Monday, February 20, 2017


Apple, google, microsoft, coca cola,.... are brands very well known. However we often don't realize that our own name is also a brand. We all get a label even if we don't like it. The internet plays an important role to make or break somebodies reputation. All what has been written about us, is stored for a very long time. Inevitable this info is used whether appropriate or not.

Once I was asked at a solicitation for a non chess related job which chess-opening I prefer the most. This happened many years ago when I hadn't started yet with this blog. The question surprised me as I had nothing mentioned about chess in my CV neither did I bring it up during the interview. A HR-recruiter once told me not to talk about chess as I spend too much time at it which is a clear weakness. A player spending lots of time at chess activities and not (much) interested to do extra time after the working hours is less interesting to hire.

The internet had of course exposed me as you can google my name and discover I played many tournaments. On the other hand I doubt this piece of information was critical in the selection process. Besides I do expect there are also employers interested in the qualities of a strong chess-player (FM, IM, GM) to use in their company. Naturally it depends a lot of the type of branch but it is not a coincidence that a lot of big brands offer sponsor-contracts to top-sportsmen.

It is evident that a chess-title has most value in the chess world. Strong chess players are a magnet for other players (read paying customers) so many chess-organisations offer a free membership to those strong players. At you can get free diamond-membership at this link if you have a fide-title. At ICC you only get a free account if you have the IM title and I guess the same rule is also applicable at Playchess. An additional condition for the free account is of course that you relinquish your anonymity. You can't attract players as titled player if your identity can't be verified.

Personally I always get an extra kick when I beat a titled player. Last couple of years I played against grandmasters Gennadi Sosonko, Max Illingworth, Imre Balog, Dmitry Kokarev, Mohmamed Haddouche, John Shaw, Lev Gutman, Viktor Gavrikov.... at playchess. There is a creepy anecdote attached to the last person as 2 months after we played a couple of games, the grandmaster passed away (see chessbase). 1 of the 2 games I managed to win but I needed a lot of luck see below game.
[Event "Rated game, 3 min"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2016.03.08"] [White "Deurne19"] [Black "Viktor Gavrikov"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B08"] [WhiteElo "2158"] [BlackElo "2417"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2016.12.13"] [SourceTitle ""] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 c6 5. a4 Qc7 6. Be2 Nd7 7. O-O Ngf6 8. h3 O-O 9. a5 Re8 10. Re1 e5 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Be3 Nf8 13. Bc4 Be6 14. Bxe6 Nxe6 15. Qd3 b5 16. axb6 axb6 17. Qc4 b5 18. Qe2 Nh5 19. g3 Nd4 20. Bxd4 exd4 21. Rxa8 Rxa8 22. Nd1 Re8 23. Nd2 Nxg3 24. fxg3 Qxg3 25. Kh1 Qxh3 26. Qh2 Qe6 27. Nf3 h6 28. Kg2 c5 29. Qf4 Qc6 30. b3 c4 31. bxc4 bxc4 32. Nf2 Qc5 33. e5 d3 34. cxd3 c3 35. d4 Qc4 36. Ne4 Re6 37. Nd6 Qc7 38. d5 Bxe5 39. Qc4 Bxd6 40. Qxc7 Rxe1 41. Qxc3 1-0
The nice thing about Playchess is that all my games are automatically stored in a database which I can consult with a few simple clicks while studying openings. However it is not the only advantage of the database. Sometimes it is also useful to prepare a game. Some online players you meet in real life. In 2014 I played a short match against Littlefinger. The last game I lost in the Rauzer.
[Event "Rated game, 3m 0s"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2014.08.27"] [White "Deurne9"] [Black "Littlefinger"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B61"] [WhiteElo "2310"] [BlackElo "2232"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2014.11.29"] [SourceTitle ""] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 Bd7 7. Qd2 Rc8 8. O-O-O Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Qa5 10. f4 h6 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. e5 fxe5 13. fxe5 Bg7 14. Qd5 Qxd5 15. Rxd5 Bxe5 16. Bb5 Bxc3 17. bxc3 Rxc3 18. Re1 Bxb5 19. Rxb5 Rc7 20. g4 e5 21. Kd2 Ke7 22. Kd3 Ke6 23. c4 h5 24. g5 h4 25. Rb2 f5 26. gxf6 Kxf6 27. Rf2 Ke6 28. Rg1 Rh6 29. Rg4 Rf7 30. Rxf7 Kxf7 31. Ke4 Ke6 32. Rg7 b5 33. cxb5 d5 34. Kf3 e4 35. Ke2 Ke5 36. Rxa7 Rg6 37. Rh7 Rg2 38. Kf1 Rxa2 39. Rxh4 Rb2 40. Rh8 Rxb5 41. h4 Kf4 42. h5 d4 43. h6 Rh5 44. h7 Ke3 45. Kg2 d3 46. Kg3 d2 47. Kg4 d1=Q 0-1
If you consult the profile of Littlefinger at Playchess then you discover the name Frederic Decoster which I remembered when I had to play against him in Open Leuven. To prepare for the game I repeated some of the lines in the Rauzer to win some precious time at the clock. Unfortunately I wasn't able to fully capitalize due to a lack of time in the morning.
[Event "Open Leuven 6de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Decoster, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B61"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2265"] [PlyCount "80"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 Bd7 {(This is the first time that I meet this important line in a standard game.)} 7. Qd2 Rc8 8. O-O-O Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Qa5 10. f4 Rxc3 {(Frederic plays a lot of different systems so it was very difficult to predict what he would play. At Playchess I met twice h6 by Littlefinger, Frederics nickname. Rxc3 is today not popular anymore as against best play black can not find sufficient compensation.)} 11. bxc3 e5 12. Qb4 Qxb4 13. cxb4 Nxe4 14. Bh4 {(I got up at 6 AM to prepare the game as there was very little time. The game started at 9.30 and I still had to bring my son before the start of my game to Mechelen where he would play the youth-championship of the province Antwerp. Anyway I did look at this line very briefly. However it did not help me much as I already forgot most of it during the game.)} g5 15. fxg5 Be7 16. a3 $6 { (After the game the Belgian IM Stefan Docx recommended Bc4 and as usual he is right. I thought I had seen a3 in my preparation somewhere but this is definitely not the right moment. Re1 is another interesting option but it is less clear and the advantage is for sure smaller.)} (16. Bc4 h6 $1 17. Rhf1 Be6 $5 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. c4 Kd7 20. Kc2 $146 hxg5 21. Bg3 Rc8 $14) 16... h6 17. Bd3 Nc3 18. Rde1 hxg5 19. Bf2 b6 20. Kd2 Nd5 21. c4 Nf4 22. Be4 f5 23. Bb7 e4 24. Bd4 Rh4 {(Black wants to avoid g4 but this allows a fork. This very strange idea seems to be perfectly playable.)} 25. g3 Rh3 26. Re3 Ne6 27. Bb2 g4 28. Re2 Ng5 29. Bd5 Nf3 30. Kc2 Ba4 31. Kb1 Bb3 $2 {(Until here the game was well played but now we both start to commit errors as we were running out of time. Bg5 here or a move earlier leads to very comfortable play for black.)} 32. Bc3 $6 {(The engines call for b5 but I did not like it during the game and even after the game I still think it is not easy at all.)} (32. b5 $1 Bf8 $5 {(Or first Rh7.)} 33. Bc3 Rh7 34. Kb2 Ba4 35. Be6 Rh5 36. h4 Bh6 $1 { (Black hangs in the ropes but I do not see a direct win.)}) 32... b5 { (Frederic miss completely my answer but funny there is nothing wrong with it. Komodo even plays the move as it sees of course already the compensation after 34... d5.)} 33. Bc6 Kf7 34. Bxb5 d5 35. cxd5 Bxd5 36. Rd1 $6 {(Superficially played. I agree with the engines that Kb2 is more accurate.)} Ke6 $2 {(But this is a serious mistake. After the correct Be6 the position is balanced.)} 37. Ba6 Rh5 $6 {(Frederic wanted to play the rook to h8 but he saw only at the last minute that I could capture it with my bishop. This is of course hardly stronger. Bb3 would have allowed black to continue the game.)} 38. Bc8 Kd6 39. Bb7 f4 40. Rxe4 Nxh2 {(While executing the final move black lost on time but the position is already upon repair.)} 1-0
Playing online with an open profile makes yourself more vulnerable at standard play. Therefore many top-players have beside an official account also secret accounts. There exists a funny anecdote of Kasparov and Svidler playing blitz online to prepare for their mutual blitz-match but initially both not aware that they chose each other as sparring partner see chessclub.

In my article password I asked for more publications of games to promote chess. On the other hand I do think it is better to choose for anonymity while playing online. The games are (almost) exclusively blitz or bullet so have very little or no value. Besides the number of games can quickly grow to enormous figures which would give future opponents an in-depth view of your repertoire. Today my personal database almost counts 60.000 online games so covering almost any independent line of my repertoire which has some importance.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Experience part 2

Somebody having followed lately a bit the super-tournaments, knows that currently the American top-grandmaster Wesley So is hot. He is today undefeated for 56 games against serious opposition. He won during the last half year Sinquefield CupLondon Chess Classicachieved gold with America at the olympiad and now also won Tata Steel Chess Tournament one point ahead of the reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen. At 2822 he is virtually the second highest rated person on earth (see 2700chess). Magnus has the first place since July 2011 but this can soon change.

His success didn't arrive just out of the blue. Wesley talks in an interview at Chessbase that he hasn't used the internet for a year except to check some important mails. He neither has a cell-phone to avoid any distraction. I joked at schaaksite that strong players don't waste their time at discussions but Wesley is very serious. He is a model-example of hyper-professionalism.

Despite this extreme dedication to chess we still detect gaps in his knowledge of openings. Wesley won a marvelous game in the 5th round against the Indian top-grandmaster Pentala Harikrisha but Chessbase later noticed that everything till move 14 was already played earlier in the high-class game Vladimir Kramnik - Ian Nepomniachti played at Dortmund in 2015. It is very weird that Wesley used 64 minutes to get to the position at move 14.
[Event "Tata Steel"] [Date "2017.01.19"] [Round "4"] [Result "1-0"] [White "Wesley So"] [Black "Pentala Harikrishna"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "?"] [BlackElo "?"] [PlyCount "95"] 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.c4 c5 5.Nc3 d5 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 dxc4 8.Qa4 Nbd7 9.O-O O-O 10.Rd1 Nb6 11.Qa3 Qd6 12.Qxd6 exd6 13.a4 a6 14.Bf4 d5 {(Only here we deviate from the game Vladimir Kramnik - Ian Nepomniachti played at Dortmund in 2015. Odd but both players already consumed plenty of time to achieve the same position.)} 15.a5 Nbd7 16.Rac1 Rd8 17.Bc7 Re8 18.Bd6 Ne5 19.Bxd5 Nxd5 20.Nxd5 Bg4 21.Rd2 Red8 22.Nb6 Rxd6 23.Nxa8 Nc6 24.Nf3 Rxd2 25.Nxd2 Bxb2 26.Rxc4 Bxe2 27.Re4 Bd3 28.Re3 Nb4 29.Nb6 Bd4 30.Re7 Nc6 31.Rxb7 Nxa5 32.Rd7 Nc6 33.Nb3 Bf5 34.Rxd4 Nxd4 35.Nxd4 Bd3 36.Kg2 Kf8 37.Kf3 Ke7 38.Ke3 Bf1 39.Nf3 Kd6 40.Kd4 f6 41.Nd2 Be2 42.Nd5 f5 43.Nc3 Bh5 44.Nc4 Ke6 45.f4 Kd7 46.Kc5 h6 47.Nd5 Ke6 48.Nc7 1-0
Earlier I wrote on this blog an article about camouflage but spending 64 minutes to hide your knowledge of an opening is definitely nonsense. Besides Wesley afterwards also admitted that he didn't remember Kramniks game. The anecdote once more confirms what I wrote in an article of 2014 that it is incredibly hard to create and maintain a repertoire up to date.

This problem is of course less critical for an amateur. Openings have a rather modest influence upon the final result of a game (see e.g. to study chess-openings). On the other hand I am still ambitious and I want always to insert something scientific in my games. Therefore I don't want to close my eyes for the opening-problems which I encounter.

Only recently I realized the full magnitude of my problems. In my article studying openings part 2 I explain how I study since a couple of years much more thoroughly the openings. If we have a look at the figures then things will become more clear.

Only checking my games of Open Leuven I noticed that I was out of book in 4 of the 7 games in a position which still pops up in more than 100 master-games of the mega-database. That is the opposite of what my persisting reputation as dangerous theoretician stands for. After my most recent interclub-round my opponent Joris Verhelst defended his non-standard opening-choice by stating that he heard of my enormous opening-knowledge. Well let us have a look at what I played at move 17 in my game of the 5th round in Open Leuven against Tom Barbe.
Out of book in a position which still pops up in more than 100 master-games.

Tom played a fantastic tournament (see final standings) and also in our game he showed that he was playing well by optimally taking advantage of my limited knowledge of the opening. Initially I was not happy about the draw as this heavily decreased my chances of winning the tournament. Later I realized that I couldn't really have hoped for more in the final position.
[Event "Open Leuven 5de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Barbe, T."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2090"] [PlyCount "46"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 {(I rehearsed my notes of the Zaitsev in my preparation of this game but the Breyer is a surprise. Anyway Toms most recent games in the megadatabase go back to 2004 so I already assumed that it would be unlikely he still plays the Zaitsev.)} 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. a4 Bg7 16. Bd3 {(I recommended this move in my analysis of my game against the Ukrainian grandmaster Mikhail Kozakov, played in 2005.)} c6 17. Qc2 {(However here I discovered that I had never really studied this line properly. In the megadatabase you can still find a couple of hundred games with this position of which some played at a very high level. It is once more an embarrassing proof of how bad my repertoire is after 20 years of competition. Critical in this position are today Be3 or Bg5.)} Qc7 18. b3 d5 19. dxe5 {(Exd5 and Ba3 were already tested in practice but just like in this game black has comfortable play.)} Nxe4 20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Bxe4 Nxe5 22. Nxe5 Bxe5 23. Bd2 Rab8 {(Tom proposed a draw which I accepted after a long hesitation. Against a 200 lower rated player you play normally for a win with white especially if you had to spend almost no effort in the previous round of the same day. On the other hand I did not like the position and Tom had just defeated the Belgian IM Pieter Claesen.)} (23... Rab8 24. b4 { (I wanted to play this move in the game but there exist other possibilities.)} c5 {(Neither forced but Tom indicated after the game that he had planned this move.) } 25. Bxb7 Qxb7 26. bxc5 {(I got the impression that Tom had missed this move during the game but I assume that he would have found the correct moves hereafter.)} Qd5 27. axb5 axb5 28. Be3 b4 29. Bd4 Bxd4 30. cxd4 Rxe1 31. Rxe1 Qxd4 32. Rb1 Rb5 33. c6 Rc5 34. Qb2 Qxb2 35. Rxb2 Rxc6 36. Rxb4 $11) 1/2-1/2
Despite playing a very limited repertoire I haven't met this line anymore in the last 10 years in a standard game. It is recurrent problem which I link to a lack of experience. The Belgium IM Stefan Docx already advised me to play (much) more if I want to grow as a chess-player. I also realize that playing averagely 23 games each year (see previous article) is way not enough.

In the end it is a matter of setting priorities. Chess is very important for me but I don't want to sacrifice everything for it so I deliberately made the decision to reduce my chess-activities 10 years ago. Contrary to many contemporaries whom stopped playing chess, I learned to accept my limited knowledge of openings. Besides as HK5000 once told me, from each game played you still learn something. On the other hand theory is evolving so quickly that I get the feeling that my pace only gets me further behind. For the time being I don't see a visible improvement with my renewed method of studying openings. Maybe the (nearby) future will improve things especially if my son Hugo will start to enjoy playing serious tournaments.