Thursday, August 14, 2014

King's gambit with Nf3

While the "refutation"of the King's gambit with Bc4 only arouse my curiosity, it was mainly the anti-dote against my favorite system of the King's gambit with Nf3 which worried me. I already play approximately 20 years the Fischer-defense. I am not aware of any anti-dote, at contrary as in recent years I more and more got convinced of the viability of blacks system. Besides we see also today top-grandmasters still choosing regularly for this setup.

The available excerpt on the official site of quality chess doesn't give a hint about the anti-dote but thanks to some reviews on chessvibes and Marsh Towers I was able to find out more. In the reviews is explained how white tries to get a favorable transposition to the Quaade-gambit via 5.g3.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Pf3 d6 4.d4 g5 5.g3 !?
I have already played with blacks position after move 4, 5 official games and about 320 online blitz/bullet games but never I met 5.g3. On top a quick check with the engines let us understand that the idea is not easy to answer. Did John Shaw discover something or was this already known? I recently was able to look into the book and it stroke me that nowhere is mentioned from where 5.g3 originates. Not one example from practice is covered in the book. So the author invented the idea. No as I did find 5 games in the megadatabase  of which 2 white-games of the Dutch grandmaster Harmen Jonkman and 1 of the Russian grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev. Besides the latter player, Vadim is one of my favorite players whom I invariably replay his games when I accidentally come across them. Maybe the reader still remembers his introduction of 2.Na3 against the Sicilian in the Russian Superfinal of 2005. Something he still dared to repeat at least 8 times even against + 2600 players.

To ignore the history of the King's gambit is too bad (see my article manuals) but to present ideas as new in a book is at least dubious. You could claim that the earlier mentioned mega-database games were all lost by white so are irrelevant but a.f.a.i.k. an idea should be evaluated on its value and not only on the score (or the rating of the players, see blogarticle theory). On the other hand I have to admit that the author is the first to really initiate an attempt to popularize the idea. Loyal readers know from the blogartikel SOS that I am rather sensitive for that kind of details.

Enough about the origin of the idea as now we want surely to know how dangerous and interesting the idea is for practice. Beginning of June I started with a study of the idea lasting several weeks without looking in advance at what John Shaw tells. I was up to date with my analysis of the own played games so some time remained till Open Gent to make some extra opening-analysis as I did earlier e.g. for the Aljechin see article. By the way in an open tournament the chance is considerably bigger to meet opponents choosing for an experiment with e.g. the King's gambit and on top are also informed about the latest developments.

Not peeking to what the book says, has the advantage that one can look open-minded to the position which permits easier to find new ideas. This way I indeed found an interesting concept with f5 which checking later wasn't covered in the book.
[Event "KG Fischersysteem 5.g3 f5"] [Date "2014"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C34"] [PlyCount "21"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6 4. d4 g5 5. g3 f5 $146 {(A cute idea not mentioned by JS but objectively it is not really better than the known alternatives.)} 6. Nc3 (6. exf5 Bxf5 7. Bg2 Nd7 8. O-O Qf6 9. Nc3 O-O-O 10. Nd5 Qg7 11. gxf4 $11 ) 6... Bg7 7. exf5 Bxf5 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Nc6 10. gxf4 gxf4 11. Bxf4 $11 *
I surely don't claim any advantage for black after f5 but it does seem very well playable. Somebody blindly following Johns book, can be forced quickly to think independently which in this explosive position isn't so funny.

Next I had a look to g4 which the engines recommend. We enter hereby the Quaada-territory. I spent a lot of time on the different sort of positions as this is very virgin territory and a lot of subtleties decide about what is and what is not playable.
[Event "KG Fischersysteem 5.g3 g4"] [Date "2014"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C34"] [PlyCount "26"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6 4. d4 g5 5. g3 g4 {(Hereafter white gets the typical compensation that he expects.)} 6. Nh4 f3 {(JS does not talk about any deviations from the Quaade gambit.)} (6... Bh6 7. Bb5 c6 8. Bc4 Bg5 9. O-O Bxh4 10. gxh4 f3 11. Nc3 Qxh4 12. Bf4 $11 ) 7. Nc3 Nc6 { (This is presented as the only continuation but Nf6 looks at least as interesting.)} (7... Nf6 {(This is not discussed by JS.)} 8. Qd3 Nc6 9. Bf4 (9. Bg5 Be7 10. O-O-O h6 11. Bd2 a6 12. Nd5 Be6 13. Re1 $11 ) 9... Bg7 10. O-O-O Nh5 11. Be3 O-O 12. Kb1 Re8 13. Bf2 $11 ) 8. Be3 Nf6 {(Be7 and Nge7 have been tested in practice and are the continuations which JS covers. About the engine-recommendation which I trust more, is nothing written.)} 9. Bd3 Bg7 10. Qd2 Nb4 11. O-O-O Nxd3 12. Qxd3 O-O 13. h3 gxh3 $11 *
In the book a much simplified view is given of the possibilities so partly misguiding how complex the task is for both players. I do have to admit that the type of position seems very attractive for the true King's gambit adept as white has nice compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

Next I covered Bg7. My analysis completely overlap the book but I am less optimistic about whites chances in the mainline after replaying a recent key-game.
[Event "RUS/Emerald2011 (RUS)"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2011.12.15"] [White "Nepustil, Frantisek"] [Black "Fetisov, Aleksey Anatolievic"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2390"] [BlackElo "2351"] [PlyCount "114"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Nc3 d6 5. d4 Bg7 6. g3 {(With a transposition we are in the line which JS recommends against the Fischer-defense with 5.g3 Bg7.)} Nc6 7. d5 Ne5 8. gxf4 gxf4 9. Bxf4 Bg4 10. Bb5 (10. Be2 Nxf3 11. Bxf3 Qf6 12. O-O {(Black has a very comfortable position.)}) 10... Kf8 11. Be2 Nxf3 12. Bxf3 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Qf6 14. O-O Qxf4 15. Bxg4 Qxe4 16. Bf5 Qe3 17. Kh1 {(Here JS stops and claims black has an extra pawn but his king is insecure.)} Nh6 18. Rf3 Qg5 19. Be6 Rg8 20. Qf1 Rg7 21. Re1 Kg8 22. Rg3 Qh4 23. Rh3 Qd8 {(Black avoids the repetition with Qg5 as the endgame is clearly better for black.)} 24. Rxh6 Qg5 25. Bxf7 Rxf7 26. Qg1 Rg7 27. Qxg5 Rxg5 28. Rg1 Rxg1 29. Kxg1 Re8 30. Rh4 b5 31. Kf2 Re5 32. Rd4 Kf7 33. a3 Rh5 34. h4 Kf6 35. c4 Ke5 36. Rg4 Rf5 37. Ke3 bxc4 38. Rxc4 Rf7 39. Ra4 a6 40. Rxa6 Kxd5 41. Ra4 Kc5 42. Rf4 Rg7 43. Kd2 Rg3 44. Rf7 c6 45. Rxh7 Rxa3 46. h5 Rh3 47. Ke2 Kd4 48. Rh6 Rh2 49. Kf3 Ke5 50. Rh8 Rxc2 51. h6 Rh2 52. h7 Kd5 53. Kg4 c5 54. Kg5 Kd4 55. Kg6 d5 56. Rg8 Kd3 57. h8=Q Rxh8 {(A clever draw but black clearly had all the fun. So I find JS somewhat too optimistic about whites chances in this line.)} 1/2-1/2
Is the author not familiar with this game as it is clear white had to fight hard for the half point or worse was this game on purpose ignored? In the book games of 2013 are used so weird. Finally I don't want to deny the reader of a very interesting possibility which not by coincidence also seems to give the best chances to refute the idea.
[Event "KG Fischersysteem 5.g3 h6"] [Date "2014"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C34"] [PlyCount "29"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6 4. d4 g5 5. g3 h6 {(Probably the most critical test.)} 6. Nc3 fxg3 (6... Bd7 $146 {(An interesting novelty neither mentioned by JS after which it is very difficult for white to keep the balance.)} 7. Qd3 (7. Bc4 Nc6 8. O-O Na5 9. Be2 fxg3 10. hxg3 Bg7 11. d5 Ne7 $13 ) (7. Bd3 fxg3 8. hxg3 Bg7 9. Be3 Nc6 10. Be2 Qe7 11. Qd2 Nf6 12. d5 Ne5 13. O-O-O Nxf3 $13 ) 7... Nc6 8. a3 Bg7 9. gxf4 g4 10. Rg1 Kf8 11. d5 gxf3 12. dxc6 Qh4 13. Rg3 f2 14. Kxf2 $13 {(Houdini considers all this is just playable but I surely prefer blacks position.) }) 7. hxg3 {(More popular is h4 but equality I can not find for white.)} (7. h4 g4 8. Ng1 g2 9. Bxg2 Be7 10. h5 Bh4 11. Ke2 Nc6 {(Better than Bg5 from JS.)} 12. Nd5 Bf6 $15 ) 7... Bg7 8. Be3 {(The alternative Bc4 is also not easy playing.)} (8. Bc4 {(Again not covered by JS.)} Bg4 9. O-O (9. Rf1 Nf6 10. e5 dxe5 11. Bxf7 Ke7 12. Bg6 exd4 13. Qe2 Kf8 14. Ne4 Nc6 $13 ) 9... Nf6 10. Qd3 Nc6 11. e5 dxe5 12. Nxe5 O-O 13. Rxf6 Qxf6 14. Nxg4 Qxd4 $13 ) 8... Nf6 9. Qd2 {(A slight improvement on the important game Nigel Short - Luke Mc Shane played in 2011, London.)} Ng4 {(In Nightingale - Marczell, corr 2009 Nc6 was played with also a lot of fun for black but a same concept as chosen by Luke Mc Shane is here at least as interesting.)} 10. O-O-O c6 11. Kb1 Nd7 12. Bd3 Nxe3 13. Qxe3 Nf6 14. e5 Ng4 15. Qe2 $13 *
After the 8th move the author writes: "This is exactly the sort of position I want to reach with white in the King's Gambit. It's sharp, interesting and little explored with just five games from this position.... In such virgin territory it is impossible to give a comprehensive coverage." So the reader is left alone in the line which I consider as the most critical against 5.g3. Isn't it the task of the author to make a serious in depth analysis (as usually done in top-correspondence)? My idea of 6... , Bd7 is not covered and is as interesting as 6..., fxg3. Besides I also show several refinements and schemes which are useful for the 6..., fxg3 line.

Despite the remarks I do have to admit that the book is really good. It comprises a complete overview of the existing relevant theory with correct evaluations (although sometimes they are a bit too subjective). However I do understand too the comment of MNb on my previous article. Somebody possessing already a lot of material about the King's Gambit will find few or no new findings which have been worked out for weeks as I did for this article. The book is a reference for otb-players but a correspondence-player can just better consult the databases and make the research with an engine.


Friday, August 8, 2014

King's gambit with Bc4

Many clubplayers still play today regularly the king's gambit despite the dubious reputation. The exact evaluation of the positions is for those amateurs less important than getting a complex position on the board in which uncompromising chess can be played. Therefore I still don't understand very well which market John Shaw with his monumental book about the King's gambit wants to tap. 680 pages counts the book so clearly no simple literature in which an amateur will peek when having a break. I recently asked Ben of the denksportkampioen how many copies he already sold and if I remember well then it were about 15. That is not much for a quality-book (which it surely is) but it does correspond to the number of players which I esteem not only aspiring uncompromising chess but also are an adept of the King's gambit.
Naturally the book got a lot of attention in reviews on the internet. Most comments were rightly discussing the refutation which the author found against the Bc4 line of the King's gambit. Former-worldchampion Robert James Fischer played this opening with white several times so I was curious what exactly was discovered. Opening-books I still don't buy but thanks to chesspub I was able to get a pretty good idea of where the hot potatoes were. Below a summary of the most important lines.
[Event "CL/2012/B2"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2012.10.15"] [White "Eberl, Hans-Christian"] [Black "Craciuneanu, Viorel"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2334"] [BlackElo "2463"] [PlyCount "114"] [WhiteTeam "Schlechter’s Erben"] [BlackTeam "Chimia Ramnicu Valcea"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 Nc6 {(John Shaw considers this the refutation of Bc4. In my analysis of 2010 I recommended Nf6 as strongest continuation without proving any advantage for black.)} 4. d4 (4. Nf3 g5 5. O-O d6 6. d4 h6 7. c3 Bg7 8. Qa4 {(The German FM Stefan Bucker thinks this move could also refute Johns claim but I have my doubts.)} Bd7 9. Qb3 Na5 10. Bxf7 Ke7 11. Qa3 Kxf7 12. Qxa5 c5 13. Qa3 Qc7 14. Qb3 Kg6 15. Na3 Re8 {(Stefan only mentions Ne7 on chesspub.)} 16. Re1 Ne7 17. Bd2 a6 18. Rad1 Nc6 19. Qc2 b5 20. Qd3 c4 21. Qf1 Kh7 22. Nc2 Rhf8 23. Qf2 Bg4 24. h4 Bf6 25. hxg5 hxg5 26. Ra1 Qd7 27. a4 bxa4 28. Rxa4 Nxd4 29. Rxa6 Nxc2 30. Ra7 Nxe1 31. Rxd7 Bxd7 32. Bxe1 Rxe4 33. Nd2 Re6 34. Nxc4 Bb5 35. Na3 Rfe8 36. Qc2 Kg7 37. Bf2 Re2 38. Qf5 Rd2 39. Qxb5 Rd1 40. Be1 Rexe1 41. Kf2 d5 42. Qd7 Re7 43. Qf5 Rd2 44. Kf1 Ree2 45. Qg4 Rf2 46. Kg1 Rxb2 47. Qd7 Kg6 48. Qe8 Kh6 49. Qf8 Bg7 50. Qd6 Kh5 51. Qxd5 Rxg2 {(Rebord,M - Fernandez,L 0 - 1 a high-level correspondence game played in 2010.)}) 4... Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Nge2 {(In OTB I could only find 1 game with a 2300 player. On the other hand in correspondence chess this is very hot)} f3 {(My analysis of 2010 only discuss g5 and Nxe4 but this move is clearly more critical.)} (6... Nxe4 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nxf4 $14 {(Here an improvement was possible on the game Spencer,E - Bryson,D played in 2007.)}) 7. gxf3 d5 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Nxc3 10. bxc3 Bd6 11. Ng3 {(Qd2 with the idea of Qg5, recommended by Stefan on chesspub also looks playable.)} O-O 12. Ne4 Be6 {(White encountered in an earlier game Be7 and drew.)} 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Rb1 b6 15. d5 Ne7 16. dxe6 Qe8 17. Nxd6 Qg6 18. Kh1 Rad8 19. Ba3 cxd6 20. Qe2 {(Probably Re1 is more accurate which was played by a lower rated player recently.)} (20. Re1 Rf6 21. Rb4 Rxe6 22. Rxe6 Qxe6 23. Re4 { (Whites pawn-structure does not look healthy and it is probably the reason why engines show a small advantage for black. However white is sufficiently active to keep the balance.)} Qf7 24. c4 Nf5 25. Qd3 h6 26. Bb4 Rf8 27. Be1 Qh5 28. a4 Kh8 29. Rg4 Qe8 30. Bc3 Qc6 31. Rf4 Qc5 32. Re4 Kg8 33. Kg2 Qc7 34. Bb4 Qf7 35. a5 bxa5 36. Bxa5 Qf6 {(Kebert,E - Tarmak,M 1/2-1/2 a correspondence-game played in 2013.)}) 20... Rf6 21. Rbe1 Nf5 22. Rg1 Qh5 23. f4 Qxe2 24. Rxe2 Kf8 25. Rge1 Ke7 26. Re4 Rc8 27. c4 g6 28. Kg2 Rff8 29. Kf3 Rc6 30. Kg4 Rfc8 31. c5 dxc5 32. Kg5 Rg8 33. Bb2 h6 34. Kg4 Rd8 35. Bc3 Nd4 36. Bxd4 cxd4 37. R1e2 Rd5 38. Rd2 a5 39. Rexd4 Rxd4 40. Rxd4 Rxc2 41. Rd7 Kxe6 42. Rb7 Rg2 43. Kf3 Rb2 44. a4 Rb3 45. Kg4 Kf6 46. h3 h5 47. Kh4 Rb4 48. Kg3 g5 49. fxg5 Kxg5 50. Rg7 Kf5 51. Rh7 h4 52. Rxh4 Rxh4 53. Kxh4 b5 54. axb5 Ke5 55. b6 Kd6 56. b7 Kc7 57. b8=B Kxb8 0-1
So the refutation with 3..Nc6 sounds to me rather optimistic. Black has comfortable play but an advantage I don't dare to claim for black. I already play for quite some time 3...d5. It is surely not better than 3...Nc6 or today's more popular 3...Nf6 but it has the advantage that white in most cases is playing on territory which I know better. Recently in the cup-competition I got it twice on the board.

Rapid-games I haven't played for a decade but as mentioned in my previous article I am annoyed by problems of inactivity so decided to subscribe anyway with the motto "better something than nothing at all". Rapid-games don't fit in my scientific approach and I like blitz more for fun. So I participated mainly as preparation for the Open of Gent. I am by far not the only one looking at rapid-tournaments in this way, see Bart Michiels statement on Schaakfabriek: "My next tournament is the olympiad and I searched a rapid-tournament to become in good shape." I am digressing from the subject so time to return to the King's gambit with Bc4.

In the quarter-finale the opening was encountered a first time thanks to Marcel Van Herck. Marcel already has the King's gambit for decades on his repertoire but I didn't expect any dangerous novelties. This was a bit optimistic as afterwards he surprised me by telling that he knew the content of John Shaw's book. Marcel noticed a few weeks earlier how I suffered in a variation in some blitz-games so he decided to test me with it.
[Event "Beker kwartfinale 1ste partij"] [Date "2014"] [White "Van Herck, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C36"] [PlyCount "34"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 d5 {(This is for many years already my answer on this opening. It is not that I find it really better than other tries but because white is in most cases not very familiar with the details.)} 4. Bxd5 {(I met already exd5 3 times in official games but it is clearly inferior.)} Nf6 5. Nf3 {(Hereby we transpose to the modern variation or also called Abbazia defense. I never heard about this name till I looked it up on wikipedia.)} Nxd5 6. exd5 Qxd5 7. Nc3 Qf5 {(A month earlier Marcel surprised me with this line in blitz but this time I knew Qf5 is the best square. Nevertheless more details I could not recall.)} 8. d4 {(D4 before castling is more interesting.)} Be7 {(After the game Marcel mentioned that John Shaw prefers here Nc6 of which the correctness was confirmed by my analysis.)} (8... Nc6 9. d5 Nb4 10. O-O Bc5 11. Kh1 O-O 12. a3 Nxc2 13. Nh4 Qg4 14. Qxc2 Qxh4 15. Bxf4 {(Some engines show a small advantage for black while others consider it approximately equal.)}) 9. O-O O-O 10. Ne5 g5 11. g3 $6 {(Logical but Nd5 is here better.)} (11. Nd5 {(Some superficial engine-analysis end in perpetual checks.)} Bd6 (11... Bd8 12. Nxf4 $146 gxf4 13. Bxf4 Qe6 14. Qh5 Nc6 15. Rf3 Nxe5 16. Bxe5 f6 17. Raf1 Rf7 18. Rg3 Rg7 19. Rxg7 Kxg7 20. Qg5 Kf7 21. d5 Qg4 22. Rxf6 Bxf6 23. Qxf6 Ke8 24. Qh8 Kd7 25. Qxh7 Ke8 26. Qh8 Kd7 $11) 12. Bxf4 gxf4 13. Rxf4 Qg5 14. Nf6 Kh8 15. Qd3 Qh6 16. g3 Bxe5 17. dxe5 Qg6 18. Qe3 Kg7 19. Rh4 h6 20. Nh5 Kh7 21. Nf6 Kg7 22. Nh5 $11) 11... c5 {(F6 is surely also good for some advantage.)} 12. gxf4 {(I still found 1 game in the database with Nd5.)} (12. Nd5 Bd8 13. gxf4 cxd4 14. Qxd4 Nc6 15. Qc3 Re8 $146 {(With a winning advantage for black.)}) 12... cxd4 13. Ne2 Nc6 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Nxd4 Bc5 16. Be3 Qe4 17. Qf3 $2 {(White does not have a comfortable position but this blunders a piece. )} Re8 0-1
The positive element from the game is that whites opening contains a few interesting elements which are worth repeating. In the semi finales I encountered the opening for a second time thanks to our president and former Belgian champion Robert Schuermans. In the normal rapid-games Robert embarrassed me with openings I've never seen him playing before. In the tiebrake-blitzgames he reverted to his standard repertoire which I considered a dubious strategy. Since a few years Robert also plays the King's gambit in Fischers style so with Bc4. It is well known that Robert is a big fan of Fischers chess, see eg. the interview on radio 1. Robert chose contrary to Marcel for the more fundamental approach with 5.Nc3 which I consider more critical but he run into a better armed opponent.
[Event "Beker halve finale blitzbarrage"] [Date "2014"] [White "Schuermans, R."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C33"] [PlyCount "52"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 d5 4. Bxd5 Nf6 5. Nc3 {(At contrary to Marcel, Robert chooses for the critical continuation.)} Nxd5 {(More popular is Bb4 but the exchange is also playable.)} 6. Nxd5 g5 7. h4 c6 8. Nc3 Rg8 9. h5 { (I analysed D3,d4,hxg5,Df3 and Dh5 at home. Not h5 but black gets very easily an advantage hereafter.)} Bc5 10. Nf3 g4 11. Ne5 Qd4 12. Nd3 f3 13. gxf3 g3 {(A trick which I was already familiar with. Black is already completely winning. The finish is not flawless but I add it anyway just for information.)} 14. Ne2 g2 15. Rg1 Qf6 16. Nf2 Bd6 17. d4 Bh2 18. Qd3 Qh4 19. f4 Bxg1 20. Nxg1 Qh2 21. Nfh3 Bxh3 22. Qxh3 Qxg1 23. Kd2 Qxd4 24. Ke2 g1=Q 25. Qc8 Ke7 26. Qxb7 Nd7 0-1
Eventually with some luck I was able to play the final and accomplished my objective of getting into good shape. However also Robert extracted something from the cup-games. In round 3 of the Open of Gent he played to my surprise the same opening against the French FM Julien Lamorelle. Soon I  paid more attention to the developments on his board than to my own board.
[Event "Taminco Gent Open"] [Site "KGSRL Gent"] [Date "2014.07.20"] [Round "3.11"] [White "Schuermans R"] [Black "Lamorelle J"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C33"] [WhiteElo "2107"] [BlackElo "2340"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 d5 {(Initially I seated wrongly next to Robert out of oblivion so I had to ask the arbiter to reset the clocks. Next I took a seat embarrassed 2 boards further. After blacks 3rd move of course I was curious about what exactly would happen.)} 4. Bxd5 Nf6 5. Nf3 {(Obviously Robert still remembered our mutual game so this time chooses the same continuation as Marcel.)} Nxd5 6. exd5 Qxd5 7. Nc3 Qf5 8. O-O {(As earlier stated, I think d4 first is more accurate.)} Be6 9. d4 Nc6 {(This more or less refutes whites setup. I am interested to hear if black found this on the board or already had seen it before.)} 10. Nh4 Qa5 11. d5 O-O-O 12. Bxf4 Nb4 {(White loses a pawn without compensation.)} 13. Bg5 f6 14. Qe2 {(Normal moves will not give anything so white just tries to complicate.)} Bxd5 15. Qg4 Kb8 16. Bd2 h5 17. Qg6 Bc4 18. Rf4 Bc5 19. Kh1 Rxd2 20. Rxc4 Rhd8 21. Nf3 R2d7 22. Re1 Bf2 23. Rf1 Bb6 24. Rh4 Qa6 25. Rb1 Nxa2 {(Td1 was 1 of the many wins which black missed. )} 26. h3 Nxc3 27. bxc3 Bf2 28. Rxh5 Rd1 29. Rxd1 Rxd1 30. Kh2 Qd6 31. g3 a6 32. Kg2 Bc5 33. Qf5 g5 34. h4 Qe7 35. hxg5 fxg5 36. Rh7 Qe2 37. Kh3 Bd6 38. Kg4 Rg1 39. Rh3 Ka7 40. Kxg5 Rf1 41. g4 Qg2 42. Kh4 Be7 {(Black is still better but physically he was exhausted and preferred with a minute remaining on the clock to agree with a half point. Our 64 years old president seems more resistant against the heat than his 33 years old much higher rated opponent.)} 1/2-1/2
I can well understand that the opening won't become popular among professionals but for mortals this opening is surely sufficient to have hours of pleasure. A clear refutation doesn't exist for now and more a romantic player does't need.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Practical endgames

A long game doesn't always mean an interesting game. My interclub-game against Tom Piceu took 53 moves but was in fact decided already after 27 moves. It is surely for some part nonsense to state that the number of moves is linked with activity as I insinuated in my previous article. On the other hand I did encounter last season some complex endgames on the board which I believe are interesting to show the reader. 

Of course I start with the interrupted queen-endgame against Bart. Initially I find the right moves but with the draw at reach, it still goes wrong.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2336"] [BlackElo "2510"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1Q6/p5p1/2p2k1p/2Pq1p2/8/8/PPP3PK/8 w - - 0 42"] [PlyCount "26"] 42. Qxa7 Qe5 43. Kg1 Qxb2 $5 {(Somewhat more accurate is first giving the intermediary check at d4 before capturing the pawn.)} 44. Qb6 $5 {(I used an enormous amount of time for this move as I had serious difficulties to concentrate.)} (44. Qa4 $5 {(A computer-move obviously which profits from blacks last inaccuracy.)} Qa1 (44... Qc1 45. Kh2 $11) 45. Kf2 $11 {(In both lines white wins the c-pawn after which the free pawn easily forces the draw. Black could avoid this with Qb7 but then he loses the coordination.)}) 44... Qc1 45. Kh2 Qf4 46. Kh1 Qh4 47. Kg1 Qe4 48. c3 $5 {(Criticized after the game by Bart but it all stays within the boundaries of a draw.)} (48. Qd8 $5 Kg6 49. Qd6 Kg5 50. Qd3 $5 {(Unnecessary but I do find the pawn-endgame sufficiently interesting to investigate.)} Qxd3 51. cxd3 Kf6 52. a4 Ke6 53. d4 Kd7 54. a5 h5 55. a6 Kc7 56. Kf2 h4 57. Ke3 g5 58. d5 cxd5 59. Kd4 g4 60. a7 Kb7 61. Kxd5 Kxa7 62. Kd6 g3 (62... h3 63. gxh3 $11) 63. c6 h3 64. gxh3 $11) 48... Ke6 49. c4 $5 {(Initially I wanted to play Qb4 but as it costs a pawn, I chose for an alternative.)} (49. Qb4 $5 {(After the game I indicated that probably Qb4 is also playable.)} Kd5 50. a4 Qe3 51. Kh2 Qxc5 52. Qb3 Qc4 53. Qa3 $11 {(The a-pawn is a sufficient counter-weight.)}) 49... g5 50. a4 g4 51. Kh2 $4 {(I had seen Qd8 but suddenly I detected Kh2 which also wards off g3. Without any further reflection I played Kh2 as my remaining time was shrinking but the refutation popped up quickly as a cold shower.)} (51. Qd8 Qe3 (51... g3 {(Now this move would even lose.)} 52. Qe8 Kf6 53. Qxe4 fxe4 54. a5 $18 ) 52. Kh1 Qe1 53. Kh2 Qe5 54. Kh1 Qxc5 55. a5 $11 {(The perpetual check and the a-pawn are sufficient for the draw.)}) (51. a5 $4 {(To ignore the thread is not an option.)} g3 52. Kf1 Qxc4 53. Ke1 Qc1 54. Ke2 Qc2 55. Ke3 Qe4 56. Kd2 Qxg2 57. Kc3 Qf3 $19) 51... f4 52. Qd8 {(The only way to avoid a direct check-mate. I already figured out that it loses but I still continue to verify if Bart also has found the win.)} (52. a5 g3 53. Kh3 (53. Kg1 Qe1#) 53... Qf5 54. Kh4 Qg5 55. Kh3 Qh5# {(I missed this check-mate over the h-file when playing my 51st move. Even with strong reduced material tactics remain important.)}) 52... g3 53. Kh3 Qf5 54. Kh4 Qg5 {(Our FM Pieter Tolk asked me why I already resigned but I considered the resulting pawn-endgame too easily won to continue.)} (54... Qg5 55. Qxg5 hxg5 56. Kg4 {(White can not capture the pawns due to f3 while blacks king can quietly via a small detour eat my pawns on the queenside.)} Kd7 57. Kf3 Kc8 58. Kg4 Kb7 59. Kf3 Ka6 60. Kg4 Ka5 61. Kf3 Kxa4 $19) 0-1
With this loss I had exactly a break-even for my fide-rating and with the relegation to 2nd division which was already confirmed for some time (see the wild west) you could argue that it didn't matter much. However honestly I have to admit that this loss came as a big blow. Indeed Bart did present in a clever way some problems but without my amateurism it should never given any success.

It was not the only queen-endgame which I encoutered on the board. In the Open of TSM I played 4 games of which 2 for rating. One game for rating I lost in a dramatic way against Steven which I earlier discussed on my blog, see the sadistic exam but also the second game didn't go smoothly. I wasn't able to cash an extra pawn against Jan Gooris.
[Event "TSM Tornooi"] [Date "2013"] [White "Gooris, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C56"] [WhiteElo "2130"] [BlackElo "2347"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/Q4pk1/6p1/2p4p/P1q5/5P2/6KP/8 w - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "73"] 43. a5 {(Just before move 40 white blundered a pawn. White still has drawing chances but can not afford any further mistake.)} Qe2 44. Kg1 Qe1 45. Kg2 Qd2 46. Kg3 c4 $5 {(The program Stockfish, a specialist in the endgame recommends h4 but can neither find a decisive advantage.)} (46... h4 $5 47. Kh3 Qd5 48. Kxh4 Qe5 49. a6 Qf4 50. Kh3 Qxf3 51. Kh4 c4 52. Qc5 c3 53. a7 c2 54. a8=Q Qxa8 55. Qxc2 {(The finalgen-tool tell us this is a draw.)}) 47. Qc5 h4 $6 {(Immediately going for promotions with c3 is likely a bit more flexible and favorable but even in that scenario I can not find any win.)} 48. Kh3 c3 $5 {(A lovely alternative is Qe2 without changing the verdict of the position.)} ( 48... Qe2 $5 49. a6 Qxf3 50. Kxh4 Qf6 51. Kg3 Qxa6 52. Qd4 Qf6 53. Qxc4 { (Again the finalgen-tool tells us that is a draw.)}) 49. a6 c2 50. a7 c1=Q 51. Qxc1 Qxc1 52. a8=Q Qf4 53. Qa1 Kh7 54. Qc3 g5 55. Qc6 Qf5 56. Kg2 g4 $6 {(Hereby we liquidate to a theoretical drawn endgame. With Qe6 black can further prolong but progress I can not find against a correct defense.)} 57. fxg4 Qxg4 58. Kf2 Qf5 59. Ke3 Qh3 60. Qf3 Qe6 61. Kf4 Qg6 {(The best practical chance was surely the pawn-endgame.)} (61... Qf6 62. Kg4 Qxf3 63. Kxf3 f5 {(This is a draw but still is a bit tricky with little time left. E.g. h3 here loses.)}) 62. Qg4 Qd6 63. Kg5 Qh6 64. Kf5 Qe6 65. Kg5 Qe7 66. Kf5 Qc5 67. Kf6 Qf2 68. Qf5 {(I believe Jan here proposed a draw but I was so disappointed that I continued.)} Qxf5 69. Kxf5 Kh6 70. h3 Kh5 71. Kf6 Kh6 72. Kf5 Kg7 73. Kg5 f6 74. Kxh4 Kg6 75. Kg4 f5 76. Kf4 Kf6 77. h4 Kg6 78. h5 Kxh5 79. Kxf5 {(In the post-mortem at 1.30 in the night I kept searching for a missed win but now I just have to admit that it probably never existed.)} 1/2-1/2
I was unhappy after the game with the result but if I look at the endgame now then I just have to admit that a win was never there. Maybe with a slower tempo (after move 40 I only got 15 minutes extra so we played mainly with 30 seconds increment) I would've been able to create more problems but even then it is very unclear if this would force a mistake from Jan. Anyway I found it a pity that the competition already ended in december so in the following months I only played a few games interclub. The ghost of inactivity is difficult to repel.

This season was surely not all misery in the endgame. In my articles a moral victory and universal systems I already showed how I was able to hold slightly inferior positions. However those examples are light beer compared with the endgame below which I was able to draw in an incredible way against the French FM Ludovic Carmeille.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Anderlecht"] [Date "2013"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Carmeille, L."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2347"] [BlackElo "2320"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/6k1/4pnp1/7p/5P2/3Bp1P1/7K/8 w - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "34"] 40. Kg2 {(Black has 2 extra pawns but the strange structure gives white still drawing-chances.)} Ng4 $6 {(Nd5 is announced as winning by the engines but I can not find a winning sequence although the defense for white is surely also not easy.)} (40... Nd5 $1 41. Kf3 Kf6 42. Bc4 g5 43. fxg5 Kxg5 $17 {(Black has 2 extra pawns but if the h and g-pawns disappear then a tablebase draw remains. I do not see how black can avoid the exchange if progress must be made.)}) 41. Be2 $2 {(The concentration fades after accomplishing move 40 or just a simple miscalculation.)} (41. Kf3 e5 $5 {(I feared this move.)} 42. Be2 $1 (42. fxe5 Nxe5 43. Kxe3 Nxd3 44. Kxd3 $19 {(I evaluated this lost pawn-endgame correctly.)}) 42... Kf6 43. Ke4 {(I missed this idea in the game.)} exf4 44. Kxf4 $11 { (Black loses the e-pawn after which the finalgen-tool tells us this is a draw.)}) 41... Nh6 42. Kf3 Nf5 43. Bd3 Kf6 {(E2 is winning which I already discovered during the game. Also with Kf6 black wins but it becomes much more difficult.)} 44. g4 e2 $2 {(However now e2 does not function anymore due to my next move. Hxg4 was still sufficient for a win as the black king can force the decision via e7-d6. It is remarkable that Stockfish instantly evaluates the position correctly while Houdini needs time.)} (44... hxg4 45. Kxg4 Ke7 46. Kf3 Kd6 47. Bxf5 gxf5 {(Exf5 wins too.)} 48. Kxe3 Kc5 $1 {(The only move which wins thanks to the opposition.)}) 45. g5 Ke7 46. Kxe2 Kd6 47. Kf3 Kd5 48. Bb1 Kd4 49. Ba2 Kd3 50. Bb1 Kc3 51. Ba2 Kd2 $6 {(With Kc2 black could still further prolong the game as now I can force the draw.)} 52. Kf2 Kd3 53. Bxe6 Ke4 54. Bf7 Kxf4 55. Bxg6 Kxg5 56. Bxh5 Kxh5 1/2-1/2
Such half points taste very sweet. An other spectacular escape happened in my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Dejan Bojkov (extracts of the game were already discussed in camouflage and einstellung effect). The win was surely not trivial for black.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Amay"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Bojkov, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C99"] [WhiteElo "2336"] [BlackElo "2500"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "RR2n1rk/7p/6p1/4pP2/1P4P1/4Bq1P/5P2/6K1 b - - 0 41"] [PlyCount "112"] 41... Qxh3 $5 {(I was lucky not having to resign immediately as after Nf6 I still have Bg5. An interesting alternative is gxf5 although I neither could find a clear win for black.)} (41... gxf5 $5 42. Rxe8 Qxa8 43. Rxa8 Rxa8 44. gxf5 Kg7 $17 {(Black can still try for a long time but the b-pawn seems just sufficient to keep the balance.)}) 42. Rxe8 Qxg4 43. Kf1 $6 {(I spent a lot of time on this move and still I make the wrong decision as I am not able to fully scrutinize the position.)} (43. Kh2 $1 Rxe8 $5 44. Rxe8 Kg7 45. f6 {(I missed this beautiful saving intermediary move in the game.)} Kxf6 $5 46. b5 $17 { (Again my analyses show that whites b-pawn is sufficient to save ones bacon.)}) 43... Rxe8 $6 {(I mainly feared Qd1 and elaborated analysis indeed justified my intuition. Black nonetheless a grandmaster chose after a long thought for the wrong game-continuation as he considered the b-pawn too strong.)} (43... Qd1 $1 44. Kg2 Qd5 $1 45. Kg3 Qxa8 46. Rxa8 Rxa8 47. fxg6 hxg6 $17 {(However this time the b-pawn is insufficient although I immediately should add that the win is certainly not trivial. The win consists to sacrifice the rook at the right moment for the bishop so a won pawn-endgame remains. This is possible at contrary with the analyses of move 41 due to the missing white h-pawn.)}) 44. Rxe8 Kg7 45. fxg6 Qd1 46. Kg2 Qd5 47. Kh2 e4 48. Re7 Kxg6 49. Ra7 $5 {(I focus on achieving a fortress but abandoning a pawn is rather debatable. In any case white now has to prove that a fortress is existing.)} Qd6 50. Kg2 Qxb4 51. Ra6 Kf5 52. Rh6 Qe7 53. Kh3 Qf7 54. Kh4 Qe7 55. Kh3 Qd7 56. Kg3 Qd1 57. Kh2 Qd7 58. Kg3 Qg7 59. Kh2 Kg4 60. Kg2 Qd7 61. Rf6 Qc7 62. Rh6 Qg7 63. Rh3 Kf5 64. Kh2 Qg8 65. Rh6 Ke5 66. Rh5 Kd6 67. Bf4 Kc6 68. Be3 Qf7 69. Rc5 Kd6 70. Rg5 Qf3 71. Ra5 h5 72. Rg5 h4 73. Ra5 Ke6 74. Rg5 Kf7 75. Rg1 Kf6 76. Rg8 Ke6 77. Rg5 Kf7 78. Rg1 Qf5 {(White has found an optimal setup and there seems to exist no break-through. Black keeps trying and hopes mainly that I will still commit a mistake in the final-phase due to time-trouble.)} 79. Rg5 Qe6 80. Rg1 Kf6 81. Rg5 Qd7 82. Rg8 Qd6 83. Kg2 Qe6 84. Rf8 Ke5 85. Kh2 Kd5 86. Rf4 Kc4 87. Rxh4 {(Now it is evident for everybody that this can not be won anymore without a big blunder. However black still refuses my draw-offer and wishes to squeeze further.)} Kd3 88. Kg2 Ke2 89. Rh3 Qg4 90. Rg3 Qf5 91. Rh3 Qd5 92. Rg3 ( 92. Rh1 $4 {(It is never too late to commit errors.)} Qg8 93. Kh2 Kf3 {(and check-mate can only be postponed for 1 move.)}) 92... Qd1 93. Rh3 Qf1 94. Kh2 Qa1 95. Kg2 Qf6 96. Rg3 Qa1 97. Rg5 {(Only now black had enough and proposed a draw despite having the move. Likely the fact that black had only a minute left on the clock also played a role.)} 1/2-1/2
I was a little afraid that he would like to win solely on time which is one of the biggest disadvantages of playing without an increment but fortunately it remained sportsmanlike. Anyway I won't complain about my endgame-results.

Can we train ourselves in these type of endgames? Well if we review the different positions then we remark that they are all unique. It are practical endgames which you can't find in any books. It is even doubful if it is interesting to study them as the chance is minimal that something can be reused in another endgame. I like delving in the complexities of endgames so I spend a lot of time on it but I won't recommend the work to players which hate these endgames.

On the other hand a certain basic knowledge of endgames sounds to me not redundant. However also that is not anymore a certainty if you hear Nakamura telling us how he didn't know the Vancura position so he had to distillate the right moves on the board himself. A completely different sound gives the recent work Grandmaster preparation endgame play of Jacob Aagaard in which the study of the endgame has been raised to a new (higher) level. He expects from the ambitious student that the tasks are solved in a peaceful environment. That way skills are acquired which are useful for tournament-chess.

On the book clearly an enormous effort was inserted. Nevertheless quickly a lot of critics were given of which the author clearly wasn't pleased, see his reaction on Quality chess. The tasks are too difficult was one of the most heard critics. Even the German grandmaster Joerg Hickl complained that he could only solve 10%. The fact that in many examples the correct move was missed even by players like Ivanchuk, indeed proofs that it is difficult. On the other hand finding the right move in a problem is easier than in practice as mentioned by Glen in a reaction on my article 'the expert'.

We can only speak of serious training  if done in a peaceful environment in which it is possible to concentrate properly on solving and studying endgames. This is how the author refutes the critics. However today we see that a lot of practical endgames must be dashed. Surely with the ever more becoming popular 30 seconds increments we can mainly trust our instincts and some minimal calculations.

With a slower tempo (like in the Belgian interclub) I still believe such trainings have their usefulness. It is not that we can copy some combinations or schemes in practice but it does stimulate our thought process how to solve certain problems. I also believe the effect of the trainings is temporarily and must be often repeated. You could maybe compare it with making IQ-tests. You won't become smarter with solving IQ-tests but you can improve your score on such test with making similar tests in advance. It was also detected that the effect quickly diminishes when no further tests were done. Studying practical endgames is not something trivial. Each amateur has to decide for himself if the effort is valuable or not.