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.


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