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