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.


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