Monday, December 7, 2015


Looking at the rules of our centuries-old game we notice a lot has changed during the last decades. Some changes were heavily criticized but we also realize that many adaptations were necessary to safeguard the future of chess. Many organizers are grateful of being able to use quicker timetcontrols to keep their tournaments not only attractive but also cost-efficient. The organizers of the top-tournament of Zurich even recently asked fide to allow faster controls to be accepted for standard chess.

A daring commercial concept is the millionaire tournament of Las Vegas in which big prizes were given partly sponsored by the high subscriptions. In US the tournament got a lot of publicity also by the mainstream-media so it definitely was a success. Today chess seldom gets positively in the news so maybe it makes sense to elaborate this model. Although I fear this will be more difficult in our conservative Europe.

Popularizing (again) chess to the general public is already for a longtime an objective in chess-politics. Allowing sofia rules and applying them in tournaments, naturally is part of this strategy. Nevertheless despite all the efforts we have no guarantee to see entertaining chess as in the crucial 7th round of the Millionaire tournament there was a lot of controversy after the game Luke McShane - Hikaru Nakamura which ended already after 9 disappointing moves in a repetition.

Chessplayers are very individualistic. I repeat myself but sometimes I have to as the recently published interview with Harika Dronova writes "But all the top players have different skills and I respect them for the hard work they put in it to entertain viewers with beautiful games". It is nonsense to claim that players choose moves to entertain the public. Now the whole interview doesn't please me.

Riskmanagement is a very important facet of chess which simultaneously also restricts players of playing real chess. We already saw an extremely negative example in the earlier mentioned game but it can also be more subtle. In my game against Marc Ghysels I chose for a long theoretical line which ended in a rather dry endgame.
[Event "Inteclub Deurne - Zottegem"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Ghysels, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B35"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2150"] [PlyCount "88"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 {(In 3 previous encounters Marc chose for the French, Scheveningen and a Pirc. So it was more or less impossible to predict the opening.)} 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 a5 {(I already met d6 and Ng4 in standardgames but not yet a5.)} 9. f3 {(I knew that theory does not show any advantage after this move but I did not dare to play something else without a preparation. Besides white still keeps some small practical chances.)} d5 10. Bxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 {(Exd5 is an interesting alternative but I do not claim an advantage for white.)}f5 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Nb6 Rb8 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Rd1 Rxd1 16. Kxd1 fxe4 17. Nxc8 Rxc8 18. b3 exf3 19. gxf3 Kf7 {(Marc proposed a draw here. I was slightly disappointed to discover Marc knew this line but Kf7 gave me again a bit hope as e.g. Rd8 is a much more direct method to draw. In any case I found it too early to accept the proposal.)} 20. Ke2 Be5 $6 {(More accurate is a4 and black should draw still rather easily.)} 21. Kd3 $6 {(I agree with the engines that Rg1 puts more pressure on blacks position although I have to admit that a draw remains the most likely result.)} Rd8 {(A novelty and improvement on older games.)} 22. Ke4 Ke6 23. c4 Rb8 24. f4 Bd6 25. Rb1 Bb4 26. Bd4 Rf8 27. Rd1 Bd6 28. Be3 Rf5 29. h4 Rh5 30. Bf2 Rf5 31. Be3 Rh5 32. Bf2 Rf5 33. Bg3 {(I still try something because of the ratinggap but Marc has no problems to maintain the balance.)} h6 34. Rg1 Rh5 35. Bf2 Kf7 36. Rd1 Rf5 37. Be3 Rh5 38. Rh1 Ke6 39. Bd2 Ba3 40. Rg1 Kf7 41. Be1 Bb2 42. Kf3 Rf5 43. Ke4 Rh5 44. Kf3 Rf5 {(I showed to Marc that I wanted to play Ke4 with a repetition which Marc did not object against. In the meanwhile I already realized that I have to be careful and should stop playing for a win.)} 1/2-1/2
I didn't want to play unprepared the sharpest lines and I just hoped that he didn't know very well this sideline. Marc had played in our previous encounters a Scheveningen, Pirc and French opening so I didn't find it unreasonable to make this small gamble.

It doesn't need to be long theoretical lines to see boring games. In the next interclub-game we left theory very early and still the game never became interesting as none was willing to take risks.
[Event "Interclub TSM - Deurne"] [Date "2015"] [White "Verduyn, P."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A10"] [WhiteElo "2205"] [BlackElo "2313"] [PlyCount "43"] 1. c4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. e3 {(I did not expect Philippe as opponent so I was happy that he did not play any mainlines. E3 is not bad but there are of course more critical systems.)} d5 {(I thought about d6 but disregarded the idea when I realized that a possible transition exists to my defeat against the Romanian grandmaster Andrei Istratescu. The stonewall looked ok here but maybe a little bit more accurate is here first c6.)} 5. b3 {(The subtle difference with c6 first is that white here has the extra possibility of cxd5 forcing black to recapture with the e-pawn. After that white would have the possibility to play for a minority-attack on the queen-side which does not mean that white has a clear advantage.)} c6 {(More solid than dxc4 followed up by e5.)} 6. Ne2 Bd6 7. Ba3 {(Exchanging the bishops of the dark squares in 1 move is generally considered as an important success in the Dutch. However my experience tells me that this is often exaggerated like in this specific position. I even dare to state that other continuations like d4, 0-0 and Nbc3 have more venom.)} Bxa3 8. Nxa3 Qe7 { (Immediately 0-0 allows white to play b4 and put the queen on b3. This does not need to be bad for black but I remembered of course the nasty experience against Mehr Hovhanissian played in Open Leuven 2013.)} 9. Qc1 O-O 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Qb2 b6 12. d3 Bb7 {(Solid but a5 is more ambitious.)} 13. Rac1 Rac8 {(Somebody with more guts would have played immediately e5 although it is not necessarily better than the played move of the game.)} 14. Nb1 Rfd8 {(Another normal developing move while e5 and c5 are also perfectly playable.)} 15. cxd5 {(White pulls the emergency-brake as it is of course clear that I will not wait any further to start attacking.)} cxd5 {(This allows quick simplifications. If I want to play for a win then I have to play exd5 or the even more interesting Nxd5. With the new and quicker timecontrol I did not have much time left so I avoided any risks.)} 16. Rxc8 Rxc8 17. Rc1 Rxc1 18. Nxc1 Qc5 19. Qc3 Kf7 20. b4 Qxc3 21. Nxc3 Ke7 22. d4 {(White proposed a draw which I accepted after some hesitation. I wanted to play Ba6 but I agree with the engines that Ne4 is still worth a try to relocate the knight via d6 to the weakened square c4. I missed that possibility in the game. Now honestly even then the draw is most likely.)} 1/2-1/2
I and Philippe had several opportunities to sharpen the game but we just played it safe and swapped off most pieces. Above games will never entertain the general public.

Players can be convinced to take risks if there is an incentive. A good motivation is when there is a big ratinggap as the highest rated player is obliged to win not to lose many points. In the past I already showed a few examples of this in my article playing ad hominem. More recently I made a remarkable choice in my game of Open Gent against Hendrik Westerweele.
[Event "Open Gent 3de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Westerweele, H."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "1910"] [BlackElo "2316"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/bpp2pp1/p1nRbn1p/4p3/4P3/2P2NN1/PP2BPPP/R3B1K1 b - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "59"] 17... cxd6 {(Rxd6 is easier but also simplifies the position.)} 18. c4 Nd4 $6 { (I made the correct decision by accepting the backward d-pawn as my pieces are now more active but I play here too positionally. It does not make sense to get a bishop on d4 in return of exchanging my stronger knight. Slowly increasing the pressure with e.g. g6 is more favorable.)} 19. Nxd4 Bxd4 20. Rb1 b5 21. b3 Rb8 22. cxb5 axb5 23. Rc1 d5 24. Bf3 g6 25. Bb4 $6 {(This avoids black playing b4 but the bishop can become a target here. More accurate is exd5 with approximate equality.)} dxe4 $6 {(Better is to let white relieve the tension so black has an extra move to play f5.)} (25... Ra8 $1 26. exd5 Nxd5 27. Bxd5 Bxd5 28. Rc2 f5 29. Kf1 Bb6 30. f3 Kf7 31. Ne2 $15) 26. Nxe4 Nd5 27. Bd2 Nf4 $6 {(Now white can answer f5 with the annoying Nc5 which was anyway the smallest evil.)} (27... f5 $1 28. Nc5 Bf7 29. Bxd5 Bxd5 30. Nd7 Rd8 31. Nf6 Kg7 32. Nxd5 Rxd5 33. Rc7 $11) 28. Rd1 g5 29. g3 $6 {(During the game I detected Be3 which indeed my engines approve. After Be3 it is rather black to defend precisely to achieve a half point.)} Nh3 30. Kg2 f5 31. Kxh3 fxe4 32. Bg4 Bxg4 33. Kxg4 Bxf2 34. Rf1 $6 {(The rest of the game was blitzed out. The endgame is very tricky so a big number of mistakes are made by both players. Here the more active Kf5 generated much quicker counterplay.)} e3 35. Bc3 $2 {(White could still defend a slightly inferior endgame with Bb4.)} Rc8 $6 {(I miss a direct tactical win.)} (35... b4 $1 36. Be1 Rd8 37. Bxf2 Rf8 38. Bxe3 Rxf1 $19) 36. Bb4 Kf7 $6 {(Played on general grounds of centralizing the king in the endgame but here e4 is much stronger.)} (36... e4 $1 37. h4 gxh4 38. gxh4 Ra8 39. a3 Rd8 40. Kf4 Rf8 $1 41. Kxe4 $5 e2 42. Rc1 e1=R 43. Bxe1 Bxe1 44. h5 $17 {(This is probably a won position but requires still technique.)}) 37. Kf3 $6 {(It is logic to first stop the advanced pawn but again the defense after Kf5 is more easy.)} (37. Kf5 $1 Rc6 38. Kxe5 Rf6 39. Rc1 e2 40. Be1 $15) 37... Ke6 38. g4 $6 {(H5 is indeed annoying but more important is to seek activity with Rd1.)} (38. Rd1 $1 h5 39. Ke4 e2 40. Rd6 Kf7 41. Rd7 Kg8 42. Rd5 Rc1 43. Kf3 e1=Q 44. Bxe1 Bxe1 45. Rxe5 g4 $17 {(Black has a piece for a pawn but white still keeps drawing chances. The line is surely not forced so maybe black can deviate somewhere and improve.)}) 38... Rc2 $6 {(The most natural move but my engines scream Rd8 with a very sophisticated win.)} (38... Rd8 $1 39. a3 Rd4 40. h3 Kd5 41. Ke2 Ke4 42. Rc1 Rd7 43. a4 Rd4 44. Bc3 bxa4 45. b4 Rc4 46. b5 Kd5 47. b6 e4 48. b7 Bg3 49. Kxe3 Bf4 50. Ke2 Rc5 51. Rf1 Rb5 $19) 39. a3 Rb2 $2 {(Ach both engines recommend the backward move Rc7 as mandatory for finding a win with the idea of Rf7.)} 40. h3 $4 {(Whites position becomes indefensible after this passive move. Searching activity with Rc1 was still playable.)} (40. Rc1 $1 Kd7 $5 41. Rd1 Kc8 42. Rc1 Kb7 43. Bc5 Rxb3 44. Ke4 Ka6 45. Kxe5 Bh4 46. Rc2 Be1 47. Re2 $13) 40... Rxb3 41. Rc1 e4 42. Kxe4 e2 43. Rc6 Kd7 44. Rd6 Kc7 45. Kd5 Rxb4 46. Rc6 Kb7 0-1
I correctly judged that taking back with the c-pawn was strong but you can clearly see from my next moves that I am not used to play this type of positions. So I am aware that a different game from my opponent could've produced an upset.

This article is not about if risks are healthy or not for your rating. Risks increase the entertainment value. This quality is necessary to please the public and attract sponsors. A big ratinggap only exists in a limited amount of games so for the majority we need extra support. An adapted rewarding mechanism, special tiebrake-systems, beauty-prizes, sofia rules... help but don't bring absolute success. On the other hand we have to avoid that a well fought draw is punished (too hard). Organizers don't have it easy with the very limited goodwill of the participants.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Young parents are probably familiar with the concept of triple p. This modern method of education solves problems with a positive attitude. Punishments are avoided as much as possible. I've been immediately fan of this approach but it is not always easy. Besides the older generation often doesn't approve this new philosophy as they used very different techniques.

The future will show us which parents made the best choices. Today I am satisfied with the relation I built up with my children although I sometimes ask myself if we don't make it too comfortable for them. Disappointments are part of life. Today some children miss a strong backbone as demonstrated a recent article of hln.

I believe chess can play an important role for many children to improve the resilience. I use the word "can" as I notice many children are following chess-courses but only few participate in tournaments. In the most recent youth-tournaments my son was the only one of 30 pupils from Deurne to actually participate. Of course there is a connection with the willingness of parents or volunteers but I also notice that many children prefer not to participate at competitions. Playing in tournaments is a difficult and tough experience. The emotions can become so strong for the youngest participants that some tears can't be suppressed anymore.

Even after many years of playing competitions I never got used to losing games. Maybe it also explains why I still continue playing chess contrary to many contemporaries. Closely related to losing is of course the eternal discussion about when is the appropriate moment to resign. My son, playing in the -8 group, I recommend to play till mate. However experienced players will rarely continue the game in completely lost positions. It is not only a waste of time but it is often also considered as not showing sufficient respect to the opponent.

What is a completely lost position or when is a game resigned normally? To get a more objective answer, I reviewed my last 100 games in which a player resigned or was mated. I used Komodo 8 on my portable to get an evaluation of the final positions. Each score above [9] I capped at [9] to avoid that some games would distort the average too much. I suspect nobody doubts that an advantage of [9] = queen is sufficient for any clubplayer to win the game.
My last 100 games in which a player resigned or was mated.

I was surprised to detect that the average was as high as 7,45 points. I scored 7,46 while my opponents 7,44 so almost exactly the same. I also thought it would be interesting to detect differences between the rating-groups.
Rating/ average score at resigning or mate
 Only a limited number of games are processed but still we see some kind of trend. The lower rated players are resigning more quickly if the rating-difference increases. Possible explanations are that the rating-gap increases the respect of the opponent for the stronger player or that the opponent expects that a future upset will become less likely. I don't dare to say anything about the higher rated players as the number of games is too small.

I deduct from the statistics one important element which is that averagely players continue for a long time to fight in lost positions. In 58 of the 100 games I even recorded a score of 9 or more. So it is a fairy-tale that serious players resign from the moment they have a lost position. As earlier mentioned, chess is above all a pure individual activity in which the public is not taken into account. Most players, myself included, choose to continue playing for quite some time in completely lost positions.

Nevertheless you also have players not willing to drag out lost positions. Especially in open tournaments you can experience that a bunch of kibitzers are watching like vultures to the agony taking place on the board. So I do understand that some players want to avoid this suffering by resigning when there are no more realistic chances anymore for a turnover. When can you resign with a clear conscience? Well if we look at some recent handicap matches between human and machine then it is clear that humans often error with extra material. Each situation is of course different but resigning being less than a piece down, must be considered too early. The earliest I resigned was with a score of 3 (in my disadvantage). Besides I had serious time-trouble and my opponent was rated more than 300 points higher see 1ste game of the article "to shoot a mosquito with a canon".

A couple of months ago I and the other present players of TSM were very surprised when my opponent Raf De Coninck resigned already at a score of 0,77.
White resigned while Komodo only shows -0,77
If you let Komodo calculate longer (10 minutes) then the evaluation drops further as whites position has no real perspective. However everybody except Raf agreed it was too early to resign. Of course it can still be worse as happened last summer in the Politiken cup with the famous Swedish grandmaster Tiger Hillarp Persson resigning in a dead drawn position.
White resigned while it is a dead draw.
The drawing-line was demonstrated on many sites, among them the blog of the Indian IM Sagar Shah. It is definitely not an isolated incident. On the blog of Tim Krabbe you can find a long list of special positions in which a player resigned while there was a hidden win available. Personally I don't think it is bad to force the opponent to show the winning line. Besides you often please the opponent by doing so as it brings satisfaction to execute the final combination on the board.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Tactics part 2

When we check our games with a computer then very often we are frightened by the number of missed tactics. For some people this spoils the fun. They prefer not to look anymore at the lines spitted out by the tactical monster. I am on the other hand a real masochist as I would even skip sleep just to get an old fashioned beating (see my article interferences).

Of course I am just joking. In the first place it is my unrestrained curiosity which needs to be temporarily tempered by a quick qualitative analysis. I expect 99% of the chessplayers would be satisfied with these analysis. I on the other hand am only fully content after having evaluated each played move at least 1 minute by my 2 strongest engines, see details in my article analyze with a computer. It partly explains why my games are sometimes only months later published here on the blog. Qualitative analysis needs time especially if chess isn't your profession.

Except pleasure you could ask yourself why to make such thorough analysis of the games. Sure I have a blog and you don't want to appear completely foolish with some sloppy analysis on the internet but what if there would be no blog? Everybody understands the value of analyzing openings as the chance is real to use them in practice but how often the same tactical trick in a middle game will reoccur in practice? If I am objectively looking at my games then I have to admit similar combinations in the middle or end-game are very rare. On the other hand we learn most from our mistakes and we still remember them many years later.

I once missed in 2002 a not very difficult tactical combination. After the game I was especially upset not having won the game.
[Event "Open Avoine 3de ronde "] [Date "2002"] [White "Foucaud, S."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2010"] [BlackElo "2223"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6rk/pp1nq1rp/2p5/1PPp3b/P2PPP2/2B2B2/3Q3P/1R3R1K b - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "4"] 26... Bxf3 {(This wins but much easier is Rg1.)} (26... Rg1 $1 27. Rxg1 Bxf3 28. Rg2 Rxg2 $19) 27. Rxf3 Qxe4 $4 {(Nf6 was still winning but the variations are more complex now to calculate.)} 28. Qd3 {(And after a number of adventures the game was drawn at move 51.)} 1/2-1/2
However this summer I got to my great joy a chance to play a similar motive in the last round of Open Gent. Not only I found the combination this time but I had seen it already a few moves earlier.
[Event "Open Gent 9de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Barendse, T."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2150"] [BlackElo "2316"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3rb1rk/pp4qp/2p1p3/3pPpn1/2P5/1P1NP3/P1Q2PBP/3R1R1K w - - 0 21"] [PlyCount "10"] 21. Qb2 $4 {(White completely misses the combination which follows hereafter.)} (21. f3 $1 dxc4 22. bxc4 c5 23. Nxc5 Rxd1 24. Rxd1 Bc6 $13) 21... Bh5 {(In 2002 I missed a similar but less complex combination which I still remembered very well.)} 22. f3 dxc4 23. bxc4 Bxf3 24. Bxf3 Nxf3 25. Rxf3 Rxd3 { (Black is winning which I capitalized a few moves later.)} 0-1
It really becomes weird when you find out that a similar tactical curiosity happens for a second time in the same game. Last season I missed to my surprise in the final round of the clubchampionship of Deurne a pretty easy win of the queen. Fortunately my chosen move was also winning swiftly as otherwise I would be very ashamed.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r9"] [Date "2015"] [White "Van Lil, B."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "1890"] [BlackElo "2318"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/pp4pp/2p1b3/4q3/4Q3/N7/PP4PP/R3R2K b - - 0 21"] [PlyCount "7"] 21... Qxe4 {(Played without thinking much as this wins pretty easily. However at home I discovered what I missed.)} (21... Rf1 {(This would have ended the game at once.)}) 22. Rxe4 Bd5 23. Re2 Rae8 24. Rd2 Bxa2 {(White resigned as he trusted my skills with 2 extra pawns.)} 0-1
Exactly the same motive but in a much more beautiful composition occurred in my game against Ted. Not only it costed me just a few seconds to find the right moves but I also saw the combination already before white captured the pawn on b7 !
[Event "Open Gent 9de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Barendse, T."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2150"] [BlackElo "2316"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "7k/pp1q3p/2p1p3/4Pp2/2P5/3rP1P1/PQ6/1R5K b - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "9"] 28... Rxe3 {(B6 wins too but I already saw the combination after Qxb7.)} 29. Qxb7 Re1 {(I missed the same motive a few months ago although I won anyway that game quickly. Still I very much liked to get the second chance.)} 30. Kg2 Qd2 31. Kh3 Qh6 32. Kg2 Qh1 {(Next move will be mate so Ted resigned.)} 0-1
It takes more than one swallow to make a summer so these examples don't prove that spending many hours analyzing our games will bring a good return. Personally I think a good book about tactics or one of the many sites on which you can solve tactics (some were mentioned in my article invisible moves) will be more efficient. Solving some puzzles can be fun but doing every day your homework as some (Belgian) topplayers do, must be a monotonous hard labor for which I can't push myself as amateur.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wandering kings

The strong Georgian grandmaster Jobava Baadur confirmed once more in a recently published two-piece interview on Chessbase that knowing the games of our great ancestors is crucial for the development of any young player. It is a pity that I get this info 20 years too late as back then there was no internet or other source giving me such advice. Only in 1998 via my job I got my first restricted access to the internet.

The last 5 years I try to slowly close this gap. Often I don't manage to read more than 15 minutes a day but in the meanwhile I do get the feeling to know already something about our rich history of chess. I also do learn something technically but I don't expect any gain of rating as too many other components are at least as important.

Maybe the most attractive aspect of studying our classics is discovering connections between today and our past. Recognizing certain recurring themes allows to better understand and appreciate a game. Example there is the theme of the wandering king. The king walks over the board with the objective not to interfere an attack. The insane kings-walk of Navara which was shown in my article g4 in the najdorf is not a good example of this theme.

If we review our classics then it is not a surprise that former worldchampion Tigran Petrosian used this theme several times. His most famous game is probably the one against the German grandmaster Wolfgang Unzicker.
[Event "FRG-URS"] [Site "Hamburg"] [Date "1960.08.04"] [Round "7"] [White "Petrosian, Tigran V"] [Black "Unzicker, Wolfgang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D61"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "q2r4/r4pk1/2Rbp1pp/pQ1p4/Pp1P4/1N2P1P1/1P3P1P/2R3K1 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "53"] {(Controlling 1 open file is often not enough advantage to win. Tigran wants to open a second front so decides first to evacuate the king from that zone.)} 29. Kf1 Kg8 30. h4 h5 31. R1c2 Kh7 32. Ke1 Kg8 33. Kd1 Kh7 34. Kc1 Kg8 35. Kb1 {(The king is evacuated so now white can open a new front.)} Kh7 36. Qe2 Qb7 37. Rc1 Kg7 38. Qb5 Qa8 39. f4 Kh7 40. Qe2 Qb7 41. g4 hxg4 42. Qxg4 Qe7 43. h5 Qf6 44. Ka2 Kg7 45. hxg6 Qxg6 46. Qh4 Be7 47. Qf2 Kf8 48. Nd2 Rb7 49. Nb3 Ra7 50. Qh2 Bf6 51. Rc8 Rad7 52. Nc5 b3 53. Kxb3 Rd6 54. f5 Rb6 55. Ka2 1-0
Another impressive example is surely his game against the Spanish grandmaster Jesus Diez del Corral.
[Event "Palma de Mallorca"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "1969"] [Round "14"] [White "Diez del Corral, Jesus"] [Black "Petrosian, Tigran V"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r5k1/p1r2qp1/1pn1p1p1/3pPp2/3P1Q1P/P2PB1P1/5PK1/R6R b - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "65"] {(Petrosian decides to evacuate the king out of the danger-zone.)} 22... Kf8 23. Qg5 Ke8 24. Rac1 Kd7 25. h5 gxh5 26. Rxh5 Rg8 27. Rh7 Kc8 28. Qh4 Qg6 29. Rh8 Rxh8 30. Qxh8 Kb7 {(Mission accomplished. Now Petrosian will use himself the opened kings-wing to counterattack.)} 31. Qf8 Rc8 32. Qd6 Qe8 33. a4 Rd8 34. Qa3 Qe7 35. Qc3 Rc8 36. Bd2 g5 37. Qc2 f4 38. gxf4 gxf4 39. Bxf4 Rg8 40. Bg3 Nxd4 41. Qc3 Ne2 42. Qc6 Kb8 43. Re1 Nf4 44. Kf1 Nxd3 45. Rb1 Qf7 46. Qd6 Kb7 47. Ke2 Rc8 48. a5 Rc2 49. Kf1 Nxf2 50. Rxb6 axb6 51. Qxb6 Kc8 52. Qa6 Kb8 53. Qb6 Qb7 54. Qd6 Qc7 0-1
Other games of Petrosian with this theme can be found in this collection. Petrosian had an enormous influence on chess with his remarkable style. I already discussed this in my article about prophylaxis but this is also valid for this theme. Very recently we saw a wandering king in the tiebrake of the semi-final of the worldcup by the Russian grandmaster Peter Svidler in his game against the Chinese child-prodigy Wei Yi.
[Event "World Cup"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.25"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Wei Yi"] [Black "Peter Svidler"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2734"] [BlackElo "2727"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1pp2rk1/p3pqpr/4p1R1/2P1Pn1P/5PQ1/PP1R4/6NK b - - 0 42"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] {(Modern chess often deviates a lot from pre-computerchess but this does not mean that our current top players have not studied their classics. In this rapidgame Svidler uses the standard theme of the wandering king.)} 42... Kf8 43. b3 Rfh7 44. Rh2 Ke8 45. Rg4 Kd7 46. Qf2 Kc8 {(The evacuation is successful and everything is ready for the execution which Svidler for the umpteenth time forgets to cash in.)} 47. Ne2 Nxe2 48. Qxe2 Rxh4 49. Rhxh4 Rxh4 50. Rxh4 Qxh4 51. Kg2 Qg5 52. Kh2 Kd7 53. Qd3 Ke7 54. Qc3 Qf4 1/2-1/2
These top players know of course their classics but also closer to home we can detect that our Belgian leading players have spent time on studying them. Some months ago Bart Michiels demonstrated a wandering king in our most recent encounter.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2520"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "q5k1/3bb2p/r3p1p1/1p1pP3/1P1BpP2/rBP5/6PP/1R3RQK b - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "57"] 35... h5 $6 {(After a long phase of maneuvering Bart realizes that I will not undertake any actions. He needs desperately a win but this sharp move could easily backfire. Qe8 was definitely more solid.)} 36. g3 $6 {(I looked at g4 but decided in the end to continue my waiting strategy. After the game Bart rightly condemned my passivity.)} (36. g4 $1 hxg4 $2 {(The best is h4 and sacrifice the h4 pawn which still gives black some chances to continue the fight.)} 37. Qxg4 Kf7 38. Rg1 Qg8 39. Bxd5 $18 {(Bart discovered the move in my reflection time which I did not as otherwise I would have likely played g4.)}) 36... Kf7 $6 {(Bart realizes that the king is not safe anymore but Qf8 was more accurate. )} 37. h3 $6 {(Again here g4 is strong.)} (37. g4 $1 hxg4 $6 {(H4 is again better.)} 38. Qxg4 Bc6 $6 {(This avoids Bxd5 but allows another counter.) } 39. f5 $18) 37... Qf8 38. Qe3 Ke8 39. Kg2 Kd8 40. Rf2 Kc7 41. Rff1 Kb7 {(The king walked to the relatively safer queen-side. It is still very difficult to create something so Bart decides to first maneuver.)} 42. Qd2 Qa8 43. Rb2 Bd8 44. Rc1 Bc7 45. Rbb1 Qf8 46. Rb2 Qf5 47. Rf1 Ra8 48. Qe3 Rg8 49. Rff2 Bc6 50. Kh2 Rga8 51. Rb1 Bd8 52. Rff1 {(The rest was reconstructed via the live-broadcasts as we had both less than 5 minutes remaining.)} Be7 53. Rf2 Be8 54. Kg2 g5 {(Risky but waiting is not an option if you still want to create some chances.)} 55. Rbb2 gxf4 56. Rxf4 Qh7 57. h4 Bg6 $6 {(Transferring the bishop to f5 weakens b5. Waiting with Qg7 was objectively stronger.)} 58. Bd1 Bf5 $6 {(The bishop better returns to e8 maybe after including Ra1 but that does not fit blacks plan of course.)} (58... Be8 $5 59. Rbf2 $1 Qg7 $1 60. Be2 Ra2 61. Bf1 Bd8 $14) 59. Be2 $2 {(I miss the double attack of b5 and h5 with Qe2.)} (59. Qe2 $1 Kc6 60. Qxh5 Qxh5 61. Bxh5 Rg8 62. Rbf2 Raa8 $1 63. Kh2 Ra1 $1 64. Bf7 $16) 59... Ra2 $4 {(2 games a day, 11 PM, very little time remaining,... The blunders occurring in this phase have surely some connection.)} (59... Bf8 $1 60. Rf1 Bh6 61. Qf2 e3 62. Bxe3 Rf8 $5 63. Qg1 $5 Rxc3 64. Bxh6 Qxh6 65. Kh2 Ra8 $11) 60. Rxa2 Rxa2 61. Rf2 Qg8 {(Black can not cover the pawn with the king as that would drop the rook.)} 62. Bxb5 {(I knew that my position was won but anyway I proposed a draw as I had only 50 seconds remaining against more than 2 minutes for Bart. Bart chooses to gamble as a draw is hardly better than a loss.)} Ra1 63. Be2 $4 {(Played on automatic pilot as I am blinded by Qg4-Qh3 mate. C4 won very rapidly.)} Bxh4 {(The conclusion of the game was already shown in my previous article.)} 0-1
I can well imagine that some players can devise a wandering king themselves without knowing previous examples. However the precious time needed to make such plans isn't always available with the ever faster becoming timecontrols. I often read the old masters thought 40 minutes or more over 1 move but we don't have such luxury anymore.


Friday, October 30, 2015

A blessing in disguise

Mistakes exist in all sorts of formats and sizes: small, big, technical, time and fatigue related ones or just silly mistakes. Except a few games we will make in each game mistakes as I demonstrated already in the previous article. To detect mistakes I use extensively my computer but there are of course different methods. A good port-mortem with the opponent can be very enlightening but also a session with a coach and/or stronger player can be educative. Finally if you are sufficient self-critical then it must be possible to find independently already some errors.

By discovering mistakes we realize that some things were missed during the game. The number of mistakes and so also the number of things missed directly correlate with the result of the game. This iron logic explains why many players don't accept luck being part of our game.

However this theory becomes shaky when there exist positions in which we increase our winning chances by missing something. Blundering a piece can never be a good thing, right? Well as you can imagine also here there are exceptions. We start with a recent example from our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen.
[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2015.08.27"] [Round "5"] [White "Magnus Carlsen"] [Black "Wesley So"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2853"] [BlackElo "2779"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/5r1p/1qNp2pP/2b2pP1/Pp2pP2/1Q6/1PP5/1K1R4 w - - 0 36"] [PlyCount "41"] 36. Qd5 e3 {(After the game Carlsen admitted bravely that he completely missed Qb7 and that he was incredibly lucky a saving winning combination existed.)} (36... Qb7 {(Carlsen got anxious when he saw in the reflection-time of the opponent this possibility. The threat of losing a piece after Rc7 is very real.)} 37. Qxc5 {(However it is pure coincidence that white can sacrifice the queen here leading to a spectacular mate. How often such thing happens in a career?)} dxc5 38. Rd8#) 37. a5 Qb5 38. Nd8 Ra7 39. Ne6 Ke8 40. Nd4 Qxa5 41. Qg8 Kd7 42. Qxh7 Kc8 43. Qg8 Kb7 44. c3 bxc3 45. Qb3 Qb6 46. Qxb6 Kxb6 47. bxc3 Bxd4 48. Rxd4 Kc6 49. Kc2 Ra2 50. Kd1 Rf2 51. Ke1 Kd7 52. Ra4 Ke6 53. Ra8 Rh2 54. c4 Kf7 55. Rb8 Ke6 56. Rg8 1-0
On Magnus admitted that he was incredibly lucky not to lose after missing Qb7. I still remember from my practice one such oddity of a blessing in disguise.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Creb"] [Date "2000"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Duhayon, Y."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2261"] [BlackElo "2245"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr3r/p1p2ppp/Npp5/4Pb2/8/P3B2P/5PP1/2R2RK1 w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "7"] 19. Rxc6 {(I completely missed blacks answer otherwise I would have likely played Nb4 instead.)} Kb7 20. Rxc7 {(Nb4 is answered by a5. Fortunately I get a load of pawns for my piece and maintain a very active position.)} Kxa6 21. Rxf7 Rd7 {(I assume the weird developments gave Yves a headache as how else can we explain this blunder.)} 22. Rxf5 1-0

I completely missed the fork after capturing the c6 pawn but I was thrilled to discover that I got tremendous compensation. I assume my opponent was also surprised by the developments as how else can we explain his meltdown which followed.

Last in the past Open Gent I experienced again such peculiarity but this time I was the victim. Hereby I do have to applaud for the behavior of my opponent Bart Michiels as without his confession I would've never known luck played a role. I expect few players would admit that their winning move was actually based on blundering a piece.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2520"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6q1/1k6/4p3/3pPb1p/1P1Bp2b/2P1Q1P1/4BRK1/r7 w - - 0 64"] [PlyCount "28"] 64. c4 $4 {(Well one move earlier this move was winning but now there exists unfortunately for me a devilish counter which I missed with less that 1 minute on my clock remaining for the rest of the game.)} (64. Rxf5 $1 exf5 65. Qf4 Ra2 66. Qxh4 Rxe2 67. Kf1 Ra2 68. Qe7 Ka8 $11) 64... Bxg3 {(Instantly played by Bart. After the game Bart frankly admitted that he only saw in my reflection-time that his rook was hanging but can not be taken due to Bf4. Sometimes you also need some luck.)} 65. Qxg3 {(Objectively the best move but naturally the damage is done.)} Rg1 66. Kxg1 Qxg3 67. Rg2 Qe1 68. Kh2 Qh4 69. Kg1 Qe1 {(Repeating the moves to let my clock get closer to 0, professionally played. Bart was fully awake after the shock at move 64.)} 70. Kh2 Qh4 71. Kg1 Bg4 72. cxd5 Qe1 73. Bf1 exd5 74. Rf2 e3 75. Rf7 Kc8 (75... Kc6 76. b5# {(Bart did not miss this funny self-mate. It is never too late to blunder.)}) 76. Kh2 Qh4 77. Kg1 Qg3 {(With only 2 seconds remaining and mate nearby I resigned slightly disappointed. I was closer to an upset compared to the previous games but again missed that something extra.)} 0-1
Well it is not pleasant of course to lose your chances of making a top-ranking this way. On the other hand you do realize on such moments that professional chess must be very tough. True such extreme hiccups are fortunately very rare. Anyway I don't recommend anybody to give away pieces and assume some hidden win will pop up later or you could be very disappointed.


Friday, October 23, 2015


The news-articles which every day brings are maybe not that topnotch as in the days of its predecessor chessvibes (as HK5000 earlier wrote in the article computerchess), the new blogs on which I got to know, surely largely compensate. On everybody can start its own blog which means a lot of garbage must be disregarded before finding the goodies. A nice selection is the one proposed by : recent top-articles. If you still have some extra spare time then I recommend to follow also the blog of the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon

The added value of the blogarticles for shouldn't be underestimated. A well written article can easily achieve 10.000 views. I consider this a lot for an article not covering a running top-tournament although I immediately have to admit that reading good blogs can be pretty addictive. Besides if you know a good chess-blog which I didn't earlier refer to then you can definitely do me a favor by writing it down below in a reaction.

The subjects treated on are very diverse so everybody will find something interesting. There are educational articles (with e.g the famous trainers IM Silman and Bruce Pandolfini), historical articles (the house-specialist is without doubt Batgirl), thematic articles, stories and even cartoons (only Jose Diaz).   Staff-member Pete has a reputation of publishing regularly posts creating controversy. Recently he challenged the reader to criticize the choice of the jury, having awarded a beauty-price out of a huge amount of submitted copies of games played in Millionaire chess open at Las Vegas. The beauty-price has the value of an entry-ticket to next's edition which isn't small if you notice the amounts payed by players for this year's edition.

As the winner contained a huge number of mistakes, many readers were disappointed. White already blunders early in the game his queen but fights back and even wins eventually the game. It is this fighting spirit which mainly pleased the jury. However in a reaction this so called fighting spirit was minimized as white only continued the game to avoid his game being published in some magazine as a miniature. On the other hand perfect play isn't the equivalence of beauty. I played in 19 of my last 100 games without any mistake (if we consider the standard explained in my article annotations)  and none of them can be considered special. I win often games punishing the mistakes of my opponents by simple technical means. I also have a couple of perfect drawn games in which both sides played super cautious and after exchanging most pieces achieved a dry endgame. The couple of short draws neither convince and the few games which do look bright are almost completely based on thorough preparations as in the recent game below.
[Event "TSM tornooi"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Verhasselt, K."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B78"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2050"] [PlyCount "67"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 {(The most popular continuation but the first time I get it on the board in an official game. Fortunately I had looked at it in my preparations just before the game.)} 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. Kb1 Re8 13. h4 h5 14. g4 hxg4 15. h5 Nxh5 16. Bh6 e6 $6 {(This mainline has theoretical problems today. Probably best is Kh7 here although white seems still to obtain a modest advantage.)} (16... Kh7 $1 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. fxg4 Bxg4 19. Nf5 Bxf5 20. exf5 Rh8 21. fxg6 Nxg6 22. Ne4 $5 d5 23. Rhf1 $1 e6 $14) 17. Rdg1 Qf6 18. fxg4 Bxh6 19. Qxh6 Qg7 20. Qd2 Nf6 21. g5 Nh5 22. Nce2 Nc4 $6 {(Again the most popular move but the alternatives are slightly stronger.)} (22... Kf8 $5 23. Rh4 $1 b6 $5 24. Rd1 $1 Rc5 $1 25. Nf4 Nxf4 26. Qxf4 Ke7 27. Rdh1 Kd8 28. Rh7 Qf8 29. Nf3 Qe7 $16) ( 22... Bc6 $5 23. Rh4 $5 a5 24. a3 $1 a4 25. Ba2 d5 26. Nf4 $5 dxe4 27. Rxh5 Rcd8 28. Qc3 $16) (22... a5 $5 23. a4 $1 Nc4 $1 24. Bxc4 $1 Rxc4 25. b3 Rb4 $1 26. c3 $16) 23. Bxc4 Rxc4 24. b3 Rc5 25. Ng3 Nxg3 26. Rxg3 Rec8 27. Rgh3 e5 28. Rh6 $146 {(The first new move as in 3 older games Rh4 was played which also wins. I vaguely remember having seen this position at home on my computer and that the engine recommends Rh6.)} exd4 29. Qh2 Kf8 30. Qxd6 Kg8 31. Qxd7 R5c7 32. Qh3 Kf8 33. Rh8 Ke7 34. Rxc8 {(I strongly suspect that I have seen this final position before.)} 1-0
The novelty arrived at move 28. By the way this is an improvement of my old record covered in my article copycats. Besides I already had seen the novelty at home on my computer and the rest of the game isn't that difficult. No I prefer watching a game with mistakes if this is within certain boundaries of course. Personally I think blundering a queen is too much but which mistakes are acceptable? Let us first have a look of which kind of mistakes exist. I consider 3 categories of mistakes: technical mistakes (linked to the strength of the player), forced errors (mistakes made in time-trouble, fatigue so avoidable in normal circumstances) and concentration mistakes (inexplicable blunders). It is interesting to find out which mistakes are occurring most frequently. For this I again use my personal database (as done before in my article to study openings). Contrary to a commercial database, my games are analyzed and on top also contain lots of background-information about e.g. time-consumption,.. To execute the work in a couple of hours, I only processed my most recent 100 played games.
Chessmistakes details last 100 games played by Brabo
Chessmistakes overview last 100 games played by Brabo
Despite the small-scale study I believe we do see some clear trends. My rating was more or less stable over the 100 games and I played a very evenly spread of player's strength.
1) Concentration mistakes are rare for experienced clubplayers and can't be linked to a rating. Remember my article grandmasternorm for stefan docx in which a double concentration blunder of Stefan was shown.
2) I don't make a distinction between the magnitude of the mistakes but it is not at all a surprise that the number of technical mistakes declines when the rating of a player increases.
3) It is neither a surprise that I commit more technical mistakes against higher rated players as the problems become more complex to be solved. An exception is  the lowest rating-slice which probably can be explained as the result of  playing regularly a sub-optimal move to avoid any complex position. I also want to remark that the actual methods to detect cheating insufficiently take this aspect into account.
4) Maybe the most stunning is the drastic increase of the forced errors in the highest rating-slice for both sides. In this slice my opponent is higher rated so more willing to take risks contrary to my more careful approach against lower rated players. An other explanation is that the problems which need to be solved in the highest rating-slice anyway take more time.

I don't doubt that the number of mistakes also largely depends on the type of player. However I would be surprised if no similar trends can be discovered. If we connect beauty at quality and combativeness then we first need to look at the games between top-players. However the definition of beauty isn't the same for everybody as different accents can be added. So I do understand that a sensational turnaround can be so wonderful that mistakes are just considered as beauty marks.


Friday, October 16, 2015

To disarm

The new generation of young players possess today a wide range of tools to improve of which I could only dream about in my starting years. Live broadcasts with comments from grandmasters, countless high quality books, extremely strong engines, online training-facilities... it is for everybody affordable with a minimum budget.

The negative side of the big stream of information is that it became even for top grandmasters impossible to keep track of everything. So you need to filter but how and what depends of a lot of factors. The entertainment value should not be neglected but more relevant is of course the educative part. In the past the rule was first to work on the weak points as that is where the most progression is possible. Today however there are increasingly doubts about this old rule. Something you do good is often also something you like to do. As a consequence it often takes much less time and effort to work on the strong points. Eventually some recent studies proofed a considerable gain in profit by working on the strong points instead of the weak points. A book about the Kings gambit will be very easy to read through for an attacking player and will surely show quickly dividends in practice.  However forcing the same attacking player to read a book about the Dutch stonewall could be even damaging the results.

So it is not all bad to specialize to some extend in chess. Nonetheless I won't deny there are dangers too. Playing the man is something which you need to take into account especially when the opponent knows your strong points. The success largely depends how successful you can avoid the disarmament of your strong points. A clash of different styles often caused lively discussions in our rich history of chess. We all remember how Botvinnik lost his fist match against Tal but was able to reverse the tables in the returnmatch. We don't even need to go back in time or look to the very strongest players to witness such interesting duels. I noticed end of last year a game played at the Antwerp Liga between Marcel Van Herck and Robert Schuermans in which Marcel outfoxed Robert by simplifying the position and win soberly the endgame.
[Event "Liga Antwerpen"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [White "Van Herck, Marcel"] [Black "Schuermans, Robert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E43"] [PlyCount "143"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. d4 c5 4. e3 b6 5. Nc3 cxd4 6. exd4 Bb4 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 Bxc3 11. bxc3 d6 12. Nd2 Nbd7 13. f4 Qc7 14. Qe2 Rfe8 15. h3 Qc6 16. Kh2 b5 17. Rac1 bxc4 18. Bxc4 a6 19. Nb3 Qc7 20. Bd3 a5 21. c4 a4 22. Nd2 Qb6 23. Rb1 Qc6 24. Qf3 {(Seen from pure technical perspective this is not a good move as it gives away all the advantage but against Robert simplifying the position definitely makes sense.)} Qxf3 25. Nxf3 Bc6 26. Rb4 Reb8 27. Rfb1 Rxb4 28. Rxb4 Rb8 {(Black proposed a draw but Marcel naturally realizes that he has not much to fear in this kind of position.)} 29. Be1 Ne8 30. Rxb8 Nxb8 31. f5 Bd7 32. fxe6 fxe6 33. Kg3 Kf7 34. Kf4 Nc6 35. Ke3 Kf6 36. Bc3 Kf7 37. Bc2 Ne7 38. g4 g5 39. Bb4 Ng6 40. Bxg6 Kxg6 41. c5 Nf6 42. cxd6 Nd5 43. Ke4 Nxb4 44. Ne5 Kg7 45. Nxd7 Nxa2 46. Nc5 Kf6 47. Nxa4 Nb4 48. Nc3 Nc6 49. Ne2 $2 {(A little flaw in otherwise a very well played endgame.)} Nd8 50. Ng3 Kf7 (50... Nb7 $1 51. Nh5 Kf7 $1 52. Ke5 Na5 $1 53. d7 Nc4 $1 54. Ke4 {(With this non trivial sequence Robert could have saved the game.)}) 51. d5 {(The rest is played impeccable so the essence of the story was maintained.)} Ke8 52. Ke5 Kd7 53. dxe6 Nxe6 54. Nh5 Nf8 55. Nf6 Kc6 56. Ng8 Kd7 57. Nxh6 Ng6 58. Kf5 Nf4 59. h4 Kxd6 60. Nf7 Ke7 61. Nxg5 Nd5 62. Ne4 Ne3 63. Kf4 Ng2 64. Kg5 Kf7 65. h5 Kg7 66. Nd6 Kh7 67. Nf5 Ne1 68. Kf6 Ng2 69. g5 Nf4 70. g6 Kh8 71. g7 Kh7 72. Kf7 1-0
I couldn't stop smiling when Robert took a week later already revenge again with the black colour. This time Marcel didn't manage to neutralize the chaos.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r4"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [White "Van Herck, M."] [Black "Schuermans, R."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B02"] [WhiteElo "2075"] [BlackElo "2110"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 {(A try to seduce black of playing e5 and enter less sharp lines but Robert obviously has different plans.)} d5 3. e5 Ne4 4. Nce2 d4 5. d3 Nc5 6. b4 Ne6 7. f4 g6 8. Bb2 Bg7 9. Nf3 c5 10. bxc5 Nc6 11. c3 Qa5 {(Robert has exactly the type of position on the board that he likes.)} 12. Qd2 dxc3 13. Bxc3 Qxc5 14. d4 Qd5 15. Kf2 f6 16. g3 O-O 17. Bg2 Qc4 18. Rhc1 fxe5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Rd8 21. Qe3 Nc5 22. Rd1 Bg4 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Kxf3 Rd5 25. Rxd5 Qxd5 26. Kf2 Rd8 27. Kg1 e6 28. Bb2 Nd3 29. Rd1 Qc4 30. Bd4 Nxd4 0-1
Robert is for everybody extremely dangerous if he can obtain his favorite type of attacking chess on the board. I also once lost by not finding the right answers in the complications created by Robert or maybe the reader still remembers my article how to win from a stronger player.

From my own practice I remember a recent special case of successful disarmament. A couple of months ago I managed to draw in Open Gent against the surprising tournament-winner, the Russian grandmaster Alexei Gavrilov, while the biggest part of the game I was a pawn down and temporarily even 2. In my preparations I had noticed that my opponent was very dangerous once he had the initiative by employing tactics which is in below example nicely demonstrated.
[Event "Heart of Finland op 23rd"] [Site "Jyvaskyla"] [Date "2013.07.08"] [Round "1"] [White "Gavrilov, Alexei V"] [Black "Osmolny, Vladimir I"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D07"] [WhiteElo "2452"] [BlackElo "2213"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2013.07.08"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "FIN"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2013.08.26"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 Nd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Na5 8. Bxc4 Nxc4 9. Qa4 c6 10. Qxc4 Be6 11. Qe2 f6 12. Be3 Qa5 13. O-O Bg4 14. h3 Bd7 15. c4 e6 16. Rab1 Qc7 17. e5 {(Alexei plays normal developing chess in the openings but once the position is ready for action then he does not wait to play energetically by using pawnmoves combined with little combinations.)} Kf7 18. d5 exd5 19. Bf4 Be6 20. cxd5 cxd5 21. Rfc1 Bc5 22. Rxc5 Qxc5 23. Rxb7 Ke8 24. exf6 Qc8 25. f7 {(A fitting conclusion. Kf8 is answered by Bd6 mate while after Kd8 follows Bg5 mate.)} 1-0

In our mutual game I didn't hesitate sacrificing a pawn to avoid the positions in which he excells. I even sacrificed a second one when new threats were popping up.
[Event "Open Gent 7de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Gavrilov, A."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C97"] [WhiteElo "2411"] [BlackElo "2316"] [PlyCount "130"] 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 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. d5 (12. Nbd2 cxd4 13. cxd4 Nc6 14. Nb3 a5 15. Be3 a4 16. Nbd2 Bd7 17. Rc1 Rac8 18. a3 Na5 19. Bd3 Qb8 20. Qe2 h6 21. Red1 Rfe8 22. d5 Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Bd8 24. b4 axb3 25. Rb1 Be7 26. Nxb3 Nc4 27. Bc1 Qa8 28. Bxc4 bxc4 29. Qxc4 {(Black has excellent compensation for the sacrificed pawn.)} Rc8 30. Qd3 Qa4 31. Nbd2 Bd8 32. Kh2 Kh7 33. Ng1 Ba5 34. f3 Nh5 35. Nf1 f5 36. Ne2 Rc5 37. Nfg3 Nxg3 38. Nxg3 f4 39. Nf5 Bb5 40. Qb3 Qxb3 41. Rxb3 Bd7 42. Bb2 Bxf5 43. exf5 Rxd5 44. g4 Be1 45. a4 Bg3 46. Kg2 Rd2 47. Kf1 Rf2 48. Kg1 Re2 49. Kf1 Re1 50. Kg2 d5 51. a5 Re2 {(Hamarat Tunc - Tarnowiecki Harald 1/2-1/2 played in 50JEGMT 2004.)}) 12... Bd7 13. b3 {(I already encountered Nbd2 and a4 in earlier official games but b3 is doubtless superior. I am surprised that b3 scores so good in correspondence-chess while in standardchess it is rather unpopular.)} Rfc8 $5 {(I remembered out of my old analysis that it was interesting to play first a rook-move before Nb7 but I forgot the details. I think better rookmoves in this position are Rab8, Rfb8 or Rfe8. Nb7, Ne8, g6 and h6 also seem playable.)} 14. Be3 $5 {(Immediately Nbd2 is an interesting alternative.)} Nb7 $6 {(I mix a couple of plans as this move is not optimal. G6 is more consistent after which black does not have to fear Bh6 attacking a rook and winning a tempo.)} (14... g6 $1 15. Nbd2 $5 Nh5 $1 16. Nf1 Nb7 17. c4 $13) 15. Nbd2 $6 {(Apparently white did not yet study this line thoroughly as otherwise he would definitely play c4 which underlines the shortcomings of blacks position.)} c4 16. bxc4 Nc5 $6 {(I had noticed in my preparation that the Russian grandmaster is very dangerous if he has the initiative so I did not hesitate to sacrifice a pawn. Besides I remember a similar position from the top-correspondence game Tunc Hamarat - Harald Tarnowiecki, see earlier, in which such pawnsacrifice gave excellent compensation. Nonetheless I have to admit that the sacrifice would have been stronger after Na5 instead of Nc5. By the way Na5 has been played once earlier in a game between engines.)} (16... Na5 $1 17. c5 {(Remarkable but both my top-engines recommend to counter-sacrifice the pawn.)} dxc5 18. c4 bxc4 19. Nf1 c3 20. Qd3 Ne8 21. Qxc3 f6 22. Rab1 $13) 17. Rb1 Rab8 18. Bxc5 $6 {(White will miss this bishop in the game. Better are Qc1 or Qe2 and black only has limited compensation for the pawn.)} Qxc5 19. Bd3 bxc4 $6 {(This only improves the coordination of whites pieces. I agree with the engines that Bd8 is more accurate which allows black to quickly control the black squares.)} 20. Bxc4 Qa5 21. Qc2 Bd8 22. Rxb8 Rxb8 23. Rb1 Bb6 24. Bd3 Qc5 25. Nc4 $6 {(The knight is not stable on c4. Better is Nb3.)} Ba7 26. Rxb8 Bxb8 27. Nfd2 Ba7 28. Nb3 Qc7 29. Qe2 h6 30. Kh2 Bb5 31. Nbd2 Bxc4 $6 {(I steer the game to an endgame of opposite bishops but this again improves the coordination between whites pieces. Better are g6 or Nd7.)} 32. Nxc4 Nd7 33. Qf3 $6 {(Qc2 to untie the knot on the queenside is stronger.)} Nb6 $2 {(I try to force the endgame of opposite bishops in which I am safe but I miss completely whites reply. G6 was much better and black defends comfortably.)} 34. Ne3 {(Except the exchange I only took Na5 into account which I would answer by Nxd5. This Ne3 was a cold shower.)} g6 {(I decide to sacrifice a second pawn to avoid the dangers after Nf5. Maybe it is not objectively the best move but against such dangerous attacking player surely acceptable.)} 35. Ng4 h5 36. Nf6 Kf8 37. Bxa6 $6 {(The less greedy g4 is more dangerous.)} (37. g4 $1 hxg4 38. Nxg4 Qe7 39. Bxa6 Na4 40. Bb5 Nc5 41. Kg3 Bb6 42. Qe3 $16 {(White has 2 extra pawns like in the game but kept the knights on the board. Still it is unclear if it is sufficient for the win.)}) 37... Nd7 38. Nxd7 Qxd7 39. Qf6 Qc7 40. Kg1 $6 {(I believe white missed my next move although even after the surprising and stronger Bc8 there is neither a clear path to victory.)} Qxc3 41. Bf1 Bc5 42. Qf3 Qc2 43. Qe2 Qa4 $6 {(Black has little problems to draw but Qc3 was even more forcing.)} 44. h4 Qd4 45. g3 Kg7 46. Kg2 Qb4 47. Qf3 $6 {(Qc2 kept a bit more tension in the game but should not influence the result anymore.)} Qb6 48. a4 Qb4 49. Bb5 Qa5 $6 {(It is not necessary to transfer the queen to the defense. The waiting move Kf8 probably leads quicker to the desired draw.)} 50. Be8 Qc7 51. a5 $6 {(White was heartbroken after this blunder which costs the extra pawn but honestly I do not see any constructive plan for white. Of course white can prolong the game with Qc3 but if black does not make a big mistake then then there is no win.)} Kf8 52. Bc6 Qxa5 53. Qf6 Qc7 54. Kh2 Bb6 55. f4 Qd8 56. fxe5 Qxf6 57. exf6 Bd4 58. g4 hxg4 59. Kg3 Bxf6 60. Kxg4 Kg7 61. h5 gxh5 62. Kxh5 Be5 63. Kg4 Kf6 64. Bb5 Bd4 65. Bc6 Be5 1/2-1/2
The positional pawn-sacrifices are maybe objectively not completely correct but in practice it worked. My opponent was very disappointed after the game about the result but I don't think that I didn't merit a half point.

How successful you disarm somebody, influences without a doubt heavily the final result. If you don't succeed to neutralize somebodies strong points several times on a row then there exists the danger of creating an angstgegner or also called black beast. It explains a.f.a.i.k partly why some players have mutual scores which strongly deviate from the prognoses made by elo.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

The sequence part 2

The most unique and beautiful about chess is for me the mix of players. I can't imagine immediately another widespread sport or discipline in which age, origin, character, education is so irrelevant. Despite this enormous variety we see each player quickly using familiar patterns which transpose into following routines.

Of course it is absolutely normal to repeat something which has proven its virtue. This not only concerns openingchoices but also style, tempo and even the opponents we want to play against. Routines give us support in the chaos of our complex chessgame but it also is often the reason why players don't progress further anymore.

Very few players are capable to criticize themselves and subsequently leave their comfort-zone. It is not easy at all to try something new and again lose some games to gain experience. A personal coach can not only support with chess related stuff but often can also mentally play an important role. However as mentioned in my previous article a coach is only affordable for a handful (advanced) players.

I have to admit that I also like to follow my routines which I have polished over the years. Playing the same openings for more than 20 years, doesn't show much courage of course. My excuse of the scientific approach naturally doesn't explain everything. On the other hand it is often also very hard to know which direction you need to go if you learn chess by self-tuition. The statistics of this blog often show some crazy searches like recently "how can I always win in chess" which just displays how desperate some people are.

The lack of an instant answer for many questions creates a lot of insecurity. However at the same time this leaves us a choice how to proceed which in itself is an interesting domain of psychology. I played last couple of months 2 games in which some very tough decisions were made. In both games my opponents deviated very likely unconsciously from the standard sequence in the opening so I had to choose between transposing back to the mainline or playing unprepared some interesting deviation.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r8"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "De Cock, R."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C96"] [WhiteElo "2318"] [BlackElo "1650"] [PlyCount "17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O Nf6 {(I encountered Bd7 already 3 times in standardgames but not yet Nf6.)} 6. Re1 {(In blitz and rapid I almost always played Bxc6 of which I made 20 years ago an extensive analysis but I hesitated at the board and eventually chose the more popular continuation. C3 definitely needs to be investigated here as white tries to win a tempo upon the classical variation.)} (6. c3 $5 Nxe4 {(Re1 avoids this move but is this necessary?)} 7. d4 Bd7 8. Re1 Nf6 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Bxc6 $5 {(Bf4 is an interesting alternative.)} Bxc6 11. Qxd8 Kxd8 12. Nxe5 Bd5 13. Bg5 c6 { (Probably the critical position for the evaluation of this line. Black must defend very accurately but further tests are necessary to give a final verdict.)} 14. Nd2 $5 (14. c4 $5 Be6 15. Nc3 Bb4 16. a3 Bxc3 17. bxc3 h6 $13) 14... Kc7 15. Bf4 Nh5 16. Be3 Re8 17. Bb6 Kc8 18. Bd4 c5 19. c4 Be6 20. Bc3 $13) 6... Be7 {(Personally I think transposing to the mainline with b5 is safer.)} (6... b5 $5 7. Bb3 Na5 $6 {(While Ronny was thinking, I got afraid of this move but this proofed to be unjustified. Better is simple Be7 and play the mainline of the Spanish opening.)} 8. d4 exd4 $2 {(Nxb3 is better with a smaller disadvantage but it was mainly this move which caused me troubles.)} 9. e5 $1 {(The refutation.)} dxe5 10. Nxe5 $18 {(Be6 is answered by the devastating Nxf7.)}) 7. c3 {(Again I prefer not to follow my own openingbook which recommends Bxc6 and play instead the more popular c3.)} O-O 8. h3 {(Here d4 immediately is an important alternative despite most players anyway first include h3.)} b5 9. Bb3 {(I choose once more to stay on familiar ground but without doubt, we must ask the question if Bc2 is not more accurate.)} (9. Bc2 $5 Bb7 10. d4 exd4 11. cxd4 Nb4 12. Bb3 c5 $1 {(12... Bxe4 13. Rxe4! Nxe4 15. a3 and despite black has compensation, this looks a bit weak on the long term against accurate play.)} 13. a3 Nc6 14. Nc3 Na5 { (Ivan Sokolov chose in 2002 Nxd4 in his rapidgame against Anand but Na5 is stronger.)} 15. Bc2 Re8 {(This novelty upon a correspondence-game of a lower division probably keeps the line playable for black.)}) *
At contrary to the examples of my earlier article about the sequence it was not at all evident which choice was this time the most optimal one. I don't think it would've made here a decisive impact on the result because of the ratingdifference but it does become much more delicate when the ratings of both players are much closer like in the next example. My young opponent Ian Vandelacluze earlier in the tournament made a draw against GM Alexander Dgebuadze and FM Jelle Sarrau so I was warned.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vandelacluze, I."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2100"] [PlyCount "29"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 {(I had not met the Russian opening anymore on the board since 2005. Besides the preparation was very short so I had little knowledge of the current state of the theory. Today it appears Nc3 is gaining popularity as no clear path after c4 is known for getting an advantage with white and as there exists already plenty of theory to study about c4.)} Nb4 9. Be2 Bf5 {(Normally we first castle here and only then Bf5. My opponent played his moves extremely fast so I wonder if he did not mix up the sequence. Anyway I did not find a punishment in the game neither after the game.)} 10. a3 Nc6 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 O-O {(We are in back in the mainline.)} 13. Re1 $5 {(The most popular continuation but maybe cxd5 followed up by Bf4 also deserves a test although I can not find any concrete advantage for white.)} Re8 14. Bf4 $5 {(I made up my mind already during the preparation of the game that I would play this move but I agree that cxd5 is today considered as more critical. After cxd5 we can transpose back to the game or try something different with Be3.)} Rc8 $6 { (Dxc4 is the solid theoretical move. It is unclear to me if Ian ignored this on purpose or played carelessly.)} (14... dxc4 $5 15. Bxc4 Bd6 16. Rxe8 $5 {(Qd2 is interesting.)} Qxe8 17. Nh4 {(I recommended this concept in my old analysis of 2005 already. Today I think white should try Qd2 or first Bxd6 followed up by Qd2.)} Na5 18. Nxf5 Nxc4 19. Qf3 Rb8 20. Bh6 g6 21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qf6 Nf5 $11 {(23 correspondence-games were played between 2009 and 2014 with this position and not once white won so I remove this line from my repertoire.)} ) 15. cxd5 $6 {(Although blacks move has been played by the too young deceased Azerbaijani top-grandmaster Gashimov, I believe white can now profit from the different sequence. The Argentinian grandmaster Walter Cornejo already showed twice in correspondence that black has problems after c5.)} *
Ian played the opening in just a couple of minutes while I spent loads of time to discover the differences in evaluation with the different sequence. Only at home after making some extensive analysis with my computer I was able to define 1 moment in the game in which I should've not transposed to the mainline. The attraction of familiar positions proofed to be too big for me. I expect most players would make the same choice as I but I am sure there are also players loving fresh unknown positions which permit more creativity. Despite I won both games, it is absolutely unclear to me what is the best strategy. If you experienced something similar already then let me know the choice you made in a reaction below this article.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The wrong example

In quite a lot of Belgian chessclubs you can find teachers able to explain a number of steps of the steps method. Unfortunately it doesn't go beyond that. A more advanced coaching is only accessible for a handful of players, e.g. those getting a special invitation to join the project go for grandmaster. The majority and particularly adults are completely left alone after the steps method. 

Naturally top-players fulfill for those less fortune ones an unsolicited exemplary function. In my article fashion I already showed how a particular opening suddenly becomes very popular after a top-player started to insert it in his repertoire. If an opening holds against players of +2700 elo than it will certainly be against a much more modest level. That sounds pretty logical but it is too simplistic to believe that this will guarantee success. Every opening has its own characteristics and we don't have all the same style of playing chess.

So the danger exists that we play an opening for which we neither have the knowledge nor the skills. This aspect we also see in the middlegame. A top-player plays a risky concept but apparently wins with ease.
[Event "3rd Sinquefield Cup 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2015.08.23"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Topalov, Veselin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2853"] [BlackElo "2816"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2015.08.23"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5 Nd7 4. O-O Ngf6 5. Re1 a6 6. Bd3 b5 7. c4 g5 {(This very aggressive move was already discussed 2 years ago on chesspub by the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon but Magnus did not know. It is not the first time that Magnus is not fully up to date of the existing publications, remember his debacle of a few years ago against Luke Mc Shane.)} 8. Nxg5 Ne5 9. Be2 bxc4 10. Na3 Rg8 11. Nxc4 Nxc4 12. d4 Nb6 13. Bh5 Nxh5 14. Qxh5 Rg7 15. Nxh7 Qd7 16. dxc5 dxc5 17. e5 Qc6 18. f3 Qg6 19. Nf6 Kd8 20. Qxg6 Rxg6 21. Ne4 Bb7 22. h4 Rc8 23. h5 Rg8 24. Bd2 Nc4 25. Bc3 Bh6 26. Rad1 Ke8 27. Rd3 Bf4 28. Nf2 Bc6 29. Nh3 Bg3 30. Re2 Bb5 31. Rd1 Bc6 32. Nf2 Bxe5 33. Ng4 Bxc3 34. bxc3 Kf8 35. Kf2 Rh8 36. Ne5 Nxe5 37. Rxe5 Be8 38. g4 f6 39. Re6 Bb5 40. Rde1 Rc7 0-1
Subsequently the temptation increases to try also such kind of moves like g5 which are anti-positional. If a world-champion doesn't succeed to counter the aggression then somebody with much less talent will neither be able to do. Practice however shows often a very different picture.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vandelacluze, I."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2100"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/2B2ppp/p4b2/3P1q2/PRPn4/5N2/5PPP/3Q2K1 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "40"] 24... g5 $6 {(You can only play these kind of moves in thematic openings like the kings indian, in very concrete positions or the endgame. Here it is not good although we must add that blacks position is already bad so it does make some sense to complicate.)} (24... h5 $1 25. Rb8 {(Black can answer h3 with Re2.)} Rxb8 26. Bxb8 Qg4 27. h3 Nxf3 28. Qxf3 Qxc4 {(Of course white is better but the win is not trivial at all.)}) 25. Rb8 Rxb8 26. Bxb8 Qc8 (26... Qg4 27. h3 Nxf3 28. Qxf3 $18 {(The negative consequences of g5 become already visible as the bishop hangs.)}) 27. Nxd4 Qxb8 28. Nf5 {(G5 also weakened the white squares on the kingside of which white easily profits.)} Qf4 29. Ne3 Bd4 30. Qd3 Bc5 31. g3 Qe5 32. Kg2 Qb2 33. Qe4 Kf8 34. g4 Qa2 35. d6 Bxe3 36. Qxe3 Qxc4 37. Qe7 Kg7 38. Qxg5 Kf8 39. Qe7 Kg7 40. h3 Qxa4 41. d7 Qc6 42. Kg3 Qc3 43. Kh4 Qf3 44. Qg5 1-0
Blacks position was already awkward so there were mitigating factors to go all in. Often the best move only delays defeat with a number of moves and there are no points to win with the number of moves. An objectively inferior move can sometimes create sufficient complications in such situations to change the course of the game. Here it failed and only a desperate endgame remains.

I often experienced to my shame that anti-positional moves like g5 are very risky. I still remember very well how I self-destructed a complex position against Geert Vanderstricht by playing twice on a row the extremely stupid g5.
[Event "Interclub Temse - Deurne"] [Date "2006"] [White "Van der Stricht, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2410"] [BlackElo "2337"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2rr2k1/pb4pp/3q4/2pp1p1P/4nN2/1P2P1P1/PQ3PB1/2RR2K1 b - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "22"] 26... g5 $2 {(In the Dutch, g5 is rather normal but it is always a matter of carefully weighting pros and cons. Here I want to chase away the knight with g5 which is clearly a too optimistic idea. A waiting move like Rd7 is unpleasant but much better.) } 27. hxg6 hxg6 28. Bf1 $2 {(White sets a trap. However much stronger was Bxe4 creating big problems for black.)} g5 $2 {(Consistent but I fall with open eyes for the trap. Kh7 or Qb6 were playable.)} 29. Nxd5 Bxd5 $6 {(Timetrouble, shock? In any case blacks counterattack is fantasy. The cool Kh7 still puts up a fight.)} 30. Rxd5 Qxd5 31. Bc4 Qxc4 32. bxc4 Rd2 33. Qe5 {(The black king is an easy target. No surprise that Geert only needs a couple of extra moves to finish the game.)} Rf8 34. Rb1 Nxf2 35. Rb7 Nh3 36. Kf1 Rf2 37. Ke1 1-0
G5 is a standard-move in the Dutch stonewall to initiate a kings-attack but in above example this was of course extremely optimistic. I can even add based on my decades of experience with the Dutch that g5 is always something delicate contrary to example the Kings Indian.

Replaying contemporary games of topplayers is definitely not the way to learn the basics of chess. In the article Knights On the Rim Are Amazing the Amercian grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky warns the reader that successfully breaking the rules fully depends on the strength of a player. Therefore it is surely not redundant to first understand and implement the basic principles. This can be much easier learned by grabbing a book which annotates the games of old masters like Capablanca, Rubinstein,....


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Romantic chess

In modern chess top players don't hesitate to grab the opponent by the throat right from the start. Labels as immortal game or evergreen are again used to express our amazement for those brilliant contemporary games. Finally we experience again the atmosphere of the romantic 19th century. The origin of the evergreen can be found in the game Adolf Andersson - Jean Dufrese played in 1852.
[Event "Berlin ’Evergreen’"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "1852"] [White "Anderssen, Adolf"] [Black "Dufresne, Jean"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C52"] [PlyCount "47"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O d3 8. Qb3 Qf6 9. e5 Qg6 10. Re1 Nge7 11. Ba3 b5 12. Qxb5 Rb8 13. Qa4 Bb6 14. Nbd2 Bb7 15. Ne4 Qf5 16. Bxd3 Qh5 17. Nf6 gxf6 18. exf6 Rg8 19. Rad1 Qxf3 20. Rxe7 Nxe7 21. Qxd7 Kxd7 22. Bf5 Ke8 23. Bd7 Kf8 24. Bxe7# 1-0
Many decades the Evansgambit was one of the most popular openings but this popularity declined once Lasker found a good anti-dote largely removing the sting out of the attack. This anti-dote is even today still approved and played by the leading players as we saw end of last year in the London Classic.
[Event "6th London Classic 2014"] [Site "London ENG"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [Round "3.3"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C52"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2793"] [PlyCount "71"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 {(Laskers defense. Black counter-sacrifices immediately a pawn to achieve a comfortable position.)} 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. dxe5 Bb6 9. a4 {(A new move for standardchess but known from correspondencechess. There exists a game from 2011 in which a4 was played successfully by the Belgium IM in correspondence chess Dirk Ghysens.)} Na5 10. Qa2 Nxc4 11. Qxc4 Ne7 12. exd6 cxd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Qd3 Ng6 15. a5 Bc5 16. Be3 Re8 17. Nbd2 Bxe3 18. Qxe3 d5 19. Rfe1 dxe4 20. Nxe4 Qe7 21. Nd6 Qxe3 22. fxe3 Rd8 23. Red1 Rb8 24. Rd4 Be6 25. c4 b6 26. axb6 axb6 27. Ra7 h6 28. h3 Ra8 29. Rb7 Rdb8 30. Rc7 Ra5 31. Kh2 Rc5 32. Ra7 Kf8 33. g4 Ra5 34. Rc7 Rc5 35. Ra7 Ra5 36. Rc7 1/2-1/2
Just like many other gambits from the romantic era it wasn't only the anti-dote which caused the decline. More and more playable setups were found for black which made white vulnerable for dangerous preparations. I like to play a setup with 6...exd4 instead of 6...d6 as shown in the game below from the passed Open Gent.
[Event "Open Gent 1ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Vincent, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C52"] [WhiteElo "1810"] [BlackElo "2316"] [PlyCount "48"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 {(I already twice fought successfully against 0-0 in standardgames. I knew Qb3 was Shorts try to resurrect this line. It is pretty annoying to play this line without preparation.)} Qe7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Ba3 $6 {(The pairings of the first round were announced a few minutes before the start so my opponent neither was fully up to date of the latest theory. Here cxd4 and the rather unknown Re1 give better compensation.)} (9. Re1 $5 Na5 10. Qa4 Nxc4 11. Qxc4 Qe6 12. Qd3 Ne7 13. cxd4 O-O $44) (9. cxd4 $5 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Nc3 Nf6 12. Ba3 $5 d6 13. Rad1 Bxc3 14. Qxc3 Qe5 $44) 9... d6 10. e5 $6 {(Too aggressive. Cxd4 gives better counterplay.)} (10. cxd4 $1 Na5 11. Qa4 $5 Bd7 12. Qc2 $5 Nxc4 13. Qxc4 $15) 10... Na5 11. Qd1 Nxc4 12. Qa4 Qd7 13. Qxc4 d5 14. Qb4 $6 {(White provokes c5 but this only helps black. Qb3 or Qe2 are stronger.)} c5 15. Qb3 d3 16. c4 d4 $4 {(I try to consolidate the position with this pawn-sacrifice. After all I am 2 pawns up but I miss an important detail. The sharp dxc4 was much stronger and should be leading to a won position if followed up by some accurate moves.)} 17. Qxd3 $2 {(Too greedy. Only at move 19 white discovers there are juicy squares for the queens-knight to achieve with Nbd2. Unfortunately then it will be too late.)} (17. Nbd2 $1 Ne7 18. Ne4 O-O 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 b6 21. Bd6 $1 Bb7 22. Qxd3 $13) 17... Qf5 18. Qd1 Ne7 19. Nbd2 Bd7 20. Re1 Bc6 21. Rb1 $6 {(A more stubborn defense is Nh4.) } (21. Nh4 $1 Qd3 22. Nb3 Qxd1 23. Raxd1 g5 24. Nf3 Bxf3 25. gxf3 Rc8 26. Bc1 Kd7 $17) 21... Ng6 22. Qe2 O-O 23. Rb3 Rfe8 24. Ne4 Nf4 0-1
The ever strengthening engines neither help the gambits. In below recent correspondencegame Nigel Shorts 12.Nb5 introduced in 2003 is dismantled.
[Event "DE5A/pr59"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2011.04.05"] [White "Bohak, Janko"] [Black "Balutescu, Mihail Goanga"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2242"] [BlackElo "2232"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 Qe7 8. O-O Bb6 9. cxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Nc3 Nf6 12. Nb5 {(Nigel Short tried to revive this critical line in 2003 with this move.)} Bxa1 { (I believed till shortly that d5 was the only playable continuation in this position of which the final evaluation is a draw after accurate play from both sides. I remember from the local clash between Stefan Docx and Steven Geirnaert played in 2011 at Brasschaat this draw is not straightforward. Today however it appears that taking the rook is even better at the condition that you have the calculation skills of todays strongest engines.)} 13. Nxc7 Kd8 14. Nxa8 Bd4 {(I found 6 correspondencegames in my database of which 5 were won by black.)} 15. Be3 { (Bf4 was recently once tried in a standardgame between lower rated players but after d6 black has an edge.)} Qc5 16. Bxd4 Qxd4 17. Bd5 Nxd5 {(3 times this move was already played in correspondencechess and each time black won. This game is the oldest one. Nxe4 was also once tested but is clearly inferior as it did not bring a happy end.)} 18. exd5 d6 19. Qg3 Qxd5 20. Qxg7 Qe5 21. Qxf7 Bd7 22. h3 Qf5 23. Qc4 Qc5 24. Qf7 Kc8 25. Rd1 Re8 26. Qxh7 d5 27. Qd3 Qd6 28. h4 Kb8 29. Qg3 Qxg3 30. fxg3 Be6 0-1
No I don't believe romantic chess will popularize again. It makes no sense to sacrifice material while the opponent can play an exact sequence of moves vaporizing the compensation. It is pity but don't cry as Anand stated: for every door the computers closed they have opened a new one.

Further I also want to point out that many gambits despite their theoretical status are still a dangerous practical weapon especially with the faster timecontrols. We are no computers so using the Evansgambit in the right circumstances (opponent/ tempo/ preparation) can still bring success. Finally I also agree with coaches trying to convince their students to try out for some time gambits. Romantic chess is an excellent school to learn abstract concepts like development and initiative. These are basic concepts which should be mastered first before studying more complex strategies discovered after the romantic era.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

G4 in the Najdorf

The internet is an enormous source of information which I daily consult. However we can't just trust everything as much is just rubbish. The American blogwriter Dana Mackenzie wrote a couple of months ago a funny post: " I love the past. Everyone in it is so stupid." with examples of written nonsense which later were refuted by the reality.

Correcting errors is something not always welcomed which unfortunately I many times already experienced. Because of those negative reactions I prefer to wait for others first to react. Only when I see no such thing happens then often I can't stand ignoring further and stick out my neck.

Some mistakes are real myths which you can't eradicate despite countless reactions. One of those myths is that former-worldchampions like Lasker, Capablanca, Aljechin, Fischer,... would easily dispatch our current top-players. Those champions were miles ahead of their contemporaries at there peak. Today we don't encounter anymore such extreme differences of level at the top. This created the perception that those players had something extra. I mean an unique talent which you only encounter a few times in a century and which no current top-player possess.

In my article elo inflation I already demonstrated that there is no proof on any inflation linked to playing-strength. This means the playing strength of our current top-players is higher than their predecessors validating their higher rating. In other words the quality of play of the former world-champions was rather weaker which shines a completely different light on their so called unparalleled talent.

On the other hand I fully agree that it is nonsense to make serious comparisons between players of different eras. The tools and knowledge grow continuously especially the last 2 decades due to the introduction of the computer. In this article I want to show how much the computer has influenced attacking chess at the highest level. As example I use the Najdorf in which white apparently  deploys a quiet setup. I start with a game from my own practice of which the concept was discovered in 1972.
[Event "H.V. Alcatel - Agfa Gevaert"] [Date "2002"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Bogaerts, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2277"] [BlackElo "2034"] [PlyCount "35"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f4 Qc7 {(It was quickly discovered that f5 can be answered after this move by Bc4. Today this is a standard reply in this type of positions but in this specific position it is not good.)} 9. g4 {(Initially everybody played f5 or 0-0 of which the oldest examples date from 1958 in the big database. Only in 1972 this move was tried. It still lasted till 1974 before players fully understood the strength of the move which is confirmed by the fact that Karpov in his game against Byrne of 1973 still did not play g4.)} exf4 10. g5 Nfd7 11. Bxf4 Nc6 12. Qd2 {(White scores 80 percent in my openingbook based on 36 games or more relevant white scores 150 ratingpoints above his own level.)} Nde5 13. O-O-O Rc8 {(A couple of years ago Wim Barbier played 0-0-0 against me. Also in that game I quickly got an advantage and eventually won.)} 14. Kb1 Be7 15. Nd5 Bxd5 $6 {(This loses already a piece. )} 16. exd5 Nb4 (16... Nb8 17. Bxe5 dxe5 18. d6 $18) 17. c3 Ng6 18. Be3 1-0
So it took 14 years to discover g4 is interesting and another couple of years to shut down blacks setup for example by the knew world-champion Anatoly Karpov.

Before I start to compare with some recent standard games in the Najdorf, let us first have a look to a crazy idea from a computer-game played last year. G4 is also in this game played but in a postion in which white already castled short which makes a huge difference.
[Event "CCRL 40/40"] [Site "CCRL"] [Date "2014.04.12"] [Round "145.1"] [White "Stockfish DD 64-bit"] [Black "BlackMamba 2.0 64-bit"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "3179"] [BlackElo "3077"] [PlyCount "117"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O Qc7 10. g4 {(I found 56 master-games in the database with the position after Qc7 but no mortal every tried this move. Of course white wants to chase away the knight from f6 but does not fully manage. Still the move appears to be playable in the game on condition that you have the calculation skills of a top engine.)} h6 11. a4 {(H4 is surely also interesting.)} Be6 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. exd5 Nbd7 14. c4 Nh7 15. a5 Bg5 16. Nd2 Bxe3 17. fxe3 Rab8 18. Qa4 Rfe8 19. Ne4 Nc5 20. Nxc5 Qxc5 21. Qa3 {(Black should be able to hold this position.)} Qc7 22. b4 Nf6 23. Kg2 Rec8 24. Qd3 Qe7 25. Qf5 Rc7 26. h4 Nd7 27. g5 g6 28. Qh3 hxg5 29. h5 { (This pawn-sacrifice must have been underestimated by black.)} Nf8 30. hxg6 Nxg6 31. Qh6 e4 32. Rf2 Qe5 33. Rg1 Rf8 34. Bh5 Nh4 35. Kh1 f6 36. Bg4 Nf3 37. Be6 Rff7 38. Kg2 Nh4 39. Kh3 Nf3 40. Rh1 Rce7 41. Kg2 f5 42. Rh5 Qg7 43. Bxf7 Rxf7 44. Qe6 Qf6 45. Qxf6 Rxf6 46. Rf1 Kg7 47. Rfh1 Nh4 48. Kf2 Kg6 49. Rh8 f4 50. c5 dxc5 51. bxc5 Rf7 52. exf4 Rxf4 53. Ke2 Nf5 54. d6 Nd4 55. Ke3 Nc6 56. d7 Kf5 57. Ke2 Ke5 58. Rc8 Rf7 59. Rd1 1-0
An engine of + 3000 elo doesn't manage to refute the concept. Top-players use daily these engines and are naturally influenced as we can see for example in the next pretty attacking game played at the Ukrainian championship of 2014.
[Event "83rd ch-UKR 2014"] [Site "Lviv UKR"] [Date "2014.11.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Ponomariov, R."] [Black "Areshchenko, A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2711"] [BlackElo "2655"] [PlyCount "45"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. g3 Be7 9. Bg2 O-O 10. Be3 Nbd7 11. a4 Qc7 12. g4 {(Blacks last move was rather unfortunate. Just like in the previous game there is the threat of g5 followed up by Nd5.)} hxg4 { (Hereby black controls g4 but against a huge price.)} 13. hxg4 Nb6 14. g5 Ng4 15. Qd3 Qd8 (15... Be6 16. Nd5 Bxd5 17. exd5 g6 18. Bc1 Kg7 19. a5 Nd7 20. Qh3 $18) 16. a5 Nxe3 17. Qxe3 Nc4 18. Qg3 Bxg5 19. b3 Nxa5 20. Rxa5 Qxa5 21. Qxg5 Be6 22. Qh5 f6 23. Bf3 {(There is no defense anymore against Qh7 followed by Bh5. A nice modern attacking game by Ruslan.)} 1-0
An absolute height of modern attacking chess is achieved without doubt in the new evergreen Navara - Wojtaszek.
[Event "Biel"] [Site "Biel SUI"] [Date "2015.07.23"] [Round "4"] [White "David Navara"] [Black "Radoslaw Wojtaszek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2724"] [BlackElo "2733"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "2015.07.20"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. h3 {(This side-line got a lot of attention since 2011 at the top.)} Be7 9. g4 {(Modern attacking-chess. The development is not finished but concrete lines make this playable.)} d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Bg2 Nxe3 12. Qxd8 Bxd8 13. fxe3 Bh4 14. Kf1 Nc6 15. Nc5 Bc4 16. Kg1 O-O-O {(Black has the pair of bishops, less pawn-islands and is better developed. Still David entered this position voluntarily backed up by some ingenious analysis.)} 17. b3 Bg5 18. Re1 Bh4 19. Rb1 Bg5 20. Kf2 Bh4 21. Kf3 e4 22. Kf4 g5 23. Kf5 Rhe8 24. Rhd1 Re5 25. Kf6 {(David admitted after the game this was all prepared at home. In the past we have seen more king-walks but there was always mate involved which is not the case here.)} Rg8 26. bxc4 Rg6 27. Kxf7 Re7 28. Kf8 Rf6 29. Kg8 Rg6 30. Kh8 Rf6 31. Rf1 Bf2 32. Rxf2 Rxf2 33. Rf1 {(White is not mated and from now onwards black must defend.)} Rxg2 34. Rf8 Kc7 35. Nd5 Kd6 36. Nxe7 Kxc5 37. Rf5 Kxc4 38. Nxc6 bxc6 39. Rxg5 Rg3 40. h4 h6 41. Rg6 Rxe3 42. Kg7 Rg3 43. Kxh6 e3 44. Kg5 Kd5 45. Kf4 Rh3 46. h5 c5 47. Rg5 Kd4 48. Re5 1-0
The difference with the first g4 game is enormous. Some decades ago a move like g4 was only played after years of contemplation. Such aggressive move was linked to a healthy development (castling long) + control of the center. Modern attacking chess goes much further and is very often based on some concrete lines which were analyzed in detail at home. By the way David Navara admitted after the game that he had looked at the position of move 25 still in his preparations.

This modern evolution isn't only seen in the Najdorf. Last month the American grandmaster Grigory Serper wrote a similar article about the Bogo-Indian: "How to attack in modern chess?". The Bogo-Indian has a reputation of a quiet positional opening but none of that remains if you look to some of the current high class games.

However I don't agree with the advise of the grandmaster. He recommends players to attack from the very first moves even if it is a positional opening. He ignores that all the successful attacks in the examples were played by + 2700 players which have an extraordinary base of skills and knowledge. I expect most players will simply lose a lot of points if they try to copy this behavior.