Friday, January 12, 2018

Swindles

Fighting back from a lost position is definitely not easy in chess. In my article comebacks I demonstrated that in most games an evaluation-difference of 1 pawn is an uphill battle. A recent article at schaaksite about reversibility proves the same but uses a totally different method. The Dutch expert Jaap Amesz played a couple of rapidgames against a top-engine rated 1000 elo higher than himself. Getting a piece extra to start, it became quite easy to defeat the tactical monster. Handicap-games make only sense for novices.

The endgame is an exception as a mistake will normally cause a much bigger impact upon the result of the game. In the past I often was able to save totally lost endgames due to a better sense of the intricacies see e.g. endgames of bishop against knightendgames of knight against knightendgames of opposite bishops,... I consider it a pity that we only deal with "playable" endgames in about 10% of our games. A higher percentage doubtlessly would've been positive for my rating. Besides the quicker games today compared with a couple of years ago were also deteriorating the endgame.

So a won middlegame with a relatively lower engine-evaluation will often be easier to win than a won endgame with sometimes a much higher engine-evaluation. Experienced players know how to avoid counterplay in a won middlegame. The defender often is restricted to just defending for several hours. It is not only boring but also such defense fails eventually in most cases. It is not a surprise that some players will try to swindle. The definition at wikipedia tells us to trick/ fool the opponent so a lost position can be saved.

So with a swindle-move you try to set a trap for the opponent but at the same time you also risk to lose much quicker or even immediately. When stiff defense will anyway will lead to a guaranteed defeat then such swindle is for sure the right decision. However in many other cases the right choice is not very clear. I am not an expert in that domain. When I try to swindle then it is mostly too late. It more resembles to my final gasp so without any real chance of salvation. I remember 1 clear exception in my career in which I tried to swindle in an inferior but not yet totally lost position.

The final-position is completely lost for black but I was fortunate. White was happy with the draw and didn't look beyond the repetition (something similar happened recently in the game Zaki Harari - Maxim Rodshtein played at Isle of Man). Very likely a stronger player would've deviated and my swindle would've failed. Anyway after the game I was not proud about the swindle. I got the feeling to have stolen a half point but also realized that most other players wouldn't hesitate to pull a similar feat against myself.

Totally different is the feeling when a swindle happens thanks to an unique hidden possibility after something changed in the position. Such swindles are not based upon provoking mistakes but rather use its own playing-strength by finding often stunning combinations. The most fertile territory is again the endgame. In my article holidays part 3 I wrote that I tried to kibitz the games of the other Belgium players in Le Touquet. Hereby I not only paid attention to the A-group but also looked at the players in the B-group. As such I saw a very lovely swindle executed by the 11 year old Leen Deleu.

Leen's results weren't fantastic in the tournament but this escape surely improved her spirits.

In Open Leuven I encountered my most beautiful swindle of my chess-career and on top in a middlegame. Just when I thought to finally overcome the resistance of my opponent, the flamboyant Belgian expert Emile Boucquet managed to knock off my socks by a marvelous piece-sacrifice leading to a forced draw. Initially I was disappointed to spoil a very good position with an extra pawn but later I did appreciate the beauty of the concept.

I assume Emile hadn't forecast everything but that doesn't really matter here and besides was practically impossible with the remaining time on the clock. Anyway I don't mind to lose half or even full points when my opponent can find such swindles during the game.

In fact such swindles should be collected for the real chess-amateurs. That is why we learned to play chess. Luckily the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon just requested on his blog to send him our best swindles as he wants to bundle them in a book see article: a swindle that never was. So if you experienced something spectacular in your games then respond to this post or send it directly to David.

Brabo

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