Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Bird

The exponential growth of grandmasters has generated an equal increase of all kind of (paying) chess-publications. They can't live from only the prizes of tournaments so they look for alternatives to earn a living. Despite a big illegal market we see there are still sufficient honest players willing to pay for the products. It is after all very attractive to learn a new opening by reading a book or more modern watching a dvd if this will let you score some easy extra points.

Especially the more modern version so the DVD is today very popular. Look at Chessbase newest products and you find a big variety of interesting stuff. It is very suitable for chessplayers as they are naturally pretty lazy so they want to see quick results by a minimum of effort. Besides also the author and the publisher loves the format. There is no need to spend months correcting text as a video can be recorded in just a couple of days. The only disadvantage is maybe that the author needs to travel and stay for a couple of days in the recording-studio.

We do notice of course a difference of quality between a book and DVD. I don't mean with quality especially the analysis but rather the summary, references and the didactic value are very strongly dependent of the format. The analysis is a matter of preparation and experience. Selecting the games, analyzing them and making a synthesis is done in advance. A writer has a bit more flexibility as he can easier add at the last moment a new chapter to his book.

A common question is how much experience must an author have about the subject he discuss. Very recently the strong Dutch grandmaster Erwin L'Ami published a DVD about the Dutch stonewall which surprised me. I play/ study almost 2 decades this opening and I never encountered any games of Erwin with this opening. This was also confirmed by checking chess-db. I found only 1 regular stonewall game played in standard conditions from 2016 which he even lost see Viktor Laznicka - Erwin L'Ami. Of course nothing about this was said in the commercial of the Indian IM Sagar Shah at Chessbase.

Now to avoid any misunderstandings I don't state that the DVD is bad. A +2600 player is perfectly capable to study independently a new opening, find new ideas and ameliorations without playing 1 official game with the opening. Besides the lack of experience can be mitigated by testing online. In my article Tom Piceu leads Bruges through 1st division I already mentioned that Erwin plays an enormous amount of games online. So Erwin definitely has something interesting to say about the Dutch stonewall for any average clubplayer willing to expand his repertoire.

On the other hand I don't want to minimize experience. Feeling wood is the ultimate test for somebodies repertoire. If you can refer to your own practice then this will always improve the story. A nice example is the series books of the strong Indian grandmaster Negi Parimarjan which received very good critics. The Dutch top-grandmaster Anish Giri even stated at Chessbase that Negi is crazy to be so honest.

Later it became clear Negi already decided earlier to stop (temporarily ?) to be an active professional player. After the series he played averagely only 9 games each year. Once he was the youngest grandmaster in the world so maybe another example of somebody started too young playing too much chess. It reminds me also of the Dutch grandmaster Karel Van der Weide writing a kind of chess-testimony see article quitting chess.

Players whom are "too honest" and at the same time active are scarce. It is a pity but perfectly understandable. I remember an old anecdote of the French grandmaster Anatoly Vaisser. After the publication of his book Beating the King'sIndian and Benoni everybody avoided in his games his beloved four pawn-system against the Kings-Indian. The only exceptions were players having read his book and they always chose the same boring anti-dote covered in that same book. Another disadvantage of playing your own recommended openings was mentioned at the Quality Chess blog. After the author lost in a critical line of the book, suddenly the salesfigures of that book started to plump very quickly.

A category of authors little or not impacted by above problems are non-professional players. Their books are not so popular as I already showed in my article theory but as money plays no role, we often see a much bigger affinity with the subject. An absolute model example is the recently published monumental work of the Romantic player Henry Bird written by the Belgian FM Hans Renette.
I strongly consider to buy this book when I finished Timman's TitansHis impressive article at has fascinated me. Only the fact that Hans worked 8 years at the book, makes it already something very special.

Nevertheless I notice little attention to this project was given in the media. Even in Belgium any advertising was lacking although this is not a big surprise as there is barely any national/ regional site existing which reports about chess. Therefore maybe Hans thought it could be a good idea to play the Bird in the last round of Open Leuven with the tournament-victory at stake. I was the antagonist but I refused to cooperate to the plot he wanted.
[Event "Open Leuven 7de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Renette, H."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A03"] [WhiteElo "2365"] [BlackElo "2283"] [PlyCount "37"] 1. f4 {(Having black against a higher rated player in the last round is not the most wanted pairing. On the other hand I knew that Hans was inactive last couple of years so I thought that I am not a big underdog. Hans also did not trust his normal repertoire as he chose a back-up system which he played a few times in the past. Besides Hans was lately busy writing a monumental biography of the 19th century top-player Henry Bird. I have not -yet- read the book but I do expect something mentioned about the Bird opening too in the book.)} d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {(In 2012 I played first g6. This time I thought if white did not play b3 at move 2 then he will neither do at move 3. This makes it more logical to play the more flexible Nf6 but in the end it often does not matter as it just transposes.)} 3. g3 {(Hans knew that I play the Dutch but also that I do not choose the Leningrad. On the other hand I did not find any earlier games with g3 of Hans in the database. With black Hans did play a couple of times the Lenigrad.)} g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. d3 {(E3 would transpose to my game of 2012 against Bart Devliegher. D3 is of course the main-line.)} c5 7. Qe1 d4 { (I was here more or less out of book. I assumed d4 still existed but only after the game I found out that there were still more than 100 master-games played with this position.)} 8. Na3 Nc6 9. Bd2 {(C3 is much more popular. I expect Hans was also out of book here.)} Be6 {(Here Nd5 is more often played. Nevertheless the engines like the move at least as much as Nd5.)} 10. c4 { (This was criticized after the game by Hans among others but there exists nothing clearly better. Besides c4 was chosen in 3 out of 4 games in the mega-database.)} Qc8 {(I prefer Qc8 instead of Qd7 to keep the option of Bd7 and also make Rd8 more attractive. Still the engines consider Qd7 slightly stronger as Bg4 is good after Ng5 and connecting the rooks is more important.)} 11. Nc2 a5 12. a3 {(Hans told me after the game that he missed the a5-pawn would drop after Ng5.)} (12. Ng5 $6 Bf5 13. Bxc6 $6 Qxc6 14. Bxa5 $6 Qa4 $19 {(This double attack I missed during the game. On the other hand I knew of course even without this move that black has plenty of compensation for the pawn.)} ) 12... a4 13. Rb1 $6 {(Natural but this gives black the initiative. Better are e3 or e4 and it is close to equality.)} Bh3 14. b4 axb3 15. Rxb3 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Nd7 17. h3 e6 18. Qf2 Qc7 19. Rfb1 {(Hans proposed a draw which I accepted after a couple of minutes. I realized that I was a bit better in the final position but winning is still something else especially if you have only a bit more than a half hour left on the clock. Besides I remembered my defeat of a few years ago against Hans in a similar good position. Finally the draw assured me a nice prize -380 euro - and before the game I already was satisfied with the draw.)} 1/2-1/2
No in the end the Belgian FM Arno Bomans won the tournament. This was already covered at schaakfabriek. Maybe a small consolation is that Arne is an affectionado of the inverted Bird or also called the Dutch. At the Belgian championship things didn't work out with the Dutch as the opponents were very well prepared with new ideas but in an open tournament this danger is almost non-existent. His best inverted Bird of the tournament must be the game against his club-mate Jonas.
[Event "Open Leuven 2016"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2016.11.12"] [Round "4"] [White "Van Cappellen Jonas"] [Black "Bomans Arno"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A87"] [PlyCount "61"] 1. d4 f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. d5 a5 9. Re1 Na6 10. e4 fxe4 11. Ng5 Bg4 12. Qa4 {(A novelty but also a serious error which immediately costs material. Qd2 is correct but also then blacks opening can be called a success.)} Qxa4 13. Nxa4 Nb4 14. Rb1 Nc2 15. Rf1 Be2 16. Nc3 Bxf1 17. Bxf1 Nd4 18. Ngxe4 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 e6 20. dxe6 Rae8 21. Be3 Nf3 22. Kg2 Rxe6 23. Bd3 Ne5 24. Be2 h6 25. Nc3 c6 26. Rd1 Kh8 27. h4 Rfe8 28. Rd2 Nf7 29. Nd1 h5 30. Rd3 R6e7 31. Ra3 {(I remember the game lasted longer. Black is very likely winning but it is still a bit early to resign. Any case I am willing to update the game if I can get some additional information of the moves.)} 0-1


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