Friday, September 25, 2015

The wrong example

In quite a lot of Belgian chessclubs you can find teachers able to explain a number of steps of the steps method. Unfortunately it doesn't go beyond that. A more advanced coaching is only accessible for a handful of players, e.g. those getting a special invitation to join the project go for grandmaster. The majority and particularly adults are completely left alone after the steps method. 

Naturally top-players fulfill for those less fortune ones an unsolicited exemplary function. In my article fashion I already showed how a particular opening suddenly becomes very popular after a top-player started to insert it in his repertoire. If an opening holds against players of +2700 elo than it will certainly be against a much more modest level. That sounds pretty logical but it is too simplistic to believe that this will guarantee success. Every opening has its own characteristics and we don't have all the same style of playing chess.

So the danger exists that we play an opening for which we neither have the knowledge nor the skills. This aspect we also see in the middlegame. A top-player plays a risky concept but apparently wins with ease.
[Event "3rd Sinquefield Cup 2015"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2015.08.23"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Topalov, Veselin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2853"] [BlackElo "2816"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2015.08.23"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5 Nd7 4. O-O Ngf6 5. Re1 a6 6. Bd3 b5 7. c4 g5 {(This very aggressive move was already discussed 2 years ago on chesspub by the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon but Magnus did not know. It is not the first time that Magnus is not fully up to date of the existing publications, remember his debacle of a few years ago against Luke Mc Shane.)} 8. Nxg5 Ne5 9. Be2 bxc4 10. Na3 Rg8 11. Nxc4 Nxc4 12. d4 Nb6 13. Bh5 Nxh5 14. Qxh5 Rg7 15. Nxh7 Qd7 16. dxc5 dxc5 17. e5 Qc6 18. f3 Qg6 19. Nf6 Kd8 20. Qxg6 Rxg6 21. Ne4 Bb7 22. h4 Rc8 23. h5 Rg8 24. Bd2 Nc4 25. Bc3 Bh6 26. Rad1 Ke8 27. Rd3 Bf4 28. Nf2 Bc6 29. Nh3 Bg3 30. Re2 Bb5 31. Rd1 Bc6 32. Nf2 Bxe5 33. Ng4 Bxc3 34. bxc3 Kf8 35. Kf2 Rh8 36. Ne5 Nxe5 37. Rxe5 Be8 38. g4 f6 39. Re6 Bb5 40. Rde1 Rc7 0-1
Subsequently the temptation increases to try also such kind of moves like g5 which are anti-positional. If a world-champion doesn't succeed to counter the aggression then somebody with much less talent will neither be able to do. Practice however shows often a very different picture.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vandelacluze, I."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2100"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/2B2ppp/p4b2/3P1q2/PRPn4/5N2/5PPP/3Q2K1 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "40"] 24... g5 $6 {(You can only play these kind of moves in thematic openings like the kings indian, in very concrete positions or the endgame. Here it is not good although we must add that blacks position is already bad so it does make some sense to complicate.)} (24... h5 $1 25. Rb8 {(Black can answer h3 with Re2.)} Rxb8 26. Bxb8 Qg4 27. h3 Nxf3 28. Qxf3 Qxc4 {(Of course white is better but the win is not trivial at all.)}) 25. Rb8 Rxb8 26. Bxb8 Qc8 (26... Qg4 27. h3 Nxf3 28. Qxf3 $18 {(The negative consequences of g5 become already visible as the bishop hangs.)}) 27. Nxd4 Qxb8 28. Nf5 {(G5 also weakened the white squares on the kingside of which white easily profits.)} Qf4 29. Ne3 Bd4 30. Qd3 Bc5 31. g3 Qe5 32. Kg2 Qb2 33. Qe4 Kf8 34. g4 Qa2 35. d6 Bxe3 36. Qxe3 Qxc4 37. Qe7 Kg7 38. Qxg5 Kf8 39. Qe7 Kg7 40. h3 Qxa4 41. d7 Qc6 42. Kg3 Qc3 43. Kh4 Qf3 44. Qg5 1-0
Blacks position was already awkward so there were mitigating factors to go all in. Often the best move only delays defeat with a number of moves and there are no points to win with the number of moves. An objectively inferior move can sometimes create sufficient complications in such situations to change the course of the game. Here it failed and only a desperate endgame remains.

I often experienced to my shame that anti-positional moves like g5 are very risky. I still remember very well how I self-destructed a complex position against Geert Vanderstricht by playing twice on a row the extremely stupid g5.
[Event "Interclub Temse - Deurne"] [Date "2006"] [White "Van der Stricht, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2410"] [BlackElo "2337"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2rr2k1/pb4pp/3q4/2pp1p1P/4nN2/1P2P1P1/PQ3PB1/2RR2K1 b - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "22"] 26... g5 $2 {(In the Dutch, g5 is rather normal but it is always a matter of carefully weighting pros and cons. Here I want to chase away the knight with g5 which is clearly a too optimistic idea. A waiting move like Rd7 is unpleasant but much better.) } 27. hxg6 hxg6 28. Bf1 $2 {(White sets a trap. However much stronger was Bxe4 creating big problems for black.)} g5 $2 {(Consistent but I fall with open eyes for the trap. Kh7 or Qb6 were playable.)} 29. Nxd5 Bxd5 $6 {(Timetrouble, shock? In any case blacks counterattack is fantasy. The cool Kh7 still puts up a fight.)} 30. Rxd5 Qxd5 31. Bc4 Qxc4 32. bxc4 Rd2 33. Qe5 {(The black king is an easy target. No surprise that Geert only needs a couple of extra moves to finish the game.)} Rf8 34. Rb1 Nxf2 35. Rb7 Nh3 36. Kf1 Rf2 37. Ke1 1-0
G5 is a standard-move in the Dutch stonewall to initiate a kings-attack but in above example this was of course extremely optimistic. I can even add based on my decades of experience with the Dutch that g5 is always something delicate contrary to example the Kings Indian.

Replaying contemporary games of topplayers is definitely not the way to learn the basics of chess. In the article Knights On the Rim Are Amazing the Amercian grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky warns the reader that successfully breaking the rules fully depends on the strength of a player. Therefore it is surely not redundant to first understand and implement the basic principles. This can be much easier learned by grabbing a book which annotates the games of old masters like Capablanca, Rubinstein,....


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