Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The great escape

First round(s) of an open tournament are often useless. The massive rating-gap causes most games to be one-direction traffic which none of the players enjoy. The stronger player wins too easily for getting any satisfaction of it. The weaker player gets beaten so hard that it is even impossible to learn anything from it. As I wrote in my article the favorite is hundreds points stronger, there are some good reasons to avoid that type of games.

Exactly because of it in some tournaments the organizers choose for accelerated pairings in the first rounds. Stronger players get temporarily extra pairing-points at the start conform their rating which allows the players to play quicker more interesting games. In the worldcup a reversed bottom half was used for the first round-pairings see worldCup2017Regulations.pdf whereby players in the middle of the table get immediately some equal opponents. Random pairings is another controversial possibility which was tested recently in the Isle of Man. That experiment created even a surprising top-encounter see Isle of Man open 1st round: Caruana-beats-Kramnik.

Nevertheless ratings aren't an exact science. Blunders happen even by the very best players so it is always fun to see who will be the schmuck in the first round. Which favorite will be ridiculed by losing against a much lower rated opponent (often the difference is larger than 500 elo)? For now I was able to avoid such disgrace but in my last open this almost changed. Honestly I felt in advance already trouble. I hadn't played an official game since my last round of the Belgian interclub so April (it is hard to play interesting games fitting in my loaded agenda see inactivity). Besides I had noticed a couple of minutes before the game that my opponent Sarah Dierckens, likes to play the Ponziani. Now I have demonstrated on my blog that the opening is compromised but this demands a piece-sacrifice of black leading to some wild complications. I saw during the start of the game that the Belgian FM Roel Hamblok was looking doubtful to whites opening-choice but in fact white executes exactly one of the best strategies against a stronger opponent. Try to create complications which none of the players can control see How to win from a stronger player?

It is often hard to pinpoint the exact reason why a mistake was made. I do know that the massive blunder was the consequence of a hallucination but I can't explain how this hallucination happened. Naturally I was relieved after the game that I escaped contrary to one of my games played end of last year see comebacks part 3. Without any cooperation this does not work. For a longtime it appeared that I would not be able to escape as in the end it took me more than 20 moves to turn the tide. In more than 20 years of competition this is my longest escape.
[Event "Open Gent 1ste ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Dierckens, S."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C44"] [WhiteElo "1780"] [BlackElo "2310"] [PlyCount "98"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.d5 Bc5 6.dxc6 { (Last year Steven Bauwens played here the weaker Be3 against me also in the first round of Open Gent.) } 6...Bxf2+ 7.Ke2 Bb6 8.Be3? { (Just like Steven, Sarah isn't up to date of the developments in this line which were discovered in 2015. It is not surprising as players only play the Ponziani if they don't know the opening is compromised. Nobody likes to play on purpose stuff which the opponent will refute.) } 8...bxc6 { (Castling short is possible but not necessarily stronger.) } 9.Qa4 d5?? { (An enormous mistake which is the consequence of a hallucination. I was almost winning but now I have a lost position. It is really strange as I took more than 10 minutes to play this howler. I guess a lack of practice played a role but likely I was too eager to refute white's opening.) } ( 9...Nf6! { (Of course I looked at the move during the game but nobody likes to retreat especially after sacrificing a piece.) } 10.Bxb6 cxb6 11.Kf2 b5 12.Qh4 Qb6+ 13.Ke1 O-O 14.Be2 $17 ) 10.Bxb6?? { (We both missed it but this gives a hidden way-out to black.) } ( 10.Qxc6+! Kf8 ( 10...Bd7 11.Qxd5 Bb5+ 12.c4 { (In my calculations of 9...d5 I hallucinated there was a pawn at c5. Only now I detected that Qxb5 is possible.) } 12...Qxd5 $19 ) 11.Nbd2 Bf5 12.Nxe5 { (Or first taking at e4 and next at e5.) } 12...Bxe3 13.Nxe4 Bxe4 14.Kxe3 Kg8 15.Nf3 $18 ) 10...cxb6 11.Qxc6+ Kf8 12.Nxe5?! { (This logical move could've created problems for white. Correct was Nbd2 with only approximate equality if we check the evaluations of the best engines.) } 12...Be6? { (1 engine demonstrates very nicely how black can achieve an advantage. It is no coincidence this is the current number one of the world:  Stockfish 9.) } ( 12...h5! 13.Ke1! Rb8 14.Nd2 Nxd2 15.Kxd2 Qg5+ 16.Kc2 Qxe5 17.Re1 Bf5+ 18.Bd3 $15 ) 13.Nf3 Rc8? { (If black still wants to find counterplay then he should insert h5 somewhere. I didn't trust that idea during the game so I didn't play it.) } ( 13...Bg4! 14.Nbd2 h5 15.Qa4 Qe7 16.Qd4 Nxc3+ 17.Kf2 Ne4+ 18.Kg1 Rh6 $14 ) 14.Qa4 Qe7 15.Qa3?! { (The diagonal is attractive but a more central position of the queen let the pieces work more in harmony.) } 15...Rc5 16.Nbd2 Bg4 17.Re1 Bxf3+ 18.Nxf3 Nxc3+ 19.Kf2 Ne4+ 20.Kg1 g6?! { (That is slow but after the objective stronger Rc2 black has to allow the exchange of queens which is extremely annoying when you have a piece less.) } 21.Bd3 Kg7 22.b4 Rc7 23.Qb2+ f6 24.Nd2?! { (I understand white wants to swap off the dominant black knight but again centralizing of the queen is stronger.) } 24...Re8 25.Bxe4 Rc6?! { (Qd6 is recommended by the computer but practically my move is not worse.) } 26.Kf2 Re6 27.Re3 dxe4 28.Rhe1 Qd6 29.g3 Qd5 30.a3 h5 31.Qc3?? { (This move fits the logical strategy to expand slowly at the queen-side. Unfortunately it fails tactically so Sarah had to choose for a different execution of the plan.) } ( 31.Nb1! Qd7!? 32.Nc3 Rd6 33.R1e2 Rd4 34.Kg1 Qc6 35.Re1 Rc4 36.Rd1 a5 $18 ) 31...Rc6 32.Qb2 Rec8 33.R1e2? { (White doesn't want to accept the unavoidable loss of the piece but this only aggravates the situation. Necessary was Rxe4 after which a draw can be forced despite the loss of the piece.) } 33...Rc2 34.Qb3 Rxd2 35.Qxd5 Rxd5 36.Rxe4 Rf8 37.a4 Rf7 38.Ke3 Rfd7 39.Kf3 Kf7 40.h3?! { (The rook-endgame is very difficult but this inaccuracy just speeds up the defeat.) } ( 40.h4! Rd3+ 41.Kf2!? R3d4 42.Kf3 Rxe4 43.Rxe4 Rd3+ 44.Kf2 $17 ) 40...Rd3+ 41.Kf2 g5 42.a5 bxa5 43.bxa5 Ra3 44.Re8 Rxa5 45.Rh8 Kg6 46.Ree8 Ra2+ 47.Ke3 Ra3+ 48.Ke4 f5+ 49.Ke5 Re3# 0-1
Normally an extra piece always wins easily but due to the uncomfortable position of white's king in the center, I could keep looking for tricks. I avoided as much as possible exchanges and maybe my recent experiences with handicap-games against my daughter Evelien (she recently also started to play chess) helped too. In some sense the escape is at least as surprising as my blunder.

Of course such comebacks are happening all the time between beginners. They give away pieces many times during a game which makes a game very unpredictable. However experienced tournament-players will offer very rarely presents to their opponents. It is not a record my escape. Neither is the length nor the size of it. No compared with the game below then my game is just very average. Indeed that was a standard game in which both players had plenty of time. Also white is not a beginner at all: James Burden, an American expert of 2100 elo.
[Event "Las Vegas National op"] [Site "Las Vegas"] [Date "1992.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Burden, James"] [Black "Christiansen"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B07"] [PlyCount "136"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 c6 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.f3 O-O 7.Qd2 d5 8.Bb3 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.fxe4 e5 11.d5 Qh4+ 12.Qf2 Qxe4 13.O-O-O a5 14.a3 a4 15.Ba2 Bg4 16.Ne2 Nd7 { (A big blunder from the American grandmaster Larry Christiansen.) } 17.Ng3 Qxe3+ 18.Qxe3 Bxd1 19.Rxd1 { (Black has only a rook+ pawn for the queen.) } 19...c5 20.Ne4 b6 21.Rf1 f6 22.Qh3 f5 23.Ng5 Nf6 24.d6+ Kh8 25.Nf7+ Rxf7 26.Bxf7 { (Now black has only knight + pawn for the queen.) } 26...Ng4 27.Kb1 Nh6 28.Bc4 Ng4 29.Qd3 Rd8 30.d7 e4 31.Qd6 Be5 32.Qe7 Bf6 33.Qe8+ Kg7 34.Qf7+ Kh6 35.h3 Ne3 36.Qxf6 Rxd7 { (Yes things even became worse. Now it are only 2 pawns for the queen anymore. ) } 37.Qe6 Rd4 38.Re1 Nxg2 39.Rg1 Nf4 40.Qg8 e3 41.Qf8+ Kh5 42.h4 Rxc4 43.Qf6 Kh6 44.Qg5+ Kg7 45.Qe7+ Kh6 46.Qxe3 Re4 47.Qf2 Nh3 48.Qd2+ Kh5 49.Re1 Rxe1+ 50.Qxe1 { (Black recuperated the knight but it is still utterly lost of course.) } 50...f4 51.Qe7 h6 52.Qf6 g5 53.hxg5 hxg5 54.Qxb6 f3 55.Qxc5 Kg4 56.Qe3 Kg3 57.c4 Kg2 58.c5 f2 59.Qe4+?? Kh2 60.Qf3 g4 61.Qe2 g3 62.c6?? g2 63.Qe5+ Kh1 64.c7 g1=Q+ 65.Kc2 f1=Q 66.Kc3 Qc1+ 67.Kb4 Qb6+ 68.Kxa4 Qbc6+ 0-1
The hardest game to win is a won game (quote of Emmanuel Lasker). Well I don't think Sarah underestimated me after she got a won position. She played patiently and was able to counter for a long time my desperate moves. Maybe she was even a bit too careful as she missed my quick switch of the rooks to the c-file. Anyway it is unclear which strategy would've been better for white. Some technical mistakes in complex situations are unavoidable as it is linked to our playing strength. Probably I was just lucky to create sufficient problems to escape.


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