Tuesday, January 26, 2016


If players don't want to take risks then chess will quietly die. In our rich history of chess there were periods in which people feared for this doom-scenario. Fortunately today we see most topplayers show an incredible fighting spirit. Already with the very first moves these players play boldly and aggressively as I showed in my article g4 in the najdorf.

This beauty is of course frequently covered by chess-websites and in magazines. There probably exists no better propaganda for chess and it is at the same time a role-model for many amateurs. However as often there is also danger. Although still some people believe elo-inflation exists, I on the other hand am convinced that today's + 2700 players show the maximum level a human can achieve. It is extremely difficult to fully understand this and therefore it is also often underestimated. It looks all very simple if you look at their games with an engine  (I knew it).

Only at the board things look suddenly much more difficult even if it just concerns following the footsteps of the top-players. Last I witnessed how the French IM Jonathan Dourerassou choked on board 1 against our strong Jan. Jan isn't always following current events so was not aware about Wei Yi's 21st century immortal game. Of course Jonathan hoped to profit.
[Event "Wachtebeke 1 - Deurne 1"] [Date "2015.11.29"] [Round "5"] [White "Dourerassou, Jonathan"] [Black "Rooze, Jan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2468"] [BlackElo "2327"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3qr1k1/1b1rbp1p/p2p1np1/1p2pP2/4P3/P1NBB2Q/1PP3PP/4RR1K w - - 0 20"] [PlyCount "44"] {(We have via a transposition the same position as in the game Wei Yi - Lazaro Bruzon Batista played a couple of months before.)} 20. fxg6 hxg6 21. Nd5 Bxd5 $146 {(Jan ameliorates on the board but white still keeps a clear advantage.)} (21... Nxd5 22. Rxf7 Kxf7 23. Qh7 Ke6 24. exd5 Kxd5 25. Be4 Kxe4 26. Qf7 Bf6 27. Bd2 Kd4 28. Be3 Ke4 29. Qb3 Kf5 30. Rf1 Kg4 31. Qd3 Bxg2 32. Kxg2 Qa8 33. Kg1 Bg5 34. Qe2 Kh4 35. Bf2 Kh3 36. Be1 {(Wei Yi - Lazaro Bruzon Batista 1 - 0)}) 22. exd5 Rb7 23. Bxg6 $4 {(Knowing the latest games is no guarantee for success. Of course Jonathan is aware that Yi won his game with some nice sacrifices but this should not be copied here. Quietly improving the position with Qf3 and next g4 is the correct approach.)} fxg6 24. Qh6 Rf8 25. Qxg6 Kh8 26. Rf3 Nh7 27. Rh3 Bh4 28. Rg1 Rg7 29. Qe4 Bg5 30. Rh5 $6 {(A4 was necessary to resist.)} Bxe3 31. Qxe3 Qf6 32. Rh6 Rg6 33. Rh3 Qf5 34. c3 Qf2 35. Qe4 Kg7 36. b3 Ng5 37. Qh4 Nxh3 38. Qxh3 Qf5 39. Qh4 Qf4 40. Qe7 Rf7 41. Qd8 Qe4 0-1
If the attack is not crashing through then you are simply material down. Still it doesn't seem to scare people of sacrificing in almost every game. I don't just mean gambits but also sacrificing material later to create practical attacking chances. It is often not fully correct but the opponent is put under pressure. A small gamble which always creates fun games and sometimes even a beauty-prize. Who doesn't dare, never wins. That was probably also what my opponent in round 5 of Open Leuven thought. By the way didn't I state in my article "how to win from a stronger player", creating chaos is a clever strategy?
[Event "Open Leuven 5de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Daces, P."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B01"] [WhiteElo "2271"] [BlackElo "1980"] [PlyCount "59"] 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bd2 c6 8. Nd5 Qd8 9. Nxf6 gxf6 10. Bb3 a5 {(Bjorn Dijckmans already once played Qc7 against me in 2011.)} 11. a4 Na6 $5 {(The most popular move but at home I had most problems with Be4 to show some advantage for white.)} ( 11... Be4 $5 12. Qe2 Bd5 13. Bxd5 cxd5 14. O-O Nc6 15. Rfd1 Qd7 $14) 12. O-O { (During my 20 minutes of preparation which I got from the organization I had selected this move with my engines. Earlier Philippe already once drew the young German FM Felix Klein, playing Qe2.)} Nb4 13. c3 Nd5 14. Re1 Rg8 $6 {(A standard move but it does not work here. Better was Bg6.)} (14... Bg6 $1 15. Nh4 Be7 16. g3 Qb6 17. c4 Nb4 18. c5 Qd8 $14) 15. Nh4 Bg4 16. Qc2 f5 {(In my preparation I noticed that Philippe is not afraid to sacrifice material so this move was not a surprise. Besides being materialist is unattractive here.)} 17. Nxf5 Qf6 $6 {(More stubborn was h5. The chosen move looks menacing but white can defend.)} 18. Ng3 h5 19. f3 Bh3 20. Bxd5 cxd5 21. Qh7 { (The clue is that I can answer Rh8 with Nxh5. That also explains why I first exchanged the knight on d5.)} Rg6 22. Qxh5 Bd6 {(Black keeps throwing wood to continue the attack but to no avail.)} 23. Qxh3 O-O-O 24. Nh5 Qh8 25. g4 f5 26. Kh1 Rdg8 27. Rg1 e5 28. gxf5 Rxg1 29. Rxg1 exd4 30. f6 1-0
Everybody can sacrifice material but it is not easy to justify this. I expect the number of failures is likely much higher than the amount of success-stories despite the perception created by the news. Even an extremely dangerous attacking player like the American IM Emory Tate who recently deceased, played 2 sorts of games, see the tale of two emory tates. Besides aging only makes things worse. You clearly can see how older attacking players lose quicker ratingpoints compared to equally older more positional players.

Of course there are situations in which a draw and/or rating are unimportant. I don't think we should criticize Anands exchange sacrifice in the 11th and also last game of the world-championship 2015. If you see an opportunity to rectify the matchscore with only 1 game remaining then you should try this.
[Event "World Championship"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2014.11.23"] [Round "11"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2792"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rr3b2/2p2p2/2k1bNnp/p1pNP1p1/P1P1K1P1/2B4P/5P2/3RR3 b - - 0 27"] [PlyCount "36"] 27... Rb4 {(An exchange sacrifice in the spirit of Petrosian. There is nothing wrong with the move but black has to play precise to prove sufficient compensation.)} 28. Bxb4 cxb4 $2 29. Nh5 Kb7 30. f4 gxf4 31. Nhxf4 Nxf4 32. Nxf4 Bxc4 33. Rd7 Ra6 34. Nd5 Rc6 35. Rxf7 Bc5 36. Rxc7 Rxc7 37. Nxc7 Kc6 38. Nb5 Bxb5 39. axb5 Kxb5 40. e6 b3 41. Kd3 Be7 42. h4 a4 43. g5 hxg5 44. hxg5 a3 45. Kc3 1-0
A similar situation I recently encountered in my last round of Open Leuven. Of course Marc Lacrosse drew lessons from our previous game (see using databases) and therefore tried to surprise me. He succeeded which forced me already early in the game to take risks.
[Event "Open Leuven 7de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Lacrosse, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C83"] [WhiteElo "2271"] [BlackElo "2180"] [PlyCount "112"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. c3 Nc5 11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 dxc3 {(Previous year in the last round of Open Gent, Marc suffered a painful defeat in the mainline with d3 against me. This time he chooses a small sideline to surprise me. Theoretically dxc3 is dubious but practically it is interesting as I only had 20 minutes to prepare the game.)} 13. Nxc5 Bxc5 14. Be4 Qd7 15. Qc2 $6 {(Despite I do not find any games of Marc in the database, I did check the line last year in my preparation. Then I indicated Qc2 as interesting. However today I think after making some very extensive analysis that the novelty Bg5 gives better chances to find some opening-advantage.)} (15. a4 $6 {(At least as interesting as my played move but due to Bg5 objectively somewhat weaker.)} Rd8 16. Qxd7 Bxd7 17. axb5 axb5 18. bxc3 O-O 19. h3 $5 Ne7 20. Ba3 Bxa3 21. Rxa3 Bc6 22. Bxc6 Nxc6 23. Ra6 Ne7 $13) (15. bxc3 $6 {(The same remark as a4 so as interesting as the move of the game but I prefer Bg5. Bxc3 was already played 100 years ago 2 times successfully by Jose Raul Capablanca.)} Rd8 16. Qxd7 $5 {(Qc2 transposes to a line which I discuss at whites next move and is definitely also playable.)} Bxd7 17. e6 $5 {(Capablanca played twice Rd1 but I do not see anything special for white after 0-0. A4 and in particular the move of the Dutch grandmaster Friso Nijboer e6 look more interesting.)} (17. a4 $5 bxa4 18. Bc2 O-O 19. Bxa4 h6 $13) 17... fxe6 18. Ng5 Bd6 $5 $146 19. Re1 $5 Be5 $1 20. Re3 $5 Na5 21. Nxh7 Bc6 22. Bg6 Ke7 23. Ba3 Bd6 24. Bxd6 Rxd6 $5 25. Rae1 Bd5 $11 ) (15. Bg5 $1 $146 {(A mysterious novelty which I discovered by accident after consulting the lets check on chessbase. My engines miss the strength of this move if they get only a few minutes to calculate.)} h6 $5 (15... cxb2 $5 16. Rb1 Rb8 $1 (16... Qxd1 $6 17. Rfxd1 O-O 18. Bxc6 Ba3 19. Bd5 $1 Bf5 20. Bxa8 $1 Rxa8 $16) 17. Qc2 Bc4 18. Rfd1 Nd4 19. e6 fxe6 20. Qxb2 Nxf3 21. Bxf3 $14 ) 16. Qc2 hxg5 $1 17. Rfd1 $5 (17. Rad1 $5 Nb4 18. Qxc3 Bxf2 19. Kxf2 Nd5 20. Qc5 c6 21. Nxg5 Rh5 22. Nf3 Qa7 $14 ) 17... Nd4 $1 18. Nxd4 Bxd4 19. bxc3 Rd8 20. Rxd4 Qe7 $14 ) 15... Bd5 16. e6 $6 {(Stefan Docx was rightly critical after the game about my chosen opening. You do not play an opening without serious preparation against somebody having played it continuously for 25 years. Indeed I had not checked this line anymore in the 20 minutes preparation and was not able at all to remember the lines which I analyzed last year. Admittedly e6 is an important thematic move in this position but is not good now. In fact I already felt intuitively that I was forcing the position. However I could not see anything else to fight for a win and I did not want to draw with Bf5 at all. Probably my choice was also influenced by the fact that I had not lost any of my last 17 games and then you are not so objective anymore. Finally a win would bring me 5 times more prize-money than a draw so why not take some risks.)} (16. bxc3 $5 {(Without doubt the critical test in this position and some lines are pretty complicated.)} Ne7 $5 {(If I let my engines calculate longtime then they start to show this move which I consider indeed as the strongest.) } (16... Rd8 $5 17. Bg5 $5 Bxe4 (17... Ne7 $2 18. Bxd5 Qxd5 19. Rfd1 Qc4 20. Rxd8 Kxd8 21. Qf5 Qd5 22. c4 bxc4 23. Rb1 $16 ) 18. Qxe4 Ne7 19. Bxe7 $5 Bxe7 20. Qb7 O-O $1 $146 {(A novelty and improvement upon the game Jose Raul Capablanca - Oscar Chajes played in 1916.)} 21. Qxa6 Ra8 22. Qb7 Rfb8 23. Rad1 $5 Rxb7 24. Rxd7 Kf8 25. Nd4 Ke8 26. Rd5 $13) (16... Bxe4 $6 17. Qxe4 Rd8 (17... h6 $6 18. Be3 Bxe3 19. Rad1 Qe6 20. Rd6 Qc4 21. Qxc4 bxc4 22. Rxc6 Bb6 23. Rxc4 $16 ) (17... O-O $6 18. Ng5 g6 19. a4 Be7 20. Re1 Bxg5 21. Bxg5 $16) 18. a4 h6 $1 19. axb5 axb5 20. Ra6 Bb6 21. Be3 Nb8 22. Raa1 $14 ) (16... O-O-O $5 17. a4 Bxe4 18. Qxe4 Qd5 19. Qg4 Kb7 20. axb5 axb5 21. Rb1 Bb6 22. Be3 $14 ) (16... h6 $5 17. e6 {(Yes now it is strong.)} fxe6 (17... Bxe6 $5 18. Rd1 Bd6 19. Ne5 Nxe5 20. Bxa8 $14) (17... Qxe6 $6 18. Re1 Ne7 19. c4 Bxe4 20. Rxe4 Qg6 21. Ne5 Qh7 22. Bf4 Ba3 23. Rae1 $16) 18. Bg6 Ke7 19. Bf4 $5 Bd6 20. Bg3 $14) 17. a4 $5 Rd8 18. Bg5 $5 {(H3 or axb5 must also be considered.)} Bxe4 19. Qxe4 O-O 20. axb5 axb5 $13) (16. Bf5 $5 Be6 17. Be4 Bd5 $11 {(I had seen this repetition but Marc already expected that I would not want to draw so quickly. Later it transpired that it would have been sufficient for a shared 3rd place and a bit more than 100 euro. Anyway I do not regret my choice to continue.)}) 16... fxe6 17. Re1 $6 {(That makes it only worse. Marc will of course not accept the second pawn sacrifice with cxb2 so Re1 is just superficial.)} (17. bxc3 $1 Bxe4 18. Qxe4 Qd5 19. Qe2 O-O 20. a4 Rad8 21. axb5 axb5 $15) 17... O-O-O 18. bxc3 Bxe4 19. Qxe4 Qd5 20. Qe2 Qc4 $2 {(Marc admitted after the game that he played this move to avoid any complications after Qd3. Naturally the active Qd3 is much more annoying for white.)} 21. Qxc4 bxc4 22. Bg5 $6 {(Whites position is not easy to play as some accurate moves are necessary to keep the balance. Here Kf1 was stronger to play boldly Re4 next trying to win back the sacrificed pawn.)} Rd3 23. Rac1 h6 $6 {(Normal but the exact Kf7 is slightly stronger objectively.)} (23... Kd7 $1 24. Kf1 h6 25. Bf4 g5 26. Bg3 Rb8 27. Rc2 Ba3 28. Nd2 Rb2 29. Rxb2 $15 ) 24. Be3 $2 {(I did not consider Bd2 as it is ugly and passive. Nevertheless analysis shows Bd2 is not only better but even fully playable. I was optimistic about the endgame after Be3 but that was wrong.)} Bxe3 25. Rxe3 Rxe3 26. fxe3 Rd8 27. Kf2 Rd5 28. Ke2 Kd7 29. Rc2 Kd6 30. e4 Ra5 31. Rd2 Kc5 32. Kd1 Ra3 33. Rc2 Kd6 34. Rd2 Ke7 35. Rc2 Kf6 36. Kc1 $6 {(I try to release the rook but enter a lost rook-endgame. Keeping the king in the center was vital but it still is a very difficult defense.)} (36. Ke2 $1 {(I analysed this endgame for some hours without getting to a final verdict. Many lines are long and complex with sometimes a draw and sometimes a win for black.) } Ne5 $5 37. Ke3 $1 Nd3 38. Kd4 Ra4 39. Ke3 $17) 36... Ne5 37. Nxe5 Kxe5 38. Kb2 Ra5 39. Rd2 {(Probably white and black can play the endgame somewhere better but I do not think it changes the evaluation of the played moves.)} Kxe4 40. Rd4 Ke3 41. Rxc4 c5 42. a4 e5 43. Rg4 e4 44. Kb3 c4 45. Kxc4 Rg5 46. Rh4 Rxg2 47. Kd5 Kd3 48. c4 Rg5 49. Kd6 e3 50. Rh3 Ra5 51. c5 Rxa4 52. c6 Rc4 53. c7 Kd2 54. Rh4 Rxc7 55. Kxc7 e2 56. Rd4 Ke3 {(A well played game by Marc based on a successful psychological choice of the opening.)} 0-1
My pawn-sacrifice was too optimistic and you shouldn't give Marc such advantage. So I didn't have to wait anymore for the prize-givings. On the other hand Marc afterwards prolonged his success by achieving a second place in a Spanish tournament for -2300 players with a 2400 rating-performance.

Maybe the best standard for our material is the computer. Engines have become so strong that they can except a few rare cases tell us exactly how a sacrifice can be refuted. It is no coincidence that Nakamura lost against Komodo the only game without getting any material handicap and got instead 4 tempos.


Friday, January 15, 2016

The feel of wood

The variety of topics offered on this blog are of course the product of my insatiable appetite for the most different chess-activities which span more than 2 decades. Without doubt I couldn't have written this blog 10 years ago although I already published now and then some articles for the torrewachters. Anyway of all my chess-activities standard-chess remains for me the most important.

Nowhere else I can feel the same intensity. The tension often already grows before a game (see the sadistic exam) and the emotions often continue to vibrate sometimes long after the game (see e.g. practical endgames and happiness).  During the game I try as well as possible to block anything which can disturb my concentration. I often see players using even ear plugs as it is seldom really quiet in the playing-room but I haven't tried it myself. I do like to use regularly a legal dosis of caffeine in the shape of a cup of coffee to keep my focus optimal.

Therefore I am not surprised that players can show their best creative and technical level during a game. This maximizing of the own skills is something unique. Kibitzing, commenting games, post-mortems or trainings can never stimulate the same. Exactly because of this it is crucial for somebodies development to play often official games. You need to feel the wood (or today also often plastic) as in the love for wood 1979 chess documentary.

In my article distrust I already once referred to this documentary to talk about smoking during chess but this time I want to use a specific fragment with Jan Timman in which he discuss about homework. He tells us that studying openings is important for a professional but he also warns not just to apply uncritically the analysis in a game.  Not rarely he detects at the board something extra which wasn't prepared at home. The pressure of an official game let you sometimes refute several hours of analysis made at home in just a couple of minutes. From my own practice I remember 2 such cases.

In 2001 I played in the Antwerp Handel against Schepers a dubious line of the Spanish which I analyzed a lot at home to make it playable. Surprisingly at the board I improved my own home-analysis made in 1996 by playing g5 instead of c5.
[Event "H.V. K.H.W.T - Alcatel"] [Date "2001"] [White "Schepers, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2100"] [BlackElo "2272"] [PlyCount "64"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. Nxe5 Nxb3 7. axb3 Qg5 8. d4 Qxg2 9. Qf3 Qxf3 10. Nxf3 Bb7 11. Nbd2 f5 12. e5 g5 $146 {(I forgot already longtime ago my analysis made in 1996 but I believe this even improves upon. Black has now a clear advantage. In 1998 I once met 11.0-0 but also that gave black quickly an advantage.)} 13. Rg1 $5 {(Castling with the open g-file is not attractive anymore.)} h6 14. Ke2 $5 Ne7 15. Nf1 $5 {(Another plan is Ne1-d3 to fortify the center. In both lines black keeps the advantage.)} Bg7 $6 {(More accurate is d6 immediately as white can now play Nf1-g3-h5 winning some time. After d6 white obviously can not hold the center which means black has an advantage.)} 16. Bd2 $2 {(White has no time for quiet logical developing moves. Much stronger is Ng3. Although black is still better, white gets some counterplay on the king-side.)} d6 17. Ng3 Rf8 $5 {(Bf3: wins of course a pawn but I did not want to relinquish the pair of bishops and give white some counterplay on the e-file.)} 18. Rge1 $6 {(White hopes to keep the center but that is just an illusion. Better were Ng5 but after h4 I have to admit that white also has small chances to survive.)} Kd7 19. Nh5 Bh8 20. c4 $5 {(It is difficult to recommend something for white. Maybe h4 is the best try to complicate but black should be able to win after accurate play.)} bxc4 $5 {(Bf3: followed up with Nc6 wins immediately material but I prefer to keep the pair of bishops.)} 21. bxc4 Ng6 22. Ra3 Rae8 23. Bb4 {(White tries desperately to hold the center but this fails tactically. Kd1 is objectively the strongest but with a pawn less and black having the pair of bishops there is not much doubt about the result.)} g4 24. Nd2 c5 25. dxc5 dxc5 26. Ba5 { (It is clear that Bxc5 loses a piece after Re5:.)} Rxe5 27. Kd1 f4 28. Rd3 Ke6 29. Rxe5 Nxe5 30. Rb3 Bc6 31. Rb6 Rf5 32. Bc3 Kd7 {(And white resigned maybe a lit bit early although the position is surely won for black. White had less than 2 minutes on the clock remaining so he found it futile to continue.)} 0-1
Recently I encountered something similar in the first round of Open Leuven. My opponent played a rare line against my Spanish but wasn't successful as I already met this line in a standard game of 1997. Initially I followed my old analysis but I deviated when I realized things aren't that rosy as predicted.
[Event "Open Leuven 1ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Peers, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2271"] [BlackElo "1740"] [PlyCount "43"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Bc5 5. c3 Nxe4 6. Qe2 {(In 1997 I played in Open Gent against M.Jansen once Bxc6. In my former analysis I recommended Qe2 which I remembered in this game. Today I think it is still a good choice but it is unclear if it guarantees any advantage for white. Therefore I also spent time to some new analysis based on the very interesting d4. D4 is a pure positional gambit which gives white a lot of space and development but no concrete threats immediately. So also after d4 it is not clear if white can get an advantage.)} Bxf2 7. Kh1 {(My old analysis considers Rxf2 to be better but the current engines do not agree. On the other hand it is neither clear if Kh1 is really better than Rxf2.)} Ng3 $2 {(My opponent complained that he did not know the theory but there only exist a couple of games in the database with this position. Anyway Ng3 is too early here.)} (7... d5 $1 {(This creates big complications of which I think black must be more careful than white.)} 8. d3 $5 {(C4 was played in a recent correspondence game and is also interesting.)} Ng3 9. hxg3 Bxg3 10. Bg5 $5 f6 11. Bh4 $5 Bxh4 12. Nxh4 $5 O-O 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Nd2 $5 (14. Nf5 $5 Ba6 15. Qe3 $5 g6 16. Nh6 Kg7 $1 17. Ng4 e4 18. c4 Qd7 $1 19. Qh6 Kh8 20. Rf4 $13) 14... a5 15. Qe3 $5 a4 16. Kg1 f5 $1 17. Nhf3 e4 18. dxe4 dxe4 $13) 8. hxg3 Bxg3 9. d4 O-O 10. Ng5 h6 11. Qd3 hxg5 $6 {(F5 was more stubborn. After hxg5 blacks position goes quickly downhill.) } (11... f5 $1 12. dxe5 Bxe5 13. Bc4 d5 14. Qxd5 Kh8 15. Qxd8 Nxd8 16. Nf3 Bg3 17. Bd2 $16) 12. Qxg3 e4 13. Bxg5 f6 14. Bh6 Rf7 15. Nd2 d5 16. Nxe4 dxe4 17. Bc4 Kh8 18. Bxf7 gxh6 19. Rxf6 Bg4 20. Rxh6 Kg7 21. Qxg4 Kxf7 22. Rh7 1-0
Both analysis stem already from 20 years ago which definitely plays a role in this story. That is 20 years later than the earlier mentioned documentary but analysis of engines contained still many holes. It was the era that only a supercomputer Deep Blue was able to beat the worldchampion narrowly in a match. I made my analysis with Fritz4, still several hundred of points below the supercomputer.

Today the battleground has changed drastically. I admit that I never improve anymore my more recent analysis on the board as engines became a lot stronger. In the book My Great Predecessors part 4 Kasparov also admits that today it is perfectly possible with an engine to make very accurate and elaborated analysis. The American topgrandmaster Hikaru Nakamura discovered just recently how strong our current top-engines are in a handicap-match.

So the race with the machine is for sure finished. Engines can tell us in a nano-second which moves are the best and "feeling wood" won't make any difference. Nevertheless there remain some advantages of "feeling wood". Some are building up resilience, absorbing much better new knowledge, enjoying the process of discovering something independently,.. In short our game is much more than just playing correct moves.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Crazy rooks

10 years ago my Russian parents-in-law visited for the first time Belgium to attend the wedding of their daughter and me. Of course there was also time to do some sightseeing but the trip to our cold North Sea gave them without doubt the most pleasure. Normally my parents-in-law are very quiet people but they couldn't hide their emotions when seeing the see. Without possessing swimsuits , they took off their upper clothes and ran into the sea. They danced and laughed in the water for some time while I smiled on the beach viewing this peculiar picture. The most nearby sea for Ufa, where my parents-in-law are living, is the Kaspian Sea and that is still 17 hours driving by car so not something easy to do.

Now the other way around it also happens that my parents-in-law smile when we Belgians react super enthusiastic for some very ordinary stuff in Russia. In the past Christmas holidays we organised a real hunt for stalactites. What? Well while here in Belgium the temperature was around +10 degrees, we had in the second week temperatures around -20 degrees. The cold let grew everywhere stalactites with amazing speed. Most are hanging intangible. Besides you better stay away from them as it can hurt you a lot when such stalactite breaks off. I was told that each year some people die being hit by them when ice starts to melt. Fortunately we can also find some closer to the ground. Nonetheless we asked our children not to touch parked cars as otherwise their alarm could go off. Below a picture of my daughter proudly posing with one of her catches.
Gloves aren't redundant when holding such stalactite as they are really extremely cold.

With this unorthodox introduction I bring up a complex theme: fun. You can find it in the most unimportant things but it is for everybody different as it among other things depends a lot of the surprise-element. The importance of seeking and finding fun can't be underestimated as it is the engine of happiness.

Chessplayers tend sometimes to forget having fun due to their addiction of ratingpoints. Last I got from HK5000 a link to a training-program to help a 2200 become an IM in only 2 years. It looked at first glance professional and probably it is a successful formula but I miss any fun. Suppose you followed the program meticulously and achieve the IM-titel, what is next? 3 model-students are presented on the site: Vladimir EvelevArthur Gabrielian and Nikolai Kurenkov but 2 of them already stopped playing competitions years ago.

No I am convinced that having fun is crucial to keep the chess-microbe in your veins otherwise you quit as so many others. On schaaksite the Dutch grandmaster Dimitri Reinderman asks oneself in an article about comic chess-moves  ,what would make a chess-mother smile. First some complex ideas were proposed in which also my articles excelsiorproblem movesinterferencesthe horizon,... can be categorized but likely this won't create much excitement for a novice. Clear simple themes are to be recommended in this case. I remember from my youth that I got a lot of pleasure from the serie better playing chess. Each book discuss simple themes around 1 piece but I believe the serie didn't get further than queen and king (which I both possess). Besides I noticed a couple of weeks ago by accident an advertising on schaaksite for a new serie about the chess pieces but I expect it is rather for advanced players this time.

What are simple themes? The titel already gives it away as a crazy rook definitely belongs to this category. For any player with some experience this is child's play. I even found a club in Belgium calling themselves the crazy rook. Anyway we already longtime forgot how we reacted the first time meeting this theme. I did the test with my son Hugo, as a 6 years old making his first moves in our chessworld  see eg Christmas tournament in Deurne and yes his shining eyes betrayed that he liked the crazy rook once he understood the mechanism.

This doesn't mean that more experienced players can't enjoy anymore crazy rooks. The famous Dutch Tim Krabbe spent quite some time to elaborate this theme in much more complex variations. Below beautiful example from the problem-world is strong evidence.
[Event "Study Otto Gallischek"] [Date "1960"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "k7/1pP2r2/1P6/8/8/K5PR/1PPPPP2/8 b - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "32"] {(Only the rook can move so black hopes to have a crazy rook.)} 1... Rf3 2. e3 {(White has a very narrow path to win.)} Rxe3 3. c3 Rxc3 4. Ka2 Ra3 5. Kb1 Ra1 6. Kc2 Rc1 7. Kd3 Rc3 8. Ke2 Re3 9. Kf1 Re1 10. Kg2 Rg1 11. Kf3 Rxg3 12. Ke2 Re3 13. Kd1 Re1 14. Kc2 Rc1 15. Kb3 Rc3 16. Ka2 Ra3 {( A lot of effort to free the 3rd row as now there follows...)} 17. Rxa3# 1-0
A variation of the same idea of the same author can be found here. But also in standard practice we can find some nice examples. A collection can be found on this site. I selected the last one which is amazingly a game between engines.
[Event "nTCEC - Stage 2b"] [Site "http://www.tcec-chess.net"] [Date "2013.03.25"] [Round "14"] [White "Shredder (Computer)"] [Black "Gull (Computer)"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D16"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k6/4R3/1p6/p1p3p1/qnBn2Qp/5P2/1P6/1K6 w - - 0 46"] [PlyCount "14"] [EventDate "2013.03.11"] 46. Bb3 {(An amazing escape which gives a crazy rook. Horizon, which horizon? )} Nxb3 47. Qf4 gxf4 48. Rb7 Kc8 49. Rc7 Kd8 50. Rd7 Ke8 51. Re7 Kf8 52. Rf7 Kg8 1/2-1/2
Computers are today so strong that they often surprise us and even can make us happy. Anyway I enjoyed a lot HK5000 previous article which ones more showed how absurdly strong the tablebases are.

It is fortunately also possible to get regularly surprised by the little things happening around us. You just need to keep your eyes open. A couple of months ago I witnessed the end of a game in Open Leuven which surprised me and made me smile.
[Event "Open Leuven 3de ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Akesson, R."] [Black "Praet, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2420"] [BlackElo "2220"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/7p/8/1R4p1/2P3P1/2k1r3/1p2B2P/4K3 b - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "5"] 1... Re5 {(It is bit pity that both white and black can deviate from the crazy rook without deteriorating the evaluation of the position. Nonetheless it is for me something unique.)} 2. Rb7 Re7 3. Rb8 Re8 1/2-1/2
Many games of chess have been played so maybe a crazy rook against rook instead of king has happened before but to me this was something refreshing and new. Anyway it looks like a cute theme to build a study or problem around it but maybe this will again diminish the x-factor.

Keeping the eyes open is maybe a little to simple to make such discoveries as my wife often asks me why I once more am smiling. Often only after explaining her the point, she can also enjoy. Previously Tim Krabbe with his chess curiosities made sure we don't miss anything juicy. Today such single point of contact doesn't exist anymore. Anyway if I see something special then I will share this on the blog.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lomonosov 7 men tablebases

Thanks to Vladimir Makhnychev and Victor Zakharov there are since july 2012 the 7 men tablebases (tbs) on a computer of the state-university of Moscow. This university was founded by Mikhail Lomonosov, the founder of science in Russia and a scientist of many domains. Approximately 140 TB of data (500.000 billion unique positions - without mirroring or rotations) are necessary to house this, such capacity hosting is today only possible for the big boys.

Fortunately access is online available for the customers of Convekta (people having bought Houdini 5 Aquarium (Pro) or Chess Assistant 14 Pro). For non-customers it is sufficient to pay 20 USD. The reason is that this is the only place in the world where the tbs are stored. If 2 million players want to check an endgame, or worse, an engine is calculating with the tbs then the internet-traffic is unsustainable. So that explains the threshold.

But chessok claims that there is also free access for people with an Android-gsm. That is true, although I got occasionally "connection failed" messages. In this article I give a few examples of my own experiences with this app (on the Internet you find some more; if you click on above link on "shared" then you see what VIP members have shared online; this section also already contains some interesting positions).

Picture 1
In the first example (see picture 1) you see how 4 pawns can win from a rook (mate in 45). White starts with Kd3 (normal as pawn e3 is attacked). The menu-buttons "White" till "Play" can be swapped by the optimal route for the win, or by a summary of the moves with their distance till mate (or a conversion to an endgame with less pieces which also wins).

But one of the best features is the button below the black cross. You can use this to move the pieces on the board, but if you select the button and stay on the piece by keeping your finger on the touchscreen, then it shows all the other squares where that piece can stand with the evaluation of the position. In the picture 1 I have clicked on the pawn f5. You see that if the pawn is on f5 then white mates in 45 ("45" on field f5). If the pawn in on f4 then it is a draw "=", if it is on b5 then mate in 23 and on g7 it is mate in 1 (because white has the move and will play g8Q#).

Picture 2
You can do this for each piece, so let us test what will be the result for pawn e3 - see picture 2. Here we notice the value of the pawnchain: white can still easily lose if the e-pawn becomes a double f-pawn (except f6 as then there follows fxe7). Or he loses or he only makes a draw if it is an another file on the second or third row. Even on a6 or h6 it still is only a draw. Besides this endgame pops up more frequently than you would think. Kasparov once got it on the board against Ye see Olympiade of 2002; Jakovenko, Bareev, Karjakin, Naiditsch and Leko also encountered it at least once; Megabase 2016 gives more than 500 games of 4 pawns or more against a rook.

OK - another example which better illustrates the power of the tablebases. Honestly who is interested in K+R+R versus K+B+B+N? In the Megadatabase 2016 there is only 1 game with this material imbalance see Furlan-Sale (1996), in which quickly exchanges happened to draw. So the study of that endgame is not really practical. But before you can create the endgame of K+3p vs K+2p, you first need to create the tablebases of KRR-KBBN. The cute pawnendgames of K+3p vs K+2p are now finally available. I toyed a bit with a pawnendgame, put the kings on not so standard positions to get a long mate and the result can be seen in the pictures 3 and 4. It is mate in 24 and white wins the quickest with 1.h5. Now if you let Stockfish and Komodo analyze this position then they also solve this fast (Stockfish initially shows mate in 42 with 1.Kd5; even after 10 minutes it sticks with Kd5 (and mate in 29). But that is not the point, with this app you can see what happens if you put the piece on another square.

Pictures 3 and 4
Further you also have some "fun" buttons like the 4 buttons on the top-right (see below the arrow to the right and the arrow to the left). With those buttons can move all pieces to the right, left, up or down (if there is sufficient margin of course). That is not something which goes quickly in the Fritz or Chessbase interface, no?

The second picture above (picture 4) I already checked where the pawn c7 can stand, to hold the position for black. Rather astonishing is that black can keep the position with the pawn on d6, e7 and e6 (so you give white the most distanced pawn!). That is not something you would expect immediately... As you see from the picture I had some problems with the connection at that time but as I stored the position as a favorite on my gsm, it still remembered all my earlier actions. Nice feature.

Also something nice, which maybe can be expanded in the future (to 4-men tbs): all the 3-piece tbs are immediately stored on your gsm. So you can always check how it exactly was with K vs K+p or make a bet with your friends in how many moves it is mate with K vs K+Q or R. Another extra is the endgame K+Q vs K+R which is useful for training.

But probably the most useful part of the Lomonsov tablebases are likely the endgames with rook or other light piece and 2 versus 1 pawn. The richness of those endgames is enormous. Let us have a look at below position which does not pop up in the Megadatabase 2016 (I didn't check the database of Harold van der Heijden). I could represent this as my own study but I don't want to push it. In the world of endgame-compositions this is a sensitive topic: using such databases would not only be anymore about searching beauty but a composer would have enough with an introduction, to end the study with a tablebase which wins. A better use of the tablebases is to control studies with maximum 7 pieces as John Nunn already did 3 times: to write a book about such positions which explain the process in human language.

Picture 5
The position: white wins in 95 moves with Rf8-a8+ (the numbers give the win/ loss moves if the white king is on different squares.) Again we see here classic logic: white wins if he is in front of the black pawn and loses if he is behind the pawn. It becomes a draw if he is too far away (right side of the board). Personally I find the square f5 interesting. Why is there still a win on f5 but not on the squares e6, f6, g6 or g5? Why is there so big difference between d1 and e1? Is it because white can exchange the rooks and he is in the quadrant with his king? Here it is obvious that it matters who is moving first. If white is in check (by the rook or b-file) then the win is vanished and black holds a draw. All this can be learned without moving a piece in the position.

Pictures 6 and 7
Another example. Can a knight and bishop win against 3 pawns. In the position on the left we see that it's a draw with white to move as the king stands on a8. Only if the king is on a7 it is also a draw. As long the king doesn't block the bishop (pawn a2 is promoting so white must start with Bh2-e5) and it is not check with a pawn (that would be an illegal position but this knowledge is not in the tbs) then white wins. Also Kg5 is forbidden as after 1.Be5 there is 1....f6+ followed up with 2...fxe5. I didn't check why exactly only a8 and a7 are draws but I assume it is because otherwise the king is too late to neutralize the pawns on the other wing.

Still a quick check where the pawn g7 can stand and how this influences the result: again no surprise. The more the pawn advanced on the king-side, the better for black, the closer to the white king, the better for white.

Picture 8
We are almost done with our examples: if KNN wins against King and pawn, how about KNN vs Kppp? An example which I found very surprising is that the place of the knight on h1 matters a lot. Only a few squares give a win. It also shows how small the path is to a win. In practice I see white trying to win this endgame, but most likely pull the emergency break (sacrificing the knights) when the black pawns can't be stopped anymore.

Pictures 9 and 10

But the app offers also other advantages than just checking positions. First you can also have classes (see pictures on the right). They are arranged via theme and contain some nice exercises. It is nice also to have an indication of the estimated elo-level each time so you know how hard the problem is. This indicator is often reliable but sometimes they contain some small errors. The position White: Kb8,b5; black Ka8, Bb1, Bh6, Nc2, Ng5 - white plays and wins, is definitely easier than 2500 elo.

You can also store positions in your favorite folder (in pgn or epd) or even share, store in dropbox or send via mail. There is even a possibility to save the testposition in  the ChessKing training-program so you can still work with it later on your PC.

Conclusion: a very handy app (if you have access to the server), which surely improves the knowledge of endgames. Besides there is even already a manual for the app see Manual for "7-piece Chess Endgame Training". Personally I don't understand why the free consultation of the 7-men tbs is allowed via the app, but not via the website. Market logic I assume...

People already satisfied with the 6-men tbs, can consult online them on the site of Shredder or the one of ChessOK itself or just download them (like at kirill-kryukov).


Monday, January 4, 2016


People over 60 ask me sometimes why I don't play more often. In their best years they played chess in the same weekend on Fridayevening, Saturday and Sunday. My response that I have young children is always countered by stating that I have a wife for taking care of them. The emancipation of the woman in the Western world hasn't stopped in the last decade which I strongly support. Besides I really like spending time with my children so I don't complain.

Social movements but also a bigger flexibility requested by the employers, a much larger choice of leisure activities,... make our schedule very hectic. I assume that the closed double round championship of the Roeselaarse Torrewachters is a likely winner for being proclaimed the largest living dinosaur in Belgium. 12 players in the highest class are battling for 22 rounds on a slow interclubtempo (compared with the tempo used in most tournaments). The lower groups even use a slower tempo of 2 hours for 40 moves and 1 hour K.O. It is not a coincidence that only (?) youth, retired or (eternal) bachelors are participating.

10 years ago when I got acquainted with the faster fide tempo (1h30 minutes with 30 seconds increment) in the Bruges masters, people were still questioning the seriousness of such quick games. Today the question is rather how we can save further time. Double rounds on play-days are getting more and more popular. The new initiative of Wachtebeke pushes this to the limit by scheduling both rounds in the afternoon. The disadvantage of this format is that after a play-day players need to drive home in the middle of the night which can be dangerous.

The initiative launched by the organizers of the Zurich Chess Challenge organisatoren may have as goal to make professional chess more attractive but their solution can also help amateurs with their shrinking leisure time. However further speeding up the pace also contains certain dangers. The faster the tempo, the more we get closer to chess played online. Playing online avoids the (long) (noctural) drives. You don't have to wait to start a new game. You avoid the big jumps in ratings of opponents which is standard in a lot of Suisse tournaments as you can select yourself the opponent. So I am not surprised when I see clubplayers cancelling their subscription because they find online chess much easier and more attractive.

The only missing aspect of online chess is maybe a reliable rating. In fide-tournaments we have a much better control about the identity of our opponents. A funny recent anecdote was fides decision to gather the players on 1 location for the 1st fide world online ladies blitz championship. A first price of 3000$ is of course much more than what we see normally at stake for online chess.

Anyway few players really care about a reliable online rating. The quicker pace generates big osculations in the rating and chess is reduced to mainly a game. Fide has created more than 3 years ago official rapid and blitz ratings but a majority of the Belgian players still has none.
Ratings standard/rapid/blitz
We see a big difference between the top 20 players and the others. 12 of the top 20 have a rapidrating and 14 of the top 20 have a blitzrating. If we look at the top 100 then only 33 have a rapidrating and only 39 have a blitzrating. A topplayer wins of course easier prizes so that maybe explains why they are more interested.

Rapid and blitz tournaments are today only sporadically sent to fide for elo-calculation but that does not explain why a majority still has no rapid/ blitz rating after 3 years. If people were really interested then it is not difficult to find and play a tournament with rating-calculations. Even ignoring the rating-calculation I see little rapid or blitz activities in the clubs. In Deurne only 7 players played in the last couple of months more than 3 clubdays out of 13 in the Deurnse superblitzer while 21 participants played already 6 official games in the clubchampionship.

Maybe the most democratic system is TSM Open. Players can choose the tempo and are paired accordingly. Except the (slower) fide-tempo we can also choose for 1 hour K.O. However of the 14 players still 8 players preferred the (slower) fide tempo, 4 players didn't have any preference and only 2 players chose a quicker (newer) 1 hour K.O. system.

Everybody understands that quicker means losing quality of play. I fear if organizers will switch solely to a quicker tempo (let us assume fide allows those quick games for standard elo-calculation ) then a drop of memberships can be expected. Players are visiting the clubs to play a game of which afterwards can be stated that luck didn't play a role and creativity could be shown. So I believe a quicker tempo can only be an expansion of the supply and not a firm solution to solve the lack of time.

Even a game of 1 hour K.O. per player is already a different type of chess compared of what we play today in the interclub. This doesn't mean that there won't be funny games as some players will use the reduced time to take extra risks. This season I played in Open TSM a sharp game with 1 hour K.O. We were only able to start our game after 9 PM because of the annual meeting and I was not willing to play till 2 AM as I had to get up already at 7 AM.
[Event "TSM tornooi"] [Date "2015"] [White "Gooris, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C44"] [WhiteElo "2160"] [BlackElo "2316"] [PlyCount "116"] 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. c3 {(Our 4th mutual game with the same colors and it is again Jan deviating with this time the Goringgambit.)} dxc3 5. Nxc3 d6 6. Bc4 Nf6 7. Qb3 {(In 2010 Luc Michiels once played Ng5 against me but I also knew a bit of theory of this line.)} Qd7 8. Ng5 Ne5 9. Bb5 c6 10. f4 cxb5 {(This is the most popular line but Neg4 is surely an interesting alternative scoring even slightly better in practice.)} 11. fxe5 dxe5 12. Be3 a5 13. Rd1 $2 {(The game did not count for rating otherwise Jan likely would have prepared better. The critical line is 0-0. After the move played in the game white immediately gets into troubles.)} (13. O-O $1 a4 14. Qxb5 Bd6 15. Qe2 Ra5 16. Rac1 $1 h6 17. Rxf6 gxf6 18. Nf3 $13) 13... a4 14. Qxb5 Qxb5 15. Nxb5 Bb4 16. Bd2 Bxd2 17. Rxd2 O-O {(I doubted long between 0-0 and Ke7 but the engines neither show a clear difference of evaluation.)} 18. Nd6 Bd7 {(I admit that the direct h6 is more convincing but I only discovered this by consulting my chessprogram.)} 19. O-O Bc6 20. Rf5 h6 21. Nf3 Nxe4 22. Nxe4 Bxe4 23. Rxe5 { (The game was played at the tempo of 1 hour K.O. but I do not think this makes here a big difference. White has a pawn less and must defend eternally without any positive prospects.)} Rfe8 24. Rd4 Bc6 25. Kf2 f6 26. Rc5 Rad8 27. Rdc4 Rd3 28. Rd4 Ree3 29. Rxd3 Rxd3 30. Ke2 Rd5 31. Rc3 Kf7 32. b3 axb3 33. axb3 h5 34. Ke3 Rd7 35. g3 Re7 36. Kf2 Re4 37. Nd2 Rd4 38. Ke3 Rd7 39. Nc4 { (White could have repeated the position with Nf3 but I would have avoided of course the draw. Black has excellent winning chances in this endgame.)} g5 40. Na5 Bb5 41. Nc4 Kg6 42. Na3 $6 {(Na5 is a more active defense although I do not think it changes much against accurate play of black.)} Bc6 43. b4 Rd5 44. Nc2 Re5 45. Kd4 Re2 46. Kc5 Rxh2 {(Play is continued as there is little time remaining for both players.)} 47. Nd4 Be4 48. b5 f5 49. Ne6 Rd2 50. Nd4 f4 51. gxf4 gxf4 52. Nf3 Bxf3 53. Rxf3 Kf5 54. Kb6 Rd7 55. Kc5 Kg4 56. Rf1 f3 57. Rg1 Kf4 58. Rh1 f2 0-1
Jan had some bad luck as I knew a few things about this Goringgambiet. Anyway I don't have the impression that he took the game as serious as in our other official games. Therefore I do think we need this extra competitiveness to keep the games interesting.  I rather miss that element when playing rapid or blitzchess. This was once more confirmed when I simply logged off my PC just before the finale tiebreak rapids between Magnus and Maxime. Even topplayers don't seem to care much about such games as can be detected in a funny response of Anand published on Chessbase: "I wake up in the morning and read about it." You can call me (us) old and conservative but I am not interested in quicker.