Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The sequence

A lot of older players have difficulties to adapt themselves to the many changes that we saw during last 20 years in chess. New rules were created with clockwork regularity and the rapid development of electronics made that quite some players have dropped the game or are considering it as indicated in a comment on my blog.

The impact of openings certainly played a key-role in this story. First the computer learned us that much more types of positions are playable than we originally thought as discussed in my article revolution in the millennium. Next also preparation on our opponents and which openings to choose, has been drastically influenced. On that aspect I already spent a few articles: the game-preparationan expanded repertoire for blackgreen moves,...  Finally studying openings in particular for professionals/ strong amateurs became very voluminous.

I remember when I started to play chess so in the pre-computer-era that with a limited amount of chess-books it was enough to build a repertoire. I bought in those first years 1 book of each big opening which I encountered on the board: Spanish (white/black), Sicilian (white), Dutch (black), Pirc (white), French (white), Caro-Cann (white) and Aljechin (white). If you read my article the scientific approach then it is no coincidence that these openings are still part of my repertoire 20 years later. For a student with no financial support from the parents (something which I already briefly mentioned in chesscompositions) these purchases were not evident.

Although these books were surely sufficient to start. I quickly realized that they became out of date as theory develops very rapidly. However buying new expensive books was not an option for me so I searched for alternatives. With the fall of the the wall a lot of very cheap known chess-books arrived in the 90ties from the Eastern Block via smugglers to West-Europe. Trunks full of new books which you could buy for a fraction of the price in the local store were dragged to the interested players. Despite the very dubious origin it was very attractive and it was rather my timidity than my ethics which held me back. It is a logical step that I chose to work myself on my repertoire by using the always stronger becoming engines instead of using external help.

On the one hand I use(d) opening-books attached for free to engines or created from databases (see green moves). On the other hand I prepare(d) quite some opening-analysis myself based on my own games. Initially I was quite satisfied with the results but this slowly changed as I was more and more surprised in the openings by new systems. Now by starting to play abroad and against stronger opponents, this can be expected but it doesn't fully explain everything. As described in my article revolution in the millennium there was in the last decade an explosion of new systems which made that it became simply impossible without external help (especially for an amateur) to keep track of everything. It goes so fast that my club- and team-mate Daniel Sadkowski (2300 elo) already told me a few years ago that he couldn't keep his level if he kept on playing/ studying openings as before.

I am not worrying about it as today my priorities lay somewhere else (only 11 games for fide and 13 games for Belgian rating are forecasted this year) but if this ever would change than I do know where to find help. One or even several coaches, I can certainly recommend but with a more restricted budget one can accomplish also a lot via self-training. Today a lot of excellent material is available in book-format or online (see e.g the excellent site: You get easily access to analyses of countless grandmasters. I even dare to make a step further by stating that an ambitious player optimally reads everything available about the openings in his repertoire. This lesson was also learned the hard way by Magnus Carlsen in 2010. Luke Mc Shane chose in 2010 a variation out of the book Grandmaster repertoire volume 5 van Michael Marin of which the number 1 was not familiar with. Luke scored with it a sensational victory.

Now even if you have sufficient time to read everything then still I expect only a minority has the financial means to buy all the stuff. Of course it helps if you are a British top-grandmaster like Michael Adams and you get regularly books for reviewing as mentioned briefly on Quality Chess. For the less fortunate people, there is often nothing left than illegal downloading from the internet. I understand people don't want to curtail their ambitions by lack of money but I don't approve it as it is theft.

Collecting as much material as possible is one thing but you still have to memorize everything. Mostly I succeed to study the moves pretty well but the difficulty is mainly in remembering the exact sequence. Often I still remember the moves which I have to play but start to doubt which move had to be played first. If I have some extra time for studying then I always try to introduce some mnemonic devices to avoid this problem. Again chess-books can play an important role in this process if except analyses also place is reserved for prose. In fact recently I even learned something new in a sequence of the Spanish opening which I already play for 2 decades thanks to the book Garry Kasparov on my Great Predecessors, Part 1 (that I scheduled this book, was already announced in my comment on the article a moral victory).
[Event "World Championship 08th"] [Site "Germany"] [Date "1908.09.01"] [Round "5"] [White "Lasker, Emanuel"] [Black "Tarrasch, Siegbert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C98"] [PlyCount "75"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 Na5 {(Inaccurate but at that time they feared d4 after 0-0. Only later they discovered Bg4 giving good counter-play for black.)} 9. Bc2 c5 10. d4 Qc7 11. Nbd2 Nc6 12. h3 {(Hereby we return to a still popular variation. More critical were d5, a4 or dxc5 to execute the Rauzer plan with an extra tempo. )} O-O 13. Nf1 {(More interesting is the Rauzersystem with dxc5 which b.t.w. was tested later by Fischer. Today d5 is popular.} (13. d5 Nd8 14. a4 Rb8 15. axb5 axb5 16. b4 {(This variation recommended by Kasparov in his book, also popped up in my game against the Belgian FM Hans Renette. The theory has developed since the publication of the book in 2004 a lot and it is not fully clear to me how white can maintain the advantage.)}) 13... cxd4 14. cxd4 Nxd4 15. Nxd4 exd4 16. Bg5 {(In the 3rd game of the worldchampionship Lasker tried Ng3 and lost. Nevertheless he was not yet convinced of the dynamic qualities of the black position as once more proofs that players of that epoch evaluated static weaknesses like d6 very negatively.)} h6 {(After the match Qc5 was discovered by analysts with comfortable play for black. )} 17. Bh4 Qb6 18. Qd3 g5 {(Very risky which probably is still an emotional reaction on the devastating loss of the previous game.)} 19. Bg3 Be6 20. Rad1 Rfc8 21. Bb1 Nd7 22. e5 Nf8 23. Qf3 d5 24. Qh5 Kg7 25. f4 f5 {(Black cracks and the rest is easy for white. )} 26. exf6 Bxf6 27. fxg5 hxg5 28. Be5 d3 29. Kh1 Ng6 30. Qxg5 Bf7 31. Ng3 Bxe5 32. Rxe5 Rh8 33. Bxd3 Ra7 34. Rde1 Kf8 35. Bxg6 Qxg6 36. Qe3 Rc7 37. Nf5 Qc6 38. Qg5 {(In the match Tarrasch never returned to the Spanish on 1. e4.)} 1-0
That one can't remember the sequence of a rare variation is understandable but I can imagine that for very popular variations (as here above) this is strange. Kasparov's comment about the specific sequence sounds in this frame rather more nice to know than really usable. Nevertheless I show below 2 examples of openings in which the players commit a serious error in the sequence despite the very popular character. These aren't mistakes by a memory-gap but are caused by playing too fast so a lack of concentration. First I give an example from my practice in which a wrong sequence originates from pure automatism after which I was lucky to control the damage.
[Event "H.V. Havenwerktuigen - Alcatel"] [Date "2003"] [White "Aerts, E."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2120"] [BlackElo "2295"] [PlyCount "52"] 1. Nc3 e5 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. exd5 cxd5 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 Be7 {(Sloppy play as I reversed 2 moves by blitzing the opening. )} 11. Re1 {(I do not know if my opponent considered winning a pawn with Bxf6. However it is a fact that black gets sufficient compensation so probably the game-continuation is even more precise. )} (11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. Qh5 ( 12. Nxd5 Bxb2 13. Rb1 Rb8 {(With approximate equality.)}) 12... g6 13. Qxd5 { (Black is lucky to get sufficient compensation for the pawn. )} Rb8 14. Rab1 Bxc3 15. Qxd8 Rxd8 16. bxc3 {(The extra pawn has little significance. )}) 11... c6 12. Ne2 {(Na4 scores very well in practice for white.)} Re8 13. Nd4 Qd6 14. Nf5 Bxf5 15. Bxf5 h6 16. Be3 Bd8 17. Qf3 Bb6 18. Bf4 Rxe1 19. Rxe1 Qb4 20. Kf1 Qxb2 21. Be5 Bd4 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Bd3 g6 24. c4 Rd8 25. Qe3 Kg7 26. Re2 Qa1 0-1
The second example is from my game in round 4 of Open Leuven. My opponent is the young promising Belgian player Nicola Capone whom defeated a round earlier the Swedish grandmaster Ralf Akesson. As he feared a preparation (Correct as I showed him afterwards, see comments in the game), he chose to experiment with a fashionable Spanish variation. However while blitzing the opening-moves he unconsciously mixed the sequence which immediately permitted black to have a very nice position.
[Event "Open Leuven 4de ronde"] [Date "2013"] [White "Capone, N."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C79"] [WhiteElo "2170"] [BlackElo "2347"] [PlyCount "86"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 {(Nicola chooses for the first time to experiment with the Spanish. Obviously this is risky but not absurd as he correctly guessed that I was prepared for his Italian variation. )} (3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4 7. Nc3 Nxe4 8. O-O Bxc3 9. d5 Bf6 10. Re1 Ne7 11. Rxe4 d6 12. g4 O-O 13. g5 Be5 14. Nxe5 Bf5 {(Hans Lysander continued in the Belgian youth-championship of 2013 against Nicola with dxe5 and in the end lost. I shared this destiny in 1997 against the German player Rechner in Open Gent. Bf5 I had prepared in the morning. )} 15. Re1 dxe5 16. Rxe5 Qd7 17. Qf3 Ng6 18. Re1 Rfe8 19. Bf4 Be4 $1 {(One game still continued with Qa4 in the database. Be4 is a novelty which again made part of my preparation. )} 20. Rxe4 Rxe4 21. Qxe4 Re8 22. Qf3 Qf5 $15 {(Black wins the piece back and certainly has the better chances. )}) 3... a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 (4... b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. O-O d6 7. d4 {(This opening was in my repertoire till 2004 but disappeared when I was convinced black can not get equal chances. I add this information to better understand the game a bit further. )}) 5. d3 d6 6. O-O {(Playing quickly in the opening to keep more time for later, is a modern aggressive method of playing which today is popular but not without risks. Here white plays a bit too fast as he unconsciously reverses the critical sequence which permits black to achieve easy equality. )} b5 7. Bb3 Na5 8. c3 (8. d4 exd4 9. Nxd4 c5 {(The extra tempo compared with the opening mentioned on move 4 is very important as now black can simply answer Bd5 with Nxd5.)}) 8... Nxb3 9. axb3 {(Nicola is not the first one making this type of mistake as 2 years earlier I already got the position on the board by Patrick Boons.)} (9. Qxb3 Be7 10. d4 exd4 11. cxd4 Bb7 12. e5 dxe5 13. dxe5 Ne4 14. Nbd2 O-O 15. Nxe4 Bxe4 16. Rd1 Qc8 17. Bg5 Bxf3 18. Bxe7 Bxd1 19. Rxd1 Re8 20. Bh4 Rxe5 21. Qf3 Qe8 22. h3 Re1 23. Rxe1 Qxe1 24. Kh2 Re8 25. Qc6 Qe6 {(Boons, P - Brabo 0 - 1 Open Leuven 2011)}) 9... Be7 10. Re1 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 Bb7 {(Here and a move earlier cxd4 is a serious alternative.)} 13. d5 O-O 14. Nf1 Ne8 {(I start a risky plan on the king-side. A completely different plan which contains less risks, is to play on the queen-side with the scheme Rfb8-Bc8-Bd7-a5 as indicated by Stockfish.)} 15. Ne3 g6 16. Nf1 f5 17. exf5 gxf5 18. c4 Kh8 19. Ng3 f4 20. Ne4 Rg8 21. Kh1 Nf6 22. Nfg5 $6 {(In the postmortem I already indicated that Neg5 is likely more exact which was confirmed by the engines.)} (22. Neg5 $1 Ng4 $5 (22... Bc8 $5 23. Nf7 Kg7 24. N7xe5 {(Or P3xe5)} dxe5 25. Nxe5 Bd6 26. Bxf4 $13) 23. Ne6 Nxf2 24. Kg1 Nxd1 25. Nxc7 Rac8 26. Ne6 Ne3 27. Bxe3 fxe3 $13) 22... Nxe4 23. Nxe4 Qd7 $6 {(Immediately Raf8 is stronger, permitting to put quicker pressure on the white king-side.)} 24. Qh5 Raf8 25. Bd2 $6 {(Later IM Ekrem Cekro helped us in the analysis and he correctly indicated that white here has to search quicker counter-play with g3.)} b4 $6 {(I chose to avoid every counter-play but objectively Bc8 is better to concentrate on the king-side.)} (25... Bc8 $1 26. b4 $1 {(A necessary pawn-sacrifice to slow down the attack.)} Qd8 27. Qd1 $1 cxb4 28. Bxb4 bxc4 29. f3 Qb6 $15) 26. Rg1 Bc8 27. Qe2 $4 {(White has no comfortable position but this is a serious mistake. F3 recommended by the engines, seems to hold the position.)} Rxg2 $6 {(This nice combination was also shown by Houdini with a big advantage but Qf5 recommended by Stockfish gives an irresistible winning attack on the king.)} 28. Rxg2 {(Instantly played so I assume that white calculated the consequences of Kg2 in my reflection time.)} (28. Kxg2 $6 f3 29. Qxf3 Rxf3 30. Kxf3 Qf5 31. Ke3 Qf4 32. Kd3 Qf3 33. Be3 Bf5 $19 {(The idea which I noticed during the game.)}) 28... f3 29. Rg8 Rxg8 30. Qxf3 Qg4 31. Qxg4 Bxg4 32. Ng3 $6 { (Although white still has a half hour left, he barely uses any time to think. Nevertheless Kg2 is surely better and the win is far from clear after Bd1.)} Bf3 33. Kg1 h5 34. Kf1 $6 { (Stronger resistance gives h4.)} (34. h4 $1 Bxh4 35. Rxa6 Rg6 36. Be3 Bxg3 37. fxg3 Kg7 38. Ra7 Kf6 $17 {(Houdini only shows a big advantage for black but technically it can not be very difficult to win this endgame for black.)}) 34... h4 35. Ne2 Be4 36. Rxa6 Rg2 37. Ra7 Bf8 $6 {(I miss the direct k.o. with the lovely Rxh2.)} (37... Rxh2 $1 38. Rxe7 Rh1 39. Ng1 h3 $19 {(White has no answer against h2 despite the extra piece. )}) 38. Rf7 $6 { (Going for the rook-endgame with a pawn less is more stubborn. )} (38. f3 $1 Bxf3 39. Rf7 Rxe2 40. Rxf3 Rxd2 41. Rxf8 Kg7 42. Rd8 Rxh2 43. Rd7 Kg8 44. Rxd6 Rxb2 45. Rh6 Rxb3 46. Rxh4 $17 {(When playing this endgame out with the engines, it was not possible to draw for white.)}) 38... Kg8 39. f3 Rxh2 40. Rxf8 Kxf8 41. fxe4 h3 42. Bh6 Ke8 43. Ng3 Rxb2 0-1
It would be incorrect to state that the defeat is solely due to the wrong sequence. However nor can we claim there was no influence at all on the result. More important is to learn what we can do to avoid something similar in the future. Practice is of course a good school as after my warning against Eric Aerts, I never made the mistake again as I always made sure to play c6 before Be7. Now better is never to make such mistake. Knowing why each move has to played in that specific position is surely preferable. Besides strong players are asking such question continuously which sometimes permits them to trap an opponent with an unexpected and weird sequence. An example was recently shown by the the winner in Wijk aan Zee: Aronian in his game against Filipino top-grandmaster Wesley So.
[Event "Tata Steel"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2014.01.18"] [Round "6"] [White "Levon Aronian"] [Black "Wesley So"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2719"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2014.01.11"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Be2 { (Only 11 games in my engine-openingbook compared to 5748 games with the standard-move d4!)} (7. d4 c5 8. Be2 Nc6 9. Be3 Bg4 {(This is ok for black. In my opening-book black even scores more than 70 procent in more than 50 games so rather representative. )}) 7... c5 {(Black follows the standard-plan as mentioned in the variation above. )} 8. O-O Nc6 9. Qa4 Bd7 10. Qa3 Qa5 11. Rd1 O-O $146 (11... e5 12. Bc4 Qxa3 13. Bxa3 b6 14. Rab1 Rd8 15. d3 h6 16. h3 Na5 17. Bd5 Bc6 18. Bxc6 Nxc6 19. Kf1 Ke7 20. Ke2 Rd7 21. c4 f5 22. Bb2 Ke6 23. Bc3 Rhd8 24. a4 Nb4 {(Akopian,V - Mamedyarov,S 1/2 - 1/2 Porto Carras 2011 It seems more than a coincidence that white is like Levon an Armenian top-grandmaster. It is well known that between Armenians there is a big solidarity.)}) 12. Rb1 b6 13. d4 Qxa3 14. Bxa3 Bg4 15. dxc5 Bxc3 16. Ba6 Rab8 17. Rdc1 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Bd2 19. Rd1 Bc3 20. Kg2 bxc5 21. Bxc5 Bb4 22. Be3 Bd6 23. Rbc1 Nb4 24. Bc4 Rfc8 25. f4 Kf8 26. a3 Nc6 27. Ba6 Bxa3 28. Rc4 Rd8 29. Ra1 Bb2 30. Raa4 Rd6 31. e5 Re6 32. Rc2 Nd8 33. Bxa7 Ra8 34. Bb5 Bxe5 35. fxe5 Rxe5 36. Be3 1-0
If you don't know this sometimes very well hidden information then you are extra vulnerable. Spending a few extra seconds sounds to me in such scenario not a pointless investment to reduce the number of finger-mistakes.


Addendum 8 Februari
On chessbase was recently a remarkable anecdote published in which both players didn't notice that the moves were altered:

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Even after a lot of years playing chess, the game still surprises me with lovely maneuvers and beautiful combinations. Regularly I try to write about it on this blog like in the articles problemmoves or de paardenlokker. This time I want to show a nice fragment which I recently met in one of my games.

In my game against the Danish player Jens Frederiksen I calculated a nice variation in the middlegame in which I promoted a pawn thanks to some sacrifices. Often a pawn is promoted in the endgame (especially if the opponent doesn't resign quickly as in my article open with the f-pawn) but it is rather rare that this happens early in a game. If the promotion is executed after a meaningful combination of moves then we can speak about the Excelsior-theme. The name is obviously known from the problem-world in which strict rules are applied. Arves indicates that we can only talk about an Excelsior-theme when in the solution a pawn promotes from the starting-position (2nd/ 7th row) on his own column. Now I even believe my fragment fulfills these strict requirements, see below.
[Event "Open Leuven 2de ronde"] [Date "2013"] [White "Frederiksen, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C68"] [WhiteElo "1730"] [BlackElo "2347"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr2nr/1pp2ppp/p1pb2b1/8/6P1/2NP1N1P/PPP1KP2/R1B1R3 b - - 0 13"] [PlyCount "41"] 13... h5 14. Nh4 $2 {(The standard answer on blacks last move but here the lag in development is too serious by which white can not spend time for it. Necessary was Bg5 with a tenable position. )} Re8 {(Precise.)} ( 14... hxg4 $6 15. Nxg6 Rxh3 $6 {(Better is still Re8 although white now has the extra option Ne4 compared with the game.)} 16. Bg5 Re8 17. Kd2 $13 { (Here we notice that black has a problem with the knight on g8.)}) 15. Be3 { (The best as after Kd1 black completes the excelsior-theme: black promotes a pawn with a combination starting from the starting square and ending on a square of the same column.)} (15. Kd1 $6 Rxe1 16. Kxe1 hxg4 17. Nxg6 gxh3 18. Nxh8 h2 $19) 15... hxg4 16. Nxg6 Rxh3 17. Rg1 Nf6 18. Kd2 fxg6 19. Rg2 $6 {(More stubborn is Rae1.)} g3 $6 {(I create a free pawn but I have to admit that building quietly further my position with c5 is a bit stronger.)} 20. f3 $6 {(White misses the liquidation to a lost endgame. Mandatory was fxg3 although also after that move black still has a clear advantage.)} Bb4 21. Rag1 Nd5 22. Bg5 Rh2 23. Rxh2 gxh2 24. Rh1 Nxc3 25. bxc3 Bd6 26. f4 Rh8 27. Ke2 Kd7 28. Kf2 Ke6 29. Kg2 Kf5 30. Kg3 b5 31. d4 Rh5 32. Kf3 Rh3 33. Kg2 Kg4 0-1'/>
It is a bit sad that it only concerned a variation and didn't pop up in the game. The game likely could have gone differently as afterwards when I asked my opponent if he also noticed the promotion then he didn't understand what I want trying to ask. Now probably some people will claim this is no pure Excelsior as some necessary non-pawn moves were interposed. Arves doesn't speak about forbidding such non-pawn moves but there exists discussion about this subject. Tim Krabbe believes that it is permitted and of course he also wrote something about this theme, see this article. Now there is not only a discussion about the interposing of non-pawn moves. Some people consider also that a promotion doesn't have to be on the column of the pawn. For others it is even not necessary to start with the pawn from the starting position. An everywhere approved terminology isn't known to me so just like the naming of the Turton-Bristol (which I used in my article problemmoves) we better accept the fact that more than one description of the theme is used.

If we use a more broad description of the excelsior-theme then we can find a nice collection of games in the databases. The very active internet-user Domdaniel even made a full webpage of double excelsiors which exists of taking pieces. One of them I selected in which the famous Polish/ French grandmaster Savielly Tartakower nicely won with black.
[Event "Paris, France"] [Site "Paris, France"] [Date "1954.09.23"] [White "Rosenberg"] [Black "Savielly Tartakower"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D47"] [PlyCount "38"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. e4 b4 10. e5 bxc3 11. exf6 cxb2 12. fxg7 bxa1=Q 13. gxh8=Q Qa5 14. Ke2 Ba6 15. Qxh7 Nf6 16. Qh4 Q1xa2 17. Kf1 Q5a4 18. Qe2 Qxe2 19. Kxe2 Qc2 0-1'/>
For more pretty stuff please click on the link but lots of examples are using the same opening which decreases the value. As we are now talking about the Excelsior I find it appropriate also to show once more the first problem of this theme built by one of the pioneers of chess-problems: Samuel Loyd. Besides a nice story is connected to this problem.

Loyd had a friend whom claimed to always be able to indicate which piece would deliver mate on the board. As a joke Loyd created a position and proposed a bet to his friend that he would not be able to show a piece which could not deliver mate in a main-line. His friend accepted and pointed to the pawn on b2 which let him lose the bet. Later the assignment connected with the problem became that white has to deliver mate in 5 with the least likely piece or pawn.
[Event "White to play and deliver mate in 5 with the least likely piece or pawn."] [Date "1861"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "n1rb4/1p3p1p/1p6/1R5K/8/p3p1PN/1PP1R3/N6k w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "9"] 1. b4 {(White threatens Rd5 - Rd1# and Rf5 - Rf1#)} Rc5 2. bxc5 {(Now white threatens mate on b1.)} a2 3. c6 {(Again the threats are Rd5 - Rd1# and Rf5 - Rf1#)} Bc7 {(The only move preventing both threats in such way that it does not lead anymore to mate in 5. )} 4. cxb7 {(With black last move the escape square for the knight has disappeared by which nothing can be done anymore against the promotion and the mate in 1.)} Bxg3 5. bxa8=Q# 1-0'/>
The problem went around the world and the name Excelsior always stuck to this remarkable theme. Did you see recently something funny or extraordinary and are you willing to share then this blog is available.


Monday, January 13, 2014

The fake truth

The first years that I played chess, I was convinced that my analysis were faultless as I used at that time HW and SW which was considered modern and very strong. Besides as mentioned in my previous article, I analysed in this earliest period already much more compared with the average amateur. Repeating the analysis I would only do to memorize the lines. Later this vision slowly crumbled away when I learned new skills but especially due to the big developments of HW and SW which refuted many old analysis. Even in my correspondence-analysis I found afterwards improvements which you can read about in my article correspondencechess.

Eventually I realized that an expiry-date exists for my analysis and I better regularly recheck my work and repair if necessary. It is also the reason why I never talked in my previous article about the absolute evaluation but only about an objective evaluation. Chess is a very complex game so finding the truth is often impossible. However it is a fact that the more time you spend analyzing, the closer you approach the truth. A well-known joke between correspondence-players is that the one going latest to bed, wins the game.

Because we as amateurs only have a fraction of the time which prof-players can spend to chess, preparation is often a tool to work on the repertoire. In the past I already showed some samples of this (see e.g the game against Inkiov which I discussed in the article how to win from a stronger player). Nevertheless I anyway want to present a beautiful attacking-game because the well-known player from Bruges FM Tom Piceu won with it a special prize for most beautiful game and wrote in his analysis on the site of the Dutch chessfederation that he found the opening-idea 3 years already ago which he afterwards further tuned and sharpened.
[Event "KNSB 2013-2014"] [Date "2013.11.02"] [White "van Hengel, H."] [Black "Piceu, T."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B86"] [PlyCount "44"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Be7 8. g4 O-O 9. g5 Nfd7 10. Bxe6 Nc6 {(A novelty which Tom discovered 3 years ago but regularly was tuned and sharpened in game-preparations. Technically one can argue if this is a novelty as I found 2 games of unrated players in the database. Anyway this is just a small side-note.)} 11. Bb3 Nxd4 12. Qxd4 Ne5 13. Qe3 Bxg5 14. f4 Bh4 15. Kf1 Kh8 16. fxe5 f5 17. Kg2 f4 18. Qf3 Qg5 19. Kf1 Bg4 20. Qg2 Qh5 21. h3 Bf3 22. Qg1 Be2 0-1'/>
Besides it is not the first time that Tom wins such prize as I already mentioned earlier in my article a Dutch gambit. At that time I was the victim of his craft work.

It is evident that game preparations are a strong motivator for quite some players to analyse but if we really want to study seriously openings then also work needs to be done on other moments. In my article which games to analyze I indicated that approximately 80% of my analysis are done on my own games. These analyses I synthesize and if possible I use them in new games. On this blog I already showed several examples (see e.g. Dutch steps in the English opening). However this time I want to present 2 games in which a new synthesis refutes (partly) an older one. In other words the truth of a position sometimes changes. The first game dates from 2012 against the young player from Bruges Wouter Gryson (a fragment of this game was already used in my article endgames with an exchange extra) in which I use an idea which I discovered after my game played in 2006 against the Dutch player Henk Temminck.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KBSK"] [Date "2012"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Gryson, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2334"] [BlackElo "2260"] [PlyCount "173"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 a6 5. Be2 b5 6. O-O Bb7 7. a4 b4 8. Na2 $6 {(In 2 earlier official games I also played this move but new analysis favor more Nd5 as critical continuation.)} (8. Nd5 $1 Nf6 $5 9. Nxf6 $1 exf6 10. Re1 $1 O-O 11. Bc4 Re8 12. Qd3 a5 $5 13. c3 $1 bxc3 14. Qxc3 Qd7 $5 15. Qb3 $1 Nc6 $14) 8... Bxe4 9. Nxb4 $5 {(I also studied Ng5 and Nd2 afterwards with a computer but I could not find anywhere a small advantage for white.)} Nf6 $6 {(Black plays in classical style by first bringing the king into safety but probably more exact is here first a5 or Bb7 preventing whites maneuver with Nd2 as played in the game. )} 10. Nd2 $1 $146 {(An amelioration on my game against Temminck played in 2006 which I already tested a few times in online blitz. )} Bb7 11. Bf3 Qc8 12. Re1 a5 13. Nd3 O-O 14. Nb3 Nc6 15. Bd2 e6 16. c4 Qb8 $6 {(Stronger is Rd8 which permits black to create counter play in the center. )} 17. Bxc6 Bxc6 18. Nxa5 Be4 19. Bc3 Qb6 20. b4 Bf5 21. Qf3 Rxa5 $6 { (A speculative exchange-sacrifice which is mainly justified by whites huge time-consumption. Objectively c6 is more correct but obviously not so pleasant and likely practical even less interesting. )} 22. bxa5 Qb3 23. Rac1 Qxc4 24. Nb2 $6 { (More exact is Nb4 and very likely the extra material will be sufficient to win the game.)} Qb3 25. Qd1 $6 {(Relinquishing the diagonal a8-h1 is not the best choice. Nd1, recommended by the engines is clearly better.)} Qb7 26. Nc4 Nd5 27. Ne3 Nf4 28. d5 Bxc3 29. Rxc3 Be4 30. a6 Qxa6 31. Rxc7 Bxd5 32. Nxd5 Nxd5 33. Rc1 Ra8 $6 {(More aggressive and likely better is Nf4.)} 34. Ra1 Qc6 35. Qc1 Nc3 36. Qc2 $2 {(This is weak. Qf4 was much more active with still a clear advantage. )} d5 $6 {(Black underestimates my a-pawn otherwise Ra5 would be chosen with good chances to equalize. )} 37. a5 d4 38. Qd3 Qd5 39. a6 e5 40. a7 e4 41. Qg3 {(Luckily I only had to play this move after the time-control as probably I would have missed this strong move. )} h5 $2 {(In the follow-up I have the impression Wouter is a bit devastated by the earlier events and as a consequence makes a few second rated moves. )} (41... Qb7 $1 42. Qe5 Rxa7 $1 43. Qxd4 Rxa1 44. Qd8 Kg7 45. Rxa1 Ne2 46. Kh1 Qb2 47. Rd1 $14 }) 42. Qc7 Nb5 43. Qb8 Kh7 44. Ra5 $6 {(Now I transpose to an endgame with an extra exchange. This endgame gives excellent practical winning chances but if is really won, is not clear to me. The computer recommends a nice alternative, Reb1 which wins much more clear.)} Nxa7 45. Rxd5 Rxb8 46. Rxd4 Nc6 47. Rdxe4 Rb7 48. h3 Kg7 49. Rd1 Ne7 50. g3 Nf5 51. Rd2 Ra7 52. Kg2 Rb7 53. Ra4 Rb6 54. Ra7 Kf6 55. Rd3 Nd6 56. Rda3 Rb5 57. R7a6 Rd5 58. Kf3 Ke7 59. Re3 Kd7 $6 {(The king stays best with the f-pawn. Now white gets the opportunity to exchange a pair of rooks after which the win is more or less guaranteed but technically still not so easy. )} 60. Ke2 Rf5 61. Ra7 Kd8 62. Rd3 Rf6 63. f4 $5 {(The rook-endgame with 2 pawns more after Rxf7 is easier winning but I missed this as I was fixated on my plan with eliminating the rooks. )} Ke8 64. Kf3 Kf8 65. Ra6 Ke7 66. g4 hxg4 67. hxg4 Re6 68. Re3 Rxe3 69. Kxe3 {(White achieved his goal but with little time left it is still not easy to win. Fortunately black neither has much time left so the defense is not perfect.)} Ne8 70. Ke4 Nf6 71. Kf3 Ne8 72. Kg3 Nf6 73. Ra8 Nd5 74. Ra5 Nf6 75. Kh4 Ke6 76. Re5 {(The rest of the game had to be rebuilt afterwards which makes that I am not fully sure of the correctness of the remaining moves. )} Kd6 77. Kg5 Nd5 78. Re4 Kd7 79. Rd4 Ke6 80. Re4 Kd7 81. f5 gxf5 82. gxf5 Kd6 83. Kh6 Nf6 84. Re1 Nd7 85. Kg7 f6 86. Re6 Kd5 87. Kg6 {(White takes with his next move the f-pawn which gives white an easy win even with only a minute left on the clock.)} 1-0'/>
Despite that I came well through the opening and I eventually won the game, I concluded that blacks opening was ok and I better try next time 8.Nd5 instead of Na2 for an opening-advantage. Last in the first round of  Open Leuven I got the change to implement this new truth.
[Event "Open Leuven 1ste ronde"] [Date "2013"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Maes, P."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2347"] [BlackElo "1970"] [PlyCount "45"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Be2 b5 6. O-O Bb7 7. a4 $6 {(In 3 earlier official games I played this continuation. Now I believe Re1 which I checked earlier is necessary to maintain a small opening edge. )} b4 8. Nd5 {(Last year I recommended this move after my analysis of my game against Wouter Gryson but my opponent answers with a good antidote. )} Nf6 {(The only correspondence game also continued with this move while it is not popping up in the megadatabase. )} 9. Nxf6 exf6 10. Re1 {(During the game I had to think long to remember what exactly I had recommended but eventually I anyway followed my own analysis. The correspondence-game continued with Bd3 after which black with some troubles was able to equalize.)} O-O 11. Bc4 Bxe4 {(Weird but last year I did not check this move although it certainly looks natural and even stronger than what the engines recommend. )} 12. Bxf7 Rxf7 13. Rxe4 Re7 $2 { (A severe strategical mistake which gives white a large edge. After the correct d5 white seems initially better but after some moves it transpires that it is very tough to keep some advantage.)} 14. Qe2 Nc6 15. Rxe7 Nxe7 16. Qc4 Kf8 17. Qxb4 Nc6 $6 { (More stubborn is d5 which restricts whites activity. )} 18. Qc4 Qd7 19. Bd2 $6 {(Conquering space with d5 is even stronger and black does not succeed to coordinate the pieces.)} f5 $6 {(Again d5 is here better. After the game-continuation white forces the decision thanks to the free g5-square. )} 20. Re1 Re8 21. Rxe8 Qxe8 22. Ng5 Nxd4 23. c3 1-0'/>
Again despite the quick win, I have to admit after my synthesis that black is ok after 13..,d5 instead of 13...Re7? So again the truth changes for me and in a next encounter with this opening I will again play something different.

This jumping from one truth to another is also something strong prof-players experience. In a fascinating lecture (of which I already mentioned earlier the youtube-movie, see chessintuition part 2) Anand also admitted that he now and then had totally different judgements about some specific positions in just a time-frame of a few years. However he also shared the encouraging message that it doesn't have to be a problem for the practical player as  we just need sufficient confidence to play a position.

In my article about tablebases I informed about the milestone of the 7 piece-endgames which is still only a fraction of the possible positions. Analyzing is a method of approximation which unavoidably creates mistakes. Even the strongest players make mistakes in their analysis which I already showed in my article the influence on openings by worldchampions. Therefore it surely is no shame to believe or even announce a fake truth as long the person keeps the eyes open for new elements.


Monday, January 6, 2014


The majority of players play their game of chess, afterwards sometimes have a chat about it and the scoresheet is thrown in the wastepaper basket.  Only the more ambitious players also make an analysis at home of their games. I already started very early with analyzing and commenting my own games. Even before I participated in competitions so middle of the 90 ties, I already made analysis on paper of my games played against computers. At that time I didn't have any contact with stronger players to help me so I used the same chessengines on their highest level to detect mistakes.

Since the arrival of the PC (my first dates from 1996) I obviously work with databases instead of paper. Correcting, researching, adding, saving... is many times easier with a database. Recently I noticed on chesspub the interesting question if Chessbase is mandatory or it is sufficient to work with the much cheaper Fritz Gui. Well I use exclusively the Fritz Gui and after almost 700 commented games I can safely state that I don't have the feeling to miss something critical. A rare case as in my blogarticles problemmoves (existence of special knightmoves in the corner) or the scientific approach (record long castling) I have to call help via my blog but these are only nice things to know which you surely don't need to improve at playing chess.

Naturally an ambitious player will make these analysis to learn from the mistakes made and wants to avoid them in a next confrontation. It is an individual learning-curve in which each player adopts its own approach conform best return. For a lot of players this approach doesn't go beyond using one of the automatic tools which Chessbase presents to us. Blunder-checking and full analysis already exist more than a decade (see the manual on chesscafe). Today we also have modern applications:  Lets check and Cloud Engines which use the internet. However all these automatic tools have some serious disadvantages. The output is in a very unfriendly reading format. Also the analysis often are limited to the direct mistakes which an engine can detect. The engine doesn't take into account what the player finds interesting. In other words if you want to have more than what the automatic tools present then you need to help.

I already explained extensively in my blogarticle analyzing with an engine how I help so I don't want to discuss this here anymore. What I do want to explain, is how I afterwards consolidate these analysis. In below screenshot you can see how the end result of the analysis look of my game against Soors.
Draft analyse Soors - Brabo

If we compare above screenshot with the publication of the same game in my previous blogarticle a moral victory then we notice a complete metamorphose. The labyrinth of variations has been replaced by prose and reduced to some key-variations (selected by myself). Also this process largely happens via strict guidelines which I follow already for some years. Now what is the purpose to explain this in an article? I admit that as long a game with analysis and comments isn't shared with others, it is not important how you syntheses. A different story it becomes when you publish stuff as you need to make it correctly and easily readable for others. That this isn't always easy, can be found in reactions of even + 2300 players see below my blogarticles:  een minithematornooibelgische interclubs apotheose.

In the literature there is very little information about how you best comment for an audience, likely as few players have done this. Besides an author can have very different reasons to publish a game. Sometimes he just wants to show a nice fragment. In another case it fits in a larger story. If I announce in advance that the game has only some light comments ( or you see few comments and analysis) then you may assume that I am rather telling some story (mainly for all the games which I didn't play myself). I believe only a minority of the publications (so anything available and not restricted to my blog) does include some serious analysis of complete games as it is very time-consuming and often leading to disputes. Commenting is criticizing which unavoidably creates conflicts. However a conflict doesn't need to be something bad as it often can be a catalyst for new refreshing views.

The British grandmaster John Nunn and the German grandmaster Robert Huebner have tried in the past to explain how they work with using annotations for commenting games as can be read on Wikipedia. Unfortunately we can't reuse this as today it is still impossible for +99% of the positions to make an exact evaluation. Just because it is so difficult to make an exact evaluation, an analysis remains for a big part subjective. As I try to stress as much as possible the scientific part in the analysis (just like in my games, see the scientific approach) I developed a method to eliminate as much as possible this subjective aspect.

The trick is to replace myself by engines when an evaluation of the positions and adding the annotations needs to be done.  Engines are today many times stronger than ourselves so it sounds to me perfectly acceptable to prefer their evaluations above our own incomplete and subjective assessments. On top we get as big advantage that every chessplayer can achieve the same results if same HW and SW is used. Now I immediately have to add that defining the right engine-evaluation and according annotation is a bit more complicated than something we just read from the screen. Some further explanation to better understand is therefore necessary.

Today we notice that each engine shows next to an evaluation based on hundredths of a pawn also an evaluation-sign.

I also use the same logic with some important adaptations. First I replace always = by unclear unless we have a tablebase or another 100% draw-position. I want to make a clear distinction between a balanced position and a real draw. Next as I use always 2 engines (see e.g. my blogarticle analyzing with an engine) , I use a calibrated choice between both. I mean if both programs show a different evaluation-sign for the same position then I always follow the evaluation-sign which is closest to unclear. In my blogarticle about stockfish I mentioned that the evaluations shown are often optimistic which means today I mainly use the more classical evaluation of houdini (most exceptions are not surprisingly in the endgame). My feeling is that a more conservative evaluation better corresponds with the real winning chances in chess but I've no strong evidence to proof this. By the way recently I noted that also other players prefer to read a more calibrated evaluation of their engines which is exactly one of the newest features advertised today by Chessbase for Houdini. Finally I always correct the winning evaluation to big advantage in an endgame (maximum 4 pieces excluding kings) when it is clear that a shoot-out of the position doesn't lead to a win. It regularly happens that an engine doesn't succeed to increase the advantage above 5 points in a shoot-out despite an initial advantage above 1,4 points.

Assigning the annotations once the evaluations are fixed, is easy. A worse move causing a drop of 1 step on the evaluation-ladder gets ?! Examples are from +/- to +/= for white or from unclear to +/= for black. A worse move which drops 2 steps in the evaluation-ladder gets ? Examples are unclear to -/+ for white or -+ to =/+ for black. Finally all worse moves in which a drop of 3 or more steps on the evaluation-ladder happens, get ?? Examples of this are +- to unclear for white or -/+ to +/- for black. Further I assign !? to moves which I want to stress that they are interesting in this specific position. I am not using the ! anymore for some years already as it is too subjective (I share the approach of the German grandmaster Robert Huebner whom also avoids emotions in contrary with former world-champion Garry Kasparov whom loves using exlamationmarks in his books). Nevertheless I do use the ! to stress some computermoves which are only moves and have been missed earlier by a player or engine (so when only 1 of the 2 engines shows the correct move).

Thanks to these strict self applied rules, we get a very objective analysis of the game. However there are also some disadvantages connected with this method. In a rare case it can happen that a mistake of 1 hundredth of a pawn is already punished by ?! as we just drop 1 step on the evaluation-ladder. If we compare with drops which are 100 times bigger but not punished by a negative annotation (as the position is still considered winning) then I can imagine that some people find this unfair. Now ?! should in such case rather be seen as a signal that we pass a threshold instead of a mistake in the classical sense. Sometimes it is very hard even after elaborated analysis to define which worse move exactly had an impact on the final score.

Today it happens rarely that we disagree about an evaluation of a certain position as we have become all very dependent from engines. Nevertheless there was a small discussion on my blog  about my last interclub-game played last season, see below position.
Rab1 !? or ?!
I didn't comment this position as I didn't notice a drop of the evaluation. Anyway I put less time in analyzing alternatives once we are not anymore in the opening as otherwise an analysis would take too much time. Now I do agree with Glen that after the game-continuation white mainly plays for a draw while after b5 the 3 results rather remain available. B.t.w. recently somebody asked on Quality Chess Blog if it is possible for a top-engine like Komodo whom recently became worldchampion,  to choose moves which avoid the draw (so playing for 3 results). Larry Kaufman answered that the priority of the program was to play the moves which were best conform the algorithm used and not what could provide the best winning chances (there is no direct link between both). I just mention this to illustrate that Glens vision of how to play chess is shared by lot of (most? ) players.

A similar critic on my analysis is that I sometimes take not enough into account that in a game of chess there is more than just the strength of the moves. Kara earlier already rightly claimed that I don't note all the practical chances with my annotations. Now I do think that I multiple times have shown on my blog that I am aware that there is more in chess than just playing correctly, see e.g. playing the person. Especially in the games which I played, i try as much as possible to compensate with prose what is left out by the annotations.

There are still a few smaller things which can be explained but I do believe that the article should largely suffice to better understand in the future how to make the right interpretation of my analysis. I welcome players to use the same or a similar methodology but of course anybody is free to act as they wish. A large advantage of the diversity in publications is that you can get different interesting views of the same game.