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.


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.