Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An extra move part 3

About 7 years ago I started reading the 12 part-series of Garry Kasparov see the Neo Scheveningen. I finished all 5 books of his predecessors. The first book about Modern Chess Revolution in the 70s I didn't purchase as it is not much relevant for a fidemaster today. On the other hand the 3 books about his world-championship-matches against Karpov were very interesting. Finally Kasparov also wrote 3 books about his own career so beside his games played in the matches against Karpov. Of those books only the last one intrigued me although Hypekiller gave a rather negative review on this blog about it.

So I conclude my journey at 9 out of 12. The last book on Kasparov was definitely the least as Hypekiller warned us in advance but I don't regret the purchase. I was mainly interested in finding out what Kasparov tells us about the current openings and that aspect is well covered. Despite he already ended his career in 2005, many of his opening-analysis stay even today valid. He was always a pioneer in the openings. Many of his analysis confirm what I meanwhile discovered myself or even extended my knowledge of certain variations with new interesting ideas.

I am not going to summarize all those analysis here as that would be impossible in one article and also would likely violate copyright. However I do want to make 1 exception for a special position. I earlier wrote about twin-positions in my articles an extra move part 1 and an extra move part 2. Well thanks to this last book I found a triplet of positions with 0, 1 or 2 extra moves arising from the opening. First I couldn't believe it but after some research in the databases I got confirmed that each of those 3 positions are occurring in multiple games played at master-level. Therefore I think it is very interesting to figure out how the result is influenced by the extra move in practice. I start with the position without the extra moves which I even once got on the board in a standard game (see the earlier mentioned article of the Neo-Scheveningen).
283 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2288 and he underperforms with a TPR = 2276.

The same position but white to move pops up less in practice but has been played successfully by Garry Kasparov.
21 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2362 and he overperforms with a TPR = 2415.

Finally above position also exists with the extra move g4 so white still having the move. The most important game with that position is probably between the strong Russian grandmaster Evgeny Alekseev and the strong Armenian grandmaster Sergei Movsesian.
36 games of which 1 of both players has at least a rating of +2300. The average rating of white is 2427 and he overperforms with a TPR = 2546.

First thing what I notice from above statistics is that the more extra moves, the higher the average rating of white. I earlier wrote how little openings influence the result of a game (see to study openings). Later a reaction of a Belgian IM countered that statement as things go differently for masters. Well above statistics do indeed hint that stronger players put a lot of attention to the opening.

In the past there were many handicap-matches in which one color get 1 or multiple extra moves. I think it is therefore interesting to define a formula in which we link a tempo to a certain rating-gain. If we ignore tactical positions then it appears that the advantage of an extra move is rather limited. In above example we see that the first extra move generated an improvement of about 65 elo at the (relative) TPR. For 2 extra moves it increases to 131 points. From those 2 figures we can deduct that handicap-games based on extra moves between humans and top-engines are rather useless. It takes at least 6 extra moves to bridge a gap of 400 ratingpoints. How many interesting positions exist with so many extra moves? Only games with a material-handicap are competitive between humans and engines and even in that domain there are big limitations see comebacks part 3.

Brabo

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Byes

Last round in the Belgian interclub for the first time in my career I forfeited the game. Well in fact it was my son withdrawing as I didn't manage to bring him to the playing-hall. This season is not easy for my family to organize the transport. I play for Deurne while my son plays simultaneously for Mechelen. Last season half of the teams played at home while the other half played away each round. That made it possible to shuffle Hugo between the teams so he could always play at home. However this year Mechelen decided to play all teams together home or away. So this meant we couldn't avoid anymore "far" away matches.

46km from Kontich to Turnhout can't be considered very far away but if you take public transport then it takes one way still 1h 40 minutes. Besides you can't expect a 9 year old boy to do this trip alone which means mom and sister are forced to accompany him. My wife doesn't drive by car so they have to use the public transport. You could of course wonder if this kind of effort isn't excessive for playing 1 single game against somebody rated below 1300 elo.

Eventually their train was cancelled and the next one would come the earliest more than one hour later. I didn't have a backup-plan so the only thing left was to inform the team and the opponent that I couldn't avoid the forfeit anymore. I was embarrassed as I let them down. I knew in advance how unreliable trains are in Belgium but the club persuaded me to let Hugo play anyway. I won't repeat this anymore. Nobody benefits from such failure. I wrote 6 years ago on this blog already how much I detest forfeits see forfeits in the interclub.

I always considered it important to keep promises. Recent years I became more flexible in this as I became much more dependent of elements I can't control like family, work,... So today it happens that I make an appointment of which I know in advance that I maybe will cancel it later. I don't want to justify it but it is just the choice I make to optimize my time. I notice most arrange the same way their schedule. It is the evolution of which I talked in my previous article about the growing individualism in our society.

Many tournament-organizers understand today that you need to take this into account if you want to revert the current trend of decreasing participants. Today a lot of potential participants would drop out if you force everybody to play every round in a tournament. So that is why we see more and more tournaments allowing participants to take voluntary byes on the condition it is announced in advance. By informing the organizers in advance it allows them to remove the people taking a bye out of the pairings so everybody willing to play still has an opponent.

Some organizers take it even a step further to improve the attractiveness of their tournament by also given half points for the not-played rounds. The advantages of this are less fluctuations in the pairings and people taking a bye will barely feel any competitive disadvantage. Especially that last element caused some players not to take any bye in the past as too often their tournament would become uninteresting.

Many amateurs but also professionals like to use these byes. In old times you often had to decide between 2 tournaments when they overlapped. Today it is possible to play them both as you just take one or more byes for the first round(s) as it often doesn't matter for the final standings. A tour de force using the Swiss gambit was performed last summer at the Masters of BrugesThe Spanish grandmaster Oleg Korneev didn't play the first 2 rounds but still won the tournament. He surprised everybody by playing only 7 out of 9 rounds but was in the end proclaimed as tournament-winner thanks to the tie-break of winning the direct encounter against the co-winner see below game.
It is a well played game of Oleg but many wondered if the tie-break should've not been changed here. Can we state that somebody playing less games has more right to win the tournament? Of course the rules of the tie-break were known to everybody in advance but shouldn't we consider to change them for a next edition of the tournament?

Besides by playing fewer games, you are also fresher in the remaining games which is an advantage over the loyal participants playing all games. I doubt this was the case for Oleg but in the just finished Ilse of Man we saw many players taking a bye during the tournament. 19 from the first 100 players having played the last round, took use of this possibility. However even more remarkable is that the 3 first finishers in the final standings: the Polish top-grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszekthe Azerbaijan top-grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch and former-worldchampion Vladimir Kramnik all took a bye. Below you find a crucial game of the tournament-winner Radoslaw winning against the British top-grandmaster Michael Adams played in round 8.
If the tournament exists next year keeping the same format then I expect to see much more byes. The winners have likely unintentionally proven that it is often more interesting to not play chess each round than playing all rounds.

It is of course perverse as a tournament is organized to let people play chess. I think we need to revise the byes. Maybe the prize-money must be adapted to the number of pairings somebody has been subjected to. At least we must make sure that players having played all the rounds are favored by the tie-brake above people having taken one or more byes.

The prizes in the last Open Leuven were split in case of equal points so the tie-break wasn't very important. Still I did notice that a tournament-performance isn't a good system to use to rank the players when the rules allow participants to get half points for byes. For the first time in my career I took 2 byes in a tournament as Open Leuven overlapped with Open Le Touquet. I had only played 19 standard games in 2018 which is very few and Leuven was my last chance to get some more practice. Friday 2nd of November I was still at noon in Le Touquet supporting my son while in the evening I showed up in Leuven to play myself the 3rd round. With only 1/2 I got as opponent the 82 years old Belgian Karl De Smet whom gave me a good fight. At the end of the game I felt exhausted but I anyway managed to validate my big rating-advantage.
I also won the next 2 rounds and suddenly in round 6 I joined the leaders. Some players joked if I would also perform a Korneevke following the example of Oleg Korneev at the Masters of Bruges. That would've been an even bigger stunt but in the end didn't happen. In round 6 I was defeated in a good game by the Swedish grandmaster Ralf Akesson and at the same time also later tournament-winner. However I still managed to win the last round and catch the -2300 rating-prize (100 euro). In  the final standings I was placed in front of other players with equal points having not taken any byes thanks to the better TPR. TPR is calculated by taking the percentage-score in combination with the average rating of the opponents. Obviously by not playing 2 rounds my percentage-score is much better. Also the opponents in the first rounds drag the rating-average drastically down.

I don't doubt that we need to allow byes if we want to attract more participants in a tournament. Still I think we made things too profitable for the players taking byes. The nice participants playing all rounds should not be penalized. A well organized tournament also guarantees a fair split of the prizes between the winners. I have made a couple of proposals but I don't doubt that a smart guy can invent something better.

Brabo

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Holidays part 5

In the last Open Le Touquet (French tournament) my 9 year old son surprised us all by winning first prize in the category 1400-1599 elo. I knew that he made progress but I didn't expect a +1700 TPR otherwise I would've not subscribed for the Open Leuven. I had decided in advance to skip the prize-givings of Open Le Touquet to play the 3rd round of Open Leuven in the evening. Obviously my son wasn't happy to miss his moment of glory but fortunately he forgave me quickly when I was able to pass him his 100 euro prize the next day via the help of some Belgian chess-friends.

I heard next year the tournaments won't overlap. This brings us back to how it was last year and I assume many Belgian chess-players will like that. It allows to close the tournament of Le Touquet calmly and still enjoy a bit holidays at the site. Last year we decided to spend the remaining time by visiting the setting of the extremely popular french movie: Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis.
The super funny movie from 2008 is probably not so known in Flanders but in France more than 20 million people bought a ticket which made it the most watched ever movie in France. The story is about a post-office-director whom misbehaved himself and was relocated from the warm south to the cold north naturally creating some hilarious situations.

While searching this location in the North we made a mistake by first driving to Berck instead of Bergues or also Sint-Winoksbergen called. Our children were not amused by the lost time but I don't mind so much when having holidays. Eventually we reached the correct Bergues and there we found even 9 years after the release of the movie still plenty of information about the locations in the film used via the office de tourice with even a real Ch'ti-tour. The village clearly profited the previous years from the many tourists which were the result of the movie see article in the nieuwsblad.

This combination of playing a chess-tournament and visiting the settings of a nice movie, was a pleasant experience so this year we made plans to play the Open St Antonin. St.Antonin was used as location of the feel-good film The Hundred Foot Journey from 2014 with the British star-actress Helen Mirren and produced by a.o. the top-producer Steven Spielberg.
The film describes 2 competing restaurants which after many conflicts eventually start to join forces. However I have to warn the visitors of the movie-locations as you can't find the restaurants in St Antonin as they were fully built in the film-studio. Still there remain places in St-Antonin worth a visit which popped up in the movie like the very beautiful historical center. Also for this village the movie created a boost of tourism which you can read in this article: Visit the village from the film the hundred-foot journey.

My wife ordered the dvd online so we could watch it together but the trip itself to St Antonin didn't happen. We started very late checking the details but especially the distance (almost 1000km) combined with the late end-date of the tournament (30 August so only a couple of days before the beginning of a new school-year) made it a difficult. Next year the tournament probably will still exist so we decided not to rush.

Anyway it is not because we didn't visit St Antonin that we haven't combined chess with a setting of a movie this summer. Bruges doesn't need a movie to attract visitors but it is perfectly possible to connect  the open brugse meesters with visiting several locations used in the criminal - comedy In Bruges from 2008 with a.o. the famous Irish actor Colin Farrell.
We visit Bruges regularly as it is for my wife her favorite town in Belgium. Nonetheless she doesn't like very much the movie as she finds the story too dark. So she puts Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis as first, the Hundred-foot journey next and as last In Bruges. I have the same number 1 but I rather prefer to switch In Bruges with the Hundred-foot journey. I find the feel-good film too fluffy.

The combination of playing chess-tournaments and visiting film-settings is probably very few would think of. The link film and chess is normally something we only make when we see a film-fragment about chess. Besides about that combination there exists an excellent blog from the Belgian expert Nikolaas Verhulst see belgianchesshistory. On that blog he discuss many movies with chess but also other media which use chess like cartoons, music-clips, strips, paintings, drawings, non-chess books, commercials, non-chess magazines, non-chess computergames,... Nikolaas complains about the low number of visitors see cipc 47 Bennett cat and window. That is sad to hear as his blog is very well written and it is hard to maintain this when you don't see any appreciation. Personally I find it a bit weird why Nikolaas doesn't split this rich content from his Belgianchesshistory-website as it has nothing to do with Belgium and its history. I hope this small paragraph can give a boost to his blog.

Brabo

P.s. As a dessert I also want to share the very funny cartoon of Masha and the Bear. They speak Russian but even without knowing the language the humor can be understood. It is very well done (chess is part of the Russian DNA): Masha learns chess from Bear and Tiger. Translations of the cartoon exist in other languages (e.g. Dutch) but often not free available.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Wasps

It is not yet cooling down outside so there still remains some time to prepare the garden for the winter. Beside the yearly cutting of branches, I should also not forget this time to fertilize the grass. The recovery of my green after the months of drought has been accompanied with an explosive growth of moss. From the outside it looks all again healthy but if you look closer then you notice that the empty spots have been filled by undesirable moss.

Last summer was very tough for nature. Many plants and trees suffered heavily and some even didn't survive. On the other hand it struck me that some insects prospered from these extreme weather conditions. For instance there were much more wasps than usual as this article testifies: "Twice as much people beaten by a wasp." The insects were a real plaque as you met them everywhere. Chess-tournaments were no exception as after the last round of the Brugse Meesters my son Hugo was also sting by a wasp when playing outside with other kids. Fortunately there was no allergic reaction so the discomfort was rather limited.

Besides also during the games the bugs were very much present. Just next to the playing-hall there was a nest of wasps and despite several complaints the organization didn't manage to solve this problem. I therefore advised my son not to bring anything sweet to the games. So he chose water instead of cola to drink. Anyway during his games he didn't get too much annoyed by the wasps as he was quite far playing from the nest. Less lucky were the players on the top-boards as they were playing nearby. Eventually a wasp caused a loss of a full point to my strongest student Sterre Dauw. Sterre has a panic fear for wasps so naturally things went wrong in round 3 when one of them started to harass him during the game. In the end he played some random moves and spoiled a certain win.
I was following the game live online and first didn't understand what had happened. The Indian IM Vav Rajesh was completely outplayed and the win seemed a triviality but suddenly Sterre stood next to me telling me he resigned. "Wasps are very dangerous animals" was his fantastic dry humor which is typical for him. I still didn't understand why he didn't leave the board till the wasp disappeared.

Anyway he is not the first one and won't be the last one being fascinated about those little species. Some time ago I discovered that an American programmer John Stanback has called his engine Wasp. You can download it for free on his site and it plays pretty strongly: 34th place in the current ranking of CCRL40/40 and a +3000 rating so more than likely stronger than any other human. A good game of that engine can be replayed below.
An engine which can stick can be easily neutralized by switching off the power. However things become more tricky when the pieces itself are transforming into insects. Sure this is not part anymore of standard chess as we now enter the magic world of fairy-chess. A summary of the existing fairy-pieces can be found on wikipedia see antelopes, bisons, flamingos, lions and zebras. I couldn't find any wasp in the list but anybody can develop a new piece and call it as such. Nonetheless another scary insect which is even very popular in fairy-chess does exist: the grasshopper. That piece moves like a queen but with the special condition that each move is combined with a jump over another piece and the landing must happen just behind that piece. There exist quite a number of funny chess-problems with that piece like the one below.

Not every article should be serious. The winter is ahead of us so those dangerous but also useful wasps will be again not annoy us for the next 6 months.

Brabo

Solution Grasshoppers-problem:
1.Gh3 Gh4 2.Gh5 Gh6 3.Gh7 Gh8 4.Ge7 Gd7 5.Gc7 Gb7 6.Ga7+ Ga6 7.Ga5+ Ga4 8.Ga3#

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Symbols

A couple of months ago the weekly magazine Knack published an article about facts and myths of yoga. First it was told that today yoga is an enormous booming business. More and more people are practicing some type of yoga. Also similar kind of activities like Tai Chi, mindfulness, meditation,... are experiencing the same exponential growth. Many in the Western world need to escape from the daily stress. So in the article the author wonders if we don't do those activities just to maintain our hectic life. This sounds something very awkward on the long term as it is very doubtful those escape tools will work forever.

Anyway today the effectiveness is still something under discussion. There is no clear agreement about which positive effects yoga and other related activities have. Sure we can't deny that some people feel better by it but some others barely feel any benefits of it at all. I am therefore against forcing people to follow such courses at school, work,... Let people decide for themselves if they want to spend time at it.

Personally I don't feel attracted to it. I don't need such exercises to feel better myself. Besides I neither believe in anything to do with spirituality. So karma which I mentioned 2 article ago, is nonsense for me. My wife warns me that I will get what I will expect so nothing (every Russian knows the book The Master and Margerita in which there is a chapter about an atheist dying under a tram and the devil forwards him to the void as he believes nothing). However I answer my wife if she expects me after her death then I don't have anything to worry about. Meanwhile I am 12 years married with my Russian wife so I start to know how to deal with her favorites.

On the other hand the horseshoe nail which I received 4 years ago as a present (see my article the lucky one) still has a place in the living room. No I still don't believe in good luck-charms. I just find it a cute and lovely accessory. You don't have to believe in symbols to consider them beautiful. The same is also valid for chess. Sometimes the pieces are forming a weird symbol which let you smile. Something like that happened also in the last round of Open Gent but I lacked the time to enjoy the special position.

The 4 rooks forming a square, immediately reminded me of another weird square of knights which I created on the board in a correspondence game. That case was even more special as I also won that game against a player rated above 2500.
While those are for sure special constructions on the board, things become really extraordinary in chess-problems. The next 3 problems were extracted from a book published in 1907: The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies, Letter Problems created by the famous female-composer Edith Baird. I start with a position in the shape of a heart.
White mates in 2 moves
The next one is in the shape of the number four. The solution is rather ugly which happens more often in this type of problems.
White mates in 2 moves
The initial of my first name and my son's should not be missing of course.
White mates in 2 moves but black also mates in 2 moves
Finally things get spiced up when a story is connected to the position as is the case for the last problem.

A chess-player has out of necessity put on stake his soul at the devil. If the player wins then he is again a free man. Else he would be for eternity belong to the devil. Slowly the devil outplayed the poor guy. Eventually the devil announced mate in 7. However just when the devil wanted to execute the final move, he dropped the mating piece out of horror. He jumped up and ran into the darkness. God had saved the player miraculously.

To make sure the devil plays with his favorite color (so black) I decided to switch the colors of the original problem found at the blog dubbelschaak. That problem is already a revision by the Dutch composer Gerard Smits of the original published first in 1878 by the French Charles Godfrey Gumpuel (he also built the half-automate Mephisto).

Besides there exist several variants of this story with other positions forming a crucifix see e.g sign of the cross chess problem 67214. Composers love to make problems around symbols.

Such strange creations or symbols are much more rare in standard chess. Of course a game has other priorities. If you have met something special yourself in a game then don't hesitate to share it with us in a reaction.

Brabo

Solutions

Problem the heart: 1.Kd6 (waiting move)
1...Bc3 2.e3#
1...Be3 2.c3#
1...Bc1 2.c3#
1...Be1 2.e3#
1...Bxb4+ 2.Rxb4#
1...Bxf4+ 2.Rxf4#
1...c5 2.Rd5#

Problem the number four: 1.Ne8, ? 2.Bd6#

Problem the letter H:
white: 1.Nb6+, Kxe5 2.Rc5#
black: 1...Qxc6+ 2.Kd8 Bg5# of 2.Kb8 Qb7#

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Quicker part 2

A couple of months ago at the blog of LSV questions were raised about why some out-dated rules of the federation weren't adapted to modern society. We see that big changes only happen after some big disaster. The board of most clubs consist of older players not willing to give up their comfortable positions.

On the other hand nothing stays the same forever. There are continuously small changes which don't cause much resistance as most people consider them insignificant. Sometimes only after a decade we see how those little things have accumulated to a big shift. Chess isn't anymore the same. Everybody has adapted to the new situation except a few wondering if playing chess is still interesting.

In part 1 I wrote that the Bruges masters of 2006 was the first Belgian tournament using the quick standard-tempo G90 + 30 seconds. This year so 12 years later all the other remaining big tournaments in Belgium have adopted this tempo. The Zilveren Toren, Open Gent and Open Leuven made the change this year to this fast standard-tempo. So there are no more big tournaments in Belgium left where you can play at the old slower tempo. For the majority of the players this is a logical evolution. However I also hear a few other sounds of disappointment and even bitterness as players can't choose anymore between tournaments with different tempos.

Initially I was also against this quicker tempo but gradually I started to appreciate the advantages. No more enormous blunders due to playing moves with only seconds on the clock. There is also no need anymore of an arbiter to decide if somebody is not making any winning attempts. The games are shorter which is something I welcome in my hectic time of life. Even in Gent I noticed this. Games played at the new tempo of G90 + 30 seconds were averagely quicker finished than games at the old tempo of G120 + 0 seconds. Finally players enjoying the analysis don't need to worry about the recording of the game. You don't have to rely upon a good memory or live-boards. My game played in the 5th round of Open Gent against the tournament-winner Elshan Moradiabadi shows those benefits clearly. Already very early in the game I was down to 2 minutes on the clock but thanks to the increment I was able to avoid making big mistakes and to maintain recording of the moves.
Nevertheless there are some disadvantages too. Because of the increment we never know when a game will be finished the very latest. Theoretically the game can go on forever. 1 very long game can disturb the planning of a tournament. So this is annoying for the organizers but also for the participants it is no fun. Players have to wait longer between the rounds played at the same day and often don't get any time to prepare themselves. I noticed that the tournament-winner of the Bruges Masters 2018 the Spanish grandmaster Oleg Korneev of Russian origin was trying to get around this issue by deliberately being late to a game so he could still prepare for the crucial encounter. The Belgian international arbiter Geert Bailleul will try to discuss this at the imminent Olympiad of Batumi, Georgia. Can this be considered as cheating? Afterall Oleg did consult chess-software during the game.

Just like in 2006 we see that the Bruges Masters is today again a pioneer. For the first time in Belgium a mechanism was introduced to stop the very long games. After 4h40 minutes of play the arbiter can decide to abolish the increment and give both players an additional 5 minutes which transforms the tempo to QPF (quick play finish). At first sight this doesn't make sense as we return the old headache of playing without increment. However if we look more closely then we see that you need to play already minimum 100 moves with G90 + 30 seconds to have a game lasting 4h40 minutes. Games of more than 100 moves are extremely rare (I have in my personal database only 2 out of + 800). So I believe the gain of comfort for the tournament fully compensates the very limited reduction of quality in a couple games.

Still at the first implementation of the new system there were some childhood diseases. The switch from increment to QPF had to be done manually so took a lot (too much) time. I assume the arbiter got more experienced with it after a few times but it is still a very disturbing activity. It was neither clear what exactly should be considered as the duration of a game. Should we start counting from the official starting-hour or from the real starting-hour? As often happens in opens we see that the first round starts delayed. As a consequence the first round-game between the Belgian international master Steven Geirnaert and the Belgian FM Frederic Verduyn was already switched from increment to QPF at move 87.
The involved players weren't happy about this. We still need to get used to this but maybe we should also try to optimize the mechanism. I think it should be better if the clock can do the switch manually. I don't know any clocks able to do what needed to be done in the Bruges masters but we can try to make a compromise by making the switch after x number of moves. So x would be 60,80 or 100. Each player gets in return of cancelling the increment y = 5,10, 15 minutes extra. However only some clocks can execute such switch and they are not often available. I guess it is not easy to buy 100 such clocks for one tournament as this is not cheap at all.

A less visible disadvantage of the quicker tempo which I already mentioned in my article the scoresheet is that the play becomes more superficial. Players thinking for more than half hour at 1 move, is not possible anymore. That would be suicide with the current tempo. This also leads to poverty in the endgame. In my article practical endgames I already warned that endgames would be reduced to instincts and some minimized calculations. However in the recent summer-months I detected another alarming threat of those quicker games. Our youth doesn't know how to play some very basic endgames. I still can understand that my 9 year old son Hugo spoils the endgame below as he lacks experience of playing endgames.
The self-destruction of the very talented young player Enrico Follesa in the next game is more serious. I still accept the small mistakes in the queen-endgame but not the deliberate exchange to a completely lost pawn-endgame. I even warned about this in my article queen-endgames part 2. You have to be very careful about the transformations from queen- to pawn-endgame. It is almost always better to keep the queens on the board if you are not 100% certain about the evaluation.
Finally my own game against my most talented student Sterre Dauw played in the last round of Gent is the most shocking example. Sterre exchanged rooks while hardly thinking about the resulting pawn-endgame. I immediately knew that white has excellent winning chances with his 2 against 3 islands of pawns. Black escaped because I only had 2 minutes on the clock remaining so I missed a last devilish trick.
We can conclude that the youth is just gambling in the endgame. Before one could easily invest 15 minutes or more at 1 move in the endgame and gain some experience. The introduction of the increment has stopped this. Only by analyzing endgames at home we can still get the necessary skills but who (of the youth) does that? Yes I still do but my students were very surprised to hear in my most recent course that I sometimes spend several hours analyzing just 1 endgame.

Brabo

Monday, September 17, 2018

The scientific approach part 2

In my previous article I gave a glimpse of about what is needed to become a world-class-player. This information is very hard to find. Only by an extensive research through the games of former world-topper Vladimir Epishin I was able to discover how enormous his opening-knowledge is. I summarized it by comparing the number of Vladimir's openings with my own's. It were about 25x more and besides Vladimir often was also much more versed of the theory which is something really astonishing.

Though I do work quite a number of hours myself at chess. So an interesting question is how Vladimir succeeds to maintain and remember so many different openings. Well the simple answer is that he only plays a selected number of openings during a period and he only maintains and studies those. So it is definitely not the case that I could encounter all possible 72 positions in our game. However only Vladimir knows which openings in his repertoire are active. I have to guess which means I only play safe by checking everything.

At that time I didn't get enough time for such elaborated study but there exist a couple of rules which help to improve the odds of a preparation. 60% of Vladimir's openings were single experiments. I guess professionals can become bored of the usual traditional stuff and like to spice up from time to time the opening. An extra bonus is that the opponent will be surprised.
So only 12 of the 72 opening-positions were played by Vladimir in more than 5 games. Of course those 12 get a higher priority. Anyway even more important than the frequency is when an opening was played last. Vladimir plays no opening all his career.
80% of the openings Vladimir played, were used maximally 2,5 years. That is a very short period of time which obviously was influenced by the many one-time openings. Eventually we discover that only for a limited amount of openings that their lifespan overlap. I made an overview per year of the number of overlaps to better illustrate this.
Obviously there are less overlaps in the initial and the latest years. The peak is in 2008 with no less than 17 overlaps. The average is 8,2 overlaps. In other words if you would know which 8-10 openings are today overlapping then you could just limit the preparation on those.

For sure the best is to start with the most recently played openings if time is lacking. However it is wrong to assume that by looking solely at the openings played in the last 2,5 years that you have an 80% success-rate to prepare the right opening of the game. Beside the lifespan of an opening, also the frequency of the opening must be taken into account.
So in about 50% of his games this former top-player chooses for brand-new openings of his repertoire. I guess that preparations at his playing-level can be so detailed that it becomes almost mandatory to continuously reinvent yourself. We also see that we need to return 5 years back to get an 80% hit-rate of preparing the right opening of Vladimir's repertoire. The pareto-principle is definitely also valid for chess. Finally we also remark that in about 10% of the games, Vladimir likes to reuse an old love. Vladimir surely knows about the benefits of using old wine in new skins see part 1 and part 2.

So Vladimir cleverly uses all the assets of his arsenal of openings. It is still a lot of work to study and maintain but not something impossible for a professional. Anyway his approach stands diametrically opposed to how I play chess. Scoring is for me less important. On the other hand I can enjoy more the historical aspect of an opening (which probably explains partly why chess960 is still a small niche today despite some serious tries to get the public more excited about it like last by attracting former world-champion Garry Kasparov, see the current ongoing St. Louis-chessfestival).

That means I am for sure not a polygamist as a chess-player. I am a serial monogamist. Besides a few exceptions, I don't play several openings in parallel in the same position. So contrary to Epishin, you will see that the lifespans of my openings are almost never overlapping. If I make the same exercise for my own repertoire as I did for Epishin's repertoire then this becomes clearly visible. I checked each of my games played in the last 5 years how old my chosen openings were.
Contrary to Epshin many of my old games in the database (10 years and even older) can often still be used in the preparation. It is something which some opponents knowing me well, gratefully take advantage of. On the other the fact that I am using in 30% of my games fresh openings, shows that I do work at my openings. Openings which have shown weaknesses, are replaced immediately.

That last aspect was once more explicitly shown in the opening which occurred in the 8th round of Open Gent. It concerns a rather long rare line of the Dutch stonewall which I encountered for the first time in a correspondence-game. We have to go back 20 years in time for that game when I was renting a small student-room at the Paardenmarkt in Antwerpen. I just ended school and started working (besides today I still have the same employer).

The game is stored today also in Ultracorr-x. An OTB-game of mine with the same opening which managed to get in the standard databases, is the one below against Emmanuel Bricard, at that time still an international master but today he is a grandmaster.
15 years later the Belgian FM Marc Lacrosse chose for exactly the same line as Emmanuel. Maybe Marc had prepared an improvement which isn't so hard to do. Anyway I deviated first with my improvement and I got very quickly a comfortable position. Probably it is karma for some people but against Emanuel I threw away a half point by proposing a draw in a winning position. This time Marc gave me a half point back by resigning in a drawn position.
In part 1 I explained how I as amateur can achieve openings with a much richer complexity in my games by using a scientific approach compared to somebody whom prefers to variate a lot so choosing a more creative road. This article to some extent confirms this but also shows another side of this scientific approach. By playing the same opening for several decades you get also a historical ingredient in the games. Call me a stupid nostalgic player but I like to write some history even at the expense of some ratingpoints.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Jubilee

At the age of 17 I started to play competitive chess. Before I spent my free time exclusively at music. In 1985 as a 9 year old boy I assigned for elementary music classes. A year later I started practicing an instrument the trombone.  Another 2 years later I joined a harmony orchestra: the Gildemuziek of Roeselare. There I first got to learn to play music together with other children on Sunday-mornings. A couple of years later I was permitted to play music in the main-orchestra in which even some professionals were playing. We rehearsed weekly on Friday-evenings. It was an interesting and lovely time with many performances in Belgium and abroad. I remember once that I participated at a notorious procession in France. Before we got a free lunched offered from the organization which included martini as much as you wanted. I don't have to explain this heavily impacted our music afterwards.

The members got many privileges. The orchestra got a lot of revenues thanks to the performances and the members were allowed to enjoy this. Clothes, memberships, drinks, food, instruments, music scores, transport, camps... was often completely for free. Also the most loyal members got celebrated every time they achieve a 10 year jubilee. I experienced 1 such jubilee myself. The complete orchestra came to my (elderly) house for a serenade. As commemoration you got a golden star on the hat of your music-costume which from then onward stayed on it.

That episode of my life came to an end when I moved at the age of 22 to Antwerp. It became too difficult to still attend the Friday-evening rehearsals. Besides at that time I already got in love with the game of chess which meant I preferred to play chess in Deurne than playing music. I did however have a look for an orchestra or fanfare in the neighborhood but my chess-ambitions interfered. Today I still possess my instrument. When my children were very small, I did play music on it a couple of times but in the meanwhile things again got quiet.

It is again a special introduction but I do believe something which can be interesting for chess. Many clubs in Belgium are having difficulties to survive. Last year the chessclub of Schoten was even liquidated. If there are no members then it stops. So it is very important as club to keep your members happy and seek new ones. The Gildemuziek has today more than 90 members. They are still very successful after 95 years. Of course chess has much less financial resources but a jubilee for our most loyal members shouldn't cost much. This can be done easily at a yearly club-party by giving them a small present. Maybe we can also think at a sweater/ t-shirt of the club (something already done by kmsk). Each time a jubilee is reached an extra piece is added next to the emblem of the club.

The club KSK Deurne for which I play today, is also experiencing difficulties. If you check the homepage then you notice 6 candles. Each candle represents somebody important for the club and whom recently died. Also we don't see any youngsters breaking-through to competitive chess despite a decade of youth-trainings. This year the club celebrates their 60th anniversary with a quiz. I don't like to quiz but this jubilee is a very good opportunity to make changes and prepare for the future.

So jubilees for chess players don't exist which doesn't mean I can't consider this year as a jubilee. It was in 1993 that I participated at my first big open international tournament at that time still as unrated player. Big can be considered literally as in that year there was a record of participants in Open Gent, 539 see palmares. I scored a modest 3,5/9 in that tournament. I guess that I still can find the score sheets in an old box (at that time I didn't have a computer and I never digitized it) but I won't publish anything here of it as nobody wants to be reminded about how bad my play then was.

25 years later so now in 2018 I again participated at the Open of Gent. I assume the organizers didn't notice. Some tournaments do pay attention to such details. In the last Open Brasschaat the organizers offered a present to the most loyal participants by inviting them for a simul. This wouldn't be interesting for me of course but it is the gesture which is important. In the end I probably gave myself the most beautiful present for this jubilee by competing against some very interesting opponents. In round 5 I played against the congenial American grandmaster from Iranian origin Eshan Moradiabadi, later winning also the tournament. However in round 7 I got an even more fascinating opponent: the Russian grandmaster Vladimir Epishin.

Once Vladimir was the 10th highest rated player in the world, helper of Karpov in his world-championship-matches and achieved a peakrating of 2670. Any real chessplayer loves to get a chance to play a standard game against such famous grandmaster. So I was eager to bring my best game. However in the morning I discovered very soon how difficult the task would be. He has 3441 games in my database (I only have 287) of which already 781 with black against 1.e4 (compared to 63 of mine). Besides I was also very surprised by the sheer amount of openings he dared to play. Even when I just stick to my fixed repertoire (so I don't change my openings) then I should still consider 72 different positions conform the database (I am sure that this doesn't include everything Vladimir knows as many games never get in the database). For this article I summarized it (so I prepared this a month after I played the game) as you can't fully understand this without viewing the details. I have never seen such large arsenal of openings from any player but I do suspect that the Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk would easily beat this record.
Vladmir Epishin's arsenal of openings which I had to take into account
To understand the magnitude of it, I made the same exercise upon myself. It sounds weird but how many openings would I look at to prepare for a game against myself by using the same kind of database.
So that are only 3 or 24 times less than Vladimir. Most amateurs are wondering what it takes to become a top-player. Well you see there is still an enormous difference between what a FM knows and what an (ex-) worldtop-player knows. By the way don't assume Vladimir just plays something randomly as most if not all chosen systems he knows very well which he also proves in our game.

It is pretty futile to prepare for such amount of openings during an open tournament. I got up at 6 o'clock in the morning to start. Anyway I don't need much sleep during a tournament due to the excitement of the games at the condition I don't drink any alcohol. I stopped at 11 o'clock out of necessity to leave timely from Kontich to Gent and to pick up along the way 2 players having troubles to find transport. It is like you go to an exam but you only learned a part of the complete course as many systems Vladimir played were completely new for me. In orange I indicated at which openings I had looked briefly of the 72 possibilities. It are 24 of them so 1/3.

In the game I was lucky as Vladimir chose number 68. On the other hand my luck didn't last long. I hadn't found any games of Vladimir beyond move 5 so there was still a lot to guess. Eventually I couldn't remember properly all my preparations. Looking at a maximum amount of lines comes at a certain price. It is necessary to repeat to remember things well. Anyway it was a great fight. In below hyper-sharp game both players were pushed at and over their limits.

That is the sort of games why somebody likes to play chess. My 25th jubilee is behind me but I still hope to play many games in this crazy world of chess. Enjoy each of your games as nothing lasts forever.

Brabo

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pawn structures part 2

All of my students are talented but unfortunately I still need to meet the first one, willing to work hard at home. Only a few players in Belgium study at chess besides playing. Meanwhile I got used to the fact that none of my students make a serious analysis of their games. Last year I gave my students some tasks see holidays part 3 but I won't repeat this anymore. That is not because some people are thinking that I am too strict. No I don't care about such comments. I simply don't want to spend anymore efforts at those useless discussions. Besides I already decided anyway to continue teaching for another year so irrespective of the efforts made by the students.

This school-year my son Hugo starts in step 4. That is the final step he can do without me in the club of KMSK. If Hugo will not start to work independently during this step at chess then I will stop. After you achieved step 4, you are mature to enjoy competitive chess for the rest of your career. Steps 5,6 and anything higher are made for the more ambitious students. Of course anybody has ambitions but those higher courses are only interesting when they are combined with a lot of study at home (my student Sterre is likely an exception). I have connected my teaching to Hugo following courses. Once I see that Hugo barely learns something from his courses, then I will stop mine and his classes. I still can give Hugo advice after his games of which he can/ will still learn a lot. That is something I can do very easily, contrarily to the courses at which I often spend several hours of preparation per course.

I have shown at this blog many times examples of how useful it is to study chess. However I can't stress this enough so in this article I show some new positions which popped up in a recent tournament I played. Last year I wrote that it is also useful to replay games outside ones repertoire as several ideas can be used in different openings see pawn structures part 1. In this article I want to elaborate on this topic by showing some connections even inside my repertoire.

First I start at a micro-scale. Within a variation of an opening we discover that the same concept can sometimes appear several times. The first position comes from a game-preparation which I made for the Belgian interclub. In the round against Wetteren, there existed the possibility that the Belgian expert Galeh Khonghaloos would be my opponent. Therefore I studied his games from the database. One of those games is shown below.
I got to play somebody else but in the second round of the last Open Gent I still was able to employ the learned concept. The position is almost identical (compare position after move 10 of the previous game with the position after move 11 of the next game) but a small difference of the details causes a chain-reaction of changes.
Another example is also from the past Open Gent, my game from round 6 against the German expert Taylan Guelsen. This time we look at a macro-scale. There is even a connection between 3 openings. I start with my game against the Dutch FM Frank Wuts, played in Open of Avoine at the year 2000. A Philidor was chosen in which I tested an interesting idea for the first time.
I still remembered this debacle 18 years later. The same idea can be used in the Spanish Breyer-variation but obviously I wasn't very excited about it. The computer also demonstrates that black has good counter-play despite the small material defecit.
There is a second link with a position from my game against Stefan Beukema played in the Belgian interclub at the year 2014. At that time I missed the spectucal winning idea Bxf7 see my article achilles. The opening of that game was a Spanish Chigorin-variation.
This time Bxf7 wasn't winning but surely it would've been a good practical choice. So I also want to warn the reader that ideas/ concepts/ plans can't be copied blindly. Analyzing or preparing our games let us learn a lot of useful things which we often can reuse later. Yes some of these things we can find during a game without any foreknowledge but for sure this will cause a loss of time. In other cases we won't discover some hidden possibilities and won't take advantage of some offered chances.

Brabo

Friday, August 17, 2018

Tactics part 3

On my blog several articles were published about how much efforts I make to allow my son to play chess. This means little free time remains for myself to play standard games. It is an investment in the future as probably within 2-3 years things will improve. Besides even today I already receive some dividends. Hugo starts to understand more and more about chess so our conversations become more interesting. He shows genuine interest in my games and even gives comments or shares ideas about certain positions.

Last he disagreed about my chosen strategy in a critical position which popped up in my game of round 2 from Open Gent. He considered me a coward by not playing the winning move as I wasn't able to calculate everything correctly to the end. His reasoning is that a couple of moves down the line things would become clear. This is not silly as if we look to the variation below which I calculated in the game then the win is very easy to detect in the final position.
Hugo definitely gets support from other players with this view see comments from some strong players on my article tactics part 1. They also believe you shouldn't be able to calculate everything to play a certain move. Some calculations and common sense should be sufficient to decide. However I am not convinced as this sounds more like I knew it. Hindsight it is always easier to tell that the move is better. Besides in above example I can prove that playing a winning move doesn't guarantee finding the win. It is a pure coincidence but I found a game in the mega-database with exactly the same position. In that game the Qatari Mohammed Al-Sayed played with white the strongest move but still deviated 2 moves later from the mainline.
At that time he was rated 2486 elo. Today he is a grandmaster so not a fish. I mean if he can't find the optimal line after playing the strongest move then it is very harsh to condemn my chosen continuation as cowardly. I don't think my hesitation was misplaced. Besides nobody manages to calculate everything to the end. I am in good company as a couple of weeks ago Magnus also expressed no regrets when he wasn't able to complete his masterpiece. After the game he stated:  "The position screams for 20.Bg5 but if you don't see mate...".

Today I strongly believe that a decision should be based upon analyzing concrete knowledge. So I am an adept of calculating countless lines during the game which is hard work. Intuition is nice but competitive chess doesn't allow much space to gamble. The best pilots are ashore which is today always the case as they can access the strongest engines to detect in a couple of seconds any blunder.

Of course some exceptions exist when a gamble can be interesting. I am thinking about bad positions without any hope. Sometimes a risky move can improve the odds. Also a half point can be insufficient in some situations. Solid play can lead to lower winning chances compared to chaotic moves. Chess is not a casino-game so gambling should be restricted to that one special occasion.

Brabo

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The great escape

First round(s) of an open tournament are often useless. The massive rating-gap causes most games to be one-direction traffic which none of the players enjoy. The stronger player wins too easily for getting any satisfaction of it. The weaker player gets beaten so hard that it is even impossible to learn anything from it. As I wrote in my article the favorite is hundreds points stronger, there are some good reasons to avoid that type of games.

Exactly because of it in some tournaments the organizers choose for accelerated pairings in the first rounds. Stronger players get temporarily extra pairing-points at the start conform their rating which allows the players to play quicker more interesting games. In the worldcup a reversed bottom half was used for the first round-pairings see worldCup2017Regulations.pdf whereby players in the middle of the table get immediately some equal opponents. Random pairings is another controversial possibility which was tested recently in the Isle of Man. That experiment created even a surprising top-encounter see Isle of Man open 1st round: Caruana-beats-Kramnik.

Nevertheless ratings aren't an exact science. Blunders happen even by the very best players so it is always fun to see who will be the schmuck in the first round. Which favorite will be ridiculed by losing against a much lower rated opponent (often the difference is larger than 500 elo)? For now I was able to avoid such disgrace but in my last open this almost changed. Honestly I felt in advance already trouble. I hadn't played an official game since my last round of the Belgian interclub so April (it is hard to play interesting games fitting in my loaded agenda see inactivity). Besides I had noticed a couple of minutes before the game that my opponent Sarah Dierckens, likes to play the Ponziani. Now I have demonstrated on my blog that the opening is compromised but this demands a piece-sacrifice of black leading to some wild complications. I saw during the start of the game that the Belgian FM Roel Hamblok was looking doubtful to whites opening-choice but in fact white executes exactly one of the best strategies against a stronger opponent. Try to create complications which none of the players can control see How to win from a stronger player?

It is often hard to pinpoint the exact reason why a mistake was made. I do know that the massive blunder was the consequence of a hallucination but I can't explain how this hallucination happened. Naturally I was relieved after the game that I escaped contrary to one of my games played end of last year see comebacks part 3. Without any cooperation this does not work. For a longtime it appeared that I would not be able to escape as in the end it took me more than 20 moves to turn the tide. In more than 20 years of competition this is my longest escape.
Normally an extra piece always wins easily but due to the uncomfortable position of white's king in the center, I could keep looking for tricks. I avoided as much as possible exchanges and maybe my recent experiences with handicap-games against my daughter Evelien (she recently also started to play chess) helped too. In some sense the escape is at least as surprising as my blunder.

Of course such comebacks are happening all the time between beginners. They give away pieces many times during a game which makes a game very unpredictable. However experienced tournament-players will offer very rarely presents to their opponents. It is not a record my escape. Neither is the length nor the size of it. No compared with the game below then my game is just very average. Indeed that was a standard game in which both players had plenty of time. Also white is not a beginner at all: James Burden, an American expert of 2100 elo.
The hardest game to win is a won game (quote of Emmanuel Lasker). Well I don't think Sarah underestimated me after she got a won position. She played patiently and was able to counter for a long time my desperate moves. Maybe she was even a bit too careful as she missed my quick switch of the rooks to the c-file. Anyway it is unclear which strategy would've been better for white. Some technical mistakes in complex situations are unavoidable as it is linked to our playing strength. Probably I was just lucky to create sufficient problems to escape.

Brabo

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

(No) regrets

Some articles ago I announced a couple of chess-camps in Belgium for our youth. My son Hugo participated at the one of schaakinitiatief Vlaanderen which meanwhile is already finished more than 1 week ago. It was a huge success for the organisation as for the participants. I only heard and read positive things. The daily reports with pictures submitted by the organization on their site, were very well perceived by the home front. Below picture probably summarizes the camp the best.
A mega-bouncy-castle at the chess-camp
Source: http://schaakinitiatief.blogspot.com/


It was super-fun, grandiose and well organized. My son wished that he could stay longer so next time we will certainly again participate. I expect next time the organizers shall better attract some additional leaders as likely much more people will want to subscribe. I guess multiple camps would also be interesting for the youth but I am not sure if this is something feasible for the organization.

Yes our young players have a luxury-life. Those things didn't exist when I was young. Besides I only got acquainted with competitive-chess very late in my teens. Who knows how much better I would play today if the conditions at that time would've been similar like my son's. Anyway it makes no sense to complain. We can't change the past and also I never had any choice.

On the other hand in our games we do always make choices which don't always give us the result we expected. Normally we can accept this but sometimes it does hurt when a different choice would've given for sure a better result. In below game my much lower rated opponent choosed to avoid the offered repetition but gets beaten in the remaining part of the game.

White's advantage was small so there remained a certain risk that the stronger player would still win the game. Nonetheless it is nonsense to regret the choice after the game. If you have an advantage then you should not take the draw even if the opponent is stronger. You have a much better chance to win the game in such case compared to the beginning. It would be very silly to play chess with the sole goal of making a draw.

Besides it is on the long term bad to take draws. If you want to develop optimally then you should become a gladiator of the game. This you can't study from books. No in each game you should push yourself to the limit, ready to die but getting in return valuable practical skills of a seasoned tournament-player.

My son Hugo knows meanwhile that I prefer him losing than taking a lazy draw. That sometimes leads to some funny situations like end of last year in the interclub. His team-captain couldn't believe his eyes when Hugo refused the draw in a lost position against a 300 points higher rated player. David against Goliath but twice as difficult. Of course there was no happy ending.

Hugo was defeated mercilessly. Pity of the half point some people will think but I considered it an unique opportunity to learn something. Hugo didn't realize that he was losing (probably his 300 points higher rated player neither as otherwise he would've not offered the draw). Anyway I know by experience that such hard lessons are very useful. Nobody likes to lose so you are always more eager to listen to advise after such defeats.

Besides the future always rewards players with a strong fighting will. That already happened here quickly as only 6 months later he made 2 upsets against players 300 points higher. Once he won but I like his draw more against the Belg Marc Van Stiphout.

This doesn't prove that we always have to continue fighting. If we are close to resign a game then we should of course accept a present. There also exist situations in which a half point is more important than taking risks. I am thinking of e.g. a tournament-victory with some money at stake, a title of a championship, a team-victory,..

Eventually it is matter of making a well thought-out choice. Regrets are unnecessary afterwards as there was no better information at that time available. Especially therefore I can't understand why some players don't put any effort in checking critically their played games. I consider it a pure waste of time to make the same (opening-) errors over again.

Brabo

Monday, June 25, 2018

Contempt

Earlier this year I wrote about how wrong it would be to shed Stockfish after his defeat against Alpha Zero (see to analyze using a computer part 3). In the last TCEC season 11 it became clear for everybody that this engine will still play a very important role at chess in the nearby future. First Stockfish qualified for the superfinal 7 points ahead of the number 2 Houdini. Then we saw a remarkable for this era of super-advanced engines a very one-sided battle. The convincing victory of Stockfish with 20 victories against 2 losses (for the rest only draws) was something we hadn't met anymore in the last decade.

The supremacy of Stockfish was probably the best shown in the double victory during the super-final when the Mar del Plata variation of the Kings Indian had to be played. First Stockfish won with the white pieces.
Next as for all chosen openings in the super-final, the colors were reversed for the engines (so no engine is privileged by the opening-choice). Again Stockfish won so this time with the black pieces.
After the match there was naturally a lot of talk about how Stockfish could make so much progress in such short notice. Hereby people quickly pointed to a new parameter of Stockfish: the contempt-factor. That needs a bit more explanation. First this parameter isn't new at all. Such contempt-factor exists for a long time but only recently the developers of Stockfish decided to use it intensively. The advantage is neither always obvious. In the previous TCEC season Stockfish made a bit too many draws against weaker engines which caused it to miss the final. As anti-dote the engine was adapted by playing moves leading to less exchanges of pieces so keeping the tension longer in a position which creates more scope for errors. Concretely this means Stockfish doesn't always play the best moves of its algorithms within an acceptable margin (defined by the contempt) to create more winning-chances. Besides this strategy is well-known in practical chess between humans see my article playing the man. However engine-play is very different.

The gain against weaker engines may not generate more losses against the strong engines. Nowadays a lot of experiments are done with a dynamic contempt instead of a pure static contempt see tests of Stockfish. They adapt the size of the contempt to the evaluation of the position. You could allow exchanges more quickly in an inferior position or the opposite.

So engines continue to develop. Also don't expect that Stockfish will rule the world alone in the future. Last month there was big news for its main-rival Komodo. The engine was acquired by chess.com see this announcement which will definitely boost the engine. The prediction already starts to materialize in the currently ongoing TCEC season 12 in which Komodo qualified as first engine and started the super-final with a win against the latest release of Stockfish.

For sure fans of engine-chess have something to look forward. Still this is and remains a niche which we see translated in the number of visitors. Stockfish is many hundreds of points stronger than the reigning world-champion Magnus Calsen. Nevertheless Magnus' games are 1000 more often viewed. For the regular chess-player an engine is only used to get an evaluation of a position or to make some analysis. As a consequence most just take the strongest available engine to do this job. Naturally it is a bonus that today this strongest engine so Stockfish comes without any charges.

However very few know that you need to be careful when using the latest version of the engine for the analysis. The evaluations are less accurate than previous releases of the same engine or of other top-engines if not interpreted correctly. That is because of the contempt-factor which influences the evaluations. When white's move avoids exchanges then a bonus of 0,2 is giving to white. For black such type of move would generate a negative bonus of -0,2. Such manipulations of the evaluation cause some strange yo-yo-effect especially at the beginning of the game. Even when no mistakes are made then we notice fluctuations of almost a half pawn. By applying the evaluation-profile of the Fritz-interface on a game with no serious errors, this becomes very visible.
Stockfish 9 with contempt (10 seconds per move)









These swings disappear in the first 20 moves when we make an evaluation-profile with the Fritz interface after resettting the contempt of Stockfish to 0. Below screenshot makes this again very clear.
Stockfish 9 without contempt (10 seconds per move)







This is our normal evaluation-pattern we need as base to comment games see annotations or to make some deep opening-analysis see to study openings part 2. For the analysis we want mainly an objective evaluation of how strong the moves are and not which moves create the best winning chances for Stockfish against other engines.

To eliminate the contempt can be done in the Fritz interface by looking up the settings of Stockfish. You only need to change the contempt-value from 20 to 0 see screenshot below.
Stockfish parameters
The only issue of this solution is that the Fritz-interface doesn't allow you to save this setting as default. So each time you start up Stockfish, you have to redo this. That is fine if you only use the engine sporadically but for intensive usage this is very annoying. On the internet I searched for a better alternative which I eventually found see stockfish 9 for analysis. There you can download a special compiled version of Stockfish more appropriate for analysis. In that version you don't need to reset each time anymore the contempt-parameter to 0.

It is not the only limitation of the default-settings in the Fritz-interface. I also don't manage to get the interface remember that it should not add my name as annotator. Each time I save any analysis, I have to remove manually my name. It is only 2 seconds work but in a couple of months this happens sometimes 1000 times so I am still wasting quite some time.
Another flaw in the default-setting is in the new application automatic analysis of the games played online at playchess. Recently I am playing again more blitz online (due to a lack of serious competitions). However when I want to check the openings of the blitz-games with an engine using the Fritz-interface see my article the (non-)sense of blitz then I am always disturbed by pop-up windows about tactical blunders spotted by the engine-trainer. It is today impossible to switch off this trainer forever.





There exist today other interfaces than Chessbase for engines but none can compete as they all have much less functionality. So Chessbase has an absolute monopoly which isn't good for the end-user. Today we see that the developments mainly happen around more functionality for the large community so they are persuaded of buying newer releases of their products. It is not financially interesting to optimize existing functionality for the few intensive users (they only make a couple percentages of the total customer-base). Besides few or no Chessbase-programmers are today active strong tournament-players see e.g. the interview with Matthias Wuellenweber in 2018. Playing professional chess and programming is a very difficult combination.

Brabo