Friday, July 29, 2016

Old wine in new skins part 2

Last season I didn't participate at the clubchampionship of Deurne just like 2 years ago. The interest of the stronger players has been fading away for some time as mentioned in my article inactivity and there hasn't been a cure yet found for it. The alternative was for me again TSM Open but that competition ended already around new-year. After the last round of the Belgian interclubs in April I didn't manage to play any standard games anymore. To get back into shape for the Open Gent I decided just like 2 years ago to play the cup in Deurne.

From 2 earlier participations I had learned that the scientific approach puts myself in a very vulnerable position. The higher rated player gets a time-handicap defined by the rules and the combination with a surprise in the opening by my opponent created a very dangerous mix. Not seldom only a few minutes remained on my clock after the opening for playing the rest of the game. I couldn't win the cup this way.

This year I chose to disregard the scientific approach and play in a very practical way. This also corresponds better to my goal of getting back into shape. Each match in the cup means that one player proceeds and one player is eliminated. So if you want to play a maximum of games then you first need to win the matches. Therefore I chose practically after winning the first game to force the draw in the second game even in completely won positions. My openingchoices also deviated from my standard repertoire. When Robert Schuermans in the quarterfinale played a6 in the Spanish instead of his favorite Schliemann-gambit, I countered surprisingly with the exchange variation. Not only I avoided his preparation but I also managed to exchange the queens which to some extent disarmed him.

In my semi-finale against Marcel Van Herck and the finale against  Thierry Penson I decided to return to openings which I played more than a decade ago regularly. They are not part anymore of my standard repertoire as there exists at least 1 anti-dote but they seemed to me a good choice for the cup. The strategy worked. Both opponents were not prepared for this surprise and spent a lot of time in the opening which caused them to make errors quickly in the middlegame. Without showing something great, I won comfortable the cup.

The practical value of a surprise from the old box can and should not be underestimated. However I still was slightly puzzled when last month the Ukrainian topgrandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk won with a really dubious opening against the Cuban topgrandmaster Leinier Dominguez Perez in the 51st Capablanca memorial.
[Event "51st Capablanca Mem Elite"] [Site "Varadero CUB"] [Date "2016.06.13"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Dominguez Perez, L."] [Black "Ivanchuk, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C72"] [WhiteElo "2723"] [BlackElo "2710"] [PlyCount "74"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Na5 7. d4 Nxb3 8. axb3 f6 9. Nc3 Bb7 10. Nh4 Ne7 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Qf3 Qd7 13. Rd1 Qe6 14. Be3 g6 15. Bc5 Kf7 16. Qe3 Bg7 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. Nd5 Bxd5 19. Rxd5 Rhd8 20. Rxd8 Rxd8 21. Nf3 Bf8 22. h3 Qe6 23. Ne1 Rd4 24. f3 Qd6 25. Nd3 c5 26. Kf1 Bg7 27. Qe2 Bh6 28. Rd1 c4 29. bxc4 bxc4 30. Nf2 Ke7 31. Rxd4 Qxd4 32. Nd1 Bc1 33. b3 a5 34. c3 Qd2 35. Qxd2 Bxd2 36. Ke2 Bc1 37. bxc4 a4 0-1
A +2700 player knows an enormous amount of theory so I assume Leinier has seen this line before. Unfortunately for him this wasn't enough to keep the opening-advantage. For the umpteenth time the well calculated gamble of Chucky was successful. I am sure the opening is dubious as it was part of my standard repertoire till 2004, although with a different move-order. I still won my last game with the variation but afterwards I got convinced that I better play different lines.
[Event "Kersttornooi Deurne"] [Date "2004"] [White "Vanparys, P."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2200"] [BlackElo "2317"] [PlyCount "100"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 {(I defended several years with success Na5 but now on a higher level, this opening becomes too risky to continue playing.)} 6. O-O d6 7. d4 f6 {(I could not solve the problems after f6 so I tried to get the alternative exd4 work but to no avail.)} (7... exd4 8. Nxd4 Bb7 {(Kupreichik and Mueller are/ were the biggest adepts of this system.)} (8... Ne7 $5 {(A number of strong players like Olafsson, Rolletscheck, Narciso Dublan have played this but I do not believe this is sufficient for equality.)} 9. Qf3 Nxb3 10. axb3 Bb7 11. Nc3 c5 12. Nf5 Nxf5 13. Qxf5 g6 14. Qh3 Bg7 15. Bh6 O-O 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 $14 ) (8... Bd7 {(This also has been tried by some strong players like Bricard and Velicka but it looks insufficient to me.)} 9. Qe2 $146 {(A novelty of Fritz which leads to typical complications a computer can only calculate.)} c5 10. e5 $1 cxd4 11. exd6 Be7 12. Rd1 Nxb3 13. axb3 Bf5 14. dxe7 $14 ) (8... Nxb3 9. axb3 Bb7 10. Nc3 g6 {(The international masters Stein and Schoene have tested this continuation several times in practice without good results.)} 11. Nd5 Bg7 12. Bg5 Qxg5 13. Nxc7 Ke7 14. Nxa8 Bxa8 15. Rxa6 Bxe4 16. Nf5 $3 gxf5 17. Qxd6 Ke8 18. f3 $16 ) 9. c4 {(Most likely there are other lines giving an advantage but one is enough as refutation.)} c5 (9... Nxc4 10. Bxc4 $1 bxc4 11. Na3 c5 12. Nf5 g6 13. Ng3 c3 14. bxc3 Bc6 15. Nc4 $16 ) (9... Nf6 10. cxb5 axb5 11. Nxb5 Nxb3 12. Qxb3 Be7 13. N1c3 O-O $16 ) ( 9... Nxb3 10. Qxb3 c5 11. Nf5 g6 12. Ng3 Bg7 13. cxb5 Nf6 14. Rd1 O-O 15. Bf4 $16 ) 10. Nf5 g6 11. Ng3 $1 Bg7 12. Nc3 $1 Ne7 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Nxb5 O-O 15. Bg5 Bc6 16. a4 Nxb3 17. Qxb3 Qd7 $14 ) 8. Nc3 { (In 2000 Feelders played Bxg8 in Gent but the chosen move in the game is considered more critical.)} Nxb3 {(Risky is further waiting with exchanging on b3.)} 9. axb3 Bb7 10. Qe2 Ne7 11. Rd1 $6 {(Fortunately Philip was not prepared for this system as I can not find equality after dxe5 which is still known by theory. In other words this opening is dubious and most likely only playable when the opponent is not a master and did not see the line before.)} (11. dxe5 $1 fxe5 {(dxe5 was played by specialists like Agdestein and Johannessen a number of times but black keeps having difficulties as shown in the analysis of the next move.)} 12. Ng5 (12. b4 Nc6 13. Be3 Qc8 14. Nh4 g6 15. Nd5 Ne7 16. Nf6 Kf7 17. Qf3 Nf5 $14 ) 12... h6 13. Ne6 Qd7 14. Nd5 Bxd5 15. exd5 Nxd5 16. Qh5 Qf7 17. Qh3 c6 18. c4 bxc4 $16 ) 11... Qc8 12. d5 $146 {(I criticized this move after the game and recommended dxe5 but now after some extensive analysis it remains unclear how white get an advantage.)} (12. dxe5 $5 fxe5 $1 $146 {(That is now playable because black does not have to fear anymore f4 as e6 is protected.)} (12... dxe5 {(Black is lagging in development which allows white in different ways to find an advantage.)} 13. Be3 (13. Nh4 g6 14. Be3 Kf7 15. Nf3 Nc6 16. Nd5 Bd6 17. Rac1 Rd8 18. c4 bxc4 19. bxc4 Rb8 20. Nd2 Kg7 $14 ) 13... Ng6 (13... b4 14. Na4 Bxe4 15. Nc5 Qg4 16. Nxe4 Qxe4 17. Nd2 Qxc2 18. Rdc1 Qf5 19. Rxc7 $14 ) (13... Kf7 14. Nh4 g6 15. Nf3 Bg7 16. Ne1 Nc6 17. f3 Rd8 18. Nd3 Nd4 19. Qf2 Ne6 20. Qh4 $14 ) 14. Nd5 Bd6 15. c4 O-O 16. c5 Bxd5 (16... Be7 17. Nh4 Bxd5 (17... Bd8 18. Nxg6 hxg6 19. f3 g5 20. b4 Qe6 21. Rac1 Rb8 22. Qc2 c6 23. Nb6 $16 ) 18. Nxg6 hxg6 19. exd5 Rd8 20. Qd2 Kf7 21. b4 Qf5 22. Rac1 $16 ) 17. exd5 Be7 18. d6 Bd8 $14 ) 13. Ne1 (13. Ng5 h6 14. Nh3 g6 15. f4 Bg7 16. fxe5 Bxe5 17. Rf1 g5 18. Qh5 Kd8 19. Nf2 Qe6 $11 ) 13... Ng6 14. Bg5 h6 15. Qh5 Qe6 16. Bd2 Be7 17. Nd5 Bd8 18. Nd3 $11 ) (12. b4 $5 $146 {(A strange but multi-functional move by Fritz which I already was familiar with in this type of position. The idea is first to avoid b4 and/or c5. Next white has some interesting plans of transferring the knight to a5 via b3 or to put pressure on the black center by c4-c5.)} Ng6 13. Nd5 Be7 14. c4 Bd8 $1 15. c5 O-O $1 16. Qc2 Qg4 $1 17. c6 Bc8 18. Ne3 Qh5 19. Re1 Ne7 20. Ra5 Kh8 $13) 12... Ng6 13. b4 Be7 14. h4 $5 {(A weird and risky plan to allow such weakening of the kingside. A more natural plan is Nd2 to get the knight to a5 via b3 with a complex position.)} Qg4 15. g3 O-O 16. Nd4 $1 {(This permits white to keep the balance.)} Qxe2 17. Ndxe2 f5 18. exf5 Rxf5 19. Be3 Raf8 20. Ra3 Bd8 21. Ne4 h6 22. b3 Ne7 23. c4 bxc4 $6 {(I avoid the opening of the queenside but this just makes things worse as after my move white gets very active play and his pawnstructure becomes more healthy. Better must be R5f7 and black is maybe a bit passive but still very solid.)} 24. bxc4 Rf3 25. Kg2 $6 {(Quite risky to put the king in the diagonal of the black bishop.)} R3f7 26. f4 Bc8 $2 {(I miss that after exf4, white can not get his knight on e6. After the game-continuation white gets full control in the center so also a clear advantage.)} (26... exf4 $1 27. Nxf4 Nf5 $1 28. Ne6 $4 Re7 $1 $19 { (The bishop of b7 is a deadly sniper.)}) 27. fxe5 dxe5 28. Nc5 $2 { (An improvement was to put the bishop on c5 to counter blacks activity and at the same time prepare the breakthrough with d6.)} Rf6 $6 {(Black likes to remove the possibility of d6 and also cover a6 but a much more clever method was Nf5.)} 29. Nc3 $6 {(A bit sharper and likely also stronger is Ne6 which frees c5 for the bishop and neutralizes blacks pair of bishops.)} Nf5 30. N3e4 Rg6 31. Kh2 Nd6 32. Nxd6 cxd6 33. Ne4 Rf3 $4 {(Only after the execution of the move I realized that something was wrong. However the salvation with Bxh4 recommended by Shredder is not easy to discover.)} (33... Bxh4 $1 34. gxh4 Rg4 35. Nxd6 Rxh4 36. Kg3 Rg4 37. Kh3 Bd7 38. Rd2 Rf3 39. Kh2 Rg6 40. Rg2 Rh3 41. Kg1 Rxd6 42. Bc5 Rf6 $13) 34. h5 $2 {(White rightly notices that the rook at g6 is uncomfortable but h5 is not the right move-order. Winning immediately was Kg2.)} (34. Kg2 Bg4 35. Rf1 Rxf1 36. Kxf1 Bc7 37. Kf2 Bf5 38. h5 Rg4 39. Nd2 g6 $18 {(White breaks through on the queenside with b5 and gets a winning advantage.)}) 34... Rg4 35. Kg2 Rxe4 36. Kxf3 Rxc4 37. Rc1 Bg4 38. Kf2 Rxb4 39. Rxa6 Rb2 40. Kg1 Bf6 41. Rxd6 Bxh5 42. Rb6 Re2 43. Bf2 $6 {(Hereafter black gets d2 for the rook which allows him to easily stop the dangerous passed pawn. Somewhat stronger is Rb3 although a draw still looks the most fair result here.)} Rd2 44. d6 Bf3 45. Re1 Kf7 46. Be3 Rd3 47. Kf2 Bg4 48. Rc1 $6 {(Ra1 or Bc5 are more accurate but it is not easy to see all the details in big time-trouble, or even with more time on the clock.)} Ke6 49. Rcc6 Kf5 $6 {(H5 is more precise but I was already for a while playing blitz so time became more important than the accuracy of the moves.)} 50. Rc7 Kg6 {(The allotted time was 2 hours for the full game and above the game was unrated. Still it remains sad to lose in a equal position especially for the other team-players.)} 0-1
I got acquainted with the opening by a book of 1986 Spanish gambits by Leonid Shamkovich and Eric Schiller. The analysis were not of a high quality but till today (mainly in online blitz) I still get a lot of pleasure with it. The opening gets called different names by people. One of the first players playing it on a high level was the Russian grandmaster Mark Taimanov in 1955 so sometimes it is named after him. In the book which I read, it is called the wing-variation which is also an option given on Some prefer it to call the Norwegian variation as several strong players from Norway played it like the strong Norwegian grandmaster Simen Agdesteinthe Norwegian IM Svein Johannessen and the Norwegian IM Arne Zwaig.

Today I didn't introduce yet old (dubious) openings in my standard-chess. I am convinced of the practical value even against very strong players. Winning is important but that is not the only thing which counts for me in chess.


Addendum 29 July 2016
I realized after posting this article, that the opening discussed in this article also helped me to win a game against Nicola Capone a couple of years ago in Leuven. The analysis of that game was published in the article If you read the analysis then you can even find the link.

Monday, July 25, 2016


The Flemish youth-chess-criterium is a beautiful initiative to engage (Flemish) children in our game. However I notice despite the lovely numbers of participants that only a very small minority fully uses the opportunities. In the first half of this year there were 6 play-days but I only count 5 players having participated each time. It is no coincidence that these 5 players (among which my son) are leading the overall standings.

I expect that a lack of guides is here the main reason of the absences. Parents can't/ don't want to sacrifice 8 hours waiting for their children each play-day. That excludes the extra hours of transport often needed to get from home to the tournament and back. It is no surprise that many parents quickly stop their support and most clubs don't have volunteers to replace them.

Of course it is a bit easier for me to pass the time enjoyable. Through the years I got to know a lot of people in this little world of chess so I can always find somebody to chat with. Recently we were talking a couple of times about which mastergames (modelgames) could be useful to show to our kids. I heard the names of Capablanca, Tarkatower but I had strong doubts about this. As long the players are not capable to play without hanging any pieces, we better practice tactics.

Once they master the basics sufficiently, the next step can be made by looking at modelgames. Today there exists a lot of material about it already. Last I read Chess Structures A Grandmaster Guide written by the Chilean grandmaster Maurico Flores Rios. I was impressed by the collection of contemporary top-games to explain different types of pawnstructures but personally I doubt that I have learned a lot. I did learn something from the hedgehog chaper like Matthew Sadler. Online I tested in the meanwhile already with some success the concept with Qc1. However many structures don't pop up in my repertoire. Besides I get the feeling that structures not part of the authors repertoire aren't so well covered. For sure the stonewall is better discussed at my blog than in his book see Dutch steps in the English opening or manuals.

Another negative comment which I have, is the complexity of the chosen top-games. The author really tries to keep the attention to the themes but can't avoid sometimes to delve into some tactical complications. Therefore I prefer the selection-method given by the English FM Terry Chapman in Chess For Life. He will still choose modelgames played by (top-) grandmasters but contrary to the book "Chess Structures" the opponents will be rated a couple of hundred points lower. This allows to demonstrate some themes in a much pure format.

Finally we also must categorize the different themes as many will be too difficult for most youth-players or even the average clubplayer. Ambitious players around 2000 probably will get the most out of that book. Players rated lower look better to a very different type of themes. For them there are books like How to Reasses Your ChessWeapons of Chess,.... This means we need different modelgames too. Former worldchampion Max Euwe has shown us long ago already the right direction with his book master against amateur. The masters show convincingly how typical mistakes of amateurs can be punished.

In my own practice I played a lot of games against (much) lower rated opponents. Sometimes my opponent told me afterwards that he didn't understand where he made an error. No clear tactical mistake was made but somehow he wasn't able to avoid losing material on the long term and eventually also the game. A good example is below game which I played in the first round of Open Leuven 2014.
[Event "Open Leuven 1ste ronde"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Wouters, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2337"] [BlackElo "1802"] [PlyCount "83"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Bxc5 Nxc5 11. Qf2 Qb6 12. Bd3 Nxd3 {(B4 which I met already 3 times earlier in standard games, must surely be recommended.)} 13. cxd3 Qxf2 14. Kxf2 O-O 15. Ne2 Bd7 16. Ned4 {(I still found a computergame with Ke3 in my database but there is of course nothing wrong with my chosen move. White has a very comfortable advantage which also is shown by the close to 100 procent for white in practice.)} Nxd4 17. Nxd4 Rac8 18. Rac1 Rxc1 $2 { (The endgame of bad bishop against strong knight is easily won for white. I find it strange that somebody of 1800 points does no understand this as otherwise he would have chosen earlier b4.)} 19. Rxc1 Rc8 20. Rxc8 Bxc8 21. Ke3 Bb7 22. Nf3 b4 23. Kd4 a5 24. Kc5 Ba6 25. Ne1 f6 26. Kb6 Bc8 27. Kxa5 fxe5 28. fxe5 Kf7 29. Kxb4 Kg6 30. Kc5 Kf5 31. Kd4 h5 32. a4 h4 33. b4 Kg4 34. b5 Kf4 35. a5 g5 36. a6 g4 37. Nc2 h3 38. gxh3 gxh3 39. Ne1 Kf5 40. Nf3 Kf4 41. Ng1 Kg4 42. Kc5 1-0
The game is a model-example of a strong knight against a bad bishop. Black is already very early helpless but even in the post-mortem it took me quite some time to convince him of how bad his position was. I am not even sure if I succeeded.

A very different theme popped up in the 7th round of the club-championship in Deurne 2015. Here white even won a pawn in the opening and kept if for quite some time but didn't realize how huge the compensation was for black.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r7"] [Date "2015"] [White "Devliegher, B."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "1610"] [BlackElo "2318"] [PlyCount "78"] 1. f4 d5 2. d4 {(This move was twice played in the famous match between De Labourdonnais - Mc Donell in 1834 but is surely not an improvement upon Nf3 played by Bart in the clubchampionship of Deurne 2012 against me. The extra move makes it playable for white but I think it says enough that I could not find any game played by a white player of 2500 speler with this position.)} Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 $6 {(There is little known of this opening but my analysis do not like this static move and prefer the more flexible Nf3.)} g6 $6 {(I like to play the stonewall with black so I know this type of positions well with the fianchetto. Strangely I somehow forgot that the stonewall is less attractive when there is no fianchetto. Maybe it is less strange when I tell that I looked at the position 1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 g6 a couple of hours ago so I programmed myself to get this on the board. The einstellungeffect likely is applicable here.} (4... Bg4 $1 { (Recommended by Stockfish and Komodo as the only move guaranteeing some edge for black. The idea is to get the bishop out with gain of time because e6 follows which removes the threat of dxc5.)} 5. Nf3 (5. Be2 $5 Bxe2 6. Qxe2 e6 7. Nf3 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. b3 $15) 5... e6 6. Bd3 $5 (6. Be2 $5 Bd6 7. Ne5 $5 Bxe2 8. Qxe2 $15) 6... Nc6 $1 7. O-O $5 Be7 $1 8. Qe1 $5 O-O 9. b3 $5 Bf5 $1 $15) 5. dxc5 $6 { (White told me afterwards that he had no experience with this position. That likely explains his decision. Dxc5 is not always crazy but here after blacks fianchetto white can not make b4 work. Normal developing moves like Nf3 are perfectly playable as I play this with reversed colors myself and a tempo less.)} Bg7 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Bxd7 {(I do not really like this exchange as it fits blacks plan.)} Nbxd7 8. b4 Qc7 9. Bb2 $6 { (More accurate seems Ne2 to my engines but the position is already not pleasant for white.)} (9. Ne2 $1 b6 10. cxb6 Nxb6 11. O-O O-O $15) 9... b6 10. cxb6 Nxb6 11. Nd2 O-O 12. Rc1 e5 13. g3 $6 {(The ugly move Nh3 is the only one to keep fighting. After this the position is easily won for black.)} Rfe8 14. Kf2 exf4 15. exf4 Ne4 16. Nxe4 Rxe4 17. Ne2 Nc4 18. Ba1 {(After the game Bart asked me what he did wrong. The extra pawn does not compensate the lack in activity and king-safety of course.)} Rae8 19. Nd4 Bxd4 20. cxd4 Qe7 21. Re1 Ne3 22. Qd2 {(Bart proposed here a draw which just proofs that he does not understand the position correctly.)} Ng4 23. Kf1 Nxh2 24. Kf2 Nf3 {(Not the only road to win but a cute move to play.)} 25. Rxe4 Qxe4 26. Qd1 Qe3 27. Kg2 Ne1 28. Kf1 Nd3 29. Rc2 Qxg3 30. Bc3 Qxf4 31. Kg1 Qe3 32. Kf1 Re4 33. Qe2 Qh3 34. Qg2 Rf4 35. Kg1 Qe3 36. Kh1 Rh4 37. Qh2 Qf3 38. Rg2 Qf1 39. Rg1 Nf2# { (Just like in our previous mutual games Bart continues till mate. Anyway the final move is quite funny.)} 0-1
Players experienced with example Queens gambit accepted won't be surprised of what happened to white in the game. However in the post-mortem white couldn't accept that taking the pawn on c5 was too risky. I am not a grandmaster so my views aren't taken for granted.

In open tournaments many of such modelgames are players. Surely in the first rounds often interesting lessons can be learned due to the big differences of ratings between the players. Seldom these games get commented on the internet so don't hesitate after the game as weaker player to ask some valuable feedback about your play.


Addendum 29 July 2016
In my analysis of the game against Maarten Wouters I criticize that somebody of 1800 points should know that an endgame of bad bishop against strong knight must be avoided. Well it is a coincidence but at very recently the strong French grandmaster Christian Bauer didn't stand a chance in a similar endgame. Maybe I was a bit too harsh as Christian has about 2600 elo.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

14 x SOS part 2

My 17th interclub-season with Deurne has finished already a few months ago. I don't doubt that there are players in Belgium with (much) longer club-traditions but I assume very few can show a higher dedication. From 187 interclubgames I only missed 4. Once I preferred to play the French interclub instead as there was nothing anymore at stake for Deurne which wasn't the case for my French club (Luc EDN). In 2009 I skipped 2 rounds not to miss anything around the birth of my son Hugo. Finally this year I gave for the first time priority to a communion in my family. Normally I never submit to family-parties and my family also takes this into account but a communion is not something which can shift. Besides the chances to promote for Deurne were reduced to almost 0. Wachtebeke had made a gap which they surely would maintain with their mercenaries.

So in all those years I never cancelled for any illness although I do remember that I was feeling unwell a few times. By the way also this season I played a round with a vascular infection which created red bumps everywhere on my skin. Except for a ridiculous look and some people fearing unjust to get some contagious disease, I felt in good shape. In brief I am not losing yet my motivation.

Therefore it is not really a surprise that also in the last round I was eagerly playing for a win. Well theoretically there still existed a possibility to become champion but probably winning the lottery would've been easier. As my opponent was almost 200 points lower rated, a win didn't look so difficult at first sight. However ratings don't tell us everything. Gert-Jan Timmerman is maybe only rated 2135 at the day of the game but it would be very naïef to believe he can't play better. His opening-choice for the weird Relfsson gambit already shows that he hasn't lost any of his wizardry to get the opponent quickly out of his comfortzone.

Last year Gert-Jan achieved a modest succes by using an article of the Spanish Bird in SOS 12, see my blogarticle. This year he even did better thanks to an article of the Ukrainian grandmaster Adrian Mikhalchishin (today playing for Slovenia) published in SOS 11. In fairness I have immediately to add that Gert-Jans play played a much larger role in the result than the opening as more than gaining some time was not achieved contrary to last year.

No, I still didn't study the SOS books but one of the disadvantages of the Relfsson gambit is that black can still choose to transpose to more common lines of the Spanish. After 10 minutes reflection that is also the practical choice I made. Gert-Jans reaction was not a surprise as in my preparation I bumped upon an old correspondence-game of 1981 which he played against his big nemesis Joop van Oosterom.
[Event "Netherlands ch-10 1981-82"] [Site "corr"] [Date "1981"] [White "Timmerman, Gert Jan (NED)"] [Black "Van Oosterom, Joop J. (NED)"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C84"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d4 exd4 7. Re1 O-O { (My preparation continued with the more popular b5.)} 8. e5 Ne8 9. Bf4 b5 10. Bb3 d5 11. c3 Bg4 12. h3 Bh5 13. g4 Bg6 14. cxd4 Nb4 15. Bg3 a5 16. a3 Nd3 17. Re2 a4 18. Ba2 b4 19. axb4 Nxb4 20. Nc3 a3 21. bxa3 Rxa3 22. Bb3 Rxa1 23. Qxa1 c6 24. Na2 Qa5 25. Bh4 Bxh4 26. Nxh4 Qb5 27. Qd1 Nxa2 28. Rxa2 Nc7 29. Nf5 Ne6 30. Ra4 Bxf5 31. gxf5 Nf4 32. Qf3 Nd3 33. Bc2 Ne1 34. Qd1 Qb2 35. Be4 Qc3 36. Bg2 h6 37. f6 Nd3 38. Qg4 g5 39. Qh5 Qe1 40. Kh2 Qxf2 41. Qxh6 1/2-1/2
In my article using databases part 2 I already mentioned that I also study as part of a preparation my opponents correspondence games if he has any. This allowed me to quickly catch up time. I assume this also explains why Gert-Jan once again deviates a bit later from the mainline. Risky as not only slightly inferior but most likely also not part anymore of the preparation. Anyway it worked. I still had encountered the position before in online blitz but never studied it properly. Eventually an interesting battle appeared on the board in which I was never able to prove my higher rating.
[Event "Interclub KOSK - Deurne"] [Date "2016"] [White "Timmerman, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2135"] [BlackElo "2319"] [PlyCount "136"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bb5 {(Just like last year Gert-Jan again surprises with a rare system from the SOS books. On the internet some people call it the Relfson gambit. I have met it a dozen times in online blitz but I never did any effort to study it.)} a6 {(The most popular continuation and also the most simple answer if you meet this gambit for the first time as we can now transpose to more familiar Spanish territory. That is a weak spot of the chosen SOS-system which was partly compensated by the 10 extra minutes I spent to play this move. Theoretically Bc5 is likely more critical but I can not find a clear way for black to any advantage.)} 5. Ba4 Nf6 {(In my preparation I had reviewed a correspondence game of Gert-Jan played in 1981 against Joost Van Oosterom. In that game white also played a quick d4 in the Spanish so it is normal that I am not avoiding a transposition. However again Bc5 must be considered the more critical answer while still no clear advantage for black can be shown.)} 6. e5 {(More popular is 0-0 but I was also familiar with e5.)} Ne4 7. O-O Be7 8. Re1 {(The more critical and more popular Nxd4 was still part of my preparation for this game. Re1 I had already encountered about 50 times in online games so I did know some possible scenarios. However deep analysis of this line were only created after this game.)} Nc5 9. Bxc6 dxc6 10. Nxd4 O-O {(The most popular and blacks best scoring continuation. Still I think Ne6 is slightly more accurate to get some kind of improved Berlin position for black.)} 11. Nc3 f5 {(There exist several alternatives of which Re8 is the most popular. In online blitz I had experienced quite some tactical problems with Re8 so logically I chose for the more quiet f5.)} 12. exf6 {(This move was a surprise and was not yet played online against me. The open position seems to favor blacks pair of bishops but things are more tricky as black can not develop his pieces easily. Gert-Jan already spent quite some time so I assume that he built this concept on the board.)} Bxf6 13. Be3 Ne6 { (This blocks the bishop but I could not find anything better after spending a dozen minutes. Later I found in the databases that the move was played in practically each game so there is nothing wrong with it.)} 14. Nce2 {(The alternative Nf3 is also already tested in practice.)} Nxd4 {(I was not satisfied during the game about this rushed move to develop the queen-side. My engines judge the move as fully playable but in practice it is much more difficult. I recommended after the game Re8 but today c5 looks to me the cleanest solution.)} (14... c5 $5 15. Nxe6 Bxe6 16. Bxc5 $5 {(This creates some big tactics which is not easy to calculate at the board.)} Bxb2 17. Rb1 $5 (17. Bxf8 $5 Bxa1 18. Qxa1 Qxf8 $13) 17... Qxd1 18. Rexd1 Rfd8 19. Rxd8 Rxd8 20. f3 Be5 21. Rxb7 $13) 15. Bxd4 Be6 {(I wanted to play here already Bg5 but then after Ng3 I get problems to get my pieces of the queen-side into play.)} 16. c3 Bg5 {(I do not want to miss a second chance to preserve the pair of bishops. I consider the pair of bishops as a backup to achieve opposite bishops in the endgame when the position becomes difficult. The game shows this is a weak strategy. Whites pieces become more active hereafter and as long there are heavy pieces on the board, opposite bishops are not guaranteeing an easy draw at all. Wiser was not to avoid the exchange. The bishop is slightly stronger than a knight on an open board which is sufficient compensation for the slightly compromised pawnstructure.)} 17. Ng3 $5 { (More critical is Nf4.)} (17. Nf4 $5 Bxa2 18. Nh3 Bd5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qg4 $13) 17... Bd5 $6 {(It is not easy to play with black. More accurate is Re8.)} 18. Qd3 $6 {(I feared during the game Qg4 which indeed is a bit stronger.)} (18. Qg4 $1 Rf4 19. Qe2 b5 $5 20. a4 $1 Rf7 $14) 18... Qd7 19. Rad1 Qf7 20. b3 Rae8 21. c4 Rxe1 $6 {(I hope by the exchanges to get closer to the opposite bishop-endgame but this also allows white to grab the initiative. Better is Be6 but that does not really match blacks previous move.)} 22. Rxe1 Be6 23. Be3 $6 {(I assume white feared Rd8 but more active are Ne4 or especially Re4.)} (23. Ne4 $5 Bf5 24. Qg3 Bxe4 25. Qxg5 Qg6 $14 {(I think this endgame is easier to defend than what appears later in the game on the board.)}) 23... Bh4 $6 {(I clearly want the opposite bishops. After the game we both agreed that waiting was better. Rd8 and b5 are recommended by the engines with better chances to maintain equality.)} 24. Qe4 Bxg3 {(I proposed a draw but Gert-Jan refused politely. Of course Gert-Jan knew that he did not risk anything by continuing the game. Besides black has no clear path to force a draw. Well you never know without asking a draw if the rating-difference and the lag of incentives would influence the ambitions of my opponent.)} 25. hxg3 Re8 26. Bf4 Bd7 27. Qb1 Rxe1 $6 {(The endgame must be defensible but it is not easy. This exchange is probably unavoidable in the long end but wiser would be waiting for better circumstances.)} 28. Qxe1 Bf5 {(I try to avoid time-trouble so therefore play more quickly but miss hereby completely whites next move. Even with strongly reduced material there are often still some tactics. My engines tell me that my move is not a serious mistake as they expect that I will lose the pawn sooner or later anyway. However again I do not maximize my chances by making things easy for white.)} 29. Bxc7 Qd7 30. Bf4 Kf7 31. Kh2 Qe7 32. Qd2 Qd7 33. Qe3 Qd1 34. f3 Qd7 35. Qb6 h6 36. Bc7 Bb1 37. a3 Qc8 38. Be5 Bc2 39. Bb2 Qd7 40. Qe3 Kg8 41. b4 Bd3 42. c5 Bf5 43. Qe5 Be6 44. g4 Bd5 45. Kg3 Qf7 46. Bd4 Be6 47. f4 Bd5 48. f5 Kh7 49. Kf2 {(White has made quite some progression. Here g5 is already interesting but Gert-Jan prefers to wait still a bit with making any big decisions.)} (49. g5 $5 hxg5 50. Kg4 Qf8 {(Black can not take on g2 due to Qh2. That trick was later missed by both of us but at that time it did not matter anymore.)} 51. Kxg5 Bxg2 52. Qc7 {(Now Qh2 is weaker.)} (52. Qh2 Kg8 53. Qxg2 Qd8 $11) 52... Bd5 53. f6 Qf7 54. Qxf7 Bxf7 55. fxg7 {(I was afraid during the game of this scenario as I considered the position lost by defending passively.)} Kg8 56. Kf6 Bc4 57. Ke7 a5 {(The sacrifice of the a-pawn weakens the pawn-structure of white and allows a fortress.)} (57... Bb5 58. Kd6 Kf7 $2 59. Kc7 Kg8 (59... a5 {(This is now too late.)} 60. a4 {(Is chess not fantastic? Indeed the other rook-pawn forces the decisive break and now white does win.)} Bxa4 (60... Ba6 61. b5 cxb5 62. axb5 Bxb5 63. Kxb7 $18) 61. bxa5 $18) 60. Kxb7 Kf7 61. Kb6 Kg8 62. Ka5 Kf7 63. a4 Bc4 64. Kb6 $18 {(I had seen this position in my calculations during the game.)}) 58. bxa5 Ba6 $11 {(Black can not run out of moves.)}) 49... Qd7 50. g3 Qf7 51. Ke3 Ba2 $6 {(It is not a surprise that black errors here. The bristol-clearance with the idea of Qb3 is cute but insufficient. A few moves later I do discover the right idea but then it is already too late.)} (51... Bb3 $1 {(The only move to keep decent drawing chances.)} 52. Kf4 Bd1 53. Qe6 {(Not obligatory but black needs always to consider this possibility.)} (53. g5 hxg5 54. Kxg5 Qh5 {(The idea behind Bd1.)} 55. Kf4 Qf3 56. Kg5 Qg4#) 53... Bb3 54. Qxf7 Bxf7 55. Ke5 a5 {(Again this sacrifice of the a-pawn is vital for the defense.)} 56. bxa5 Bc4 57. Kd6 {(The engines show a big advantage for white but to me it looks a fortress.)}) 52. Kf4 Bd5 {(More stubborn is Qf8 if I follow up with the same moves as the engines of course.)} 53. g5 {(Here I realized that a defeat would be unavoidable without some help of my opponent.)} hxg5 54. Kxg5 Bb3 {(Too late. Now I do realize that a check on h5 would be useful but white does not permit this anymore.)} 55. g4 Bc2 {(White only has to play g5-g6 and the black position collapses. Bc2 hinders this plan but fails because of another refutation.)} 56. Kf4 {(Immediately after the game Gert-Jan told me that he missed the direct win Qh2. Fortunately the position is still easily won otherwise this could have been very sorrow.)} Qd7 57. g5 Kg8 58. Qb8 {(G6 can be answered by Bxf5 but white is now again alert.)} Kf7 59. g6 Ke7 60. Qe5 Kd8 61. Qb8 Ke7 62. Qd6 { (Of course no repetition. White still has enough time left so calculates correctly that black has no draw anymore after exchanging the queens.)} Qxd6 63. cxd6 Kxd6 64. Bxg7 Kd7 65. Kg5 Ke8 66. Bd4 Kf8 67. f6 Bb3 68. Kf4 b5 {(I did not wait anymore for Gert-Jans next move and resigned. Mate is already seen at the horizon. )} 1-0
After the game a smiling Gert-Jan told me that this was his best game of the season. Some nasty problems needed to be solved without Gert-Jan using any difficult tactics. A computer often doesn't see any difference in evaluation between several choices but in practice we do notice that some positions are much easier to play than others. When in one line you can play quiet moves to keep the balance, in another line you need to apply some deep typical computer-tactics. As a human you better avoid of course the latter.

As reported in my last article, ratings of amateurs are often more suffering due to aging than professionals. However as the calculation powers maybe declined, above game clearly demonstrates that Gert-Jan hasn't lost any or only very little of his chess-knowledge. For sure this game isn't a strong advertising for the SOS-books.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Peakrating part 2

In part 1 we have seen that most players are playing chess because they like winning/ improving. Age plays a limited role as even older players are perfectly capable of performing strong. In that context I brought up Luc Winants peakrating at age 53 which I believe is something unique.

Maybe some readers will wonder how unique is such feat. Aren't there more players at +50 obtaining a peakrating or at which age a player is playing the best chess? Both critical questions aren't easy to answer but I give it a try in this article.

It is very hard to compare the strength of players over time. Fide doesn't publish any historical research. Contrary as they only hamper us by blocking the historical data. Some amateurs tried to do some calculations themselves but their results are not very scientific as in this cute video. Maybe a mix of several ratingsystems (edo, cmr, elo) is enough to get a rough classification of the players but it is definitely insufficient to accurately define somebodies peakrating.

It is mandatory to stick to 1 calculation-system. I don't have time to create one myself so I can only rely on the few existing ratingssystems. There are the fiderating and the national ratings. Unfortunately the Belgian national rating also can't be used as our KBSB only keeps track of the rankings from the last 10 years. Maybe older players have more materials in their personal archive but I don't have access.

Viktor Korchnoi played competitive chess for more than 60 years at a (very) high level so an active career can last a very long period. Correct, even the fiderating was created only in 1970 so can't give us a complete answer. Now I do believe that 46 years can already tell us something. However on the condition that we assume the effect of elo-inflation but also elo-deflation is negligible. I also hope to neutralize the statistical fluctuations by using a lot of input.

When I got my first fide-rating in 1998 the minimum-threshold was still 2200. That automatically means that the careers of all players below 2200 can't be tracked sufficiently long. As we are interested in somebodies peakrating we also need to look at people having played actively for several decades. 50+ sounds therefore to me an additional necessary condition in our little study. It neither makes sense to look at players haven't played chess for a long time or that were inactive for many years. If we only take the Belgian players into account then we have a problem as only 15 comply to all the conditions. That is not enough to make any serious conclusions.

To achieve a bigger group, I chose to consider the active + 50 players with a +2500 rating irrespective of the nationality. This way I also get a good idea of how Lucs performance relates to his peers which is obviously something we are interested in. Today there are 1522 grandmasters (June 2016) so I was fearing the magnitude of the work but after the age-filter things were pretty manageable.

In the end only 82 players remained. The first thing which I remark is that almost all the names (except 4) are familiar to me which is something I can't say of the many young grandmasters. Before a grandmaster-title had much more prestige.

The average peak-age is 39 but we see enormous differences between the players. The American GM Maxim Dlugy peaked at age 23 while the Czech grandmaster Igors Rausis peaked only at age 54. The last one is also the recordholder so beats Luc Winant with 1 year.

Another thing which I notice is that a lot of players manage to maintain their rating well after their peak. Averagely 72 points are lost which is relatively not much on the rating-scale. The most astonishing player is for me the German icon Robert Huebner. He achieved his peak already at age 33. However today at age 68 he is still active and incredibly only lost 54 points !

This long-liveliness is an enormous asset for chess. There exist very few sports/ disciplines in which age has so little impact on somebodies results. I do realize that what above is shown for professional players is maybe not fully valid for amateurs. The motivation/ ambitions of the average amateur is surely lower compared to the average grandmaster. I do know quite a number of +50 amateurs having lost 200 points and more of their Belgian peakrating. Besides the statistics only include the players that were active during several decades. I don't know the number of players having stopped playing chess but if you would include those then it would surely change the picture.