Tuesday, June 14, 2016


The strong British grandmaster Matthew Sadler doesn't really fit in today's routines of professional chess. As (sub-) worldclass-player he stopped playing in 2000 and chose a normal civilian life. Only in 2010 he found back his love for chess not by accident after his divorce. The rust quickly disappeared and today at age 42 he has a peakrating of 2670. Not surprisingly we find back this unusual career also in his style of play. Creativity and originality are omnipresent in his games. Experiments with dubious openings happen regularly. You will seldom see big theoretical battles.

A couple of months ago a new book Chess for Life was presented by this intriguing player so obviously I got curious. It wasn't an ordinary concept as by a number of interviews and analysis they explained how chess-skills develop or are maintained over the years. So it is not the usual technical book but rather an interesting psychological look at how some people keep playing strong chess.
The chapters were very varied even to such degree that it looked like a potpourri. There is much entertaining/ interesting stuff to discover but I couldn't find a common thread through the book. Unless maybe that active players consider winning still very important later in their career. Age seems not to matter really as the game is in the first place played to defeat the opponent. At the same time this also can give an explanation why so many players quit. Or winning is not so addictive anymore or it just becomes too difficult to keep on winning more games. The recently passed away legend Viktor Korchnoi was naturally the identification of an insatiable fighting spirit. I even read in 1 of the more unique obituaries on schaaksite that at the age of 73 he still hoped to increase his rating above 2650.

I was slightly disappointed to read that winning was of such importance for older players. I had hoped for other aspects of the game getting more attention in the book. Instead we get an overview of different techniques of how to stay successful in chess despite aging. Some players are even more ambitious. What can you do to make still progression and achieve a higher peakrating despite being not so young anymore?

Of course it matters a lot when we talk about a comeback or not. In the book the English FM Terry Chapman explains how he achieved at the age of 57 the FM-titel after 5 years of study. Closer we have our own even more powerful comeback of strong Jan. He achieved the IM-title at the age of 67. Also he spent an enormous amount of effort to improve his level.

Players having already a long active career, will get it of course much more difficult to find a way to increase their rating. There is not only less margin to study more but old (bad) habits are very hard to change. A recent exception is the natural Granda Zuniga (not long ago already popping up in my article extra sweet). On chess.com there was recently an article published in which he was congratulated with his new peakrating of 2699 at the age of 49. It is no surprise that in a recent interview he admit to work today in a much more structured way.

A great performance but maybe even more stunning is what our Belgian grandmaster Luc Winants achieved a few months ago. Not only he reconquered the first ranking upon young grandmasters such as Bart Michiels and Tanguy Ringoir but at the age of 53 he also managed to raise his peakrating till 2574 elo (fide). Luc pumped up his rating quietly with some solid victories. An example you can find in below technical clean game against the very experienced Russian grandmaster Vyacheslav Ikonnikov.
[Event "TCh-BEL 2015-16"] [Site "Belgium BEL"] [Date "2015.09.27"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Winants, L."] [Black "Ikonnikov, Vy"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2560"] [BlackElo "2518"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2015.09.27"] [WhiteTeam "Wirtzfeld 1"] [BlackTeam "Jean Jaures 1"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. Bd3 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 d5 8. b3 Ne4 9. Bb2 Nd7 10. Rc1 Nxc3 11. Rxc3 Nf6 12. Qe2 a5 13. Rcc1 a4 14. c5 c6 15. b4 Nd7 16. a3 f5 17. cxb6 Qxb6 18. Rc2 Rfc8 19. Rfc1 Rc7 20. h3 Bd6 21. Ne5 Nf6 22. f3 Ne8 23. g4 fxg4 24. hxg4 Bxe5 25. dxe5 Ba6 26. Bd4 Qb7 27. Bxa6 Rxa6 28. Rc5 Rf7 29. f4 Nc7 30. Qc2 Nb5 31. Rxc6 Nxa3 32. Rc8 Rf8 33. Rxf8 Kxf8 34. Qxh7 Rc6 35. Bc5 Rxc5 36. Rxc5 Nc4 37. Rc8 Kf7 38. Qh5 1-0
Beating weaker players won't let you win many points but if you do it regularly then it still helps to improve the rating. A few years ago I didn't stand a chance in my game against Luc in the Belgian interclubs.
[Event "Interclub Wirtzfield - Deurne"] [Date "2013"] [White "Winants, L."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C85"] [WhiteElo "2535"] [BlackElo "2347"] [PlyCount "75"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. d3 { (Not only it was a surprise who I had to play but I also had no experience with this opening in serious games. In 1999 I once met Qe2 by Valère De Buck.)} Nd7 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. b3 {(Nc4 is more popular and I had studied that once for a game.)} Re8 { (F6 is played more often but there is nothing wrong with this move.)} 10. Bb2 f6 11. Nh4 Nc5 12. Nf5 Bxf5 $6 {(The same type of exchange as in my previous game against Sulskis Sarunas. Also here it is not very good. Correct is Bf8 with a playable position for black.)} 13. exf5 Qd7 14. Qf3 $6 {(Qg4 looks a bit more accurate.)} a5 15. a4 b6 16. Rfe1 Nb7 17. Ne4 Rad8 18. g4 Nd6 19. Kg2 Nf7 20. h4 Nd6 21. Ng3 Nf7 22. Re4 Qd5 23. Rae1 Bb4 24. Rg1 Nd6 25. Re2 b5 $6 {(It is not easy playing with black. Here I make the wrong decision to take actions on the queenside. Better is exchanging queens and black can defend.)} 26. Ne4 Nxe4 27. dxe4 Qd7 28. g5 Be7 $6 {(I lose the coordination while running low on time as Qf7 is mandatory for the defense.)} (28... Qf7 $1 29. Bc1 Rd7 30. Kh2 Kh8 31. h5 fxg5 32. Bxg5 Rf8 $5 $14) 29. Bc1 Qd4 $6 {(A desperate try to complicate which is refuted easily. Best was bxa4 although white has anyway all the cards.)} 30. Qh5 Qd7 31. Kh2 fxg5 32. hxg5 Bf8 33. g6 h6 34. Re3 Be7 35. Rd3 Bd6 36. f6 gxf6 37. g7 Re7 38. Rdg3 1-0
I don't know Luc personally so I can only guess how much he worked at chess. I am curious if he developed new techniques or adopted new methods. It is a pity that there hasn't been more publicity about this unique performance. Schaakfabriek doesn't bring much news anymore today.


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