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.


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