Tuesday, March 18, 2014


If we study openings then we obviously look first to what the theory tells us before we do any research ourselves. However what exactly is chess-theory? Wikipedia says that theory refers to what is broadly represented by current literature about openings but that is of course very vague. Besides today with the internet lots of materials are available to everybody which made the definition pretty useless. A better description is to define theory as a public database of quality openings. With this a new question immediately pops up as how do we define today what is sufficient quality to be considered as theory?

A few decades ago this question was easy to answer. The quality of the theory was closely connected to the strength of a player. Today this link is largely broken. We all possess very strong engines which play considerably stronger than the worldchampion. Everybody can with a minimum of chess-knowledge if sufficient time and money is invested, make high quality analysis. I even dare to add that the import of own chess-knowledge to the computer-analysis often decreases the overall quality.

This really stroke me when I compared my analysis of Jan Rooze his game played in Augsburg against Ivan Hausner with Jans analysis of the same game on the website of skdeurne. Qualitatively my analysis were clearly better although I hardly didn't do anything more than just reviewing the game for a couple of hours with an engine. Jan on the other hand, admitted afterwards than he (almost?) exclusively used his own analyzing skills. Besides such analysis have also their charm/ educative value as this way you get a better view on the thought-process of a (strong) player.

Another more extreme example was the Freestyle-victory in 2005 by 2 amateurs Steven Cramton en Zackary Stephen with respectively USCF ratings of 1685 and 1398, see chessbase. The name Freestyle already explains that anything is allowed during the game so also consulting engines. Now still their victory was regarded as an enormous surprise as with the relative slow tempo (1h + 15 seconds extra per move) it was generally expected that the teams with grandmasters and strong HW would win. Afterwards there even was a controversy about the authenticity of the team in which the winners were challenged to see if no strong player had helped them sneakily.

Correspondence is widely regarded as the highest quality one can achieve in chess. When I stopped with it in 2004, see this blog-article I already recorded that it was hard working to add something technical to the engines. Today it certainly didn't become easier which recently once again was proven by the new world-champion Ron Langeveld. He is the first world-champion in correspondence which never was a club-player. It is even more stunning if I tell that in the final the strong Brazilian OTB grandmaster Rafael Leitao participated. Ron explains in an interview that chess-knowledge can even be bad in correspondence-chess as knowledge is never complete. He promptly admits that without the usage of engines it is impossible to maintain the highest levels. This doesn't mean that there is no human involvement anymore but rather that the most important skills for making strong qualitative analysis have been shifted from chess-knowledge to computer-skills.

Despite these facts we still see today that many books sell better with a strong titled player as author (preferably a grandmaster) than without. A possibility to get something published as unknown player  is often to make an agreement with a titled player. The contribution of the titled player is often limited to bringing new ideas and reviewing while the lion-share is done by the unknown player. With the lion-share I mean all administrative duties, working out the details around the layout and text, checking every line with the engines or in a word all the necessary manual labor which are part of a good book. A number of books which I believe were published in this mode, are The Ruy Lopez: a Guide for Black (Sverre Johnsen, GM Leif Erlend Johanessen) ; Win with the Stonewall Dutch (Sverre Johnsen, IM Ivar Bern, GM Simen Agdestein); Grandmaster repertoire 10 The Tarrasch defence (Nikolaos Ntirlis, GM Jacob Aagaard).

Demand and supply so I understand very well why publishers are mainly choosing for authors with at least 1 titled player. However I don't sympathize with critics purely based on the fact that the author is not a titled player. This happened as well on chesscafe as on chesspub with the book Dismantle the Dutch Defense with the Dangerfield Attack written by the unknown player David Rudel.
No also this opening-book I didn't buy (see for another example the article fashion) but I can add based on my experience that an early Bf4 against the Dutch is much more than just a move for amateurs. I get it rarely in practice but if it happens then I always have difficulties to get a comfortable position. I remember my game against Luc Saligo played in Open Gent of 2012 in which I surely experienced some problems in the opening.
[Event "Open Gent 3de ronde"] [Date "2012"] [White "Saligo, L."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2130"] [BlackElo "2343"] [PlyCount "92"] 1. d4 f5 2. Bf4 {(Luc Saligo almost always chooses the London-system but I was not aware about that in advance. It is the first time that I meet this system in a serious game which I find strange as blacks play is not so simple.)} Nf6 3. e3 e6 4. Nd2 Be7 5. h3 b6 6. Ngf3 Bb7 7. Bd3 Ne4 $6 { (In the book ’Win with the Stonewall Dutch’ 0-0 is recommended. D6 and c5 look to me interesting alternatives but the continuation of the game is rather inaccurate. )} (7... O-O $5 8. g4 {(I feared this move in the game.)} Nd5 $146 9. Bh2 f4 10. e4 Nb4 11. Be2 c5 $13) 8. Bxe4 $6 {(This seemed very interesting during the game but objectively white looses the initiative with it as the position becomes too static. Critical is Rg1 to prepare g4 with good chances for a white advantage. )} fxe4 9. Ng5 Bxg5 10. Qh5 g6 11. Qxg5 Qxg5 12. Bxg5 d6 13. h4 h6 14. Bf4 Nd7 15. O-O-O O-O-O 16. g4 Rdf8 17. g5 h5 18. b4 $6 {(White wants to win space but better is a4 to keep a dynamic balance.)} Rf5 $6 {(Black prepares e5 but a bit stronger is b5 to stop whites counter-play on the queen-side.)} 19. Rh2 $6 {(Superfluous. White gets a very passive position after this move.)} ( 19. a4 $1 e5 20. dxe5 Nxe5 21. Bxe5 Rxe5 22. Nb3 $13) 19... e5 20. dxe5 Nxe5 21. Bxe5 Rxe5 22. Nb3 Bd5 23. Kb2 Bxb3 24. Kxb3 Rf8 25. c4 a5 26. a3 Kd7 27. Rd2 Ke6 28. Rc2 $6 {(Again white forgets to activate himself with Rh1.)} axb4 29. axb4 Ra8 $2 {(A tempo played as the k.o. phase approaches. More exact is to increase slowly the pressure with c6 which rightly is recommended by the engines as best move.)} ( 29... c6 $1 30. Rg2 Ref5 31. Rd2 b5 32. Rc2 Rb8 33. Rh2 c5 34. cxb5 Rxb5 35. Rc4 Rxb4 36. Rxb4 cxb4 37. Kxb4 Rd5 38. Kc4 Rd3 39. Rh3 $17) 30. Rc1 $2 {(White again misses a chance and sticks to his passive waiting strategy. Rh1 to recycle the rook gave good surviving chances to white.)} Rf5 31. Rd1 c5 32. Rg2 $6 {(White stubbornly keeps waiting which leaves him without chances. Rd2 still permitted to put up a stiffer resistance.)} Rf7 33. Rb1 Rfa7 34. bxc5 bxc5 35. Kc3 Ra2 36. Rb2 R8a3 37. Kc2 Ra1 38. Rb1 R3a2 39. Rb2 Rxb2 40. Kxb2 Rh1 41. f4 exf3 42. Rf2 Rh3 43. Kc3 Ke5 44. Kd3 Rxh4 45. Rxf3 Rg4 46. Rf8 Rxg5 0-1
Now if a worldclass-player like Aronian picks up the system in his repertoire (ok first Nf3 and only then Bf4) then the critics become silent. Last Wijk aan Zee tournament was won by Aronian (see e.g chessvibes) and he considered his game played in the last round against Loek Van Wely the most interesting one with naturally  this system.
[Event "76th Tata Steel Masters"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2014.01.26"] [Round "11.4"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Van Wely, L."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2672"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2014.01.11"] 1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 d6 4. e3 h6 5. h3 g5 6. Bh2 Bg7 7. Nbd2 O-O 8. c3 Nc6 9. Bd3 Rb8 10. O-O Qe8 11. Re1 Qh5 12. Qc2 g4 13. hxg4 Nxg4 14. Bb5 {(The commentators armed with their engines recommend Bg3 with some advantage.)} Kh8 15. Qb3 Nd8 16. Bg3 e5 17. dxe5 dxe5 18. Qb4 Ne6 19. Rad1 c5 20. Qb3 Nc7 21. Be2 Be6 22. Bc4 Bd7 23. Be2 {(Qa3 won a nice pawn. It is unclear what exactly Levon was thinking. )} f4 24. exf4 exf4 25. Bh4 Bc6 26. Be7 Rf7 27. Bc4 Nd5 28. Bh4 {(Again Bxc5 guarantees white a nice advantage. )} Rf5 29. Bd3 Rff8 30. Bb1 Rbe8 31. Rxe8 Rxe8 32. Ne4 { (Now it is a real mess with mistakes on both sides.)} Nde3 33. fxe3 Bxe4 34. Bxe4 Rxe4 35. Qxb7 Qg6 36. Rd8 Kh7 37. Qd5 Re6 38. exf4 { (A blunder which ends the game abruptly.)} Bd4 0-1
Agreed it didn't end well but this had nothing to do with the virtues of the opening. Fact that Aronian in the meantime already played it against Kamsky, Carlsen and Ponomariov makes it evident that he sees more value in it than purely a weapon to surprise.

We all realize this but still we see often today that an idea/ concept is thrown in the paper-basket purely because of the person. Pity as because of this we do miss chances to evaluate the real value of an idea. To conclude I want to quote the British top-grandmaster Mickey Adams which I found on qualitychess blog: "I look in all books which are sent to me for reviewing as even in Everyman books there is always something which I can use."


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