Wednesday, February 28, 2018

To analyze using a computer part 3

December was a dark month for Stockfish. First Stockfih was beaten by Alpha Zero see Next Stockfish didn't manage to qualify for the TCEC-super-final of season 10 the first since years. If you would only look at those facts then many would decide to stop working with Stockfish.

However if we are investigating more closely the data then we see a very different picture. The beating by Alpha Zero was eventually only a difference of 64-36 which corresponds to about a gap of 100 elo see the fide-handbook. Besides there was a lot of critics on how Stockfish was operated. In my previous article I already explained how easily you can get a difference of a couple of hundred ratingpoints by just manipulating some parameters. This is not even taking into account the missing opening-book and the very limited hash-table which definitely also impacted the playing-strength of the engine. In short a match where Stockfish would get better conditions, could well reverse the final result but this will never be allowed of course by deepmind of Google.

Also the early elimination of Stockfish after stage 2 in season 10 was no disgrace at all. Contrary to previous years after stage 2 immediately the super-final was played. Consequently a lot depended on how the best engines performed against the weaker ones. Stockfish was the only engine not losing a game but finally ended a half point from the leaders. So the 2 finalists (Komodo en Houdini) never proofed their superiority. Personally I believe Stockfish is the strongest engine today available. After the final it won the TCEC-rapid and the newest release 9  (available since beginning of this month) leads at ccrl with 39 elo.

Naturally Chessbase doesn't report anything about the success of Stockfish on their website. The engine destroys their market. Even when a new top-engine like Houdini 6 is introduced then mainly negative comments are received. You really need to be stupid to pay 100 euro while a stronger engine is available for free. An open forum creates extra visitors but can also cause damage to your business. Personally I think such comments are inappropriate. First you get more than just an engine for the 100 euro. Also you can't expect that everybody wants to work for free. There is nothing wrong with trying to make a living from creating new interesting things.

Still if we only concentrate at the engine then we can wonder how necessary it is for ourselves to get an extra engine beside Stockfish. Do other engines have an added value for us? Well honestly I doubt it for 99,9% of the players. The quality of Stockfish's analysis suffice for any player till at least 2600 fide and maybe even higher. Only for some theoreticians like correspondence-players and the world-top in otb it becomes doubtful to only rely at Stockfish. I call it doubtful as today it is really not clear if an extra engine will still bring something extra. To support this statement, I made during the 2 weeks of the last Christmas holidays a special research-project.

In the 6th round of the last Open Leuven again like last summer at Gent see evolution, I didn't stand a chance against the Belgian IM Stefan Docx. Again I was surprised in the opening and was trailing the whole game. However this time the problem of the opening was more serious than last time. Despite many hours of analysis I was not able to repair the system at home. In the end I had to admit the opening was not fully correct so I should look for something else instead. However I am rather reluctant today to learn something completely new from scratch. I play few games so the work should be proportional. Stefan recommended the classical Dutch as that is the closest related to my repertoire. Just recently our current world-champion Magnus demonstrated the viability of this opening in a secret online blitz-game.
[Event "Online blitz"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Gustafsson, J."] [Black "Carlsen, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A99"] [PlyCount "50"] [Sourcedate "2018.02.22"] [Sourceversiondate "2018.02.22"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.Nf3 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.O-O Be7 5.c4 O-O 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 Qe8 8.b3 a5 9.Ba3 Na6 10.Rc1 Nb4 11.Qd2 Ne4 12.Nxe4 fxe4 13.Ne1 Qg6 14.Nc2 Bg5 15.e3 Nd3 16.Rcd1 e5 17.Bxe4 { (After the game Jan complained that he hadn't studied yet this opening but his defeat wasn't related to his poor knowledge.) } ( 17.dxe5 Bg4 18.Bxe4 Qxe4 19.Qxd3 Qxd3 20.Rxd3 Be2 21.Rd2 Bxf1 22.Kxf1 Be7 23.Ke2 $16 ) 17...Qxe4 18.Qxd3 Qf3 19.dxe5 Bf5 20.e4 ( 20.Nd4 Bxd3 21.Nxf3 Bxf1 22.Nxg5 Be2 23.Rd2 a4 24.Bb2 Bg4 25.exd6 axb3 26.axb3 cxd6 27.h3 $14 ) 20...Qxd3 21.Rxd3 Bxe4 22.Rc3 Bd2 23.Re3 Bxc2 24.Re2 Bb4 25.Bxb4 Bd3 0-1
Nevertheless Magnus can probably play anything especially at blitz and still win. Even in that Magnus' game black's position was several moves pretty dubious. So I wasn't convinced yet to take up the classical Dutch in my repertoire. I needed to know more about the quality of the opening. Of course the first thing you need to check are recent articles/ books about this opening. The e-book The Killer Dutch, published in 2015 can probably considered today as the current best up to date theoretical work about this opening. The author is the English grandmaster Simon Williams. He is the biggest expert in the opening. Unfortunately from theoretical point of view this book comes short. Simon doesn't write for theoreticians but he explains the opening from a pure practical use in tournament-play. That is understandable as the practical player is his main reading-audience. So some critical lines are a little too easy categorized as harmless.

If no good theoretical references exist then the only thing which remains is to start your own research. However that is easier said than done. Even an opening like the classical Dutch contains today a myriad of variations. Below you see a screenshot of my current personal opening-book only built with games of the Megadatase in which at least one color has + 2300 fide.
That is +1700 games and we still need to add the correspondence-games and the engine-games which also could influence the evaluation of the different lines. In my article studying openings part 2 I already explained that 100 games often take about a week to digest. So I realized in advance that I had to change my working-methods to process +1000 games within an acceptable time-frame. The first adaptation was to prioritize the lines played the most often in practice instead of the lines recommended by the engine. Especially at a very early stage of the opening which is here the case, we often see that the engine plays inferior moves compared to a strong opening-book (see also the earlier reference to the match between Alpha Zero and Stockfish). It is necessary to analyze side-lines to support the main-lines but analyzing side-lines to detect the main-lines is mainly a waste of time.

A second important time-improvement without loss of quality was expected by not checking everything anymore by a 2nd engine (see my old article to analyze using a computer part 1). It is very time-consuming to switch between engines even if 2 computers are used. That is the link to my introduction in which I announced a special research-project. Instead of checking everything twice, I only did for some positions which I considered critical for the evaluation of the opening. This means only the positions where best play of both sides could/ would still give an edge to white by the first engine.

In the end only 18 positions remained to be checked by a second engine. The result was stunning. Only for 3 positions there was a conflict due to the smallest possible difference of only 1 hundredth of a pawn. I discussed this absurd phenomenon in my article annotations. I like to use strict boundaries to achieve a very objective method of analyzing but in some exceptional cases this can create some weird evaluations. In other words the only conclusion of the project is that the extra analysis with the 2nd engine was not adding anything substantial.

It again demonstrates how drastic the engines have evolved in the last years. 10 years ago it was rare that 2 top-engines were so often agreeing. You could easily find positions in which one engine would tell you that white is winning while the other one would state black is winning. Extra analysis were necessary to find who was right or wrong. In some cases the truth was somewhere in middle. Today not only we see top-engines prefer the same move but also sometimes show the same main-line. In fact it is not so surprising as engines are getting closer to perfection. Besides Stockfich applies an open source strategy. Everybody is allowed to see their code and learn from it. Of course other top-engines copy stuff which again diminishes the differences between them. Before the old top-engines were more closed.

So this means we can skip the 2nd engine forever. No, that conclusion we can't make yet. It is not because we don't see differences for the classical Dutch that there exist none between the engines. The qualities of an engine are not depending on just one opening. It is also the most important reason why tests of engines happen with a wide range of openings. Recently I detected a serious difference of evaluation in a position popping up from a Spanish Breyer-opening. See below screenshot in which we see both engines calculating in parallel.

While Stockfish claims a big advantage, Komodo states it is approximately equal. So for some special positions some extra analysis remains necessary to know which engine to trust. Anyway the number of special position quickly diminishes.

Theoreticians will still have to use a second engine. For players not interested in maximum quality, it makes no sense anymore to buy a 2nd engine. I will use also less a 2nd engine in the future. Only for detecting small differences (0,3 pawn) I still see an added value. Today a 2nd engine has become redundant in positions with an evaluation higher than +2 or lower than -2.

Finally maybe some reader wonders what I concluded about the classical Dutch. A very concise summary of the weeks of analysis can be found below.
[Event "Veterans World Cup9 Gr20"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2016.09.01"] [Round "?"] [White "Oppermann, Peter"] [Black "Prystenski, Arthur"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A96"] [WhiteElo "2291"] [BlackElo "2222"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [Sourcetitle "UltraCorrX-revised"] [Source "Tim Harding"] [Sourcedate "2017.09.15"] [Sourceversion "2"] [Sourceversiondate "2017.09.15"] [Sourcequality "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O d6 7.Nc3 { (This position can be reached via different move-orders. It is the critical starting position of the classical Dutch.) } 7...Ne4 { (The English grandmaser Simon Williams calls this the modern variation. The play becomes quickly very sharp in this line contrary to the more positional a5. Anyway this is blacks best chance to equalize as my analysis showed that a slow approach of black allows too much initiative to white.) } 8.Nxe4 { (I consider this the most critical test but also against Qc2, Qd3, Bd2 and Nd2 black has no easy task to get equality.) } 8...fxe4 9.Nd2 { (Ne1 should not be underestimated by black.) } 9...d5 10.f3 { (First e3 is also possible and can lead to a transposition of the game.) } 10...Nc6 11.e3 { (Before fxe4 was considered the mainline but I find today e3 more clear.) } ( 11.fxe4 Rxf1+ 12.Kxf1 { (This refinement to Nxf1 was discovered first in 2013 and played in correspondence chess.) } 12...dxc4 13.Nf3 b5 14.Be3 Qf8 { (The Chech correspondence-player Zdenec Nemec is the last player still willing to defend this line. Anyhow I can't say black's play is a walk in the park.) } 15.Kg1 ( 15.a4 b4 16.Kg1 Rb8 17.Rc1 Na5 18.Ne5 c3 19.bxc3 b3 20.c4 Qe8 21.Rb1 Ba6 22.Bf4 g5 23.Be3 Qxa4 24.Bh3 { (The correspondence-game Pekin,T - Nemec, Z played in 2017 was drawn after 33 moves.) } ) 15...Bb7 16.Qd2 Rd8 17.Bh3 Qf6 18.Bg5 Qf7 19.b3 cxb3 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 21.axb3 a6 22.Rc1 h6 23.Qc3 Re8 24.Qc5 { (The correspondence-game Willmann,B - Nemec,Z played in 2015 was also drawn in 51 moves.) } ) 11...exf3 12.Nxf3 b6 { (Bf6 was played more often in otb but after Qc2 recommended by the engines white is simply better.) } 13.Bd2 Bb7 14.Rc1! Qd6 15.Qc2! Rac8 16.cxd5! exd5 17.b4! { (With a series of powerful moves black gets into serious troubles.) } 17...Nxb4 18.Bxb4 Qxb4 19.Bh3 Qa3 20.Ne5 Rce8 21.Be6+ Kh8 22.Nf7+ Rxf7 23.Bxf7 Rc8 24.Be6 Rd8 25.Rf3 c6 26.Bg4 Bf6 27.Kg2 Qe7 28.Qa4 Ba8 29.Bf5 g6 30.Bd3 Bg7 31.Rcf1 a5 32.Qb3 Rb8 33.Bc2 Kg8 34.h4 c5 35.Rf7 Qe6 36.dxc5 b5 37.Ra7 { (This was breathtaking chess. This level of modern correspondence-chess can not be achieved by us mortals in otb.) } 1-0


Addendum 21 March 2018
At an important improvement was shown for black by the German FM Stefan Buecker in the classical Dutch. The novelty 13...a5 instead of the played 13...Bb7 revitalizes this line.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

To analyze using a computer part 2

More than 2 decades ago I started to play chess. At that time a lot of scepticism existed about engines. Many avoided them as those things were considered not to play real chess and surely won't be able to teach you anything. This feeling was very widespread as even till a couple of years ago some older players still had never worked with any engine despite playing chess sometimes already for decades.

Such thoughts seem unimaginable for today's young generation used to work with many different chess-programs. Few will still deny that a computer can be very useful to learn chess. Besides we see everyday new programs popping up extending the current applications. Obviously this changed world has created the need for guidance. However as was already valid about 6 years ago see part 1, today still very few or no good literature can be found about this subject. Therefore I expect we will see an increasing demand for special info-sessions about how and which chess-software to use. Recently I gave presentations for LSV and Mechelen. The +60 years old Belgian FM Johan Goormachtigh has offered 5 courses in KGSRL (Gent) which will also include how to work with Chessbase. I guess his content will be limited to the basics considering the target-audience and his rather sporadic use of the tools.

So every ambitious player will today submit his games to the critical evaluations of an engine. Nowadays probably the DroidFish Chess app is the most used engine to get a quick verdict of a game. Almost 100% of the young players possess a smartphone so after their games they will use it to quickly get an assessment of the moves. Unfortunately most of them won't look at the game anymore at home.  2 months ago there was a discussion at chesspub about how useful such homework could still be. Some poster claimed that I am just losing my time by analyzing deeper my games and it would be better to spend that time to other chess-activities like reading chess-books, solving exercises,...

He is definitely not alone with this view. In the past more than one international master told me they were spending much less time at analyzing their played games. So maybe indeed there are better methods to improve at chess. On the other hand it is not a hard proof. Maybe those international masters would've been today (much) stronger if they would have spent more time at analyzing their games. Another argument is that the current top-engines are so strong that it makes no sense to  give an engine a lot of time to analyze the moves. I made a quick experiment to test this statement by running a full analysis using the Fritz 15 interface with below hyper-fast configuration and using the engine Komodo 11.
This means Komodo gets only 1 second per move. Next I use a threshold of 30 so if my move deviates 0,3 pawns from the best move then the engine will comment. Finally for the opening I use as reference-database a correspondence database. For the test I use my game against the Dutch IM Xander Wemmers which was already covered in my article secret as that game contains a number of mistakes. The amazing output is produced in just a couple of minutes by the machine.
[Event "Interclub Borgerhout - Deurne"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Wemmers, X."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2310"] [Annotator "Komodo 11 64-bit (1s)"] [PlyCount "98"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] { [%mdl 8192] A90: Dutch Defence: Miscellaneous and Modern Stonewall (with ... Bd6) } 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.O-O Bd6 6.c4 c6 7.Nc3 O-O 8.Qc2 Ne4 9.Rb1 a5 10.a3 Nd7 11.b4 axb4 12.axb4 Ndf6 13.b5 $146 ( 13.c5 Bc7 14.b5 Nxc3 15.Qxc3 Ne4 16.Qc2 cxb5 17.Rxb5 b6 18.cxb6 Bxb6 19.Bf4 Ba6 20.Rb3 Bc4 21.Rb2 Rc8 22.Ra1 Ba5 23.Ra3 Bc7 24.e3 Bxf4 25.exf4 Rf7 26.Ne5 Rfc7 27.Ra1 Bb5 { Brzezinski,B (2221)-Zawadski,A (2178) ICCF 2014 1/2-1/2 } ) ( 13.c5 Bb8 $14 ) 13...Nxc3 14.Qxc3 cxb5 15.c5 { White threatens to win material: c5xd6 } 15...Bc7 ( 15...Ne4 16.Qc2 Bc7 17.Rxb5 $11 ) 16.Rxb5 b6 17.Bf4 ( 17.cxb6!? { must definitely be considered } 17...Bxb6 18.Bf4 $14 ) 17...Ne4 $15 { Black threatens to win material: Ne4xc3 } 18.Qe3 bxc5 19.dxc5 { White has a new passed pawn: c5 } 19...Bd7 { Black threatens to win material: Bd7xb5 } ( 19...Qe8!? $142 { might be a viable alternative } 20.Bxc7 Qxb5 $15 ) 20.Rbb1 $14 Rc8 21.Rfc1 h6 { Secures g5 } ( 21...Bxf4 22.gxf4 Be8 23.Nd4 $16 ) 22.Be5 ( 22.Bxc7 Rxc7 23.Ne5 Bc6 $16 ) 22...Bxe5 ( 22...Be8!? $14 ) 23.Nxe5 $16 Rc7 ( 23...Bc6 24.Qd4 $16 ) 24.f3 Nf6 ( 24...Ng5 25.Rb6 Re8 $16 ) 25.Qd4 ( 25.c6!? $142 Bc8 26.Qd4 $18 ) 25...Bc6 $16 { The bishop blocks c5 } 26.Rb6 { White threatens to win material: Rb6xc6 } 26...Qc8 27.e3 Nd7 28.Bf1 Nxe5 29.Qxe5 Qd7 30.Ra1 Rfc8 31.Raa6 ( 31.Ba6 Rd8 $14 ) 31...Kh8 ( 31...Qe7!? $11 ) 32.Qd6 Qe8 33.Bd3 ( 33.Rb8! Rxb8 34.Qxc7 $16 ) 33...Bd7 $11 34.Ra5 ( 34.Kf2 e5 35.Be2 e4 $11 ) 34...Qf8 ( 34...Qd8 35.Raa6 Rxc5 36.Rb7 $11 ) 35.e4 ( 35.Qxf8+ Rxf8 36.Kf2 Kg8 $11 ) 35...dxe4 36.fxe4 fxe4 ( 36...Qf6 37.Ba6 Qc3 38.Bxc8 Qe1+ 39.Kg2 Qe2+ 40.Kh3 Qg4+ 41.Kg2 Qe2+ 42.Kg1 Qe1+ 43.Kg2 Qe2+ $11 ) 37.Bxe4 { White king safety dropped } ( 37.Qxf8+ Rxf8 38.Bxe4 Rfc8 $14 ) 37...Kg8 { Black king safety dropped } ( 37...Qf6 $142 38.c6 Be8 $11 ) 38.Bd3?? { there were better ways to keep up the pressure } ( 38.Kg2 Qe8 $11 ) 38...Qxd6?? { letting the wind out of his own sails } ( 38...Qf3 $142 { Black would have gained the upper hand } 39.Ra2 Rxc5 $19 ) 39.Rxd6 ( 39.cxd6!? Rc3 40.Bg6 $14 ) 39...Kf7 $11 40.Rd4 Ke7 41.Rc4 Bc6 42.Kf2 Bd5 { Black threatens to win material: Bd5xc4 } 43.Rc2 Kf6 44.Ke3 Ke5 45.Be2 g5 46.Bg4 Rc6 47.Be2 R6c7 { Twofold repetition } 48.Bd3 Rc6 49.Be2 R6c7 1/2-1/2

I and Xander belong to the 1% best players but still at the rate of 1 second per move Komodo 11 could discover all the important mistakes while only running on a very moderate portable. It just shows how much stronger our best engines are today. Even with some very serious handicaps the devices still play much better than us. I made a small study to illustrate how much better this exactly is.
  • Estimated fide-rating of the current top-engine at the rate of 1 minute per move: 3200 (CCRL and SSDF talk about 3400 elo but I think the actual fide-elo can be easily a couple of hundreds lower.)
  • 1 year old top-engine: -52 elo (see my article rise of the machines part 2)
  • Extra ply : 66 elo (see
  • Extra engine running in parallel: - 1 ply (some tests on my laptop)
  • Extra line running in parallel: - 1 ply (some tests on my laptop)
  • Halving the time: - 1 ply (see
Example: 3 year old engine, 2 engines running in parallel, 15 seconds per move, 3 lines running in parallel
  • Start-base : 3200 elo
  • 3 year old engine: - 156 elo
  • 2 engines running in parallel: - 66 elo
  • 15 seconds per move: - 132 elo
  • 3 lines running in parallel:  -132 elo
Analysis are happening at the strength of 2714 elo.

So even if you use an outdated engine in a crippled way then the output is still at the level of a super-grandmaster. Shouldn't that be sufficient for us non professionals? Well I think we should be careful. It does make sense to strive for the highest quality. An opening-analysis is something you want to reuse later so to avoid any rework it is better to do it properly. Besides even killer-novelties can occur on amateur-level.

Also we should admit that the output of an engine is often very difficult to interpret correctly (see above dump). It is one thing to know where the mistakes are made but to understand and correct them is sometimes very hard. Often a lot of extra analyzing is necessary to get a full diagnosis. Check my article the butterfly-effect in which I demonstrated how I discovered by making some deep analysis why a small change of the position creates a big change of the evaluation. A technique which I often use for this kind of work is to let the engine play against itself.

Finally I also believe that working daily with the top-engines will improve your own understanding of chess. You need a tool to detect the small positional errors as it is not enough to just correct the big errors to become a master. Also just looking continuously to strong moves will be very good for your own development. Any trainer will recommend their students to watch and study grandmastergames and engines play even better than any grandmaster. The same comment I make about the lomonosov tablebases. No human is capable to copy the accuracy of the tablebases. Still I do experience that just consulting regularly the tablebases has improved my intuition in many endgames. I can much better estimate which endgames have or do not have serious winning chances.

When I started to analyze my games in 1990 using the assistance of my very first table-computer Mephisto Europa A (playing-strength 1700 elo) I was obliged to spend a lot of time just to achieve a minimum level of accuracy. This need doesn't exist anymore today but I learned in the meanwhile there are other reasons to still analyze deeply your own games. In any case it is much worse for your own development to analyze too little than to analyze too much.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The buzzword Internet of things sounds terrible but at the same time describes very well a very fast growing new phenomenon. More and more (new) applications are monitored and operated via the internet instead of humans. Also chess has changed. Online databases exist since the beginning of the internet but the pioneer chess.db was the first in 2012 to update at daily basis a database of played games. Suddenly it wasn't necessary anymore to buy expensive databases and update them regularly. By then end of 2013 already 40% of all players and coaches at the world youth-championship in Al Ain were using this online database see statistics chess.db.

Of course Chessbase didn't wait to counterattack and launched its own online database beginning of 2014. They update also daily their database with new games but were able to connect this new tool to their mainproduct Chessbase 14 (still release 12 in the year 2014)  This allowed them to gain back a lot of customers as it is much easier to prepare games using just one program. Later that year Chessbase also launched their cloud applications see part 1 and part 2. Sharing databases between people or just different devices (smartphone, tablet, computer,...) becomes very easy via the cloud.

Personally I am not yet adapting myself to this new internet-revolution. Today the internet-coverage is not yet 100% everywhere. A week ago there was an article at hln that still 39 Walloon cities have no 4G and even making a mobile call is difficult see here. Besides there are often extra costs connected to the internet. You need an internet-provider and the owner of the database can charge you something. Also big online databases have extra limitations as the functions are often restricted to avoid overload of the servers.

So I prefer databases stored directly on the hard-disk of my computer. Of course you lose extra time to regularly update those databases with the newest games or to synchronize your devices. A reaction at my LSV-session about chess-programs was that this seems a very cum-cumbersome task. If you are just an amateur then you don't want to spend daily some time at it. I fully understood this comment as I neither want to do that. To get a maximum return I decided to only twice per year update my databases. I do that just before the only 2 open tournaments (Gent and Leuven) I play each year. For the Belgium interclubs I fill the gaps by quickly checking chess.db to find out if there is something else I should analyze.

The updating process was described in my article using databases. A bit more than 1 hour this process takes and till recently I was satisfied about the results. Until recently as 2 months ago I detected by coincidence via the online chessdatabase that I had missed 2 important reference-games in my database. The first one was played at the Deutsche E-mail-Schachclub.
[Event "VM2007/Rd.2/Gr.A"] [Site ""] [Date "2008.05.20"] [Round "2"] [White "Koslowski, Volker"] [Black "Osthus, Reinhard"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "2008.??.??"] [Sourcetitle "UltraCorr3a"] [Source "Chess Mail Ltd"] [Sourcedate "2010.03.06"] [Sourceversion "3"] [Sourceversiondate "2010.03.06"] [Sourcequality "1"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.Nc3 a6 5.Be2 b5 6.O-O Bb7 7.Re1 Nd7 8.a4 c6 9.e5 dxe5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Qxd8+ Rxd8 12.axb5 cxb5 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.Nxb5 Nf6 15.Bf1 { (White has a clear edge but resignation seems premature. Probably black abandoned the game. These things happen regularly especially at less familiar servers.) } 1-0
A second game was played at the Lechenicher Chess-server. Black was the Belg Aime Truyens.
[Event "CP.2007.Q.00003"] [Site "LSS"] [Date "2009.01.15"] [Round "?"] [White "Bergmann, Michael"] [Black "Truyens, Aime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2453"] [BlackElo "2138"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2009.01.15"] [Eventtype "tourn (corr)"] [Sourcetitle "UltraCorrX-revised"] [Source "Tim Harding"] [Sourcedate "2017.09.15"] [Sourceversion "2"] [Sourceversiondate "2017.09.15"] [Sourcequality "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6 4.Nf3 d6 5.Be2 b5 6.O-O Bb7 7.Re1 Nd7 8.a4 c6 9.e5 dxe5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Nxe5 { (My analysis considers Bf4 slightly more accurate.) } 12...Bxe5 13.Bf3 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nf6 15.c4 Re8 16.h3 bxa4 17.Rxa4 Nd7 18.Be3 e5 19.Rea1 e4 20.Be2 c5 21.Ra5 Ke7 22.Rb1 Bc8 23.f3 Bb7 { (These type of errors happen sometimes in corrrespondence-chess. A player analyses the game at another board but uses the wrong position.) } 24.Rxb7 1-0
So the killer-novelty which I discussed in my last article, was not so new and was already played twice. That is just 1 specific position in which I found out a gap in my nevertheless freshly updated databases but likely there are many more of them. I am not collecting those type of correspondence-games not played at iccf. I realized that I should do so I started to look around willing to eventually pay a small sum for it.

My first address is of course Chessbase. They offer Corr Database 2018. 1,4 million games but not cheap at all as they ask 189,9 euro. Openingmaster offers us Om Corr. 1,7 million games against a very reasonable 39 euro/ year. However the cheapest offer is not always the best offer. A recent review at chesspub says the service is pretty bad. In the past I've detected openingmaster was often for long periods of time inactive. Finally there is UltraCorr-X made by the Irish Senior International Master Tim Harding. You get 1,7 million games for 52,5 euro including the above games I was missing.

As I had already once bought a correspondence-database from Tim of good quality, I didn't doubt to choose his product again. I didn't regret as again the quality is excellent. One little remark for new users is that you need to remove the encryption after downloading the database to get access. The encryption-key you get from Tim but you need Chessbase to activate it. The Fritz 15 interface can not do this job but I got a hint from one of my students. You can download for free Chessbase reader which does have the feature to activate the key. I strongly recommend UltraCorr-X for any ambitious +2200 fide rated player.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The (non-) sense of blitz part 2

Teaching children keeps yourself young of mind but I rather get the opposite feeling. Some of them consider me a dinosaur from a distinct past. Anyone of my generation knows what a rotary telephone is but for today's youth this device is very confusing see a funny article at hln. Also other topics like technology, music or chess are all creating a big gap between myself and my students. Recently I was again surprised that even a group of +20 years old players never heard before of twic or ssdf. Twic already exists since 1994 and is one of the very first if not the first newssite about chess. It is still active today. SSDF is the still running computer-ranking created in 1984!

Briefly many things has changed since I started to play competitive chess. Many players have quit the game partly because the technological revolution took away their pleasure. Others like myself tried to adapt themselves and even took advantage of the new possibilities. Personally I made enormous changes during the last 2 decades in my methods of how to prepare for a game. Not everything became more complicated as nobody wants to return to the era when we had to deal with suitcases full of heavy (paper) chess-books. Below I summarize the different methods which during those years were introduced in my personal game-preparation-evolution. Some exact dates couldn't be found back so were estimated.
  • 1996: I bought my first PC and Fritz-program. I made my first game-preparation based on my knowledge of previous games against the players. At that time I used my reasonable up to date (paper) opening-books to prepare and checked briefly some lines with an engine.
  • 1997: I started to play against stronger players. Some of them had some games in the very first databases which I looked up to check their repertoire.
  • 2003: I started to use the engine openingbook which was offered together with an engine. This way I got a better view of the different possibilities in an opening.
  • 2005: I created a database to collect and store my game-preparations per color. I realized that often there is very little time to prepare especially at the French interclub so you need to organize yourself.
  • 2007: I created a database of games played by players of Deurne. After the birth of my first child I stopped playing abroad and started to play the local clubchampionship. As commercial databases often don't include games of lower rated players, I felt the urge to collect and store myself some of those games which could be relevant for myself.
  • 2010: I started to check correspondence-games and engine-games to find ideas which can be used for a game-preparation.
  • 2012: I created a detail-database to deepen my opening-analysis of played tournament games so I can use this in my game-preparation.
  • 2013: I created my first engine-openingbook based upon standard tournament games played by +2300 players as the commercial engine-openingbooks are very quickly outdated.
  • 2013: I started to download regularly twic, iccf- and engine games to consult them during the game-preparations. I also started to check online databases like chess.db to get better updated of the very latest developments.
  • 2015: I introduced monte carlo system in my game-preparations to get a quick idea in an opening with very few or no reference-games. Fast analysis is becoming very interesting due to the ever stronger engines.
  • 2017: I bought Chess position trainer which I use today to practice some very specific opening-analysis in a game-preparation.
  • 2017: I started to use in a more structured method my online played blitz-games in a game-preparation.
So my most recent preparation-tool is a more systematic use of my online played blitzgames. In this article I will demonstrate how this can be done efficiently if 2 conditions are fulfilled. First you need to have an easy access to your online played games. That is the main-reason why I today prefer Playchess. Very few or no other interfaces take care of an automatic storage of the played games on the computer see the database myinternetgames.cbh which I mentioned in my previous article. The second obvious condition is that you play the same stuff in blitz as in standard chess. Some blitz-players have a special repertoire only fitting in blitz but they won't be able to use that knowledge to prepare games for standard chess.

A successful example of using blitz-experience in a game-preparation was implemented in the final opening-position which was closing the previous article. After whites 8th move there exist almost no games in the commercial databases. You could activate an engine to get an idea but that doesn't make much sense in such type of non forcible position. Black has too many options to just look at the evaluation of an engine. Much more useful is to check my online played games to see what in practice people like to play in that particular position. As blitz is chess of a rather low quality, I use a filter just looking to my lost games. Below we see a screenshot of my lost games.

Next I will check one by one with an engine which mistakes I made and especially if something could be improved in the opening. One of them was a game I lost after 8...c6 (see above marked in yellow). When I fed the position at the engine, it played a very remarkable gambit see the screenshot below.

Of course I spent some time to understand the consequences of this gambit. I repeated this for my other lost games (only 11 so not that much) hereby discovering some more nice novelties. Once this was finished I stopped the game-preparation. As my opponent has only a very limited amount of games in the database, any other preparation sounded useless. A couple of hours later our game started.
[Event "Open Leuven 4de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Coenen, E."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2160"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 a6 { (I was not able to find any games in the database of my opponent with this position. Nevertheless this move was not a surprise for me. Edouard likes to play this kind of modern defense with a6 so I suspected he would also play it in this position.) } 5.Be2 b5 6.O-O Bb7 7.Re1 { (After the game Edouard told me the also prepared this line but expected me to play here a4. In my previous games I played that indeed but on my blog I already announced to play Re1. Fortunately not all my opponents read this blog.) } 7...Nd7 8.a4 c6 { (In my game-preparation I also looked at my lost online games. One of them I encountered c6 so with an engine I prepared a very dangerous anti-dote.) } 9.e5 dxe5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5?! { (A little more accurate seems to me Qxd8. This difference I was only able to detect after some serious analysis which was not possible in the timeframe of a game-preparation.) } ( 11.Qxd8+!? Kxd8 { (After Rxd8 white should transpose to the game by first playing axb5 and next Nxe5.) } 12.Bf4! { (This refinement defines the difference between both move-orders.) } 12...Nd7 ( 12...Nxf3+ 13.Bxf3 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nf6 15.c4 Re8 16.axb5 axb5 17.Rxa8+ Bxa8 18.Ra1 $16 ) 13.Ng5 Ke8 14.Bf3 $16 ) 11...Bxe5 12.Qxd8+ Rxd8 13.axb5 cxb5?! { (I remembered during the game that I looked at Bxc3 in my game-preparation which seems a little stronger.) } ( 13...Bxc3! 14.bxc3 cxb5 15.c4 bxc4 16.Bb2 f6 17.Bxc4 Rc8 $14 ) 14.Nxb5 { (This is the idea behind my 9th devilish move.) } 14...Nf6 15.Bf3? { (My first move out book but not the best despite thinking 30 minutes. The engine has little trouble to find the much stronger Bf1 with a large advantage.) } 15...Ne4? { (After the game I recommended Bxf3 as likely better but I warned that it was very tricky.) } ( 15...Bxf3! 16.gxf3 Bxh2+ 17.Kxh2 axb5 18.Bg5!? { (I had planned this move but the engine finds a way to escape.) } 18...Nd5 ( 18...Kf8?? 19.Bh6+ Ke8 20.Bg7 Rg8 21.Bxf6 $18 ) 19.Ra7 O-O ( 19...Rd7?? 20.Ra8+ Rd8 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Rd1 $18 ) ( 19...f6?! 20.Bxf6 Nxf6? 21.Rexe7+ Kf8 22.Rf7+ Kg8 23.Rxf6 $18 ) 20.Bxe7 Nxe7 21.Raxe7 Rd2 22.R1e2 Rxe2 23.Rxe2 $11 ) 16.Nc3 f5 17.Nxe4 fxe4 18.Be2 Rd6 19.c3 Rf8 20.g3 h5 21.h4 Rdf6 22.Be3 Bc7 23.Ra3 Bb6 24.Rb3 Bxe3 25.fxe3 Bc8 26.Rd1?! { (More accurate is Rf1 but I could not resist the temptation to set a trap.) } 26...Rf2? { (I am sure that black made this mistake as he was running out of time.) } ( 26...Kf7! 27.Rb4 Bf5 28.Ra1 Rd6 29.Rd4 Rb6 30.b4 Rc8 31.Ra3 Rbc6 32.c4 $14 ) 27.Rb8 R8f6 { (Kf7 loses the f2-rook but relinquishing the bishop is also losing of course.) } 28.Rxc8+ Kf7 29.Bc4+ Kg7 30.Rd7 { (This wins the quickest but at the same time it needlessly complicates. This frivolity almost costed me a half point but in the end I managed to win.) } 30...R6f3 31.Rxe7+ Kf6 32.Re6+ Kg7 33.Rc7+ Kh6 34.Ree7 g5 35.Rh7+ Kg6 36.Rcg7+ Kf6 37.Rxg5 Rxb2 38.Rh6+ { (Sure Rf7 mates but I missed it as I was pressed by time.) } 38...Ke7 39.Rh8 { (I wanted to play Rh7+ but inexplicably released the rook on a square further. Luckily h3 is available for my king otherwise black could have forced the draw.) } 39...Rxe3 40.Rh7+ Kd6 41.Rh6+ Ke7 42.Rg7+ Kf8 43.Rf7+ { (After move 40 I get an extra quarter so now I was able to calm down and finally finish the game.) } 43...Kg8 44.Ra7+ { (Here black played the illegal move Rxg3+. Only when I told him that his king was checked, he noticed that mate would be next.) } 1-0
I was of course excited during the game when I found out that Edouard felt for one of my prepared traps. It was even difficult to hide my emotions not to spoil the surprise. In the end I won the game comfortably and only gave away 1 opportunity to escape in an already very complicated position. My opponent applauded me afterwards for my ingenuity but I admitted that I borrowed the fantastic idea from a +3000 rated engine.

Coincidence some readers will probably think. Maybe but these things happened to me too often. I regularly see that moves played in blitz will also occur in standard chess. Especially in positions with few tactics experienced players are mainly relying on instincts. My personal database of online played games contains already more than 60.000 games. That is a lot of material which I can use in a game-preparation.