Friday, April 26, 2019

My most beautiful move part 3

I once played a game of which the missed combination has been graved in my memory forever as it is extremely weird. I need to correct myself as it was not a combination but rather a wrong continuation of my opponent which is countered by a very non-standard refutation. Which I didn't see and I have never detected in any book about combinations or any game. The "combination" or rather the refutation is so "unique" that I never ever seen it before: letting a piece to be captured with check and not take back but stop the check by putting another piece in between, as there exists a long-term threat which is stronger than the temporarily loss of the piece.
[Event "IC3A Aalter1 vs Izscha2 2003"] [Site "?"] [Date "2003.10.19"] [Round "2"] [White "Surmont, Yves"] [Black "Callant, Geert"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B71"] [PlyCount "31"] [EventDate "2003.??.??"] [Eventtype "match"] [Eventrounds "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4 Bg7 7. e5 Nfd7 8. e6 fxe6 9. Nxe6 Bxc3+? {I was flabbergasted: black is already in dire straits, but now gives his dragon-bishop!? Where is the win for white?} 10. Bd2!! {White doesn't care about the piece he just lost, but offers another one. Black was able to capture on c3 as check has a higher priority than the queen. With 10.Bd2!! white wants to see what black's intentions are. If black retreats the bishop then he loses the queen (again a matter of priorities), but can't black just take and have a piece extra? Or not? When the engine showed this move then I was shocked - the move still amazes me today as one of the most surprising moves I could have got on the board.} 10... Qb6 {The best in the circumstances.} (10... Bxd2+ 11. Qxd2 Qb6 12. Qc3! {and this is the idea of the white combination: double-attack on c7, c8 and h8. Black loses at least the right of castling and the rook on a8.} 12... Rg8 13. Nc7+ (13. Qxc8+ Kf7 14. Qc3 Kxe6 15. Bc4+ d5 16. Bxd5+ Kxd5 17. O-O-O+ Ke6 18. Qc4+ Kf6 19. Qxg8 +- {and anybody would use this for his "best games"....}) 13... Kd8 14. Ne6+ Ke8 15. Qxc8+ Kf7 16. Ng5+ Kg7 17. Qc3+ e5 18. Ne6+ Kh8 19. Nc7 Nc6 20. Nxa8 Rxa8 21. O-O-O +-) 11. Bxc3 Nf6 (11... Rg8 12. Qd2 +-) 12. Qe2 (12. Bb5+ Nc6 13. Qe2 Bxe6 14. Bxf6 Rf8 15. Bg5) 12... d5 13. Qb5+ Kf7 14. Ng5+ Kf8 15. O-O-O {and white is won - the black's position lacks any harmony, white has the pair of bishops, the superior pawn-chain and a much safer position of the king.} 15... Qxb5 16. Bxb5 *

I didn't notice it in the game. The only game with this "line" in Chessbase is Piscopo (2364) - Zakharchenko (2197) played in 2012 - and so I am in good company: also the Italian international master Piscopo didn't find the move. Another move which can be categorized as invisible see part 1 and part 2. So unfortunately I played the automatic 10.bxc3 which let slip the white advantage away. Below you can replay the remainder of the game.
[Event "IC3A Aalter1 vs Izscha2 2003"] [Site "?"] [Date "2003.10.19"] [Round "2"] [White "Surmont, Yves"] [Black "Callant, Geert"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rnbqk2r/pp1np2p/3pN1p1/8/5P2/2b5/PPP3PP/R1BQKB1R w KQkq - 0 10"] [ECO "B71"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2003.??.??"] [Eventtype "match"] [Eventrounds "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqk2r/pp1np2p/3pN1p1/8/5P2/2b5/PPP3PP/R1BQKB1R w KQkq - 0 10"] 10. bxc3? {I just didn't see it ... and white loses the advantage. The only game with this "line" in Chessbase is Piscopo (2364) - Zakharchenko (2197) played in 2012 - so I am in good company: also Piscopo didn't find the move.} 10... Qa5 11. Bd3?! {I want to speed up the development....} (11. Bd2 ⩲ Nf6 12. Bc4 Nc6 13. Qe2 d5 14. Bb3 Bxe6 15. Qxe6 Qc5 16. Qe3 Qxe3+ 17. Bxe3 e6 18. O-O Ne4 {1/2-1/2 (18) Piscopo,P (2364) -Zakharchenko,A (2197) Olomouc 2012}) 11... Nf6 12. Ng5 Qxc3+ 13. Bd2 Qc5 14. h3 Nc6 15. Rb1 a6 {White has no advantage anymore, but keeps trying.} 16. c3 e5 17. Qb3 Qd5 18. O-O Qxb3 (18... Qxd3 19. Qf7+ Kd8 20. Qxf6+ Kc7 21. Qxh8 Qxd2 22. Ne6+ Kb8 23. Rxb7+ Kxb7 24. Rb1+ Nb4 25. Rxb4+ Kc6) 19. Rxb3 O-O 20. Rb6 Kg7 21. fxe5 dxe5 22. Ne4 Nd5 23. Rbb1 Nf4 24. Bxf4 exf4 = 25. Nd6 b5 26. Nxc8?! (26. Be4 = Bd7 27. a4 Rab8 28. axb5 axb5 29. Nxb5 =) 26... Raxc8 27. Be4 Na5 28. Rbc1 Rce8 29. Bf3 Nc4 30. Rfd1 Rd8 31. Bb7 Rxd1+ 32. Rxd1 Rf6 33. Rd7+ Kh6 {and after the second (or third) draw-proposal of black, I finally accepted - to continue would be irresponsible.} 1/2-1/2
At the blog of Quality Chess there was recently a discussion about automatic moves. Often mistakes are made because players don't consider sufficiently alternatives. By spending more time you can find those moves was the logical remedy proposed by the author. However some readers didn't agree. Automatic moves leave extra time for other moments in the game when complex decisions need to be done. If you start to question each move so also the automatic ones then you risk time-trouble creating much bigger problems. It will be a disaster for the playing-strength to find that one unique move in one particular game in exchange for many blunders due to lack of time in dozens of other games. Still for my most beautiful move, I would've liked to make an exception.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Exchange pawns when standing worse

In my previous article I introduced the book Applying logic in chess and wrote that the content is often rather abstract. This means it is not always straightforward for the reader to figure out how to convert the training guidelines into concrete activities. Still this doesn't mean you can't find any simple advice in the book. Personally I was surprised that the author advised several times in the book how important it is to exchange pawns when you have an inferior position. He considers it a basic-rule to improve the defense.

Well I have to admit that I never heard about such rule before. I do know that you have to exchange material when being ahead and you have to avoid exchanges when being down in material like I demonstrated successfully in the great escape. However I never heard about making a distinction between pawns and pieces. So as FM and having more than 20 years of tournament-experience I wondered if the American writer wasn't exaggerating. Nonetheless only a month later in the February-edition of Chessmagazine the Dutch International master and senior fide trainer Jeroen Bosch wrote something similar in one of his articles. Also he recommends to exchange pawns when standing worse.

More than 20 years I never heard this so called basic-rule but now it suddenly pops up twice in a couple of months. I checked around me and it appears that I am not the only one so maybe Jeroen just read the book "Applying logic in chess". This wouldn't surprise me as I strongly recommend this book to any serious trainer as it will be a standard work in the future for training pedagogically chess. Basic or not, known or unknown, fact is that Jeroen thinks the rule is useful for anybody so we should not ignore it.

Besides if I would've considered it nonsense then obviously I would not spent time writing about it. Also unconsciously I am sure we all are already applying sometimes that rule via the endgames. Many endgames are a draw even when one side has a material advantage of +3 when no pawns remain on the board. I am thinking about only knight or only bishop but also rook+ knight against rook or rook + bishop against bishop. I am talking purely from the theoretical point of view as there always remains practical chances as happened recently in the game Veselin Topalov against Ding Liren played in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. It is incredible how 2 absolute world-class-players managed to misplay an endgame of rook against knight despite having sufficient time remaining on the clock.

Mistakes are human especially if you need to calculate after many hours of play. Nobody is immune. However I also see many mistakes in the endgame which have nothing to do with calculations but are rather a lack of knowledge. I already wrote about this before see quicker part 2 that our youth is lagging in that domain and this once again became clear in the endgame occurring in my standard-game played in the Christmas-tournament of Deurne end of last year against fresh FM Sim Maerevoet. The 17 year old made in the 3 previous years a rating jump of no less than 600 points ! Contrary to my students he works hard at chess so is also more successful but the endgame still remains something special.

I advised Sim to work at it and I think he will do. This was shown when we did a long post-mortem after the game while all other players already left the tournament-room. While others were enjoying drinks and making a lot of noise, we tried to investigate deeper the complexity of our endgame. I told him that I wasn't sure if the endgame was won against best play so I hesitated during the game to enter it. Sim was surprised but admit that a win without exchanging rooks was not simple at all. Eventually I was able to find a narrow path to the victory after using the best engines for several hours. Clearly in practice it would've been unlikely to find all those moves.
[Event "Kersttornooi Deurne"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Maerevoet, S."] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/5p1p/3r2p1/3B4/8/8/6PP/4R1K1 w - - 0 39"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2310"] [BlackElo "2220"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "6k1/5p1p/3r2p1/3B4/8/8/6PP/4R1K1 w - - 0 39"] 39. Rd1 Rd7 40. Bf3 Ra7 41. Rb1 Rd7 42. Kf2 Kg7 43. Rb7 Rd6 44. Ke3 h5 45. Rc7 Rd8 46. Rc5 Rd7 47. Bd5 Kf6?! {(Black wants to have the king active when the rooks are exchanged but this is insufficient as white easily wins by using zugzwang. More important is to have the f-file free so the black rook can switch from a horizontal to a vertical defense.)} (47... Ra7 48. Rb5 Ra3+ 49. Kd4 Ra4+ 50. Ke5 Ra1 51. Rb7 Re1+ 52. Kd6 Rf1 {(Black managed to make the switch but he will not succeed next time.)} 53. h3 Rf6+ 54. Kc5 Rf1 55. Ra7 {(We will immediately see why it will be important to position the king at d6 and the rook at the a-file before starting to switch.)} 55... Rc1+ 56. Kd6 Rf1 57. Ra3 {(White threatens to switch to the f-file but all squares at the 7th row are covered. This forces black to make an important concession.)} 57... Rf6+ 58. Kc5 Rf2 59. Rf3 Rc2+ 60. Kd6 f6 61. Rb3 Re2 62. Rb7+ Kh6 63. Re7 Rb2 64. Ke6 {(Now the weakness of the e6 square allows white to infiltrate.)} 64... Rd2 65. Rd7 Kg5 66. Rb7 Kh6 67. Bf3 f5 68. Rd7 Rb2 69. Kf7 Kg5 70. Rd6 h4 71. Rxg6+) 48. Kd4 Re7?! {(Black has only a few minutes on the clock in the K.O.-phase but after this move the win becomes easy as black needs to exchange rooks or loses a pawn. The best was Kf5.)} 49. Rb5 h4 50. Rb7 Rxb7 51. Bxb7 Kg5 52. Ke5 f6+ 53. Ke6 f5 54. Ke5 f4 {(In the postmortem I still showed h3 as a last try to resist. An anti-dote was also quickly discovered.)} (54... h3 55. g3 Kg4 56. Ba6 Kf3 57. Bf1 Kf2 58. Bxh3 Kg1 59. Bxf5 Kxh2 60. g4 +-) 55. h3 1-0

Some would categorize my judgment as intuition but I believe it is not just that. I was trying to force an exchange of rooks as that would make the win much easier. I would only exchange pawns when all other options were exhausted. From earlier experiences I know that winning such endgames against optimal defense would be a close call and that is also proven in my long analysis. It is not easy to keep the activity of the black rook within limits, defend the white pawns and simultaneously cause a weakness in black's camp.

Ok that is all nice but how can this be studied somehow? I am no specialist of endgame-books but I don't think this type of endgames has been analyzed deeply somewhere. No I think a healthy curiosity is important to improve. I wrote in my previous article that I spend (too) much time at analyzing endgames. However it is never useless doing such research. For this type of endgame I made an extra mile by analyzing similar endgames which were played recently. During the Christmas-holidays  I was spending family-time in Russia so I anyway had a lot of free time. I don't have chessbase but by downloading scid which can be done fully legally, I was able to make a selection of games in which the endgame of Rook + Bishop against Rook popped up but in which there were also pawns on the board at one side of the board and the side without bishop has one extra pawn. Some endgames were very interesting to analyze. Below you can find the most interesting ones. I start with an endgame played in 2018 between 2 Cuban grandmasters.
[Event "Guillermo Garcia Prem 1"] [Site "Santa Clara CUB"] [Date "2018.05.23"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Quesada Perez, Luis Ernesto"] [Black "Oliva, K."] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/R4pk1/2B1p1p1/4K1P1/5P2/8/8/3r4 b - - 0 43"] [ECO "A37"] [WhiteElo "2462"] [BlackElo "2511"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2018.05.22"] [Eventtype "tourn"] [CurrentPosition "8/R4pk1/2B1p1p1/4K1P1/5P2/8/8/3r4 b - - 0 43"] 43... Re1+ 44. Kd6 Rf1 45. Bd7 Kf8? {(Black wants to avoid Be8 but he does it the wrong way.)} (45... Rd1+ 46. Ke5 Rd5+ 47. Ke4 Kf8 48. Bc6 Rc5 49. Ra6 Ke7 50. Ra7+ Kf8 51. Ba4 Rc4+ 52. Ke5 Rc5+ 53. Kd4 Rf5 54. Ke4 Rc5 55. Bb3 Rc3 56. Rb7 Rc5 57. Ke3 Rf5 58. Rb8+ Kg7 59. Re8 Rb5 60. Bc2 Rb4 61. Bd3 Rb3 = {(Stockfish still shows +3 but can't make any progress. White's pawns are too advanced.)}) 46. Ke5 Rf2 47. Bb5 Rf3 48. Ra8+ Kg7 49. Be8 Rc3 50. Ra7 Rc5+ 51. Kd6 Rd5+ 52. Kc6 Kf8 {(Also Rf5 leads to a lost pawn-endgame. This theme of giving away the material-plus to achieve a won pawn-endgame occurs regularly.)} (52... Rf5 53. Rxf7+ Rxf7 54. Bxf7 Kxf7 55. Kd7 +-) 53. Bxf7 Rf5 54. Bxe6 Rxf4 55. Rf7+ Rxf7 56. Bxf7 Kxf7 57. Kd7 1-0

Despite the large evaluation of the engine, I don't see a win against a correct defense. White's pawns are too advanced so the winning mechanism as shown in my game against Sim is not possible. Nevertheless black still managed to lose the game which I regularly noticed in such type of endgames. In practice many people falter as defending such positions is far from easy. This is also the case in the next example. This time we see the Latvian grandmaster Toms Kantans collapsing while a draw was feasible.
[Event "Baltic zt III Stage 2018"] [Site "Liepaja LAT"] [Date "2018.07.15"] [Round "9.8"] [White "Bernotas, A."] [Black "Kantans, T."] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2r2pkp/3R2p1/8/5P2/7P/4B3/6K1 w - - 0 35"] [ECO "B38"] [WhiteElo "2413"] [BlackElo "2529"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2018.07.09"] [CurrentPosition "8/2r2pkp/3R2p1/8/5P2/7P/4B3/6K1 w - - 0 35"] 35. Kf2 Ra7 36. Bf3 Ra2+ 37. Kg3 Ra3 38. Rd7 Kf6 39. Rb7 Rc3 40. Rb6+ Kg7 41. h4 Ra3 42. f5 {(The scattered white pawns make the win theoretical impossible but in practice we see that black still often makes a mistake due to the pressure.)} 42... gxf5 43. Kf4 Ra4+ 44. Kg5 Rd4 45. Rb7 Rd3 46. Bh5 h6+ 47. Kxf5 Rd5+ 48. Kg4 Rd4+ 49. Kg3 Rd3+ 50. Kf2 Rd5? {(The Latvian grandmaster commits an error.)} (50... Rd4 51. Rxf7+ Kg8 52. Kg3 Rd3+ 53. Kf2 {(Here we see the problem of pawn at the edge + wrong bishop after exchanging the rooks. However the alternative is giving up the last pawn which generates a theoretical draw.)} 53... Rd4 54. Kg3 Rd3+ 55. Kf4 Rd4+ 56. Ke5 Rxh4 {(White can still try but the tablebases tell us it is a draw.)}) 51. Rxf7+ Kg8 52. Bg6 Rd6 53. h5 Rd5 54. Ra7 Rb5 55. Ke3 Rc5 56. Kf4 Rg5 57. Bf5 Rxh5 58. Ke5 Rg5 59. Kf6 Kh8 60. Bg6 1-0

Here the problem were not the advanced pawns but rather that they were not anymore connected. This doesn't allow to coordinate attack and defense. Now it are not always the defenders making mistakes. In the next example we see a very favorable version of the endgame for white but black manages to defend. It is nice performance of the Argentinean grandmaster Federico Perez Ponsa.
[Event "Liga Nacional Superior"] [Site "Villa Martelli ARG"] [Date "2018.09.01"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Tomas Falcon, Jesus"] [Black "Perez Ponsa, F."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1R3pkp/6p1/2r5/8/5BP1/5PK1/8 b - - 0 38"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2152"] [BlackElo "2547"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "2018.07.07"] [Eventtype "team-swiss"] [Whiteteam "Tren Verde"] [Blackteam "Obras AYSA"] [CurrentPosition "8/1R3pkp/6p1/2r5/8/5BP1/5PK1/8 b - - 0 38"] 38... h5 {(White just took a bishop at b7.)} 39. Rd7 Rf5 40. Be4 Rf6 41. Rc7 Kf8 42. f3 {(White has one of the best setups to win. His pawns are connected. He doesn't have a pawn at the edge of the board and they are not far advanced. Still this time black defends which is naturally also linked to the fact that he is much higher rated than white.)} 42... Rd6 43. Kh3 Rd4 44. Bb7 Kg7 45. f4 Kf8 46. Ba6 Rd6 47. Bc4 Rf6 48. Kh4 Kg7 49. Bd5 Kf8 50. Bf3 Kg7 51. Be4 Re6 52. Bd3 Rd6 53. Bc2 Rd2 54. Kh3 Rd6 55. Bb3 Rf6 56. Kg2? {(Kh4 still wins. Now black gets an opportunity to find a draw which he manages to do nicely.)} 56... h4 {(If you are behind then you should exchange pawns.)} 57. Rxf7+ {(White tries the pawn-endgame with an extra pawn but it is not won.)} 57... Rxf7 58. Bxf7 Kxf7 59. gxh4 Kf6 60. Kf2 Kf5 61. Kf3 Ke6 62. Kg4 Kf6 63. Kf3 Kf5 64. Kg3 Ke6 65. Kg4 1/2-1/2

Black executed nicely the basic-rule of exchanging pawns when standing worse. Besides we also see that the drawing chances immediately improve when 1 pair of pawns disappear. Still it doesn't mean a draw is given easily even when black is the super-grandmaster Peter Svidler.
[Event "80th Tata Steel GpA"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2018.01.14"] [Round "2.7"] [White "Wei Yi"] [Black "Svidler, P."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/5p2/2r3p1/8/7R/8/7P/3B2K1 b - - 0 63"] [ECO "D80"] [WhiteElo "2743"] [BlackElo "2768"] [PlyCount "122"] [EventDate "2018.01.13"] [CurrentPosition "5k2/5p2/2r3p1/8/7R/8/7P/3B2K1 b - - 0 63"] 63... Kg7 64. Rd4 Rf6 65. Kg2 Kh6 66. Bf3 Kg7 67. Kg3 Kh6 68. Kf2 Kg7 69. Rd7 Kg8 70. Ke3 Kg7 71. Bd5 Kg8 72. Bc4 Kg7 73. Rc7 Rf5 74. Ra7 Rf6 75. Rb7 Rf5 76. Ba2 Rf6 77. Bb3 Rf5 78. Rd7 Rf6 79. Bc4 Rf5 80. Bd5 Rf6 81. Rb7 Rf5 82. Ke4 Kg8 83. Ra7 Kg7 84. Kd4 Rf2 85. h3 Rf1 86. Kc5 Rf6 87. Rb7 Kg8 88. Kd4 Rf5 89. Kc4 Kg7 90. Kc5 Rf6 91. Rc7 Kf8 92. Be4 Kg7 93. Kd5 Re6 94. Kd4 Rf6 95. Ra7 Kf8 96. Ra3 Kg7 97. Kd5 Re6 98. Rc3 Rf6 99. Bc2 Kf8 100. Bb3 Kg7 101. Ke5 Rf5+ 102. Kd6 Rf4 103. Bd5 Rf5 104. Rc7 Kf8 105. Ra7 Rf6+ 106. Kd7 Rf5 107. Ra8+ Kg7 108. Kd6 Rf6+ 109. Ke7 Rf5 110. Rd8 Re5+ 111. Kd6 Rf5 112. Be4 Rf6+ 113. Ke5 Re6+ 114. Kf4 Rf6+ 115. Kg5 Re6 116. Rd4 Rf6 117. h4 Re6 118. Bf3 Rf6 119. Bg4 Rf1 120. Rd7 Rf2 121. h5 gxh5 122. Bxh5 Rf1 123. Bxf7 Rxf7 124. Rxf7+ {(Black didn't blink but white definitely tried all tricks.)} 1/2-1/2

Black didn't blink. White tried all his tricks and waited as long as possible till it was not possible anymore to avoid pawn-moves. In the next example we see again it is a draw but both players can't avoid making mistakes.
[Event "Bundesliga 2016-17"] [Site "Munich GER"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Gerigk, E."] [Black "Lampert, J."] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/2Rbk1p1/8/8/5KP1/5P1r/8 w - - 0 54"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2381"] [BlackElo "2500"] [PlyCount "56"] [EventDate "2016.10.15"] [Eventtype "team"] [Whiteteam "MSC Zugzwang"] [Blackteam "HSK"] [CurrentPosition "8/8/2Rbk1p1/8/8/5KP1/5P1r/8 w - - 0 54"] 54. Rc2 Kf5 55. Rd2 Be5 56. Ra2 g5 57. Ra4 Rh8 58. Re4 Rd8 59. Re2 Bd4 60. Re4 Bc5 61. Rc4 Bd4 62. Rc7 Rb8 63. Kg2? {(This is too passive as now black can win with a special maneuver.)} (63. Rd7 g4+ 64. Kg2 Rb4 65. Rf7+ Bf6 66. Rf8 Kg6 67. Rg8+ Kf5 68. Rf8 Rb2 69. Rc8 Rb3 70. Rc5+ Be5 71. Rc8 Rf3 72. Rf8+ Bf6 73. Kf1 Kg6 74. Rg8+ Kh5 75. Ra8 Kg6 76. Rg8+ Bg7 77. Ke1 Rc3 78. Kf1 Rc1+ 79. Ke2 {(Stockfish keeps showing almost +2,5 but can't make any progress.)}) 63... Rb2 64. Rf7+ Ke4 65. Kf1 g4 66. Rf4+ Kd3 67. Rxg4 {(The alternative is a lost pawn-endgame.)} (67. Kg2 Rxf2+ 68. Rxf2 Bxf2 69. Kxf2 Kd2 70. Kf1 Ke3 71. Kg2 Ke2 72. Kg1 Kf3 73. Kh2 Kf2 74. Kh1 Kxg3 75. Kg1 Kh3 76. Kh1 g3 77. Kg1 g2 78. Kf2 Kh2 -+) 67... Rxf2+ 68. Ke1 Rf3 69. Rf4 Bc3+ 70. Kd1 Re3 71. Rf1 {(Funnily without the white pawn it is a draw but now it is won for black.)} 71... Bd4 72. Rf2 Bc3 73. Rf1 Re5? {(Ld2 wins but it is not simple.)} (73... Bd2 74. g4 Re2 75. Rf3+ Be3 76. Rf7 Rb2 77. Rd7+ Bd4 78. Rc7 Rg2 79. Re7 Rxg4 80. Re2 Rg1+ 81. Re1 Rg2 82. Re7 Rh2 83. Re8 Rb2 84. Rc8 Bb6 85. Rc6 Be3 86. Rd6+ Bd4 87. Rc6 Rd2+ 88. Kc1 Rh2 89. Kb1 Rb2+ 90. Kc1 Rb5 91. Rd6 Ra5 -+) 74. Rf3+ Kc4 75. Rf8 Re1+ 76. Kc2 Re2+ 77. Kd1 Rd2+ 78. Kc1 Ra2 79. Rc8+? {(White permits black to access d3. A draw was e.g. Rf3.)} 79... Kd3 80. Rd8+ Bd4 81. Rb8 Rg2 {(White resigned as he can only postpone mate by sacrificing the rook.)} (81... Rg2 82. Kb1 Rg1+ 83. Ka2 Ra1+ 84. Kb3 Rb1+) 0-1

So you always need to be very attentive in this endgame even if you know which position is a draw or not. For me analyzing such endgames is fun and it also extends my horizon of the endgame. Only by looking at games played in the year 2018, I found dozens of this type of endgame in the big database. Some of them were an exact copy of my position against Sim. Also I do think some conclusions are valid for other type of endgames.

Finally I find it very important in those endgames to think in terms of concepts instead of concrete moves. You first need to figure out what you want to achieve and then you need to map the right moves to your idea. In my recent courses in KMSK I obliged my students to train such endgames by playing them out against each other. I opened a new world for them as they never tried to play chess in such way.


Friday, April 5, 2019

How many games should I play?

Many chess-clubs offer lessons for the youth but adults are often ignored. Contrary any adult able to play chess is begged to give courses even it is just explaining the basic principles of step 1 and 2 at children. Now and then I hear another teacher at KMSK telling me that I am instructing things to my children which they haven't learned yet themselves.

It is very rare that I hear an adult trying to start playing chess. Sometimes a parent having a child playing chess, wants to know more about the hobby of his child and tries to get involved into chess but also very rapidly quits. It is emotionally tough to see how even young children are progressing much faster and easier than yourself. A degree at the university of laws, engineer, doctor... doesn't give any added value to play better chess.

Adults making big improvements is something very exceptional. So I was very surprised to hear last year that an American claimed to have developed a training-method to improve from beginner to international master as an adult. Not only that but he said that he did it himself in 3 years to get that renowned title. Too good to be true I thought so I liked to see for myself what he wrote in his new book Applying Logic in Chess. What am I doing wrong or what can I do better? I assume many players are regularly wondering this.
If we look at the fide-rating-profile of the American IM Erik Kislik then we see he got his first rating beginning of 2008 and already in 2012 achieved the IM-title. So 3 years is a bit exaggerated even if we take into account the slowness of fide attributing the titles. On the other hand it is still an incredible performance for an adult.

However having quite some experience with salestalk and particularly with Americans I know you should always look deeper than just the surface. After some research on the internet I quickly detected that Erik already had in the year 2002 a 1900 USCF rating. 1900 USCF corresponds with about 1800 fide. More than half of the clubplayers never get such high rating so stating that in 2008 you are still a beginner is a very open interpretation of the term "beginner". Gaining a couple of 100 rating points in 3 years is something much more realistic to achieve.

Still we should not underestimate the feat of Erik. Very few players have succeeded to get multiple titles when they were already an adult. I did some research and I found only a few examples: the Scottish grandmaster John Shaw getting his GM-title at the age of 38,  the English grandmaster Jonathan Hawkins getting the GM-title at the age of 31 and the Swedish grandmaster Axel Smith getting the GM-title at the age of 30. They managed to improve a couple of hundred elo while being adults. Not a surprise that both Jonathan and Axel have also written a book about their individual journeys: Amateur to IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods and Pump up your rating.

Each of the books are showing the many obstacles on the road to the title and give the readers advise what to do and not to do. If you compare the books then you find resemblances but also big differences. I was surprised about that as I expected not so different roads for improvement exist as we know so very few success-stories. I think this is something interesting to investigate a bit deeper by comparing the books "Applying Logic in Chess" en "Pump up your training" as they suit best for this task. Below you can find my short summary of the comparison together with some comments from myself.
You can see many serious differences in the approach of both. Personally I am feeling more affinity with the method of Erik Kislik but there is certainly also good advise in the book from Alex Smith so I recommend them both. Alex often gives more concrete advise while Erik will tell which parts of the training should get the most time. I think a mix of both taking into account your own preferences and situation is likely the most optimal choice. Surely a coach can help you with that.

Finally in both books there is clearly one common advise which is to play as much games as possible. With games they mean of course standard ones so no blitz. In each training-plan this should get absolute priority. To know how many games we are talking about, I checked the activity of the authors on their path to the titles. I start with the American IM Erik Kislik.
At the age of 22 he got the FM-title. At 25 he became IM. Averagely he played 140 games each year for standard fide rating and that for a period of 5 years. So in 1 year he played (much) more than what I played in the last 10 year together!

Eventually we only see a gain of 150 elo compared to his initial rating. The Swedish GM Alex Smith did much more. However it took him 10 years to climb about 350 elo as an adult.
We see Alex only making serious progress when he starts to play more games in 2007. In 2008 he became IM and only in 2016 he got the GM-title. In those years he played averagely 110 games per year with an insane peak of 185 games for standard fide rating in 2008.

Finally the British GM Jonathan Hawkins shows that improvements don't come solely from playing a lot of games. Maybe he played many games without being rated but I doubt that as strong players don't get much chances this way to get interesting opponents.
FM he became at the age 25. At 27 he got the IM-title but only at 31 he finally became GM. So we see more than 300 elo gain over a period of 8 years. Only for the jump from IM to GM he played considerably more games but still less than the 2 other earlier mentioned players.

So I think we can conclude that playing many games is necessary to make progress. However as an adult it is very difficult to free enough time for playing those games. If you are not rich then this can only be done by combining lousy paid temporary jobs and you must be satisfied with minimum comfort. It is no wonder that over the age of 30 it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain such way of life. You can't combine this with starting a family.

For me there won't be any big improvements anymore and I should not wait for my retirement like strong Jan. Jan was able to stop working at the age of 60 but likely I will have to continue till 70 which makes a big difference for a chessplayer.

Last year I started to play rapid-tournaments together with my children see my article memory. This year I am planning to play together once a standard-tournament. It is a small step to become again a more active player.