Sunday, August 16, 2015

Invisible moves

Puzzle champion, a cycling certificate, a medal for best runner... My children become quickly attached to grades, certificates, titles... That is not necessarily bad in the society we live but wicked businesspeople will try to take profit from this too. Also fide has already discovered some time ago that they can earn money by assigning titles. An exclusivity is transformed in a cash cow. Today we have approximately 1500 grandmasters and this number still grows as each year the new ones surpass many times the deceased ones.

Obviously discussions about the value of the titles and the different ways to achieve a title, occur regularly. An ex-fide official stated on his blog that he was comfortable with the current system. Personally I think titles are no guarantee anymore for quality so I started to use an additional nuance in my articles. I use the simple name grandmaster till 2600 elo. A strong grandmaster is between 2600 and 2700 and from 2700 I call the player a top-grandmaster.

Standard chess is not the only chess-domain in which you can earn titles. Many online sites have today their own reward-model to keep players. The value of the obtained decorations is often very limited or non-existing outside those sites. However titles attributed by ICCF are recognized by a much larger public. Unfortunately also here we see the exclusivity crumble away despite this is a niche.

A much smaller niche is solving chess. There are only 28 grandmasters including our Eddy Van Beers. Pity that his title in 2009 got so little attention. From experience I know that it is a very bright accomplishment which only can be achieved by many years of dedication and a lot of talent. Maybe the most exclusive and most respected grandmaster-title is in chess compositions. You can only earn every 3 years points for the title which means it often takes many years. Some months ago on the Israelite Yochanan Afek got compliments for his new title as one of the 7 living grandmasters. Although in fairness there exists no special title for only endgame-compositions. There only exists a title for compositions so more than just endgames. The full list is therefore longer than just 7 if you check wfcc which anyway doesn't harm the magnificent performance on which Afek has worked 48 years !

I am not going to discuss his many beautiful endgame studies as anybody interested can buy the database of Harold van der Heijden. I prefer to discuss the topic of one of his books: Invisible moves and which is naturally connected to his other work.

First we need to agree about what are invisible moves. If you watch live-broadcasts then you quickly notice players often disagree about what is easy/ difficult. I don't speak about just the inexperienced kibitzers solely relying on the evaluation of their engines but also commentators often wrongly predict what the top-player will or will not discover. The degree of difficulty can be more accurately defined in special solving-seances. Several tactic servers assign ratings to the problems based on earlier results: chesstempochessbasects, ...

The disadvantage of such sessions just like with training-books is that this doesn't copy tournament conditions. It is much easier to find a strong move if somebody tells you in advance there is one hidden (see my article my most beautiful move). Therefore I want to concentrate in this article on special positions in which not only several players but also the majority didn't find the 'clear' best move in a standard game.

Middlegames and endgames almost immediately are disregarded as they almost never pop up 2 times in practice without even considering the same mistake was made. So only openings remain. Of course players learn from the history so it is not easy to find positions which fully qualify. The first one which does is the position below popping up in 3 games of the Big Database 2015. In none of them the critical move was played.
[Event "Position 1 invisible moves"] [Date "2015"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A04"] [PlyCount "23"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 Nc6 3. d4 e6 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. c4 d6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Nd4 Nxc4 10. dxe6 g6 {(Including switching of colors we can find this position 3 times in the big database of 2015. Not once the invisible moves-combination was played.)} 11. Bh6 $1 Re8 12. Bc6 $1 {(This wins the exchange with the better prospects.)} *
Readers following my blog for some time probably recognized the position from my article Belgian interclub apotheosis as there I annotated my game against Glen De Schampheleire. By the way later Glen told me in a comment on the blog that the combination was played in an almost identical position by the Italian grandmaster Axel Rombaldoni. Almost identical is not identical so I don't take it into account.

A second much more frequently occurring position which I show is already known from 1892. In 178 games only 23 times the best move was played and probably almost exclusively by players having studied the position before.
[Event "Position 2 invisible moves"] [Date "2015"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C64"] [PlyCount "23"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. c3 d6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4 {(This position occurs 178 times in the Big database 2015. Now white can keep an edge with the simple Nc3, Nbd2 or Bd2 but only the spectacular Kf1 wins immediately decisive material.)} 7. Kf1 $1 {(In 1996 I also did not discover the move in my game against Pieter Truwant. It was Fritz 4 that let me discover this beautiful move. However the move was already earlier discovered and played by former world-champion Emanuel Lasker in 1892! We do not learn much from history as in only 23 games of the 178 the winning move was played.)} d5 {(Undoubtedly the toughest move and probably the reason why Alekhine rejected Kf1 in a second encounter.)} (7... a6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Qa4 a5 (9... Rb8 10. a3 $18) 10. a3 Ba6 (10... Bd7 11. axb4 c5 12. b5 $18) (10... Bb7 11. Qb3 $18) 11. Kg1 Bb5 12. Qb3 $18) (7... Nge7 8. d5 a6 9. Be2 $18 ) (7... Bg4 8. Qa4 $18) (7... Ba5 8. Qa4 Bb6 9. d5 a6 10. dxc6 axb5 11. Qxa8 $18) (7... Bd7 8. Qa4 a5 (8... Nge7 9. d5 a6 10. dxc6 axb5 11. cxd7 $18) (8... Rb8 9. a3 a6 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. axb4 $18) 9. a3 Nf6 10. Bg5 $18) 8. Qb3 $1 { (Alekhine played Ne5 but only Qb3 wins.)} Bd6 (8... dxe4 9. Ne5 Be6 10. Nxc6 Bxb3 11. Nxd8 Kxd8 12. axb3 $18) 9. exd5 a6 10. dxc6 axb5 11. cxb7 Bxb7 12. Qxb5 $18 *
Grandmasters Kevin Spragett, Alonso Zapata and even Anatoly Karpov missed the best move. Kevin Spragett missed the move even twice. It just shows that not everybody agrees with me to analyze all your own games in detail like I wrote in my article which games to analyze. Former world-champion Alexander Alekhine played the first time the correct move but varied in a second encounter. Sure some tactical lines must be calculated but isn't that exactly the specialty of Alekhine? Of course I also didn't play the move when I met it the first time. However online I was in the meantime able to play Kf1 40 times already totally surprising my blitz-opponents.

A 3rd and last example is copied from the excellent but now sleeping curiosity-site of Tim Krabbe. The position occurs less frequently than the previous one as only 41 times but seems to be a much harder nut to crack as 0 times the winning move was played in standard chess.
[Event "Position 3 invisible moves"] [Date "2015"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C01"] [PlyCount "15"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. c4 Bb4 {(I found 41 examples with this position in my big database 2015. Not once the strongest move Ke2 was played. )} 5. Ke2 $1 Nb6 6. c5 Nd5 (6... Nc4 7. Qb3 $18) 7. a3 Ba5 8. b4 $16 *
The Philipinian grandmaster Eugenio Torre is the most famous player having missed the incredible Ke2.

Can we consider the last move as the most invisible move or do you prefer the previous one? Maybe you know a more difficult move from your repertoire with openingtraps. Let us know in the comments which move/ position has given you already many easy wins.


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