Thursday, June 4, 2015


I still remember 2 decades ago how people were making jokes about Kamsky having learned by heart the complete informator as preparation for his worldchampionship-finale against Karpov of 1996.  Today such complete study of theory is absolutely impossible. It can be pretty astonishing what the theoretical baggage some players have but it remains fragmented and nobody can protect themselves from the countless novelties discovered each day by engines. In a videoconference after the game Kramnik - Anand London 2014, Anand jokingly said but at the same time containing some truth that computers have a lot of time.

So nobody has a waterproof shield in the opening. Everybody is vulnerable for surprises. We don't have to exaggerate this risk for most players as shown by my article password. On the other hand when you play against the 1% best players then ignoring the risk can quickly backfire which was demonstrated in my article harikiri. It is impossible to tell in advance when exactly you better deviate or can rely solely on your experience. Finding out information about your opponent before the game will surely improve your chances to make the right decisions but in the end it remains an estimated guess so partly instinctive.

Sometimes there are very clear signs which hint there is danger. An opponent won't deviate from his standard repertoire to help you gaining a head-start in the opening. Almost always this indicates the opponent is well prepared and has some surprise in store to gain an advantage. Such advantage doesn't need to be a refutation of your favorite opening as often it is sufficient to show a new equivalent or even an old forgotten idea to win a lot of time on the clock.

If you see these signals then it is often wise to deviate too from your repertoire surely if the position can quickly become tactical. There are limits to a specific game-preparation. I mean even spending hours of preparation will only permit to analyze x number of lines as mentioned earlier in my article the list of strength. Most openings consist of many more options than the x-variations which can be checked in a preparation.

A first example which shows this strategy, is from my own recent interclub-practice. I played in the second round of the past Belgium interclub against the ambitious leader of Opwijk, Arno Bomans surprising me by following my game against Glen De Schampheleire. However before he can show his improvement and can use his engine-analysis, I already deviate myself from my game to restore the chances.
[Event "Interclub Opwijk - Deurne"] [Date "2014"] [White "Bomans, A."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2250"] [BlackElo "2337"] [PlyCount "15"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 {(A surprise as there was no earlier game in the database from Arno with this move.)} d6 {(I immediately counter with also a surprise. Arno obviously studied my game against Glen De Schampheleire of 2013 and I was not willing to check his engine-analysis.)} (2... Nc6 3. d4 e6 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 d6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Qb3 { (After the game Arno told me that he prepared this improvement on my game against Glen. He was very surprised to hear that I already covered this on my blog and I even had proposed a counter-novelty for black.)}) 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nd5 {(The mainline continues with exf5 but Arno was surprised by my choice of opening and could not remember clearly the theory.)} Nf6 6. Bg5 Be7 7. Bxf6 {(This is new but there were only 2 games in the database with Nxe7. Bxf6 is a very logical alternative.)} Bxf6 8. c3 {(Here Arno proposed a draw as he sensed white must be careful. I hesitated to accept but finally anyway did after checking the boards of my teammates which were very favorable. Later we blew 5 winning positions with our team and scored only 1 board-point so even lost the match.)} (8. c3 O-O { (I planned this move as I somehow remembered this from my preparation a few weeks ago against Frederic Verduyn.)} 9. Qb3 {(Objectively better is not to chase after the pawn as black gets too much activity. Completing the development with Be2 is better. After Be2 white has nothing but should not be worse either.)} Kh8 10. exf5 Bxf5 11. Qxb7 Ne7 12. Nxf6 Rxf6 $15 {(Black can create with accurate play a very dangerous attack but I did not feel comfortable to execute such demanding task.)}) 1/2-1/2
We see here a nasty side-effect of this strategy. When both players have to play unprepared a position which they don't like and they fear each other then sometimes a quick draw is chosen. Sofia rules could surely avoid this behavior.

The second example which I want to discuss, does not show this side-effect mainly due to the big ratinggap between both players. Maybe the Russian grandmaster Vyacheslav Ikonnikov wanted me to pay for the article an arranged result in open gent or not as from the opening it was immediately clear that nothing was left up to chance. I was well prepared as I checked his 400 black-games with 1.e4 but Vyacheslav chose to play something new to avoid any of my preparation. Nonetheless neither did I wait for his preparation and countered his surprise fittingly with my own.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Jean Jaures"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Ikonnikov, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2330"] [BlackElo "2550"] [PlyCount "108"] 1. e4 e6 {(In less than 5 percent of his games Vyacheslav deviates from his favorite move c5.)} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 { (The French system is already a backup-system in the repertoire of my opponent but it is the first time that he plays this move checking big database 2015 despite thousands of registered games. In 2012 I wrote a negative article about Vyacheslav on my blog so I would not be surprised that he was extra motivated to prepare seriously. He likely discovered that I prepare myself well and it is logical to have a surprise prepared to counter.)} 8. dxc5 {(Last summer I won a game with a3 but I did not want to repeat that line as the game was inserted in the last databases and blacks play can easily be improved. A bit earlier I already tested Be2 and Qd2 against Bart Michiels but also those games can be found in the database and were very likely studied by my opponent. To avoid any preparation and because I did not know any clear way to an advantage, I preferred to experiment with dxc5.)} (8. Qd2 O-O {(B6 is an important alternative to discourage dxc5. White can reply with 0-0-0 or Bb5.)} 9. Be2 {(Or dxc5 which transposes to the game.)} b6 10. O-O f5 11. a3 {(The move is already played in 2011 see game Tomczak Jacek - Sieciechowicz Martin but was only recently tried in correspondence-chess.)} Bb7 12. Rfd1 Rc8 13. dxc5 Nxc5 14. b4 Ne4 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Nd4 Nxd4 17. Bxd4 Bc6 18. c4 $146 {(This is an improvement on Jaceks Bg4.)}) 8... Bxc5 9. Bxc5 {(More popular is Qd2 and exchange later on c5 but I had other plans.)} Nxc5 10. Qe2 {(I have mentioned this move briefly on my blog but it took my opponent out of book as he started to think very long. It takes some time to study a new opening and an idea only tested in some computergames does not get first priority in a preparation. The concept behind this artificial move is that the standardmoves Qb6 and Qa5 can always be answered by Qb5 while the queen can still be transferred to e3/f2 which is common in the line with Qd2.)} (10. Qd2 {(It was not too late to transpose to todays mainline.)} O-O 11. O-O-O Qa5 12. Kb1 Bd7 {(H4 and Qe2 are here the most critical moves.)}) 10... O-O 11. O-O-O Bd7 12. Qe3 {(Here we see the disadvantage of playing a variation which was not studied properly or even tested before in blitz. I do not understand fully the small nuances and miss the optimal sequence.)} (12. Kb1 $1 {(This keeps the possibility Qb5.)} a6 $5 {(To eliminate Qb5 but it does weaken square b6 which white can use to his advantage.)} 13. Qe3 $5 Qb6 $5 14. Bd3 $5 h6 15. g4 Na4 16. Qxb6 {(Black has no more time for Nxc3 as axb6 is not possible anymore.)}) 12... Qb6 13. Nd4 {(Kb1 is countered with Na4 as Qxb6 is refuted by first giving check with Nxc3.)} Rac8 14. f5 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 Bc6 16. f6 Ne4 17. fxg7 Kxg7 18. Qxb6 $6 {(It is very tempting to destroy blacks pawnstructure but here activity is more important. Nxe4 is better as with Rxd4 I win an important tempo compared with the game and after dxe4 I can avoid the exchange of queens with Qd2.)} axb6 19. Rd4 Nf2 $6 { (A surprising move. I expected Kg6 to play boldly Kf5 and win the e-pawn. This plan is also recommended by the engines with a clear advantage for black.)} 20. Rg1 f6 21. exf6 Rxf6 22. Rd2 {(Maybe Vyacheslav only took Rb4 into account which indeed gives black a big advantage. Now I have to admit that Rd2 did not come first either to my mind.)} (22. Rb4 $6 e5 23. Rxb6 $2 d4 24. Nd1 Be4 $19) 22... Rcf8 {(The engines think the position is balanced but I do not think it is easy playing for white.)} 23. Be2 Rg6 24. Bd3 d4 25. Ne2 {(I correctly avoid Bxg6 but again I burn quite some time from my clock.)} Nxd3 26. cxd3 e5 27. Ng3 Rg5 28. Re1 Rf4 29. Rde2 {(Ne4 is answered by Rh5 and still no simple draw for white.)} Kf6 30. Ne4 {(A drastic choice but I did not want to wait anymore. This endgame is defendable but some precise moves must be found.)} Bxe4 31. dxe4 Ke6 {(An alternative is to transfer the rook via g8 to the c-file but in both lines I am not able to show any concrete win for black.)} 32. Kd2 h5 $5 {(Or again Rg8.)} (32... Rg8 $5 33. Rc1 Kd6 34. Kd3 $5 h5 35. Rcc2 Rgf8 36. Kc4 Ra8 37. b3 $1 Rc8 38. Kd3 $11 {(After exchanging rooks on c2 black can still push but it should be a draw if no mistakes are made.)}) 33. Rc1 Kd7 34. Kd3 Rg6 35. a4 $6 {(The start of a wrong plan. Better is to stay solid with Rcc2.)} (35. Rcc2 $1 h4 36. Rf2 Rgf6 37. Rxf4 Rxf4 38. a4 Rf1 39. Kc4 Ke6 40. Re2 $11 {(Again black can still try to win but in theory white should be able to defend.)}) 35... h4 36. a5 $6 {(The intention was of course to respond bxa5 with Rc5 but this is too optimistic.)} (36. Rcc2 $1 Rgf6 $1 37. Rcd2 Rf1 $1 38. Kc4 Rc6 $15 {(Houdini only shows a small plus for black but none of my engines could hold this endgame for white when shooting out the position.)}) 36... h3 37. Rcc2 $6 {(Resignation but it is anyway very hard to find something playable with only a couple of minutes left on the clock.)} (37. axb6 $1 Rxg2 38. Rc7 Kd6 39. Rxb7 Rf3 40. Kd2 Kc6 41. Rxg2 Kxb7 42. Rg7 Kxb6 43. Rg6 Kc7 44. Rg7 Kc6 45. Rg6 Kd7 46. Ke1 Re3 {(The e-pawn drops and the rest should be technique.)}) 37... bxa5 38. gxh3 Rf3 39. Kc4 d3 { (After the game some spectators told me that my opponent missed a direct win with Kc6. In timetrouble anybody misses something elementary.)} 40. Rcd2 Rd6 41. Rg2 Kc6 {(Having an extra hour my opponent finds again the right track. The win still exists but just will take some extra moves.)} 42. Rg5 b5 43. Kc3 b4 44. Kb3 Kc5 45. Rxe5 Kd4 46. Rxa5 Ke3 {(I also saw this double-pawn-sacrifice in the game but I hoped in vain that Vyacheslav would not dare playing it.)} 47. e5 Rd4 48. Rd1 Ke2 49. Raa1 d2 50. Ka4 b3 51. Ka3 Rxh3 52. e6 Re3 53. e7 Rxe7 54. Kxb3 Re3 0-1
A nervous battle with some mistakes on both sides which is normal when both players are playing a position on sight. In the end the strongest player wins merited and deserved which can only be positive propaganda for chess.

Sometimes it can become funny when both players try to surprise each other in such way that they suddenly play an important theoretical variation which they aren't familiar with. This happened a few months ago in the 2nd game of the worldchampionship-finale Muzychuk and Pogonina with a novelty only at move 18 but on which 17 minutes was spent so surely no preparation.
[Event "FIDE WWCC 2015"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2015.04.03"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Muzychuk, Mariya"] [Black "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2526"] [BlackElo "2456"] [PlyCount "115"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O {(In the big database there are no earlier games with this move from Mariya so it is big surprise for Natalija that Mariya is willing to play the mainline of the Spanish opening in such important game.)} b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. Re1 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 {(6 games of Nd7 played by Natalija can be found in the database but the highly theoretical and complex Breyer is a big surprise as this is new in her repertoire.)} 10. d4 Nbd7 11. a4 Bb7 12. Nbd2 c5 13. d5 c4 14. Bc2 Nc5 15. Nf1 Re8 16. Ng3 g6 17. Be3 Qc7 18. Nd2 {(A novelty played only after 17 minutes so surely no preparation. The rest of the game is a tough battle with a number of mistakes typical for competitive chess in which both players can not rely on analysis built by engines in advance or on familiar positions.)} Bf8 19. Qe2 Nfd7 20. f3 Nb6 21. a5 Nbd7 22. Nh1 Be7 23. g4 Qd8 24. Qf2 Bh4 25. Ng3 Rc8 26. Kg2 Nf8 27. Rf1 Bg5 28. f4 exf4 29. Bxf4 Rc7 30. Bxg5 Qxg5 31. Nf3 Qe7 32. Nd4 Qe5 33. h4 h6 34. Qd2 Bc8 35. Nc6 Qg7 36. Qf4 Rd7 37. Rf2 Bb7 38. Nd4 Re5 39. Nf3 Re8 40. g5 h5 41. Nd4 Qe5 42. Qd2 Rc7 43. Raf1 Ree7 44. Rf6 Red7 45. R6f4 b4 46. Nf3 Qg7 47. cxb4 Nd3 48. Rf6 Nh7 49. Nd4 Nxf6 50. gxf6 Qf8 51. Ba4 Ne5 52. Bxd7 Rxd7 53. Nf3 Ng4 54. Nxh5 gxh5 55. Qg5 Kh8 56. Qxh5 Nh6 57. Kh2 Qg8 58. Rg1 1-0
Such games won't have much value for theorists but spectators are enjoying the big drama on the board.

Previous game was played between players of 2500 elo but this is also happening on + 2800 level. Let us have a look and enjoy a recent game between worldchampion Carlsen and the French supergrandmaster Vachier Lagrave both known not to be afraid of original creative chess.
[Event "Gashimov Memorial"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2015.04.21"] [Round "5"] [White "Magnus Carlsen"] [Black "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [PlyCount "107"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 b5 {(The databases contain no games of Maxime with this daring move.)} 3. Bg2 {(Magnus already spent 11 minutes here and admitted later to be out of book after blacks second move!!)} Bb7 4. Na3 a6 { (Whites last move was also a surprise for Maxime as he spent 18 minutes to a6.)} 5. c4 b4 6. Nc2 e6 7. d4 a5 8. O-O Be7 9. d5 Na6 10. Nfd4 Nc5 11. Re1 {(This seems to be the real novelty as a blitzgame of the European championship 2014 between grandmasters continued with dxe6. Carlsen and Maxime already consumed both more than half hour so were not aware about this. You can of course wonder if such games are relevant to study for playing this position in practice.)} O-O 12. e4 e5 13. Nf5 d6 14. Bg5 Nxd5 15. Bh6 gxh6 16. Qg4 Bg5 17. cxd5 Kh8 18. h4 Bf6 19. Nce3 Bc8 20. Qf3 Bg7 21. Bh3 Rg8 22. Bg4 Qf6 23. Bh5 Bxf5 24. Nxf5 c6 25. dxc6 Rac8 26. Qd1 Rxc6 27. Qd5 Rgc8 28. Rad1 Bf8 29. Qxf7 Qxf7 30. Bxf7 Na4 31. Re2 Rc1 32. Rxc1 Rxc1 33. Kg2 Nc5 34. b3 Rc3 35. Kh3 Nd7 36. Be6 Nc5 37. Bd5 Nd7 38. Ne3 Nf6 39. Be6 Rc5 40. Nc4 Kg7 41. f3 Ne8 42. Rd2 Nc7 43. Bg4 a4 44. Nxd6 Bxd6 45. Rxd6 a3 46. Bd7 Rc2 47. Bc6 Rxa2 48. Rd7 Kf6 49. Rxc7 Rc2 50. Rxh7 Kg6 51. Rc7 Kf6 52. h5 Rc1 53. Rh7 a2 54. Bd5 1-0
The dead of chess by boring draws looks faraway when we check above games (and players don't fear to lose). I even believe that the abundance of information rather gave the game a boost as players continuously try to surprise. Competitive chess has a bright future on the condition we find a solution for the ever growing distrust as to cheating.


No comments:

Post a Comment