Thursday, November 14, 2019

Which games to analyze? part 2

At the last Open of Touquet (France) the talented and young FM Sim Maerevoet told me that he should once store his scoorsheets digitally on his computer. I thought this was a remarkable statement. I am used to that older or lower rated players don't store their games in a personal database but I don't expect that from an ambitious player with virtually approximately 2400 fide.

It appears Sim barely or never analyzes his standard games with an engine. That is the opposite of how I work. Besides now I also start to wonder if my many hours of analyzing with engines is really useful as meanwhile Sim has 100 points more already then I have. On the other hand I can't imagine that I would get better results by playing countless hours of blitz and bullet at lichess like Sim does.

By the way I've being doing that in the past too and it didn't help me to improve but maybe it is related to the age of the person. Older persons make much harder progress than teenagers. Just maintaining their rating is already difficult. I am not doing so bad when I compare with my contemporaries. Maybe it is not very efficient to analyze games with an engine seriously but it definitely doesn't harm.

Nowadays most of my analysis is spent at deeply investigating the opening and sometimes I do get rewarded for it. In the last round of Open Brasschaat 2019 I used an idea which I had discovered in 2014 after some very extensive analysis made of the opening see my article fashion.
However I have to admit that such games are rare. It can take years before I can use some of my analysis and then they are often already outdated. This can be because the newest engine found some holes but also because new trends have popped up in games between grandmasters. Also I do notice that because of the exponential growth of my opening-analysis that I started to forget more often (see e.g. harakiri). In the last Open Brasschaat this was really annoying for me as I suffered from amnesia in 5 out of 9 games. Sometimes I just lost time but in 3 games also my opening went wrong.

I am sure it is much more efficient to read a new openingbook about an opening and immediately learn something about dozens of lines instead of just checking 1 line deeply. Still I do find it 100x more fun to discover 1 idea independently than read 100 new ideas in a book from somebody else. Maybe I should switch to watching dvds as reading books is not only hard work but it is also not easy to remember everything.

Analyzing middlegames is even more doubtful than openings. I spend about 1 hour at it for each game but I don't think that I learn something which can be used in another game. The positions are always very different which makes it almost impossible to find connections between them. Sometimes you also need to accept that we will never have the same tactical skills as the engines. In the earlier mentioned last round of Open Brasschaat I got a chance to become immortal by playing an absolutely insane combination. I showed it to other FM's but everybody agreed that such combination was alien.
Beautiful isn't it but I think the chance is 0% that I will ever be able to execute such combination in another game.

After the last standardgame of the most recent worldchampionship a journalist told Magnus Carlsen that the engine shows +2 after 25...b5. However Magnus answered coldly with "I don't care" see world chess championship game 12 carlsen offers draw in better position to reach tiebreaks. He is right of course because he has proven time over time that an evaluation of an engine doesn't have the last word about how chess will be decided between humans. Although I do use engines to define the quality of my games, I also realize that it is impossible to imitate an engine.

Nevertheless i do recommend analyzing your middlegames with an engine when you are still learning and improving a lot. This is especially important when you don't have access to a good coach. I estimate my chances would've been very slim that I would be today an FM if I had before never access at all to an engine. Today the return of analyzing my games deeply has been diminished a lot for me. I still do because chess is more than just playing games and winning rating. I also enjoy it immensely to discover combinations like the one above. I am interested in the truth so like to know what happened exactly in my games. Chess is not only a game for me but also science and art.

Endgames I consider more interesting to analyze properly. There are only a limited number of games reaching an endgame in which the result isn't fixed yet. You won't win much rating by studying deeply endgames. On the other hand endgames which are misplayed are often very painful. They often make a big difference in open tournaments especially at the end when the prizes are announced. Also endgames can often be categorized in groups. It allows you to formulate rules for a certain category. I gave an example of that in  my article exchange pawns when standing worse and at below endgame against the Belgian expert Sterre Dauw I spent quite some time to find out how things should be evaluated.
These type of rook-endgames in which 1 player has an extra lonely pawn at the other side of the board is something which occurs regularly in games. However even some FM's admit after the game that they had not idea how to evaluate such endgame correctly and even less which moves to play. I learned that it can depend from some small details like just 1 square difference of the h-pawn or king defines it it is won or only drawn. I also found it interesting to discover the concept of the 4th row line-up for the white pieces which allows the transfer of the king to the other side.

So experienced players won't gain much by analyzing their own games. It is more useful to track the latest trends in your repertoire and just play a lot. That is how the modern strong master is trying to further develop. Analyzing games is still useful for publication and archiving of course. Very likely this blog couldn't exist without it. The statistics of this blog prove that although many players don't have much time to analyze, they still like to look a bit deeper than just the shallowness of a game.

Brabo

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How much time do you spend at chess? part 2

The last 2,5 years I have supervised several times my son (and) daughter while they play chess-tournaments lasting multiple days. In those tournaments I am very often recognized by other players and then the first question I get is why I am not participating myself. Most parents able to play chess, also participate when the tournament-format allows it but I decided not to do. The reason is that too often I've seen small children looking annoyed after their quickly played games and are hanging around the unfamiliar playing-hall for hours without any supervision as their parent was still busy with its own game. Some of those children were only 8 years old and while most chess-players are nice people, there are also some very strange ones with whom I don't want my kids to have contact alone.

So as I wrote already a few times on this blog, I sacrifice a lot of my free time at sitting and waiting while my kids are playing chess. By reading something and chatting with other parents the time passes by more enjoyable but I also bring along my portable to continue the analysis of my own games. Such activity always attracts curious players. I also assume it creates some suspicion as with the current state of available electronic gadgets, you never know if it is not an effort to cheat. A couple of times an arbiter checked my portable to make sure I wasn't analyzing any running game.

When I am still analyzing on the second day the same game, the first dumbfounded questions arise from players. How deep do you analyze your own games? How much time do you spend at analyzing your own games?... However when I am after the 4th day still busy analyzing the same game, every spectator quits looking. Such analysis could be fine for correspondence-chess but that is not the kind of chess which a tournament-player is interested in.

In part 1 of How much time do you spend at chess? I wrote that averagely I spend about 4-5 hours of my personal time at the analysis of 1 of my games. That is an estimated time which doesn't take into account the number of hours processing time which my computers have used. In the same article I mention that my computer probably consumes 5 x more time. If I tell you that I only let my PC run during daytime while I am around then you understand that an analysis can last several days.

How many days exactly and what kind of analysis are made, seems interesting to once investigate. I knew that recently I mainly work at openings but there are big differences between the different games. We need metrics to get a proper view about it. Checking with a stopwatch the time used for each analysis made during multiple months is not a realistic approach but fortunately there exists an alternative called "Autosave.cbh" which generates acceptable results.

I assume most players never heard about this alternative before. What is "Autosave" and how would that ever replace a stopwatch? Some loyal and attentive readers of the blog should remember that I once used this word in the article the game preparation part 2. In that article I talked about databases which were part of the cockpit I use to analyze and one of those databases is "Autosave.cbh". I didn't elaborate about it at that time as it wasn't relevant for the article. Besides the name "Autosave.cbh" explains partly itself. The file saves something automatically.

Just like excel, word, ... also Chessbase takes care that regularly your work is saved to avoid losing everything when the system crashes. Such file is automatically created at the installation and you normally can find it in the directory Chessbase\MyWork see the screenshot here below.
So if your system crashes then often you can still find back your notation + analysis in the file "Autosave.cbh" and bring it back to your favorite-folder. Beside "Autosave.cbh" doesn't save only the most recent version but also earlier versions of your work. This allows you to restore something you erased and which you regret. Or as for this article I was able thanks to "Autosave.cbh" to check how many versions of the opening, middlegame or endgame were saved. 200 versions of just one game in "Autosave.cbh" were no exception for me. A glimpse about this excessive saving, you can see in below screenshot.
Timestamps I couldn't find of the versions but I believe it is fine to assume that each version covers approximately the same time-span. This was also shown when I compared 2 tournaments and divided the number of days used for analysis and the number of versions stored. The deviation was 11% so more than sufficient to make conclusions. The 2 tournaments which I used for the exercise were Open Gent and Open Brasschaat which I played last summer. The analysis of the games of Open Gent were finished the 28th of August which means it took me 27 days (I didn't work at it during the Open Brasschaat). The analysis of my games played in Open Brasschaat were finalized the 17th of October and that corresponds with 47 days of analysis (I didn't work at it when I had to play new standard games for interclub and clubchampionship). Eventually I was able to make a pretty detailed analysis of the number of days I spent at analyzing my 18 games.
Averagely it takes a bit more than 4 days of analysis per game but there are big variances between the games. I spent less than 1 day at my 4th round of Open Gent while the first round of Open Brasschaat took me more than 11 days.

Contrary to expectations, I notice nor the elo of the opponent nor the result of the game influence really the number of days. The time of the analysis is mostly related to the type of opening played. 80% of the time is spent at that phase which isn't such a surprise as I use a scientific approach to chess. You can't play successfully always the same opening without an in-depth study of it.

Openings which I never studied before, take a lot of my time to analyze properly. Nevertheless it doesn't mean that I neglect the other phases of the game. It seems that spending only 5% of the analysis at endgames is inadequate but how many players can claim they spend more than 4 days in the last 2,5 months exclusively at analyzing endgames seriously.

Yes I think this article once again shows that I am not the average player. Most players just play chess and spend only a couple of minutes to check any mistakes. Besides I do this kind of analysis already for more than 20 years. Over the years I have refined my working-methods and put much more emphasis at the opening.

Several international masters told me that they don't analyze their games so extensively as I do. Anyway I don't expect my students to do such analysis. You should only do that if you enjoy it. In a next article I want to discuss how useful this is for your own development. Is it more than just fun?

Brabo