Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The horizon

If there is a red line in my chess then it must be that I try to avoid chance as much as possible. This can be seen e.g. in a reaction of Kara in which he expresses his surprise about my depth of preparation. In my article which games to analyze I explain in detail how I try to extract lessons from the analyses. Again I try to arm myself against haphazard repetitions. In my OTB-games you can clearly see an allergy for risks to avoid that the result depends too much on luck. For this I already once received right or wrong critique see Lintons reaction on the article Tactic.

However assuming that I always avoid risks is nonsense as I am e.g. no pragmatic player, see chessintuition part 2 or somebody never daring to play a gambit. Now I do admit that the balance clearly leans to prudence and especially playing economically. Playing economically was already once touched in a reaction of my article my most beautiful move. If I can choose between sacrificing material of which the complications are obscure and between (preferably without spending much reflection-time) a quiet continuation which still permits to maintain a position with some prospects then I choose invariably for the second option.

So it happened in round 5 against the British player Andrew Stone that I after a long reflection anyway didn't sacrifice my knight but preferred to retract it to f6. I imagine MNb will probably be shocked again if he sees that I once more chose for the retracting move but sacrificing somebody else's pieces is always easier.
[Event "Open Gent 5de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Stone, A."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A10"] [WhiteElo "2200"] [BlackElo "2333"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b2rk1/1p3qpp/3b4/p1p1p3/2PpPpn1/3P2PP/PPNB1PB1/1R1Q1RK1 b - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "13"] 19... f3 $1 {(I looked at this move at least 10 minutes during the game but I did not succeed to calculate all the consequences. Eventually I chose for Nf6 which is risk-free and still sufficient for a small advantage. By the way also Stockfish recommends Nf6.)} 20. hxg4 {(The refutation according to the engines but Bxf3 is better.)} (20. Bh1 Qh5 $1 {(The engines prefer Nh6 but black has of course to select the same road as in the mainline.)} 21. h4 { (Hxg4 transposes to the mainline but h4 is an important alternative. So f3 hangs and I was not sure in the game of the consequences.)} Be7 {(Black wants to demolish the kingside with a sacrifice on h4. The engines have no difficulty to proof that whites position is desperate.)} 22. Ne1 (22. Bxf3 Bxh4 23. Qe2 Bg5 24. Bxg4 Bxg4 25. f3 Bxf3 26. Qh2 Qxh2 27. Kxh2 Bxd2 $19) 22... Bxh4 23. Nxf3 Bxg3 {(The fastest and the most spectacular win.)} 24. fxg3 Rxf3 25. Rxf3 Qh2 26. Kf1 Qxh1 27. Ke2 Qg2 28. Ke1 Nh2 29. Rf2 {(White had to give up the rook as now he is mated immediately.)} Qg1 30. Ke2 Bg4 31. Rf3 Bxf3#) (20. Bxf3 $1 Qxf3 21. Qxf3 Rxf3 22. hxg4 (22. Ne1 Rxf2 23. Rxf2 Nxf2 24. Kxf2 Bxh3 {(Till here I had calculated in the game and I judged this as very good for me. My engines confirm and even show it is winning provided that some accurate moves are played.)} 25. b3 (25. Kg1 a4 $19 {(An important move to keep the queen-side flexible.)}) 25... Rf8 26. Kg1 Rf1 27. Kh2 Rf2 28. Kxh3 Rxd2 $19) 22... Rxd3 23. Rfd1 Rf3 $1 {(During the game I looked at Bxg4 with a clear advantage for black but I have to admit that the subtle Rf3 shown by the engines is still stronger.)} 24. Ne1 Rf7 25. f3 Be6 26. b3 a4 27. Ra1 b5 $19 {(Black started with an attack on the king-side but now breaks through winning on the queen-side despite the material-equilibrium.)}) 20... Bxg4 $1 {(Fxg2 is the move which the engines prefer even after minutes calculating but that does not give a winning advantage. However once the piece-sacrifice Bxg4 is executed on the board then it does not take long before they adapt drastically their evaluation.)} 21. Bh1 Qh5 { (At the board I mainly looked at the plan of putting a rook on h6. With the bishop on c1 this is not simple but by playing Ra6-Be7-Rf6 it becomes possible. The question of course is if black has sufficient time. I was pretty confident about it in the game.)} 22. Bc1 $5 {(A profound move which indicates big problems for white. The purpose is to play Qd2 so the queen can be sacrificed on h6 if black wants to maneuver both rooks to h6.)} Rf6 23. Ne1 $5 Raf8 {(The plan with Ra6 which I discovered during the game, wins too but Raf8 is still stronger.)}24. a3 Be7 25. b4 g5 $19 {(Rb6 is maybe a bit stronger but this idea with g5 which I missed in the game, is sufficient proof of whites hopeless situation.)} *
After the game it took me a lot of effort to verify the piece-sacrifice but now I dare to state that it is fully correct. However I would not mention this if there was nothing special about. When I let the engines Houdini 2 and Stockfish 4 calculate on the critical position then none of them found the key-move even on my fastest PC. Something like that I hadn't encountered before with those programs. Was it still possible as human to find a tactical idea at the board which was beyond the horizon of the best engines?

Via the wikispace of testpositions for chess-engines I tried to find recent examples from the tournament-chess. However I didn't have much luck as everything which I checked was pretty quickly solved by my top-engines. E.g. also the testposition 201 out of  the standard arasan testsuite. This is an extract from the game Hikaru Nakamura - Anish Giri played in the 2012 Fide Grandprix at Londen.
[Event "1st FIDE GP London 2012"] [Site "London ENG"] [Date "2012.10.02"] [Round "10"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Giri, A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2783"] [BlackElo "2730"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3k3/1p4p1/1Bb1Bp1p/P1p1bP1P/2Pp2P1/3P4/5K2/4R3 w - - 0 47"] [PlyCount "37"] 47. g5 {(A fabulous move. It takes Houdini about 50 seconds to find it. Stockfish needs a bit more with 80 seconds.)} hxg5 48. h6 gxh6 49. Rxe5 fxe5 50. f6 Bd7 51. f7 Ke7 52. Bxd7 Kxd7 53. Bxc5 h5 54. f8=Q Rxf8 55. Bxf8 h4 56. Bh6 g4 57. Bg5 h3 58. Bh4 Kd6 59. Bg3 Ke6 60. Ke2 Kd6 61. Kd2 Kc5 62. Bxe5 Kb4 63. Kc2 Kxa5 64. Kb3 Kb6 65. Bxd4 1-0
Therefore I also looked at some positions from older games which some testers use. One of them was a critical position of the famous game David Bronstein - Ljubomir Ljubjevic. I recently bumped by accident on this game when reading My great predecessors part 2.
[Event "Petropolis Interzonal"] [Site "Petropolis"] [Date "1973.08.07"] [Round "11"] [White "Bronstein, David I"] [Black "Ljubojevic, Ljubomir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B03"] [WhiteElo "2585"] [BlackElo "2570"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/pp1n1p1p/1nqP2p1/2b1P1B1/4NQ2/1B3P2/PP2K2P/2R5 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "39"] [EventDate "1973.07.23"] [EventRounds "17"] [EventCountry "BRA"] [EventCategory "12"] 22. Rxc5 {(My 2 top engines react very differently on this position. Houdini shows Rxc5 immediately but Stockfish even after an hour is still stuck by a4 which nevertheless is also evaluated as winning. However once Rxc5 is executed on the board then Stockfish almost immediately admits that it wins much quicker than a4.)} Nxc5 23. Nf6 Kh8 24. Qh4 Qb5 25. Ke3 h5 26. Nxh5 Qxb3 27. axb3 Nd5 28. Kd4 Ne6 29. Kxd5 Nxg5 30. Nf6 Kg7 31. Qxg5 Rfd8 32. e6 fxe6 33. Kxe6 Rf8 34. d7 a5 35. Ng4 Ra6 36. Ke5 Rf5 37. Qxf5 gxf5 38. d8=Q fxg4 39. Qd7 Kh6 40. Qxb7 Rg6 41. f4 1-0
It is naturally not because I can't find immediately examples from the tournament practice which engines can't solve that they don't exist. However from an older blogarticle Shirovs brilliant Bh3 we can deduct that the examples are not widely spread anymore. I am curious if there are readers knowing such specific positions from practice or maybe encountered them when analyzing their own games. At chess problems composers often work several days which permits sometimes still to fool the best engines. An example of such puzzle I found on a forum in which white gives mate in 60 moves !
[Event "Mate in 60 moves"] [Date "1949"] [White "Karel"] [Black "Fabel"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/4K3/4NN2/p3p3/rnp1p3/1pk5/bp1n4/qrb1N3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "119"] 1. Ke8 Ra3 2. Kd7 Ra4 3. Kc8 Ra3 4. Kb7 Ra4 5. Kb6 Ra3 6. Kb5 e3 7. Kb6 Ra4 8. Kb7 Ra3 9. Kc8 Ra4 10. Kd7 Ra3 11. Ke8 Ra4 12. Kf8 Ra3 13. Kf7 Ra4 14. Ke8 Ra3 15. Kd7 Ra4 16. Kc8 Ra3 17. Kb7 Ra4 18. Kb6 Ra3 19. Kb5 e4 20. Kb6 Ra4 21. Kb7 Ra3 22. Kc8 Ra4 23. Kd7 Ra3 24. Ke8 Ra4 25. Kf8 Ra3 26. Kf7 Ra4 27. Ke8 Ra3 28. Kd7 Ra4 29. Kc8 Ra3 30. Kb7 Ra4 31. Kb6 Ra3 32. Kb5 e2 33. Kb6 Ra4 34. Kb7 Ra3 35. Kc8 Ra4 36. Kd7 Ra3 37. Ke8 Ra4 38. Kf8 Ra3 39. Kf7 Ra4 40. Ke8 Ra3 41. Kd7 Ra4 42. Kc8 Ra3 43. Kb7 Ra4 44. Kb6 Ra3 45. Kb5 e3 46. Kb6 Ra4 47. Kb7 Ra3 48. Kc8 Ra4 49. Kd7 Ra3 50. Ke8 Ra4 51. Kf8 Ra3 52. Kf7 Ra4 53. Ke8 Ra3 54. Kd7 Ra4 55. Kc8 Ra3 56. Kb7 Ra4 57. Kb6 Ra3 58. Kb5 a4 59. Kb6 {(Black finally run out of moves.)} Nf1 (59... Nd3 60. Nd5#) 60. Ne4# 1-0
Of course this is not a normal position anymore but it does show that the human player isn't fully defeated by the engines. In the category of exceptional positions certainly belongs also the position of my game. The temporarily locked bishop on h1 and the preliminary control of the critical square h6 are a funny concurrence which engines today can't handle. To be more precise the HW and SW which I use today can't. Some readers certainly possess stronger equipment which maybe can sufficiently shift the horizon so a different image is created.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014


If you want to see flashing attacking games then this blog is not the right address. I have barely gambits in my repertoire. E.g. the Dutch stonewall demonstrates clearly that I prefer a cautious positional approach. Some people categorize me therefore as a classical player.

The term 'classical chessplayer' originated from the era of Siegbert Tarrasch. The German worldclass-player stressed the importance of a healthy setup and explained this didactically at the public with the aid of many rules. However in doing so he also received a lot of critics as chess is much more than just applying a bunch of rules.

I spoke in my previous article about that I like to discover little rules but at the same time I also realize very well there exists the danger of becoming too dogmatic. Chess is a very concrete game in which the needs of a position often overrule different rules. In the games of the contemporary generation of top-players we see a complete abstention of certain dogma's. A general rule like you should take back with a pawn towards the center, is often broken. Recently Magnus Carlsen wasn't shy to offend against this rule in his game against the Italian top-grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.08.29"] [Round "3"] [White "Magnus Carlsen"] [Black "Fabiano Caruana"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C24"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2014.08.27"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg5 dxe4 8. dxe4 h6 9. Bh4 Qe7 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 11. Bg3 Bc7 12. O-O Nh5 13. h3 {(Almost begging that black would capture on g3 as white loves to recapture with the pawn away from the center.)} Nxg3 14. fxg3 Nc5 15. Bxf7 Kxf7 16. Nxe5 Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18. Rf8 Kh7 19. Nxh8 Bg4 20. Qf1 Nd3 21. Qxd3 Rxf8 22. hxg4 Qxg4 23. Nf3 Qxg3 24. e5 Kxh8 25. e6 Bb6 26. Kh1 Qg4 27. Qd6 Rd8 28. Qe5 Rd5 29. Qb8 Kh7 30. e7 Qh5 31. Nh2 Rd1 32. Rxd1 Qxd1 33. Nf1 Qxf1 34. Kh2 Qg1 0-1
So white was punished but the continuation did promise a fantastic fight. I also want to add that Caruana has gained since beginning of August approximately 44 points and now approached the worldchampion at only 20 points. This is an incredible jump on that level of which I wonder if this is just coincidence or we really witness the rise of a player whom can challenge the Mozart of chess.

Today we are spoiled by toptournaments as the Sinquefield Cup has just finished or we already can follow the Bilbao-masters. Also in that tournament players aren't embarrassed by violating rules. E.g. in the game Pons Vallejo - Levon Aronian again fxg3 at move 11 pops up. It evoked the reaction on schaaksite of the Dutch grandmaster Reinderman that maybe the rule was abolished.
[Event "Bilbao Masters"] [Site "Bilbao ESP"] [Date "2014.09.14"] [Round "1"] [White "Francisco Vallejo-Pons"] [Black "Levon Aronian"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E21"] [WhiteElo "2712"] [BlackElo "2804"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2014.09.12"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Ne4 8. Qd3 f5 9. h4 {(Again a clear invitation to exchange the bishop which would force white to recapture with the pawn away from the center.)} Bxc3 10. bxc3 Nxg3 11. fxg3 g4 12. Nd2 d5 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Bb7 15. Nd2 Nd7 16. Qe3 Qf6 17. Bd3 Bxg2 18. Rh2 Bb7 19. Re2 O-O-O 20. Qxe6 Qxe6 21. Rxe6 Nc5 22. Re3 Nxd3 23. Rxd3 f4 24. gxf4 Rdf8 25. Kf2 g3 26. Rxg3 Rxf4 27. Ke3 Rxh4 28. Rag1 Re8 29. Kd3 Bc6 30. Nf3 Be4 31. Kd2 Bxf3 32. Rxf3 Rh2 33. Kd3 Rxa2 34. Rg7 Kb8 35. Rh7 Ree2 36. c5 b5 37. Re3 Rxe3 38. Kxe3 Ra3 39. Kd2 Ra6 40. c4 bxc4 41. Kc3 c6 42. Rxh6 Kb7 43. Rh7 Kc8 44. Rh8 Kb7 45. Rh7 Kb8 46. Rh8 Kb7 1/2-1/2
Again fabulous chess but honesty obliges me to confess that black was better in the game. I remember that I was very impressed when an opponent once played such kind of move in my tournament-practice and hereby also created chances. This happened in 2002 by the very strong Belgian player Jakub Filipek from Polish origin. I wonder what happened with this creative player as since 2004 there is no trace anymore from him. I suspect that he just completely stopped with chess as in 2002 he already showed at the board that he was bored and not eager to play.
[Event "Open Knokke 6de ronde"] [Date "2002"] [White "Filipek, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2400"] [BlackElo "2284"] [PlyCount "102"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qxd4 Ne7 8. Nc3 Nec6 $5 $146 {(It has been since 1996 that I encountered this variation. At that time I played d6 with approximately equality. The game-continuation was a recommendation of my old analysis in 1997 but new analysis in 2003 show that it is not so clear what the best continuation is. Black has 3 possibilities but they all have advantages and disadvantages. Immediately Nc6 eliminates the plan Ng6. Bb7 has as disadvantage that Bg4 is not possible anymore while d6 weakens the white squares and forces to develop the bishop to e7. Even after 2 weeks I am still not sure about what is the less evil so I think that it is more a matter of taste.)} 9. Qd1 $5 { (Engine-analysis demonstrate that Qd5 is more critical and black must play very accurately to maintain the balance.)} Nxb3 10. cxb3 $5 {(Filipek is known for his wayward play and this move certainly belongs in this category. White believes the pressure along the c-file is more interesting than along the a-file. I must admit that is a very interesting concept.)} (10. axb3 $5 Bb7 11. O-O Be7 12. Nd4 (12. Nd5 O-O 13. Re1 Re8 14. Bf4 d6 15. Qd2 Bf6 $11) (12. Bf4 O-O 13. Nd5 d6 14. c3 Re8 15. Qd3 Bf8 $11) 12... Nxd4 13. Qxd4 O-O 14. Bf4 Re8 15. Nd5 Bxd5 $11 ) 10... Be7 $5 {(Bc5 is more aggressive and also playable.)} (10... Bc5 $5 11. O-O d6 12. Re1 Bg4 (12... O-O 13. Bg5 f6 14. Be3 Be6 15. Rc1 Ne5 16. Nd4 $11 ) 13. h3 Bxf3 14. Qxf3 O-O 15. Be3 Ne5 16. Qg3 Bxe3 17. Rxe3 f5 18. exf5 $11) 11. O-O O-O 12. Bf4 d6 13. Nd5 Qd7 $5 {(Black has different good continuations. The game-continuation prepares Bd6 but immediately Bb7 or Re8 are also playable.)} (13... Re8 $5 14. Re1 Bf6 15. Rc1 Bb7 16. Re2 Rc8 17. Rec2 Qd7 18. Nxf6 gxf6 19. Re2 $132) 14. Rc1 $5 { (The logical follow-up after whites last moves but e5 indicated by Fritz is also interesting.)} Bb7 $4 {(A serious tactical blunder as whites next move was for me a complete surprise. After the correct Bd8 the position looks more or less balanced.)} (14... Bd8 $1 15. Re1 ( 15. e5 Bb7 16. Re1 Kh8 17. exd6 cxd6 18. Ng5 Bxg5 19. Bxg5 Rae8 20. Be3 $11) 15... Bb7 16. Qd3 Rc8 17. Bg3 Ne7 18. Nf4 Ng6 19. Nxg6 fxg6 20. Qd4 $11 ) 15. Ne5 $3 dxe5 16. Nf6 Bxf6 17. Qxd7 exf4 $6 {(More precise is Nd4 but it is unlikely that black can find enough compensation on the long run for the queen.)} (17... Nd4 $1 18. Qxc7 (18. Rxc7 Bxe4 19. Be3 Ne6 20. f3 Nxc7 21. fxe4 Ne6 22. Bb6 Rab8 23. Qd6 $16) 18... Ne2 19. Kh1 Nxc1 20. Qxb7 Rfb8 21. Qd7 Nxa2 22. Bd2 Rd8 23. Qc6 $16) 18. Rxc6 Bxc6 19. Qxc6 Be5 20. Rd1 Bd6 21. g3 b4 22. Rd5 Rae8 23. Rf5 g6 24. Ra5 Re6 25. Rxa6 fxg3 26. hxg3 Bxg3 27. Qb7 Bd6 28. a4 bxa3 29. bxa3 Ree8 30. b4 f5 31. exf5 $4 {(White throws away the winning advantage as now the white king gets into troubles. Better is f3 and whites material superiority must be enough to win the game.)} (31. f3 $5 fxe4 32. fxe4 Re5 $18) 31... Re1 32. Kg2 Rxf5 33. Ra5 Rf4 34. Qd5 Kg7 35. Qd2 Rg4 36. Kh3 $6 {(White gambles that I will not find salvage but objectively Kf3 is more accurate with a better rook-endgame for white but probably not winning.)} (36. Kf3 Rf4 37. Qxf4 Bxf4 38. Kxf4 Ra1 39. Ra7 Rc1 (39... Kf6 40. Rxc7 Rxa3 41. Rxh7 Rc3 42. Rb7 g5 43. Kg4 Rc4 44. Kg3 $16) 40. b5 Rc4 41. Kg3 Kf6 42. a4 Rc3 43. f3 $14) 36... Reg1 37. Qc3 Kh6 38. Rd5 R4g2 39. Qe3 Kg7 $4 { (Pity as a spectacular escape would become reality after g5 with no advantage anymore for white.)} (39... g5 $1 40. Qe6 (40. Rxd6 cxd6 41. a4 Kh5 42. Qe8 Kh6 $11) 40... Kg7 $3 (40... Kh5 41. Qf7 Kh6 42. Qf6 Kh5 43. Qf3 Rg4 44. Rxd6 cxd6 45. b5 $18) 41. Rxd6 cxd6 42. Qxd6 g4 43. Kh4 h6 $1 $11) 40. f4 $1 h5 41. Rd1 $1 {(With 2 exact moves white breaks the resistance. The rest is agony for black.)} Rxd1 42. Kxg2 Rd5 43. Qc3 Kh7 44. a4 Bxf4 45. a5 Rd2 46. Kf3 g5 47. a6 Ra2 48. Qc6 Bd6 49. Qd7 Kh8 50. Ke4 g4 51. Kf5 Bf8 1-0
His 15th move obviously came as a complete surprise. This is sore but I assume most of us have experienced such moments in their practice (as e.g. happened a few days earlier in the Europa Cup, see move 41 game Alexei Shirov - Henk Vedder). The positive side of the lost game is that I learned to also consider more often less logical exchanges and as a consequence also tried to play less dogmatic.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Because of all the commotion around the finished worldcup-football my son became very interested in football. In my youth I played often with some friends of the neighborhood so today I still find it fun to regularly practice with my son. However my son has much more energy and time than I so it is never enough which let me decide to subscribe him in the local football-club. Big was the disappointment when we heard end of August that he was put on a waiting-list and didn't get the chance to start this season. In a newspaper I read that there was a run on the football-clubs, everywhere is a lack of infrastructure and so out of necessity they work with waiting-lists.

I proposed him to choose a different (physical) sport but to my surprise he only wanted to play again chess. Last season he quit somewhere half-way because he lost his interest so I let him repeat twice to be sure that he was serious. Last Sunday we went for the first time to the youth-class. He hadn't played chess for months so I doubted if he still remembered something which we learned last year. During the half hour drive I asked him  how many points is a knight. 3 points was the immediate answer. And the bishop, rook,... My concern was unjust as he gave every time the right answer and in the club he mated immediately twice a 3 year older boy. We have started well.

I learned this point-system long ago from a chess-book of Hans Bouwmeester and I still find it an easy method to quickly explain a beginner what a bad or good exchange is. Of course there are serious limitations on this point-system whereby some people did an effort to refine it. Recently there was a discussion about this on chesspub and more specific about the value of different pawn-formations. As reference was used the publication of Hans Berliner on wikipedia.

I don't consider defining the exact values interesting unless you are a developer of a chessprogram but I do find it useful to know which combinations have a positive or negative influence. I already once mentioned in my article chess-intuition part 2 about Capablanca's advantage, a tandem of queen and knight. In this article I want to discuss a different tandem, the connected rooks. Connected rooks are pretty trivial but when they start to move together then a remarkable collaboration is created.

In the 4th round of Open Gent I proposed a draw to Mehr Hovhanisian which to my big embarrassment happened in a more or less technically lost position. We both possessed about a tandem of rooks but I completely underestimated the difference in mobility and activity between both tandems. Later some spectators asked me if I really had to lose that position but my analysis didn't find any salvation.
[Event "Open Gent 4de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Hovhanisian, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2333"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/p1pBr1pk/1p1p1r1p/5P2/2P1P3/1P4R1/P3K2P/6R1 b - - 0 36"] [PlyCount "40"] 36... Rxd7 {(Here I even proposed a draw as I believed that I could create sufficient counterplay against the e-pawn. Whites next move woke me up and I was afterwards even embarrassed of the draw-proposal.)} 37. Rg6 Rff7 38. Re6 Rde7 $6 {(Tfe7 is more stubborn but also then whites tandem with Rgg6 works much better than blacks. White can slowly increase the pressure while black can only wait and suffer. I could not find a fortress for black..)} 39. Rgg6 Kg8 40. Kd3 Kf8 41. Kd4 Ke8 42. b4 a6 43. Kd5 Kd7 44. a4 Re8 45. Rxe8 Kxe8 46. Kc6 Re7 {(I noticed during the game that the resulting pawn-endgame was lost but further waiting is also futile. Mehr spent for a last time a serious amount of reflection time and then finished the job flawless.)} 47. Re6 Rxe6 48. fxe6 a5 49. b5 Kd8 50. e7 Kxe7 51. Kxc7 g5 52. Kxb6 g4 53. Kc7 h5 54. b6 h4 55. b7 g3 56. hxg3 1-0
I could break the tandem but not without serious defects. It is not an ordinary position but in comparison with what happened in the recent game Adams - Vachier Lagrave it is rather simple.

The extensive chess-trainings in France are making a sharp contrast with the deplorable situation in Belgium (I use on purpose the recent words of the Belgian FM Eldorado). Just before the Olympiad France even had for a short period 4 + 2700 players whom moreover have grown up and so also trained in France.  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is today the undisputed number 1 in France with a very attractive style. In his game against the British grandmaster Michael Adams, MVL demonstrates his breathtaking mastership. His tandem cross through the complete board.
[Event "4NCL 2013-14"] [Site "Hinckley ENG"] [Date "2014.05.05"] [Round "11.111"] [White "Adams, Mi"] [Black "Vachier Lagrave, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2752"] [BlackElo "2758"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r6/4pp2/4k3/3pP2p/2bP2rB/Pp3RP1/1K1R4/8 b - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2013.11.16"] [WhiteTeam "Wood Green HK"] [BlackTeam "Guildford"] {(White has no counterplay at all and the b-pawn does not present much hope to defend successfully. However I do find the conclusion of the game special as black only plays rook-moves to force resignation.)} 43... Rbg8 44. Rff2 Re4 45. Rd1 Rgg4 46. Kc3 Re3 47. Kb2 Rge4 {(Like a tandem the rooks cycle through the position.)} 48. Rdd2 Re1 49. Rh2 Rg1 50. Rhf2 Ree1 51. Kc3 Ra1 {(Head and tail are reversed of the tandem.)} 52. Kb4 Ra2 {(And white had enough. One of the threats is Rga1.)} 0-1
It seems to me no coincidence that in both examples the defense fails due to a lack of counterplay. So the success of the moving tandem mainly depends how well the opponent can interfere. Personally I find discovering such little rules fun and useful. Players only looking to the evaluation of their engine will surely miss this kind of lessons.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Over the years I've seen many players taking a break or even stopping completely with playing chess. Everybody has their own reasons but a crucial role plays surely the diminishing or even the disappearing of the game fun. I am convinced if somebody really likes to play chess then this is always possible in a moderate format on the condition that priority is given. So game fun is very important and that also is valid for myself despite the fact that I adopt a scientific approach

Winning is fun but losing is often very painful. Earlier I wrote in my article practical endgames that I was devastated after my loss against Bart. So chess is full of emotions for real adepts. Emotions aren't only present after the game but also before (remember the stomach-problems which I described in my article the sadistic exam) and especially during the game. 

Of course while playing it is smart to ignore emotions so full concentration can be given to the position but this is easier said than done. Especially when players get into time-trouble and on top have a difficult position on the board then some weird tics are seen. Swarming on the chair, stamping on the floor, clicking with the pen,... are undeniable signs of tension. Calmly leaning backwards in the chair shows the player has everything under control. A red turning face on the other hand indicates the player likely made a mistake.

Myself I am surely not immune for this but I do try as good as possible to hide my emotions so no useful information is shown to my opponent. So when I blunder then I pretend that it is part of the big plan as last in my simul-game against Niels Geryl so not to give my opponent a boost of self-confidence. By the way that time my poker-face didn't work as Niels skillfully finished the job. Sometimes I do salvage an extra half point like in my game against Marc Moors mentioned in the article the favourite has hundreds of points more.

Showing signals or not possibly influences opponents. Rick Lahaye wrote an interesting article on chessbase about how we can manipulate the focus of the opponent. You look deliberately to the wrong side of the board to let the opponent believe there is the action. This mainly works against much weaker opponents as they often assume that the much stronger opponent surely understands the position much better. An other familiar sign is to glare so that the opponent feels uncomfortable and as consequence can't concentrate properly. Very unsportsmanlike is to fake a blunder so the opponent fells in a trap. However I have to admit that online I dare to be less mister nice guy as this faking of a blunder i regularly apply with amusement if I can play my spectacular novelty in the Kan. I explain as I expect readers are wondering how it is possible to fake a blunder in online-chess while you can't see each other.
[Event "An online bullet/blitz- trap"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B41"] [PlyCount "19"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Bd3 Nc6 8. O-O {(A tempo played.)} Nxd4 {(Black captures the piece as he expects that I played too fast so that I did not check his last move and maybe used the option of the pre-move.)} 9. e5 {(For this move I spend on purpose 10 seconds or more to pretend that I am shocked about the loss of the piece. Finally I just attack a piece to postpone resignation.)} Ng8 {(Of course black wants to consolidate the extra piece and the only move which does not lose immediately the piece is Ng8. Better is Be7 and 0-0, something which black will only realize the next move.)} 10. Qg4 {(Again a tempo played and black realizes that he anyway must return the piece but now in a much inferior situation. Black was tricked. Of course this only works once against somebody but this trap works almost against everybody the first time. Besides if I play my 9th move a tempo then hardly any opponent falls in the trap. So spending sufficient time is important for the success of the trap.)} *
Playing with the reflection time was already once covered in the article camouflage but this time I didn't hide a preparation but tried to provoke a blunder. The border-line between psychological war-fare and disturbing the opponent is vague which also became clear from the comments on an article of schaaksite.

Recently I encountered a debatable experience. In the second round of Open Gent I played against Martijn Maddens. We jump at move 29 at the moment that Martijn proposed a draw.
[Event "Open Gent 2de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Maddens, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2050"] [BlackElo "2333"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/pQp2q1p/1b6/4np2/5B2/1NP3PP/P6K/3R4 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "10"] 29. Qd5 $4 {(With a draw-offer. After the game I indicated to Martijn that if Bxe5 played then I would have accepted the offer as I could not create anymore winning-chances.)} Qxd5 30. Rxd5 Nf3 $1 {(In the game I played quickly Ng6 as I had about only 5 minutes left. Immediately after releasing the piece I realized that I missed the beautiful mate.)} 31. Kh1 Re1 32. Kg2 Re2 33. Kxf3 (33. Kh1 Rh2#) (33. Kf1 Rf2#) 33... Rf2# *
It is normal that I was shocked by my "stupid" blunder but my emotional reaction was too strong and therefore doubtful. Martijn even started to laugh when I kept on shaking my head. Afterwards he told me that he was misguided by my reaction. Martijn believed that I was disappointed because the draw was inevitable and not because I missed the direct win (which I urgently wanted to show him after the game). Possibly Martijn played because of this less concentrated as in the follow-up the position was spoiled despite the big time-advantage and the clear drawing-chances.

I suppose many readers would've also missed the winning combination when being short of time so do find my reaction exaggerated irrespective of the ethical aspect. However one should not forget that in the past I was involved in chess-compositions. The mate-pattern is a very known theme in chess- compositions namely the starflight of which I made a composition 21 years ago myself.
White mates in 2
The king can only escape in the solution to the diagonal neighbouring squares so like a star. The missed combination was only a 3/4 starflight so normally easier to calculate. When the king can only escape to the horizontal neigbouring squares then we talk about a crossflight. An example of a crossflight was covered in the earlier referred article chess-compositions.


Solution Star-theme:

1. Ke2
1. ... Kd4 2. Nf3#
1. ... Kd6 2. Nf7#
1. ... Kf4 2. Nd3#
1. ... Kf6 2. Nd7#

Monday, September 1, 2014


The new rules introduced by fide also generated a lot of discussions in Belgium. The hot potato was of course the mobile-ban in tournaments which many considered as a privacy violation. Now accidentally yesterday I read that it still can become worse as in the college of Rotterdam students aren't allowed anymore to wear watches, see hln article. If mobiles and watches are forbidden then also contact-lenses (Bionic_contact_lens), spectacles (Google Glass), pens (pen computer) ... must be forbidden.

Players can leave watches and mobiles at home but this can't be demanded for contact-lenses, spectacles,... Personally I find that the battle against cheating is done the wrong way. The measurements largely miss their target as when 1 or 2 players really want to cheat then they always find new methods. On the other hand every honest player is the victim of the new bans. Today I use as mobile the Nokia 108 which you can buy for only 25 euro. It is a basic model which I use for calling and sporadically sending sms. I can't make an internet-connection with it but also this model I am not allowed anymore to bring to the tournament-hall. The ban feels therefore unreasonable and out of proportions. I last read on chesscafe that this opinion is shared on the recent fide congress at Tromso in which was plead for more flexibility so maybe an adaption of the rules will happen.

In the past Open Gent such flexibility was already applicable as the mobile was allowed in the tournament-room as long it was placed next to the board. As I possess only an old very cheap mobile, I used this flexibility. However most players didn't have any mobile laying next to their board while after their games many were quickly using mobiles. So I guess many players had sneakily their mobile in their pockets. There was no serious inspection ( frisk/ metal-detector) and even the arbiter told me afterwards that carrying mobiles was tolerated as long he didn't see the players having the mobile in their hands while playing. Maybe I should also use this less legal path as twice after the game I had to return to the tournament-hall to pick up my forgotten mobile.

Besides the new rules to fight cheating, we also see a much bigger focus in recent years on procedures. Hereby the arbiter gets an always increasing role which we for example could read in my article mate ends the game or not. Our home-arbiter Peter Beeckmans summarized on his blog the latest changes, see article but the chapter about irregularities is incomplete. There is mentioned that article 7.4 a becomes 7.5 a but not that the new version includes an important change of which I was not aware till a recent incident at the Open Charleroi.

To understand the impact of the new element, we best return to the famous game in the 12th round at the candidate-finales between Carlsen and Ivanchuk played in London 2013. Ivanchuk promoted at move 86 the h-pawn but left the pawn on the promotion-square to manage pressing the clock just in time.
Ivanchuk played at move 86 : h2-h1 without defining the piece
Carlsen did not protest, captured the pawn and lost the game. An elaborated article with strong comments can be read on schaaksite about this topic. There is even a picture in the article which shows clearly how Ivanchuk promoted wrongly. The picture I don't dare to reuse because of copyright.

Since first of July 2014 the article 7.5 a says: "If het player has moved a pawn to the furthest distant rank, pressed the clock, but not replaced the pawn with a new piece, the move is illegal. The pawn shall be replaced by a queen of the same colour as the pawn." Or in other words Ivanchuk loses the option to choose another piece except the queen for promotion if we don't consider for a moment the consequences of the illegal move. Some readers will consider this a detail. Probably unless you create stalemate via the wrong promotion as happened in a game of one of my club-fellows. This is very painful if you intended to make a minor-promotion. An example of such position is below.
White plays c7-c8 without defining the piece.
I don't see myself making immediately such wrong promotion but I do find such details interesting to know. By the way my compliments to the help-arbiter Luc Cornet whom acted correctly in this difficult situation.

Minor-promotions are of course the domain of chess-compositions. Hereby the Babson task is considered as the holy grail. A summary can be found on the site of Tim Krabbe. I made 21 years ago a very modest try on the promotion-theme, see below.
White mates in 3 moves.
With the 2 pair same-colored bishops this problem doesn't compete for an honorable spot but I do find it still charming.


..., Rh1 2. Bc5 en 3. Qa3#
..., h1(Q) 2. Bb4 en 3. Qa3#
..., h1(R) 2. Bb4 en 3. Qa3#
..., h1(N) 2. Bad6 en 3. Qa3#
..., h1(B) 2. Bf8 en 3. Qa3#