of my problems. In my article studying openings part 2 I explain how I study since a couple of years much more thoroughly the openings. If we have a look at the figures then things will become more clear.

Only checking my games of Open Leuven I noticed that I was out of book in 4 of the 7 games in a position which still pops up in more than 100 master-games of the mega-database. That is the opposite of what my persisting reputation as dangerous theoretician stands for. After my most recent interclub-round my opponent Joris Verhelst defended his non-standard opening-choice by stating that he heard of my enormous opening-knowledge. Well let us have a look at what I played at move 17 in my game of the 5th round in Open Leuven against Tom Barbe.
Out of book in a position which still pops up in more than 100 master-games.


Tom played a fantastic tournament (see final standings) and also in our game he showed that he was playing well by optimally taking advantage of my limited knowledge of the opening. Initially I was not happy about the draw as this heavily decreased my chances of winning the tournament. Later I realized that I couldn't really have hoped for more in the final position.

Despite playing a very limited repertoire I haven't met this line anymore in the last 10 years in a standard game. It is recurrent problem which I link to a lack of experience. The Belgium IM Stefan Docx already advised me to play (much) more if I want to grow as a chess-player. I also realize that playing averagely 23 games each year (see previous article) is way not enough.

In the end it is a matter of setting priorities. Chess is very important for me but I don't want to sacrifice everything for it so I deliberately made the decision to reduce my chess-activities 10 years ago. Contrary to many contemporaries whom stopped playing chess, I learned to accept my limited knowledge of openings. Besides as HK5000 once told me, from each game played you still learn something. On the other hand theory is evolving so quickly that I get the feeling that my pace only gets me further behind. For the time being I don't see a visible improvement with my renewed method of studying openings. Maybe the (nearby) future will improve things especially if my son Hugo will start to enjoy playing serious tournaments.

Brabo