Monday, November 7, 2016

Strange material imbalances part 2

End of last year I bought my very first chess-clock at de denksportkampioen. Ben advised me the DGT North American which should be good price-quality. From somebody playing chess more than 20 years this probably sounds a bit weird but contrary to America all tournaments here provide chess-material for the players. Besides till a couple of years ago I didn't even possess a chessboard because I prefer to make my analysis directly on the computer. Not only the computer is a strong partner to analyze but it is also very easy to save the work in a database.

I bought the chess-clock because my son wanted to try to win a "real" game against his father. To give him a real chance and at the same time make the games also attractive for me, a handicap was introduced. At the beginning we had to explore which handicap would be optimal. Eventually we discovered that the handicap of 1 minute against 20 minutes for my son and an additional 23 points extra (one pawn = 1 point) for him, produced the best challenge.

These handicap-games allowed me during last year also to measure clearly his progress. Each time he won with a handicap, the handicap dropped with a point. If he lost then the handicap increased again with a point. Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to experience that I couldn't get more than a draw with a handicap of only 4 points. My son made little progress last year in his step-books but it seems just by playing you can also learn a lot.

The handicap-games also let me appreciate again the power of the pawns. Especially when your son removes 4 center pawns then you quickly notice how hard it is to create something useful with the remaining pieces. The French chess-pioneer Philidor knew already that the pawns are the soul in chess. This quote dates from 1749 but is still applicable today. A modern brilliant application of this can be seen in one of Kramnik most recent games at the chess-Olympiad of Baku. This game brought Kramnik individual gold at board 2 and a personal record-rating of 2817 at the age of 41.
[Event "Chess Olympiad"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2016.09.13"] [EventDate "2016.09.02"] [Round "11.3"] [Result "1-0"] [White "Vladimir Kramnik"] [Black "Daniele Vocaturo"] [ECO "A49"] [WhiteElo "2808"] [BlackElo "2583"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d6 6. b3 e5 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. Ba3 Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Re8 10. c4 e4 11. Nd4 c6 12. Nc3 Na6 13. e3 Bg4 14. Rd2 Rad8 15. h3 Bc8 16. Rad1 h5 17. Be7 Rxd4 18. Rxd4 Rxe7 19. Rd8 Ne8 20. Nxe4 Be6 21. Ra8 Be5 22. Rdd8 Kf8 23. Rxa7 Bc7 24. Rda8 Bb6 25. Rxa6 bxa6 26. Nf6 Bd7 27. b4 c5 28. Nd5 Bc6 29. Rxa6 Bxd5 30. Bxd5 Bd8 31. b5 Rd7 32. b6 Ke7 33. b7 Bc7 34. Ra8 Nf6 35. Rc8 Bd6 36. Bc6 Rd8 37. a4 Nd7 38. a5 Bb8 39. a6 Ne5 40. Rxb8 Rxb8 41. Bd5 1-0
The final position of the game shows a strange material imbalance. Black is a rook up but is helpless. 

We don't often meet positions on the board in which a piece has to fight against an army of pawns. Probably the unpredictability plays a role hereby. Chessplayers don't like to play volunteerly a position which is alien and very hard to evaluate correctly. This maybe explains why my opponent Ian Vandelacluze in the 3rd round of Open Gent avoided on purpose such type of position with an objectively inferior move.
[Event "Open Gent 3de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Vandelacluze, I."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C69"] [WhiteElo "2130"] [BlackElo "2314"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/R7/5p2/8/3kPK1p/1b2NP1P/p2r2P1/8 w - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "16"] 43. Nf5 $1 {(White played in the game the losing Nd5 but at the same time set a trap for which I felt.)} Kc3 44. Nxh4 Be6 45. g4 Rh2 46. Kg3 Rh1 47. Nf5 a1=Q 48. Rxa1 Rxa1 49. Kf4 Ra5 50. Nd6 Bg8 $15 {(A very strange endgame in which I can not find a clear win for black.)} *
We are no engines which can play correctly such strange material imbalances so I do understand why my opponent found it too risky. By the way in the game he achieved comfortably a draw with his inferior played move although profiting from my time-trouble.
Many puzzles exist in which one color has a mass of pawns and the other not. However there exists a big difference with the rare positions from standard games. For each puzzle there is always a clear solution. In practice such solution is often not available. I very much prefer this open end which permits fascinating analysis.


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