Monday, March 20, 2017


At the end of a working week colleagues sometimes ask what my plans are for the weekend. Often my response is that I will play a game in the interclub. Subsequently I need to explain this a bit as outsiders don't understand how you can play chess in a team. Isn't chess played 1 player against 1 player? That is right. A teamchampionship is nothing more than adding up the points of the games and comparing the total scores between both teams.

Of course you can wonder what exactly is so attractive to teamchampionships. 1552 players are expected each interclubround in Belgium. If you compare this number with any other competition in Belgium then you find out this is gigantic. Nevertheless players need to sacrifice 11 Sundays in a season while other tournaments are struggling to survive despite less play-days.

It is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Without the massive amount of participants the interclub would never attract so many (new) participants and exactly because of this power of attraction the interclub has this huge amount of participants. On the other hand also the unique format plays a role which allows everybody to play against players of approximately the same strength. The 5 divisions ensure some sort of separation between the different playing strengths. So you don't only play 11 interesting games in the interclub but you can also after the games discuss about chess with players of your own level.

However I don't want to elaborate further about this here. No I am more interested in finding out if there can exist some cohesion and team-spirit in a group of players put together often by fate in one team. Is something like that possible for chessplayes whom are often extremely individualistic. Well honestly I think it is not so easy and sometimes simply impossible. Some teams work with a rotating system of players which doesn't allow you to create a real team-spirit. Besides even a very fixed group of players won't give you any guarantees. If I look to our current first team of Deurne and compare this with the one of a decade ago then still 5 players of the 8 are the same. Nonetheless I was very surprised to find out after our recent match in Gent against Jean Jaures that we drove back in 5 cars !

Nevertheless players of a team can also become real friends which I experienced from my years in the French interclubs. Each round efforts were made to build a team-spirit. It already started before the game. Everybody got involved in the composition of the team (the French interclub allows to some extend to move players from position). 10 minutes before the round we got each time a serious pep-talk from the president and also after the game we tried to know each-other better by having dinner together in a restaurant. Draws could only be proposed or accepted via the teamcaptain. I still remember very well how I once was reproached for accepting a draw without consultation in the position below.
De La Riva Aguando,O 2549 - Brabo 2308 : 1/2 - 1/2
The final position is close to equal and I thought a draw with black against a 250 points higher rated grandmaster is a very good result. However at that moment we were behind in the match and my draw only increased the pressure in the remaining ongoing games for our team-members. So my draw sort of sealed our match-defeat. It was a painful but also instructive lesson.

By aging I learned to become a better team-player even if this is not always matching my own ambitions. Today I am willing to take more risks when the match-situation expects this from myself. Last I was contemplating a very risky exchange-sacrifice in the final position of my game against Ian Vandelacluze. Only after finding out that the match-victory was already secure, I allowed the repetition of moves.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Wetteren"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Vandelacluze, I."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2100"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r7/2p1kp2/1p4p1/p1p1PbNp/5P2/P1P2KPP/1P1R4/8 b - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "32"] 35... Bd7 {(Black has proposed earlier already a draw but only now I inform my opponent that I agree. However this was only done after that I checked our team won the match as otherwise I surely would have tried a risky exchange-sacrifice.)} 36. Rxd7 {(The kibitzers laughed at my proposal but I believe it is playable.)} (36. g4 {(The kibitzers looked especially to this move but I correctly evaluated that black has nothing to worry.)} hxg4 37. hxg4 Rh8 38. Kg3 Rh1 39. Nxf7 Rg1 40. Kf2 Rxg4 41. Kf3 Rg1 42. Ng5 Bc6 43. Kf2 Rg4 44. Ke3 Rg3 45. Kf2 Rg4 46. Ke3 Rg3 47. Kf2 Rg4 $11) 36... Kxd7 37. Nxf7 Ke7 (37... Ke6 {(After the game we looked mainly to a quick infiltration of the black king but this would go terribly wrong.)} 38. Ng5 Kd5 39. g4 hxg4 40. hxg4 Kc4 $2 41. f5 $18) 38. Ng5 Rd8 39. Ke2 c4 40. Nf3 Rd3 41. g4 Ke6 42. Ng5 $1 Kd5 43. e6 $1 {(Stockfish plays again this endgame masterly. Komodo commits mistakes here and a move earlier.)} Kd6 44. f5 gxf5 45. gxh5 Rg3 46. h4 Rg4 47. h6 Rxh4 48. h7 Ke7 49. Kf3 Rh5 50. Kf4 Kf6 51. Kf3 {(Black can not take the knight with both pieces due to a promotion. None of both sides can improve their position so we have a very peculiar draw on the board. It is very doubtful we would have seen this position in practice. Anyway I claim that after the exchange-sacrifice the 3 results so win, draw and loss were possible.)} 1/2-1/2
Initially my teammates were not fond of my exchange-sacrifice. Only after showing some lines they agreed that it was the only serious try for white to win in the finalposition.

So teamchampionships can definitely make games more fascinating especially if matchpoints are used. However not everybody is willing to cooperate or even capable to think beyond their own game. It is neither fully wrong to put yourself first as in the end it are your own ratingpoints which are at stake. This is also the reason why some players endeavor to exclude teamchampionships from rating calculations.


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