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.


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.