Thursday, August 3, 2017


Last week there was breaking international chess-news by the announcement of Magnus Carlsen playing the world-cup in September. Not only Magnus likes the format of the tournament contrary to many of his (older) colleagues but his unexpected participation also creates complications. The world-cup is a qualification-tournament for the candidates-tournament but it is not totally clear who will qualify if Magnus finishes at a qualification-spot.

Many players consider the world-cup a pure lottery but Magnus knows very well that the format is fitting him. It will be a matter of not losing at standard chess against the strongest opponents as in the tie-break he has very good chances. The tie-break consists exclusively out of rapid and blitz and he excels in those disciplines as the undisputed number 1. The rating-differences with the other leading players is often more than 100 points see 2700chess. Briefly financially- and publicity-wise his participation is a very well calculated gamble.

Doubtless the world-cup will get much more attention of the media than usual. A world-champion upgrades a tournament immediately. I expect many fans will again want to follow Magnus's games live. On the other hand it is still just a big circus and the participation of Magnus doesn't change that. Matches of only 2 standard games can't be considered as a serious test between players. You need much more games to define who is the better player. However rarely there is money and time available for such longer matches.

The world-championship-finals are the last remainders of our rich match-history. As they only consist of maximum 12 standard games, often this doesn't suffice to define  a winner so a tie-break is needed. It is a sad but necessary evolution in our today's society. I still need a couple of months to finish the book H.E. Bird written by Hans Renette but it already stroke me that chess in the 19th century was very different compared to how we play nowadays. Matches were most common as in that era the very first tournaments were only starting to appear. In other words chess before 1900 mainly happened by challenging a player for a match or accepting matches. Besides when we talk about a match then it is not just a couple of games. Henry Bird played not less than 4 matches in 1873 against the former British champion John Wisker which corresponds to a total of 58 games. That is even more than the famous aborted match between Karpov - Kasparov played in 1984/85.

I played a couple of matches myself but solely against engines see (gambits and chesskids). A match against a strong local player was something I welcomed 4 years ago here on the blog (see this reaction) but nothing came out of it as usual. The only thing which looks a bit similar are my individual head to head scores. The chess-world is very small so you always bump against the same opponents in the different tournaments. Nevertheless the number of players against whom I played more than 5 standard games is very limited.
Players against I played at least 5 times a long game
Despite a chess-career of more than 20 years this is a very short list. I assume a similar list of Tom Piceu will contain much bigger matches and will also be much longer. His annotations of a game played against Thibaut Maenhout  "game eleventhirty" clearly tells us that he meets some players very regularly. The reason of my short list is simple. I play not so much. Tom is a couple of years younger than me and has 1104 Belgian rated games. I only have 478.

The first player of my list is an old friend: the Belgian expert Pascal Bauwe playing for the West-Flemish chessclub Kortrijk. End of the 90's I met him often when I was still playing for de Roeselaarse Torrewachters but afterwards we lost contact. He is a very solid player and very difficult to beat as he has a couple of decades experience.
Our 4 earlier confrontations were draws but I don't find them interesting enough to publish here. The last one dates already from 1999 so in the recent Open Gent I was eager to finally open the score. I am not anymore the player of 20 years ago so I wanted to demonstrate that on the board. It was maybe my best game of the tournament as I didn't make any clear mistakes.
[Event "Open Gent 2de ronde"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Bauwe, P."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2307"] [BlackElo "2012"] [PlyCount "81"] [Round "?"] [Site "?"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6 { (2 earlier mutual games were played in 1997 and 1999 with the same colors. At that time he chose cxd4 and a6) } 8.Na4 Qa5+ 9.c3 b6 10.Bd2 c4 11.b4 Qa6 12.Qc2 { (Pascal tried to surprise me with this line. However if he followed my blog or consulted the database then he should have detected that I already met this line. In my game against the Dutch FM Henk Vedder I played in 2014 first Be2 and only next Qc2. Honestly I forgot the order during the game but I was not afraid as I remembered my analysis was telling that both were ok for some advantage.) } 12...Be7 13.Be2 g6?! { (Black wants to avoid f5 but now his position gets too static. In the game black can not find counterplay. Better was Qb7.) } 14.O-O Nf8 15.Nb2 Qb7 16.a4 Bd7 17.Nd1 h5 18.Be1 Kd8 19.Ne3 Rg8 20.Rd1 Rc8 21.h3 Nh7 22.g4!? { (Nd2 is defintely worth considering.) } 22...hxg4 23.hxg4 f5?! { (Black becomes impatient but this just worsens things. Waiting was stronger with a6 and Kc7.) } 24.exf6 Bxf6 25.Kg2 Be8 26.Rh1 Nf8 27.Bg3 Bf7 28.Rh6 Ke8 29.Re1 Rd8 30.Bd1 a5 31.b5 Na7 32.Qe2 Nc8 33.Bc2 Ne7 34.Nd1 Rh8 35.Rxh8 Bxh8 36.Bh4 Rc8 37.Nf2 Nh7 38.Nh3 Qc7 39.f5 gxf5 40.gxf5 Bf6 41.Bg3 { (Black lost on time but his position also collapses.) } 1-0

Pascal told me after the game that he was aware of my blog but as many doesn't read the articles carefully. His opening-gamble backfired which he could have knows if he read my article creating a repertoire. It once more proofs my proposition made in the article password.

Such sort of matches spread over many years are of course not the same as played over only a couple of days/ weeks. A player evolves technically as by his openingchoices. Nevertheless some characteristics won't change. If somebody doesn't like to prepare games 20 years ago then likely he won't prepare today either. An attacker will rarely transform to a positional player and vice versa.

Today we have all ratings so those head to head scores have little to no value for the public. However for the related players it often feels differently. It is no coincidence that a derby always gets extra attention. The games between the Belgian international masters Stefan Docx and Geert Van der Stricht create always extra tension. For each game there is a cup at stake which the winner can take home. The cup is provided by the winner of their last encounter. If it is a draw then the cup remains in the hands of the winner of their last encounter. I find this a very funny and creative method to generate an extra dimension to their lifelong match.


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