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.


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