Friday, October 30, 2015

A blessing in disguise

Mistakes exist in all sorts of formats and sizes: small, big, technical, time and fatigue related ones or just silly mistakes. Except a few games we will make in each game mistakes as I demonstrated already in the previous article. To detect mistakes I use extensively my computer but there are of course different methods. A good port-mortem with the opponent can be very enlightening but also a session with a coach and/or stronger player can be educative. Finally if you are sufficient self-critical then it must be possible to find independently already some errors.

By discovering mistakes we realize that some things were missed during the game. The number of mistakes and so also the number of things missed directly correlate with the result of the game. This iron logic explains why many players don't accept luck being part of our game.

However this theory becomes shaky when there exist positions in which we increase our winning chances by missing something. Blundering a piece can never be a good thing, right? Well as you can imagine also here there are exceptions. We start with a recent example from our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen.
[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2015.08.27"] [Round "5"] [White "Magnus Carlsen"] [Black "Wesley So"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2853"] [BlackElo "2779"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/5r1p/1qNp2pP/2b2pP1/Pp2pP2/1Q6/1PP5/1K1R4 w - - 0 36"] [PlyCount "41"] 36. Qd5 e3 {(After the game Carlsen admitted bravely that he completely missed Qb7 and that he was incredibly lucky a saving winning combination existed.)} (36... Qb7 {(Carlsen got anxious when he saw in the reflection-time of the opponent this possibility. The threat of losing a piece after Rc7 is very real.)} 37. Qxc5 {(However it is pure coincidence that white can sacrifice the queen here leading to a spectacular mate. How often such thing happens in a career?)} dxc5 38. Rd8#) 37. a5 Qb5 38. Nd8 Ra7 39. Ne6 Ke8 40. Nd4 Qxa5 41. Qg8 Kd7 42. Qxh7 Kc8 43. Qg8 Kb7 44. c3 bxc3 45. Qb3 Qb6 46. Qxb6 Kxb6 47. bxc3 Bxd4 48. Rxd4 Kc6 49. Kc2 Ra2 50. Kd1 Rf2 51. Ke1 Kd7 52. Ra4 Ke6 53. Ra8 Rh2 54. c4 Kf7 55. Rb8 Ke6 56. Rg8 1-0
On Magnus admitted that he was incredibly lucky not to lose after missing Qb7. I still remember from my practice one such oddity of a blessing in disguise.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Creb"] [Date "2000"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Duhayon, Y."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2261"] [BlackElo "2245"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr3r/p1p2ppp/Npp5/4Pb2/8/P3B2P/5PP1/2R2RK1 w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "7"] 19. Rxc6 {(I completely missed blacks answer otherwise I would have likely played Nb4 instead.)} Kb7 20. Rxc7 {(Nb4 is answered by a5. Fortunately I get a load of pawns for my piece and maintain a very active position.)} Kxa6 21. Rxf7 Rd7 {(I assume the weird developments gave Yves a headache as how else can we explain this blunder.)} 22. Rxf5 1-0

I completely missed the fork after capturing the c6 pawn but I was thrilled to discover that I got tremendous compensation. I assume my opponent was also surprised by the developments as how else can we explain his meltdown which followed.

Last in the past Open Gent I experienced again such peculiarity but this time I was the victim. Hereby I do have to applaud for the behavior of my opponent Bart Michiels as without his confession I would've never known luck played a role. I expect few players would admit that their winning move was actually based on blundering a piece.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2520"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6q1/1k6/4p3/3pPb1p/1P1Bp2b/2P1Q1P1/4BRK1/r7 w - - 0 64"] [PlyCount "28"] 64. c4 $4 {(Well one move earlier this move was winning but now there exists unfortunately for me a devilish counter which I missed with less that 1 minute on my clock remaining for the rest of the game.)} (64. Rxf5 $1 exf5 65. Qf4 Ra2 66. Qxh4 Rxe2 67. Kf1 Ra2 68. Qe7 Ka8 $11) 64... Bxg3 {(Instantly played by Bart. After the game Bart frankly admitted that he only saw in my reflection-time that his rook was hanging but can not be taken due to Bf4. Sometimes you also need some luck.)} 65. Qxg3 {(Objectively the best move but naturally the damage is done.)} Rg1 66. Kxg1 Qxg3 67. Rg2 Qe1 68. Kh2 Qh4 69. Kg1 Qe1 {(Repeating the moves to let my clock get closer to 0, professionally played. Bart was fully awake after the shock at move 64.)} 70. Kh2 Qh4 71. Kg1 Bg4 72. cxd5 Qe1 73. Bf1 exd5 74. Rf2 e3 75. Rf7 Kc8 (75... Kc6 76. b5# {(Bart did not miss this funny self-mate. It is never too late to blunder.)}) 76. Kh2 Qh4 77. Kg1 Qg3 {(With only 2 seconds remaining and mate nearby I resigned slightly disappointed. I was closer to an upset compared to the previous games but again missed that something extra.)} 0-1
Well it is not pleasant of course to lose your chances of making a top-ranking this way. On the other hand you do realize on such moments that professional chess must be very tough. True such extreme hiccups are fortunately very rare. Anyway I don't recommend anybody to give away pieces and assume some hidden win will pop up later or you could be very disappointed.


Friday, October 23, 2015


The news-articles which every day brings are maybe not that topnotch as in the days of its predecessor chessvibes (as HK5000 earlier wrote in the article computerchess), the new blogs on which I got to know, surely largely compensate. On everybody can start its own blog which means a lot of garbage must be disregarded before finding the goodies. A nice selection is the one proposed by : recent top-articles. If you still have some extra spare time then I recommend to follow also the blog of the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon

The added value of the blogarticles for shouldn't be underestimated. A well written article can easily achieve 10.000 views. I consider this a lot for an article not covering a running top-tournament although I immediately have to admit that reading good blogs can be pretty addictive. Besides if you know a good chess-blog which I didn't earlier refer to then you can definitely do me a favor by writing it down below in a reaction.

The subjects treated on are very diverse so everybody will find something interesting. There are educational articles (with e.g the famous trainers IM Silman and Bruce Pandolfini), historical articles (the house-specialist is without doubt Batgirl), thematic articles, stories and even cartoons (only Jose Diaz).   Staff-member Pete has a reputation of publishing regularly posts creating controversy. Recently he challenged the reader to criticize the choice of the jury, having awarded a beauty-price out of a huge amount of submitted copies of games played in Millionaire chess open at Las Vegas. The beauty-price has the value of an entry-ticket to next's edition which isn't small if you notice the amounts payed by players for this year's edition.

As the winner contained a huge number of mistakes, many readers were disappointed. White already blunders early in the game his queen but fights back and even wins eventually the game. It is this fighting spirit which mainly pleased the jury. However in a reaction this so called fighting spirit was minimized as white only continued the game to avoid his game being published in some magazine as a miniature. On the other hand perfect play isn't the equivalence of beauty. I played in 19 of my last 100 games without any mistake (if we consider the standard explained in my article annotations)  and none of them can be considered special. I win often games punishing the mistakes of my opponents by simple technical means. I also have a couple of perfect drawn games in which both sides played super cautious and after exchanging most pieces achieved a dry endgame. The couple of short draws neither convince and the few games which do look bright are almost completely based on thorough preparations as in the recent game below.
[Event "TSM tornooi"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Verhasselt, K."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B78"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2050"] [PlyCount "67"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 {(The most popular continuation but the first time I get it on the board in an official game. Fortunately I had looked at it in my preparations just before the game.)} 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. Kb1 Re8 13. h4 h5 14. g4 hxg4 15. h5 Nxh5 16. Bh6 e6 $6 {(This mainline has theoretical problems today. Probably best is Kh7 here although white seems still to obtain a modest advantage.)} (16... Kh7 $1 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. fxg4 Bxg4 19. Nf5 Bxf5 20. exf5 Rh8 21. fxg6 Nxg6 22. Ne4 $5 d5 23. Rhf1 $1 e6 $14) 17. Rdg1 Qf6 18. fxg4 Bxh6 19. Qxh6 Qg7 20. Qd2 Nf6 21. g5 Nh5 22. Nce2 Nc4 $6 {(Again the most popular move but the alternatives are slightly stronger.)} (22... Kf8 $5 23. Rh4 $1 b6 $5 24. Rd1 $1 Rc5 $1 25. Nf4 Nxf4 26. Qxf4 Ke7 27. Rdh1 Kd8 28. Rh7 Qf8 29. Nf3 Qe7 $16) ( 22... Bc6 $5 23. Rh4 $5 a5 24. a3 $1 a4 25. Ba2 d5 26. Nf4 $5 dxe4 27. Rxh5 Rcd8 28. Qc3 $16) (22... a5 $5 23. a4 $1 Nc4 $1 24. Bxc4 $1 Rxc4 25. b3 Rb4 $1 26. c3 $16) 23. Bxc4 Rxc4 24. b3 Rc5 25. Ng3 Nxg3 26. Rxg3 Rec8 27. Rgh3 e5 28. Rh6 $146 {(The first new move as in 3 older games Rh4 was played which also wins. I vaguely remember having seen this position at home on my computer and that the engine recommends Rh6.)} exd4 29. Qh2 Kf8 30. Qxd6 Kg8 31. Qxd7 R5c7 32. Qh3 Kf8 33. Rh8 Ke7 34. Rxc8 {(I strongly suspect that I have seen this final position before.)} 1-0
The novelty arrived at move 28. By the way this is an improvement of my old record covered in my article copycats. Besides I already had seen the novelty at home on my computer and the rest of the game isn't that difficult. No I prefer watching a game with mistakes if this is within certain boundaries of course. Personally I think blundering a queen is too much but which mistakes are acceptable? Let us first have a look of which kind of mistakes exist. I consider 3 categories of mistakes: technical mistakes (linked to the strength of the player), forced errors (mistakes made in time-trouble, fatigue so avoidable in normal circumstances) and concentration mistakes (inexplicable blunders). It is interesting to find out which mistakes are occurring most frequently. For this I again use my personal database (as done before in my article to study openings). Contrary to a commercial database, my games are analyzed and on top also contain lots of background-information about e.g. time-consumption,.. To execute the work in a couple of hours, I only processed my most recent 100 played games.
Chessmistakes details last 100 games played by Brabo
Chessmistakes overview last 100 games played by Brabo
Despite the small-scale study I believe we do see some clear trends. My rating was more or less stable over the 100 games and I played a very evenly spread of player's strength.
1) Concentration mistakes are rare for experienced clubplayers and can't be linked to a rating. Remember my article grandmasternorm for stefan docx in which a double concentration blunder of Stefan was shown.
2) I don't make a distinction between the magnitude of the mistakes but it is not at all a surprise that the number of technical mistakes declines when the rating of a player increases.
3) It is neither a surprise that I commit more technical mistakes against higher rated players as the problems become more complex to be solved. An exception is  the lowest rating-slice which probably can be explained as the result of  playing regularly a sub-optimal move to avoid any complex position. I also want to remark that the actual methods to detect cheating insufficiently take this aspect into account.
4) Maybe the most stunning is the drastic increase of the forced errors in the highest rating-slice for both sides. In this slice my opponent is higher rated so more willing to take risks contrary to my more careful approach against lower rated players. An other explanation is that the problems which need to be solved in the highest rating-slice anyway take more time.

I don't doubt that the number of mistakes also largely depends on the type of player. However I would be surprised if no similar trends can be discovered. If we connect beauty at quality and combativeness then we first need to look at the games between top-players. However the definition of beauty isn't the same for everybody as different accents can be added. So I do understand that a sensational turnaround can be so wonderful that mistakes are just considered as beauty marks.


Friday, October 16, 2015

To disarm

The new generation of young players possess today a wide range of tools to improve of which I could only dream about in my starting years. Live broadcasts with comments from grandmasters, countless high quality books, extremely strong engines, online training-facilities... it is for everybody affordable with a minimum budget.

The negative side of the big stream of information is that it became even for top grandmasters impossible to keep track of everything. So you need to filter but how and what depends of a lot of factors. The entertainment value should not be neglected but more relevant is of course the educative part. In the past the rule was first to work on the weak points as that is where the most progression is possible. Today however there are increasingly doubts about this old rule. Something you do good is often also something you like to do. As a consequence it often takes much less time and effort to work on the strong points. Eventually some recent studies proofed a considerable gain in profit by working on the strong points instead of the weak points. A book about the Kings gambit will be very easy to read through for an attacking player and will surely show quickly dividends in practice.  However forcing the same attacking player to read a book about the Dutch stonewall could be even damaging the results.

So it is not all bad to specialize to some extend in chess. Nonetheless I won't deny there are dangers too. Playing the man is something which you need to take into account especially when the opponent knows your strong points. The success largely depends how successful you can avoid the disarmament of your strong points. A clash of different styles often caused lively discussions in our rich history of chess. We all remember how Botvinnik lost his fist match against Tal but was able to reverse the tables in the returnmatch. We don't even need to go back in time or look to the very strongest players to witness such interesting duels. I noticed end of last year a game played at the Antwerp Liga between Marcel Van Herck and Robert Schuermans in which Marcel outfoxed Robert by simplifying the position and win soberly the endgame.
[Event "Liga Antwerpen"] [Date "2014.12.07"] [White "Van Herck, Marcel"] [Black "Schuermans, Robert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E43"] [PlyCount "143"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. d4 c5 4. e3 b6 5. Nc3 cxd4 6. exd4 Bb4 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 Bxc3 11. bxc3 d6 12. Nd2 Nbd7 13. f4 Qc7 14. Qe2 Rfe8 15. h3 Qc6 16. Kh2 b5 17. Rac1 bxc4 18. Bxc4 a6 19. Nb3 Qc7 20. Bd3 a5 21. c4 a4 22. Nd2 Qb6 23. Rb1 Qc6 24. Qf3 {(Seen from pure technical perspective this is not a good move as it gives away all the advantage but against Robert simplifying the position definitely makes sense.)} Qxf3 25. Nxf3 Bc6 26. Rb4 Reb8 27. Rfb1 Rxb4 28. Rxb4 Rb8 {(Black proposed a draw but Marcel naturally realizes that he has not much to fear in this kind of position.)} 29. Be1 Ne8 30. Rxb8 Nxb8 31. f5 Bd7 32. fxe6 fxe6 33. Kg3 Kf7 34. Kf4 Nc6 35. Ke3 Kf6 36. Bc3 Kf7 37. Bc2 Ne7 38. g4 g5 39. Bb4 Ng6 40. Bxg6 Kxg6 41. c5 Nf6 42. cxd6 Nd5 43. Ke4 Nxb4 44. Ne5 Kg7 45. Nxd7 Nxa2 46. Nc5 Kf6 47. Nxa4 Nb4 48. Nc3 Nc6 49. Ne2 $2 {(A little flaw in otherwise a very well played endgame.)} Nd8 50. Ng3 Kf7 (50... Nb7 $1 51. Nh5 Kf7 $1 52. Ke5 Na5 $1 53. d7 Nc4 $1 54. Ke4 {(With this non trivial sequence Robert could have saved the game.)}) 51. d5 {(The rest is played impeccable so the essence of the story was maintained.)} Ke8 52. Ke5 Kd7 53. dxe6 Nxe6 54. Nh5 Nf8 55. Nf6 Kc6 56. Ng8 Kd7 57. Nxh6 Ng6 58. Kf5 Nf4 59. h4 Kxd6 60. Nf7 Ke7 61. Nxg5 Nd5 62. Ne4 Ne3 63. Kf4 Ng2 64. Kg5 Kf7 65. h5 Kg7 66. Nd6 Kh7 67. Nf5 Ne1 68. Kf6 Ng2 69. g5 Nf4 70. g6 Kh8 71. g7 Kh7 72. Kf7 1-0
I couldn't stop smiling when Robert took a week later already revenge again with the black colour. This time Marcel didn't manage to neutralize the chaos.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r4"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [White "Van Herck, M."] [Black "Schuermans, R."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B02"] [WhiteElo "2075"] [BlackElo "2110"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 {(A try to seduce black of playing e5 and enter less sharp lines but Robert obviously has different plans.)} d5 3. e5 Ne4 4. Nce2 d4 5. d3 Nc5 6. b4 Ne6 7. f4 g6 8. Bb2 Bg7 9. Nf3 c5 10. bxc5 Nc6 11. c3 Qa5 {(Robert has exactly the type of position on the board that he likes.)} 12. Qd2 dxc3 13. Bxc3 Qxc5 14. d4 Qd5 15. Kf2 f6 16. g3 O-O 17. Bg2 Qc4 18. Rhc1 fxe5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Rd8 21. Qe3 Nc5 22. Rd1 Bg4 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Kxf3 Rd5 25. Rxd5 Qxd5 26. Kf2 Rd8 27. Kg1 e6 28. Bb2 Nd3 29. Rd1 Qc4 30. Bd4 Nxd4 0-1
Robert is for everybody extremely dangerous if he can obtain his favorite type of attacking chess on the board. I also once lost by not finding the right answers in the complications created by Robert or maybe the reader still remembers my article how to win from a stronger player.

From my own practice I remember a recent special case of successful disarmament. A couple of months ago I managed to draw in Open Gent against the surprising tournament-winner, the Russian grandmaster Alexei Gavrilov, while the biggest part of the game I was a pawn down and temporarily even 2. In my preparations I had noticed that my opponent was very dangerous once he had the initiative by employing tactics which is in below example nicely demonstrated.
[Event "Heart of Finland op 23rd"] [Site "Jyvaskyla"] [Date "2013.07.08"] [Round "1"] [White "Gavrilov, Alexei V"] [Black "Osmolny, Vladimir I"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D07"] [WhiteElo "2452"] [BlackElo "2213"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2013.07.08"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "FIN"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2013.08.26"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bg5 Nd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Na5 8. Bxc4 Nxc4 9. Qa4 c6 10. Qxc4 Be6 11. Qe2 f6 12. Be3 Qa5 13. O-O Bg4 14. h3 Bd7 15. c4 e6 16. Rab1 Qc7 17. e5 {(Alexei plays normal developing chess in the openings but once the position is ready for action then he does not wait to play energetically by using pawnmoves combined with little combinations.)} Kf7 18. d5 exd5 19. Bf4 Be6 20. cxd5 cxd5 21. Rfc1 Bc5 22. Rxc5 Qxc5 23. Rxb7 Ke8 24. exf6 Qc8 25. f7 {(A fitting conclusion. Kf8 is answered by Bd6 mate while after Kd8 follows Bg5 mate.)} 1-0

In our mutual game I didn't hesitate sacrificing a pawn to avoid the positions in which he excells. I even sacrificed a second one when new threats were popping up.
[Event "Open Gent 7de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Gavrilov, A."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C97"] [WhiteElo "2411"] [BlackElo "2316"] [PlyCount "130"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. d5 (12. Nbd2 cxd4 13. cxd4 Nc6 14. Nb3 a5 15. Be3 a4 16. Nbd2 Bd7 17. Rc1 Rac8 18. a3 Na5 19. Bd3 Qb8 20. Qe2 h6 21. Red1 Rfe8 22. d5 Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Bd8 24. b4 axb3 25. Rb1 Be7 26. Nxb3 Nc4 27. Bc1 Qa8 28. Bxc4 bxc4 29. Qxc4 {(Black has excellent compensation for the sacrificed pawn.)} Rc8 30. Qd3 Qa4 31. Nbd2 Bd8 32. Kh2 Kh7 33. Ng1 Ba5 34. f3 Nh5 35. Nf1 f5 36. Ne2 Rc5 37. Nfg3 Nxg3 38. Nxg3 f4 39. Nf5 Bb5 40. Qb3 Qxb3 41. Rxb3 Bd7 42. Bb2 Bxf5 43. exf5 Rxd5 44. g4 Be1 45. a4 Bg3 46. Kg2 Rd2 47. Kf1 Rf2 48. Kg1 Re2 49. Kf1 Re1 50. Kg2 d5 51. a5 Re2 {(Hamarat Tunc - Tarnowiecki Harald 1/2-1/2 played in 50JEGMT 2004.)}) 12... Bd7 13. b3 {(I already encountered Nbd2 and a4 in earlier official games but b3 is doubtless superior. I am surprised that b3 scores so good in correspondence-chess while in standardchess it is rather unpopular.)} Rfc8 $5 {(I remembered out of my old analysis that it was interesting to play first a rook-move before Nb7 but I forgot the details. I think better rookmoves in this position are Rab8, Rfb8 or Rfe8. Nb7, Ne8, g6 and h6 also seem playable.)} 14. Be3 $5 {(Immediately Nbd2 is an interesting alternative.)} Nb7 $6 {(I mix a couple of plans as this move is not optimal. G6 is more consistent after which black does not have to fear Bh6 attacking a rook and winning a tempo.)} (14... g6 $1 15. Nbd2 $5 Nh5 $1 16. Nf1 Nb7 17. c4 $13) 15. Nbd2 $6 {(Apparently white did not yet study this line thoroughly as otherwise he would definitely play c4 which underlines the shortcomings of blacks position.)} c4 16. bxc4 Nc5 $6 {(I had noticed in my preparation that the Russian grandmaster is very dangerous if he has the initiative so I did not hesitate to sacrifice a pawn. Besides I remember a similar position from the top-correspondence game Tunc Hamarat - Harald Tarnowiecki, see earlier, in which such pawnsacrifice gave excellent compensation. Nonetheless I have to admit that the sacrifice would have been stronger after Na5 instead of Nc5. By the way Na5 has been played once earlier in a game between engines.)} (16... Na5 $1 17. c5 {(Remarkable but both my top-engines recommend to counter-sacrifice the pawn.)} dxc5 18. c4 bxc4 19. Nf1 c3 20. Qd3 Ne8 21. Qxc3 f6 22. Rab1 $13) 17. Rb1 Rab8 18. Bxc5 $6 {(White will miss this bishop in the game. Better are Qc1 or Qe2 and black only has limited compensation for the pawn.)} Qxc5 19. Bd3 bxc4 $6 {(This only improves the coordination of whites pieces. I agree with the engines that Bd8 is more accurate which allows black to quickly control the black squares.)} 20. Bxc4 Qa5 21. Qc2 Bd8 22. Rxb8 Rxb8 23. Rb1 Bb6 24. Bd3 Qc5 25. Nc4 $6 {(The knight is not stable on c4. Better is Nb3.)} Ba7 26. Rxb8 Bxb8 27. Nfd2 Ba7 28. Nb3 Qc7 29. Qe2 h6 30. Kh2 Bb5 31. Nbd2 Bxc4 $6 {(I steer the game to an endgame of opposite bishops but this again improves the coordination between whites pieces. Better are g6 or Nd7.)} 32. Nxc4 Nd7 33. Qf3 $6 {(Qc2 to untie the knot on the queenside is stronger.)} Nb6 $2 {(I try to force the endgame of opposite bishops in which I am safe but I miss completely whites reply. G6 was much better and black defends comfortably.)} 34. Ne3 {(Except the exchange I only took Na5 into account which I would answer by Nxd5. This Ne3 was a cold shower.)} g6 {(I decide to sacrifice a second pawn to avoid the dangers after Nf5. Maybe it is not objectively the best move but against such dangerous attacking player surely acceptable.)} 35. Ng4 h5 36. Nf6 Kf8 37. Bxa6 $6 {(The less greedy g4 is more dangerous.)} (37. g4 $1 hxg4 38. Nxg4 Qe7 39. Bxa6 Na4 40. Bb5 Nc5 41. Kg3 Bb6 42. Qe3 $16 {(White has 2 extra pawns like in the game but kept the knights on the board. Still it is unclear if it is sufficient for the win.)}) 37... Nd7 38. Nxd7 Qxd7 39. Qf6 Qc7 40. Kg1 $6 {(I believe white missed my next move although even after the surprising and stronger Bc8 there is neither a clear path to victory.)} Qxc3 41. Bf1 Bc5 42. Qf3 Qc2 43. Qe2 Qa4 $6 {(Black has little problems to draw but Qc3 was even more forcing.)} 44. h4 Qd4 45. g3 Kg7 46. Kg2 Qb4 47. Qf3 $6 {(Qc2 kept a bit more tension in the game but should not influence the result anymore.)} Qb6 48. a4 Qb4 49. Bb5 Qa5 $6 {(It is not necessary to transfer the queen to the defense. The waiting move Kf8 probably leads quicker to the desired draw.)} 50. Be8 Qc7 51. a5 $6 {(White was heartbroken after this blunder which costs the extra pawn but honestly I do not see any constructive plan for white. Of course white can prolong the game with Qc3 but if black does not make a big mistake then then there is no win.)} Kf8 52. Bc6 Qxa5 53. Qf6 Qc7 54. Kh2 Bb6 55. f4 Qd8 56. fxe5 Qxf6 57. exf6 Bd4 58. g4 hxg4 59. Kg3 Bxf6 60. Kxg4 Kg7 61. h5 gxh5 62. Kxh5 Be5 63. Kg4 Kf6 64. Bb5 Bd4 65. Bc6 Be5 1/2-1/2
The positional pawn-sacrifices are maybe objectively not completely correct but in practice it worked. My opponent was very disappointed after the game about the result but I don't think that I didn't merit a half point.

How successful you disarm somebody, influences without a doubt heavily the final result. If you don't succeed to neutralize somebodies strong points several times on a row then there exists the danger of creating an angstgegner or also called black beast. It explains a.f.a.i.k partly why some players have mutual scores which strongly deviate from the prognoses made by elo.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

The sequence part 2

The most unique and beautiful about chess is for me the mix of players. I can't imagine immediately another widespread sport or discipline in which age, origin, character, education is so irrelevant. Despite this enormous variety we see each player quickly using familiar patterns which transpose into following routines.

Of course it is absolutely normal to repeat something which has proven its virtue. This not only concerns openingchoices but also style, tempo and even the opponents we want to play against. Routines give us support in the chaos of our complex chessgame but it also is often the reason why players don't progress further anymore.

Very few players are capable to criticize themselves and subsequently leave their comfort-zone. It is not easy at all to try something new and again lose some games to gain experience. A personal coach can not only support with chess related stuff but often can also mentally play an important role. However as mentioned in my previous article a coach is only affordable for a handful (advanced) players.

I have to admit that I also like to follow my routines which I have polished over the years. Playing the same openings for more than 20 years, doesn't show much courage of course. My excuse of the scientific approach naturally doesn't explain everything. On the other hand it is often also very hard to know which direction you need to go if you learn chess by self-tuition. The statistics of this blog often show some crazy searches like recently "how can I always win in chess" which just displays how desperate some people are.

The lack of an instant answer for many questions creates a lot of insecurity. However at the same time this leaves us a choice how to proceed which in itself is an interesting domain of psychology. I played last couple of months 2 games in which some very tough decisions were made. In both games my opponents deviated very likely unconsciously from the standard sequence in the opening so I had to choose between transposing back to the mainline or playing unprepared some interesting deviation.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r8"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "De Cock, R."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C96"] [WhiteElo "2318"] [BlackElo "1650"] [PlyCount "17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O Nf6 {(I encountered Bd7 already 3 times in standardgames but not yet Nf6.)} 6. Re1 {(In blitz and rapid I almost always played Bxc6 of which I made 20 years ago an extensive analysis but I hesitated at the board and eventually chose the more popular continuation. C3 definitely needs to be investigated here as white tries to win a tempo upon the classical variation.)} (6. c3 $5 Nxe4 {(Re1 avoids this move but is this necessary?)} 7. d4 Bd7 8. Re1 Nf6 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Bxc6 $5 {(Bf4 is an interesting alternative.)} Bxc6 11. Qxd8 Kxd8 12. Nxe5 Bd5 13. Bg5 c6 { (Probably the critical position for the evaluation of this line. Black must defend very accurately but further tests are necessary to give a final verdict.)} 14. Nd2 $5 (14. c4 $5 Be6 15. Nc3 Bb4 16. a3 Bxc3 17. bxc3 h6 $13) 14... Kc7 15. Bf4 Nh5 16. Be3 Re8 17. Bb6 Kc8 18. Bd4 c5 19. c4 Be6 20. Bc3 $13) 6... Be7 {(Personally I think transposing to the mainline with b5 is safer.)} (6... b5 $5 7. Bb3 Na5 $6 {(While Ronny was thinking, I got afraid of this move but this proofed to be unjustified. Better is simple Be7 and play the mainline of the Spanish opening.)} 8. d4 exd4 $2 {(Nxb3 is better with a smaller disadvantage but it was mainly this move which caused me troubles.)} 9. e5 $1 {(The refutation.)} dxe5 10. Nxe5 $18 {(Be6 is answered by the devastating Nxf7.)}) 7. c3 {(Again I prefer not to follow my own openingbook which recommends Bxc6 and play instead the more popular c3.)} O-O 8. h3 {(Here d4 immediately is an important alternative despite most players anyway first include h3.)} b5 9. Bb3 {(I choose once more to stay on familiar ground but without doubt, we must ask the question if Bc2 is not more accurate.)} (9. Bc2 $5 Bb7 10. d4 exd4 11. cxd4 Nb4 12. Bb3 c5 $1 {(12... Bxe4 13. Rxe4! Nxe4 15. a3 and despite black has compensation, this looks a bit weak on the long term against accurate play.)} 13. a3 Nc6 14. Nc3 Na5 { (Ivan Sokolov chose in 2002 Nxd4 in his rapidgame against Anand but Na5 is stronger.)} 15. Bc2 Re8 {(This novelty upon a correspondence-game of a lower division probably keeps the line playable for black.)}) *
At contrary to the examples of my earlier article about the sequence it was not at all evident which choice was this time the most optimal one. I don't think it would've made here a decisive impact on the result because of the ratingdifference but it does become much more delicate when the ratings of both players are much closer like in the next example. My young opponent Ian Vandelacluze earlier in the tournament made a draw against GM Alexander Dgebuadze and FM Jelle Sarrau so I was warned.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vandelacluze, I."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2100"] [PlyCount "29"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 {(I had not met the Russian opening anymore on the board since 2005. Besides the preparation was very short so I had little knowledge of the current state of the theory. Today it appears Nc3 is gaining popularity as no clear path after c4 is known for getting an advantage with white and as there exists already plenty of theory to study about c4.)} Nb4 9. Be2 Bf5 {(Normally we first castle here and only then Bf5. My opponent played his moves extremely fast so I wonder if he did not mix up the sequence. Anyway I did not find a punishment in the game neither after the game.)} 10. a3 Nc6 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 O-O {(We are in back in the mainline.)} 13. Re1 $5 {(The most popular continuation but maybe cxd5 followed up by Bf4 also deserves a test although I can not find any concrete advantage for white.)} Re8 14. Bf4 $5 {(I made up my mind already during the preparation of the game that I would play this move but I agree that cxd5 is today considered as more critical. After cxd5 we can transpose back to the game or try something different with Be3.)} Rc8 $6 { (Dxc4 is the solid theoretical move. It is unclear to me if Ian ignored this on purpose or played carelessly.)} (14... dxc4 $5 15. Bxc4 Bd6 16. Rxe8 $5 {(Qd2 is interesting.)} Qxe8 17. Nh4 {(I recommended this concept in my old analysis of 2005 already. Today I think white should try Qd2 or first Bxd6 followed up by Qd2.)} Na5 18. Nxf5 Nxc4 19. Qf3 Rb8 20. Bh6 g6 21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qf6 Nf5 $11 {(23 correspondence-games were played between 2009 and 2014 with this position and not once white won so I remove this line from my repertoire.)} ) 15. cxd5 $6 {(Although blacks move has been played by the too young deceased Azerbaijani top-grandmaster Gashimov, I believe white can now profit from the different sequence. The Argentinian grandmaster Walter Cornejo already showed twice in correspondence that black has problems after c5.)} *
Ian played the opening in just a couple of minutes while I spent loads of time to discover the differences in evaluation with the different sequence. Only at home after making some extensive analysis with my computer I was able to define 1 moment in the game in which I should've not transposed to the mainline. The attraction of familiar positions proofed to be too big for me. I expect most players would make the same choice as I but I am sure there are also players loving fresh unknown positions which permit more creativity. Despite I won both games, it is absolutely unclear to me what is the best strategy. If you experienced something similar already then let me know the choice you made in a reaction below this article.