Friday, February 26, 2016

To study openings part 2

In part 1 I tried to prove how much openings influence our results. A logical follow-up is how we can study openings. Despite we can buy many openingbooks, almost no literature exists about how we should study openings optimally. An exception is an article on the Quality Chess Blog of Nikos Ntirilis mentioning a few handy tips.

I agree with him that playing games is doubtless one of the best methods to study openings. However if we want to avoid losing a lot of rating then we better test an opening in competitions not counting for rating. Playing online games like mentioned in my article the (non-) sense of blitz can be a solution. An alternative is to play chess against an engine as Nikos recommends and which I did myself years ago (see my article chesscompositions).

The preparation of games (e.g. by using databases) is a method costing neither ratingpoints but is perceived by a lot of players as less attractive. Nevertheless if you use a proper system of archiving then it is possible to build up a nice repertoire after some time. Of course a nice supplement is reading openingbooks. In that domain Quality Chess played a major role by improving the overall standard of openingbooks compared to a decade ago. Often the quality is so good that you can be considered an expert after reading the openingbook on the condition you are sufficiently motivated and concentrated. An example of a success-story was described in my article an expanded repertoire for black. Obviously ambitions play an important role too.

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I haven't bought any openingbooks in decades which doesn't mean that I have no ambitions anymore. I analyze my games thoroughly with the help of engines and summarize those analysis by comments and annotations. Nonetheless I admit that only since a few years I really make a serious effort analyzing the openings methodically. Today I have developed my own methods allowing a much profounder analysis of the openings. I see recently already quite some progress not only related to mistakes but also in creating surprises for my opponents. This method seems to me something interesting to elaborate upon in this article.

If I would be asked to describe my method in 1 sentence then I would tell them that I analyze 100 mastergames of 1 opening with my best engines and complement it with analysis of correspondence-games, engine-games and games I played online with the same line. Some explanation about what I consider mastergames is probably necessary to get a better understanding.

I use as filter that at least one of both colors must have + 2300 elo. I expect some grandmasters find this filter too weak but I often see an interesting opening-idea of a player rated just above 2300 elo. Besides I also get a better picture of what players of 2300 would normally play in that position and 2300 players are an important segment of my regular opponents. On the other hand using a weaker filter would deteriorate enormously the return. I am satisfied with my choice but sometimes I do miss an interesting old mastergame (when ratings didn't exist yet) even if only for the historical background.

A second limitation is to cut off the analysis of the opening at about 100 mastergames. Time simply doesn't permit me to go broader. To process 100 mastergames can easily take a week and each year I want to do dozens of such projects. I select the 100 mastergames counting backwards from the last position popping up simultaneously in my game and a mastergame. An example will probably clarify a lot. At move 28 I played a novelty in my game against Karsten Verhasselt see article  mistakes but I already start the analysis of the opening at blacks 14th move.
100 mastergames
So creating an openingbook is not only handy for a preparation but also to study openings. I do have to admit that it took me a lot longer to create such openingbook than a few years ago as explained in my article green moves. I don't know if this is related to the complexity of the megadatabase 2016 but this time it took 3 full days to build the openingbook. Fortunately I just had to wait for the result as otherwise I surely gave up. The gain in time with the openingbook is enormous. The countless searches during the study are executed instantaneously and you get as bonus an exact overview of which moves are the most interesting ones to analyze deeper.

This brings us to the 3rd filter I use in my openinganalysis. An idea will be ignored if every mastergame scored badly (definitely lost games). I am aware that this sometimes means I miss a good idea but the gain of time largely compensates. By cutting smartly the tree of variations I can optimize the quality and work. A recent example from my practice shows well how this works. We zoom at move 16 of my game against Hendrik Ponnet, played in the Belgium interclub a couple of months ago. I try to find an improvement as I wasn't satisfied about the resulting position out of the opening.
[Event "To analyze an opening"] [Date "2015"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B45"] [PlyCount "43"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4 11. Ke2 f5 12. Nf2 Ba6 13. Kf3 Ne7 14. Be3 Bc5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 {(In the megadatabase of 2016 there are 118 games in which 1 of both colors has at least 2300 elo.)} 16. Qd6 {(In my game against Hendrik Ponnet I did not know the theory and deviated from the mainline with b3. After the game I was not satisfied about the the opening and made a serious analysis of the much more popular Qd6 which scores rather well in practice for white.)} Qb6 17. b3 (17. b4 c5 $1 {(In 2011 Hristo Velchev, 2320 elo played Nc8 and lost.)} 18. Rd1 Bb7 19. Kg3 cxb4 20. Qxd7 Kf7 21. c5 Qc6 22. Qxc6 Bxc6 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) (17. Rd1 Qxb2 $1 {(In 2002 Boris Savchenko 2313 elo met Rd8 on the board and won. This fate was repeated in 2006 by Admah Fawzi Samhouri 2336 elo.)} 18. Rd2 Qb8 19. Qxd7 Kf7 20. c5 Bxf1 21. Rxf1 Qb4 22. Rd6 Qc4 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 17... Bb7 18. Rd1 c5 19. Ke3 (19. Kg3 Qxd6 20. exd6 (20. Rxd6 g5 21. fxg5 h6 $1 {(In 2009 Zhanibek Amanov, 2413 elo met Ng6 after which he won rapidly.} 22. h4 hxg5 23. h5 O-O-O 24. Rd2 f4 25. Kg4 Rdf8 $15 { [%eval -54,32]}) 20... Ng8 21. Be2 (21. Nd3 Rc8 22. Be2 Nf6 $1 {(In 2009 Marijan Petrov, 2477 elo played Nh6 and lost.)} 23. Kf2 a5 24. Rhg1 Be4 25. Ne5 O-O 26. Ke3 a4 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 21... Nf6 22. Bf3 Bxf3 23. Kxf3 a5 24. Nd3 Ne4 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 19... Qxd6 20. exd6 (20. Rxd6 g5 21. fxg5 f4 22. Kd2 Ng6 23. Nd3 Rc8 24. Be2 (24. h4 Ke7 25. h5 Nxe5 26. Nxe5 Kxd6 27. Nf7 Ke7 28. Nxh8 Rxh8 29. Rh4 e5 $15 {[%eval -39,35]} 30. h6 (30. Rg4 d5 $1 {(In 2002 Veniamen Shtyrenkov, 2474 elo played d6 and lost.)} 31. Bd3 Bc8 32. Rh4 h6 33. g6 Rd8 34. cxd5 Rxd5 35. Kc3 Rd4 $15 {[%eval -45,35]}) 30... Kf7 31. g3 fxg3 32. Bd3 g2 33. Rg4 e4 34. Be2 Kg6 35. Ke3 $15 {[%eval -36,38]}) 24... Bxg2 25. Rg1 f3 $11 {[%eval -12,33]}) 20... Ng6 21. Nd3 Rc8 22. h4 $13 {(My best engine found in all the won games - of white in the Megadatabase 2016 with 16.Qd6 in which white or black had at least 2300 elo - an improvement for black so black achieves at least a comfortable position.)} *
Despite a score of + 60% in more than 100 games so a lot of won games by white, I could not find anything interesting. It doesn't happen often but sometimes I have to return back further. I won't stop stubbornly at the number 100. In such scenario it is absolutely necessary to summarize the analysis afterwards so it can be reused in a preparation of a game as can be seen below.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Ponnet, H."] [Result "*"] [ECO "B45"] [WhiteElo "2313"] [BlackElo "2280"] [PlyCount "33"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4 11. Ke2 f5 {(I found in the megadatabase 2016 more than 200 games with this position in which white and/or black has/have 2300 elo.)} 12. Nf2 {(I started here the analysis of the opening which lasted for almost a week. Starting earlier was not realistic as I still had many other projects.)} (12. exf6 Nxf6 13. Be3 (13. Nxf6 gxf6 14. a3 (14. Be3 Bc5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. Rc1 (16. b3 d5 17. Qd2 O-O 18. Rc1 Qb6 19. Ke1 a5 20. Be2 Ba6 21. cxd5 cxd5 $11 {[%eval -17, 28]}) 16... e5 17. Qd2 d6 18. b4 Qb6 19. c5 dxc5 $11 {[%eval 6,30]}) 14... Be7 15. b4 c5 16. Kf2 O-O 17. Be3 Qc7 18. Bd3 Bb7 $11 {[%eval 0,30]}) (13. Nd6 Bxd6 14. Qxd6 Bb7 15. c5 (15. b3 Ne4 16. c5 (16. Qe5 c5 17. g3 O-O 18. Bg2 Rf5 19. Qb2 e5 20. g4 Rf7 21. f5 Nf6 $19 {[%eval -206,30]}) 16... Qb4 17. Bd2 Nxd2 18. Qxd2 Qxc5 19. Kd1 O-O 20. Rc1 Qb6 $17 {[%eval -149,30]}) 15... Qb4 16. Qe5 Ba6 17. Kf3 Bxf1 18. Rxf1 O-O $17 {[%eval -98,29]}) 13... Qd8 14. Nd6 Bxd6 15. Qxd6 Bb7 16. Rd1 (16. Kd1 c5 17. Bd3 (17. Bxc5 Ne4 18. Qe5 Nxc5 19. Qxc5 Rf8 20. Bd3 Rxf4 21. Qh5 g6 22. Qxh7 Qf6 $15 {[%eval -41,32]}) (17. Qxc5 Be4 18. Qd6 Rc8 19. Be2 (19. Bxa7 Rc6 20. Qb8 Rc8 21. Qd6 (21. Qe5 O-O 22. Be2 (22. Bd4 Bf5 23. Qe3 d6 24. Bb6 Qd7 25. b3 e5 26. Be2 Rfe8 27. Bf3 d5 $17 {[%eval -109,30]}) 22... Qe7 23. a3 d6 24. Qd4 Qb7 25. Qe3 Bf5 26. Bf3 Qxb2 $17 { [%eval -88,30]}) 21... Rc6 22. Qb8 Rc8 23. Qd6 Rc6 24. Qb8 Rc8 $11 {[%eval 0, 38]}) 19... Rc6 20. Qa3 d6 21. Ke1 O-O 22. Rg1 a6 $13 {[%eval 32,26]}) 17... Rc8 18. Bxc5 Be4 19. b4 Rc6 20. Qd4 Bxd3 21. Qxd3 Qc7 $11 {[%eval 0,31]}) (16. Kd3 c5 17. Kc2 Ne4 18. Qd1 O-O 19. Bd3 Qf6 20. Rc1 Rab8 21. Kb1 Bc6 $11 { [%eval -6,33]}) (16. Re1 Ne4 17. Qe5 c5 18. Qxg7 Rf8 19. Kd3 Qa5 20. Be2 Qxa2 21. Bh5 Kd8 $15 {[%eval -53,32]}) 16... Qa5 (16... Rc8 17. g4 (17. Rg1 c5 18. g4) 17... c5 18. Rg1 Qb6 19. g5 Qxd6 20. Rxd6 Ne4 21. Rd3 d5 22. Ra3 $14 { [%eval 43,29]}) 17. Bc5 (17. a3 Rf8 $11 {[%eval 20,27]}) 17... O-O-O 18. Kf3 Ne8 19. Qe5 d6 20. Bxd6 Qxe5 21. fxe5 Nxd6 22. exd6 c5 $14 {[%eval 41,30]}) ( 12. exf6 Nxf6 13. Be3 Qd8 14. Nd6 Bxd6 15. Qxd6 Bb7 16. Kd1 (16. Rd1 Rc8 17. Rg1 c5 18. g4 Qb6 19. g5 Qxd6 20. Rxd6 Ne4 21. Rd3 d5 $11 {[%eval 10,24]}) 16... c5 17. Qxc5 Be4 $11 {[%eval 13,22]}) (12. Ng3 Nc7 13. Be3 (13. a3 Be7 14. Qd3 (14. b4 a5 15. Be3 Qa6 16. b5 cxb5 17. cxb5 Qb7 18. Ke1 Nxb5 19. Qd3 Nc7 $17 {[%eval -115,30]}) 14... O-O 15. Ke1 Rd8 16. Be3 c5 17. b4 Bb7 18. Rb1 d5 $17 {[%eval -80,28]}) 13... Bc5 14. Bxc5 Qxc5 15. Kf3 (15. b3 O-O 16. Qd2 a5 17. Qe3 Qe7 18. Kf2 a4 19. Rd1 axb3 20. axb3 Qh4 $11 {[%eval 0,32]}) 15... Rb8 16. Qd2 a5 17. Rb1 O-O $11 {[%eval 0,27]}) 12... Ba6 13. Kf3 Ne7 14. Be3 (14. Qa4 g5 (14... c5 15. h4 Qc6 16. Qxc6 Nxc6 17. Be3 Nd4 18. Bxd4 cxd4 19. Rd1 h6 20. Rxd4 $11 {[%eval 20,32]}) 15. fxg5 Ng6 16. Nd3 c5 (16... Bxc4 17. Be3 Bd5 18. Kf2 c5 19. Qxb4 cxb4 20. Bxb6 axb6 21. h4 Rg8 22. Nxb4 $15 {[%eval -58,30]}) 17. a3 Ba5 18. b4 cxb4 19. axb4 Qd4 $11 {[%eval 26,32]}) (14. h4 Bc5 15. Qe1 (15. Qc2 Bd4 16. Nd3 (16. Rh3 Qc5 17. Kg3 Bxc4 18. Bxc4 Bxf2 19. Qxf2 Qxc4 20. Kh2 Nd5 21. b3 Qb4 $17 {[%eval -91,31]}) 16... O-O 17. Kg3 c5 18. Rh3 d5 19. exd6 Qxd6 20. Kh2 Nc6 $17 {[%eval -91,28]}) 15... Bd4 16. Rb1 c5 17. Be3 O-O 18. Bxd4 cxd4 19. Kg3 Rac8 $15 {[%eval -44,29]}) (14. Qa4 c5 (14... g5 15. Nd3 (15. fxg5 Ng6 16. Nd3 Bxc4 17. Be3 c5 18. Nxb4 Qxb4 19. Qxb4 cxb4 20. Kg3 Bd5 $15 {[%eval -37,22]}) 15... Bxc4 16. Qxb4 Bxd3 17. Qxb6 Be4 18. Kf2 axb6 19. fxg5 Ng6 20. Be2 $17 {[%eval -113,21]}) 15. a3 (15. h4 Qc6 16. Qxc6 Nxc6 17. Be3 Nd4 18. Bxd4 cxd4 19. Rd1 h6 20. Rxd4 Bc5 $11 {[%eval 25,25]}) 15... Bb7 16. Kg3 Ba5 17. h4 Qc7 18. Be3 Bb6 19. Qd1 a5 $11 {[%eval 13,21]}) 14... Bc5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. b3 (16. Qd6 Qb6 (16... Qxd6 17. exd6 Ng8 (17... Ng6 18. c5 Bxf1 19. Rhxf1 Kf7 (19... Rb8 20. Nd3 Kf7 21. Ke3 h5 22. Kd4 Kf6 23. Kc3 e5 24. fxe5 Nxe5 25. Nxe5 $14 {[%eval 33,31]}) 20. Nd3 Kf6 21. Rae1 a5 22. b3 Rae8 23. Rg1 $14 {[%eval 42,33]}) 18. Ke3 (18. b3 c5 19. Be2 (19. Nd3 Bb7 20. Ke3 Rc8 21. Rd1 Be4 22. Ne5 Nh6 23. Be2 Nf7 24. h4 a5 $11 {[%eval 0,33]}) 19... Bb7 20. Ke3 Rc8 21. Rad1 a5 22. Rhg1 Nh6 23. Bf3 Bxf3 $11 {[%eval 8,32]}) (18. Rc1 c5 19. Ke3 Nf6 20. Nd3 Rc8 21. Be2 Bb7 22. Ne5 Be4 23. Rhg1 Rb8 $11 { [%eval 6,31]}) (18. Bd3 c5 19. Rhg1 Rb8 20. g4 g6 21. Rae1 Kd8 22. Re5 Rxb2 23. Rxc5 Rb6 $11 {[%eval 15,30]}) (18. b4 Nf6 19. Be2 h6 20. Ke3 g5 21. g3 O-O 22. Rhc1 Rab8 23. Rab1 Ne8 $16 {[%eval 73,27]}) (18. Be2) (18. c5) (18. g4) 18... c5 19. Rg1 Bb7 20. Rd1 Nh6 21. Be2 Nf7 22. Nd3 $11 {[%eval 27,30]}) (16... Qa5 17. Be2 (17. h4 Rd8 18. Qa3 Qxa3 19. bxa3 c5 20. Rc1 Nc6 21. Be2 Ke7 22. Nd3 Rc8 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 17... g5 18. Rhd1 Rd8 19. g3 (19. b3 g4 20. Kg3 Qb6 21. Qd4 c5 22. Qe3 Bb7 23. Nd3 Qc6 24. Bf1 Rc8 $11 {[%eval 19,31]}) 19... h5 20. fxg5 h4 21. g4 Rf8 $11 {[%eval 14,29]}) 17. b3 (17. b4 c5 18. Rd1 Bb7 19. Kg3 cxb4 20. Qxd7 Kf7 21. c5 Qc6 22. Qxc6 Bxc6 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) (17. Rd1 Qxb2 18. Rd2 Qb8 19. Qxd7 Kf7 20. c5 Bxf1 21. Rxf1 Qb4 22. Rd6 Qc4 $11 { [%eval 0,34]}) 17... Bb7 18. Rd1 c5 19. Ke3 (19. Kg3 Qxd6 20. exd6 (20. Rxd6 g5 21. fxg5 h6 22. h4 hxg5 23. h5 O-O-O 24. Rd2 f4 25. Kg4 Rdf8 $15 {[%eval -54,32]}) 20... Ng8 21. Be2 (21. Nd3 Rc8 22. Be2 Nf6 23. Kf2 a5 24. Rhg1 Be4 25. Ne5 O-O 26. Ke3 a4 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 21... Nf6 22. Bf3 Bxf3 23. Kxf3 a5 24. Nd3 Ne4 $11 {[%eval 0,34]}) 19... Qxd6 20. exd6 (20. Rxd6 g5 21. fxg5 f4 22. Kd2 Ng6 23. Nd3 Rc8 24. Be2 (24. h4 Ke7 25. h5 Nxe5 26. Nxe5 Kxd6 27. Nf7 Ke7 28. Nxh8 Rxh8 29. Rh4 e5 $15 {[%eval -39,35]} 30. h6 (30. Rg4 d5 31. Bd3 Bc8 32. Rh4 h6 33. g6 Rd8 34. cxd5 Rxd5 35. Kc3 Rd4 $15 {[%eval -45,35]}) 30... Kf7 31. g3 fxg3 32. Bd3 g2 33. Rg4 e4 34. Be2 Kg6 35. Ke3 $15 {[%eval -36,38]}) 24... Bxg2 25. Rg1 f3 $11 {[%eval -12,33]}) 20... Ng6 21. Nd3 (21. h4 e5 22. Nd3 Nxf4 23. Nxe5 Ne6 24. Rg1 O-O 25. Nxd7 Rfe8 26. Kf2 Rad8 $11 {[%eval 11,31] }) 21... Rc8 22. h4) 16... Bb7 (16... Qb6 17. Qd6 Bb7 (17... c5 18. Kg3 Bb7 19. Be2 Kf7 (19... Rd8 20. Rhd1 Rg8 (20... Nc8 21. Qxb6 axb6 22. a4 Rg8 (22... d6 23. a5 dxe5 (23... bxa5 24. Rxa5 O-O 25. h4 dxe5 26. fxe5 Rxd1 27. Bxd1 f4 28. Kh3 f3 29. g4 $18 {[%eval 171,34]}) 24. fxe5 Rxd1 25. Nxd1 Rf8 26. Nc3 Rf7 27. axb6 Nxb6 28. Ra5 $16 {[%eval 153,33]}) 23. h4 h6 24. a5 bxa5 25. Nd3 g5 26. Bh5 $16 {[%eval 104,30]}) 21. Nd3 Rc8 22. Ne1 Rc7 23. h4 Be4 24. Kf2 Qb7 25. Bh5 $14 {[%eval 54,26]}) 20. Rad1 Rhd8 21. Bh5 g6 22. Bf3 Bxf3 23. gxf3 $11 { [%eval 10,30]}) 18. Rd1 c5 19. Ke3 Qxd6 (19... Kf7 20. Qxb6 axb6 21. Rxd7 Bc6 22. Rd2 g5 23. Nh3 h6 24. fxg5 Ng6 25. gxh6 $11 {[%eval 0,32]} Nxe5 (25... Rxh6 26. Ng5 Ke7 27. Nxe6 Nxe5 28. Nc7 Rg8 29. h4 Ng4 30. Ke2 Nf6 31. Rh2 $14 { [%eval 38,32]}) 26. Be2 Rag8 27. Nf4 Ke7 28. Bf3 Nxf3 29. gxf3 Rxh6 30. Nd3 Rh3 $11 {[%eval 0,36]}) (19... Rd8 20. Be2 Nc8 21. Qxb6 axb6 22. a4 Rg8 23. Rhg1 Ne7 24. g3 Ra8 25. Rd2 $14 {[%eval 36,30]}) 20. exd6 Ng6 21. Nd3 Rc8 22. h4 $11 {[%eval 12,33]}) 17. Qd2 $146 {(The first move of which I do not find any games in the databases. Eventually I won the game in 35 moves but that had nothing to do with the opening.)} (17. Qd6 Qxd6 18. exd6 c5 19. Ke3 Ng6 20. Nd3 Rc8 21. h4 (21. Rg1 Be4 22. Ne5 Nxe5 23. fxe5 g5 24. g4 h6 25. Be2 Kf7 26. b4 cxb4 $11 {[%eval 26,29]}) 21... h5 22. Be2 Be4 $13 {[%eval 32,36]}) *
I do take care that I store the detailed analysis in a separate database so when I want to expand or refresh the analysis that I can continue where I left off earlier. It doesn't make sense to analyze all the mastergames of an opening when you already did 95% of it 1 year ago. If that happens I will just analyze the 5% new games. Old analysis of 10 years ago always have to be redone but at that time I didn't make the analysis so detailed as I do today.

Once the mastergames are processed, I will also analyse correspondence games played with the same opening which are often very valuable. A bit less relevant are games played by engines but as their current level is so strong you can't ignore them anymore as I explained in my article computers achieve autonomy. Finally I also have a look at my own online games. Scientifically they are not important but they have often a practical value to know which human errors occur often. I try to avoid my own errors while I learn the sometimes difficult engine refutations of the mistakes of my opponents.

I admit that despite the shortcuts which I use, a project is not something which most players will enjoy. Besides you don't need such analysis at all to play at the level I do (2300 elo). It is neither very practical as the number of projects is limited so big gaps remain in my repertoire. My motive is to analyze with a scientific approach. A nice bonus is to have some fun with the mistakes from recently published openingbooks (e.g Lars Schandorff) or new correspondencegames.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Only 6 games (interclub) I have scheduled in 6 months. I mean standard chess. I am not happy with it as I love to play more but I can't find interesting games in the neighborhood which are easy to plan. I can't get rid of the ghost inactivity which makes any progression impossible.

However as often each disadvantage has also an advantage. By playing very few games myself, I can much easier accompany my son to the youth-tournaments in which he participates. The last couple of months we were in GentZottegemDeurneBrasschaat and Geel. He clearly got hooked up as this weekend he wanted to participate in the krokus-tournament of Gent despite he knew very well that we had planned his birthday-party.

He doesn't like much solving exercises out of the Steps Method. Nevertheless he realizes that luck isn't defining his performance but rather the step already achieved. A player of step 3 will most likely win from a player of step 2 while a player of step 2 will in most cases win from a step 1 player. In short the books allow each player to learn the basics at their preferred pace.

This tempo is heavily influenced by my help at home as I can check his answers. That is an enormous luxury which was confirmed by a mother of a talented boy complaining about slow and late corrections of his teacher. Because I do the reviewing of his responses, I get a good picture of the didactic value of the books. Each chapter talks about a different theme: double attacks, mate in 2, removing the defender,... which is followed up is by dozens of exercises.

Reviewing the homework is for somebody of 2300 rating child-play although in a rare case I need to think longer as in the problem below from Step 2, page 31. It is not redundant for some teachers to possess also the book containing the answers.
1) Put a white rook and white knight on the board so black is mated
Later I asked myself how such position can occur in practice without taking into account that white still has a king somewhere on the board. Mate happened with the knight without doubt but what was black last move? It must have been a pawn-move but why did black not capture the rook? To reconstruct a game is something typical in retros which is a very small special niche in chess which has nothing to do with the step-method. Readers willing to taste a real retro can try to solve below problem. What was blacks last move and why? An additional condition is that nothing was captured while giving mate.
2) What was black last move and why?
We deviate from our topic as I want to discuss the value of the step-books. Sure there are some special ones between the tasks but in general they are very well chosen and in practice often immediately reusable. An example from Step 2, page 30.
3) White plays and wins
I already showed this theme in my article tactics part 2 and surprisingly I met it recently again in my standardgame against the Dutch IM Miguoel Admiraal.
4) Is it a good idea to capture the pawn on d6?
The books are containing lots of patterns which we meet often in practice. Another one from Step2, page 35.
5) White mates in 2.
We see again the same pattern in the final position of the game Anna Muzychuk - Laurent Fressinet played 2 weeks ago in Gibraltar.
Black has no response anymore against g6 followed up with Rf7# so resigned.
By solving the exercises step by step the basic tactics are learned. Age probably also plays a role as it is similar to learning languages. The younger you are, the better you will master something. A trap I try to avoid as parent, is to push my son making too many exercises at once. It is why I avoid bringing any book to the courses at Sunday in our club so I am guaranteed he can play and have fun.


1) White rook on b5, white knight on c3
2) The last move must be Rf2#. If the rook was before on the f-file then white must have captured a piece. However it was said that we are not allowed to capture a piece while giving mate. So the rook must have been on the second row: d2, e2, g2 or h2. But where was blacks king then standing? It looks like stalemate. Still there is a solution.
The black rook was on d2, the black king on f2 seems to be double checked, at first glance. However the position is mirrored. Blacks king in the initial position was not on f2 but on c7! The only solution to solve this riddle is to put a white pawn on d7 which promoted on e8 to knight while capturing a black piece. So the solution is 1.d7xe8 (P)+, Kc7-c8 2.Re7-c7# 
3) 1. Rd8+ Rxd8 2. Qxc5 (Theme removing the defender)
4) No because of 1. Qxd6 Re1+ 2. Kh2 Qh1#
5) 1. Ne6+ Ke8 2. Re7# (or also 1...Kg8 2. Rg7#)

Monday, February 8, 2016


Maybe the last stand in standardchess in which we can beat the computer is to recognize and build fortresses. There exist a lot of definitions for fortresses but in this article I stick to endgames (maximum 4 pieces besides pawns and kings) in which material is sacrificed to defend successfully. Some trivial endgames like rook-pawn + bishop of the wrong colour are evaluated correctly by our current engines but a fortress like in the high-class game Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Fabiano Caruana created a lot of confusion.
[Event "Tata Steel"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2016.01.29"] [Round "11"] [White "Shakhriyar Mamedyarov"] [Black "Fabiano Caruana"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B22"] [WhiteElo "2747"] [BlackElo "2787"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/1P3p1p/4p1p1/8/1K6/5P1P/3r4/8 w - - 0 46"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2016.01.15"] 46. b8=Q Kg7 47. Qe5 {(Maybe Carlsen would still try here Kc5.)} (47. Kc5 Rd3 {(Black should not take up the defense lightly.)} (47... Rd5 48. Kc6 h5 49. f4 Rd3 50. Qb1 Rd8 51. Qb4 Rd1 52. Qb3 Rd8 53. Kc7 Rd5 54. f5 gxf5 55. Qg3 Kf8 56. Qf4 Ke8 57. Kc6 Rd3 58. Qh4 f4 59. Qxh5 Rc3 60. Kb6 Rb3 61. Ka5 f3 62. Qh8 Ke7 63. Qh4 Kf8 64. Qd8 Kg7 65. Qd4 $18 {(Stockfish already shows more than 9 so that should be sufficient for the win.)}) 48. Kc6 (48. f4 Kf6 49. Qf8 {(Otherwise black plays Ke7 after which he should not fear anymore an infiltration of the white king.)} Rxh3 50. Qd8 Kf5 51. Qd4 Rh4 52. Qe5 Kg4 53. Kd4 f5 54. Qxe6 Kh3 55. Qb3 Kg2 56. Qc2 Kg1 57. Qd1 Kh2 58. Qd2 Kh3 59. Qe3 Kg2 60. Qe2 Kh3 61. Qf1 Kh2 62. Qf2 Kh3 63. Qg1 Rxf4 $11) 48... Rxf3 49. Kd6 Rf5 50. Ke7 h6 51. Qb2 Kg8 52. Qc3 g5 53. Qb2 Rf4 54. Qb8 Kg7 55. Qe5 Kg8 56. Qe3 Rf1 57. Qe2 Rf4 58. Ke8 Kg7 59. Qe1 Kg8 60. Qc3 Rf2 61. h4 Rf5 62. Qd3 Kg7 63. Qg3 Kg8 64. Qg2 Kg7 65. Qg4 Kf6 66. Kf8 Rf4 67. Qh5 Ke5 68. Kg7 Rxh4 69. Qe2 Kf4 70. Kxf7 Kg3 71. Kxe6 $11) 47... Kg8 48. Qb8 Kg7 49. Qe5 Kg8 50. Qb8 1/2-1/2
Commentators initially thought that Fabiano blundered and even after the game some players weren't convinced about the fortress, see chessbomb or the blog of James Stripes. Today we are so dependent and addicted to evaluations of our engines that we don't question them anymore. Personally I only believe a score of +5 or a tablebase-hit that a win is 99,99% certain as I described earlier in my article to analyze with engines. Setting +5 is really not too high as some time ago the scores went up high while analyzing an endgame with Stockfish and Komodo while eventually they didn't manage to find the killer.
[Event "Analyse vesting"] [Date "2015"] [White "Bratuszewski, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "1940"] [BlackElo "2271"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2Q5/6p1/1p3rkp/p4p2/P2Pn2P/1P2P2K/8/8 b - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "54"] {(I played with only 1 second remaining on my clock the weak Rd6 but my opponent was satisfied a couple of moves later anyway with a draw. Theoretically Kh5 gives the best surviving-chances.)} 40... Kh5 $1 41. d5 Nf2 42. Kh2 Ne4 43. Qh8 Kxh4 44. Qxg7 Rd6 45. Qe5 $5 Kg5 46. Kh3 Rf6 $1 47. Qf4 Kg6 48. Qb8 $5 Rd6 $1 49. Kg2 Kf7 $1 50. Kf3 Rxd5 51. Qxb6 h5 52. b4 h4 53. bxa5 h3 54. Kf4 h2 55. Qh6 Rxa5 56. Qxh2 Ke7 57. Qh4 Kd7 58. Qe1 Ra6 59. Qb4 Nd6 60. Ke5 Rb6 61. Qc5 Ra6 62. Kd5 Ne8 63. a5 Nd6 64. Qb4 Ne8 65. Qb5 Ke7 66. Kd4 Nc7 67. Qxf5 {(Stockfish shows 4,2 and Komodo 2,8. Nevertheless the Lomonosov tablebases tell us it is draw as black defends a zone. It is evident that I will not claim this line is forced as therefore it is way too long.)} *
The finalgentool can't judge the final position but with the help of HK5000 I got to know that it is indeed a draw after he checked the lomonosov 7 men tablebases. Yes indeed scores of +4,2 for Stockfish and +2,8 for Komodo don't mean there is a win. You don't expect that immediately of the current leaders which are considered generally invincible. I also expect that these are no records even if we don't take special positions into account from the world of compositions. Komodo even showed a personal higher score of +3,2 in the fortress which I met in my analysis of move 42 in my game against Stone, see my article bricks. Do you know fortresses from practice which are evaluated even worse then write it down in a reaction below this article !

On the other hand above analysis of both fortresses also show that engines can still discover a lot of interesting lines. Not seldom a strong engine can crack a fortress by using some very complicated constructions. I had a look to the so-called fortress which appeared in the marathon-game of 122 moves in the last world-championship. Neither Carlsen nor the commentators found a win in the 7th game but thanks to Lets Check I still found a weak spot.
[Event "Carlsen-Anand World Championship"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2014.11.17"] [Round "7"] [White "Magnus Carlsen"] [Black "Viswanathan Anand"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [PlyCount "243"] [EventDate "2014.11.07"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8 Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Bf4 Be7 12. Rad1 Be6 13. Ng5 Rh6 14. g3 Bxg5 15. Bxg5 Rg6 16. h4 f6 17. exf6 gxf6 18. Bf4 Nxh4 19. f3 Rd8 20. Kf2 Rxd1 21. Nxd1 Nf5 22. Rh1 Bxa2 23. Rxh5 Be6 24. g4 Nd6 25. Rh7 Nf7 26. Ne3 Kd8 27. Nf5 c5 28. Ng3 Ne5 29. Rh8 Rg8 30. Bxe5 fxe5 31. Rh5 Bxg4 {(Played intuitively but it is unclear if the fortress can hold.)} 32. fxg4 Rxg4 33. Rxe5 b6 34. Ne4 Rh4 35. Ke2 Rh6 36. b3 Kd7 37. Kd2 Kc6 38. Nc3 a6 39. Re4 Rh2 40. Kc1 Rh1 41. Kb2 Rh6 42. Nd1 Rg6 43. Ne3 Rh6 44. Re7 Rh2 45. Re6 Kb7 46. Kc3 Rh4 47. Kb2 Rh2 48. Nd5 Rd2 49. Nf6 Rf2 50. Kc3 Rf4 51. Ne4 Rh4 52. Nf2 { (Thanks to Lets Check I got to know that Re7 is very strong. I could not find a defense anymore for black.)} (52. Re7 $1 a5 (52... Rh6 53. Ng5 Rh8 54. Ne6 Rc8 55. Rf7 Kc6 56. Rf8 Rxf8 57. Nxf8 Kb5 58. Ne6 Kc6 59. Kd3 Kd6 60. Ng5 Kc6 61. c4 b5 62. Ne6 Kd6 $18) (52... Rh3 53. Kb2 Kc6 54. Nf6 Kd6 55. Rh7 Re3 56. Rd7 Ke6 57. Re7 {(I expect this key-move was missed.)} Kxe7 58. Nd5 Kd6 59. Nxe3 c4 60. Nxc4 Kd5 61. Kc3 Ke4 62. Nb2 Kd5 63. Kd3 Kc5 64. Ke4 Kb4 $18) 53. Nd6 Kc6 54. Ne8 b5 55. Rxc7 Kb6 56. Kb2 a4 57. Rg7 Kc6 58. bxa4 Rxa4 59. Rg6 Kd7 60. Nf6 Ke6 61. Rh6 Rb4 62. Kc1 Rd4 63. Ng4 Kd5 64. Ne3 Ke4 65. Re6 Kf4 66. Nd1 b4 67. Nb2 c4 68. Rc6 Kf5 69. Rxc4 Rd5 70. Rh4 Rd8 71. Rxb4 $18) 52... Rh2 53. Rf6 Rh7 54. Nd3 Rh3 55. Kd2 Rh2 56. Rf2 Rh4 57. c4 Rh3 58. Kc2 Rh7 59. Nb2 Rh5 60. Re2 Rg5 61. Nd1 b5 62. Nc3 c6 63. Ne4 Rh5 64. Nf6 Rg5 65. Re7 Kb6 66. Nd7 Ka5 67. Re4 Rg2 68. Kc1 Rg1 69. Kd2 Rg2 70. Ke1 bxc4 71. Rxc4 Rg3 72. Nxc5 Kb5 73. Rc2 a5 74. Kf2 Rh3 75. Rc1 Kb4 76. Ke2 Rc3 77. Nd3 Kxb3 78. Ra1 Kc4 79. Nf2 Kb5 80. Rb1 Kc4 81. Ne4 Ra3 82. Nd2 Kd5 83. Rh1 a4 84. Rh5 Kd4 85. Rh4 Kc5 86. Kd1 Kb5 87. Kc2 Rg3 88. Ne4 Rg2 89. Kd3 a3 90. Nc3 Kb6 91. Ra4 a2 92. Nxa2 Rg3 93. Kc2 Rg2 94. Kb3 Rg3 95. Nc3 Rh3 96. Rb4 Kc7 97. Rg4 Rh7 98. Kc4 Rf7 99. Rg5 Kb6 100. Na4 Kc7 101. Kc5 Kd7 102. Kb6 Rf1 103. Nc5 Ke7 104. Kxc6 Rd1 105. Rg6 Kf7 106. Rh6 Rg1 107. Kd5 Rg5 108. Kd4 Rg6 109. Rh1 Rg2 110. Ne4 Ra2 111. Rf1 Ke7 112. Nc3 Rh2 113. Nd5 Kd6 114. Rf6 Kd7 115. Nf4 Rh1 116. Rg6 Rd1 117. Nd3 Ke7 118. Ra6 Kd7 119. Ke4 Ke7 120. Rc6 Kd7 121. Rc1 Rxc1 122. Nxc1 1/2-1/2
I looked on the web for serious analysis of this endgame but I didn't find much. The only exception was the remarkable study of the Russian grandmaster Pavel Maletin on the site of the Russian chessfederation but it is not very readable and he admits that improvements are possible. I am curious if some other analysis exists but who wants to stick out their neck? I expect that even Kasparov would need a lot of time to make a decent analysis as published in his world-championship books.

While preparing this article, I also reviewed some analysis of fortresses popping up in my older games. No surprise here too as I also found some holes in the analysis. I mentioned in my article the Spanish with d5 that a fortress exists in the analysis of move 50 of my game against Fabien Libiszewski. Stockfish must move heaven and earth but in the end manages to breakthrough.
[Event "Analyse vesting"] [Date "2004"] [White "Libisewski, F."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C97"] [WhiteElo "2457"] [BlackElo "2308"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/5Bp1/1p1q2P1/1P4k1/5R2/5K2/8 w - - 0 66"] [PlyCount "68"] {(In my analysis of 2004 I wrote that it is a draw but today I am not sure anymore.)} 66. Rg3 Kh4 $1 {(The black king pushes the white king out of the corner.)} 67. Re3 Qf5 68. Ke1 Qb1 69. Kd2 Qxb4 70. Kc2 Kg4 71. Rb3 Qe1 72. Rb1 Qe2 73. Kb3 Qd3 74. Kb2 Kf5 75. Ra1 Qd2 76. Ka3 Ke6 77. Rb1 Qe3 78. Kb2 Qe4 79. Ka2 b4 80. Rb2 Qc4 81. Kb1 b3 82. Rd2 Qb4 83. Re2 Kf5 84. Kb2 Qa5 85. Kc1 Qa3 86. Kd1 Qb4 87. Rd2 Ke4 88. Kc1 Ke3 89. Rh2 Qa3 90. Kb1 Kd3 91. Rh3 Kc4 92. Rh2 Qd6 93. Rg2 Qf4 94. Kb2 Kd3 95. Bg7 Qf3 96. Rh2 Qg3 97. Rh8 Qf2 98. Kxb3 Qf7 99. Ka3 Qxg7 {(We obtained a tablebase which black wins.)} *
Later I did find an improvement for white just before the start-position by playing immediately 64.Rxf3+. That avoids the black king running to h4 and chasing away the white king out of the corner. If white positions the rook on g2 and the king on g1/h2 then it is although a fortress but that doesn't matter in this story. Fortresses are often too abstract for our engines but that is not the same as engines are useless to analyze fortresses. There is continuous progress made but fortunately still some mystery remains for a while.