Saturday, September 22, 2018

Quicker part 2

A couple of months ago at the blog of LSV questions were raised about why some out-dated rules of the federation weren't adapted to modern society. We see that big changes only happen after some big disaster. The board of most clubs consist of older players not willing to give up their comfortable positions.

On the other hand nothing stays the same forever. There are continuously small changes which don't cause much resistance as most people consider them insignificant. Sometimes only after a decade we see how those little things have accumulated to a big shift. Chess isn't anymore the same. Everybody has adapted to the new situation except a few wondering if playing chess is still interesting.

In part 1 I wrote that the Bruges masters of 2006 was the first Belgian tournament using the quick standard-tempo G90 + 30 seconds. This year so 12 years later all the other remaining big tournaments in Belgium have adopted this tempo. The Zilveren Toren, Open Gent and Open Leuven made the change this year to this fast standard-tempo. So there are no more big tournaments in Belgium left where you can play at the old slower tempo. For the majority of the players this is a logical evolution. However I also hear a few other sounds of disappointment and even bitterness as players can't choose anymore between tournaments with different tempos.

Initially I was also against this quicker tempo but gradually I started to appreciate the advantages. No more enormous blunders due to playing moves with only seconds on the clock. There is also no need anymore of an arbiter to decide if somebody is not making any winning attempts. The games are shorter which is something I welcome in my hectic time of life. Even in Gent I noticed this. Games played at the new tempo of G90 + 30 seconds were averagely quicker finished than games at the old tempo of G120 + 0 seconds. Finally players enjoying the analysis don't need to worry about the recording of the game. You don't have to rely upon a good memory or live-boards. My game played in the 5th round of Open Gent against the tournament-winner Elshan Moradiabadi shows those benefits clearly. Already very early in the game I was down to 2 minutes on the clock but thanks to the increment I was able to avoid making big mistakes and to maintain recording of the moves.
[Event "Open Gent 5de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Moradiabadi, E."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2530"] [BlackElo "2310"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5nk1/6pp/1p2pq2/p4p2/2B5/1P2P1P1/P2Q1P1P/6K1 b - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "5nk1/6pp/1p2pq2/p4p2/2B5/1P2P1P1/P2Q1P1P/6K1 b - - 0 28"] 28...Qe5?? { (I was playing more or less solely at increments. With the accurate Qa1+ followed up with Qe5, I could've kept the equality.) } 29.Qd8 { (I had my queen already in my hand when I noticed the devastating Bxe6. Anyway it doesn't matter much as there is no saving move anymore. If white's king was at g2 then playable was Qe4+ and b5.) } 29...Qe4 30.Qxb6 { (White has won an important pawn. White doesn't hurry to conclude the game.) } 30...Qb1+ 31.Kg2 Qe4+ 32.f3 Qe5 33.Qd4 Qc7 34.e4 fxe4 35.Qxe4 Qd6 36.f4 g6 37.a4 Kf7 38.Kh3 h5 39.Qb7+ Kf6 40.Qa8 Qc5 41.Kg2 Ke7 42.Qe4 Kf6 43.Kf3 Qd6 44.Ke3 Kf7 45.Ke2 Qc5 46.Kd3 Qd6+ 47.Kc2 Qc5 48.Kd3 Qd6+ 49.Qd4 Qb4 50.Qe5 Qb6 51.f5 Qd8+ 52.Kc2 gxf5 53.Qxf5+ Kg7 54.Qxh5 { (That is the second pawn which I lose. I continue playing as the tandem queen+knight is often dangerous.) } 54...Qb6 55.Qg4+ Kf7 56.Qf4+ Ke7 57.h4 Nd7 58.g4 Qg1 59.Qg5+ Kd6 60.Qd2+ Ke7 61.Qxa5 { (Also a third pawn is lost. My last actions are easily countered.) } 61...Nc5 62.Qc7+ Kf6 63.Qf4+ Ke7 64.Bf1 Nd7 65.h5 Qc5+ 66.Bc4 Qa3 67.Qd4 Qb4 68.h6 Qb8 69.Qg7+ 1-0
Nevertheless there are some disadvantages too. Because of the increment we never know when a game will be finished the very latest. Theoretically the game can go on forever. 1 very long game can disturb the planning of a tournament. So this is annoying for the organizers but also for the participants it is no fun. Players have to wait longer between the rounds played at the same day and often don't get any time to prepare themselves. I noticed that the tournament-winner of the Bruges Masters 2018 the Spanish grandmaster Oleg Korneev of Russian origin was trying to get around this issue by deliberately being late to a game so he could still prepare for the crucial encounter. The Belgian international arbiter Geert Bailleul will try to discuss this at the imminent Olympiad of Batumi, Georgia. Can this be considered as cheating? Afterall Oleg did consult chess-software during the game.

Just like in 2006 we see that the Bruges Masters is today again a pioneer. For the first time in Belgium a mechanism was introduced to stop the very long games. After 4h40 minutes of play the arbiter can decide to abolish the increment and give both players an additional 5 minutes which transforms the tempo to QPF (quick play finish). At first sight this doesn't make sense as we return the old headache of playing without increment. However if we look more closely then we see that you need to play already minimum 100 moves with G90 + 30 seconds to have a game lasting 4h40 minutes. Games of more than 100 moves are extremely rare (I have in my personal database only 2 out of + 800). So I believe the gain of comfort for the tournament fully compensates the very limited reduction of quality in a couple games.

Still at the first implementation of the new system there were some childhood diseases. The switch from increment to QPF had to be done manually so took a lot (too much) time. I assume the arbiter got more experienced with it after a few times but it is still a very disturbing activity. It was neither clear what exactly should be considered as the duration of a game. Should we start counting from the official starting-hour or from the real starting-hour? As often happens in opens we see that the first round starts delayed. As a consequence the first round-game between the Belgian international master Steven Geirnaert and the Belgian FM Frederic Verduyn was already switched from increment to QPF at move 87.
[Event "Brugse Meesters"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.08.12"] [Round "1.9"] [White "Geirnaert, Steven"] [Black "Verduyn, Frederic"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p3p2/6kb/1PBpPq1p/R2PbP2/4K1Q1/7P/8 b - - 0 87"] [PlyCount "11"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [CurrentPosition "8/1p3p2/6kb/1PBpPq1p/R2PbP2/4K1Q1/7P/8 b - - 0 87"] { (In this position the clock was stopped by the chief-arbiter to switch off the increment and give both players an extra 5 minutes. This cumbersom way  is very disturbing. This maybe even impacted the result of the game.) } 87...Kh7 88.Ra8 Bg7 89.Bf8 Bh8 90.Bh6 Bf6 91.exf6 Qxf6 92.Qg5 Qxd4+ 1-0
The involved players weren't happy about this. We still need to get used to this but maybe we should also try to optimize the mechanism. I think it should be better if the clock can do the switch manually. I don't know any clocks able to do what needed to be done in the Bruges masters but we can try to make a compromise by making the switch after x number of moves. So x would be 60,80 or 100. Each player gets in return of cancelling the increment y = 5,10, 15 minutes extra. However only some clocks can execute such switch and they are not often available. I guess it is not easy to buy 100 such clocks for one tournament as this is not cheap at all.

A less visible disadvantage of the quicker tempo which I already mentioned in my article the scoresheet is that the play becomes more superficial. Players thinking for more than half hour at 1 move, is not possible anymore. That would be suicide with the current tempo. This also leads to poverty in the endgame. In my article practical endgames I already warned that endgames would be reduced to instincts and some minimized calculations. However in the recent summer-months I detected another alarming threat of those quicker games. Our youth doesn't know how to play some very basic endgames. I still can understand that my 9 year old son Hugo spoils the endgame below as he lacks experience of playing endgames.
[Event "Brugse meesters ronde 7"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Vanhee, L."] [Black "Hugo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D60"] [WhiteElo "1789"] [BlackElo "1410"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5Qpk/7p/8/8/5P2/1q3PKP/8 b - - 0 31"] [PlyCount "54"] [Sourcedate "2018.09.20"] [Sourceversiondate "2018.09.20"] [CurrentPosition "8/5Qpk/7p/8/8/5P2/1q3PKP/8 b - - 0 31"] 31...Qf6?? { (Till here Hugo played very well despite the big rating-gap. However here he misjudges the endgame. An easy draw is keeping the queens on the board as white has no way to avoid a perpetual when marching forward.) } 32.Qxf6 gxf6 33.Kg3 Kg7 34.Kf4 Kg6 35.Kg4?? { (That is a serious error as white must be able to answer f5 with Ke5. Now it is again equal.) } 35...f5+ 36.Kf4 Kf6 37.h3 Ke6 38.Ke3 Ke5 39.f4+ Ke6?? { (Of course Hugo should have stayed where he was with Kd5. Now white infiltrates by using zugzwang.) } 40.Kd4 Kd6 41.h4 Ke6 { (H5 is answered by the winning waiting move f3. Hugo prefers to leave h5 open for the king but that doesn't work either.) } 42.Kc5 Ke7 43.Kd5 Kf6 44.h5 Kf7 45.Ke5 Ke7 46.Kxf5 Kf7 47.f3 Ke7 48.Kg6 Ke6 49.f5+ Ke7 50.Kg7 Ke8 51.f6 Kd7 52.f7 Ke6 53.f8=Q Ke5 54.Qd8 Ke6 55.Qd4 Ke7 56.Qd5 Ke8 57.Kf6 Kf8 58.Qf7# { (After the game Hugo told me that Lars had very little time on the clock but that doesn't matter when one gets 30 seconds increment per move.) } 1-0
The self-destruction of the very talented young player Enrico Follesa in the next game is more serious. I still accept the small mistakes in the queen-endgame but not the deliberate exchange to a completely lost pawn-endgame. I even warned about this in my article queen-endgames part 2. You have to be very careful about the transformations from queen- to pawn-endgame. It is almost always better to keep the queens on the board if you are not 100% certain about the evaluation.
[Event "8th Brasschaat Belgium, Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.08.26"] [Round "?"] [White "Follesa, Enrico"] [Black "Van Dijck, Bjarne"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "1856"] [BlackElo "1932"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/p2q1pp1/3p4/3Q4/1p1P4/6Pp/PP3P1P/6K1 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "22"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "6k1/p2q1pp1/3p4/3Q4/1p1P4/6Pp/PP3P1P/6K1 w - - 0 29"] { (Black finally achieved an equal endgame after a difficult opening.) } 29.Qa8+? { (As often it is more interesting to save checks till something more concrete can be obtained from it.) } 29...Kh7 30.Qe4+ g6 31.b3 Kg7 32.d5 Qc7 33.Qd4+ Kg8 34.Qc4? { (White evaluates the resulting pawn-endgame completely wrong. Of course Kf1 was mandatory and black still had a long way to win the game.) } 34...Qxc4 35.bxc4 a5 36.Kf1 a4 37.Ke2 b3 38.axb3 a3 39.Kd2 a2 0-1
Finally my own game against my most talented student Sterre Dauw played in the last round of Gent is the most shocking example. Sterre exchanged rooks while hardly thinking about the resulting pawn-endgame. I immediately knew that white has excellent winning chances with his 2 against 3 islands of pawns. Black escaped because I only had 2 minutes on the clock remaining so I missed a last devilish trick.
[Event "Open Gent 9de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Dauw, S."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2310"] [BlackElo "2190"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/7p/3p2p1/p7/2P5/1P3K2/P2rR2P/8 b - - 0 45"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "6k1/7p/3p2p1/p7/2P5/1P3K2/P2rR2P/8 b - - 0 45"] 45...Rxe2?? { (I've seen the last couple of months several endgames of Sterre in which he made terrible mistakes. That is clearly something we need to work at. Here I consider it obvious that the pawn-endgame is bad from black so he should have kept the rooks on the board.) } ( 45...Rd1!? { (Or immediately Rd4.) } 46.Rf2 Rd4 47.Ke3 Rh4 48.Kd3 $11 ) 46.Kxe2 Kf7 47.a3?? { (Logically I want to create a passed pawn as fast as possible. I wasn't able to check anything else as I was below 2 minutes on my clock. Otherwise I would've very likely detected that I first had to stop d5 by advancing my king. After my move black can just make a draw.) } 47...Ke6 48.b4!? { (Komodo thinks initially that Kd3 wins but changes the evaluation after a couple of minutes calculating. The draw is not obvious at all.) } ( 48.Kd3!? d5! 49.c5 g5 50.Kd4 g4 51.c6 Kd6! 52.c7 Kxc7! 53.Kxd5 h5! 54.Ke4 h4! 55.Kf4 g3! 56.hxg3 hxg3! 57.Kxg3 Kd6 58.Kf4 Kd5! 59.Ke3 Ke5! 60.Ke2 Ke6! 61.Kd2 Kd6! 62.Kc2 Kc6! 63.Kc3 Kc5! 64.Kd3 Kd5! $11 { (14 forced moves from black and even the other ones have no real alternatives as they transpose.) } ) 48...axb4 49.axb4 d5 50.cxd5+ { (I consumed my last 2 minutes till only a few seconds remained on the clock to admit that the win was gone.) } ( 50.c5 g5 51.b5 g4 52.Ke3 h5 53.Kd4 h4 54.b6 g3 ( 54...Kd7 55.Kxd5 g3 56.hxg3 hxg3 57.c6+ Kc8 58.Kd6 g2 59.b7+ Kb8 60.Kd7 g1=Q 61.c7+ Kxb7 62.c8=Q+ $11 ) 55.hxg3 hxg3 56.Ke3 d4+ 57.Kf3 d3 58.Kxg3 d2 59.b7 d1=Q 60.b8=Q Qg1+ 61.Kf3 Qxc5 $11 ) 50...Kxd5 51.Ke3 Kc4 52.Kf4 Kxb4 53.Kg5 Kc5 54.Kh6 Kd6 55.Kxh7 g5 56.Kg6 g4 57.Kg5 Ke7 58.Kxg4 Kf7 59.Kg5 1/2-1/2
We can conclude that the youth is just gambling in the endgame. Before one could easily invest 15 minutes or more at 1 move in the endgame and gain some experience. The introduction of the increment has stopped this. Only by analyzing endgames at home we can still get the necessary skills but who (of the youth) does that? Yes I still do but my students were very surprised to hear in my most recent course that I sometimes spend several hours analyzing just 1 endgame.


Monday, September 17, 2018

The scientific approach part 2

In my previous article I gave a glimpse of about what is needed to become a world-class-player. This information is very hard to find. Only by an extensive research through the games of former world-topper Vladimir Epishin I was able to discover how enormous his opening-knowledge is. I summarized it by comparing the number of Vladimir's openings with my own's. It were about 25x more and besides Vladimir often was also much more versed of the theory which is something really astonishing.

Though I do work quite a number of hours myself at chess. So an interesting question is how Vladimir succeeds to maintain and remember so many different openings. Well the simple answer is that he only plays a selected number of openings during a period and he only maintains and studies those. So it is definitely not the case that I could encounter all possible 72 positions in our game. However only Vladimir knows which openings in his repertoire are active. I have to guess which means I only play safe by checking everything.

At that time I didn't get enough time for such elaborated study but there exist a couple of rules which help to improve the odds of a preparation. 60% of Vladimir's openings were single experiments. I guess professionals can become bored of the usual traditional stuff and like to spice up from time to time the opening. An extra bonus is that the opponent will be surprised.
So only 12 of the 72 opening-positions were played by Vladimir in more than 5 games. Of course those 12 get a higher priority. Anyway even more important than the frequency is when an opening was played last. Vladimir plays no opening all his career.
80% of the openings Vladimir played, were used maximally 2,5 years. That is a very short period of time which obviously was influenced by the many one-time openings. Eventually we discover that only for a limited amount of openings that their lifespan overlap. I made an overview per year of the number of overlaps to better illustrate this.
Obviously there are less overlaps in the initial and the latest years. The peak is in 2008 with no less than 17 overlaps. The average is 8,2 overlaps. In other words if you would know which 8-10 openings are today overlapping then you could just limit the preparation on those.

For sure the best is to start with the most recently played openings if time is lacking. However it is wrong to assume that by looking solely at the openings played in the last 2,5 years that you have an 80% success-rate to prepare the right opening of the game. Beside the lifespan of an opening, also the frequency of the opening must be taken into account.
So in about 50% of his games this former top-player chooses for brand-new openings of his repertoire. I guess that preparations at his playing-level can be so detailed that it becomes almost mandatory to continuously reinvent yourself. We also see that we need to return 5 years back to get an 80% hit-rate of preparing the right opening of Vladimir's repertoire. The pareto-principle is definitely also valid for chess. Finally we also remark that in about 10% of the games, Vladimir likes to reuse an old love. Vladimir surely knows about the benefits of using old wine in new skins see part 1 and part 2.

So Vladimir cleverly uses all the assets of his arsenal of openings. It is still a lot of work to study and maintain but not something impossible for a professional. Anyway his approach stands diametrically opposed to how I play chess. Scoring is for me less important. On the other hand I can enjoy more the historical aspect of an opening (which probably explains partly why chess960 is still a small niche today despite some serious tries to get the public more excited about it like last by attracting former world-champion Garry Kasparov, see the current ongoing St. Louis-chessfestival).

That means I am for sure not a polygamist as a chess-player. I am a serial monogamist. Besides a few exceptions, I don't play several openings in parallel in the same position. So contrary to Epishin, you will see that the lifespans of my openings are almost never overlapping. If I make the same exercise for my own repertoire as I did for Epishin's repertoire then this becomes clearly visible. I checked each of my games played in the last 5 years how old my chosen openings were.
Contrary to Epshin many of my old games in the database (10 years and even older) can often still be used in the preparation. It is something which some opponents knowing me well, gratefully take advantage of. On the other the fact that I am using in 30% of my games fresh openings, shows that I do work at my openings. Openings which have shown weaknesses, are replaced immediately.

That last aspect was once more explicitly shown in the opening which occurred in the 8th round of Open Gent. It concerns a rather long rare line of the Dutch stonewall which I encountered for the first time in a correspondence-game. We have to go back 20 years in time for that game when I was renting a small student-room at the Paardenmarkt in Antwerpen. I just ended school and started working (besides today I still have the same employer).
[Event "EU/M/1234"] [Site "?"] [Date "1998.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Verhoef, H."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "1998.??.??"] [WhiteElo ""] [BlackElo ""] [ECO ""] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nh3 c6 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Bf4 Be7 8.Nd2 O-O 9.O-O h6 10.Bxb8 Rxb8 11.Nf4 Bd6 { (In this correspondence-game I played for the first time this rare opening. Ever since I kept it in my repertoire despite that it is not so easy for black to get sufficient counter-play. This game can be found in the Ultra-corr database.) } 12.Nd3 b6 13.Nf3 Rf7 14.b4 Ba6 15.c5 Bf8 16.Nfe5 Rc7 17.Rab1 Nd7 18.Rfc1 Nxe5 19.Nxe5 Be7 20.cxb6 Rxb6 21.a3 Bd6 22.Nd3 Bxd3 23.Qxd3 Rcb7 24.Ra1 Qa8 25.Qd2 a5 26.bxa5 Ra6 27.e4 fxe4 28.Bf1 Rxa5 29.Rxc6 Bxa3 30.Bh3 Kh8 31.Bxe6 Rb2 32.Qc3 Rb8 33.Rc5 Rxc5 34.dxc5 Qc6 35.Bxd5 Qxc5 36.Qxc5 Bxc5 37.Bxe4 Rf8 38.Ra2 g5 39.Kg2 Kg7 40.f3 Rd8 41.h4 gxh4 42.gxh4 Rf8 43.Kh3 Rf4 44.h5 Be7 45.Ra7 Kf8 46.Kg2 Bg5 47.Bg6 Kg8 48.Rd7 Kf8 49.Kf2 Kg8 50.Ke2 1/2-1/2

The game is stored today also in Ultracorr-x. An OTB-game of mine with the same opening which managed to get in the standard databases, is the one below against Emmanuel Bricard, at that time still an international master but today he is a grandmaster.
[Event "Open Plancoet 6de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2003.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Bricard, E."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2456"] [BlackElo "2274"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2003.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nh3 c6 6.O-O Bd6 7.Bf4 Be7 8.Qc2 O-O 9.Nd2 h6 10.Bxb8 Rxb8 11.Nf4 Bd6 { (This game is the only with this opening which was inserted in the normal databases like the mega-database. From then onward any player could prepare against this opening of my repertoire.) } 12.Ng6 Rf7 13.Nf3 Rc7 { (In my then made analysis were Nd7 and b6 recommended as more accurate.) } 14.Rac1 b6 15.Nfe5 Bb7 16.Qa4 a6 17.Qb3 b5 18.c5 Bxe5 19.Nxe5 a5 20.h3 Re7 21.g4 Nd7 22.f4 Nxe5 23.dxe5 g6 24.Rf3 Rg7 25.Rg3 Qe7 26.Qa3 Ra8 27.Kh2 Kh7 28.Rg1 b4 29.Qe3 Rag8 30.Bf3 Ba6 31.a3 b3 32.a4 Bc4 33.h4 Qf8 34.Qf2 Qe7 35.Qd4 Qf8 36.e3 Kh8 37.Kg2 Kh7 38.Kf2 Kh8 39.Be2 Bxe2 40.Kxe2 Qa8 41.Qc3 Qa6+ 42.Kf3 Qa7 43.R3g2 Kh7 44.Rc1 Rb8 45.Qd3 h5 46.gxh5 gxh5 47.Rg5 Rxg5 48.hxg5 Kg6 49.Kg3 Qb7 50.Kh4 Qb4 51.Qd1 Rh8 52.Rc3 Qe4 53.Kh3 d4 54.Qxd4 Qf3+ 1/2-1/2
15 years later the Belgian FM Marc Lacrosse chose for exactly the same line as Emmanuel. Maybe Marc had prepared an improvement which isn't so hard to do. Anyway I deviated first with my improvement and I got very quickly a comfortable position. Probably it is karma for some people but against Emanuel I threw away a half point by proposing a draw in a winning position. This time Marc gave me a half point back by resigning in a drawn position.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Lacrosse, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2120"] [BlackElo "2310"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "1rbq2k1/p4rp1/1ppbpnNp/3p1p2/2PP4/5NP1/PPQ1PPBP/R4RK1 w - - 0 14"] 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 d5 5.Nh3 c6 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.O-O O-O 8.Bf4 Be7 9.Nd2 h6 10.Bxb8 { (In our previous game played in 2004 Marc chose for the weaker Rac1.) } 10...Rxb8 11.Nf4 Bd6 12.Ng6 Rf7 13.Nf3 b6 { (In 2003 I played the inferior Rf7 against the French IM Emanuel Bricard. Maybe Marc hoped for that move but I still remembered my old analysis.) } 14.Rac1 Rc7 15.c5 { (After the game Marc lamented about this move and he is right. Black has now a comfortable game. Critical is Nfe5.) } 15...bxc5 16.dxc5 Bf8 { (I knew Be7 is better when the rook is already at c7 but I wrongly thought it isn't valid when white's knight is at g6.) } 17.Rfd1 Qe8 18.Nxf8 Qxf8 19.Ne5 Nd7 20.Qc3 Qf6 21.Nxd7?! { (White's last moves were not the very best but only now black gets the advantage. With the ugly looking f4 white could've kept things under control.) } 21...Qxc3 22.Rxc3 Rxd7 23.b3 Kf7?! { (A more concrete approach with e5 or a5 is stronger.) } ( 23...e5!? 24.f4 e4!? 25.Bh3! Rdb7 26.Kf2 a5 27.Rd4 Rb4 28.e3 Kf7 29.Bf1 Ra8 30.h4 ) 24.e3?! { (A more accurate sequence is first Rd4.) } ( 24.Rd4! a5 25.f4 Rb4 26.e3 Rdb7 27.Bf3 a4!? 28.Bd1! axb3 29.Bxb3 e5 30.Rxb4 Rxb4 $13 ) 24...a5 25.Rd4?! { (This is now less strong because of e5. White should've played here Bf1.) } 25...Rb4? { (Again I postpone the concrete e5 for something useful but less strong. In the end I lose opportunities as in chess you need to take sometimes risks.) } 26.f4 Ra7 27.Kf2 Ba6 28.Bf1? { (This logical looking exchange brings troubles for white. Black gets full control about the queen-side and will later miss the bishop for the defense.) } 28...Bxf1 29.Kxf1 Kf6 30.Ke2 g5 31.Kd3 e5?! { (So I do eventually play e5 but as often I don't understand the position. A much better plan is Rab7 to first avoid a3 and next to open a second front with h5.) } 32.fxe5+ Kxe5 33.Rc2 Re7 34.Rf2 Rb5?! { (It is again the same as here once more the concrete h5 is more accurate.) } 35.Rc2 Kf6 36.Rc3? { (Marc also starts to wait and see which isn't a surprise when you are running out of time. Searching counter-play with h4 is stronger.) } 36...Rb4 37.a3 Rxd4+ 38.exd4?! { (The engines consider Kxd4 as more resilient but also after exd4 the win is not easy.) } 38...f4 39.g4 h5 40.h3 hxg4 41.hxg4 Ke6?? { (I felt intuitively that the endgame is won but I couldn't find the winning move as I was playing almost exclusively by increments. The precise Re4 forces the win.) } 42.Rc2 Kd7 43.Re2 Rxe2 { (I knew that the pawn-endgame is a draw but I couldn't find anything better. The engines confirm this evaluation but I still get an unexpected present. ) } 44.Kxe2 a4 { (Here Marc resigned. To be sure that I heard this rightly, I asked him to repeat this. After it I requested the arbiter to record this result. Only then I showed to my bewildered opponent that the final position is a dead-draw. No doubt the lack of time played an important role here but Marc also admitted that he was too pessimistic as often the case.) } ( 44...a4 45.b4 Kc7 46.Kd3 Kb7 47.Kc3 Ka6 48.Kd3 Kb5 49.Kc3 f3 50.Kd3 f2 51.Ke2 Kc4 52.Kxf2 Kxd4 53.Ke2 Kc4 54.Kd2 d4 55.Kc2 d3+ 56.Kd2 Kd4 57.Kd1 Kc4 58.Kd2 Kd4 59.Kd1 Kc4 60.Kd2 $11 ) 0-1
In part 1 I explained how I as amateur can achieve openings with a much richer complexity in my games by using a scientific approach compared to somebody whom prefers to variate a lot so choosing a more creative road. This article to some extent confirms this but also shows another side of this scientific approach. By playing the same opening for several decades you get also a historical ingredient in the games. Call me a stupid nostalgic player but I like to write some history even at the expense of some ratingpoints.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018


At the age of 17 I started to play competitive chess. Before I spent my free time exclusively at music. In 1985 as a 9 year old boy I assigned for elementary music classes. A year later I started practicing an instrument the trombone.  Another 2 years later I joined a harmony orchestra: the Gildemuziek of Roeselare. There I first got to learn to play music together with other children on Sunday-mornings. A couple of years later I was permitted to play music in the main-orchestra in which even some professionals were playing. We rehearsed weekly on Friday-evenings. It was an interesting and lovely time with many performances in Belgium and abroad. I remember once that I participated at a notorious procession in France. Before we got a free lunched offered from the organization which included martini as much as you wanted. I don't have to explain this heavily impacted our music afterwards.

The members got many privileges. The orchestra got a lot of revenues thanks to the performances and the members were allowed to enjoy this. Clothes, memberships, drinks, food, instruments, music scores, transport, camps... was often completely for free. Also the most loyal members got celebrated every time they achieve a 10 year jubilee. I experienced 1 such jubilee myself. The complete orchestra came to my (elderly) house for a serenade. As commemoration you got a golden star on the hat of your music-costume which from then onward stayed on it.

That episode of my life came to an end when I moved at the age of 22 to Antwerp. It became too difficult to still attend the Friday-evening rehearsals. Besides at that time I already got in love with the game of chess which meant I preferred to play chess in Deurne than playing music. I did however have a look for an orchestra or fanfare in the neighborhood but my chess-ambitions interfered. Today I still possess my instrument. When my children were very small, I did play music on it a couple of times but in the meanwhile things again got quiet.

It is again a special introduction but I do believe something which can be interesting for chess. Many clubs in Belgium are having difficulties to survive. Last year the chessclub of Schoten was even liquidated. If there are no members then it stops. So it is very important as club to keep your members happy and seek new ones. The Gildemuziek has today more than 90 members. They are still very successful after 95 years. Of course chess has much less financial resources but a jubilee for our most loyal members shouldn't cost much. This can be done easily at a yearly club-party by giving them a small present. Maybe we can also think at a sweater/ t-shirt of the club (something already done by kmsk). Each time a jubilee is reached an extra piece is added next to the emblem of the club.

The club KSK Deurne for which I play today, is also experiencing difficulties. If you check the homepage then you notice 6 candles. Each candle represents somebody important for the club and whom recently died. Also we don't see any youngsters breaking-through to competitive chess despite a decade of youth-trainings. This year the club celebrates their 60th anniversary with a quiz. I don't like to quiz but this jubilee is a very good opportunity to make changes and prepare for the future.

So jubilees for chess players don't exist which doesn't mean I can't consider this year as a jubilee. It was in 1993 that I participated at my first big open international tournament at that time still as unrated player. Big can be considered literally as in that year there was a record of participants in Open Gent, 539 see palmares. I scored a modest 3,5/9 in that tournament. I guess that I still can find the score sheets in an old box (at that time I didn't have a computer and I never digitized it) but I won't publish anything here of it as nobody wants to be reminded about how bad my play then was.

25 years later so now in 2018 I again participated at the Open of Gent. I assume the organizers didn't notice. Some tournaments do pay attention to such details. In the last Open Brasschaat the organizers offered a present to the most loyal participants by inviting them for a simul. This wouldn't be interesting for me of course but it is the gesture which is important. In the end I probably gave myself the most beautiful present for this jubilee by competing against some very interesting opponents. In round 5 I played against the congenial American grandmaster from Iranian origin Eshan Moradiabadi, later winning also the tournament. However in round 7 I got an even more fascinating opponent: the Russian grandmaster Vladimir Epishin.

Once Vladimir was the 10th highest rated player in the world, helper of Karpov in his world-championship-matches and achieved a peakrating of 2670. Any real chessplayer loves to get a chance to play a standard game against such famous grandmaster. So I was eager to bring my best game. However in the morning I discovered very soon how difficult the task would be. He has 3441 games in my database (I only have 287) of which already 781 with black against 1.e4 (compared to 63 of mine). Besides I was also very surprised by the sheer amount of openings he dared to play. Even when I just stick to my fixed repertoire (so I don't change my openings) then I should still consider 72 different positions conform the database (I am sure that this doesn't include everything Vladimir knows as many games never get in the database). For this article I summarized it (so I prepared this a month after I played the game) as you can't fully understand this without viewing the details. I have never seen such large arsenal of openings from any player but I do suspect that the Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk would easily beat this record.
Vladmir Epishin's arsenal of openings which I had to take into account
To understand the magnitude of it, I made the same exercise upon myself. It sounds weird but how many openings would I look at to prepare for a game against myself by using the same kind of database.
So that are only 3 or 24 times less than Vladimir. Most amateurs are wondering what it takes to become a top-player. Well you see there is still an enormous difference between what a FM knows and what an (ex-) worldtop-player knows. By the way don't assume Vladimir just plays something randomly as most if not all chosen systems he knows very well which he also proves in our game.

It is pretty futile to prepare for such amount of openings during an open tournament. I got up at 6 o'clock in the morning to start. Anyway I don't need much sleep during a tournament due to the excitement of the games at the condition I don't drink any alcohol. I stopped at 11 o'clock out of necessity to leave timely from Kontich to Gent and to pick up along the way 2 players having troubles to find transport. It is like you go to an exam but you only learned a part of the complete course as many systems Vladimir played were completely new for me. In orange I indicated at which openings I had looked briefly of the 72 possibilities. It are 24 of them so 1/3.

In the game I was lucky as Vladimir chose number 68. On the other hand my luck didn't last long. I hadn't found any games of Vladimir beyond move 5 so there was still a lot to guess. Eventually I couldn't remember properly all my preparations. Looking at a maximum amount of lines comes at a certain price. It is necessary to repeat to remember things well. Anyway it was a great fight. In below hyper-sharp game both players were pushed at and over their limits.
[Event "Open Gent 7de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Epishin, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B15"] [WhiteElo "2310"] [BlackElo "2530"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [Sourcedate "2018.07.19"] [Sourceversiondate "2018.07.19"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 c6 { (I found from Vladimir Epshin 781 games after 1.e4 in my database. He dares to play almost anything. So besides c6 you can find games with g6, b6, c5, d5, e5, Nf6 and e6.) } 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 a6 { (This is a very strange variation with the sole purpose to avoid my theoretical knowledge. However if you look in the database then you can find 4 games out of 49 Caro Canns in which my opponent chose this move. The most recent one was played in 2015.) } 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.h3 { (I deviate with this move from 2 earlier games my opponent won against +2400 players. H3 is the critical test which indeed I had analyzed during my game-preparation despite the very difficult circumstances. ) } 5...Bh5 { (The most popular continuation but my analysis recommends the more solid Bxf3.) } ( 5...Bxf3 6.Qxf3 dxe4 { (E6 is more solid.) } 7.Nxe4 Qxd4 8.Be3 { (This double pawn-sacrifice was still part of my preparation.) } 8...Qxb2 9.Bc4 { (White has a huge initiative for the sacrificed material.) } 9...Qxa1+ { (Obviously not forced but the most funny line.) } 10.Ke2 Qxh1 11.Qxf7+ Kd7 12.Be6+ Kc7 13.Qf4+ Kd8 14.Qxf8+ Kc7 15.Qc8# ) 6.exd5 { (Here I started to consume a lot of time. I couldn't remember if it was first g4 or first ed5? I only looked at this line a few minutes so then it is hard to remember the sequence correctly. Besides both moves are possible here and often transpose.) } 6...cxd5 7.g4 Bg6 8.Ne5 { (H4 is also interesting but Ne5 is the most played.) } 8...e6 { (My opponent played here instantly while I was consuming loads of time to correctly evaluate the consequences of Nc6.) } ( 8...Nc6 9.h4 Nxe5 10.dxe5 d4 { (Not the best move but the move you fear as white.) } 11.h5 { (I had seen this in the game and the engine confirms that it refutes black's line.) } 11...dxc3 12.Qxd8+ Rxd8 13.hxg6 fxg6 14.bxc3 $16 ) 9.h4 f6 { (After the game I found out that there are still 10 master-games in the database with this position. Of course my opponent was aware about this and that it scores rather well in practice for black.) } 10.h5? { (I had looked at Nxg6 in my preparation but that was done so chaotically that I couldn't remember the details at all. Anyway after Nxg6 white needs to play accurately to maintain the advantage or he risks getting into problems. Therefore I chose my own course hereby missing something elementary.) } ( 10.Nxg6! hxg6 11.Qd3 { (I still remembered that Qd3 is stronger but I couldn't see a good follow-up.) } 11...Kf7! 12.h5 gxh5 13.gxh5 Bd6 14.Bd2 Nc6 15.O-O-O Qd7 $14 ) 10...Bxc2 { (I was disgusted to miss this temporarily sacrifice. Bf7 and dxe5 are indeed good for white but now black is fully ok.) } 11.Qxc2 fxe5 12.dxe5 { (This game would be a good example of the rot-theory. ROT = revolutionary opening-theory. 1 of the characteristics of the theory is that the pieces are staying a longtime on the base-line.) } 12...Nc6?! { (The engines consider this an error but the position is extremely complicated for humans. Necessary appears to be Nd7 keeping the balance.) } 13.Bd3?! { (The accurate Be3 together with a fast long castling is stronger.) } ( 13.Be3! Qc7 ( 13...Nxe5 14.O-O-O Nxg4? 15.Qa4+ { (Black's knight will be lost.) } ) 14.O-O-O Qxe5 15.Kb1 d4 16.Bxd4 Nxd4 17.Qa4+ Nc6?! 18.Bg2 Qc5 19.Rhe1 $18 ) 13...Nb4 { (Black thought for some time here as there are several possible moves. In the end he chose for safety which is likely wise. After the game I showed Alain Talon what kind of crazy stuff could've happened if one of the alternatives was played.) } ( 13...Nxe5!? 14.Bxh7 d4? 15.Bg6+ Nxg6 16.Qxg6+ Kd7 ) ( 13...d4!? 14.Bxh7 dxc3 15.Be3 ( 15.Bxg8 Rxg8 16.Qh7 Qd5 17.O-O Nxe5 18.Qxg8 Nf3+ 19.Kh1 Ne1+ 20.f3 Nxf3 ) 15...Nge7 16.Bg6+ Kd7 17.O-O-O+ Nd5 18.Bf5 Qe7 ( 18...cxb2+ 19.Kb1 Kc7 20.Bxe6 Nxe3 21.Rxd8 Nxc2 22.Rxa8 N2d4 $13 ) 19.Rxd5+ Kc7 20.Bc5 Qg5+ 21.Be3 Qe7 $11 ) 14.Qe2 Nxd3+ 15.Qxd3 Rc8 16.a3 { (I was very pessimistic during the game. I saw no attacking possibilities. My pawn-structure is shattered and how could I bring my king into safety. I don't understand much of the game as the engines think it is still about equal. Besides a3 was here very interesting. Anyway I was again spending a lot of time.) } 16...Qc7 17.Bf4 Nh6 18.Bxh6 gxh6 19.O-O-O { (I sacrifice a3 and e5 but I rightly noticed that I would get excellent compensation.) } 19...Qc4 { (Black is a very experienced professional so knows very well how dangerous such complications can be. By exchanging queens black has for sure a comfortable game.) } ( 19...Bxa3 20.Kb1 Bb4 21.Ne2 Qxe5 22.f4 Qe4 23.Qxe4 dxe4 24.Rd4 Be7 25.Rxe4 $13 ) 20.f3? { (Unfortunately I was already here running out of time. I don't manage to find the accuracy needed to keep the position balanced. The precise Kb1 was sufficient to avoid any damage.) } ( 20.Kb1! Qxg4 { (This is not playable with the black king still in the center.) } ( 20...Bxa3 21.Nxd5!? exd5 22.Qxa3!? Rf8!? 23.Qd6!? Qc2+ $11 ) ( 20...Qxd3+ 21.Rxd3 Rg8 22.Rg1 Rc4 23.f3 Bc5 $13 ) 21.f4 Bc5 ( 21...Qxf4 22.Nxd5 exd5 23.Qxd5 $18 ) 22.f5 Qxf5 23.Qxf5 exf5 24.Nxd5 $14 ) 20...Bxa3 21.Kb1 Qb3?! { (Attractive but not so accurate.) } ( 21...Be7! 22.Ne2 Kd7 { (Or first exchanging on d3 and only next Kd7. ) } 23.f4 Qxd3+ 24.Rxd3 Rhg8 25.f5 Rxg4 26.Nd4 exf5 27.e6+ $17 ) 22.Rd2 { (I also considered Rh2 although I had detected the loss of a piece. The complications are not easy to calculate.) } ( 22.Rh2 Rxc3 23.Qxc3 Qxd1+ 24.Ka2 Bf8 25.Qc8+ Kf7 26.Qd8 Qa4+ 27.Kb1 Qe8 28.Qf6+ Kg8 29.Rc2 Qe7 30.Qf4 $19 { (Black slowly repels the attack and then the extra piece will tell.) } ) 22...Bb4 { (I suspect black has originally planned Bxb2 but now noticed that it doesn't bring any dividends. } ( 22...Bxb2 23.Rxb2 Qxc3 24.Qxc3 Rxc3 25.Rxb7 O-O $13 ) 23.Ne2?! { (A more stubborn resistance gives the precise Rc1. I was playing on increment so the quality of my moves automatically decreased.) } 23...Qxd3+ 24.Rxd3 Rg8 25.Rg1 Ke7 26.f4 Rc4 27.Rg2 Bc5 28.b3?! { (With Rf3 white could still prolong the fight. After the played move it is definitely lost.) } ( 28.Rf3! Re4 29.Nc1 Re3 30.Rfg3 a5 31.Nd3 Rxg3 32.Rxg3 Bd4 33.Kc2! b5 34.Kb3! Bb6 $17 { (This is a very good endgame for black but a clear win is not yet there for black. On the other hand this line is not forced at all.) } ) 28...Re4 29.Rf3 Rf8 30.Kc2 { (I saw black's next move but couldn't find an answer in only 30 seconds.) } 30...Rxe5 31.fxe5 ( 31.Rc3 { (After the game Alain Talon asked if I could've won a piece with Rc3.  I didn't notice this possibility during the game but I am sure the grandmaster saw the refutation.) } 31...d4 $19 ) 31...Rxf3 32.g5 Rf2 33.g6 { (Black doesn't fall for this trap but you never know of course.) } 33...hxg6 ( 33...Rxg2?? 34.gxh7 Rxe2+ 35.Kd1 Rxe5 36.h8=Q Rxh5 $11 ) 34.Rxf2 Bxf2 35.hxg6 h5 36.Nf4 Bd4 37.Nxh5 Bxe5 38.Kd3 a5 39.Kc2 { (Here my opponent started to stare at me as why was I still continuing the game. A round earlier I got the victory by the Belgian FM Marc Lacrosse in a dead-drawn position as  he unexpectedly resigned. I mean it never harms to play another couple of moves before resigning. I understand it is no fun to play in a lost position when many people are watching you but I just ignore them.) } 39...b5 40.Kd3 a4 41.bxa4 bxa4 42.Kc2 d4 { (My king can't stop both pawns and the rest can't play anymore. Mate in 14 is already shown by the engines so I also thought it was time to resign. It was a great fight in which I as amateur had to surrender to the professionalism of my opponent.) } 0-1

That is the sort of games why somebody likes to play chess. My 25th jubilee is behind me but I still hope to play many games in this crazy world of chess. Enjoy each of your games as nothing lasts forever.