Monday, June 2, 2014

Creating a repertoire

Recently a surprising letter was published on schaakfabriek. I am not going to discuss the subject of the letter but I do want to zoom out a fragment in which players confess to spend a lot of time at chess. The definition 'a lot' is obviously vague but the fact that almost all of the signers have some sort of master-title, let us believe there is a link between the level of a player and the time spent at chess. Nothing new of course as I already mentioned many time on my blog about the 10.000 hours rule. However here a whole bunch of Belgium (top-) players indirectly confess that their results didn't arrive by coincidence and that is not something I've read before.

The same fragment also tells us in which domains those players spend a lot of time. The 2 first domains mentioned, are linked to openings: to study openings and to prepare against opponents. Also this is remarkable as this small group of players indicates that openings are for them very important. Looking to the average clubplayer then I notice a very big difference as openings are by far not so important for them. At which strength do we have to consider studying openings as a substantial part of chess?

First we can't deny that studying openings has a strong correlation with how strong the personal ambitions are. To study openings is for most of us not one of the most attractive aspects of chess so perseverance and willpower are mandatory. Ambitions are closely connected with somebodies rating as described in my article ambitions. Nevertheless even more important than ambitions is naturally the effectiveness of studying openings. I once calculated that the difference for myself between a good and bad opening is about 80 ratingpoints in performance, see article to study openings. Further we also see a considerable increase of effectiveness once the opponents have more than 2250 elo. A possible explanation could be that players at that level can better maintain an opening-edge but I have to admit that my data is really too limited to make serious conclusions.

Although it is a fact that strong players have to fear much more a game-preparation. They have much more of their games published in public databases. In my article the list of strength I clearly indicated that above 2200 rating, games are inserted on a regular base in the databases. At contrary to the average clubplayer, these strong players don't possess the luxury to play many years without any worries the same (dubious) openings. Something which I already stated on this blog in a comment. So I dare to conclude that studying openings and therefore creating a serious repertoire becomes from 2200/2300 elo really important. How is such repertoire created?

In the article which games to analyze I indicated that 80% of my analyses are made on my own games. I guess today about 3/4 of that time is used to study openings which permits me mainly to create depth in my repertoire. I don't find this redundant as my opponents prepare themselves on the material which they can find about me. Thanks to those intensive analyses for which there is no sufficient time during a game-prepartion, I am able to survive the openings. It is also the only alternative that I have with the scientific approach compared with players frequently deviating. Attentive readers will certainly have noticed that I regularly publish pieces of those thorough analyses on this blog. E.g. Linton Donovan thankfully absorbed some of the material written in my article tactic to defeat the strong FM Martin Ahn, see game. To not become the victim myself of my own publications, I admit sometimes to hide on purpose some fragments. I try to limit this to the bare minimum so only the most sensitive elements are removed and often not much relevant anyway to the content of the article.

It is insufficient to create a good repertoire based solely on the own played games (something which I only found out by experience). Besides depth it is also important to work in the width and for this I mainly use game preparations. That game preparations are a very good incentive for a lot of players to study openings, was earlier affirmed in a reaction of the Belgium FM Tom Piceu which already was covered in my article the fake truth. The previous 2 interclub-seasons in the Belgian first division were for me an ideal catalyst to make serious progressions in my repertoire. More than 75 hours were spent at game preparations in only the season 2012-2013 as recorded earlier in the article the list of strength. Despite no direct results this was not a lost investment. All analysis (using among other things the method of the green moves) were always inventoried in a personal white and black opening-book on my computer.

This season I already could reuse a lot of those game-preparations. This not only let me win a lot of time but also permitted me to dig deeper in the repertoire of possible opponents (no luxury with the big imbalance between the smaller and bigger clubs of the first division). Because of this I was able to get a very decent opening in my game against Dejan (described in the article camouflage). Another advantage of my repertoire becoming more mature, I noticed in round 10 when suddenly the Dutch IM Henk Vedder popped up as opponent. He never played earlier in the season in the Belgium interclub so it was a total surprise. Nevertheless I got a very nice advantage out of the opening and it is really a pity that I was not able or didn't dare to face fully the complications. Maybe some time-shortness also played a limited role too as I always need a lot of time to remember an old analysis. I don't want to make a silly mistake in the move-order.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Borgerhout"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vedder, H."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2336"] [BlackElo "2380"] [PlyCount "64"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Qb6 8. Na4 Qa5 9. c3 b6 {(It was a complete surprise for me that Henk sit in front of me as he did not play before this season for Borgerhout. Nevertheless I was excited as the rare variant which he chose, was something that I already studied extensively in 2009.)} 10. Bd2 c4 11. b4 Qa6 { (I played my 2 previous moves quickly so I suspect Henk realized that I was acquainted with the opening. It is therefore a logical choice not to play the much sharper Nxb4 but to choose for the more strategic but also more passive Qa6.)} (11... Nxb4 12. cxb4 Bxb4 13. Qc2 Bxd2 14. Nxd2 b5 15. Nc3 b4 16. Nd1 Qb6 17. Nf3 a5 {(Less well known but not less interesting. )} 18. Be2 $1 a4 19. Qd2 $1 $14) 12. Be2 {(I doubted longtime in the game between Be2 and Qc2 as I could not fully remember my analysis. In the end I chose for what I had studied. Today I have to admit that based on new analysis also Qc2 and Nb2 with the idea after Qa3 to answer with Nxc4 are also giving good chances for some opening-advantage.)} Be7 13. O-O O-O 14. Qc2 f6 15. Nb2 b5 16. a4 {(In 2010 Henk already met exf6 by the young promising Dutch player Arthur Pijpers. White won that game. My move is not inferior as it is even recommended by the engines so I do find it strange that Henk still repeats this line. Maybe my opponent assumed that I was not familiar with the opening but such gamble looks unnatural to me.)} bxa4 {(2 earlier games of lower rated players continued with Nb6 but blacks novelty hardly changes the verdict.)} 17. Nxa4 Qb5 18. Nc5 $5 {(The engines recommend Rfb1 to eliminate every counter-play.)} Nxc5 19. dxc5 $6 {(I have to admit that bxc5 is stronger as now black gets more chances.)} fxe5 20. fxe5 Qb8 $4 { (This loses but even my top-engines have difficulties to find the refutation. Playable is a5.)} 21. Nd4 $2 {(A nice move guaranteeing a small advantage but winning is Ng5.)} (21. Ng5 $1 Rxf1 $5 22. Rxf1 Bxg5 23. Bxg5 Bd7 24. Bh5 $1 {(A tough move even for Houdini.)} Be8 25. Bg4 Qc8 26. Qf2 Bg6 27. Qg3 $18) 21... Bd7 22. Bg4 Nxe5 $6 {(Also for black are the complications too difficult as here Rxf1 is better.)} (22... Rxf1 $1 23. Rxf1 Qc8 24. Nxc6 Qxc6 25. Bh5 $1 Rf8 26. Ra1 Qc7 $14) 23. Bxe6 Bxe6 24. Nxe6 Rxf1 25. Rxf1 Nd3 26. Qd1 Qe5 27. Qg4 $2 {(Retracting moves in the attack are not easy for a human to find but a computer has no emotions.)} (27. Nf4 $1 a5 28. Nxd3 cxd3 29. Qf3 axb4 30. cxb4 Qd4 31. Be3 Qe5 32. Qf7 Kh8 33. Qf4 $16 ) 27... Re8 $2 {(A draw can be achieved after a5 but the line is absolute madness.)} (27... a5 $1 28. Nxg7 {(White has alternatives but this is the move which I planned and likely which black feared.)} Qxg7 29. Qe6 Kh8 30. Rf7 axb4 31. Rxe7 {(The queen is a poisoned present.)} (31. Rxg7 $4 Ra1 32. Be1 Bxc5 33. Kf1 Rxe1 34. Qxe1 Nxe1 $19) 31... b3 {(Not the only move but the most funny one.)} 32. Rxg7 Ra1 33. Be1 Kxg7 34. Qd7 Kf8 35. g3 Rxe1 36. Kg2 b2 $11 {(White has to force the perpetual to avoid losing.)}) 28. Nd4 Bf6 29. Qd7 Re7 30. Qd8 Re8 31. Qd7 Re7 32. Qd8 $2 {(I force a repetition of moves as I do not see how to make progress without taking serious risks. It is indeed not easy as only deep engine-analysis showed the correct path.)} (32. Qc6 $1 h6 33. Rf5 Qe4 34. Qxd5 Qxd5 35. Rxd5 Bg5 36. Rxg5 {(Only after this exchange-sacriice, the engines start to see the light. Of course to see this in advance, is way above my calculation abilities.)} hxg5 37. c6 Kf7 38. Nb5 Ke8 39. Nd6 Kf8 40. b5 g4 41. Kf1 Ne5 42. Bg5 Nxc6 {(Now Bxe7 and bxc6 generate an endgame with excellent winning chances.)}) 32... Re8 { (Although not fully inline with the rules, I proposed here a draw to avoid disturbing the other players with a claim. Black did not object and accepted immediately. )} 1/2-1/2
I played my 10th and 11th move quickly so I guess Henk did suspect my acquaintance with the nonetheless rare variant. His choice for a passive but more strategic 11..Qa6 instead of the explosive 11...Nxb4 is understandable. Surely not a wrong choice as I had looked at it extensively in 2009 in consequence of the repertoire of Mher Hovhanisian (see an expanded black-repertoire). When last year in the top-tournament of Dortmund (which was won surprisingly by Michael Adams) this variant popped up in a game, I was of course curious to check at which extend my analysis would correspond.
[Event "41st GM"] [Site "Dortmund GER"] [Date "2013.08.04"] [Round "9.5"] [White "Caruana, F."] [Black "Fridman, D."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2796"] [BlackElo "2629"] [PlyCount "125"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Qb6 8. Na4 Qa5 9. c3 b6 10. Bd2 c4 11. b4 Nxb4 {(A known but risky piece-sacrifice surely against a top-player like Fabiano.)} 12. cxb4 Bxb4 13. Qc2 Bxd2 14. Nxd2 b5 15. Nc3 b4 (15... Nb6 {(Mher Hovhanisian chose for this rare move in his game against the strong French-Armenian player Tigran Gharamian, played in 2008.)} 16. Be2 b4 17. Nd1 Bd7 18. O-O Ba4 19. Qc1 Bxd1 20. Bxd1 g6 21. f5 { (Very creative but Nf3 recommended byt the engines looks not only easier but also stronger.)} gxf5 22. Bh5 Na4 23. Nf3 h6 24. g4 Nc3 25. Qe3 fxg4 26. Nh4 O-O-O 27. Bxf7 Qb6 28. Rf6 Qxd4 29. Qxd4 Ne2 30. Kg2 Nxd4 31. Rd1 Nc2 32. Kf2 d4 33. Bxe6 Kb8 34. Nf5 c3 35. Bb3 d3 {(Wit has a won position but eventually a draw was miraculously concluded after 116 moves.) }) 16. Nd1 Qb6 17. Nf3 O-O 18. a3 {(Till this point the Italian superstar matches my analysis. However here he deviates but I have serious doubts if his choice is optimal. Maybe white created something on the board so not based on earlier prepared analysis.)} (18. Be2 f6 19. exf6 Rxf6 20. Qc1 $146 {(The queen will land on e3 after which I surely prefer white.)}) 18... b3 19. Qd2 f6 {(Another interesting plan for black is Qc6-Nb6-Na4)} 20. h4 Nb8 21. h5 a5 22. h6 Ra7 23. Nc3 Nc6 24. Rd1 Raf7 25. exf6 gxf6 26. g3 Kh8 27. Bh3 Qd8 28. Kf2 Qd6 29. Rhe1 f5 30. Qb2 Rf6 31. Rh1 Rxh6 32. Ng5 Kg7 33. Na4 Qe7 34. Nf3 Na7 35. Nc3 Bd7 36. Rde1 Qd6 37. Re3 Qb6 38. Qd2 Qd6 39. Qb2 Qb6 40. Kg2 Nc8 41. Ne5 Be8 42. Qd2 Nd6 43. Ree1 a4 44. g4 fxg4 45. Bxg4 Rxh1 46. Rxh1 Nf5 47. Bxf5 Rxf5 48. Qe3 h5 49. Rg1 Kf8 50. Nf3 Qd6 51. Ne2 Bg6 52. Kf2 Bh7 53. Ng5 Bg8 54. Qg3 Qe7 55. Qh4 Qf6 $2 {(After b2 Houdini shows an incredible variant which still gives black some surviving chances.)} (55... b2 56. Qxh5 Qxa3 57. Nh7 Ke7 58. Qh4 Kd7 59. Nf6 Kc6 60. Nxg8 Rf7 61. Rb1 Kb7 {(And Houdini shows an evaluation close to zero.)}) 56. Qxh5 c3 $2 {(This ends the game abruptly. Ke7 was more stubborn.)} 57. Nh7 Bxh7 58. Qxh7 Rxf4 59. Nxf4 Qxf4 60. Ke2 Qe4 61. Qxe4 dxe4 62. Kd1 Ke7 63. Rg5 1-0
Thanks to the recent intensive game-preparations I was able to expand my repertoire but for some players it does not end here. Eventually you are still lagging behind on the latest developments if you only base yourself on played games of yourself or of the opponents. To be maximally competitive it is important to follow up all the trends. New books, magazines,.. must be bought at regular intervals. More about this was already covered in my article the sequence. Creating a repertoire is not only something which takes a lot of time but it is also never finished. I often envy less experienced players as this less beautiful side remains for them limited.


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