Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An extra move

My 6 year old son loves the chess-lessons on Sunday but he can only attend when I don't have to play myself that day. This means that he miss at least 11 courses in a school-year due to the Belgian interclub. That is a disadvantage compared with children having no parents playing chess. On the other hand I can of course easily compensate at home but that is not so attractive for him. Playing against peers is more fun and in the club things are very playful. Sometimes I even get the impression that it is a bit too casual. If I see children playing bughouse while not even understanding some basics then I worry that this is rather bad than good for the development. It surely is a lot of fun as often the noise is so loud that several times silence must be requested.

My very first steps in a chessclub were 20 years ago but I still remember very well how I also was engaged in many different variants of chess. As a beginner it is often a nice way to ventilate the frustrations often connected with learning the first basics in standard-chess. Bughouse, billiard-chess (bishops can bounce 1 time on the sides), Cylinder-chess (a and h column are joined), Atomic-chess (if a piece is captured then an explosion happens which destroys the pieces on the 8 squares around), Losing-chess are just a few of the variants which I tried out then.

The number of variants on classic chess are unlimited and not seldom I hear once again a new variant is invented. Wikipedia summarizes nicely the most common variants. There exists also a book about 50 chess variants by Adrey Calje. When I met in 1998 on the students-olympiad at Rotterdam, the Swiss Fabrice Liardet, I learned some people didn't consider some chess-variants as informal games of pleasure. Pages were filled with analysis and the first theory was created.

That was for me the sign to quietly say goodbye to the world of chess-variants. The adventurous part quickly disappears and because of the very limited popularity there is no future. In the end specialization in a niche is detriment for your standard-chess. Experience or analysis are very rarely relevant for standard-chess. Maybe an exception is Marseillais-chess which allows a player to move twice on a turn. You don't only get the chance to prepare a threat but you can also execute it. The game is played on a much higher speed and it becomes much more evident what the value is of a tempo. Especially less experienced players have difficulties to value correctly activity.

Now I have to admit that I still often make mistakes too. In my blogarticle optical illusions you can find an example of how crucial an extra move can be in my endgame against Dgebuadze. Much less clear is to value an extra move in the opening but at the same time therefore also more intriguing. Hereby I think firstly at openings introduced originally by black but today also played by white but with an extra tempo. The Sicilian/ English with e5 is doubtless the most famous twin. Further we have the reversed Scandinavian, the reversed Kingsindian, the reversed Phildor (with Jobava a few days ago again winning from a + 2700 player) or even a reversed Fromgambit (this was shown in the article universal systems).

A step further are openings in which white relinquishes on purpose the extra move to claim the black color. This can happen purely for psychological reasons like in the game Ernst Reinderman. White tries to lure black on unfamiliar territory (here the Vienna with reversed colors). In a special case it is done because the position is considered a bit better for black than white (a nice example is a little variation of the Bird which I got with reversed colors on the board and extensively analysed in the article Belgian interclubs apotheosis).

Sometimes white not only gives away a tempo to reverse the colors but because the extra tempo only means a Pyrrhic victory. Undoubtedly the example of the 3rd matchgame Anand-Carlsen played in 2014 is very known. Still during the game some people discovered that the position at move 25 had popped up before in 2 games but with the extra move h3.
[Event "Carlsen-Anand World Championship"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2014.11.11"] [Round "3"] [White "Viswanathan Anand"] [Black "Magnus Carlsen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [PlyCount "67"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 c6 8. Bd3 { (This loses a tempo compared to the familiar h3 because white eventually anyway exchanges bishops on a6.)} (8. h3 b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 Ba6 11. Bxa6 Rxa6 12. b5 cxb5 13. c6 Qc8 14. c7 b4 15. Nb5 a4 16. Rc1 Ne4 17. Nd2 Ndf6 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. f3 Ra5 20. fxe4 Rxb5 21. Qxa4 Ra5 22. Qc6 bxa3 23. exd5 Rxd5 24. Qxb6 Qd7 25. O-O Rc8 {(This position popped up in 2 earlier games: Gymnesi - Vaganian and Tomashevsky - Riazantsev.)}) 8... b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 Ba6 11. Bxa6 Rxa6 12. b5 cxb5 13. c6 Qc8 14. c7 b4 15. Nb5 a4 16. Rc1 Ne4 17. Ng5 Ndf6 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. f3 Ra5 20. fxe4 Rxb5 21. Qxa4 Ra5 22. Qc6 bxa3 23. exd5 Rxd5 24. Qxb6 Qd7 25. O-O {(Maybe Anand mixed some variations as here he could play Qa6 and profit of leaving out h3.)} (25. Qa6 Rc8 26. Rb1 Rxc7 27. Rb8 Bd8 28. Bxc7 Qxc7 29. Rc8 {(If the h pawn was on h3 then Dg3 was possible.)}) 25... Rc8 {(Incredible but this position was already known but with the extra move h3.)} 26. Rc6 g5 27. Bg3 Bb4 28. Ra1 Ba5 29. Qa6 Bxc7 30. Qc4 e5 31. Bxe5 Rxe5 32. dxe5 Qe7 33. e6 Kf8 34. Rc1 1-0
The extra move seemed only to weaken h3 so it was rather bad than good. Strange and we surely can't consider this as a general rule. For instance I showed in my article about the Gajewski-variant that the second version without h3 was clearly more interesting for black.

Recently I encountered in my practice again something special which for this article is appropriate. Let us first look to a line of the Open Spanish which was played several times by the strong Egyptian grandmaster Amin Bassem.
[Event "Open Spanish"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C83"] [PlyCount "22"] 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. c3 Be7 10. Nbd2 Nc5 11. Bc2 O-O *
Well now I challenge the reader to invent a Spanish variant in which white plays d4 in 2 steps instead of 1 but compared with above line still wins an extra tempo.
[Event "Clubchampionship Deurne r3"] [Date "2014"] [White "Ismail, T."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C77"] [WhiteElo "2000"] [BlackElo "2337"] [PlyCount "28"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 d6 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 b5 9. Bc2 d5 10. d4 exd4 {(I chose in the game Bg4 but quickly run into problems.)} 11. e5 d3 12. Bxd3 Nd7 {(During the game I mainly looked at this move but Ng4 is stronger as white has no time to play h3.)} 13. Re1 Nc5 14. Bc2 Be6 {(Strange but now we have an Open Spanish in which white has an extra tempo while white played d4 in 2 steps.)} *
It almost looks like the Procession of Echternach. Anyway I found the discovery from my young opponent a very clever way to unbalance me. Coincidence or not but Tamer won recently also the Fischerrandom- tournament in Deurne in which he was only 5th ranked on rating. I played also for the first in more than a decade again a variant of chess. Fun was the dominating ingredient of the tournament and sometimes this is more than sufficient.


Monday, February 16, 2015


A couple of months ago I got extremely annoyed by the behavior of my opponent. Regularly he left the playing room during the game and when he returned at the board played a very strong move. Around move 23 when my position was already delicate, I couldn't keep calm and went searching for him. Initially I couldn't find him anywhere so I decided to wait at the door of the toilets. A bit later he left the toilet just after somebody else. By accompanying him towards our board, I clearly hinted that something bothered me. I don't know if he understood my hint but in any case the long absents from the playing room stopped after this.

Once at home this distrust only became stronger when I noticed that by coincidence his moves corresponded till move 23 each time with the first choice of my engines while my opponent surely was out book since move 10. Inevitably you think about cheating. However I also realized very well that the proof was very light. On you can find many examples of analysis how much games overlap with the choices of engines. I even found of myself a game in which I scored 99,22%. I challenge the reader to find of himself a game which scores even better.
Chess-db Game analysis
In my article Swiss gambit I discussed this game and mentioned that till move 17 it was preparation. Of the remaining moves many can be played automatically. So despite the huge score there was no cheating at all. Therefore I am reluctant to openly accuse somebody of cheating. It is also the reason why I removed any reference to the person or situation. 

However some other people are not so prudent and aren't afraid to accuse with the smallest distrust. E.g. last I played online a bulletgame against a Hungarian player.
[Event "Rated game, 1m 0s"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2015.01.23"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Chess is life"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B08"] [WhiteElo "2208"] [BlackElo "1888"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2015.01.30"] [TimeControl "60"] 1. e4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} g6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 2. d4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bg7 {[%emt 0: 00:00]} 3. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d6 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 4. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 5. Be2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:01]} 6. O-O {[%emt 0: 00:00]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 7. a4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} a5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 8. h3 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Na6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 9. Be3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:01] } 10. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 11. dxe5 {[%emt 0:00:05]} dxe5 { [%emt 0:00:01]} 12. Qxd8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rxd8 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 13. Bb6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Re8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 14. Bxa5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nc5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 15. Bc7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Ncxe4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 16. Nxe4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nxe4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 17. Rfe1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bf5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 18. Bd3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nc5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 19. Bxf5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} gxf5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 20. Bxe5 {[%emt 0:00:03]} f6 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 21. Bd4 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Nxa4 { [%emt 0:00:01]} 22. Rxe8 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Rxe8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 23. Rxa4 { [%emt 0:00:00]} Re4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 24. Ra7 {[%emt 0:00:03]} b5 {[%emt 0:00: 04]} 25. Rc7 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bf8 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 26. Rxc6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Re8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 27. Bxf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Kf7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 28. Be5 { [%emt 0:00:01]} b4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 29. g4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Ra8 {[%emt 0:00:01] } 30. gxf5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Ra1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 31. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Be7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 32. Rc7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Ke8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 33. f6 {[%emt 0: 00:00]} Bf8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 34. f7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Kd8 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 35. Nd4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Bc5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 36. Ne6# {(Lag: Av=0.71s, max=3.7s) [%emt 0:00:01]} 1-0
If you check this game with an engine that you see many moves aren't approved but still I got a very special thanks after the game from my opponent.

Of course "Good comp" should be interpreted as an accusation of cheating by using assistance of an engine.

Now besides the overlapping with the choices of the engines, there is still that my opponent left regularly the playing room. I didn't count the number of times but the number was sufficiently high to attract attention and to irritate. Maybe my opponent had a medical problem so needed often the toilet. Some will surely remember the bathroom controversy which in the WC of 2006 between Topalov and Kramnik even caused a default of the 5th game in Topalovs advantage. Topalovs team accurately kept track of how much time Kramnik spent in the bathroom. In other words I am certainly not the first one whom gets suspicious about multiple toilet-visits. Besides that is not so crazy as last year somebody was even caught with his smartphone on the toilet, see eg. schaaksite.

In the end I boldly asked my opponent what exactly was going on. Of course he wasn't happy about such question but he also realized that he better answered before it got out of control. He mentioned that he liked smoking so when he had to wait for this turn then he often went outside for a smoke. I didn't think about that as I didn't smell anything at all. I am not a smoker so I probably don't realize that not much smell sticks on the clothes when smoking is done in the open air.

Again I am not the first person to be irritated by smoking-breaks of the opponent. We had some years ago the well known incident between Mamedyarov - Kurnosov whereby white accused openly black of cheating and filled an official complaint.
[Event "Moscow Aeroflot op-A"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2009.02.22"] [Round "6"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Kurnosov, Igor"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D70"] [WhiteElo "2724"] [BlackElo "2602"] [PlyCount "42"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O f5 10. h4 fxe4 11. h5 gxh5 12. d5 Ne5 13. Bh6 Nec4 14. Qg5 Rf7 15. Bxc4 Nxc4 16. Rd4 Qd6 17. Bxg7 Rxg7 18. Qxh5 Qf4 19. Kb1 Bf5 20. fxe4 Bg4 21. Nge2 Qd2 0-1
A 2700 doesn't lose every day in 21 moves with white from a 100 lower rated player so I do understand the frustrations. On the other hand I do have to add that Kurnosov was an exceptionally talented player. I say "was" as he tragically died in a car accident 2 years ago.

Personally I don't think those breaks for smoking are still acceptable today. We have always stricter rules to fight against cheating but we still allow players to leave the playing room to smoke outside. There is little or no control outside. Even if the opponent doesn't do anything wrong then still it is difficult to concentrate at the board.

A return of smoking at the board is of course not an option anymore. I warmly recommend people to watch the love for wood 1979 chess documentary which illustrates very well how terrible the conditions were in those times went smoking at the board was still possible. Pure nostalgia for some but I still remember how after coming home from the chessclub I first had to undress myself of my (upper) clothes before I could further enter the parental house as everything smelled horribly. No smoking should only be allowed before or after the game. Easy talking for a non-smoker  but I am willing to make a compromise. Smoking can happen once after the time-control of move 40. Next year the pace of the game will be accelerated in the Belgium interclub so this look certainly feasible. Can we put this as an action-point for fide?


Monday, February 9, 2015


It is very rare that we play a game without mistakes. Always there is something to comment. Therefore it is weird to hear a player telling he is (fully) satisfied about his game or tournament. It is a normal process for every ambitious player to extract lessons. However I can imagine that some of those lessons sound like triflers. Critics can easily deteriorate into irritations as last happened on schaakfabriek

It is neither easy to say something meaningful without irritating anybody. When a microphone is put in front of your face then there is not time to come up with a perfect answer. Carlsen mentioned e.g. in a recent interview that he only realized afterwards how badly he annoyed some people by complaining while still winning games.

Those dissatisfactions are often intensified as we take victories as something for granted. The unfortunately stopped blog of Alina L'Ami described this subject briefly but powerfully. You worked hard so it is natural that you won. Or the opponent just played too bad which made the win unavoidable. The danger is real that we sink in a spiral of negative emotions which spoils every pleasure of playing chess.

So can we never be really happy in chess? I suspect everybody experienced a seldom moment of an extraordinary good fortune. You didn't expect at all the result but fate was favorable. At one glance you forget all the misfortunes as you are ecstatic. The British Grandmaster Nigel Short recorded recently that he was so happy after winning  in Myanmar that he was jumping up and down in his room. In the game he didn't exit well the opening but his much younger opponent lost the track in the complications.
[Event "Zaw Win Lay Memorial"] [Date "2014.11.29"] [Round "9"] [White "Short, Nigel"] [Black "Vakhidov, Jahongir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2661"] [BlackElo "2661"] [PlyCount "77"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 3. Bf4 c5 4. f3 Qa5 5. c3 Nf6 6. d5 Qb6 7. b3 e6 8. e4 exd5 9. exd5 Bd6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Qd2 O-O 12. Na3 d6 13. O-O-O Qd8 14. h4 a6 15. Ne2 b5 16. Ng3 Re8 17. Nc2 Nbd7 18. Nf5 Bf8 19. h5 h6 20. Bh4 Qa5 21. Kb2 Bb7 22. Nce3 c4 23. g4 Nh7 24. f4 cxb3 25. axb3 Nc5 26. Bd3 b4 27. cxb4 Nxd3 28. Qxd3 Qxb4 29. g5 hxg5 30. fxg5 g6 31. Nh6 Bxh6 32. gxh6 g5 33. Nc4 gxh4 34. Rhg1 Kf8 35. Rd2 Nf6 36. h7 Ke7 37. Qf5 Bxd5 38. Re2 Be6 39. Rxe6 1-0
For the analysis I refer to the first Chessbasereport of this tournament.

The tournament of Leuven I finished also with a bang. I defeated the Swedish grandmaster Ralf Akesson and got with 6/7 one of the main-prizes. Fate favored me. It already started with the preparation. Normally there is no time to prepare for the last round but I guessed correctly in advance the pairing. Ralf was still playing against Stefan Docx but I expected this would be a draw. Hovhanisian as the highest rated player would be paired upwards against Dgebuadze. I had the previous round black just like Stefan so the most logical was that I would have white and Ralf as opponent what also happened. As my previous game finished rather early ( see previous article) I still had a half hour to check a view things. In the end what I reviewed. also popped up at the board. An exchausted Ralf due to the marathon with Stefan was eventually not so invincible anymore for me.
[Event "Open Leuven 7de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Akesson, R."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B47"] [WhiteElo "2337"] [BlackElo "2470"] [PlyCount "73"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 {(In 2 earlier encounters Ralf chose for a6 but got each time into problems so not surprisingly he selects a different opening from this repertoire.)} 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 a6 7. O-O b5 8. Nxc6 Qxc6 {(I checked recapturing with the pawn last year as part of my preparation against the Belgian grandmaster Bart Michiels. It is more risky with the queen but the benefit is that the position keeps more dynamics so more chances remain to play for a win. Besides the pairings were only announced a few minutes before the start of the round so a dangerous preparation was not feared.)} 9. Bf3 Bb7 10. Bf4 {(This is not the most popular continuation but it is by far the best scoring one in practice. My opponent had bad luck as I did not wait for the pairings but I made a educated guess that I would have to play Ralf with white. On top I did look at this line in my preparation.)} Rc8 11. Re1 Bc5 $6 {(The logical move but I agree with my engines that the ugly Qc5 is a bit more accurate.)} 12. e5 $6 {(I also play the natural move but the computer shows very precise that the bold Nd5 is stronger and gives white a serious advantage.)} Qb6 13. Bxb7 Qxb7 $146 {(The first new move as I still found 1 game between amateurs with Bxf2 after which white also keeps an advantage and quickly converted this into a win.)} 14. Ne4 Ne7 {(The Belgian IM Stefan Docx recommended f5 after the game but after exf6 - Nxf6 - Qh5 black has even bigger problems than in the game.)} 15. Qf3 Qc6 $2 {(I hoped for this blunder but I did not expect that he would actually play this move. Now in fairness I have to add that Ralf was forced to defend a half point in the previous round by Stefan Docx till few minutes before the start of this game so he was anything but relaxed. Necessary was Nd5 with an inferior but surely not yet lost position.)} (15... Nd5 $1 16. Bd2 $5 Be7 17. Bg5 Bf8 18. Rac1 $14 ) 16. Be3 Bb4 17. c3 d5 18. Ng5 Ba5 19. Qxf7 Kd7 20. Qh5 {(My opponent rightly remarked afterwards that I could win on several occasions quicker. However there are no extra points for speed. The only thing important is if the win is jeopardized somewhere but that is not the case.)} Rcf8 21. a4 bxa4 22. Qd1 Bc7 23. Nf3 Nf5 24. Rxa4 Rb8 25. c4 Nxe3 26. Rxe3 Rxb2 27. cxd5 exd5 28. Nd4 Qg6 29. e6 Ke7 30. Ra1 Rc8 31. Qa4 Rb1 32. Re1 Rxa1 33. Rxa1 Qe8 {(Bxh2 was a nice try to set a trap because if white takes the bishop then black can suddenly give a perpetual check. On the other hand after the cool Kf1 white still is winning.)} (33... Bxh2 34. Kxh2 $4 Qh6 35. Kg1 Rc1 36. Rxc1 Qxc1 37. Kh2 Qh6 38. Kg3 Qg6 39. Kf4 Qe4 {(All only moves for black which are not that easy to find which maybe explains why Ralf did not try this.)} 40. Kg3 {(White has to retreat as Kg5 would lose after h6.)}) 34. Qa3 Kf6 35. Qf3 Ke5 36. Re1 Kd6 37. Qa3# {(I missed the win with Qa3 in my game against the Belgian grandmaster Dgebuadze in the 4th round so I liked this finish very much. Hovhanisian committed suicide in this last round against Dgebuadze so I only was shared second with 6/7 but these are details which could not temper my happiness. Besides 500 euro was also a first for me.)} 1-0
The mood was afterwards of course excellent. With a TPR of approximately 2500 and 500 prize money I don't go home everyday. I couldn't suppress a smile and a clenched fist. Maybe some people consider such behavior inappropriate and insulting for the opponent but if you are ecstatic then you anyway don't think properly. In any case I immediately asked for a tasty Leffe (beer) after the game after 4 days of abstention (only one as I still had to drive by car).

As a player you cherish such special moments but I wouldn't wait for it as it can take a long time before such thing happens. I also try to enjoy the many other small things which make chess so beautiful. On my blog you can find countless examples:  interferencesexcelsior,.. With some good will every player must be able to find something which he enjoys. With about 180 articles this blog is probably a good place to browse around and to realize how rich our game is.


Sunday, February 1, 2015


A casual chessplayer is referred to a chessclub if he wishes to play more than just sporadically. In Belgium we have a wide range of clubs as I count 148 in our KBSB and I even don't include the many not affiliated clubs (schools, handel, ...). 

Till approximately a rating of 1800, most clubs can offer sufficient challenges but once you cross this barrier you are more or less forced to play somewhere else too. Open tournaments, liga-championships and interclub are the new competitions at which you participate to make further progression. In Belgium the distances are small so for most people logistics aren't difficult to solve.

However once the rating exceeds 2100-2200, it becomes tougher to find sufficient challenges if you have ambitions. We have here in Belgium only 100 + 2200 players of which almost 20% plays seldom or never. Playing solely in Belgium with a rating above 2300 is not an option anymore for somebody ambitious. Optimal for improvement, is playing against players with 100 or 200 points more. On the other hand 300 points is too much as I described in my article to shoot a mosquito with a cannon.

Somebody whom doesn't like travelling or simply doesn't have the means, has a problem. The British grandmaster Nigel Davies warned on his blog that it can even be dangerous to become a strong player: "Can you improve too much?". It is something which I experienced myself. Till 2007 I often played abroad but after the birth of my daughter I erased any foreign competition from the menu. Though finding sufficient challenges in Belgium is always a quest as I discussed in my article inactivity. Besides big thumbs up for the initiative of  Steven Geirnaert whom organized for players of his region an interesting expert tournament . I can warmly recommend the lovely site built by Frederik Decoster. I just find it a bit pity that the games are password protected while we are no professionals. The tournament is/ was unfortunately not feasible for me (Saturdays I drive half of day around to buy the weekly groceries, bring children to their activities without considering that Bruges isn't close either) otherwise I surely wished to participate.

Today I am already happy when I can play once in a while against a stronger player. In the Open of Leuven I got recently the chance to play against the only Belgium grandmaster which I hadn't met before on the board:  Alexander Dgebuadze. Against Vladimir Chuchelov I played once an instructive stonewall in the Open Gent of 2000. My games with Bart Michiels were covered in several articles like the modern french part 2 and last year I also played a game against Luc Winants (this game will probably be treated in a later article).

Alexander chose as expected his favorite little known system in the French but I couldn't profit from this as with only 15 minutes for preparing, it is not possible to extract much if you didn't study this properly before.
[Event "Open Leuven 4de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Dgebuadze, A."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2337"] [BlackElo "2489"] [PlyCount "78"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3 6. bxc3 Nc6 {(I had not met this before in standard games and it is surely not the most popular continuation but it does not score worse than the more known systems in practice.)} 7. Qg4 Qa5 8. Bd2 g6 9. a4 {(There was very little time to prepare but I had seen that this scored well in practice so I wanted to give it a try. White avoids Qa4 with pressure on c2 and also keeps the option to use later the diagonal a3-f8 for the bishop or the queen.)} c4 {(Bd7 looks more flexible and also scores better in practice.)} 10. h4 h6 11. Qd1 {(A novelty but thematic in this type of positions which I already discovered in my preparation. G3 is interesting too to continue with Bh3.)} Bd7 12. Nf3 $5 {(I think Ne2 or Nh3 are more critical just like in the Portisch Hook variation with 6... Qa5. Probably I was not fully recovered from my previous game against Morozova or possibly I looked in my short preparation only to games with Nf3.)} (12. Ne2 $5 f6 $5 13. Nf4 fxe5 14. Nxg6 Rh7 15. Nxe5 Nxe5 16. dxe5 O-O-O 17. g3 Ne7 18. Bh3 $14) 12... O-O-O 13. g3 $6 {(Blacks counterplay in the center is fast so more important is first to develop with Be2 with still some small chances for some opening-advantage.)} (13. Be2 $1 f6 $5 14. Qc1 fxe5 $5 15. dxe5 Nge7 $5 16. O-O Rde8 $5 17. Re1 h5 $14) 13... f6 14. exf6 $5 { (I played this move successfully against the German grandmaster Feygin. However the position is here different. I already played h4 and my knight stands on f3 instead of e2 whereby I do not have f3. Therefore this move was rightfully criticized by Alexander after the game. However the difference with the critical moves Qe2 and Bg2 remains minimal to really qualify this as an error.)} (14. Qe2 $5 Rf8 $1 15. Bg2 f5 $1 16. O-O $5 f4 17. Qe1 $5 fxg3 18. fxg3 Nge7 19. Bh3 Nf5 $1 $13) (14. Bg2 $5 fxe5 $1 15. dxe5 Nge7 $1 16. O-O $5 Rh7 $1 17. Qc1 Rdh8 18. Rd1 $5 (18. Qa3 $5 Rf7 $1 19. Rab1 $5 b6 20. Rfd1 Nd8 $1 21. Nd4 Nf5 $13) 18... Kb8 19. Qa3 $5 Nf5 20. Bh3 $5 Ka8 21. Bxf5 gxf5 22. Bf4 $5 Re8 $1 23. Nd4 $13) 14... Nxf6 15. Bg2 Ne4 16. Qc1 $6 {(I try to disrupt blacks play on the king-side but this only increased the problems as black can now quicker breakthrough in the center.)} g5 17. Ra3 g4 18. Ng1 e5 19. Ne2 Rde8 20. O-O exd4 $6 {(You can feel already at blacks last move that black does not evaluate correctly the complications. After the game I recommended here or a move earlier Nxd2 and white is very passive. This is confirmed by both my top-engines albeit it was especially Stockfish that realized how difficult whites position is.)} 21. Bxe4 { (Capturing earlier on e4 did not work well due to e3 but now the pressure against e4 has disappeared.)} Rxe4 22. cxd4 Qd8 23. Re3 Bf5 {(Maybe black missed on his 20th move the point after Nxd4. Black played large chunks of the game purely intuitively so almost without calculations whereby he often misses some important things.)} (23... Nxd4 24. Nxd4 Rxd4 25. Bc3 $18) 24. Rxe4 Bxe4 25. Bxh6 Qf6 {(Little time remained on my clock which let me miss the double threat created by this move. I was lucky that I still had and found an answer.)} 26. Bf4 Nxd4 $4 {(However now black commits a serious error by grabbing material without calculating. Re8 is much better with mutual chances.)} 27. Nxd4 Qxd4 28. c3 $4 {(In heavy time-trouble I try to stabilize the position but hereby I miss an unique win with Qa3. After blacks answer Qb6 follows a5 and black can not prevent that whites queen infiltrates decisively.)} Qf6 $6 {(Black keeps the queens on the board as black of course is playing for a win but objectively Qd3 was better to equalize.)} 29. Qe3 b6 30. a5 Kb7 31. axb6 $6 {(I agree with Stockfish that better is keeping the tension with Rc1 and white has even the better prospects.)} axb6 32. Ra1 Ra8 33. Rxa8 Kxa8 34. Kf1 Kb7 35. Qd4 {(I had to reconstruct the last moves as my time was almost completely up but I do remember this was a panic-reaction. I noticed Bd3, losing a pawn and therefore I chose a drastic solution to exchange the queens. The resulting endgame is not lost but very difficult to defend in practice.)} Qxd4 36. cxd4 c3 37. Ke1 $4 {(A study-like draw was still possible with Ke2.)} (37. Ke2 $1 Ka6 38. Bd6 Kb5 39. Bc7 Ka4 40. Bxb6 Kb3 41. Ba5 c2 42. Bd2 Kb2 43. h5 c1=Q 44. Bxc1 Kxc1 45. Ke3 Kc2 46. Kf4 Kc3 47. Kxg4 Kxd4 48. f3 Bc2 (48... Kc3 $2 {(Now black even loses.)} 49. fxe4 d4 50. h6 d3 51. h7 d2 52. h8=Q $18) 49. Kg5 Kc5 (49... Bh7 50. Kf4 Kc3 51. g4 d4 52. g5 Bc2 53. g6 d3 54. h6 d2 55. h7 $11 ) (49... Ke5 50. f4 Kd6 51. f5 d4 52. h6 d3 53. h7 d2 54. h8=Q $11 ) 50. f4 d4 51. f5 Bb3 (51... d3 52. h6 d2 53. h7 d1=Q 54. h8=Q $11) 52. Kf4 Bg8 53. h6 Kd5 54. g4 d3 55. Ke3 $11 ) 37... Ka6 38. Kd1 {(Now the mechanism with Bd6 does not work anymore as white misses one tempo.)} (38. Bd6 Kb5 39. Bc7 Ka4 40. Bxb6 Kb3 41. Ba5 c2 42. Bd2 Kb2 43. h5 c1=Q 44. Bxc1 Kxc1 45. Ke2 Kc2 46. Ke3 Kc3 47. Kf4 Kxd4 48. Kxg4 Kc3 49. f3 d4 50. fxe4 d3 51. h6 d2 52. h7 d1=Q $19 {(Black could also win differently during the last moves but this line shows very nicely how important this lost tempo was.)}) 38... b5 39. Bd6 Ka5 {(My flag dropped but honestly I was relieved to have a good excuse not to search a futile defense anymore.)} 0-1
Probably a typical evening-game on a day with a double round as some moves rather look superficial. On the other hand it is an instructive game as next time I will be able to better combat this remarkable pawn-structure.

Last 2 interclub-seasons I was lucky to play in first division on first or second board. Not only was this an enormous challenge about which I many times reported but it also gave my repertoire a serious boost. Because I spent a lot of time preparing, I not only learned a lot from the games but also from the preparation. The new acquired knowledge is now often useful as the 6th round of Open Leuven proofed.

My opponent Jonas Van Cappellen decided to surprise me with a little side-line of the Dutch but I was able to counter with a preparation which I made against the strong German FM Marcel Becker playing for Eynatten as he played the same variation already in 2012.
[Event "Helmut-Kohls-Turnier 2012"] [Site "Dortmund GER"] [Date "2012.07.17"] [Round "4"] [White "Becker, Marce"] [Black "Schmittdiel, E."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A85"] [WhiteElo "2427"] [BlackElo "2460"] [PlyCount "84"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Qb3 Qe7 6. g3 a5 7. Bd2 Nc6 8. a3 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 Ne4 10. Bg2 a4 11. Qc2 d5 12. O-O O-O 13. Be1 Bd7 14. Rd1 Rfc8 15. Ne5 Be8 16. f3 Nd6 17. cxd5 exd5 18. Qc5 Qe6 19. e4 Ne7 20. exd5 Nxd5 21. f4 Ne4 22. Bxe4 fxe4 23. f5 Qd6 24. Qc4 Rd8 25. Bb4 Qa6 26. Qxa6 Rxa6 27. Rfe1 Nxb4 28. axb4 Rb6 29. Rxe4 Rxb4 30. Rd2 c5 31. Kf2 b5 32. Ke3 cxd4 33. Kf4 Rb3 34. Nd3 Bc6 35. Nc5 Rb4 36. Re7 Bd5 37. Ke5 Bf7 38. Ne6 Re8 39. Rxe8 Bxe8 40. Nxd4 Rc4 41. Rc2 Rxc2 42. Nxc2 Bh5 1/2-1/2
It took me a lot of time to reconstruct the old preparation but in the end I succeeded and achieved a sharp position on the board in which I could play for the win. Personally I think this was my best game of the tournament.
[Event "Open Leuven 6de ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Van Cappellen, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A85"] [WhiteElo "2183"] [BlackElo "2337"] [PlyCount "80"] 1. d4 {(In our previous mutual game Jonas chose e4.)} f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Qb3 Qe7 6. g3 {(I met in Cappelle La Grande 2005 a3 by Alexander Raetsky whom achieved in that tournament his last and final GM-norm.)} Ne4 {(B6 is much more popular but already in 2012 I noticed during my preparation against the German FM Marcel Becker that this does not score well in practice and that Ne4 is an interesting alternative.)} 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. O-O Na5 9. Qa4 Bxc3 10. bxc3 b6 11. Ng5 Bb7 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. Bxe4 fxe4 14. c5 $5 {(Here or a move earlier Ba3 is more critical to achieve some opening-advantage.)} (14. Ba3 $5 Qf7 {(With Qg5 we transpose to the game Dreev - Short played in 1990 and which also is tested 3 times in correspondence chess. Except Qg5 also playable looks Qf6 and Qf7.)} (14... Qf6 15. Rab1 h5 16. h3 Qf5 17. Kg2 $13) 15. Rab1 $5 h5 16. Rb5 $5 h4 17. Bc1 Rh5 $1 18. c5 Qg6 19. Bf4 $13) 14... O-O $146 {(A simple improvement on the game Aleksey Aleksandrov - Evgeny Gleizerov played in 1998 which continued with Qf7. This was all part of my analysis made in 2012 but it cost me a lot of time to reconstruct this at the board.)} 15. Be3 d5 16. cxd6 cxd6 17. c4 Rfc8 18. Rac1 d5 19. cxd5 $6 {(After this move black gets a stable advantage. Necessary was c5 which holds the tension and more or less keeps the balance.)} exd5 20. Qb5 Qe6 21. Bf4 Nc4 22. Rc3 a6 23. Qb4 Rf8 24. Rfc1 Rac8 25. Kg2 Rf5 26. h4 $2 {(White wants to avoid g5 but this only weakens whites king-side. A4 looks much better although also then black holds the much better cards.)} h6 27. R1c2 g5 28. hxg5 hxg5 29. Be5 Rf7 30. f3 {(This loses material but also without f3 the position should be undefendable against correct play.)} exf3 31. exf3 Ne3 32. Kf2 Nxc2 33. Rxc8 Qxc8 34. Qd6 Qf5 35. Qd8 Rf8 36. Qxd5 Qf7 37. Qe4 Nb4 38. Kg1 Nd5 39. Qg4 Qf5 40. Qh5 Nf6 {(I got an extra quarter so it made no sense anymore to prolong the game.)} 0-1
To search new challenges is an important ingredient to progress. This doesn't mean that chess is only about challenges. Many players keep playing in a club not because they absolutely want to improve but just to have some fun. Fun seems an alien concept but it is without doubt the best prescription to stay interested instead of always setting the priority on higher ratings and titles.