Thursday, December 26, 2019

Which games to analyze? part 3

I promised some time ago to Helmut that I would write an article for this blog when I would have some free time. In November Helmut wrote a great article about which games he analyzes and to which sense it helps us to become a stronger player. So I thought it could be an interesting idea once to explain my method of working at chess. Helmut writes that I am not sufficiently analyzing my own games and I agree with him. I often only look at my games with the engine on my smartphone and only when I forgot something of the opening, I will spend some time at rechecking the theory. I should do more analysis of my games as I do realize that only checking them this way for maximum a half hour isn't sufficient.

However I also think it is at least as interesting to analyze games from somebody else. So when I work at chess, I rather prefer to look at many games of top-players (not only world-top but also Belgian top players) instead of my own games. I try to follow every tournament in which the best players of the world are participating and practically every day I try to select one of those games which I try to study more deeply (approximately 1 hour). Beside this daily work I also check the games of the best Belgian players (normally the 3 highest boards of the Belgian interclub). Finally I also have the habit to monitor a few Belgian players whom are rapidly making progress. Last year this was the youth-player Dries Van Malder giving me many interesting ideas to study. As he is playing less regularly chess this year, I switched my focus to the fresh IM:  Rein Verstraeten

So for this article I selected a few games from Rein which I think are his very best. Please have a look at how I analyzed those games. The first one starts with a Najdorf from Rein. Rein is an expert in the opening and it is definitely one of the best played Najdorf games I've ever seen.
Game number 2 is an analysis which I received from Rein himself. I want to share it as I think it is a very clever piece of opening-analysis and Rein also displays a very good technique. I like to read analysis of strong(er) players as it learns you a lot about chess very quickly.
The last game brought Rein the title of international master. Congratulations Rein !
At the beginning of this article I tried to demonstrate to the reader how I approach the middle-game. So I check a lot of games and analyze them briefly. I also first look at the games without an engine and do only afterwards a quick blunder-check with an engine.

For the openings I have worked out myself completely a repertoire with chessbase-files about each opening. However many ideas which I use, are stolen from the most recent book I found about that particular opening. It takes a lot of time to build those files but I think it is important work as it gives you a good idea about which positions you will get on the board. I think it is also very useful to know in advance you get only positions which you like to play. Personally I like to fight for the initiative so I will always try to avoid openings in which I need to defend.

As an amateur I believe it is also important to keep the amount of theory under control. So I prefer to select interesting side-lines instead of playing main-lines. This way I only need to check my files once a game is played with my side-lines. If it is an interesting idea then I make an update otherwise I ignore it. It is a piece of advice which I got myself from a player varying continuously between 7 openings. Some people will consider this is too much change and probably this is indeed the case for an amateur. It is the reason why I prefer to stick with one big opening and only vary of lines instead.

I am curious to read about in how you think analyzing games of other players is more important than analyzing your own games. I also think quantity will teach you more than quality. Wesley So once said that he has difficulties not getting too excited about analyzing just one position. You need to manage your time properly and spend to every part of your repertoire sufficient time.

Sim Maerevoet


Note Brabo: 
Sim Maerevoet had in December 2015 a fide-elo of 1687. Exact 4 years later at the age of 18 years old he has now 2413. So we talk here about a gain of 726 elo in a rather short time-frame and achieved without external help (no trainings from IMs/ GMs as far as I know). I am delighted that Sim wants to share on this blog his method of working as I am convinced it will inspire many other (young) players. The article also shows another more pragmatic approach to chess compared with my own more theoretical articles. Chess has many facets. I would like other (strong but not necessarily) players would stand up and come here to explain their experiences. It is something we can all learn from it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My most beautiful move part 4

Almost 8 years I am running this blog (I started in Dutch and after 1,5 years also translated the articles to English). Only last year in June I had for the first time no inspiration but normally there is always something which I bump against worth to share on this blog. I rarely get feedback about my articles but the statistics of my blog tell me that there seems to be a quite large loyal reader-audience. Sometimes a player tells me that they used something from my blog successfully in their games see chesslinks. Nonetheless I can definitely use some motivation as I spent for sure at least 1000 hours already at writing articles for this blog.

However recently I met the negative side of blogging. Many Flemish players know meanwhile that I maintain a blog. Also more and more people start to realize that I am actually playing the lines about which I write. So in the last year I experienced an exponential growth of opponents using the content of the blog against myself. Thanks to my article Dutch steps in the English opening part 2Belgian FM Adrian Roos could anticipate my switch from the Stonewall to the Leningrad Dutch against the English in our interclub-game of last season. Belgian FM Roel Hamblok admit that he read in my article killer novelties that I don't answer 1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 anymore with 2...d5 but that I recently switched to 2...Nf6. Besides he told me that thanks to my article leela lc0 he was not only able to install the engine on his computer but he also used it intensively to prepare our game.

Even against non titled players I am not safe anymore. John Weynen, 1584 fide confessed after our game that thanks to my article cats that he was aware about the winning piece-sacrifice on e5 against the lion which of course he avoided. I wasn't able to check with Marie Dgebuadze, 1915 fide but it seemed a too big coincidence that Marie played at move 15 in a very rare line exactly the recommendation I gave for white in my article the scientific approach part 2. Each of the examples mentioned were played solely in 2019 and probably I am still missing some.

Belgian FM Warre De Waele made some time ago the remark that I share a lot of information about myself on my blog. He didn't say that I was stupid but I also realize that speaking is silver and silence is gold. The Dutch blogger Maaike Keetman even got explicitly the choice between her blog or a national selection to EK/WK from her coach Zhaoqin Peng, a Dutch grandmaster. She chose to play so stopped blogging since 2015.

No, this is not a prelude to the end of this blog. I think this blog has more value than the few ratingpoints I lose. Besides the losses shouldn't be exaggerated. The openings only had a limited impact on the results of my games. Also many articles needed research and interesting analysis which I probably would've never made otherwise.

Sometimes I also discover some unexpected positive side-effects from this blog. In tournaments I am sometimes addressed by total strangers for me, following my blog already for years. In the last open of Leuven I noticed that the tie-breaking system was changed from TPR to Bucholtz. Last year I wrote in my article byes that TPR isn't fair when byes are allowed. Maybe it is coincidence but I guess somebody of the organization read my article and liked my comment. However the best initiative must be a reaction on my article "my most beautiful move part 3" by Marcel Van Herck, reading my blog already for many years. He used the theme of the article to organize a study-competition. In the 12th ARVES Jenever tournament 2019 the participants had to create a study in which a piece is captured by black with check. White can recapture but prefers instead to interpose a piece to stop the check. The winner was the Russian grandmaster (compositions) Oleg Pervakov with below magnificent study.
The jury praised the composition because it wasn't only economically (they mean that only few pieces were used on the board) but also that no less than 4 queen-sacrifices were inserted into the solution. The other studies are definitely also worth a look. Please see the link above to check them.

Chess-compositions are the ideal playing-ground for themes which we rarely or never see in standard tournament-practice. Exceptions confirm the rule as I recently bumped by coincidence against below game while analyzing the opening of my game against the Dutch FM Joey Grochal with exactly our theme.
I suspect the theme is so rare that we miss it when it occurs on the board in a game. Especially nowadays when play is much faster, we see many players trying to play some quick moves which at first sight look forced. Only afterwards we discover with an engine that the automatic move wasn't forced at all.

Writing a blog brings a mix of positive and negative emotions. I would like to see more positive reactions here and ask for some abstention of people using my blog against myself. Of course I am 100% responsible for what is published here but my motivation to continue will ultimately depend if there exists an acceptable balance.

Brabo

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The initiative

Older players will likely still remember the time when we could beat the best engines available. I never experienced that myself. I started to play regularly chess at the age of 14 and while I quickly improved, I never could catch up in the 90ties with the engines. From 2000 onward only topgrandmasters could still challenge a computer but around 2006 this also ended. After that the engines kept on improving at a steady pace. For an amateur it became increasingly difficult to detect the differences between the engines. Nowadays I see many chessplayers don't search anymore for the best engine and are satisfied with an engine of which they know that it can beat any human in the world.

It is indeed irrelevant to have the best of the best for just a blunder-check. Only a few will also try to discover the little nuances in a game. Today the top-engines have become so strong that they can find in the most complex positions very quickly the right track and beside can not only maintain an initiative stubbornly but also increase it methodically. Last summer I had multiple favorable positions in the Open Brasschaat of which I had no clue about what I should do. A first example is against the 15 year-old Marie Dgebuadze. After a small mistake of Marie I obtained a very nice position but then I didn't push through. The engine demonstrates with accurate play that I hesitated too long which allowed Marie to neutralize my initiative.

I couldn't achieve more than a draw at the end. However int he second example it went even more sore. If you check the rating of the 25 year-old Yago De Cuyper then you find out that I should win easily as +500 difference is a massive gap. Nevertheless during the game this wasn't the case at all. Again I get the upper-hand in the middlegame but also here I hesitate which allows my opponent to counter-attack. I was shocked especially when the engine showed me how a few moves were needed to convert my initiative into a clear advantage.

It was a miracle that I still won the final position but this has no relation with the initiative so would only digress us. More interesting is to check if there are some symptoms in my game which explain these failures. Why can't I maintain the initiative against these "weaker" players?

The question was raised to me if I don't practice sufficiently tactics. I did miss some hidden motives which caused me to not consider some moves. On the other hand at chess.com I maintain for some time already a 3100 rating which puts me at the top of the Belgian players so I don't think I am worse in tactics than others. I also got the advice to study more Dutch games so I get acquainted to common combinations in this opening. I have more than 20 years experience with the Dutch so I think that I can consider myself an expert in the Dutch. Therefore I do dare to claim that the examples shown are not standard at all.

No in both examples I hesitated to push my pawns on the king-side as there are always risks connected to it. I couldn't properly evaluate it so I chose to wait. Very often the apple falls from the tree by itself or you get a better and easier opportunity. In above games it didn't happen this time so I spoiled the advantage.

By the way I am definitely not the only one having this problem. Recently I was at the other side of the board sitting. The Belgian FM Roel Hamblok got a winning initiative in the interclub against me with a clever game-preparation but it wasn't trivial to convert it into a win. White hesitated to sacrifice any material and just chose normal developing moves which allowed me to fight back in the game.

I earlier warned in my article sacrificing for the dangers of it. You often are left empty handed when the attack doesn't win immediately. Correct sacrifices demand a high degree of precision to make them work. So I understand perfectly why Roel preferred to slowly build up his position instead of making some gambles. It did however let the initiative fade away.

The volatile character of an initiative only leaves a window of opportunity open for a limited time. Between 2300 and 2800 there is a big gap of playing strength. How you manage an initiative is definitely a key-element of it. Some books learn players to think out of the box and to look beyond the risks but likely talent has the final word.

Brabo