Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jokes?

While reading the book H.E. Bird of Hans Renette I noticed not only that in the 19th century a lot of matches are organized but also many games are played offhand. At that time it was normal to visit a club and play an informal game against some random available player. This we don't see often anymore today. If you don't make any appointment with a player in advance then you risk not getting any game in a club. I often encountered that I left the club after a half hour to go back home as I wasn't able to find anybody free willing to play chess with me.

This sets the bar for newcomers of course a lot higher. I sometimes hear people getting rejected of a championship as the competition has already started. They need to wait for a couple of months to join any new competition. A sad consequence is that many drop out immediately after the introduction. Today we don't have enough fresh blood so this only accelerates the ageing of the club.

Likely the wide choice of tournaments explains the lack of interest in offhand games today. Most regular clubplayers don't want to play anything else than the tournaments and prefer to have a drink at the bar when they have finished their games. It is a pity as those offhand games are ideal to get softly introduced to our noble game. The score is not recorded and it allows you to experiment without needing to worry about the outcome. In offhand games it is not forbidden to talk or laugh during play at contrary as it often creates a positive ambiance.

On the other hand online there are still a lot of offhand games played. A distinction can be made between rated and unrated games but I don't consider this difference very important. An online rating has very little value as any serious controlling mechanism lacks. Personally I don't play tournaments online so you could argue that my online blitz are only offhand games. In any case I look at those games as fun so I sometimes just fool around with my opponents.
Mostly it are very weak opponents not resigning. Besides I recommended my son Hugo to continue playing till mate when he started in the youth-tournaments see resigning. Nowadays he has outgrown this phase as he does resign when he feels further resistance has become futile.

When a strong(er) player plays till mate then something is not ok. People need to respect their opponents and if they don't then they deserve to be teached a painful lesson.
I ignored on purpose many times mate in 1 to end the game by creating a series of queen-promotions. Honestly I would have preferred knight-promotions but this was too cumbersome. I didn't want to tire myself by first switching off the default setting of automatic queen-promotions and later after the game reset the toggle. A famous example of completely redundant knight-promotions is of course the online game between Crafty - Nakamura played in 2007.
Everybody loved it how the engine was ridiculed but such behavior against people does not get the same response. It is not because chess looks like a sadistic exam that we should behave like sadists. It is a grey zone of what can still be considered as a joke or what people feel as an insult. Besides accidentally the American grandmaster Gregory Serper wrote a couple of weeks ago an article at chess.com about all sorts of insults in chess. He strongly disapproves such offenses as it only harms chess.

Publicly we should for sure not get involved in such stupid jokes. You risk to get beaten by your angry opponent and not seldom such joke ends badly. The whole world laughed at Nakamura a couple of months ago when he was punished for his arrogance in Paris Grand Tour Chess when he promoted completely unnecessarily to a knight instead of a queen.
Last Stefan Docx asked me after finishing my 8th round game of Gent why the game lasted so long. At move 17 I was already an exchange and pawn up for which my 250 points lower rated opponent, had no compensation at all. Besides we both had still plenty of time on the clock as we only consumed a half hour. However even in such completely won situations, I stay focused. I will keep looking for the best moves and won't play faster nor play some silly moves. It is also one of the reasons when I almost never suffer of inexplicable mistakes often connected to not being fully concentrated see my article mistakes.
Initially I thought my opponent would resign after move 17 but I was not disturbed when he preferred to continue the suffering. However at the end things became really ugly as we still had each more than a quarter on the clock remaining. Also this wasn't the only thing which was not nice. Much worse was another bad joke my opponent applied during the game. However this is for a next article.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Evolution

The big news of last month was of course the comeback of Garry Kasparov. He played again a tournament for rating while his previous one dated from 2005. Well as a matter of fact it was only for rapid and blitz ratings which even didn't exist back in 2005.

Of course I was also curious about how Kasparov would fare. So I started to follow the broadcasting attentively. However my interest very quickly faded away from the event. The combination of the late starting-hour (they played in Saint Louis/ US), the many mistakes specific to the quick tempo (rapid/ blitz) and probably also the lack of excitement in the fight for the first place made that I only saw a limited number of games. Rapid/ blitz never really interested me (I still didn't play any fide rated game at that tempo) and the mimics of Kasparov see kasparov what went wrong didn't compensate for the tragic suffering of the once so feared monster of Bakoe.

In his best years this tournament would've been catastrophic for Kasparov. He wasn't satisfied himself with today the 13th place in the world for rapid and the 9th place in the world for blitz while he was used for many years to be the number 1. Afterwards there was a lot of debate about what went wrong. Probably his age 54 years old plays a role but much more important was his absurd time-consumption which doesn't have at all a link with age. A good explanation of why can be found in the article Why was Kasparov deep thinking? If you play regularly then you make some decisions automatically. However if you haven't played for a long time any competitions then this automatism has disappeared and you try to compensate that by extra calculations which burn precious time.

I already described those dangers in my article inactivity. You need to play a minimum of games to maintain the game-level. It is the reason why I subscribed for the maneblusserstornooi of Mechelen. The playing days and the tempo are not optimal but sometimes you need to make compromises. The club-championship of Deurne is this year even weaker than last year see the list of participants. It does not fulfill again my minimum-criteria (which many already consider very low).

On the other hand the hyped circus also generated unrealistic expectations of Kasparov. Besides despite some hard counter-proof still many believe elo inflation exists so people consider today's topplayers ready to be butchered by Kasparov. In other words it was very hard to get a proper preview of what the results would be also because his comeback was something very unique in the chess-world. After the tournament it all became much more clear. Now we understand much better which impossible mission Kasparov had started. If we look today objectively to his results then we should admit that he did in fact very well considering the exceptional conditions.

He demonstrated that he is still dangerous for any top-player and his opening-repertoire is still top-notch. In most games he got fine out of the opening with some strong modern chess. It seemed he never quit studying openings and he very well adapted himself to the most recent evolutions. Kasparov definitely didn't make the error to stick to some old likely obsolete analysis.

Last I experienced how dangerous it is to use some old theory which was even played in a world-championship. In 2006 I scored a nice victory in this line see the influence of world-championships at openings but it is again the Belgian IM Stefan Docx showing me that I still have a lot of work to do at my repertoire (see for earlier examples to Dutch steps in the English opening and grandmaster-norm for Stefan Docx).
I am for sure not the only player making sometimes this error. Besides here we see a clear difference of approach between young and older players. Young players build up their repertoire upon hyper-modern systems which are today considered critical. However older players often keep on playing what they learned in their youth and don't follow so much the latest trends. The 67 year old Robert Schuermans definitely fulfills above description of an older player. He likes to play old and long forgotten systems of Fischer, Karpov and other old grandmasters especially against young players. Not seldom he scores because these young players don't know the classics.

However in Open Brasschaat it went completely wrong against the 15 year old Sterre Dauwe rated 200 points lower. Robert had really bad luck this time. Sterre is one of my best students in KMSK and 2 weeks ago I showed at the onjk (where we met each other) my analysis of my game against Stefan Docx. It is really a coincidence that Robert played exactly this line so permitting Sterre to extract very easily an advantage from the opening.
In my articles old wine in new skins part 1 and part 2 I showed a couple of examples in which old openings were successful. However this new article demonstrates that when the surprise-element is missing, things become much more dangerous. Even copying something played in a world-championship analyzed before and afterwards by some of the best players, doesn't guarantee a good opening. Openings are evolving and today even quicker than before with the ever stronger becoming engines. Every top-player works very hard to keep track of all those evolutions and even add something extra to it themselves. Otherwise you are doomed to be horribly out-dated like probably most amateurs.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Royal forks

The summer-holidays are again behind us. For many it was a period to recharge the batteries and play little or no chess. Others contrary were (very active). Any news about them was shattered all over the web as there exists no general platform where the local news is published. It is a shame as some of our youngsters performed excellently and this deserved much more recognition. First there was the 10 year old Enrico Follesa playing for Temse and gaining in 1 month 276 elo which very likely is a Belgian record. It is definitely not a world-record as the Slovanian FM Jergus Pechac managed in april 2015 to gain 426 points in 1 month.

Another Belgian record got smashed by the 11 year old Daniel Dardha playing for Hoboken. He just won the -12 youth-championship of the European Chessfederation which took place in Czechia. This makes him the youngest FM ever in Belgium. Besides now that I am closely involved at youth-chess, I also learned that there are 3 different types of youth-championships of Europe in which standard chess is played. So 1 for the European chess-federation, 1 for the European Union which happened beginning of August in Austria and 1 for the European countries which started yesterday in Romania.

Those exceptional results of these very young players didn't happen by accident. Not only their own efforts play a role but at least as important are the selfless sacrifices of their parents. I really liked the beautiful tribute of Daniel on his facebook to his father. With their permission I copied it here.
Behind any youthchampion there is a sweating coach and supporting parent 
Few realize how big the efforts of the parents are to allow their children achieve that kind of success. If you just wait to get support from the club, federation then I fear this can take forever. In the article How much time do you spend at chess I already showed a glimpse of how I support my son. Last year I accompanied my son 25 full days and this year it will probably be double. This summer Hugo played his first big tournaments with some success. He won the Open Dutch champion -8 and made a very nice performance in the very enjoyable mastertournament of Bruges by which he was rewarded by a very nice first 1474 fide elo.

Of course it is a matter of setting priorities to spend 25 full days or more as parent to support your child to his activities. You can't demand something like that from anybody. Besides it is often very boring waiting. Some parents are staring for hours at the door where their child should pop up after having finished their game. A fantastic article about the sacrifices chess-parents make can be read here. For me it is easier as chess is my own biotope. Even during the Brugse meesters where very few other chess-parents were, I didn't have the feeling of getting bored at all.

More and more often I take my laptop to the tournaments to continue analyzing my own games. After the Open Gent I had 9 freshly played games at which I spent together approximately 1 month. Regularly people are surprised hearing how much time I spend at the analysis. What is the fun of all that or is there really so much to learn from a couple of games. Well I am not only looking at the evaluation of the moves. Sometimes I also discover some truly beautiful treasures. See example a fragment of my analysis of my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Boris Chatalbashev (the complete game was covered already in my previous article).
This is an unavoidable deflection of the king by a full queen-sacrifice followed up by a royal fork. I've been googling for some similar examples and it seems something quite unique. A very famous example of it are the missed chances in a worldchampionship-game between Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe played in 1937.
Not less famous is another example again from a worldchampionship-game but this time between Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky.
Tigran is probably the only player whom got it twice on the board see his game against Vladimir Simagin although there is a little difference here as the royal fork can be avoided by black.

At the collection-site of royal forks there are many other beautiful examples but except the ones already mentioned in this article none fully fulfill at all my strict conditions. Many are without a queen-sacrifice or are not pure as some material is captured while sacrificing. In others we don't see a deflection of the king. Finally there are also many were the royal fork was not forced and could be avoided however often leading to a quick mate.

Discovering these little cute things are what makes analyzing something I enjoy. For sure this relieves the task of the chess-parent as the waiting becomes much easier. In the meanwhile I have finished the analysis of all my games of Gent so it is time to play some games myself and to experience new adventures on the board.

Brabo