Thursday, November 26, 2020

The (non-) sense of blitz part 3

Never waste a crisis as it is an excellent opportunity to question the default. We can wait till everything normalizes again but maybe we never fully return to the old situation. Nonetheless I don't see many new initiatives. Therefore I don't think it is a coincidence that in the most recent online magazine of Vlaanderen Schaakt Digitaal readers were asked to share their ideas/ experiences to survive as a chess-player during this corona-pandemic.

In my previous article I talked about how some players endangered themselves and their environment by going to far destinations just to play chess. In this article I rather want to look for safer solutions and just a couple of days ago I learned about an excellent initiative via the site of my very first chess-club de torrewachters which I still sometimes visit: my online class.
For now it is only accessible for players of West-Flanders and you have to ask access to Tom Piceu/ Glenn Dayer so I can't test it but it looks visually great. This has the potential of becoming much bigger. People interested in an introduction to this virtual chess-club can find it here. If you understand Dutch then you can also read about it via this link.

I am not such a IT-specialist as (I assume) Mark Dechamps is and neither do I have such great ideas but end of last month I also made a click in my mind. I didn't want to wait any longer so I started to look for new possibilities to develop myself as a player. What can we still do today of chess while respecting the safety-rules of corona? Well online chess is about it of course. However haven't we had enough about that? I even wrote in July already see my article online chesstournaments that we better don't spend too much time at playing online chess.

I am still supporting that view but end of last month I realized we can do more than just playing those online games. In part 2 I have shown that I used my online played games to prepare for my opponents (but also in post-mortems) so I would know about common mistakes which my future opponents are likely to make. However this time I asked myself if maybe I can learn even more from those online games. Despite that those online games last only a couple of minutes, I think they can sometimes offer more than just the detection of mistakes.

Anyway if we look at the middle-game then we only find a sea of big errors in those online games of which I am sure that more than 90% would never happen in a classical standardgame (probably 90% is still heavily underestimated). So I don't think it makes sense to look at it seriously. The endgame is even worse. First interesting endgames are very rare in blitz and online it is very often just a pre-move-competition which has hardly anything to do with playing regular chess. So the openings remain but don't we see mostly nonsense in those online games? If one can win with the Bongcloud an online top-tournament then we just have to conclude that there is nothing to learn about openings in online games at all, right?
[Event "Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup Final"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.09.29"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Carlsen,Magnus"] [Black "So,Wesley"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator ""] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2770"] [PlyCount "159"] 1. f3 e5 2. Kf2 d5 3. e3 Nc6 4. Bb5 Ne7 5. d4 a6 6. Ba4 exd4 7. exd4 Nf5 8. Ne2 Bd6 9. c3 O-O 10. Nd2 Re8 11. Nf1 Bd7 12. Bc2 Qh4+ 13. g3 Qf6 14. Bf4 Nce7 15. Bxd6 Nxd6 16. Ne3 Bf5 17. Nf4 c6 18. Re1 Qh6 19. h4 Qf6 20. Bxf5 Nexf5 21. Ng4 Qd8 22. Qd3 Qb6 23. b3 Qb5 24. a4 Qxb3 25. Reb1 Qc4 26. Qd2 a5 27. Ne5 Qa6 28. h5 f6 29. Ned3 Nc4 30. Qa2 b6 31. g4 Nfd6 32. Re1 Qb7 33. Ne6 Qd7 34. Ndf4 Re7 35. Re2 Rae8 36. Rae1 Nf7 37. Qb1 Ng5 38. Nxg5 fxg5 39. Rxe7 Rxe7 40. Nd3 Re6 41. Ne5 Qe7 42. Re2 h6 43. Qf5 Rf6 44. Qc8+ Qf8 45. Qxf8+ Rxf8 46. Nxc6 Kf7 47. Re7+ Kf6 48. Rd7 Rc8 49. Ne7 Ke6 50. Ra7 Rf8 51. Nf5 Rf7 52. Nxg7+ Kf6 53. Rxf7+ Kxf7 54. Nf5 Nb2 55. Ke2 Nxa4 56. Nxh6+ Kf6 57. Kd3 Nb2+ 58. Kc2 Nc4 59. Nf5 b5 60. h6 Kg6 61. Ne7+ Kxh6 62. Nxd5 Kg6 63. Nc7 Nd6 64. Kb3 Kf6 65. Nd5+ Ke6 66. Ne3 Kd7 67. Ng2 Kc6 68. f4 Ne4 69. fxg5 Nxg5 70. Nf4 Ne4 71. Nh3 a4+ 72. Kb4 a3 73. Kxa3 Nxc3 74. g5 Kd5 75. g6 Ne4 76. Ng5 Nf6 77. Nf3 Ke4 78. g7 Kf5 79. Ne5 Kg5 80. Kb4 1-0
This kind of openings are occurring all the time in online-chess. Some are more ugly than others. On the other hand there is only 1 Magnus Carlsen whom is able (not always) to be successful with this kind of crap. There are still many players preferring to play solid openings too online. Besides I already explained in part 1 that many players play the same openings online as they do in classical chess offline. So if we concentrate on the online games with "serious" openings then maybe we can use them for our study.

Since 2007 I saved practically all my online played games. Meanwhile the counter has crossed some time ago the 70.000 mark. That is a huge number of games so it is very likely that some of those games discuss interesting openings. Then the next question is of course how do we get those interesting games selected out of it and which criteria do we use? Another even more important question is how will we check the database as going manually through 70.000 games is unrealistic. I need a good filter but which one wasn't easy to define. My first idea was to define my personal score in each of the openings of my repertoire. I would then start working on the opening with the worst possible score by filtering the games in my database on that particular opening. If you have an account on lichess then this is something you can find out in just a couple of clicks via Chess Insights. Below you see such graphic obtained of one of my accounts.
That is just for the games in which I had black and I also limited the filter to only opponents rated approximately the same as I am. I have played much more games against weaker opponents compared to stronger opponents so otherwise we would have to look at TPR instead (which seems today impossible at lichess). Anyway it is also interesting to look once at results obtained only against weaker opponents (efficiency) or only against stronger opponents (correctness).

The first thing I notice in above graphic is that dubious openings score very well online. My score with the Dutch, except for A81 is excellent. Classical and more correct openings like the Spanish and the Scotch score remarkably worse. From this you could deduct that it makes sense to invest more in dubious openings and play less mainlines if I want to score better. However my goal is to improve my classical otb-chess and then I don't think this is the right approach. Also I am annoyed that lichess can only show the results of 1 account at a time. This account has almost 5000 games but that is only a fraction of my complete database of online played games. Finally I also miss details about the openings. In most cases an opening contains dozens of critical lines. This tool doesn't tell me which specific lines are problematic and when it exactly goes wrong.

Chess Insights looks sufficient for the beginner interested in getting a quick verdict about the big gaps in his repertoire (like having no decent setup against the Caro-Kann) but for experienced players this tool is nothing more than a gadget. To get a more in-depth view of my repertoire I decided to make my own opening-book like I explained earlier in my article green moves based on solely my lost games. In below screenshot you can see how it looks like for my repertoire after I played 1.e4.
As games played in 2007 are not really relevant anymore for my current repertoire and as I played many games in recent months, I decided to limit the number of lost games to only the ones I played in 2020. Yes I lost already 665 games with only 1.e4 this year which wasn't always fun to say the least. Still the more lost games I have, the more I probably can learn something of it.

With this openingbook I see in a glance which moves caused me the most defeats. Logically I wanted therefore to first look at the lines in which I suffered the most defeats. Unfortunately this approach didn't result to anything useful either. My main-line of lost games resulted in the 6.Be2 system against the Najdorf but this caused a conflict as that same line was also 1 of my best scoring lines of my repertoire. Of course scores can always be improved even if they are already very good but when looking at the lost games with this opening then I noticed that the losses have no relation to the opening at all.

So this sort of opening-book is not practical. You get an idea about which lines are popular (in online-chess but therefore not always in standard chess offline) but that is it. We should also not forget that online chess are just blitz-games. I mean if the input is of low quality then you can't much expect of the output. Results of blitzgames are very unpredictable so you better don't make upon it some conclusions of the chosen openings.

That means I was back to square 1 but I didn't give up yet. There was still one filter which I wanted to try. What if I only selected my online lost-games against my strongest opponents? Almost any online platform keeps track of its own online ratingsystem. Also in most cases you get automatically of each online game the online rating of both players so it is very easy to set a filter on it.
In above screenshot I show the result of such kind of filter. Only lost games are considered after I opened with 1.e4 against +2600 elo (online) opponents played in the year 2020. In the background you see that there were 10 of them and that is of course perfect to manually check one by one if they contain interesting openings. Especially numbers 3,7 and 8 look appealing to me. With those I started my study of which there is much more again to talk about. However that is for the next time as this article has exceeded again the maximal length.


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