Monday, December 26, 2016

The expert part 2

A few days ago I read another funny anecdote in the book Ivan's Chess Journey Unravelled. Ivan explains that he and his opponent the Latvian strong grandmaster Alexei Shirov got a standing ovation after that their game ended in a spectacular draw. The game was played in 1994 so before engines were strong enough to give accurate evaluations. That means nobody knew that the game was full of serious mistakes.

In those days chess was still magic. You had fans sheering for their heroes. Today an absolute world class-player like Wesley So has only a fanbase of just 3 members. Engines show us every day that everybody makes many mistakes so not much appreciation for talent still exists.

I am not fond of idealizing people but that doesn't mean that I can't sympathize with the results of others. Of course I do follow the first steps of my son in chess but I am also interested in the games of my team-mates and other friends. Besides kibitzing national or international games can be fun too.

Obviously some players are more attractive to follow than others. The rating plays naturally a role. I notice in each broadcast that the games of the reigning world-champion Magnus Carlsen are a magnet. Except the rating also somebodies style and theoretical knowledge are important for me. The strong British grandmaster Nigel Short is famous for this experiments with openings which we normally only see in games played at the club. The strong Ukrainian grandmaster Andrei Volokitin and the Greek grandmaster Vasilios Kotronias are interesting for me because of their refined opening repertoire.

Experts of openings which I play myself are good to follow and study. In my article switching colors part 2 I talked about the Turkish IM Burak Firat, meeting 17 times the same line on the board. However even better is to look at players above 2600 elo, selecting their opening-lines much more solidly and professionally. Anyway we already know that Botvinnik told Kasparov to learn an opening via studying the games of the best players.

Nowadays most players play a big variety of openings (which was covered in my article the list of strength) but there are still a few exceptions whom stick to a much more narrow repertoire. In this category belongs for sure former European champion and Russian grandmaster Vladimir Potkin. In the last 5 years he chose in 81 out of 104 games for the Sicilian after 1.e4. Further he answered 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 almost always (66 out of 69 games) with e6. Vladimir is a real expert in the Sicilian Taimanov as can be seen in the game below against the Russian super-grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi.
[Event "RUS-ch 63rd"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2010.12.16"] [Round "6"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Potkin, Vladimir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B83"] [WhiteElo "2720"] [BlackElo "2646"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2010.12.11"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "19"] [SourceTitle "CBM 140"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2011.01.18"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Qc7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Be2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. f4 d6 10. Qe1 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 e5 12. fxe5 dxe5 13. Qg3 Bc5 14. Bxc5 Qxc5 15. Kh1 Kh8 16. Rxf6 gxf6 17. Qh4 Rg8 18. Qxf6 Rg7 19. Rd1 Be6 20. Rd8 Rxd8 21. Qxd8 Rg8 22. Qf6 1/2-1/2
It is of course  not a coincidence that we see almost an identical copy of a game published in my article ambitions part 2.  After that game Benjamin confessed that he had studied the games of Vladimir.

On the other hand I noticed that Vladimir since 2015 switched to a6 again. I assume that he wasn't fully satisfied about the line and then even an expert will make some changes to his repertoire. Now he chooses the modern Negi concept as so many others. That line was earlier already covered in my article to shoot a mosquito with a canon.
[Event "Tata Steel-B 77th"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2015.01.21"] [Round "10"] [White "Navara, David"] [Black "Potkin, Vladimir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2729"] [BlackElo "2608"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "NED"] [EventCategory "13"] [SourceTitle "CBM 165"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2015.03.11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 Be7 9. f4 d6 10. a4 O-O 11. Kh1 Nxd4 12. Qxd4 Bd7 13. Qd2 Bc6 14. Bd3 b5 15. axb5 axb5 16. Nxb5 Qb7 17. c4 Nxe4 18. Qc2 f5 19. Bd4 Nc5 20. Bxc5 dxc5 21. Qe2 Rf6 22. Rxa8 Qxa8 23. Nc7 Qb7 24. Nxe6 Bxg2 25. Qxg2 Qxg2 26. Kxg2 Rxe6 27. Bxf5 Re2 28. Rf2 Rxf2 29. Kxf2 Bf6 30. b3 g6 31. Be4 Bc3 32. h4 Kg7 33. Kg3 h5 34. f5 1/2-1/2
Anyway I guess Vladimir had recently not much time to work on his own repertoire. During the candidate-finales as during the world-championship he assisted the challenger Sergei Karjakin with his preparations. A good worker for the openings is always useful but I assume Vladimir also influenced the opening-strategy of Sergei. We clearly see a difference between Magnus and Sergeis strategies
WC Strategy

The yellow moves tell us where Magnus deviated from earlier games in the championship. The blue moves are the ones of Sergei when he deviates. It is clear that Magnus is almost always the first one to do (10 - 4) and besides he does it very early. The Ukrainian super-grandmaster Ruslan Ponamariov wonders himself at Chessbase what Carlsen has shown us at the world-championship. Well maybe that it is possible to stay world-champion without going into big theoretical fights.

Finally we should not ignore the fact that Sergei came very close to get the title. Opening-experts are still playing an important role today for amateurs and finalists of a world-championship. Kasparovs tweet about the lack of preparation of Carlsen definitely contains some truth.


A nice article fitting to this theme is  Can You Still Specialize In An Opening?

Monday, December 12, 2016

The fake truth part 2

With the New Year celebrations in front of us a lot of money will be spent. We are searching the right gifts for our loved ones but should not forget ourselves. This reminds me that I am still looking for a good book about chess to read during the Christmas's holidays. Currently I am reading the book Ivan's_Chess_Journey_Unravelled which I like so something similar is fine but other proposals I welcome too in the reactions.

In this period of the year we see shops making extra efforts to attract customers. Advertising, newsletters, ... are just a few techniques used to promote the products. The commercial king of chess is already for several decades Chessbase. Nobody else succeeds better to earn money by selling chess products. Except a large variety of attractive products also huge investments are done in marketing which plays a crucial role in their sales.

The financial resources of Chessbase are many times larger than the competition. This advantage they exploit maximally via skillful marketing-plans. This year Chessbase didn't miss a golden opportunity like the world-championship to attract (new) customers. They were the only ones to get annotations of the games by the world class pros Ruslan PonomariovFabiano CaruanaWesley So and David Navara. I can't remember an earlier world championship for which 4 players with an average of +2760 elo were asked to provide their analysis. I write this blog unpaid but I am sure these guys got a very high fee for their services.

It is very hard to predict if Chessbase will see an increase of their sales by this stunt. Besides are the analysis of the best players in the world really better than what you can get on the other sites? In my previous article you could read that today's best engines play several hundred points better than any player. You could therefore deduct that an annotator will just talk through the analysis of the engine.

From pure analytical perspective I do not see much difference. The engines point out quickly and accurately the mistakes which are covered in any proper report. One big exception is the opening. The top-players play and know each others repertoire extremely well so are able to tell us which lines are critical and popular. I give one example. Game 11 was a pretty harmless looking opening but Wesley So demonstrates things can quickly get out of control.
[Event "AGON FWCM 2016"] [Site "New York"] [Date "2016.11.26"] [Round "11"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2853"] [PlyCount "67"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 O-O 9. Nc3 Be6 10. Nd5 Nd4 11. Nxd4 exd4 12. Nxf6 {(Wesley So claims Nxe7 is the critical test in this opening.)} (12. Nxe7 Qxe7 13. Bg5 Bxb3 14. cxb3 h6 15. Bh4 Qe6 16. f4 c5 17. b4 Rfe8 18. f5 Qe5 19. Bg3 Qe7 20. bxc5 dxc5 21. e5 Nd5 22. f6 Qe6 23. fxg7 Ne3 24. Qd2 Nxf1 25. Rxf1 Qg6 {(Wesley stops here which I find a bit strange as this position pops up in the game Ivanchuk - Svidler played in 2013 which surprisingly white lost. Anyhow white can easily improve.)}) 12... Bxf6 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. f4 c5 15. Qg4 Qd7 16. f5 Rae8 17. Bd2 c4 18. h3 c3 19. bxc3 d5 20. Bg5 Bxg5 21. Qxg5 dxe4 22. fxe6 Rxf1 23. Rxf1 Qxe6 24. cxd4 e3 25. Re1 h6 26. Qh5 e2 27. Qf3 a5 28. c3 Qa2 29. Qc6 Re6 30. Qc8 Kh7 31. c4 Qd2 32. Qxe6 Qxe1 33. Kh2 Qf2 34. Qe4 1/2-1/2
The biggest added value of the best players is their commentary. Computers are not capable today to understand the chess-psychology in human games. Besides this is something very much linked to somebodies playing strength. Finally Wesley so also injects lessons in his commentary for the average player. You notice clearly that Wesley has quite some experience in coaching weaker players contrary to his illustrious colleagues. He tells us to be practical if we analyze openings. Don't spent countless hours into studying some opening which will very rarely pop up in your practice. You will develop much faster by carefully selecting and absorbing ideas.

Another remarkable statement of Wesley is that he doesn't fully trust his notes of 2013. He rightly claims that Houdini, the computer and the internet were much slower 3 years ago. This fully matches my previous article in which I wrote that we saw a jump in strength of 200 ratingpoints in only 3 years for the engines. On the other hand I do wonder what he exactly means with the internet. I see today many enjoyable and addictive multi player games ( boom via the faster network but I normally use only 1 or 2 PC's for the analysis.

The problem is for an amateur of course much smaller. The influence of the opening is rather small upon the final result of a game (see studying chess openings). On the other hand I always try to add something scientific into my games. It is pretty frustrating to discover afterwards that the used analysis in which quite some personal effort was put, are outdated. Something like that happened to me recently in the Belgian interclub. In 2007 I met for the first time a rather obscure line of the Sicilian after which I spent a number of hours to find an anti-dote.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KOSK"] [Date "2007"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "De Baenst, B."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B29"] [WhiteElo "2303"] [BlackElo "2219"] [PlyCount "49"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. exd5 Nxd5 5. d4 {(Critical is Bb5 but I was not aware of that during the game.)} Nxc3 {(More popular is Nc6. I once won a nice victory against that setup see my game Brabo - Hajenius. The chosen move is a more direct way to solve the opening problems.)} 6. bxc3 g6 7. Ne5 $6 {(I start an aggressive plan which leads to winning a pawn at move 11 but it contains too large disadvantages like a big lag of development and a crippled pawnstructure. Better are Bb5, Bf4, Be2 but I can not find an advantage for white.)} Bg7 8. Bb5 Nd7 9. Qf3 O-O 10. Bxd7 Bxd7 11. Qxb7 Ba4 12. O-O cxd4 13. Re1 $6 {(I miss blacks next move which further deteriorates my position. Better is Qb4 which loses a pawn but still keeps fighting chances.)} Qa5 14. Bf4 Qxc3 15. Rac1 Bxc2 16. Nxf7 $6 {(Objectively Re2 is better but maybe my move is a better practical choice.)} (16. Re2 $5 Rab8 17. Qxa7 Rb1 18. Rxb1 Bxb1 $17) 16... Qc8 $4 {(Black totally miss the strength of my next move. The game turns completely upside down after this. The cool Rae8 should very likely win for black.)} (16... Rae8 $1 17. Qb5 Rxf7 18. Re2 d3 19. Rexc2 dxc2 20. Qxe8 Rf8 21. Qa4 $19) 17. Qd5 Rxf7 18. Rxe7 Qf8 19. Rxf7 Qxf7 20. Qxa8 Bf8 21. Rxc2 Qxf4 22. Qd5 Qf7 23. Qxd4 Qf5 24. Rc1 Bh6 25. Rd1 1-0
In the second round I got recently again the same opening on the board by Hendrik Ponnet. I still could remember my recommendation from my opening-book but only after the game I found out that the theory was developed a lot since then.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Ponnet, H."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B29"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2277"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {(Our third confrontation and each time Hendrik chooses a different line to avoid any preparation.)} 3. Nc3 d5 4. exd5 Nxd5 5. Bb5 {(In 2007 I played Bc4 against Bruno De Baenst. In the meanwhile I knew that Bb5 is the mainline.)} Bd7 6. Qe2 $6 {(I recommended this move in my opening book but today I prefer Ne5.)} (6. Ne5 $1 e6 $5 7. Qf3 $1 Qf6 8. Nxd7 $1 Nxd7 9. Nxd5 $1 Qxf3 10. Nc7 Kd8 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. gxf3 Ne5 13. f4 $1 Nf3 $14) 6... Nf6 $6 {(My last move threw Hendrik out of book. Better chances for equality are given by Nb4, a6 and Bc6.)} (6... Nb4 $5 7. Bxd7 $5 Qxd7 8. d3 N8c6 $5 9. a3 Nd5 $13) (6... a6 $5 7. Bxd7 $5 Qxd7 8. Ne5 Qe6 9. Nxd5 Qxd5 10. O-O Nc6 11. Nxc6 Qxc6 $13) (6... Bc6 $5 7. O-O {(Or first d4 and then 0-0.)} e6 8. d4 cxd4 $5 9. Nxd4 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Be7 $13) 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 e6 $146 {(An interesting novelty. A6 and g6 were tried before but without success.)} 9. Bg5 Be7 10. O-O-O O-O 11. Rhe1 $6 { (Played superficially as the sacrifices against e6 do not work. More useful moves are Bc4 and Kb1 with a slight advantage.)} Bxb5 12. Qxb5 Qc7 13. Qe2 Nc6 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Ne4 $2 {(I was slightly irritated not to get something tangible and besides I consumed already too much time. However this rushed move to exchange pieces and get a draw is an ugly mistake. I did take into account Nc3 earlier in the game but my emotions probably confused my thoughts.)} Nxe4 16. Bxe7 Nc3 17. Qe5 Nxa2 18. Kb1 Qxe7 19. Kxa2 Rfd8 20. g3 Rxd1 $2 {(The exchange of the rooks improves drastically the drawing chances for me as it is difficult for black to get active due to the weak c-pawn.)} (20... Qb4 $1 21. f4 h6 $5 22. Re4 Qb6 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Qc3 Qa6 $5 25. Qa3 Qb5 $1 26. Qc3 Rd1 27. b3 Rh1 28. Ra4 $1 Qf1 29. Rc4 Rxh2 30. Rxc6 Qd1 31. Rc7 $17) 21. Rxd1 Rd8 22. Rxd8 Qxd8 23. c4 Qb6 24. Qd6 h5 25. Ka3 g6 {(I recommended after the game Qa5. The engines agree but Stockfish nevertheless shows a way how white can defend.)} (25... Qa5 $5 26. Kb3 c5 27. Qb8 Kh7 28. Qb5 $1 Qc7 29. Ka4 Qe5 30. Ka5 $13) 26. b4 Qa6 27. Kb3 Qb6 28. Ka4 Qa6 29. Kb3 Qb6 30. Ka4 Qa6 {(Black did not want to take any risks while playing solely upon increments and that is fully understandable. Anyway it is very doubtful if black can still try something here.)} 1/2-1/2
I get the impression that Hendriks preparation wasn't very extensive as normally I should not have obtained any advantage out of the opening. Sometimes using outdated analysis can throw the opponent out of book but you can't count on such coincidences of course.

We know that the raise of the machines won't stop immediately so we do have to take into account also in the future that some of our analysis will be outdated. Especially if you play sharp tactical lines you have to be very careful to rely on old analysis. Next I also experienced that by studying properly the options of the opponent you can improve drastically the opening analysis. Till a couple of years ago I was already satisfied after finding an answer to the lines which the engine showed. Today I also investigate any line which was played with some success in practice (+2300 standard chess, chess between computers, correspondence chess and even my own online-games). Well any line is of course not possible as in the end you do want to finalize the analysis in maximum a couple of weeks.

By looking at a much bigger variety of lines, I get a more balanced evaluation of an opening. Finally I also discovered that this method of studying openings bears a number of ideas which I use as surprises.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Rise of the machines part 3

Regularly we have it on this blog about new engines. They don't only improve continuously but they also influence the way we play (see revolution in the new millennium) and analyze (see the fake truth). Besides we haven't yet met the ceiling as developments today are happening very rapidly. Personally I am really astonished about this after 2 decades of intensive programming done by several great talents. It is not easy to valuate this gigantic progression correctly  but I will give it a try in this article.

In 1997 Deep Blue defeated the at that time reigning world-champion Garry Kasparov which generally is considered as a milestone but it still took several years till every player could use an engine of the same strength. It is difficult to pin an exact date when that happened but I estimate 2003 will be close. 2003 was the period of the matches Kasparov against Deep Junior and X3D Fritz which were both drawn.

Ever since the top-engines have surpassed everybody and not a little bit. If we look at CCRL then Fritz progressed with 470 elo-points in the last 13 years. On top of that we notice that today Komodo 10 is an additional 210 rating-points stronger than the strongest version of Fritz. That makes a total of 680 points or averagely 52 points per year. If we only look at the 3 recent years then we have the same trend. End of 2013 I worked with stockfish 4. Last week I download Stockfish 8 which again is 165 points stronger than edition 4 based on the figures of CCRL. That is again 55 points averagely per year.

An important role during the progression of the last couple of years plays without any doubt TCEC (Top Chess Engine Championship). Ameliorations to the engines are allowed between the stages within 1 championship and this combined with the ever growing interest of the championship, clearly motivates most programmers.

Currently the superfinal of season 9 is ongoing and we are very close to the final decision. I see 2 big surprises this season. The first one is the non-qualification to the superfinal of Komdo while leading at CCRL. I guess this is related to new improved versions of the competitors which are not yet used by CCRL. The second big surprise is the comeback of our Belgian super talented programmer Robert Houdart with his engine Houdini. I didn't expect that as Houdini 4 already dates back from 2013 !. At the site of Houdini they claim a progression of not less than 200 ratingpoints which doesn't seem exaggerated to me.

In the separate rapid-championship Houdini won in front of Komodo and Stockfish but in the superfinal of the classical chess-championship, Houdini will most likely narrowly lose against Stockfish. Anyway 1 game will for sure be remembered for longtime if only because it created quite some controversy. Of course I talk about the 17th.
[Event "TCEC Season 9 - Superfinal"] [Site ""] [Date "2016.11.15"] [Round "17"] [White "Stockfish 8"] [Black "Houdini 5"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B78"] [WhiteElo "3228"] [BlackElo "3182"] [PlyCount "143"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. h4 Nc4 13. Bxc4 Rxc4 14. h5 Nxh5 15. g4 Nf6 16. Kb1 Re8 17. b3 Rc8 18. Nd5 Nxd5 19. exd5 e5 20. dxe6 fxe6 21. Qh2 Qf6 22. a4 b6 23. Qxh7 Kf7 24. g5 Qe5 25. Rh6 Qxe3 26. Rxg6 Rg8 27. f4 d5 28. f5 exf5 29. Nxf5 Qxb3 30. cxb3 Bxf5 31. Ka2 Rc2 32. Ka3 Bxg6 33. Rf1 Ke7 34. Qxg8 Bb2 35. Kb4 Bc3 36. Kb5 Bd3 37. Kc6 Be5 38. Kb7 Rc7 39. Ka8 Bxf1 40. Qxd5 Bg7 41. Kb8 Rd7 42. Qe4 Kf8 43. Qf5 Rf7 44. Qc8 Ke7 45. Qc7 Ke6 46. Qc6 Kf5 47. Qd5 Be5 48. Ka8 Rf8 49. Kxa7 Be2 50. b4 Bh5 51. Kxb6 Bf7 52. Qf3 Bf4 53. Qc6 Rb8 54. Ka7 Kxg5 55. Qd7 Bh5 56. b5 Re8 57. b6 Be3 58. Qd5 Kh4 59. a5 Re7 60. Ka8 Re8 61. Kb7 Re7 62. Kc8 Bg4 63. Kb8 Bf4 64. Ka8 Kg3 65. Qg8 Re5 66. a6 Re6 67. Kb7 Be3 68. a7 Rxb6 69. Kc7 Ra6 70. a8=Q Bf4 71. Kb7 Rxa8 72. Kxa8 {(This position was automatically adjudicated as a win for white which created quite some controversy. The Nalimov tablebes show a win in 72 moves but the Syzygy tablebases tell us that the 50 moves rule comes into force. Besides the evaluations of both engines do not show a win at all.)} 1-0
In the final position a win was awarded automatically to Stockfish based on the Nalimov tablebases. However many viewers didn't agree with the verdict. First both engines showed a quotation of 0.00 in the final position see TCEC but on top the 50 moves-rule was not taken into account. If TCEC had used instead  Syzygy tablebases then the rule could have been applied.
Evaluation by Syzygy tablebases of the final position game 17th TCEC season 9
DTZ tells us how many moves no pawn was moved or piece was captured against optimal play. DTM on the other hand shows us the number of moves to mate against optimal play. 123 plies or 62 moves for DTZ means indeed that the 50 moves-rule comes into force.

However we should not forget that the 50 moves-rule is something introduced for humans to avoid searching endlessly for a win in vain. As I already wrote in my article ICCF it does make sense to ignore this rule here too.

Besides that it is still looks strange to me to award a win when both engines don't see at all such win. I do understand that adjudications win a lot of time and energy. Till then this was always going smoothly but not this time. Afterwards some people claimed rightly that Houdini would have avoided the final position if it was allowed to consult in advance the tablebases.

Decisions by (much) weaker arbiters often create problems when they are related to playing for a win but the opposite also exists. The much stronger arbiter makes a judgment based on its capabilities but ignores the much weaker skills of the involved players.

By accident something similar happened to my son Hugo playing in the -8 category of the Flemish youth-criterium at Gent. His third game was adjudicated as a draw when an endgame of each rook + king was on the board and the opponent risked losing on time. After the game Hugo could not suppress his tears anymore. The arbiter made a call in good conscience but it is of course very painful when just a few weeks earlier you lost the exact same endgame in the step-tournament of Turnhout against a brother of the opponent.
[Event "Step-tournament Turnhout"] [Date "2016"] [Round "9"] [White "Hugo"] [Black "Brother of opponent Gent"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6r1/8/4k3/5R2/5K2/8/8/8 b - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "7"] 1... Rg1 {(Both players had still several minutes but none thinks this is a draw.)} 2. Ke4 $4 {(Only considering Rg4. As a parent I was not surprised to see this move as Hugo played the complete game below its normal level.)} Re1 3. Kf4 Rf1 4. Ke4 Rxf5 {(Black needed more than 50 moves to mate but as there was no notation, a draw could never be claimed. This game decided the second place of the 2nd category of the step-tournament.)} 0-1
Maybe Hugos opponent in Gent would have not made such kind of mistake but we can't be sure of that. You never know what will or will not happen in the -8 category so any decision is debatable. Eventually I advised Hugo to accept the decision of the arbiter. A draw was a fair result and from my experience I know that it is often better not to fight against such things on the long term.

I assume TCEC thought the same. The adjudication wasn't optimal but the decision was made and you can't change the rules during the superfinale anymore. In the end 100 games will be played and it doesn't look like this 1 game will influence who will win the final.

I expect after this superfinal CCRL will start to test the new versions of both finalists. Normally this means we will see Stockfish as the new number 1 with a bunch of ratingpoints ahead. Some difficult times are coming for the commercial engines as few will want to pay for a weaker engine while you can get the strongest one for free.

The exact elo-strength of the engines calculated by Carlsens rating + the progression since 2003 looks too simplistic to me. If we would do such math then it would mean Carlsen would not be able to score theoretically one single point in a standard game without a handicap. I do see him losing a match with a big margin but with the right openings it should be possible to score a couple of half points which means the rating-difference can't be 700 points.

On the other hand in this article I only talk about the strength of the engines. We don't take into account hardware developments, improved interfaces or new and bigger tablebases. Together they maybe push the rating another 200 points up.

It is not for no reason that I stated at the beginning of this article that the progression of the engines is difficult to valuate correctly. If you add up all the numbers then you get a dazzling rating of around 3800 elo which makes no sense. The only way to evaluate the engines is to let them compete against other engines. Unfortunately we also see a lot of players using the engines to denigrate our top-players which just shows a complete lack of respect.


Thursday, November 24, 2016


How somebody reacts after a loss depends very much of the person and the circumstances. Some have not the slightest problem to forget about it. Others can be for a long time demoralized. Well known are Fischers 6-0 victories in the candidate matches against Taimanov and Larsen. After that both slowly disappeared from the highest echelons. Fischer wanted not only to win at the board but also tried to break the opponent psychologically.

We also see this behavior in youth tournaments. Some children leave their board after a loss with a smile and start to play football as nothing bad happened. Others can't hide their emotions and even cry. Naturally chess is not for everybody as much important. As a consequence the more ambitious players quickly take the lead. Players having more troubles to cope with a loss are averagely much more eager to learn something and make quicker progress than their more relaxed peers.

On the other hand emotions are not only a positive catalyst but can also often work paralyzing. A loss can be so detrimental each time that a fear is developed. A logical defense-mechanism is avoiding losses at all costs which can lead to some extreme cases. A few months ago I witnessed my son proposing a draw after only 1 move played in the tournament for debutants at Wetteren because he thought it would consolidate his first position. It became a tough lesson as not only there was a wrinkle in the rules which only gave him second place but he also had to listen to my reaction how disappointed I was in his behavior. I haven't seen him proposing any draws anymore since then.

I use the example of my son but in Belgium fear for losing is a very wide spread phenomenon. Maybe this is due to the great modesty of which Belgians are famous for which is why we are often satisfied with setting lower goals. In Belgium a draw against a higher rated player is considered as a big success. Seldom somebody will wonder if there wasn't more possible. I already encountered several inexplicable drawing offers of my opponents in my career. One example was already shown in my article Lars Schandorff. A second example below is from the Open Leuven played last year.
White proposed a draw while he has 10 minutes extra and the position should normally not be holdable for black 
Of course I know the expression that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. However the final position gives white 1000 better chances to win than the start position. Why would you want to play a game if you are not interested to win it?

Emotions often let us do crazy things. I won't deny the fact that even today I still have to fight against my fear of losing. Last couple of years my fear certainly decreased (something which I already explained in my article sofia rules) but it never completely disappeared. In the last round of Open Leuven this year I could again not resist to the draw-offer of my opponent Hans Renette while I knew that likely I had the slightly better position.
White proposed a draw. I wanted to play the correct b6 and black is a bit better as he can try to win by playing later e5.
I had a bit more than a half hour left for 21 moves. Last time I squandered a bigger advantage against Hans. I have after all black. I had chosen in my preparation to play the same drawing line as I did in Open Gent see Avrukh part 2 so my plan was to play a draw. With the draw I was certain of a nice prize (380 euro). It are all excuses to hide that I was afraid of losing. Arno Bomans showed more guts by declining the draw proposal of the top-favorite Stefan Docx (see his witty commentary) although we are here a bit comparing apples to oranges.

Fear may be something typical for the Belgian players but it also pops up elsewhere. Even some very strong players suffer from it. The congenial Australian grandmaster David Smerdon told us after his game against Carlsen that he would never have forced the draw against any player below 2700 elo with the advantage he had on the board see
[Event "42nd Olympiad 2016"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2016.09.05"] [Round "4.20"] [White "Smerdon, D."] [Black "Carlsen, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B22"] [WhiteElo "2531"] [BlackElo "2857"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2016.09.02"] [WhiteTeam "Australia"] [BlackTeam "Norway"] [WhiteTeamCountry "AUS"] [BlackTeamCountry "NOR"] 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Na3 Qd8 7. Nc4 Be7 8. Be3 cxd4 9. Qxd4 O-O 10. O-O-O Nd5 11. Qg4 Nxe3 12. fxe3 Qc7 13. Bd3 Nd7 14. Qf4 Qc5 15. b4 Qc6 16. Nd4 Qxg2 17. Rhg1 Qh3 18. Rg3 Qh4 19. Qxh4 Bxh4 20. Rh3 Bg5 21. Rg1 {(David forces the draw but against any player rated below 2700 elo he definitely would have played Bxh7.)} (21. Bxh7 Kh8 22. Nf3 {(White has more than one way to get a large advantage.)} Bh6 23. Bc2 a5 24. Nd6 Kg8 25. Nxc8 Rfxc8 26. Rxd7 Rxc3 27. bxa5 Rxe3 28. Kb2 $16) 21... h6 22. Rxg5 hxg5 23. Bh7 Kh8 24. Bd3 Kg8 25. Bh7 Kh8 26. Bd3 1/2-1/2
Respect is important but not exploiting fully your own chances is just fear. Currently I am reading the book Ivan's Chess Journey in which there are a few nice anecdotes. One of them is Ivan talking about the grandmaster Bojan Kurajica from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bojan was a great talent but never achieved his full potential because he was afraid to lose. However in 1994 he shined due to a concurrence of events. The war in Bosnia created for him a lot of practical problems but as if this wasn't enough his wife in the same period also gave him the divorcing papers. It was an enormous shock for Bojan as this really filled his glass of misery. He felt as a man having nothing to lose anymore. A man with a talent, without fear to lose anything is a formidable opponent. He became the hero at the 34th Olympiad in Moscow with not less than 6 victories. In the same year he also defeated the 200 points higher rated Karpov in a rapid tie-break.

Players need to try to overcome their fear of failure if they want to achieve the maximum out of themselves. The best players are fearless fighting-machines, gladiators fighting till the death. It is up to the coaches, parents, the entourage of our (youth-) players to make this mental switch and convince them to always go for it. Then again today at home we have a cute nice teddy bear hopping around. Do we really want to transform him into a a big dangerous grizzly-bear?


Thursday, November 17, 2016


183.000 unique visitors followed the live broadcasting of the blitz final. Normally I am not interested in blitz or rapid but this time also I was glued to my screen to see the spectacle between Carlsen and Nakamura. The only bad point in the otherwise well organized match was the inability of the moderators to remove the many attacks of trolls. Even the commentators got visibly annoyed and experienced troubles to keep their focus on the games.

It is a recurring problem we encounter at many websites where you can respond anonymously. You always meet people eager to create chaos and frustration. They get thrilled by the power to control a conversation. It is doubtless also the main reason why we see today very few interesting comments anymore in comparison with the very first years of the internet.

It is not at all difficult to hijack a discussion even if you know very little or nothing about the subject. To express your opinion as a fact is a very often used method. To destabilize the credibility of somebody is another one. To focus on grammatical errors, semantic elements or tiny insignificant details is also a well known technique. As a highly experienced poster with 18 years of experience with many forums I have of course met my share of impostors.

The easiest is to ignore them and this is often necessary but sadly only creates a empty dessert of silence. Therefore I prefer to carefully select the terms I still want to continue the discussion. This strategy is not always appreciated especially if my discussion partner finds some points which I ignore rather important.

With this special introduction I want to link to a reaction upon my article X-Ray attacks. I don't think we deal here with a troll but the reaction does talk only about a technical detail. What is the different between a x-ray attack and a pin? I don't own the truth concerning chess-terminology but personally I believe there exists an essential difference between both. A pin is something static while an x-ray attack is dynamic. I mean in a x-ray attack we see the defense moving while this is not the case in a pin.

Maybe the confusion is created by the many themes around pins from the world of compositions. In those we also see movements of even the piece which is pinned as in the problem below made by myself.
Mate in 2
White plays the piece which is pinned. To counter the mate-threat, black unpins this piece.

A more complicated theme is the next problem.
Mate in 2
Again white plays with the pinned piece but this time we notice that the threat consists of unpinning a black piece. Black counters by unpinning the pinned piece. This is called the Kagan theme.

In both examples we see movements but the pins stay and can only be released by the other color controlling the pin. That is an important difference compared to x-ray attacks in which the pinned party still can decide for themselves to remove the pin although often leading to material losses.

Position 1:
1. Rf5 threatens 2.Nd4#
1. ... Qf6~ (unpins the rook) 2. Rc5#
1. ... e7~ 2.Qc5#
1. ... d7~ 2.Qe8#
1. ... b7~ 2.Qa8#
1. ... Nb5 2.cxb5#
1. ... fxg6 2.Bd5#

Position 2:
1. Rd2 threatens 2.Qa1# (unpins the queen)
1. ... Qe2~ (unpins the rook) 2. Rd5#
1. ... Rxd6 2.Bd6#
1. ... Ng3~ 2.Rf5#

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.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Avrukh part 2

The Dutch Stonewall is not a popular opening at grandmaster practice. Thus theoretical developments only happen slowly. However also the character of the opening plays a role herein. Tactical refutations are rare compared with more open types of schemes. We have rather a battle between plans than exact moves.

1 of the last big shifts in the Dutch stonewall was the rise of the b6 systems which largely replaced the old Bc8-d7-e8-h5 (g6) systems. I wrote about this in my article manuals. Today I believe we experience a new shift. More and more white chooses to leave the classical setups with knights on e5 and d3 to control the black squares and instead chooses a more dynamic type of position recommended by Avrukh.

In my article of 2012 I already wrote that we saw an increase of 150% of this unorthodox system in the databases after the publication of Avrukhs book and this trend still continues. There are 50 games (+2300 elo) played in 2015 with this openingline in the database. That is more than 4-fold of what we see in the years before 2010.

This evolution doesn't surprise me. It is not easy psychologically to play the Dutch Stonewall when you are forced to drop the standard schemes. Whites score in my opening-book is more than 62% on + 400 games (+2300 elo) which only boosts the popularity. Also in Belgium I see a number of players picking up white. Grandmaster Bart Michiels is probably the strongest and most known supporter. His recent game against the reigning Flemish champion Ashote Draftian, a very big fan of the (Dutch) stonewall demonstrates well whites chances in this line.
[Event "39th Eastman Open"] [Date "2016.07.18"] [White "Michiels, Bart"] [Black "Draftian, Ashote"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A81"] [WhiteElo "2524"] [BlackElo "2283"] [PlyCount "122"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 e6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. c4 d5 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 c6 8. Qc2 Ne4 9. Rb1 Qe7 10. b4 Bd7 11. b5 Be8 12. a4 Nd7 13. c5 Bc7 14. bxc6 bxc6 15. Rb7 {(White exits the opening with a nice edge but he is not able to keep it.)} Qd8 16. Nxe4 fxe4 17. Ng5 Rf6 18. Be3 h6 19. Nh3 Nf8 20. Bf4 Bxf4 21. Nxf4 g5 22. Nh3 Rf7 23. Rxf7 Bxf7 24. f3 exf3 25. exf3 Rb8 26. f4 Bg6 27. Qd1 Rb1 28. Qd2 g4 29. Nf2 Rxf1 30. Bxf1 Bf5 31. Qb4 Qc7 32. Ba6 Nd7 33. Kf1 Kf7 34. Be2 h5 35. h3 Nf6 36. hxg4 Nxg4 37. Bxg4 hxg4 38. a5 Ke7 39. Nd1 Bd3 40. Ke1 Kf6 41. Ne3 Qh7 $4 {(The decisive blunder. Bf5 is still equal.)} 42. Nxg4 Kf5 43. Nf2 Be4 44. Qb8 Qh2 45. Qe5 Kg6 46. Qxe6 Kg7 47. Qf6 Kg8 48. Ke2 Qg2 49. Qg5 Kf8 50. Qg4 Qg1 51. Nxe4 dxe4 52. Qf5 Kg8 53. Qxe4 Qa1 54. Qxc6 Qb2 55. Kf3 Qc3 56. Kg4 Qd2 57. Qe6 Kf8 58. Qf6 Ke8 59. Qe6 Kf8 60. c6 Qd1 61. Kg5 Kg7 1-0
Of course Bart is the stronger player but I assume Ahsote wasn't up to date of the theory as otherwise he would not enter the line with 10.b4. Obviously I play the opening completely different. Studying openings is today a big part of my study-time. Contrary to Ashote I do use extensively foreknowledge in my games. An extreme example is surely my game of Open Gent played in round 5 against Johan Goormachtigh in which I spent less that a quarter.
[Event "Open Gent 5de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Goormachtigh, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2189"] [BlackElo "2314"] [PlyCount "42"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. O-O Bd6 6. c4 c6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Qc2 Nbd7 {(Johan already met in his practice the most popular move Ne4 in 2013 by Jan Rogiers according to my megadatabase so his chosen line is not a surprise for me.)} 9. cxd5 {(Rb1 was played end of last year against me by Raf De Coninck. Cxd5 is considered as critical by the theory but of course I knew an anti-dote.)} cxd5 10. Nb5 Bb8 11. Bf4 Bxf4 12. gxf4 Ne8 13. Rfc1 Nb6 14. Nc7 Nxc7 15. Qxc7 Nc4 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. b3 Nd6 18. Rc2 $146 {(The first new move as in 1928 Ne5 was played by the Polish/French grandmaster Saviely Tartakower.)} Bd7 19. e3 Rac8 20. Rac1 Rxc2 21. Rxc2 Rc8 {(I only spent 10 minutes for all the moves. The endgame is pretty sterile. A half point was acceptable for me with the tournament-situation but the line can be a disadvantage if you really want to win with black.)} 1/2-1/2
I will not claim at all that Nbd7 is the end of whites concept but the anti-dote used in most sources (as the one of Avrukh) is totally inadequate. The old game Efim Bogljubov - Savielly Tartakower played in 1924 is often used as model but nobody seems to be aware of the game Savielly Tartakower - Alfred Brinckmann played in 1928 which shows a totally different evaluation. Maybe this has to do with the different move-sequence but any database consists today of tools to bypass this problem.

By complete chance I got the same opening another time on the board in the last round of the same tournament. First I wanted to vary my play but as I was out of contention for the prizes (due to a discrimination based on Belgium ratings) I decided to check what my opponent has prepared. A mini-thematic tournament looked at first appealing to me but it became a disappointment.
[Event "Open Gent 9de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Clemens, A."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2170"] [BlackElo "2314"] [PlyCount "46"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 d5 5. Nf3 c6 6. O-O Bd6 7. Nc3 {(After the game Adrian told me that he saw Bart playing this in round 5 successfully against Ashote Draftian so he also wanted to give it a shot. However he did not know that I already met it in the same round against Johan Goormachtigh.)} O-O 8. Qc2 Nbd7 {(I doubted several minutes here as I was not sure if it is safe to repeat the same choice as in my game against Johan. Maybe Adrian prepared something against it. In the end I anyway again played Nbd7 as the analysis of the alternatives were not easy to remember and there were no prizes anymore to win for me.)} 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nb5 Bb8 11. Bf4 Bxf4 12. gxf4 Ne8 13. Rfc1 Nb6 14. Nc7 Nxc7 15. Qxc7 Nc4 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. b3 Nd6 18. Ne5 {(Only here Adrian deviated from my game against Johan. As already written in the comments of Johans game this Ne5 was also played in 1928 by Saviely Tartakower.)} Bd7 $146 {(Although here I deviate myself from the old game. Alfred Brinckmann played the weaker Ne8. I discovered the move earlier at home with the help of my engines.)} 19. Rc7 Bb5 20. e3 Rac8 21. Rac1 Rxc7 22. Rxc7 Rc8 23. Rxc8 Nxc8 {(2 draws with black against FMs is not bad. On the other hand I spoil a chance to play real chess and I already play few games.)} 1/2-1/2
Adrian did not know about my game against Johan Goormachtigh despite it was published via the live-broadcasting. He just chose the line because he saw a few rounds earlier Bart winning against Ashote with it. At move 18 I improve on the earlier mentioned game Tartakower - Brinckmann with something I had studied at home and a few moves later the game was dead already. Again I used only 10 minutes for the complete game which afterwards did feel a bit awkward especially as I would not be able to play chess anymore till the new season.

2 solid comfortable draws against FMs and earlier this season a very quick victory over Raf De Coninck (see resigning) is a promising start for this concept. On the other hand it does not offer a solution against mainly lower rated players which are only looking for a draw. I did not continue the endgames as they offer very few opportunities to play for a win. However I do remember one online blitz-game in which I managed to do the impossible although with some help of my opponent.
[Event "Rated game, 3 min"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2016.01.11"] [White "Adnan___n"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2128"] [BlackElo "2384"] [PlyCount "126"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. O-O Bd6 6. c4 c6 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Nc3 Nbd7 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nb5 Bb8 11. Bf4 Bxf4 12. gxf4 Ne8 13. Rac1 Nb6 14. Nc7 Nxc7 15. Qxc7 Nc4 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. b3 Nd6 18. Ne5 Bd7 19. a4 Be8 20. Rc7 Kf8 21. Rfc1 Rdc8 22. e3 Rxc7 23. Rxc7 Rc8 24. Rxc8 Nxc8 25. Bf1 Nd6 26. Bd3 Ke7 27. Kf1 a5 28. Ke2 b6 29. Kd2 h6 30. h4 Kf6 31. Kc3 g5 32. fxg5 hxg5 33. hxg5 Kxg5 34. f4 Kh4 35. Nf3 Kg3 36. Ng5 Bd7 37. Kd2 Kf2 38. Nh3 Kg2 39. Ng5 Kg3 40. Be2 Kf2 41. Nh3 Kg3 42. Ng5 Kh4 43. Nf3 Kh3 44. Ng5 Kg3 45. Bh5 Kf2 46. Bf7 Ne4 47. Nxe4 fxe4 48. f5 {(White is trying to win but he miss my f4. Otherwise it is of course a draw.)} exf5 49. Bxd5 f4 50. exf4 e3 51. Kc3 e2 52. Bc4 e1=Q 53. Kb2 Qd2 54. Ka3 Qxd4 55. Bf7 Qxf4 56. Bc4 Qd6 57. Kb2 Qb4 58. Kc2 Bxa4 59. Be6 Bc6 60. Kd3 a4 61. Bc4 axb3 62. Bd5 b2 63. Bxc6 b1=Q# 0-1
So I recommend to also know an alternative when you want to play for a win with black. The mainline with Ne4 surely offers more chances if of course you know the theory. Anyway it also looks prudent to not always play the same line and use the element of surprise in your games.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Comebacks part 2

Bad advertising is also advertising but I have my doubts when it is about chess. If you don't hear anything else about chess then as a parent you would not allow your children to play chess. Chess is of course much more than these incidents. In the previous olympiad we had more tension and drama than in any top-sport see e.g. tiebrake-system decides the olympiad. However nothing about this was mentioned in the media. Even in US nothing was reported while their team won gold. Well almost nothing as the New York Times had a very sad article about it. Instead of congratulations we were able to read how the journalist ridiculed the magnificent performance of the team by insinuating that US bought gold by importing foreign top-players.

It is a missed opportunity to show to the American public that chess can still be exciting and beautiful today. It really isn't very hard for a big newspaper to have a good and easy to understand annotation of a few of their best games. There exists definitely enough stuff to write a good story. Besides there wasn't any lack of drama either. I already mentioned the nerve-racking conclusion of the tie-brake but not less entertaining was the comeback in the game of the strong American grandmaster Samuel Shankland against the strong Indian grandmaster Sethuraman. 11 moves (from 23 till 34) white is completely busted. Some engines even show winning-evaluations for black of 18 points at some point of time but finally white still wins.
[Event "42nd Olympiad"] [Date "2016.09.09"] [White "Shankland, Samuel L"] [Black "Sethuraman, S P."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D12"] [WhiteElo "2679"] [BlackElo "2640"] [PlyCount "149"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nc3 e6 7. Qa4 Nbd7 8. Ne5 a6 9. f3 Bf5 10. g4 Bg6 11. h4 b5 12. Qd1 b4 13. h5 Bxh5 14. Nxd7 Nxd7 15. Rxh5 bxc3 16. bxc3 Qc7 17. Bd2 Bd6 18. Bd3 Nb6 19. Ke2 h6 20. g5 Kd7 21. gxh6 gxh6 22. Rb1 Rag8 23. Bxa6 $4 {(After taking this poisoned pawn white is lost.)} Rg2 24. Kd3 Ra8 25. Bb5 Kd8 26. Rxh6 Rxa2 27. Rh8 Ke7 28. Re8 Kf6 29. Be1 Kg7 30. f4 f5 31. Qb3 Qf7 {(This wins but after Rh2 some engines demonstrate a monster-score of 18 points of advantage for black.)} (31... Rh2 32. Rxe6 {(Ra8 is the best move if you believe the engines but nobody will play such move of course.)} Ra3 33. Rb2 (33. Qd1 Qc4 34. Bxc4 dxc4#) 33... Rxb3 34. Rxh2 { (If the black rook was still at g2 then this was check.)} (34. Rxb3 Qc4 35. Bxc4 dxc4# ) 34... Rxb5 35. Rg2 Kf7 36. Rgg6 Qc4 37. Kd2 Nd7 38. Rxd6 Rb2 39. Kc1 Qe2 40. Rxd7 Kxg6 41. Rd6 Kh5 42. Rh6 Kxh6 43. Bd2 Qxd2#) 32. Qd1 Nc4 33. Rd8 Be7 34. Rd7 Rab2 $4 {(Qf8 was still winning. Now it is again equal and in the next moves black loses the thread of the game.)} 35. Bxc4 dxc4 36. Kxc4 Qe8 37. Rxb2 Rxb2 38. Qa1 Rb8 39. Qa7 Kf8 40. Kd3 Ra8 41. Qb7 Rb8 42. Qh1 Qxd7 43. Qh8 Kf7 44. Qxb8 Qc6 45. Qb2 Qe4 46. Kd2 Qg2 47. Kc1 Qf1 48. Kd1 Qd3 49. Qd2 Qc4 50. Qe2 Qa4 51. Qc2 Qc4 52. Kd2 Qf1 53. Qd3 Qh1 54. Qe2 Qe4 55. Qh2 Qb7 56. Ke2 Qb2 57. Bd2 Qb5 58. Kf2 Kg6 59. Qg2 Kf7 60. Qf3 Bh4 61. Kg2 Qd3 62. Qh5 Kf8 63. Qd1 Kg7 64. Qg1 Qxd2 65. Kh3 Kf8 66. Kxh4 Qxc3 67. Kh5 Qc6 68. Kh6 Qf3 69. Qg7 Ke8 70. Qe5 Kd7 71. Kg7 Qg4 72. Kf8 Qh4 73. Qg7 Kd6 74. Ke8 Qh5 75. Qf7 1-0
A loss instead of the win would've given 16 tie-brake-points less for US if the other results are kept identical. In other words this luck helped US to grab the gold as they only had 9 tie-brake-points more than Ukraine at the end.

At Samuel explained that he has saved such bad positions before in his career but never against the caliber of Sethuraman. At some moment you just stop calculating and play a move which doesn't lose on the spot.

In a previous article the sadistic exam I wrote that competitive chess can be emotionally very tough. A well played game can be destroyed by just one stupid move without any chance to recover. However at least as dramatic is not winning a won position because you can't finish off your opponent. Emanuel Lasker told us that the most difficult is to win a won game. Nevertheless it is incomprehensible what happened in my game against Vermaat. 27 moves (from 22 till 49) I have a completely won position but for some reason I can't find the k.o.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vermaat, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2190"] [PlyCount "149"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 {(In our previous mutual game of 2011 Marcel chose e6.)} 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 {(I could not find any older games of Marcel in the database with this move. Anyway there are not many games altogether of him in the database.)} 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Be3 Be7 9. f4 Qc7 10. Qe1 O-O 11. Qg3 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 b5 13. a3 Bb7 14. Kh1 Rac8 {(In 2013 I met the more popular Rad8 by Johan Goormachtigh also played in Gent.)} 15. Bd3 {(More accurate is first Rae1 as I played in my game against Johan Goormachtigh as now it is not yet clear if d3 or f3 is the best square for the bishop. Another interesting alternative is Rad1.)} Bc6 16. Rae1 Rfd8 $6 {(E5 is the familiar theoretical move which equalizes. Maybe Rcd8 is also still playable.)} (16... Rcd8 $5 17. Qh3 $5 e5 18. fxe5 dxe5 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 exd4 21. Rxf6 g6 22. Rc6 $5 $13) 17. e5 $6 {(Thematic but first Re2 as I played in my game against Johan looks a bit stronger.)} dxe5 18. Bxe5 Qb7 19. f5 exf5 $2 { (Only after Nh5 it is not evident if white can maintain an advantage on the condition of course that black plays some very strong moves.)} 20. Rxf5 $2 {(Much better was Bxf5 but I was needless scared about Rd2 as I had missed the winning response Ne4.)} Ne8 21. Ne4 f6 $2 {(The different lines are impossible to calculate at the board but g6 is a much better defense here.)} (21... g6 $1 22. h4 $5 Ng7 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Qe5 Kg8 25. Rxf7 Kxf7 26. Rf1 Ke8 27. Nf6 $13 { (Stockfish evaluates this as very good for white. However Komodo still does not see any danger for black.)}) 22. Bc3 Nd6 $6 {(This allows whites advantage to grow. More stubborn is again g6 regarding my engines.)} 23. Nxf6 Bxf6 (23... Kh8 24. Qxg7 {(In the game I had noticed this cute queen-sacrifice although I have to admit immediately that other wins are easier.)} Kxg7 25. Ng4 Bf6 (25... Kg8 26. Nh6#) 26. Bxf6 Kf7 27. Rf4 $18) 24. Rxf6 Ne4 25. Bxe4 Bxe4 26. Re6 Bg6 27. h4 Rd7 28. Qg5 Rf8 29. h5 Bxc2 (29... Rf5 30. hxg6 {(Much stronger than Re8. I wonder if my opponent saw this idea as he played very quickly.)} Rxg5 31. Re8#) 30. h6 {(A direct win exists with Re7 if you also detect the winning bishop-sacrifice at move 33 leading to mate in 4.)} (30. Re7 Rf7 31. Re8 Rf8 32. Rxf8 Kxf8 33. Bxg7 Rxg7 34. Qf6 Qf7 (34... Rf7 35. Qh8#) (34... Kg8 35. Re8# ) 35. Qd8 Qe8 36. Qxe8#) 30... Bg6 31. hxg7 Rfd8 32. Qe5 {(A bit later I realized that a sacrifice at g6 is often very strong.)} (32. Qxg6 {(A shame that I missed this not so very hard move. Mate in 8 is shown by my computer.) } hxg6 33. Re8 Rxe8 34. Rxe8 Kh7 (34... Kf7 35. g8=Q#) 35. Rh8#) 32... Rd1 33. Rxd1 Rxd1 34. Kh2 Qd7 35. Qf6 (35. Rf6 {(Another mate in 8 but now including a sacrifice of the exchange. After the game the Indian IM Kumar Praveen rushed to my board to tell me I had missed a win. I replied that I missed thousand wins in the game. Obviously I was not pleased at all to hear his remark after I just experienced a terrible disappointment.)} Bf7 36. Rxf7 Kxf7 37. Qf6 Kg8 38. Qf8#) 35... Bf7 36. Rxa6 Qd5 37. Qe5 (37. Qf5 {(This move is maybe not so difficult to find but what follows next is pure computer-magic.)} Qd8 38. Rh6 Bg6 39. Qe6 Bf7 40. Qe4 Bg6 41. Rxg6 { (White has to bring his queen first to e4 by some forced moves to avoid Qh4.)} hxg6 42. Qe6 Kh7 43. g8=Q Qxg8 44. Qh3#) 37... Qb7 38. Rd6 Rxd6 39. Qxd6 Qc8 {(Here Marcel proposed a draw which I refused by playing a move. In the remaining part of the game Marcel still proposed a draw 3 times more which I found quite disturbing.)} 40. Kg3 { (Again there are 2 much quicker wins. Bb4 I even looked at for a few seconds but as time-trouble was starting I could not calculate it properly. A similar idea is Bd2 which even is a bit directer.)} (40. Bb4 Kxg7 41. Bc3 Kg8 42. Qe5 Kf8 43. Qh8 Bg8 44. Qg7 Ke8 45. Qxg8 $18) (40. Bd2 Kxg7 41. Qe5 Kg8 (41... Kg6 42. Qg5#) 42. Bh6 Qg4 43. Qb8 $18) 40... Be6 41. Kf2 Bc4 42. Be5 Qf5 43. Ke3 Qg5 44. Kd4 Qg4 45. Kc5 Qc8 46. Kb4 Qe8 47. g3 h5 48. Qh6 Qe7 49. Bd6 $2 {(I only had 2 minutes left on my clock so I panic and blunder a crucial pawn. I only took into consideration Qxe5. I saw Kc3 is not possible and wrongly thought Ka5 leads to a perpetual as I forgot my queen could stop the checks.)} Qxg7 50. Qxg7 {(I could keep the queens on the board but a win is already technically not clear anymore. Besides when you have less than 2 minutes on the clock remaining than swapping off the queens is probably the wisest thing to do.)} Kxg7 51. a4 Bf1 $2 {(Black has almost an hour extra on the clock but keeps playing fast not to give me the chance to calculate something. However this move throws away the draw as it is here necessary to first transfer the king to the queen-side.)} 52. a5 Kf6 53. a6 $2 {(My both top-engines still are showing winning evaluations for white after my move but it is already a draw. Mandatory was the clever Kc5 to keep the black king away from c8.)} Ke6 54. a7 Bg2 55. Bb8 Bc6 56. Kc5 Kd7 57. b4 Bf3 58. Kxb5 Kc8 {(I have 2 pawns extra but it is a dead draw. I realized this already in the game but I was too disappointed to agree already to a draw.)} 59. Kb6 Be4 60. b5 Bf3 61. Bf4 Bg2 62. Be3 Bf3 63. Ka6 Bb7 64. Ka5 Bf3 65. Kb4 Kb7 66. b6 Bg2 67. Kc5 Bf3 68. Kd6 Bg2 69. Ke5 Bf3 70. Kf4 Bd1 71. Bf2 Be2 72. Ke3 Bg4 73. Ke4 Be2 74. Kd5 Bf3 75. Kd6 {(As I had only 20 seconds left I had to admit that the win was not anymore there. In this game I made a sad personal record of playing the most consecutive winning moves and still not win the game.)} 1/2-1/2
After the game the Indian IM Kumar Praveen rushed to me to explain where I missed a win. Not 1 but thousand wins I missed, was my snappy reply. I can't find any standard game in my almost 800 of my personal database where something similar happened to me. How is this possible?

Even so I had practiced tactics the last months a lot. On I achieved a tactic-rating of +2600. Next I had won  the cup in Deurne which was played just before the open tournament of Gent and at Playchess I won even a couple of blitz-games against grandmasters during the last months. I was confident that I had sufficiently trained myself to perform well in tense situations. On the other hand the best training for standard-chess is still playing standard-chess. If you don't play for more than 3 months any serious games then you get unavoidably a bit rusty. Maybe the best explanation is given on the American chess-blog of Dana Mackenzie: "If there is anything, which even grandmasters, are not able to do very well then it are mating-combinations. That sounds to me a bit too simple so I will devote my next lesson to mating-combinations together with my students.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The chess microbe

After 3 years of lessons in Deurne my 7 year old son switched to Mechelen. It was a tough decision for me but at the same time necessary not to lose his interest in chess. The courses in Deurne were not anymore challenging and the club-management did not succeed to find a solution. The youth work can only survive by the selflessness of volunteers which isn't something you can force. On the other hand I do notice that we lack any flow of our children to adult-chess in Deurne. 10 years ago they started with giving lessons to the youth because they wanted to cope with the ageing club-members (see history). Today the problem is even bigger. An evaluation of youth-chess imposes itself.

In KMSK Hugo gets today step 2+ within a small group with their own teacher. The courses last almost 2 hours (twice as in Deurne) and consist of 1 hour working with a manual and the rest of the time playing chess. In the meantime I help the youth-chess just like I did before in Deurne. If you anyway have to wait then you better do something useful. I assume KMSK must have been delighted with my proposal as they immediately promoted me to teacher for the most advanced players so step 5 and higher.

That was a bit of a shock as I don't have any experience with teaching at that level. Besides I am an autodidact so I can't rely upon examples from previous teachers. Anyway what is meant with step 5 and higher? I noticed the strength of my students was very diverse from 1400 till even 2100 elo. A small questionnaire confirmed the heterogeneous picture of the students.  It is clear that it will be a big challenge to keep everybody satisfied in my courses.

The management of the club gives me carte blance which I will use to experiment a bit with some different methods of teaching. I have received the manuals of step 5 and 6 in the meantime which I will definitely use. I will also have a look to games played by the students. Additionally this blog can be a source for subjects to be used as teaching material. Nobody of them seems to follow this blog so I don't have to fear it will be just a repetition. Nevertheless last Sunday I didn't want to take any risks by selecting just an article. A Belgian IM has told me once that my article interferences is very interesting so I thought it is very unlikely that they would know the theme already.

Indeed nobody knew in advance what are interferences about. To explain the different types in a joyful way I let them solve in group a problem of each type. This made the course interactive and I assume this way they also grasped the themes better and quicker. Another advantage of this approach is that I get quicker feedback. Some of my students asked why some positions are very unorthodox.

It is a very natural and legitimate question. Some positions will indeed never occur in standard practice. Technically this subject won't learn them much. However I think the role of a teacher goes beyond just getting the students to play stronger chess. At least as important is to let them discover the love for the game. Winning points will give you a kick but on the long term only the chess microbe can survive if it is fed by inspiration and astonishment.

In this category we can probably consider the queen-sacrifice as the highest form of pleasure. The British and highly original attacking player Simon Williams wrote recently in an article on that such sacrifice is pure magic. Of course there exist many different degrees of beauty between queen-sacrifices. However in practice we will most likely see the real pearls played by stronger players. Unfortunately I am not one of them. There is always something lacking. I explain by one of my most dramatic games I have played in the last years. At least 4 fantastic queen-sacrifices were hidden in my 8th round of Open Gent against Marcel Vermaat.

The first appears at move 24 but my opponent doesn't allow it. On the other hand I have to admit that despite the queen-sacrifice being correct, there are other wins available which are more easy. It is even likely that I would have not played it if I had the opportunity.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vermaat, M."] [Result "*"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2190"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2rr2k1/1q2b1pp/p1bn1N2/1p3R2/8/P1BB2Q1/1PP3PP/4R2K b - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "8"] 23... Kh8 {(In the game Marcel played the stronger but also losing Bxf6.)} 24. Qxg7 {(In the game I had detected this brutal queen-sacrifice although I have to admit there exist other easier winning moves.)} Kxg7 25. Ng4 Bf6 (25... Kg8 26. Nh6#) 26. Bxf6 Kf7 27. Rf4 $18 *
A second queen-sacrifice is hidden at move 30. This time I would have definitely played it but again my opponent doesn't allow it.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vermaat, M."] [Result "*"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2190"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/1q1r2pp/p3R1b1/1p4QP/8/P1B5/1PP3P1/4R2K b - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "4"] 29... Rf5 {(Marcel replied instantly with Bxc2 and avoided hereby a cute queen-sacrifice I planned.)} 30. hxg6 {(Much stronger than Re8. I am not sure if my opponent has seen this too during the game.)} Rxg5 31. Re8# *
At move 32 I get my first real chance to play a queen-sacrifice. Unfortunately I play a different winning move. Normally I should not miss this but as my time got low such things can happen.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vermaat, M."] [Result "*"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2190"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/1q1r2Pp/p3R1b1/1p4Q1/8/P1B5/1P4P1/4R2K w - - 0 32"] [PlyCount "7"] 32. Qxg6 {(In the game I played Qe5 which should be sufficient for the win. It is a shame to miss this not very difficult move. My engine shows mate in 8.) } hxg6 33. Re8 Rxe8 34. Rxe8 Kh7 (34... Kf7 35. g8=Q#) 35. Rh8# *
The final queen-sacrifice is for sure the most sophisticated. The sacrifice is an introduction to a beautiful combination. Personally I think such combination is too difficult to find by myself alone.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vermaat, M."] [Result "*"] [ECO "B85"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2190"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/5bPp/R4Q2/1p1q4/8/P1B5/1P4PK/3r4 w - - 0 37"] [PlyCount "15"] 37. Qf5 {(I played the safe and still winning Qe5. The queen-sacrifice is maybe not very hard to find but what follows is pure magic.)} Qd8 {(The queen can not be captured due to Ra8.)} 38. Rh6 Bg6 39. Qe6 Bf7 40. Qe4 Bg6 41. Rxg6 {(White first needed to bring the queen to e4 to avoid Qh4 .)} hxg6 42. Qe6 Kh7 43. g8=Q Qxg8 44. Qh3# *
I don't think there are many games in which you can find 4 totally different queen-sacrifices. It was a big disappointment for me not to win the game (more about this in another article) but (much) later I can still enjoy the beauty hidden under the surface of the game. My chess microbe is still very alive.


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.