Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Risks part 2

20 years I already play exclusively 1.e4 with white. With black I have been answering 1.e4 at least as long by only 1...e5. If you combine this with my elaborated current opening-studies (see studying openings part 2) and I am FM then it is expected that no more big surprises can happen after 1.e4 e5 for me. Still my young opponent Mardoek Thienpondt managed to play me out of book in the 7th round of Open Gent after exactly 3 moves with an old forgotten gambit. Old can be this time be replaced by prehistoric. In the article old wine in new skins we went back to 1962 and 1918. In the article old wine in new skins part 2 we were briefly in 1955. This time we return to 1856. Yes we are talking here about a gambit played a few times by Paul Morphy. I selected his most spectacular one from the 4 games in the mega-database with this gambit.
[Event "London m1"] [Site "London"] [Date "1858"] [White "Morphy, Paul"] [Black "Barnes, Thomas Wilson"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C55"] [PlyCount "75"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nxe4 4. Nc3 {(A dubious gambit but it creates of course practical chances.)} Nxc3 5. dxc3 f6 6. O-O Nc6 7. Nh4 Qe7 8. Nf5 Qc5 9. Bb3 d5 10. Be3 Qa5 11. Nh4 Be6 12. Qh5 g6 13. Nxg6 Bf7 14. Qh4 Bxg6 15. Qxf6 Rg8 16. Rad1 Be7 17. Qe6 Bf7 18. Qh3 Nd8 19. f4 e4 20. Rxd5 Bxd5 21. Qh5 Kf8 22. Bxd5 Rg7 23. b4 Qa6 24. f5 Nf7 25. f6 Bxf6 26. b5 Qd6 27. Bxf7 b6 28. Bh6 Ke7 29. Bxg7 Bxg7 30. Bb3 Rf8 31. Rf7 Rxf7 32. Qxf7 Kd8 33. Qxg7 Qd1 34. Kf2 Qd2 35. Kg3 e3 36. Qf6 Kc8 37. Be6 Kb7 38. Qf3 1-0
In my private database of online games I notice that I met this line a number of times in blitz/ bullet but I never put any effort in studying this opening. I considered the opening as harmless and fun is for me the most important reason to play blitz online (see the (non)-sense of blitz). 

My teammate the Belgian FM Daniel Sadkowski at the other hand did know something about the opening as he could explain me the critical line of this opening. Daniel already plays chess for 40 years. Besides he still has been playing in the era when computers didn't play any role so at that time those gambits were much easier to play. Nevertheless I was slightly puzzled that somebody often varying (e.g Daniel answered 1.e4 already with c5, e6, g6, c6, Nf6 and e5) knows more about some overlapping repertoire than I do with my scientific approach. It again proves what I already stated before in my article a Dutch gambit. My repertoire is like cheese with holes and my method of study isn't optimized for practical chess.

The first official worldchampion Willem Steinitz told us that a sacrifice is best refuted by accepting it. Normally if we follow the power-play method this would mean that I have to accept the gambit but in the meanwhile I also know this is a good receipt for a disaster if you don't have any foreknowledge. Today opening-knowledge and preparation are playing a much bigger role. Besides it is not very scientific to try to refute a gambit at the board and fall into a trap after a couple of moves. No practically often refusing the gambit is more clever if possible when you meet it for the first time. I also chose cowardly running away from the complications.
[Event "Open Gent 7de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Thienpondt, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "1923"] [BlackElo "2314"] [PlyCount "98"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nf3 {(I have not met this move before in a standard game.)} Nxe4 4. Nc3 {(A gambit from the romantic era played a couple of times even by Paul Morphy.)} Nf6 $6 {(A practical choice if you never studied this gambit. Critical is of course accepting the gambit and I do not see full compensation for white against accurate play.)} 5. Nxe5 d5 6. Be2 {(The preparation of white could not have been long as he spent here a lot of time to produce a move. Bb3 is more popular but it is not necessarily better.)} Be7 7. d4 O-O 8. O-O Re8 9. Bf3 c6 10. Qd3 Nbd7 11. Bf4 Nxe5 12. Bxe5 Nd7 13. Bg3 Nf8 14. Rfe1 Be6 15. Re2 Qd7 16. Rae1 Bf5 17. Qd2 $6 {(White has not played the opening optimally and now has to play accurately to avoid standing worse. Here the clever Qd1 is stronger to protect the bishop on f3 indirectly.)} Ne6 18. Re5 Ng5 $2 {(Too hasty. I already saw in the reflection period of my opponent that there exists a refutation. First supporting the bishop with g6 would have given black a clear advantage.)} (18... g6 $1 19. R5e2 Ng5 20. Nd1 h5 $5 21. Ne3 $1 Bh3 22. Be5 $15) 19. Bxd5 Bf6 20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Rxe8 Qxe8 22. Bc4 b5 23. Bf1 $6 { (The active Bb3 is stronger to maintain some advantage.)} Qd7 $2 {(I miss again a trick based on the weak back-rank. Better was Qd8 with almost equality.)} 24. Ne2 $2 {(Fortunately for me white missed this time the opportunity.)} (24. Qf4 $1 Bxc2 25. d5 {(I admit that this key-move is not easy to foresee, nor to evaluate properly.)} cxd5 26. Qb8 Qd8 27. Nxd5 Qxb8 28. Nxf6 gxf6 29. Bxb8 a6 30. f3 $16 {(Material is equal but the endgame is terrible for black.)}) 24... Ne4 25. Qf4 $6 {(Too late. Now the passive Qd1 is recommended. I assume white saw my 27th move too late.)} Nxg3 26. Nxg3 Bxc2 27. Nh5 Bd8 28. g3 $6 { (White has to take extreme measures with d5 to avoid worse.)} h6 $2 {(Too modestly played. More energetic is Bf5 with a much larger advantage.)} 29. Qe5 f6 30. Qc5 $2 {(White dances on a tightrope as only Qe2 is sufficient to keep the balance.)} Be4 31. Nf4 $6 {(More stubborn is Qc3.)} Bb6 32. Qc1 Qxd4 33. Nh3 a6 34. Bg2 Bf5 35. Qe1 Kh7 36. Nf4 Qxb2 37. Bxc6 Qxa2 38. Be4 Bxf2 39. Qxf2 Qxf2 40. Kxf2 Bxe4 41. Ke3 Bh1 42. Ne6 b4 43. Nc5 a5 44. Kd4 Kg6 45. Kc4 Bc6 46. Nd3 Kf5 47. Kc5 Ke4 48. Nf2 Kf3 49. Nd3 Be4 0-1
After having played this game I have studied the opening seriously so I will be better armed for the future and hopefully will get a quicker advantage with black. This time we just played chess in which the competitive part with its load of mistakes dominated.

I expect few will regret the deviation of the critical lines by this "coward" way of play if this creates again original play in which both parties are playing independently.  However a deviation of the critical lines doesn't guarantee always a good fight. A recent example of this can be found in a game played a couple of months ago in the Masters Final at BilbaoThe Russian top-grandmaster Sergey Karjakin will get a shot for the world-title in November but his game against the American top-grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura won't be very comforting for his fans.
[Event "Bilbao"] [Site "Bilbao ESP"] [Date "2016.07.17"] [Round "5"] [White "Sergey Karjakin"] [Black "Hikaru Nakamura"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2773"] [BlackElo "2787"] [PlyCount "36"] [EventDate "2016.07.13"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. a3 Qa5 10. Rd1 Re8 11. Nd2 e5 12. Bg5 Nd4 13. Qa4 {(Kasparov calls this move cowardly in his book "My Great Predecessors Part 5" while commenting the worldchampionship-game between Korchnoi and Karpov played in 1978 at Baguio.)} Qxa4 14. Nxa4 Nc2 15. Ke2 Nd4 16. Ke1 Nc2 17. Ke2 Nd4 18. Ke1 Nc2 {(Hikaru did understand Sergeys choice. It is today very risky to enter the complications after 13.Qb1 if you did not check them in advance with an engine.)} 1/2-1/2
What a big difference we see in the reaction of Korchnoi upon being hit by a novelty prepared by the team of the then reigning worldchampion Anatoly Karpov in the bizarre worldchampionship of 1978. He wasn't afraid of the complications and achieved one of his greatest victories.
[Event "World Championship 29th"] [Site "Baguio City"] [Date "1978.09.12"] [Round "21"] [White "Korchnoi, Viktor"] [Black "Karpov, Anatoly"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2665"] [BlackElo "2725"] [PlyCount "119"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. Rd1 Qa5 10. a3 Re8 {(A discovery of Zaitsev belonging to Karpovs team.)} 11. Nd2 e5 12. Bg5 Nd4 13. Qb1 {(White has no fear and does not avoid the complications.)} Bf5 14. Bd3 e4 15. Bc2 Nxc2 16. Qxc2 Qa6 17. Bxf6 Qxf6 18. Nb3 Bd6 19. Rxd5 Re5 20. Nd4 Rc8 21. Rxe5 Qxe5 22. Nxf5 Qxf5 23. O-O Rxc4 24. Rd1 Qe5 25. g3 a6 26. Qb3 b5 27. a4 Rb4 28. Qd5 Qxd5 29. Rxd5 Bf8 30. axb5 a5 31. Rd8 Rxb2 32. Ra8 f5 33. Rxa5 Bb4 34. Ra8 Kf7 35. Na4 Rb1 36. Kg2 Bd6 37. Ra7 Kf6 38. b6 Bb8 39. Ra8 Be5 40. Nc5 Bd6 41. b7 Ke7 42. Rg8 Be5 43. f4 exf3 44. Kxf3 Kf7 45. Rc8 Ke7 46. h3 h5 47. Rg8 Kf7 48. Rd8 g5 49. g4 hxg4 50. hxg4 Ke7 51. Rg8 fxg4 52. Kxg4 Kf7 53. Rc8 Bd6 54. e4 Rg1 55. Kf5 g4 56. e5 Rf1 57. Ke4 Re1 58. Kd5 Rd1 59. Nd3 Rxd3 60. Kc4 1-0
In My Great Predecessors Part 5 Kasparov considers 13. Qa4 a cowardly move to force the draw. However I think it is an exaggeration to state Karjakin is a coward and not a worthy challenger for our current worldchampion Carlsen. The foreknowledge of Nakamura was surely much bigger than what Anatoy knew when introducing the idea. Besides Karjakin experienced not long ago what can happen when you are not up to date of the theory, coincidence or not exactly against the same opponent see harakiri.

In part 1 I promoted taking risks to make chess more attractive. In this article I wanted to demonstrate we should put the opening into a separate chapter of risk-management. Modern practice proves we need to be extra careful in the opening. Maximizing your score unfortunately means we sometimes need to lock the game.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The American IM Jeremy_Silman famous for his instructive chessbooks published a few weeks ago at chess.com a nice article about how much fun analyzing a game can be. Some games are filled with subtle maneuvers or insanely wonderful tactics. Others just offer only one special moment. Such moment also occurred in one of my most recent games which I discovered while analyzing the game with my strongest engines. Not only did I never consider the surprising desperado shown by our electronic chessmasters but it took me also some time to fully understand the strength of the idea.

However before I show the critical position, I first need to explain what "Desperado" means. Wikipedia gives several explanations as people seem to use it for different occasions. In this article, a desperado is a piece which can't be saved anymore and decides to sell his live dearly.

Limiting the material losses by grabbing some pieces is probably the most traditional desperado. Less obvious but not necessarily worse is a desperado destroying the pawn-structure of the opponent. A trivial example was already covered in an analyses published in the article lars schandorff. My f4 pawn (technically also a piece) can't be defended properly and is pushed to break the white pawn-structure.

Probably the best hidden desperado is when only a tempo can be won. It doesn't feel natural to spend time playing a desperado which doesn't give anything tangible in the form of material or structure. Such special desperado only can happen when the position fulfills some specific conditions. Without the desperado the opponent can capture by playing an active move. With the desperado the opponent will only be able to capture by misplacing a piece. Besides this misplaced piece can be attacked so another tempo must be spent to defend by the opponent. The recent example from my game played in Open Gent against Ted Barendse, shown below will clarify the theme.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Barendse, T."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2243"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2k3rr/pp1bn3/2n1p1P1/3pPp1p/q1pP4/P1P1B1P1/2P1NPB1/R1Q2RK1 w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "12"] 19. g7 $1 {(Probably the turning point in the game. I missed this desperado which wins an important tempo.)} (19. Bg5 {(I played this weaker move in the game.)} Nxg6 20. f4 (20. Bf6 Rh7 {(Contrary to the 19.h7 line blacks knight is already at g6 which greatly reduces the effect of Nf4 for white.)}) 20... h4 21. Kf2 hxg3 22. Nxg3 Rh2 {(Black has the initiative and won much later the game.)}) 19... Rxg7 20. Bg5 Rgg8 $5 {(Black has to lose a tempo due to the threat Bf6. Rhg8 is also possible and will most likely transpose.)} 21. Bf6 Rh7 22. Nf4 Qa5 23. Qb2 Ng6 24. Nxg6 Rxg6 {(Stockfish thinks the position is close to equal but Komodo shows a slight advantage for white.)} 0-1
So in the game I missed the desperado which allowed black the active capture with Nxg6 and concur the initiative. The desperado g7 would've allowed me to win an important tempo leading to a much better position than I got in the game.

In my practice I found another 2 examples of this type of desperado. It is probably not a real surprise that both are occurring in the opening-phase. It is just much more likely somebody finds a non-trivial move in the opening as identical positions are popping up more frequently and concrete theoretical knowledge plays a much larger role. The first example is from a line which I discussed already briefly in my article g4 in the najdorf.
[Event "H.V. Alcatel - Agfa Gevaert"] [Date "2002"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Bogaerts, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2277"] [BlackElo "2034"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rn2kb1r/1pq2ppp/p2pbn2/6P1/4Pp2/1NN5/PPP1B2P/R1BQK2R b KQkq - 0 10"] [PlyCount "3"] 10... f3 {(Rarely played but this desperado gets the approval of my best engines.)} (10... Nfd7 {(Marc played this logical move which is also the most popular one.)} 11. Bxf4 Nc6 12. Qd2 Nde5 {(White has already a large advantage and won a bit later the game.)}) 11. Bxf3 Nfd7 {(It is clear that the position with the bishop on f4 instead of f3 is better for white. Probably white can still keep some advantage but the threat of winning a tempo after Ne5 for black makes it definitely a lot harder.)} 1-0
Without the desperado white captures with the active Bxf4. With the desperado, black will win time with Ne5 if white plays the although non forcing move Bxf3. A very similar idea can also be found in a popular sideline of the Spanish which already popped up in my article friends.
[Event "Interclub KBSK - Deurne"] [Date "2005"] [White "Leenhouts, K."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C91"] [WhiteElo "2407"] [BlackElo "2337"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q1rk1/3nbppp/pn1p4/1p5b/3pP1P1/1P3N1P/PBBN1P2/R2QR1K1 b - - 0 18"] [PlyCount "4"] 18... d3 {(This desperado only pops up for the first time in 1990 and is today well known.)} ( 18... Bg6 {(I played this natural move as I was not up to date of the theory. The first 2 games in the megadatabase of which the oldest goes back to 1956 also continue with this move.)} 19. Nxd4 {(White threatens to steamroll with f4 and won easily the game.)}) 19. Bxd3 Bg6 20. Nd4 {(Black will win an extra tempo with Ne5 or Nc5 but even this improvement does not guarantee full equality based on the most recent status of theory.)} 1-0
Without the desperado Koen captured with the active Nxd4 move. With the desperado d3 black can win an important tempo later via Ne5 or Nc5.

All my examples are built around pawns as desperado. Other pieces influence a much larger zone so more likely will play a different type of desperado. Nevertheless I guess a rare desperado for only a tempo probably also exists for bigger pieces. Readers knowing more examples especially with bigger pieces are welcome to react.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Food and drinks part 2

Last week somebody asked me why Belgium is playing with a rather weak team. I am pretty sure our numbers 1, 13, 15, 21 and 46 of the fide ranking will do the uttermost to perform well but very likely we would get a (much) higher ranking if we play with our best players. I try to give some explanations why our team isn't composed of only our highest rated players.

1) Few Belgians are patriotic. I don't demand we should all be chauvinistic nationalists like the French but today we see very little interest in all activities launched by our federation (with the exception of the interclub). That was once more stressed in the last Belgian championship of which I reported in holidays part 2.
2) Chess is losing ground in Belgium. Many (top-) players play very few games and can be considered as inactive. That was already covered in my article inactivity.
3)  The communication of the federation to the members to find players for the olympiad could definitely be improved. I found a message about it on the site of the federation but nothing else. On the fefb-forum I wasn't surprised to read that at least 1 top-player saw this invitation too late. I strongly suspect that most players only look at the site to check their rating and the results of the interclub.
4) Finally we also miss financial support. The players don't get any bonus for wins neither some kind of salary so many top-players aren't interested. Due to the debacle of the secretary a few years ago it is very hard to get an extra budget.

Budget-wise it is of course not only our federation having difficulties. 2 weeks ago I read some troublesome news about the fide becoming possibly bankrupt (see e.g chess.com). At a much smaller scale we see many tournaments cutting their expenses. I already wrote earlier on this blog that many professionals are just trying to survive but it is not only just about the prizes. In the last Open Gent I noticed that the liveboards which I praised 2 years ago on this blog were only partly activated. However the biggest inconvenience was the omission of the fans compared to last year. As we again had hot weather this transformed the playing-hall into an oven.

To mitigate this discomfort the organizers supplied cooled water against democratic prices which many made use of. I bought each round at least 1 bottle but this had nasty repercussions in the form of extra toilet-visits. Especially if you are playing against somebody spending hardly any time then you can get into a very annoying situation. Such thing happened to me in round 2 against Wiebke Barbier, active today at the olympiad. I really needed to go to the toilet but I didn't get a chance as it was my turn to move.
[Event "Open Gent 2de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Barbier, Wiebke"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2037"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/1pq1bppp/2ppbn2/p7/P3PB2/2N4P/BPP2PP1/R2QR1K1 w - - 0 14"] [PlyCount "39"] 14. Bxe6 {(I lost quite some time here as I had difficulties to concentrate because I needed urgently to pee. Except the move I played, I also checked e5. Later I discovered that my engines are evaluating both moves rather equal and often it just transposes. Besides I still found 1 correspondence game played in 2013 between amateurs with e5 in my database.)} fxe6 15. e5 {(After this planned move, I rushed to the toilets.)} Nd5 16. exd6 Bxd6 17. Bxd6 Qxd6 18. Qd4 $6 {(The engines prefer the more standard Ne4.)} Rf4 $2 {(Too aggressive. Stockfish manages still to hold the balance with Rad8.)} ( 18... Rad8 $1 19. Rad1 Qc7 20. Qc4 b5 $1 21. axb5 cxb5 22. Qxc7 Nxc7 23. Ne4 a4 24. Ra1 $11 ) 19. Ne4 Qc7 20. Rad1 Raf8 21. b3 h6 22. c4 Nf6 $6 {(After this move blacks position collapses. B6 allowed to prolong the game.)} 23. Qd6 Qxd6 24. Nxd6 b6 25. Rxe6 Rd8 26. f3 b5 27. axb5 cxb5 28. c5 Rf5 29. Rc1 Rd5 30. c6 R5xd6 31. Rxd6 Rc8 32. c7 Ne8 33. Rd8 1-0
It is extremely hard to concentrate when you need a pee but it is not allowed to leave the board when you have to move. Besides I wonder if some players already had an accident but I guess nobody will want to confess such embarrassment. In the end I just made a move, hoped for the best and run to the toilets. The situation is even more complicated when the toilet is about 100 meters away. I don't think it was a coincidence that the seniors were allowed to play in a separate room just next to the toilets.

Except the loss of time we also see that toiletvisits are creating often extra stress (something which I already experienced see distrust). This often escalates into conflicts as was also happening in the ongoing olympiad. Players need to inform the arbiter of their toiletvisits and the arbiter has to register them. This was not accepted by everybody. Very soon a petition was launched successfully as by round 4 we see this rule being abolished already.

A player applying some very draconian measures not or very rarely to use a toilet, is the Belgian expert Alain Talon. He told me at Open Gent that he chose not to eat at all before a game. I don't understand how he can persevere as the evening-games could last till 11 PM. Nevertheless he performed very well and achieved a nice first shared place in his rating-group. This performance could've got even more glance if he didn't suffer a very unfortunate defeat at round 4.
[Event "39th Eastman Open Gent 2016"] [Site "Gent"] [Date "2016.07.17"] [Round "4.12"] [White "Sadkowski D"] [Black "Talon A"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2296"] [BlackElo "2073"] [PlyCount "105"] 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. e4 Nf6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Be2 e6 8. O-O Re8 9. dxe6 Bxe6 10. Bf4 Qb6 11. Rb1 Nc6 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. exd5 Nh5 14. Bd2 Ne5 15. Nxe5 Rxe5 16. Bc3 Nf4 17. Bxe5 Bxe5 18. g3 Nxe2 19. Qxe2 Qa5 20. a3 Rb8 21. f4 Bd4 22. Kh1 b5 23. cxb5 Qxb5 24. Qxb5 Rxb5 25. b3 a5 26. Rfc1 Kg7 27. Kg2 Kf6 28. Kf3 Rb7 29. g4 g5 30. fxg5 Ke5 31. Ke2 Ke4 32. Rf1 Re7 33. Rf5 Rb7 34. Rbf1 Be5 35. R1f3 a4 36. bxa4 Rb2 37. Kd1 Rb1 38. Kc2 Rb2 39. Kc1 Rxh2 40. a5 Bb2 41. Kb1 Be5 42. a6 Rb2 43. Kc1 Rb6 44. a7 Ra6 45. Rxf7 c4 46. Rh3 Kxd5 47. Rhxh7 Bd4 48. g6 Rxa3 49. g7 Ra1 50. Kd2 Ra2 51. Ke1 Ke4 52. Re7 Be5 53. g8=Q {(Here the live-broadcasting stops. The funny thing is that black has here a perpetual but what really strikes is the wrong intervention of the arbiter. Daniel had promoted but pressed the clock before he put the queen instead of the pawn. I am sure it was not deliberately as I know Daniel always struggles when being very low in time. However in such situation the arbiter should definitely not put the queen himself on the promotion-square. No normally Alain should get 2 extra minutes instead and Daniel should still complete the promotion within his time. In the game Alains flag fell first a few seconds and moves later so Daniel was declared the winner. Winner nor loser were feeling comfortable afterwards.)} 1-0
Both players weren't very happy about their level of play but the unfortunate intervention of the arbiter caused of course a lot of irritation. Everybody makes mistakes but the ones of an arbiter are noticed much quicker and often create also larger problems. In the same context fits also an actual funny article of our Belgian teams on the olympiad.

Earlier I wrote on my blog that chess resembles a sadistic examen but I don't want to uphold this for eating, drinking and toiletvisits. Besides I never went through an exam lasting 4 hours without a break. If we want to preserve standardchess then it is necessary to provide the players enough space not only for just the moves.


Monday, September 5, 2016


When is my child mature enough to play standard-chess against adults? It is a question often asked by a trainer or parent wanting his child to improve further. Today there exists already an European and world-championship for the -8 so some already start from a very young age if they want to achieve a place of honor or even a medal.

I decided for my seven year old son that next season is still too early. I think step 3 and/or 1100 elo is a minimum and he hasn't got there yet. Besides last summer-months I let him enjoy the holidays and no chess was played at all. No next season we still stick to youth-lessons (we do however switch to Mechelen) and some youth-tournaments.

Because the youth-chess-criterium of Leuven at 10th of September is very soon and my son would like to participate, I anyway started a couple of days ago with some repetitions.  That was clearly not useless as  he had forgotten already a lot like to invite everybody at the party (develop all your pieces) and king-safety first (castling). To know and adopt these basic concepts, often makes a crucial impact in the games of our youth-players.

Of course there are countless exceptions but you learn them automatically by becoming stronger and getting experienced. An eccentric player is the British expert Mike Surtees having developed his own revolutionary opening-theory (abbreviated ROT) based solely on exceptions. He emphasizes to play pawn-moves instead of developing pieces in the opening and often omits castling. For a more detailed description and defense of his theory I refer to this blogarticle.

It is astonishing how successful he is/was with this unconventional theory even against much stronger opponents. It is definitely not just nonsense as also in the book Chess For Life a nice example by former-ladies-worldchampion Nona Gaprindashvili was published. Besides it was that game which got me acquainted with this concept. I have to specify from theoretical perspective as I do remember having unconsciously already adopted the concept a few times in practice.

The first game I want to show which surely includes elements of ROT, was played in 2004 against the Belgian expert Willem Hajenius. After the game we both smiled at the final position.
[Event "Zilveren Toren Deurne - Mechelen"] [Date "2004"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Hajenius, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B45"] [WhiteElo "2312"] [BlackElo "2087"] [PlyCount "33"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 {(After having played Bd3 for several years, I switch back to what I played once in 1996 against Stada.)} Nc6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4 11. Ke2 Ba6 12. Kf3 f5 13. exf6 {(Just like in my game of 1996 black selects an inferior line of this opening. 11..., Ba6 is not so strong and better is immediately f5. In 1996 I played Ng3 with a complex game and probably some advantage. This time I play something more simple which also gives an edge.)} Nxf6 14. Be3 $5 {(In 1996 I recommended in my analysis c5 but I had forgotten about that so I just created something myself. Both continuations are sufficient for some white advantage.)} (14. c5 $5 Qa5 15. Nd6 {(Most people take at f6 but analysis indicates that Nd6 is maybe even a bit stronger.)} (15. Nxf6 gxf6 16. Bxa6 Qxa6 17. Qd4 ( 17. Be3 Qc4 18. a3 Ba5 19. b3 Qd5 20. Qxd5 exd5 $14) 17... Qb5 18. Be3 O-O-O 19. a3 Ba5 20. Rhd1 Bc7 $14) 15... Kf8 16. Bxa6 Qxa6 17. Be3 (17. Qd4 Nd5 18. Rd1 Kg8 19. Be3 h5 $16) 17... Kg8 18. Bd4 Nd5 19. g3 Rf8 20. Qc2 Ba5 21. Qc4 Qxc4 22. Nxc4 Bc7 $16) 14... c5 $2 {(This loses immediately. After the game I showed Qa5 as an improvement. In my megadatabase of 2004 Qa5 is also the most played move. However my analysis also demonstrates Qa5 is not enough to fully equalize as white still keeps pressure.)} (14... Qb7 $5 {(Of Db8)} 15. Nxf6 gxf6 16. c5 Bb5 17. Qd4 O-O-O 18. Bxb5 cxb5 19. Kf2 Ba5 20. Rhd1 $14) (14... Qa5 $5 15. Nxf6 gxf6 16. a3 Be7 17. Kf2 h5 18. b4 Qf5 19. Bd3 Qg4 20. Re1 Rg8 21. Qxg4 hxg4 22. Rad1 Rh8 23. Kg1 $14) 15. Nxf6 gxf6 16. Kf2 {(A3 immediately wins faster which was already played twice. Fortunately Kf2 does not spoil anything.)} Rc8 17. a3 {(Black resigned as he loses a piece. A remarkable miniature in which white only developed 1 piece but did move 3 times the king. )} 1-0
A more extreme ROT was my game against former-chairman of KSK Deurne Guy Colpin. In the final position none of my pieces are developed but white is totally busted. Guy was so much impressed that he asked to pose with the final position so he could take a picture. I didn't feel very comfortable with the request but anyway agreed.
[Event "Klubkampioenschap Deurne r6"] [Date "2013"] [White "Colpin, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A84"] [WhiteElo "1411"] [BlackElo "2336"] [PlyCount "28"] 1. d4 f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Bg5 e6 4. f3 $5 {(White probably wants to play quickly e4 but this does not help the development of the pieces.)} h6 5. Bh4 c5 6. d5 e5 $5 {(Exchanging on d5 is an important alternative.)} 7. Nc3 d6 8. e4 f4 9. g4 g5 10. Bf2 h5 11. h3 $4 {(Whites 9th move was very risky but this is a blunder which immediately loses the game. Gxh5 seems still playable although I already like blacks position.)} hxg4 12. fxg4 Nxg4 13. Nf3 Nxf2 14. Kxf2 g4 0-1
My most fascinating piece of ROT is an analysis made in 1998. Black plays 8 moves with the king in the opening but in the final position he is better.
[Event "Pirc-Lisitisyn Gambit:5.Pc3,10.Pe5"] [Date "1998"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A04"] [PlyCount "40"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. e4 {(Today the Pirc-Lisitisyn gambit is still a popular choice for amateurs.)} fxe4 3. Ng5 d5 4. d3 Qd6 5. Nc3 {(This move has replaced the old dxe4 and that is not just a fashion.)} (5. dxe4 { (Still Robert Schuermans played this line 2 months ago against me in the cup of Deurne. )} h6 6. Qh5 g6 7. Qh4 Bg7 8. Nf3 Bf6 $1 {(I already covered this move in my analysis of 1998. However in the cup-game I continued with the weaker dxe4 as I could not remember anymore the analysis. Fortunately for me I still won the game.) }) 5... h6 {(Nf6 looks like a decent alternative.)} 6. Nb5 Qc6 7. Nxc7 {(The first white-player having a game in the database with this position is the Dutch future grandmaster Ruud Janssen but I remember that the Belgian FM Serge Vanderwaeren has played in that period also a game with this position which was covered in the disappeared magazine Vlaanderen Schaakt. Anyway it is not fully clear to me who can claim the discovery.)} Qxc7 8. Qh5 Kd7 9. Nf7 Nf6 10. Ne5 {(In 1999 Serge introduced this move in practice but it did not get much followers.)} (10. Qg6 Rg8 11. dxe4 Qb6 {(In 2000 I discovered this refutation which surprisingly till today has not popped up in the databases.)}) 10... Ke6 {(If black is satisfied with the draw then he can play Kd8. At home I looked for a possibility to avoid the draw against lower rated players. Anyway I never needed this analysis as nobody ever entered this line against me in a game. It proves again that very little analysis is really useful at my level. )} (10... Kd8 11. Nf7 Kd7 12. Ne5 Kd8 {(This was the finish of the game Serge Vanderwaeren-Garry Lane.)}) 11. Qh3 Kd6 12. Qg3 Qxc2 $6 {(My analysis concentrated on this very bold move.)} (12... Bf5 $1 13. Nf7 Kd7 14. Qxc7 Kxc7 15. Nxh8 Nc6 16. dxe4 {(Ruud Janssen won in this position beautifully in 1998 against the future grandmaster Marat Dhumaev from Uzbekistan.)}) 13. Be3 $2 { (White has many options but only 1 holds an advantage.)} ( 13. Bd2 $1 Ke6 $5 14. Rc1 Qxb2 15. d4 {(An improvement upon my old analysis which I found a few years ago by using much stronger hardware and software.)} Qxd4 16. Bc3 Qxe5 {(Black is obliged to sacrifice the queen but there is not sufficient compensation.)} (16... Qc5 17. Qh3 Kd6 18. Nf7 Kc7 19. Be5 Kb6 20. Qb3 Ka5 21. Rxc5 b5 22. Qxb5#) (16... Qb6 17. Qh3 Kd6 18. Nf7 Kc7 19. Be5#) (16... Qa4 17. Qh3 Kd6 18. Nf7 Kc7 19. Ba5#) 17. Qxe5 Kf7 18. Qc7 $16) 13... Ke6 14. Rc1 Qxb2 15. Ng6 Nc6 16. Nxh8 Kd7 17. Ng6 Ke8 18. Nxf8 Kxf8 19. dxe4 Nxe4 20. Qf3 Kg8 $15 {(8 moves with the king in the first 20 moves and black is better ! A fascinating piece of analysis.)} *
I feel pity to see that the modern engines have refuted the old analysis but it is something we see nowadays regularly happening. Anyway it still is an incredible line.

ROT almost guarantees lively play with lots of twists. I wouldn't recommend it in any opening and neither Mike does but the concept should definitely be considered in some specific lines.