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.


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