Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Chess-links

At the start of this blog in February 2012, many were convinced this wouldn't last long. It is not so surprising as the span of a blog is averagely 100 days see e.g. scribblrs. Today people don't ask me anymore if I will still continue the blog but rather how much money I make with the blog. It is obvious that there is a readership and writing is something you only do if it also benefits yourself.

Astonishment and even incomprehension are common reactions when I respond that I don't earn anything with this blog. Somebody even joked by calling me an idiot. Nonetheless it is quite easy to get some revenues by adding a couple of advertisements to the blog. However I deliberately chose not to do so. I think this would only distract the readers and lower the overall quality of the blog. I want to show that chess is an incredible rich and interesting game via my blog. I believe that in the past years my many articles were a successful reflection of this view.

Apparently many readers agree as together with my Dutch main-site we have passed already some time ago the mark of 400.000 individual visits. If you know that the Flemish chess federation only has 3000 members than I think that this can be considered a success. In fact I am proud of this achievement. Today we have 300 articles all containing their own individual story. Besides as the blog is not another news-site, many of the articles are also timeless. Nowadays it happens often that I check one of my older articles myself just to refresh my knowledge of a subject.

Also when I correspond to other players I regularly use the blog by simply adding chess-links to specific articles. Before people told me sometimes that my answers are too tedious to read. By using chess-links I kill two birds with 1 stone. I don't lose time at chit-chat and at the same time I can share a lot of information with people really interested in the subject. Especially when you react at articles of others site this is very useful. You are not annoyed anymore by trolls.

However not every site likes to see such links. It is understandable as such links very often are undesirable with some very fishy content. The Captcha is not very popular but sometimes necessary to avoid being drowned into spam see e.g. the sleeping site of Alina L'Ami. Therefore some sites simply forbid all links. Without moderators it is often the only way to keep the site clean. Meanwhile even if there are moderators then still links are not always appreciated. After a couple of discussions with the very temperamentful Jacob Aagard which didn't go the way he wanted, he got angry. Eventually he decided to censor my comments see quality chess blog. As I was at that time a very active reader, it probably does explain for some part why we see today, 3 years later a clear drop of activity.

Recently I was also requested by Kees Schrijvers, the owner of schaaksite not to use links anymore in my reactions. He considered this spam. Even when I explained that all my links were always on-topic then still I got no permission anymore to use links. His argument was that my blog can be found via google. He didn't want to hear my counter-argument that it is often very difficult to find something in a blog when there are already 300 articles published. Just the other day one of my students told me that he got lost when searching something at my blog.

Meantime we are one month later and ever since I haven't made any new post despite I know quite some interesting additions to some of the newest articles. I am sorry for the readers using regularly my links at schaaksite to get more information about a topic (which is visible in the statistics of my blog). If the site-owner can not value properly my blog then it makes no sense to continue. It is rather clear that Kees does not have the time or does not want to spend time at investigating my blog.

Fortunately there are also positive sounds about this blog. Otherwise it would really be silly to continue this blog for so many years. I know at least 2 players that already picked up something of this blog to implement it successfully in their games. One example is an idea used by an expert of Bruges: Linton Donovan which I recommended in my article "tactics" published in January 2013.
The other example happened more recently. One of my students an expert of Mechelen, Deon Lee told me that he successfully used some analysis of the Fraser-defense in the Ponziani-opening see my article "computers achieve autonomy" published in July 2015.
Anyway this blog is of course much more than just a bunch of analysis of openings. In one of my classes I was really shocked to find out that my students never heard about tablebases never mind Lomonosov. At that moment I realized that a lot of stuff discussed on this blog is likely new for them and can help them to develop as player not only technically but also teach a few things about chess-culture. From then onwards I started to recommend them reading all the articles on this blog so even the very first ones. If you read 1 per day then in 1 year you have read all articles of this blog. What applies for my students, most likely is also valid for a much bigger audience. Call me arrogant but I think any ambitious (Flemish) +1800 player should be subscribed to this blog. It is nice to see that already several Flemish clubs have put a link on their site to this blog but I still welcome any extra publicity.

Brabo

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The butterfly-effect

A chessclub is for me the place to play chess. However not everybody seems to think like that as I often wonder why some people are showing up at all. Even in (big) tournaments I notice that some participants are barely interested in chess. They play their moves very quickly, hardly thinking about the consequences. They don't worry about the result. When I asked why then one of them responded that they mainly participate for the ambiance around the games. The socializing is often more important than chess itself .

I respect their choice but I believe the game is enough interesting to get pleasure. Chess is a vast source of incredible adventures if you are willing to spend time. The more time invested, the more you can discover and eventually also enjoy. Our youngest Belgian FM Daniel Dardha confirmed this at atv: "2 - 3 hours per day working at chess allows me today to enjoy a chess-worldtitle.

Now Daniel has of course a huge advantage thanks to his strong dad. Most youngsters don't have this luxury and often largely overrate their own skills. A small anecdote in le Touquet around a young Belgian talent confirmed my thoughts. The boy told me at the beginning of the tournament that he doesn't believe it is interesting to work extensively with engines  to study chess but later he was very disappointed when he lost a game without any chance playing black in a very theoretical Svechnikov after only 25 moves. We are not anymore living in the romantic 19th century where his kind of chess was successful. Today players need to learn how to operate the engines and databases otherwise more such defeats will follow especially when the opponents start to know which lines you usually like to play.

Anyway I am not only concerned about scoring points and winning titles. This would at the long term just lead to a fading interest and sometimes even some players to quit chess. No it is more important to learn how to find and appreciate the beauty in chess. The excellent recent article Why Study Chess demonstrates that this is possible at any level. Study helps to detect these beautiful things quicker. It is something which I do almost every day.

Some time ago I once again found a very nice concept in one of my personal analysis. In 2 earlier articles I already touched the butterfly-effect see an extra move part 2 and the einstellung effect. A very small change in the position has a huge impact upon the evaluation. Contrary to the earlier examples, this one is special as the effect only pops up many moves later. Let us start with the first variant in which white tries an interesting idea but it finally doesn't work.
White offered material but black succeeded to thwart the attack. However I was very surprised to discover that 1 small change in the position allows a brilliant resource to pop up reverting the result. Watch and enjoy below engine generated high quality analysis.
Beautiful isn't it? Of course I would've never discovered this without spending many hours analyzing the game. I am sure all of us have such hidden treasures in our games but most are never emerging the surface. Ach ignorance is a bless. Anyway I keep sharing my diamonds at my blog so you can also enjoy them.

Brabo

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Holidays part 3

Last year I started to teach chess in KMSK see the chess microbe. This year I continue my voluntary classes but hereby I added some new conditions. I want to avoid just being an entertainer instead of a teacher. My students are taking the courses not seriously enough while my goal was to use them as a catalyst so they can develop themselves quicker. It is nonsense to give advanced classes when there is no interest to focus harder at chess.

So at the start of the new season I demanded some engagements from each of my students. They have to attend my courses strictly. There aren't a lot of them so regular attendance is mandatory to follow a program. Unannounced absences won't be ignored and will be considered disrespectful. My students are all older than 12 so are perfectly capable of mailing or picking up the phone. 

Also I want that my students play at least 50 standard games every year. It is useless to spend time at courses and studies if barely any games are played. Playing games is crucial to improve see experience. Some achieve this number automatically but for others it will demand doubling or tripling the number of games. I helped them by presenting a long list of possible tournaments which they could use to create for next season a schedule. Of course this should be discussed together with their parents.

Finally I also asked each of them to digitize each played standard game in a personal database (possibly still to be created) and add some light comments. This should't take more than an hour for each game. In the past I stressed many times on this blog that it is very important to learn from your own mistakes by looking critically at your own games see e.g. which games to analyze. My students are mature enough to handle such task. When I started to play chess against a computer at the age of 14 (see chesscompositions) then I also made analysis of those games.

Some of my students answered immediately affirmative to my conditions but I also heard different sounds. One talented kid decided to stop following my classes. Chess is just a game for him to make some fun and nothing more. It is an honest and courageous answer. In the end it makes no sense to attend classes about databases and engines which he will never use.

Fortunately the other 5 children were willing to accept the conditions. But that is of course not enough. They still need to be followed up and that is less evident. It is not so easy to play interesting games for young strong players. Not only there isn't so much choice in the neighborhood but playing far away demands a strong support from the parents. Still I managed to convince a couple of parents to make the trip to the open tournament of Le Touquet. When they also triggered on their turn some other Flemish young players to play, we suddenly had assembled a small army. The French were completely taken by surprise.

A young group of Flemish wolves came in real Halloween-mood to the tournament creating fear and despair all around. You could see the disbelief grow in the eyes of several masters and grandmasters due to any lack of rating-logic. Huge plus-scores were set by the Belgian players of whom the 15 year Warre De Waele rated 2045 elo was obviously the leader of the gang. He surprised everybody by winning the tournament in front of 5 grandmasters, 4 international masters ... see final standings
The very surprising winner: Warre De Waele
Source: https://twitter.com/villedutouquet/media
In the last round I saw his mum standing at the door of the tournament. I assume the excitement was too big to stay away from the playing-room. I don't think I really helped to calm her down by telling her at the mid of the game that Warre had some chances to win. It was for sure a fairy-tale.

It is sad that such performances are today always accompanied by distrust. Some anonymous players (likely top-players) asked the arbiters to watch out for the Belgian players. Statistically it is very unlikely what happened. Looking at the luck calculator then the chance was less than 1 out of 100.000. Such big numbers are difficult to grasp but remember that  the fantastic grandmaster-result of strong Jan in 2013 was a chance of 1 out of 1632 and the famous cheater Ivanov Borislav demonstrated a chance of 1 out of 305.0000. It is understandable that people get very suspicious.

Well I watched Warre playing in the tournament without detecting anything unusual. His play looked strong but natural so no typical engine moves. Besides the couple of times that he was analyzing after the games, he made a strong impression. He is clearly much stronger than his 2045 rating. Previous months he lost a lot of rating by playing some youth tournaments. Big thanks to Warre for sending me his games and allowing me to publish them. There were no live-boards and for some years games are not published anymore see my article from 2012: game-publications.


During the games of my son I stayed outside the playing-room. I warned in advance the organisation that I am a FM and will keep distance from the board of my son to avoid any discomfort. I only made one exception when he came to me clearly upset by something which happened at the board. He had announced "j'adoube" to rectify some pieces but his 61 year old opponent Jocelyne Wolfangel had missed it and now demanded to play the first touched piece. Hugo doesn't speak French so was not able to defend himself. I had to help him and joined him to the board. Normally the arbiter will decide in such situation to not play the first touched piece but I knew in advance this won't go smoothly. So I asked Jocelyne which piece she wanted him to play. She told us the queen. Next I looked at the position and quickly detected that the demand should not play an important role to the course of the game. To shortcut any discussions I advised my son just to play a move with the queen. He was clearly not happy but obeyed to the relief of everybody. For a moment I feared that he would now collapse emotionally but instead he doubled his forces. He would and should pay back this unfair treatment. At the end of the game he clearly enjoyed the process of converting the won position while a lot of people were watching closely around the board.
The foreign language was not only a problem for Hugo. I was shocked how bad our older children speak French. The announcements were always only done in French (big difference with our own Belgian tournaments in which sometimes the information is spoken into 4 languages) and even if somebody spoke English then still it was difficult for many children to understand. So playing a tournament abroad with children instead of adults is a very different experience.

Also other details during the tournament confirmed this. Many game-records got lost as some children were extremely negligent. Reconstruction of the games appeared to be impossible. My wish to insert all the games into a database and analyze them, failed before we could even try. The adult guides have an almost permanent task to keep an eye on them. This is not easy as 2 players managed to get out for a swim into the sea at night while still wearing their clothes ! The 2 remaining rounds 1 of them played his games without shoes.

I believe our children really enjoyed the experience of playing a tournament abroad. The next plans are already prepared. Next time I advise to make stricter rules between supervisors and children so we can work more seriously at chess. I recommend both parents accompanying and separate accommodation like Warre did but I understand this is not feasible for everybody.

Brabo