Monday, June 16, 2014

The Modern French part 2

My college studies of engineer were not taken lightly in contrast with many of my fellow-students. I studied my courses at least 3 times seriously so I knew the materials thoroughly. As a consequence my results were always very good. This profound method of preparation I also inherited in chess. Even today after almost 20 years playing chess, there is still very little or no diminution of my (very) intensive game-preparations. However I also have to admit that big differences exist between a modern game-preparation and my formerly exam-preparations.

First there exists no limit on the amount of subject materials for a game-preparation in contrast with most classical exams. So as a chessplayer has to make choices e.g when stopping the preparation is reasonable or not. A question which I recently asked, is if it pays to spend time rehearsing the studied materials or that time better can be spend studying extra lines. Or a very similar question is, how much time one should spend per move? The answer naturally depends of a number of factors like how fast and well can the person memorize, how many (new) lines must be remembered,... Nevertheless I do believe most players choose if under time-pressure to spend as little time as possible repeating stuff as it is still possible via calculations and deductions to puzzle with the remembered fragments.  Of course it is no surprise that sometimes something goes wrong when puzzling.

There are also big differences in study-conditions. When I prepared for my engineer-exams then my surroundings deemed it very important that I was not disturbed. This way I could easily study 12 hours concentrated in 1 day. Today a game-preparation is tolerated by my surroundings but they also expect that I am at the same time available for other tasks. A preparation on a Saturday is as a consequence often nothing more than a string of more or less free half hours (with 2 small children it is never 100% quiet) between the many other activities (weekly groceries, driving the kids to the dance-school, art-school or swimming courses,...) Such chaotic way of preparing obviously influences the quality of the study. I will try to sketch a real example of such chaotic preparation in the continuation of the article. Or more specified, I will tell the part which is directly connected with the played game.

In the last round of the Belgian interclubs nothing was anymore at stake for Deurne. Our team was already relegated so only some personal success could still be achieved. Due to circumstances I would play first board, so the chance was real that I would meet the new Belgian grandmaster Bart Michiels. Obviously I prepared myself properly for him. In our previous encounter he chose the modern french but I estimated the probability low that it would be played again. This time it wouldn't be a surprise anymore and if Bart followed a bit my blog then he would realize that I take my preparations seriously. Now as earlier mentioned, I am not somebody leaving a preparation open to chance so in spite of I decided to study seriously the opening of our previous encounter.

The first thing which I looked at, was a concept from the correspondence-game to which I already earlier pointed in my previous article so with 0-0-0. Because I didn't meet the opening on the board anymore since my game (so from 2012) and as a consequence hadn't studied it anymore seriously, I believed it was the right moment to check the game with an engine more closely. Besides Bart could do easily the same if he read my blog.
[Event "RCCA-Bronze 2009"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2009.12.05"] [White "Auzins, Maris"] [Black "Ivanov, Valery Petrovich"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2424"] [BlackElo "2282"] [PlyCount "83"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Be2 b6 10. O-O-O c4 {(The critical test although it is neither clear if white is better after Bb7 or a6.)} (10... Bb7 11. Kb1 a6 12. Rhf1 Qc7 13. f5 $13) (10... a6 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. f5 cxd4 13. Bxd4 $13) 11. f5 b5 12. f6 gxf6 13. exf6 {(The Ukrainian strong but still very young grandmaster Illya Nyzhnyk played last year in this position Bh6 but that looks to me very good for black after fxe5)} Nxf6 $6 {(During the preparations I discovered Bxf6 and despite fierce attempts I did not succeed to find an antidote.)} (13... Bxf6 $146 14. Bh6 (14. a3 a5 15. Nxb5 (15. Bh6 Rb8 16. Bxf8 Qxf8 17. Nb1 b4 18. axb4 Bg7 19. g4 $19 ) 15... Rb8 16. a4 Ba6 17. Bh6 Bxb5 18. axb5 Rxb5 19. c3 $19 ) (14. Nxb5 Ba6 15. Nc3 (15. Na3 c3 16. Qxc3 Bxe2 17. Qxc6 Bxd1 18. Rxd1 Rb8 19. Bf4 $17 ) 15... Rb8 16. Bf4 Rb7 17. Bd6 Qb6 18. Na4 Qb5 19. b3 $17 ) 14... b4 15. Nb1 (15. Na4 Qa5 16. b3 Ba6 17. Rhf1 Bb5 18. Ng1 Qd8 19. Qe3 $17 ) 15... Re8 16. Rhf1 Qe7 17. c3 Bb7 18. Rde1 Kh8 19. Ng5 $15 ) 14. Bh6 Ng4 {(The alternative Kh8 is not better.)} (14... Kh8 15. Bxf8 Qxf8 (15... Bxf8 16. Ne5 Nxe5 17. dxe5 Ng8 18. Kb1 b4 19. Ne4 $16 {(Brabo - FM Trainer79 ; Blitz 3min Playchess 2012 and much later 1-0)}) 16. Qf4 b4 17. Na4 Ne4 18. Bxc4 Nf2 19. Bb5 Nd8 20. Nc5 f6 21. Rhf1 Nxd1 22. Kxd1 a6 23. Ba4 Bd6 24. Ne5 f5 25. Ncd3 Ra7 26. g4 Rg7 27. Qf3 Nf7 28. gxf5 Ng5 29. Qh5 Ne4 30. f6 Nxf6 31. Qh6 Be7 32. Nc6 Rg6 33. Qxf8 Bxf8 34. Nde5 {(Gabrielian,A - Iskysnyk,S 1-0 ; 66th Ruschampionship HL 2013)}) 15. Bxf8 Bxf8 16. Ng5 b4 17. Na4 Nh6 18. Kb1 Bg7 19. Qf4 Nxd4 20. Rxd4 Bxd4 21. Nxf7 Nxf7 22. Qxd4 e5 23. Qf2 Qe7 24. Nc5 Nd6 25. Rd1 d4 26. Bf3 Rb8 27. Qg3 Qg7 28. Qh4 Bf5 29. g4 Bg6 30. Bd5 Kh8 31. Ne6 Bxc2 32. Kxc2 Qg6 33. Kc1 b3 34. axb3 cxb3 35. Kd2 Re8 36. Rc1 Rxe6 37. Bxe6 Qxe6 38. Rc7 Nf7 39. Qe7 Qxe7 40. Rxe7 Kg7 41. Kd3 a5 42. Re6 1-0
I considered the concept ideal to combat Barts style but I didn't dare to play it due to the discovered hole at move 13. After our game I asked Bart if he read my blog and knew the antidote on the concept of 0-0-0 too. Bart confirmed that he had read my blog. It would've been a big surprise if a grandmaster didn't use the available free foreknowledge but his answer on the anti-dote was rather confusing. He answered that he already once replied successfully with c4 in practice. However the only game which I could find that Bart played successfully c4 after 0-0-0 was a line without the moves Be2 and 0-0 so I guess Bart didn't know the gap on move 13 (which doesn't mean that he couldn't find it at the board). It wouldn't be the first time that a (strong) player didn't take the opportunity to benefit maximally from the available info on my blog. Below I show the pretty interesting game in which Bart played c4 after 0-0-0.
[Event "14th Euro Indiv 2013"] [Site "Legnica POL"] [Date "2013.05.14"] [Round "9.87"] [White "Firat, B."] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2421"] [BlackElo "2505"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2013.05.05"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 b6 {(Bart chose in his first games with this system for 0-0 but has now switched to b6 to discourage dxc5.)} 9. O-O-O {(The Dutch worldclass-player Anish Giri chose in 2012 with success for Nd1 against Bart but I do not believe it gives any opening advantage for white. With Be2 we can transpose to e.g. my game against Bart of 2012.)} c4 {(Without any doubt this is the critical test of the system.)} 10. f5 {(There exists a surprising alternative of which I did not find any games in the databases.)} (10. Bxc4 $5 { (This was not part of my preparation so I only discovered this recently.)} dxc4 11. d5 exd5 $1 (11... Ndxe5 12. Nxe5 Nxe5 13. fxe5 exd5 14. Nxd5 Be6 15. Qd4 Bc5 16. Qe4 Bxd5 17. Rxd5 Bxe3 18. Kb1 $14) 12. Qxd5 Qc7 13. e6 $5 (13. Nb5 Qb7 14. e6 Nf6 15. Nd6 Kf8 16. Qb5 a6 17. Qxc4 Qc7 18. Nxf7 b5 19. Qc3 Bxe6 20. Nxh8 Bc4 $13) 13... Nf6 14. exf7 Kf8 15. Qxc4 Bg4 16. Ne5 Bxd1 17. Rxd1 $13) 10... b5 11. fxe6 fxe6 12. Ng5 $6 {(I believe white gets here already into some troubles.)} (12. Bg5 $1 Qa5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Ne4 Qxd2 15. Nexd2 $13) 12... Bxg5 $4 {(However this is a bad reaction. Correct was Nb6 with the better chances for black.)} 13. Bxg5 Qa5 14. Kb1 $2 {(White misses a hidden chance for a big advantage with Qf4.)} (14. Qf4 $1 h6 (14... b4 $6 15. Ne4 {(White suddenly threatens mate on d6 so black has no choice.)} dxe4 16. Bxc4 Nb6 17. Rhf1 Nd8 18. d5 $1 Nxc4 19. Bxd8 Kxd8 20. Qf7 $18) 15. Qh4 O-O 16. Bxh6 gxh6 17. Qxh6 Ndxe5 18. dxe5 Qc7 19. g3 Qg7 $16) 14... b4 15. Ne2 c3 16. Qe3 $2 {(With Qf4 the position more or less remains balanced.)} cxb2 17. Nf4 $6 {(After this move it goes fast. With e.g. Qf3 white was able to defend more tenaciously.)} Nb6 18. Qh3 Na4 19. Rd3 b3 20. Be2 Nc3 0-1
The mistakes let me believe that such type of positions is not a bad choice against Bart if I would be prepared for it of course.

So in any case I searched for an alternative which  I found in a concept earlier mentioned in a reaction of TheUnknownOne. I made a quick glace of the consequences if Bart would choose for an identical setup as in our previous encounter and found out that I could play a nice novelty.
[Event "Modern French 8.Be2"] [Date "2014"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C11"] [PlyCount "32"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Qe1 {(This idea was proposed on my blog as an alternative for Qd2 and which I considered as interesting.)} (10. Qd2 f5 11. Nb5 a6 12. Nd6 $6 Bxd6 13. exd6 Nf6 14. dxc5 $6 Ne4 $15) 10... f5 11. Nb5 {(With the queen on e1 instead of d2, this move is much stronger. The move is b.t.w. recommended by the engines.)} a6 (11... c4 12. Ng5 Ndb8 13. Qg3 Bd7 14. a3 Na6 15. b3 cxb3 16. cxb3 Na5 17. Rfb1 $13 ) (11... Ba6 12. c4 dxc4 13. Bxc4 cxd4 14. Nfxd4 Nxd4 15. Bxd4 Bxb5 16. Bxb5 Nf6 17. Rd1 $14 ) 12. Nd6 Nxd4 (12... c4 $5 13. Nxc8 Rxc8 14. c3 b5 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. fxg5 Qb6 17. Qd2 b4 18. Rab1 $13 ) (12... Bxd6 $5 13. exd6 c4 (13... Nf6 14. dxc5 bxc5 (14... Ne4 $6 $16 {(Here we notice the difference between the queen on e1 or d2.) }) 15. Bxc5 Ne4 16. b4 Nxd6 17. a4 Re8 18. b5 Ne4 19. Be3 $16 ) 14. b3 Nf6 15. bxc4 dxc4 16. Ne5 (16. Bxc4 Qxd6 17. Bb3 Na5 18. c4 $13 ) 16... Qxd6 17. Bf3 (17. Bxc4 Bb7 18. Bb3 Na5 19. c4 Nxb3 20. axb3 a5 21. Qf2 Rfc8 $13 ) 17... Bd7 18. Nxc4 Qc7 19. d5 (19. Rc1 b5 20. Ne5 Nd5 21. Bxd5 exd5 22. Rf3 Rac8 $13 ) 19... Nd4 20. Bxd4 Qxc4 21. Bxf6 Rxf6 22. Qe5 Rc8 23. Rab1 Qc5 24. Rf2 b5 $13 ) 13. Nxd4 cxd4 14. Bxd4 Nc5 15. c4 Bxd6 16. exd6 Qxd6 $13 {(I do not claim any clear advantage for white but I do find whites position more enjoyable. This combined with the surprise-value means that the idea has certainly enough value to be once tested in practice.) *
White probably doesn't have a tangible advantage but the resulting positions looked appealing for white. Besides I was almost 100% sure that the idea 11.Nb5 would be a complete surprise which would give me at least a serious gain of time on the clock.

However a week earlier I also read on that the strong Swedish correspondence-player Thomas Johansson claimed that black can immediately equalize with 9...,f6. I am not subscribed at the site (something which I warmly recommend to any player aspiring master-titles) but I was anyway able to rapidly find the reason. Now equality in correspondence chess doesn't mean a dry and dead position in OTB so I kept searching for some interesting ideas but more than below correspondence-game I didn't succeed.
[Event "8th European Team Championship - Semifi"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2009.02.21"] [White "Haraldsson, Haraldur"] [Black "Skripko, Petr Vasilievich"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2394"] [BlackElo "2383"] [PlyCount "99"] [WhiteTeam "Iceland"] [BlackTeam "Belarus"] [WhiteTeamCountry "ISL"] [BlackTeamCountry "BLR"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O f6 {(On chesspub recommended by the strong Swedish correspondence player Thomas Johansson. Although I do not have a subscription, I was able to quickly detect why the move was recommended.)} 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. Kh1 Bd6 {(Ng4 is less clear due to Bg1.)} 12. dxc5 Ng4 13. Ng5 Nxe3 14. Qd3 Rf5 15. Qxe3 Bxf4 16. Rxf4 Qxg5 17. Raf1 Bd7 18. h4 {(It is interesting to discover that the move did not pop up yet in the megadatabase. So I estimated the probability high that my opponent had not seen the move before.)} Qh6 {(If that is the best move for black then white can not complain. However when searching for alternatives I did detect Qe7 and became a lot less optimistic.)} (18... Qe7 19. Rxf5 (19. Nb5 Raf8 20. Rxf5 Qxh4 21. Kg1 Rxf5 22. Rxf5 exf5 23. Qd2 $13) 19... Qxh4 20. Kg1 exf5 21. Nxd5 Re8 $13 {(In both lines white has nothing and maybe even needs to be careful.)}) 19. Qg3 Rxf4 20. Rxf4 a6 21. Kh2 {(The alternative looks more attractive to me and I would probably try it out if I got the chance.)} (21. Bg4 {(Even in equal positions there is often still music left. Here white menaces Nxd5.)} e5 22. Rf3 e4 $5 23. Rf4 Be6 $5 24. Bxe6 Qxe6 25. Rg4 g6 26. h5 Ne7 27. Ne2 Rf8 28. hxg6 hxg6 $5 29. Nf4 $5 Qe5 30. Rxg6 Nxg6 $4 { (Kf7 is necessary as now black gets tricked.)} 31. Qxg6 Qg7 ( 31... Kh8 32. Qh6 Kg8 33. Qxf8 Kxf8 34. Ng6 $18) 32. Qxg7 Kxg7 33. Ne6 Kf7 34. Nxf8 Kxf8 35. c3 $18) 21... e5 22. Rf1 Be6 23. Bg4 Qg6 24. Bxe6 Qxe6 25. Qh3 Qxh3 26. Kxh3 d4 27. Ne4 Rf8 28. Rxf8 Kxf8 29. Kg4 Ke7 30. c4 a5 31. h5 g6 32. hxg6 hxg6 33. Kf3 Nb4 34. Nf2 Ke6 35. Ke4 a4 36. a3 Nc6 37. Ng4 Ke7 38. Nh2 Na5 39. Nf3 Nxc4 40. Kd5 Nxb2 41. Nxe5 d3 42. Nf3 Nd1 43. Ke4 Nc3 44. Kxd3 Nb5 45. Ne5 Nxa3 46. Nxg6 Ke6 47. Nf4 Ke5 48. Ne2 Nb5 49. Kc4 a3 50. Nc3 1/2-1/2
So again I was not satisfied about the result and felt obliged to continue my quest. A weird but interesting game I found in the engine-database.
[Event "CCRL 40/40"] [Site "CCRL"] [Date "2013.08.27"] [Round "110.3"] [White "Stockfish 4 64-bit 4CPU"] [Black "Rybka 4.1 64-bit 4CPU"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "3228"] [BlackElo "3159"] [PlyCount "133"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 { (Today some players even go for b6 to avoid at all costs dxc5.)} 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Bxc5 Nxc5 10. Qe2 {(A strange idea but several engines prefer this move instead of the more natural Qd2.) } a6 11. O-O-O b5 12. Qe3 Qb6 13. Kb1 O-O 14. Bd3 b4 15. Bxh7 {(Weird that a topengine permits this classic-sacrifice. Black resists still for a long time but against white precision it is futile.)} Kxh7 16. Ng5 Kg8 17. Qh3 Re8 18. Ne2 Ne7 19. Qh5 Ng6 20. Qh7 Kf8 21. Ng3 Na4 22. Ka1 Qc5 23. Nh5 Ke7 24. Qxg7 Rf8 25. g4 Rb8 26. f5 Nxb2 27. fxe6 Kd8 28. Ne4 Qc6 29. Kxb2 Bxe6 30. Nf4 Kc7 31. Nxe6 Qxe6 32. Nc5 Qc6 33. Nd3 Rbc8 34. Rhf1 Kb7 35. Rxf7 Rxf7 36. Qxf7 Ka8 37. Qf2 a5 38. Kb1 d4 39. Qe2 Ka7 40. e6 Rc7 41. h4 Ne7 42. Nf4 a4 43. h5 Qc5 44. h6 Ng8 45. g5 Qxg5 46. Qe4 Nf6 47. Qxd4 Qc5 48. Qxc5 Rxc5 49. Rd7 Ka6 50. e7 Re5 51. Rd6 Kb7 52. Re6 Rxe6 53. Nxe6 Kc6 54. h7 Kd7 55. h8=Q Kxe7 56. Nd8 Nd7 57. Qh4 Kd6 58. Qxb4 Kd5 59. Qd2 Ke4 60. Qxd7 Kf3 61. Qf5 Kg3 62. Ne6 a3 63. Qf4 Kg2 64. c3 Kh1 65. Qf3 Kg1 66. Nf4 Kh2 67. Qg2# 1-0
A bit too weird for me because I couldn't fully understand why exactly now Qe2. Besides the remaining time was too limited to spend a serious study at it so I put the idea aside. The concept of the next game which I show is much easier to understand.
[Event "CL/2012/A"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2012.10.15"] [Round "?"] [White "Sikorsky, Horst"] [Black "Pessoa, Francisco Azevedo"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2470"] [BlackElo "2547"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Zugzwang Bocholt 2"] [BlackTeam "Sporting Clube de Portugal"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. a3 { (An interesting idea but I will not claim that white gets a guaranteed advantage with it.)} O-O 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Bxc5 Nxc5 11. b4 Nd7 12. Bd3 h6 (12... f6 13. O-O a5 {(Qe7 has been tested also successfully but whites play can be easily improved beginning with exf6.)} 14. b5 Ne7 15. Na4 b6 16. c4 Nc5 17. Nxc5 bxc5 18. exf6 $146 {(An improvement on the game Svetushkin,D - Kuljasevic,D which black even won. After exf6 white has a clear advantage.)}) 13. Qd2 a5 14. b5 Ne7 15. Na4 Nb6 16. Nxb6 Qxb6 17. Qf2 Qxf2 18. Kxf2 a4 19. g4 Bd7 20. h4 Nc8 21. b6 Ne7 22. Ke3 Nc6 23. h5 Rac8 24. g5 Ne7 25. Nd4 Rc5 26. Rhg1 hxg5 27. fxg5 Nc8 28. Rgb1 Ne7 29. Rf1 Rfc8 30. g6 Nf5 31. Nxf5 exf5 32. Rg1 R5c6 33. gxf7 Kxf7 34. Rg5 Rxb6 35. Rag1 Rg8 36. Kd4 Rh6 37. Bxf5 Bxf5 38. Rxf5 Ke7 39. Rfg5 Kf7 40. R1g3 Rhh8 41. Rf3 Ke7 42. Rc3 Kd7 43. Kxd5 Rh6 44. Rg6 Rxg6 45. hxg6 Ra8 46. e6 1-0
The lines which I looked at, seemed attractive to me. On the other hand with a move like a3, the door is wide open for all kind of interesting or not black continuations. In other words the probability is high that black would throw me immediately out of book and without any experience this is not funny.

So what to choose? I did't want to study again something new from scratch as I was running out of time because still other openings needed to be reviewed. Is the final position of my original analyses on the recommendation of Thomas really that pessimistic? I decided to recheck the line and found some interesting ideas which finally convinced me to give it a chance. After this long article it is surely no surprise anymore that yes, the whole line popped up in our game.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2336"] [BlackElo "2510"] [PlyCount "61"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Be2 { (As in our encounter of 2012, Bart chooses for this opening which is a surprise for me. Ok, the opening has today a very solid reputation as in the megadatabase we can find recent games of 10 2700 players taking the black pieces. However in contrary with our previous encounter Bart could not rely this time on a surprise value and somebody following a bit my blog, will understand that I would be prepared for the opening. Did Bart assume that his in-depth opening-study would be sufficient to easily neutralize my preparation. In any case I deviate here already from the earlier game with a less known variation so giving a clear signal that I have something prepared.)} O-O 9. O-O f6 {(I believe this is the critical test. Bart played the move quickly so it is clear that Bart has worked seriously in recent years at his repertoire. Maybe it was exactly that effort which was the little extra needed to become grandmaster as in the past I sometimes had the feeling that Bart spent not enough time at his repertoire..)} 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. Kh1 Bd6 12. dxc5 Ng4 13. Ng5 (13. Bd2 $5 {(After the game Bart indicated that a recent top-game was played with this position which he studied. That is correct as Bd2 was played in 2011 Shirov,A - Vitiugov,N 27ste Europees cupchampionship Rogaska Slatina.)} Bxc5 14. Qe1 Ne3 15. Bxe3 Bxe3 16. g3 $13 {(I also studied this position in my preparation but concluded that it is rather white fighting for a draw.)}) 13... Nxe3 14. Qd3 Rf5 15. Qxe3 Bxf4 16. Rxf4 Qxg5 17. Raf1 Bd7 18. h4 {(After this more or less forced line Bart is out of book. It is remarkable how few OTB-players are aware about existing important correspondence-games.)} Qe7 $146 {(A novelty played after a long thought and of course a logical choice. Qe7 looks more solid than Qh6 and is more safe to play against somebody still in book.)} 19. Rxf5 {(Bart asked me after the game why I spent so much time if the move was still part of my preparation. Well there are several reasons. First the danger exists that playing fast makes you not fully aware about the game itself. The Belgian strong IM Stefan Docx once told me that after a long prepared line you are not warmed up to calculate. On the other hand I also have to admit that my preparation went chaotically which caused problems to remember exactly what I considered as best move. Anyway I wanted to avoid mixing variations like recently happened in the top-game Grishuk,A - Aronian,L 2014 Norway and for which I am surely not immune.)} Qxh4 20. Kg1 exf5 21. Nxd5 Re8 22. Qd2 $5 {(Initially I did not want to play this position but because the engine evaluated the position as not worse for white, I decided to look deeper. The played move is the most natural one but there are surely equivalent alternatives.} Kh8 $5 { (This move is shortly displayed by some of my engines so it came not as a surprise. Nonetheless I must add after some new and more deep analysis that Be6 was slightly more accurate.)} ( 22... Rxe2 $4 {(After the game the Belgian IM Geert Van der Stricht asked us what exactly happens after Rxe2.)} 23. Qxe2 Qd4 24. Ne3 $18 {(This was one of the many traps as after f4 white wins with Qc4 or Rd1.)}) 23. Bf3 $5 {(After the game I mentioned that I had looked somewhere around this move at Nc7 and that is indeed the move which the engines prefer. In my preparation I did not see a substantial difference between Bf3 and Nc7 which is why I chose for the more harmonic move but now after some deeper analysis I have to admit that Nc7 is more precise. The difference in evaluation shows also the limitations of a preparation.)} (23. Nc7 Rd8 $5 24. Nb5 b6 $1 25. cxb6 (25. Nd6 $5 Be6 26. Bb5 Qd4 27. Qxd4 Nxd4 28. b4 Nxb5 29. Nxb5 bxc5 30. bxc5 Bc4 31. Nd6 Bxf1 32. Nf7 Kg8 33. Nxd8 Bc4 {(Ba6 is responded with Nc6.)} 34. c6 Kf8 35. c7 Ba6 36. Nc6 Ke8 37. Kf2 Bb7 {(Kd7 still does not work due to Nb8.)} 38. Nxa7 Kd7 39. c8=Q Bxc8 40. Nxc8 Kxc8 41. Ke3 g5 42. Kd4 h5 43. Ke5 f4 44. Kf5 h4 { (And draw.)}) 25... axb6 26. Qc3 h6 (26... Re8 27. Rf2 Re5 28. Nd6 Qe7 29. Nxf5 Rxf5 30. Rxf5 Bxf5 31. Qxc6 Qe3 32. Kf1 $13) 27. Bf3 Na5 28. Nc7 Rc8 $13 {(Black keeps the balance with some difficulties.)}) 23... Nd4 $5 {(I believe that I also looked at the alternative Ne5 in my preparations with the idea to jump at g4 and threaten mate at h2.)} (23... Ne5 $5 {(This knight-move must be responded in a different way.)} 24. Nf4 $4 (24. b3 Bc6 25. c4 $11) 24... Bb5 25. Qd4 Bxf1 26. Ng6 Nxg6 $19) 24. Nf4 {(Here the proven answer on Ne5 would be inferior.)} (24. b3 $6 Bc6 25. c4 Re5 $15) 24... Nxf3 (24... Bb5 $4 {(The refutation of Ne5 does not work here.)} 25. Qxd4 Bxf1 26. Ng6 hxg6 27. Qxh4 $18) 25. Rxf3 Re1 {(Also here Bb5 is nothing.)} (25... Bb5 $6 26. Ng6 hxg6 27. Rh3 Qxh3 28. gxh3 $14) 26. Rf1 Rxf1 27. Kxf1 Bb5 28. Kg1 Bc6 29. Qd6 {(After the game I indicated that I have looked at home to different lines with c4 but eventually I concluded that Qd6 is the most interesting continuation. However again I spent a lot of time at the position after which one could rightly wonder if it is not another "I knew it" - position.)} Qe1 30. Kh2 Qe8 $5 {(To try forcing the draw with Qh4 does not improve blacks position.)} ( 30... Qh4 31. Nh3 h6 32. Qf8 Kh7 33. Qxf5 $13 {(It is probably still a draw but it is not comfortable anymore with a pawn less.)}) 31. Ne6 {(Not the only move but it looks the most pleasant one. Although engines evaluate the position as fully equal, it is clear that white controls fully the situation. Black needs to be careful which is also proven in the follow-up of the game. Therefore I evaluate the preparation as a complete success for myself.)} *
If a 200 points lower rated player achieves a position against a grandmaster in which he can control and black must be careful thanks almost exclusively due to the preparation then I do consider the preparation as very successful. The Belgian IM Geert Van der Stricht remarked afterwards that such fate is something unavoidable as higher rated player but I don't fully agree with that. If you play twice the same opening against the same person then one can expect that the opponent will be (well) prepared. The resulting position is mainly the responsibility of the player and not some sort of luck.

That I managed to mess up the nice position, is something for another article as there is still much to tell about that. With this article I made at least an update of the interesting Modern French.


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