Saturday, December 27, 2014


After the Open of Leuven, Stefan Docx told me that he liked the positions which I obtained in the Dutch. However only my first move didn't appeal to him. It is therefore no coincidence that on chesspub the opening is categorized under the daring defences. Deliberately weakening f7 also called the Achilles of blacks position is obviously risky.

The achilles not only plays an important role in openings in which the f-pawn is pushed. Also in many other openings this weak spot is attacked. A few examples to illustrate this theme. I start with the feared Cochrane gambit.
[Event "XVI Ciudad de Linares 99"] [Site "Linares ESP"] [Date "1999.03.02"] [Round "8"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2700"] [BlackElo "2751"] [PlyCount "62"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 {(The Cochrane-gambit is a very rare bird in standard-chess and for sure at the top.)} Kxf7 5. Nc3 c5 6. Bc4 Be6 7. Bxe6 Kxe6 8. d4 Kf7 9. dxc5 Nc6 10. Qe2 (10. O-O dxc5 11. Qe2 Qe8 12. Re1 Nd4 13. Qd3 Qe6 14. e5 Nd7 15. Ne4 Be7 16. Bg5 Nxe5 17. Qc3 Qc4 18. Qg3 Ng6 19. Bxe7 Ne2 20. Rxe2 Qxe2 21. f3 Qe3 22. Kf1 Nxe7 23. Re1 Qd4 24. Nd6 Kg8 25. Rxe7 Qd1 26. Re1 Qxc2 27. Qe5 Qd3 28. Re2 Qd1 29. Re1 Qd3 30. Re2 Qd1 31. Re1 {(and draw in the correspondence-game Starke,Heiko - Hudak Dusan played in 2009)}) 10... Qd7 11. Be3 {(Here better is 0-0 as now black gets some chances.)} dxc5 12. f4 Re8 13. e5 Ng4 14. Rd1 Qf5 15. O-O h5 16. Bc1 Nd4 17. Qc4 Kg6 18. h3 Nh6 19. Nb5 a6 20. Nxd4 cxd4 21. Qxd4 Rc8 22. Qb6 Kh7 23. Qxb7 Rxc2 24. Be3 Qg6 25. Rc1 Rxc1 26. Rxc1 Nf5 27. Bf2 h4 28. Rc7 Ng3 29. Kh2 Nf1 30. Kg1 Qb1 31. Bxh4 Bc5 1/2-1/2
I never studied this seriously but it looks playable for white. In the second example we see again the same players at work but this time in a trendy variation: the anti-Moscow gambit which I already used in one of my first articles, see my novelty in Wijk aan Zee.
[Event "Corus A"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2008.01.22"] [Round "9"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [WhiteElo "2780"] [BlackElo "2799"] [PlyCount "89"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Ne5 Bg7 12. Nxf7 {(Kramnik was very surprised by this gambit although it was already known from correspondence-chess.)} Kxf7 13. e5 Nd5 14. Ne4 Ke7 15. Nd6 Qb6 16. Bg4 Raf8 17. Qc2 Qxd4 { (Immediately after the game Rhg8 was recommended and later several times tested in practice. Of course it is very difficult to find every time the right answer at the board against the prepared moves of the opponent.)} 18. Qg6 Qxg4 19. Qxg7 Kd8 20. Nxb7 Kc8 21. a4 b4 22. Rac1 c3 23. bxc3 b3 24. c4 Rfg8 25. Nd6 Kc7 26. Qf7 Rf8 27. cxd5 Rxf7 28. Rxc6 Kb8 29. Nxf7 Re8 30. Nd6 Rh8 31. Rc4 Qe2 32. dxe6 Nb6 33. Rb4 Ka8 34. e7 Nd5 35. Rxb3 Nxe7 36. Rfb1 Nd5 37. h3 h5 38. Nf7 Rc8 39. e6 a6 40. Nxg5 h4 41. Bd6 Rg8 42. R3b2 Qd3 43. e7 Nf6 44. Be5 Nd7 45. Ne6 1-0
The playground of this variation almost completely shifted from standard-chess to correspondence-chess probably because white scored terribly and the compensation isn't easy to find. From my own practice I can show a rare line which was in my repertoire till 2004. I only got it on the board in standard-chess once.
[Event "Open Avoine 4de ronde"] [Date "2002"] [White "Lemoine, F."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2128"] [BlackElo "2223"] [PlyCount "71"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. Bxf7 Kxf7 7. Nxe5 Ke7 8. d4 Nf6 $5 {(It has been long ago that I encountered this variation as in my personal database there are no games with this system. Nevertheless I am sure I once got it on the board. )} (8... d6 $5 {(During the game I spent a lot of time remembering what exactly is the most optimal continuation. New analyses show that both continuations are interesting.)} 9. Nd3 Kf7 $44) 9. b4 $2 $146 {(In practice were already tried 0-0, Bg5 and Qf3 but I only consider Nd3 as the proper continuation for getting sufficient compensation. Strange it seems nobody yet has tested this. After b4 black gets a clear advantage.)} (9. Nd3 $1 $146 Qe8 10. O-O Kd8 11. e5 $44) 9... Nb7 $2 {(This does not look nice and it is also not surprising that white gets again good compensation after this move. Much better is d6 which frees c4 for the knight with a big advantage for black.)} (9... d6 $1 10. Nd3 Nc4 11. e5 dxe5 12. dxe5 Ne4 13. O-O Bb7 14. Qh5 (14. Qf3 Qd5 15. Re1 $17) 14... Qd4 15. Na3 $17) 10. Bg5 $5 {(The pin is a logical reaction but a4 must also be considered with excellent compensation for the piece.)} Qe8 $5 {(Ke8 is the alternative but also in that case white has nice compensation for the piece.)} 11. Nc3 c6 12. f4 $2 {(This is nonsense as now black gets time to get active play. Much better is a4 and blacks pieces do not work together which permits white to obtain very nice compensation for the sacrificed piece.)} (12. a4 $5 d6 13. Nd3 bxa4 14. e5 Kf7 15. O-O dxe5 16. Nxe5 (16. dxe5 Nd5 17. Qh5 g6 $44) 16... Kg8 17. Qf3 Nd6 $11 ) 12... Kd8 13. Nd3 h6 $5 {(A5 is also possible with some advantage for black.)} 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. a4 Qe6 16. d5 $6 {(A pawn-sacrifice which is pretty superficial. 0-0 is of course better although this leaves black the advantage.)} cxd5 17. e5 Qc6 18. Ne2 bxa4 19. O-O a5 20. c3 $5 {With the pawn-sacrifice b5 white could keep the a-file closed but that is not sufficient to save the game.)} axb4 21. cxb4 d6 $2 {(A big positional blunder as this weakens heavily the squares e6 and c6. Much better and simpler was Be7 followed up with Rg8 and white has not sufficient compensation for the piece so should lose eventually.)} (21... Be7 22. Kh1 Rg8 23. f5 Qc4 24. Rf4 Qc7 25. exf6 Bxf6 26. Rxa4 Rxa4 27. Qxa4 $19 ) 22. e6 $5 {(Ef6: seems also possible again with good compensation for the piece.)} Bxe6 23. f5 Bd7 $2 {(A difficult choice in time-trouble. Which squares should I defend first. Afterwards it became clear that I should defend first d5 so Bf7 is better with an unclear position.)} 24. Kh1 $2 {(A useful move but not the most accurate one as in some variations white can do without it. Nd4 gives white already good winning chances as the engines find it difficult to organize the defense.)} Rg8 $2 {(The weird Fritz move h5, connected with the queen-sacrifice on c4 seems to be the only way to continue. After the logical text-move it is probably already lost.)} (24... h5 $1 25. Nd4 Qc4 $1 26. Nf4 Bh6 $1 27. Rc1 Bxf4 $1 28. Rxc4 dxc4 29. Rxf4 a3 30. Nc2 $44) 25. Nd4 Qc4 26. Nf4 Be7 $5 {(Rc8 and Nc5 are recommended by Fritz and Shredder but none can save blacks position. After Be7 black gets annihilated.)} 27. Rc1 a3 28. Rxc4 dxc4 29. Nde6 Bxe6 30. Nxe6 Kd7 31. Qd5 Ra7 32. Qb5 Kc8 33. Qxc4 Kd7 34. Qb5 Kc8 35. Nd4 Bd8 36. Qc4 1-0
Not a well played game but again a nice example of how hard it is to defend against such sacrifices without preparation. For online blitz or bullet these gambits are very lethal.

Not only in the opening is f7 (or f2 for white) a weak spot. Also further in the game we notice that the achilles remains a headache which many players got into troubles. I found on the internet a nice collection of combinations in which the achilles plays a key role. It is difficult making a choice out of it but I like the combination of our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen in his game of 2011 against the Chinese topgrandmaster Wang Hao.
[Event "73rd Tata Steel GMA"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2011.01.29"] [Round "12"] [White "Carlsen, M."] [Black "Wang Hao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2814"] [BlackElo "2731"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r1k2r/2q2pp1/2n1p3/1p1pP1BB/n1pP4/2P3P1/1P3PK1/R2Q3R w k - 0 24"] [PlyCount "11"] 24. Bxf7 {(Not the only winning move but the fastest one.)} Kxf7 25. Qf3 Kg8 26. Rxh8 Kxh8 27. Rh1 Kg8 28. Qh5 Rf8 29. Bf6 1-0
Recently I got a golden opportunity to play a beautiful combination using the Achilles.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Brasschaat"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Beukema, S."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C99"] [WhiteElo "2337"] [BlackElo "2311"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3rr1k1/1q1bbppp/2n2n2/1pB1p3/1P2P3/pB3N1P/P4PP1/2RQRNK1 w - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "27"] 24. Bxf7 $1 {(Missed as I played Qe2 in the game. I remember that I looked a few seconds at the brilliant Bxf7 but I did not realize this could actually work. Qe2 is sufficient for a small advantage which is probably the reason why I did not look for anything better.)} Kxf7 {(The engines play Kh8 but naturally no human would choose such move.)} 25. Qb3 {(Not first with the knight as otherwise white would have no answer after Kg6.)} Kg6 26. Nh4 Kh6 27. Ng3 Bxc5 (27... g6 28. Qf7 {(Another quiet move which closes in the king.)} Ng8 29. Be3 Bg5 30. Nhf5 gxf5 31. Bxg5 Kxg5 32. Qg7 Kh4 33. exf5 Bxf5 34. Nxf5 Kh5 35. g4#) (27... Nd4 28. Bxd4 exd4 29. Ngf5 Bxf5 30. Nxf5 Kg6 31. Qg3 Kf7 32. Qxg7 Ke6 33. e5 $18) 28. Ngf5 Bxf5 29. Nxf5 Kh5 30. Qf3 Kg6 31. Qg3 Kh5 32. Nxg7 Kh6 33. Nf5 Kh5 34. Qh4 Kg6 35. Qh6 Kf7 36. Qg7 Ke6 37. Qxb7 $18 *

I looked a few seconds at Bxf7 but never thought it could work against a tactician like Stefan (obtaining only a few days earlier an IM-norm in Le Touquet. It often strikes me that tacticians are very good in the attack but in the defense they regularly make mistakes. A missed opportunity or something we can consider as an oddity? In any case Steven Geirnaert believes that we shouldn't too easily minimize mistakes. We should look for ways how to avoid them and improve our play. Of course he has a valid point. On the other hand I am surely not the only one missing such tactics.

A few months earlier an example of such blindness between grandmasters was published in the great column of grandmaster Lubomovir Kavalek.
[Event "Budapest m"] [Site "Budapest"] [Date "1993"] [Round "10"] [White "Polgar, Judit"] [Black "Spassky, Boris V"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2595"] [BlackElo "2565"] [PlyCount "148"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 {(In reality Re8 was played but the organization preferred to hide the double-blunder and correct the move-order.)} (11... Re8 12. Bxf7 {(Judit played on automatic pilot Nf1 and missed hereby an immediate and obvious win.)} Kxf7 13. Ng5 Kg8 14. Ne6 (14. Qb3 $2 {(Playing too clever with Qb3 would jeopardize the win.)} d5 15. Ne6 Nc5 $14)) 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. b3 Bg7 16. d5 Nb6 17. Be3 Rc8 18. Qe2 c6 19. c4 cxd5 20. cxd5 Nbxd5 21. exd5 Nxd5 22. b4 Nxb4 23. Bb3 Bd5 24. Red1 Bc4 25. Qd2 Nd3 26. Bh6 d5 27. Bc2 Nc5 28. Re1 Bh8 29. Rad1 Qb6 30. Qg5 e4 31. Qe3 Bxa2 32. Bb1 Bxb1 33. Rxb1 Na4 34. Qxb6 Nxb6 35. Be3 Na4 36. Nd4 Nc3 37. Rbc1 Rc4 38. Nge2 Nxe2 39. Nxe2 Rd8 40. g4 d4 41. Rcd1 d3 42. Ng3 Bc3 43. Bd2 Bxd2 44. Rxd2 Rdd4 45. f3 exf3 46. Kf2 b4 47. Kxf3 Rd8 48. Re7 Rb8 49. Rd7 b3 50. R7xd3 a5 51. Rb2 a4 52. Ne2 Kg7 53. Ke3 Ra8 54. Nc3 Rb4 55. Nxa4 Raxa4 56. Rbxb3 Rf4 57. Ke2 Kh6 58. Rf3 Kg5 59. Kf2 Rxf3 60. Kxf3 Kh4 61. Kg2 Ra2 62. Kg1 h5 63. gxh5 Kxh5 64. Rf3 f5 65. Rf4 Re2 66. Kh1 Re4 67. Rf2 Kh4 68. Kg2 Rb4 69. Kh2 Re4 70. Kg2 f4 71. Kf3 Re5 72. Rg2 g5 73. Rg4 Kxh3 74. Rg3 Kh4 0-1

If players from this caliber miss something much simpler then I can quicker accept my mistake. Of course one doesn't get many chances in his career to play such extraordinary combinations so it always will feel as a missed opportunity. 


Addendum 26 Augustus 2015
Despite playing 20 years of competition, only last couple of years I started to review and study the old grandmasters. Again and again I realize that I should have done this much earlier. I discovered a few days ago via the book "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" the game Mikhail Tal - Wolfgang Unzicker played in 1961: which includes some of the same motives Nh4/Ng5 as my missed combination against Beukema. We can only guess what if I had discovered Tals game just before my game against Beukema.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


If you read the previous article then it is clear that chess has changed a lot. The usage of engines or more broadly electronics have heavily impacted our game. Surely not everybody is happy about this. I even have a strong suspicion that because of this some players have stopped playing chess as they lost interest. There exists a real danger that the creative side of the game is minimized. We are today very much dependent from those electronic aids.

This dependence sometimes also creates silly situations if something goes suddenly wrong. Probably some readers will remember the transmission-error in the 10th game of the recent WC. Top-grandmaster Fabiano Caruana joked on twitter that maybe it was a try to give a few million viewers a collective heart-attack.
Anand - Calrsen: 19...Bxg2 ???
While this only lead to maximally some irritations, it becomes more painful when a technical error impacts the course of a game. Such thing happened in the recent game Karjakin - Caruana played in Baku for the fide grandprix. A transmission-error was the reason why Karjakin got very quickly already in timetrouble. In those top-tournaments players have access to rooms where they can get snacks or drinks. Karjakin relied as usual on the screens in those rooms to know when he had to move but he realized far too late that something went wrong. Later in huge timetrouble - 10 moves in 2 minutes without increment - Karjakin didn't manage anymore to scrutinize sufficiently the complications in initially a favorable position and lost nonetheless.
[Event "Baku FIDE Grand Prix 2014"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2014.10.02"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2844"] [PlyCount "74"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. Rc1 Nbd7 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 c6 9. h3 Ne4 10. Bd3 Ndf6 11. O-O Bf5 12. Ne2 Nd7 13. Qb3 Qb6 14. Qc2 Bg6 15. Bh2 Rfe8 16. Nf4 Bd6 17. Nxg6 Bxh2 18. Kxh2 hxg6 19. g3 Qd8 20. Kg2 g5 21. Rh1 {(In this position Karjakin spent a lot of time in the room where you can get some snacks and drinks. Due to a transmission-error he missed completely that Caruana moved already much earlier. Something like 15 minutes were lost because of it.)} Qe7 22. b4 a5 23. b5 c5 24. h4 g4 25. Ng5 Rac8 26. Bxe4 dxe4 27. Qb3 g6 28. Rc4 b6 29. Rhc1 Rcd8 {(Here Karjakin had only 2 minutes left without increment.)} 30. dxc5 Nxc5 31. Rxc5 bxc5 32. Rxc5 Rc8 33. Re5 Qf6 34. Rd5 Red8 35. a4 Rxd5 36. Qxd5 Rc2 37. Kh1 Rxf2 0-1
Later on e.g., several players asked why there was not an arbitrary time-correction in favor of Karjakin which compensates the transmission-error. Many considered the victory of Caruana as not sportsmanship. However arbiters aren't allowed to judge based on emotions but have to define who is liable. Of course I don't have access to the contracts of the top-players but I suppose that the screens in the rooms where players can rest, are only informative. I don't think it is possible as player to claim any compensation or to give notice of default.

Some people also consider the behavior of Caruana as incorrect. If you executed your move then it is normal to warn the opponent that his clock is running. This is not only difficult or forbidden, see article 4.9 but can we really state that you aren't a gentleman when you don't warn the opponent? Is time not a crucial element of the game just like the pieces which we carefully move on the board? Anyway I notice that even for the most ordinary casual games a clock is installed which dictates the tempo and often has a large influence on the result.

Accurately keeping track of the time (but also the recording as in the article the sadistic exam) is the full responsibility of the player. I won't hold back to profit from some negligence of my opponent. In 2 recent consecutive games my opponents forgot to press the clock. Well in such situations I will pretend to think very hard. We can be best friends off the board but in a game I don't give presents. However I do warn my opponent if I am completely winning and a running clock only prolongs the game unnecessary.

In one of those 2 games, the one against Stijn Bertrem, something peculiar happened. While I had to move but his time was running, I took off my watch and put it next to the clock. I regularly do this as I don't like wearing a watch during a game. While thinking, I often put my hands against my head and at that moment I don't like to feel any pressure on my wrest from the watch (steel of about 100 gram). After putting the watch down, Stijn looked at it and at the same moment noticed that his clock was still running. In fact I gave him unintentionally a hint. The hint is nothing special but I do want to discuss the habit of putting the watch on the table during a game.

I am aware this is a bit strange and I am careful that the watch isn't stolen but I am surely not the only one. Without doubt the most famous protagonist is former world-champion Garry Kasparov. It is a well-known anecdote that at the start of any game he puts his watch next to the board. When he puts the watch back on his arm then it is in most cases a signal for the opponent to resign. Somehow I think this is is logical as when you have a clearly won position then no further deep reflection is needed. So I don't believe Garry tries to play any psychological game.

When 2 months ago Loek Van Wely in his Unive Chess festival of Hogeveen demanded the participants to wear some bands which would register their heart-beat and transmit the data then I really wondered who is that crazy to agree. In an official game you don't experiment but money seems to be a very good incentive. Even Jan Timman was persuaded. I may belong to the first generation having learnt to work with computers but some experiments and electronic aids are really not for me.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Using databases

"Preparation is half of the work" was written by guest-writer Hypekiller5000 in the previous article. In other words, a good opening has a not negligible influence on the final result of the game. Even on my modest level I already showed 2 years ago that such effect is visible, see study chess-openings. It is not a surprise that players, knowing me better, try to avoid the bigger mainstreams against me as e.g. Tom Piceu leads Bruges through 1st division or just recently in Open Gent when afterwards my opponent confessed to read my blog. This is a disadvantage of writing this blog which I accept. In the end also my opponent takes a gamble of playing something which he doesn't know very well and of which he can't be sure that I haven't analyzed it already, see the boomerang.

If players are less familiar or ignore my preparation then I have often a significant higher chance to profit from a superior opening-knowledge. The most striking examples on my blog are described in the article the list of strength. After the umpteenth example on my blog I got the comment from MNb that I am pretty good in preparing games. Later he clarified this statement: there is creativity needed. Well in this article I will explain that creativity is often minimal and every player is able to arrive to the same conclusions. Much more important than creativity is discipline, organisation and a good methodology.

The title already betrays that I use intensively databases or also called plugging in jargon. A good book about plugging doesn't exist (a.f.a.i.k.) yet. There exists documentation about how chessbase functions but no guide about which steps you need to follow to optimize your chances in a short timeframe of preparing successfully. Besides I was struck by how many players were almost completely uneducated about how to use databases. So it looks appropriate to write an article in which I will present by means of screenshots a step by step approach how I prepare.

In the last round of Open Gent I was paired against the Belgian FM Marc Lacrosse. The pairings were announced around midnight while the game started at 11 AM. I am not a robot so I need some night-rest. If we deduct another hour for driving with the car from home to the tournamenthall then it is evident that little time remains to prepare. On top Marc answers my Spanish with the Open Spanish variation of which he is a big expert. 51 games played between 1987 till 2013 I found from him in the megadatabase as you can check in the screenshot below.
51 games Open Spanish of Marc in the database
Few professionals have such big collection of games in this opening. By the way I don't have any illusions about the fact Marc very likely played a multiple of games with this opening so his knowledge of the opening is much more than what the database shows us. On the other hand I played only 4 standard games in this opening. 3 of them continued with 9.c3 permitting the Dilworth attack and which I don't consider interesting anymore today, see for the reason why at my article copycats. In 2008 I played for the first time the mainline with 9.Nbd2 but only against a 1700 elo. In short I hadn't looked at the Open Spanish for many years and my ready knowledge was therefore very limited.

What to do when you have 150 points more than the opponent, little time to prepare, playing the standard repertoire is jeopardizing the winning chances and the final rankings + prizes are at stake? Well obviously you deviate but this doesn't fit in the scientific approach. Now I also don't like to be slaughtered. Next I try to describe how I mitigated the risks and even succeeded to transform the disadvantage into an advantage.

More than a decade ago I prepared myself for tournaments by repeating homemade analysis. However not only was this increasingly difficult due to the ever growing number of games but also I experienced a ridiculous low return. I spent a lot of time at repeating lines but it was rare that I could use something during a tournament. Recent years my tournament-preparations look very differently. If I played not much chess in advance then a few days before the tournament starts, I do tactics at chess tactics server. I don't look at anything else or don't practice anything special but I do spend at least an hour to update my databases.
- Twic in which tournament-games played in countless locations can be downloaded till 1 week ago.
- Enginegames of 3 sites: Ccrl, Sddf and Tcec
- Correspondence-games of ICCF but for that I contact a friend. As mentioned in an earlier article their database is still inaccessible for the public. I did discover a few days ago that it is possible to access it via Openingmaster but against payment.
So I can collect all material for free. In addition to updating the databases, I also update my engine openingbook, see how this works in the article green moves. If this is combined with a good engine like Houdini and/or Stockfish running on a modern portable then you are very well armed for preparing games during the tournament.

It has little sense to do those efforts if there is insufficient time to prepare. Well if the first part is about organisation then the second is mainly discipline. You don't sleep out but put the alarm at 6 AM. Breakfast happens during plugging. Only for the shower, an interruption is necessary but I anyway need a break during 4 hours plugging. My lovely wife prepares some food so I can also eat something during the game (play is during lunchtime). Discipline of course is closely connected to motivation/ ambitions which I don't lack yet at contrary to many other players (of my age).

4 hours to challenge an expert in the opening of which he has 25 years experience, is still very little. In such short time-frame it is impossible to make profound analysis so it is a matter of using a good methodology. Hereby I employ 3 tools which I manage via the Fritzinterface:
- the database with tournamentgames to define the moves of my opponent.
- the engine openingbook to define my moves and the ones of my opponent.
- the correspondence database to define my own moves.
So no expensive Chessbase interface as you don't need that at all. The premium package of Chessbase costs today 370 euro. It seems some players are paying this amount as otherwise the price would be lower but this is just exploiting the monopoly-position.

Lets start with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4 which is the start-position of the Open Spanish. To define what white should play, I use in first instance my (self-made) engine openingbook. For positions of which many games can be found in the database and there is a clear distinction between the candidate-moves, this is by far the quickest and most efficient tool. With a simple click on the button "F11" I get the result so quicker does not exist. Pay attention that I very often use keyboard shortcuts so it is important to know some of them. This seems not something obvious as in Open Gent a +2100 player attentively watched how I was plugging and asked how I could get the output like in the first screenshot. Well for such output you need twice to press "ALT+Q". This keyboard shortcut permits to switch between 3 outputs: description of the games, list of the moves of the games and mix of short description + some moves of the games.
Openingbook for whites 8th move
Above screenshot nicely demonstrates that dxe5 is the critical move in the position so I also select it. Now some attentive readers will notice (looking at the first screenshot) that Marc played a move earlier also Be7 instead of d5. This is correct. In 1995-1996 Marc chose 4 times for Be7. However in all the other games d5 was chosen. So it is logical to give priority to d5 and if some time is left then we return to Be7. It is not redundant to also look at old lines of somebodies repertoire because if a player smells a rat then sometimes an old love is chosen. By the way Marc admitted that he was considering this option as he knew me from a few years interclub when we were playing together for Lille EDN.

From move 9 onward I switch from the engine openingbook to the correspondence database to quickly detect the critical mainline. The engine openingbook doesn't give a clear distinction anymore between the candidates but this is quickly solved by using a filter on the correspondence database. With the shortcut "F12" we open the database and with the combination "CTRL+F" we open the filter. The filter which I use is a selection of the won games by white in the last 4 years. Below a screenshot of the data which I entered besides of course the position.
Input filter correspondence-database
The result of such filter can be viewed below. Well that is not fully correct as I first change the output via the keyboard shortcut "ALT+Q" so a list of the moves is shown.
Output filter correspondence-database for whites 9th move
In a glance we notice that 9.Nbd2 is today considered as the most important line as most games are won with that move in correspondence-chess. Because engines are excessively used in correspondence and the games are played on a very slow pace, it is safe to state that those are the highest quality games. I repeat this process for each of my moves and I try immediately to memorize them.

Meanwhile I define the answers of my opponent by watching the earlier games he played. I notice he answered 9.Nbd2, 7x with Bc5 in the period 1987-2001; 2x with Nc5 in 2010 and 10x with Be7 in the period 2003-2013. All this can be deducted from the first screenshot but often it is handy to just run a new filter on the tournament-database but then specifically on the position after 9.Nbd2 and Marc Lacrosse as playing with black.

So I give priority to 9..., Be7 but again I don't forget to look at the other moves when there is time left. 10.c3 seems to be the critical move for white so we look again how Marc replied in earlier games. After 10.c3 he played, 3x Qd7 in the period 2003-2004, 5x 0-0 in the period 2008-2012 and 2x Nc5 in 2013. Despite 0-0 was played more often, I still will give priority to Nc5 as it was played more recently. We again repeat this process for move 11 so after 11 moves we are for now having as mainline:1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.Bc2 d4

If we now apply the earlier described filter on the correspondence database then we notice that the harvest becomes small but is still usable.
Output filter correspondence-database for whites 12th move
Only 13 games but in 10 of them 12. Nb3 was played so I select that move. Now we have a problem as there are no more games in the database from Marc with 12.Nb3. How can we guess what black will play. Well for that I use again the engine openingbook in which all relevant tournament-games are included. Somebody playing 25 years the same opening will likely be aware about what top-players play in this position.
Openingbook for blacks 12th move
12...d3 seems to be the preferred choice by most top-players (the engine-book is only built with games of strong players). I again give priority to 12...d3 but I don't forget to look at alternatives when some time is left. For whites 13th move I again use the filter on my correspondence database. The output tells us that 7x Bb1 is chosen against 3x Nxc5 in the won games for white. So 13.Bb1 is selected. A move earlier no more games could be found from Marc in the tournament-database so I use again the opening-book. I repeat this process till whites 26th move !! The complete critical mainline is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3 13.Bb1 Nxb3 14.axb3 Bf5 15.Be3 0-0 16.Re1 Qd5 17.Bd4 d2 18.Re2 Bxb1 19.Rxb1 Nxd4 20.Nxd4 Bg5 21.g3 c5 22.Nf5 Qd3 23.Nd6 Qg6 24.h4 Bxh4 25.Rxd2 Be7 26.Ra1

The last white move seems only known in correspondence-chess so not earlier played in tournament-chess or at least there are no references in my tournament-database. So it is impossible to further predict what black will play but that is not anymore necessary. Even if the complete line appears on the board then you still have a position in which games were won by white in correspondence-chess. Very likely black will not be aware of this information or otherwise he deviated earlier. It must be sufficient now to replay the remaining correspondence-games to get an idea how the game can further develop.

Does this process take a lot of time? No with pen and paper in the hand, you can quickly make notes of the selected moves. Using some keyboard shortcuts reduces the process for 1 single line to a few minutes. Another few minutes to better understand the final position and you can switch to another line. In 4 hours it is possible by using this methodology to check a lot of variations. In any case Marc was impressed by what I showed in the post-mortem.

And how about the opening of the actual game? Well it is no surprise anymore that the critical mainline popped up as otherwise I wouldn't have an article. Of course Marc somewhere deviates but for the rest of the story I refer to the viewer. The annotations were added afterwards.
[Event "Open Gent 9de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Lacrosse, M."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C83"] [WhiteElo "2333"] [BlackElo "2182"] [PlyCount "41"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. c3 Nc5 11. Bc2 d4 {(In the club-championship of Deurne 2008 I had once 0-0 on the board. D4 was new for my practice but of course no surprise as I had noticed in my preparation that Marc played it recently several times.)} 12. Nb3 {(Cxd4 was played successfully previous year by Peter Leko, a former world champion finalist so it is surely an interesting continuation.)} d3 13. Bb1 {(Nxc5 is sufficient for a minimal plus without any risk for white. On the highest level black in most cases draws without too much effort.)} Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5 15. Be3 {(Nowadays the focus starts to shift to Re1, b4 and Bf4. Black has no light task to achieve equality.)} (15. Re1 $5 {(In april played by Caruana.)} Qd5 $1 {(Nakamura continued with 0-0 but after h3 I have doubts if black can get equality.)} 16. b4 O-O 17. h3 $5 Qd7 18. Bf4 Kh8 $1 19. g4 Bg6 20. Bg3 Qd5 21. h4 $13) (15. b4 $5 O-O 16. Re1 Bg6 $1 17. e6 $5 fxe6 18. Rxe6 Qd7 19. Re3 Rfd8 $13) 15... O-O 16. Re1 Qd5 17. Bd4 d2 18. Re2 Bxb1 19. Rxb1 Nxd4 20. Nxd4 c5 $6 {(Marc rarely or never gets the mainline on the board and here mixed up the sequence. First Bg5 and then c5 is playable but also in that line I had something prepared.)} (20... Bg5 $1 21. g3 c5 22. Nf5 Qd3 23. Nd6 Qg6 24. h4 Bxh4 25. Rxd2 Be7 26. Ra1 { (Marc told me afterwards that he still knew Caruana - L Ami of 2012 which continued with Rd5 but Ra1 is an interesting and dangerous alternative which I extracted from the correspondence-chess.)} Qe6 (26... f6 27. Qf3 fxe5 28. Qd5 Kh8 29. Qxe5 Bxd6 30. Qxd6 Qxd6 31. Rxd6 Rae8 {(This double rook-endgame is slightly better for white but in correspondence-chess it was demonstrated that black can defend.)}) 27. Rd5 $1 f6 28. Rxc5 fxe5 29. Qd5 Qxd5 30. Rxd5 Rad8 31. Rad1 Bxd6 32. Rxd6 Rxd6 33. Rxd6 Rf6 34. Rxf6 gxf6 35. b4 {(After the game I showed this pawn-endgame to Marc which I hoped to obtain and is completely lost for black.)} Kf7 36. b3 {(Biedermann,Kyle - Kogeler,Aart 1 - 0 played in 2013.)}) 21. Nf3 {(Now black loses a pawn. Marc already considered here resignation but that is far too pessimistic as black has still excellent chances to draw due to whites poor pawn-structure. In the game I only got a decisive advantage at move 36.)} *
Coincidence or there is something valid in my usage of databases? The truth probably is somewhere in the middle. I believe in the approach as I see results. This year again 7/9 in Gent but with a significant higher TPR of 2383 elo.

So little creativity but organisation, discipline and methodology are the keys. Now I don't claim that anything everywhere can be solved with it. There are still many positions which can't be answered with this method and which still demand a lot of extra analyzing. There also exist some traps which I will describe in another article. The reader must understand the article as a guide to solve a huge number of opening-problems in a very short time-span.