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.



  1. Hello - I was brought here from your comment on Dana Blogs Chess re: ROT. I will probably post something on Dana's site, but I did want to mention re: your game with Hajenius that in the position after 12 ... f5, I reached almost exactly the same position in a game from 1976! The only difference was that Black had played an earlier ... Rb8 instead of ... Ba6. Instead of taking e.p., I played 13 Nf2 (like your Ng3)Nc7 14 Nd3 Be7 and gradually drove back Black's pieces, developed, castled by hand, and won convincingly. Look for the game perhaps if send it to Dana.

    Larry Smith

    1. I am born in 1976!
      There are many games played with this special opening. In another blog-article I published some modern analysis about the mainline see