Thursday, June 27, 2019

Computers achieve autonomy part 2

The recently finished top-tournament Norway Chess Altibox got very mixed reviews to say the least. The local hero, worldchampion Carlsen won as the organizers hoped for but quality and quantity was below the usual standard. Some players didn't hide their intentions to bypass the classical chess immediately for the armageddons. Unfortunately many of those armageddons were poorly played containing many blunders.

If the organizers had the intent to counter the death of draws in chess then they clearly missed the goal. Besides didn't Carlsen prove in the latest months that it is still possible to win against the best players? The cure made things only worse. In correspondence-chess however things look more grim at the highest level. I already wrote about that 4 years ago in computers achieve autonomy part 1 and it only became worse since.
The 30th WC-final is still ongoing but currently the draw-percentage is 93% with 95% of the games played. A change of rules for the wc-finale is needed or it makes no sense to organize it anymore.

However as often we see that changes don't happen despite everybody is aware about the problem. Big changes in history happen mostly only when extreme situations are occurring. Also for most questions history has already a solution but we easily forget. The death of draws is nothing new. Already in 1900 so 120 years ago a solution was defined for the many draws in checkers (on 64 squares). Initially players were forced to play an opening of which the first 2 moves were selected in advance by lottery. Later from 1934 onward this was extended to the first 3 moves. As every opening must be played with both colors, nobody was favored.

This concept also exists for chess. You have the voluntary thematic-tournaments which often are organized specially for a certain festivity like I explained in my article a mini-thematic tournament but nowadays it is best known from computer-chess.  By the way the imposed openings were initially not used in computer-chess to counter the number of draws but rather to get more variety in the games. Definitely old chess-programs had the terrible habit to always play the same line see chesskids but also the brandnew Lc0 does the same see my comment at the bonusfinal from March 2019 between Lc0 and Stockfish.

Only after the superfinal of season 8 in which 89 draws out of 100 played games occurred, people realized that it is not enough to variate openings to get an interesting match. Since then more attention was given to the choice of the openings so we could see more decisive games. This is not something easy to achieve. Some complex openings for humans were easily neutralized by the best engines. On the other hand you don't want to select openings in which the win/ loss is already defined from the start. So one color should not get a too large advantage which makes the other color without a chance.

We also see that it becomes increasingly difficult to select interesting unbalanced openings. Till a couple of years ago it was sufficient just to avoid openings which were tactically refuted. Nowadays we learn by experience that strategically dubious openings often can't be used anymore for a test between the best engines. A nice example of this is what happened with the Grob : 1.g4 in the TCEC super-final of season 12. Both Komodo and Stockfish showed a large advantage for black (-0,9 till -1,46) after already the first white move and both succeeded to convert this advantage into a win.
[Event "TCEC Season 12 - Superfinal"] [Site ""] [Date "2018.06.26"] [Round "23.2"] [White "Komodo 12.1.1"] [Black "Stockfish 180614"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "3475"] [BlackElo "3519"] [PlyCount "91"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. g4 d5 {(-1,46 shows Stockfish already. So to some extend the game is decided after 1 move. Komodo is as usual more moderate with only -0,90.)} 2. h3 (2. e3 {(Stockfish chose in the inverse-game for e3.)} 2... h5 3. g5 e5 4. d4 Bg4 5. f3 Bf5 6. h4 exd4 7. exd4 Bd6 8. Ne2 Ne7 9. Nbc3 O-O 10. Bf4 Nbc6 11. Qd2 Nb4 12. Bxd6 Qxd6 13. Nb5 Nxc2+ 14. Qxc2 Qb4+ 15. Qc3 Qxb5 16. Ng3 Qa4 17. Nxh5 c5 18. dxc5 d4 19. Qc4 Qd7 20. Ng3 b5 21. Qxb5 Qc7 22. Nxf5 Nxf5 23. O-O-O Rab8 24. Qd3 Qxc5+ 25. Kb1 Ne3 26. Rd2 Qa5 27. Bh3 Nd5 28. Ka1 Nf4 29. Qc2 d3 30. Qc3 Qd5 31. Bg4 Rb5 32. Qc7 Qd4 33. Qc3 Qe3 34. Rdd1 Qb6 35. g6 Rc5 36. gxf7+ Rxf7 37. Qb3 Rb5 38. Qa3 Ra5 39. Qc3 Rc7 40. Be6+ Nxe6 41. Qxd3 Nc5 42. Qd5+ Rf7 43. Qd8+ Qxd8 44. Rxd8+ Kh7 45. Rhd1 Ne6 46. R8d6 Nf8 47. R6d4 Raf5 48. Rh1 Rxf3 49. Rdd1 Rf2 50. Kb1 Ng6 51. Rd5 Kh6 52. h5 Rf1+ 53. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 54. Kc2 Rf2+ 55. Kb3 Nf4 56. Rf5 Nh3 57. Rc5 Rf7 58. Kc3 {(Stockfish - Komodo: 0 - 1)}) 2... h5 3. gxh5 e5 4. c3 Qh4 5. d3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Qxh5 7. Nbd2 Nge7 8. b4 a6 9. a4 g5 10. Rg1 f6 11. Ba3 Ng6 12. Qb1 Nf4 13. b5 Ne7 14. c4 a5 15. Qc2 Qf7 16. b6 cxb6 17. Qb2 Nc6 18. Bxf8 Kxf8 19. cxd5 Nb4 20. Nxe5 fxe5 21. Qxe5 Rg8 22. Rc1 Nfxd5 23. Rxg5 Rxg5 24. Qxg5 Bd7 25. Nc4 Bxa4 26. Kd2 Bc6 27. Ra1 a4 28. e4 Qf4+ 29. Qxf4+ Nxf4 30. Nxb6 Rd8 31. Nxa4 Nfxd3 32. Kc3 Bxe4 33. Nb6 Rd6 34. Nc4 Rd7 35. f3 Bh7 36. Bxd3 Nxd3 37. Ra8+ Kg7 38. Rb8 Nc5 39. Ne3 Rf7 40. Ng4 Rxf3+ 41. Kc4 Rf5 42. Kd4 Rh5 43. Nf2 Bg8 44. Re8 Be6 45. Re7+ Kg6 46. Rc7 0-1
Only 1 move was played and in a higher sense the game was decided already. We are again a step closer to the apocalypse of chess. However how relevant is that for us? At chesspub some members thought this new information would only be useful for the worldclass-players. I objected as I proofed it a couple of months ago on my mediocre level. In 2012 I wrote on my blog about the Czech-defense not having found a clear anti-dote. Today engines have got much stronger and are able to got much further unraveling the puzzle. This new acquired knowledge I was able to implement perfectly against maybe the biggest expert in Belgium of the Czech defense, Frederic Verduyn in our game played during the Belgian interclubs.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KBSK"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Verduyn, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [WhiteElo "2309"] [BlackElo "2150"] [PlyCount "75"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 {(Frederic is probably the biggest fan in Belgium of this opening so obviously I was prepared for it. Previously I tried Be3 and Be2 in standard-games.)} 5... Bh5 6. Bd3 {(Frederic only prepared for the more popular Qe2 although I had written about Bd3 on my blog. Apparently there are still chessplayers not checking my blog.)} 6... e6 7. g4 Bg6 8. g5 Nfd7 9. Nh4 {(During the preparation I had discovered an interesting alternative: h4. In the end I decided to stick with Nh4 as I found the resulting lines more easy to play.)} 9... d5 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Bf4 {(I had prepared this novelty at home. Still known is Qg4 with also some advantage for white.)} 11... Qa5?! {(My analysis continued with Bb4 and white sacrifices the h-pawn with 0-0 just like I played in the game.)} 12. O-O dxe4 13. Nxe4 Na6 14. c3!? {(After the game Frederic recommended a3. Both are good for a white advantage.)} 14... e5?! {(This is very risky with the king still in the center. 0-0-0 is better but doesn't bring much joy either for black.)} 15. Bg3 O-O-O 16. Qg4 Kb8 17. b4 Qd5 18. Bxa6 bxa6 19. dxe5 Qe6 20. Rfd1 {(I sacrifice the h-pawn to get more activity. It is not the best but my advantage is so big that it doesn't matter anymore.)} 20... Rxh3 21. Qxe6 fxe6 22. Nd6 Nb6 23. Nf7 Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Be7 25. Nd8 Bxd8 26. Rxd8+ Kc7 27. Rd6 Rh5 28. Rxe6 Rxg5 29. Re7+ Kd8 30. Rxa7 Nd5 31. Rxa6 Nxc3 32. Kf1 Rf5 33. Rxc6 Ne4 34. Kg2 Nxg3 35. Kxg3 Rxe5 36. Rxg6 Re2 37. a4 Re4 38. Rg4 1-0
After the game Frederic maybe gave me the nicest compliment by confessing to me that I am the first one to let him doubt about the soundness of the opening after having hundred(s) of standard games with it played. Personally I always enjoy winning more when I can do it on my opponent's favorite territory. I also remember till today after the British Senior International Master John Anderson resigned against me (see our correspondence-game published in the article using databases part 2) that he told me, I was the first one to defeat him in his favorite line.

Now I guess some people will not agree that I call the strategic dubious openings as refuted. Can you ever talk about a refutation when a human can't formulate a clear winning-plan? Except against the best players of the world, there will always remain practical chances. On the other hand who wants to play voluntarily with such handicap in standard games?

As a surprise-weapon strategic dubious openings will still be used. However engines will get better in autonomously refuting them so I do expect in the next years a decline of their popularity even in games played between amateurs. It is also the reason why I wrote last month in the article chess position trainer part 2 not to start playing the Dutch defense.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Romantic chess part 2

If you consider the year 1997 still as the modern times then likely you aren't that young anymore. So I wasn't surprised at all to discover that the author of the recently published article a romantic opening in modern times is already 53 years old. In the 2 last decades chess made a metamorphose.

Advertisements should never be accepted blindly. The purpose of the article is foremost to sell the new DVDs on the King's gambit produced by the British grandmaster Simon Williams so you don't want to spoil it by giving trivial facts like it hasn't been played in the most recent years in classical chess by the top-grandmasters.

Besides if you are no such super-grandmaster then I am sure you still encounter regularly those romantic openings. There are still many amateurs ignoring the objective evaluation of the openings and believe they will be able to profit from the lack of knowledge and low competence of their opponents (mostly also amateurs). However I do notice a change in the type of player loving to play those risky openings. When I started playing chess more than 2 decades ago it were mainly young players with an aggressive style. Nowadays it are mostly older players using some old forgotten gambits.
In above table, I made a summary of the romantic openings which I met on the board in classical games from +2100 rated players. You can argue what exactly is a romantic opening but the trend is clear. In the first years we see mainly yellow so strong young players below 30 year. In the most recent years we see almost exclusively green so players older than 50 playing those obscure openings.

I see currently a growing nostalgia but also many older players are blaming the youth of not knowing the classics. Young players only study the openings played by today's best players which makes them vulnerable for the traps hidden in many romantic openings. I hear some of those young ones complain as it is lame to win games based on traps instead of real chess. You can't make progress by just trying to score easy points that way and you definitely can't use it twice against the same opponent.

Many older players lack the drive and energy to keep developing and improving themselves. It is no coincidence that almost no +2300 plays a romantic opening in standard chess. Only 3 out of 63 opponents in the table had a +2300 rating. When I discuss this with young strong players then I can't convince them to give a romantic opening a try even if I can show them a fresh idea. Why would they spend a lot of effort for 1 game as next time the opponent will already have prepared an anti-dote with the engine. Time is precious so you better use it for more solid openings which can be used in a repertoire much longer.

Anyway at some point everybody hits their maximum. There is nothing wrong from then onward to choose a romantic repertoire which you enjoy. Eventually fun is the only track to keep playing chess and nobody else can tell you better than yourself what you like or not. Besides if you can stay below the radar of the databases (so mainly below 2300 elo) then it is often possible to become very successful with romantic openings.

A nice example is the expert living in Gent, Nouri Zouaghi. Last year he surprised me in the interclubs with a risky line in the Schliemann-gambit but he was able to compensate the doubtful reputation of the opening by a much better understanding of the position. We created an interesting game.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Zouaghi, N."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C63"] [WhiteElo "2309"] [BlackElo "2200"] [PlyCount "71"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 {(Nouri chooses as expected for a side-line. However I didn't manage to guess which one as there are no games from him with it in the database.)} 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. exf5 {(In 2004 I had played Qe2 against Robert Schuermans in the open of Plancoet. Exf5 is considered as more critical.)} 5... e4 6. Ng5 {(I have checked this line before as I remembered Nh4 is also good.)} 6... d5 7. d3 h6 8. Ne6 Bxe6 9. fxe6 Qd6 10. O-O {(Qxe4 is played more often. In most cases it is just a transposition but white has after Qxe6 also the interesting alternative Bxc6.)} 10... Qxe6 11. dxe4 dxe4 12. Bf4?! {(Nouri likely prepared this line but it is for sure a risky choice. Fortunately for black I couldn't remember anymore my old analysis otherwise he could've ran into troubles.)} (12. Be3!? Bb4 13. Qd4 O-O 14. Bxc6 Bxc3 15. Qxc3 bxc6 16. Rae1 Nd5 17. Qc4 Rf6) (12. Re1!? Bc5!? 13. Be3! Bxe3 14. Rxe3 O-O) 12... Bc5 {(In 2 older mastergames the weaker Bd6 was played. I wonder if Bc5 was still part of the preparation or Nouri made it up at the board.)} 13. Qe2 {(White can accept the gambit but black has sufficient counterplay. Ba4 is an alternative but also then black has chances.)} 13... O-O-O 14. Bxc6 Qxc6 15. Rad1 a6 16. Be5 Rde8 17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. Nd5 Rhg8 19. b4 Ba7 20. c4 Qe6 21. c5 c6 22. Ne3 Bb8 23. Nc4 Bc7 24. Nd6+ Bxd6 25. Rxd6 Qe5 26. Rfd1 Rd8?! {(Black is a bit too eager to force the draw. F5 is more active to maintain the balance.)} 27. Rxc6+?! {(I had less than 2 minutes on the clock so I force the draw. I knew that my position was slightly better but I had to take risks. The engines confirm my evaluation. Qe2 and Qe3 are bit better for white but black can defend.)} 27... bxc6 28. Qxa6+ Kb8 29. Qb6+ Kc8 30. Qa6+ Kb8 31. Qb6+ Kc8 32. Qxc6+ Kb8 33. Qb6+ Kc8 34. Qc6+ Kb8 35. Qb5+ Kc8 36. Qc6+ 1/2-1/2
After the game it became apparent how different our styles are. While I was focusing on the defects of the black opening, Nouri considered a 0,6 disadvantage shown as evaluation by the engine, fully acceptable for black.

However when I met again Nouri this year with the same colors in the interclubs, I was again surprised by the same risky line of the Schliemann-gambit. How? Well I couldn't imagine somebody playing twice the same risky line against the same opponent. I don't know if it was ignorance of Nouri or something else. Anyway I am not the person to avoid a challenge (see a theoretical battle in the Svechnikov.)
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Zouaghi, N."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C63"] [WhiteElo "2304"] [BlackElo "2200"] [PlyCount "46"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. exf5 e4 {(It was a big surprise for me that Nouri didn't try to surprise me in the opening. I did consider the possibility but estimated the probability very low that somebody with about 2200 elo would risk to play the same risky line twice against the same person.)} 6. Nh4 {(The computer has a slight preference for Nh4 to Ng5 which I played last year in our mutual game. Besides I always think it is interesting to deviate first. However there is one big disadvantage to Nh4 as it is more difficult for white to find the right moves. With a knight at the rim, you need to play more accurately.)} 6... Bc5 {(Nouri played this move after a long reflection so I guess my last move surprised him. During the game I was cursing myself not having studied this logical move more deeply at home. I had checked other logical moves but that one went of my radar.)} (6... Be7 {(I noticed at that Nouri has played this a few times.} 7. Nxe4 {(This novelty refutes the line spectacularly.)} 7... Nxe4 8. Qh5+ Kf8 9. Ng6+ hxg6 (9... Kg8 10. Bc4+ d5 11. Bxd5+ Qxd5 12. Nxe7+ Nxe7 13. Qe8#) 10. Qxh8+ Kf7 11. Bc4+ d5 12. Qxd8 Nxd8 13. Bxd5+ +- {[%eval 508,29]}) (6... d5 {(Also this move was tried by Nouri at I think it is black's most important try in the position.)} 7. d3 exd3 8. O-O {(I had seen this sacrifice in my preparation.)} 8... dxc2 (8... Be7 {(I also checked this logical move in case Nouri wouldn't take my bite.)} 9. Bxd3 O-O 10. Bg5 Ne5 11. Nf3 Nxd3 12. Qxd3 c6 13. Rfe1) 9. Qxc2 Be7 10. Bg5 O-O 11. Rad1 {(The engine gives a clear advantage for white but things remain complicated.)}) 7. O-O O-O 8. d3 exd3 9. Bxd3!? {(I treat the position similarly as I had prepared for the line 6...d5 7.d3 exd3 8.0-0 Be7. An interesting alternative is Qxd3.)} 9... d5 10. Bg5!? {(I saw no good reason not to continue with my previous mentioned idea. A good alternative is Bf4.)} 10... Ne5 11. Nf3!? {(Again I follow the familiar scheme. Here Qe2 is worth a try.)} 11... Nxd3 12. Qxd3 c6 13. Ne2?! {(Black's black-squared bishop is stronger on c5 than e7. Nevertheless it was still good to continue with Rfe1 as the complications still favor white. Also I had missed black's next strong move.)} (13. Rfe1! Qb6!? (13... Qd7!? 14. Bxf6 Rxf6 15. g4 g6 16. Ne2) 14. Bh4 Ng4 15. Qd2 Qc7 16. Bg3 Qd8 17. Na4 Bd6 18. h3 Nh6 {[%eval 109,38]}) 13... Qb6 14. Bxf6 Rxf6 15. Ned4 Bxd4 16. Nxd4 c5 {(Nouri proposed a draw which I refused as I wasn't risking anything with Ne6.)} 17. Ne6?! {(I sensed that this was not enough for a win but Nf3 was too complicated for me.)} (17. Nf3! Rxf5!? 18. Rae1 Be6?! (18... Bd7! 19. g4 c4 20. Qd1 Rf6 21. Qxd5+ Be6 22. Qe4 Bf7 {[%eval 49,39] (White won a pawn but the ugly pawn on g4 will definitely give some practical counter-chances to black.)}) 19. b4 {(This beautiful move clears the square d4 for the knight and fortifies an advantage for white.)} 19... c4 20. Qd2 Qd6 21. Nd4 Rf6) 17... Bxe6 18. fxe6 Qxe6 19. Rfe1 Qd6 20. Rad1 Rd8 21. Re2 Re6 22. Rxe6 Qxe6 23. b3 {(Initially I wanted to play Kf1 till I discovered the double attack with Qe5 between the pawns b2 and h2.)} 23... Re8 {(The second draw-proposal of Nouri couldn't be refused anymore. I can only keep the balance with h3.)} 1/2-1/2
The top-engines prefer 6.Nh4 to 6.Ng5 but it is not simpler for white at all. Black again had a better nose for the complications and afterwards I could only admit that refuting a romantic opening isn't always easy.

Naturally this is even harder when you get less time for a game. When you lack the time to remember the accurate moves or to calculate the details then a romantic opening can be a very dangerous weapon. It makes a lot of sense not to refute it in such quick games but just try to avoid the complications. A successful example was executed of that strategy in a decisive rapidgame played last year against the Belgian FM Sim Maerevoet.
[Event "Rapidtournament Gent"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Maerevoet, Sim"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C40"] [PlyCount "75"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 {(The elephantgambit.)} 3. exd5 Nf6 {(In the Big Database there is only 1 mastergame with Nf6.)} 4. Nxe5 {(Via a transposition we reach a special line of the Petrov which recently was developed by the Georgian grandmaster Jobava Baadur.)} 4... Qxd5 5. d4 Nc6 6. Nxc6 Qxc6 7. Qe2+ {(I like to force the exchange of queens as now the risk is much smaller to miss some tactics. After the game I discovered that this move has been played before by 2 strong grandmasters in blitz and rapid.)} 7... Be7 8. Qb5 Bd7 9. Qxc6 Bxc6 10. f3 O-O-O 11. c3 Rhe8 {(Only here Sim deviates from a blitzgame between the French super-grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Jobava Baadur played in Leuven 2017. Black has not enough compensation for the sacrificed pawn.)} 12. Kf2 Bd5 13. Nd2 Nh5 14. Nb3 f5 15. g3 b6 16. Bd2 c5 17. c4 Bf7 18. d5 b5 19. Rc1 bxc4 20. Bxc4 Bxd5 21. Bxd5 Rxd5 22. Be3 Kb8 23. Bxc5 Bf6 24. Rhd1 Rxd1 25. Rxd1 Bxb2 26. Rd7 Nf6 27. Bxa7+ Ka8 28. Rf7 Rc8 29. Bc5 Nd5 30. Ra7+ Kb8 31. Rd7 Nf6 32. Rd2 Be5 33. a4 Kb7 34. a5 Ka6 35. Bb6 Rc3 36. Nc5+ Kb5 37. Nd3 Nd7 38. Nxe5 {(And I won the game easily x number of moves later.)} 1-0
I knew a few things about the Elephantgambit (Quality Chess announced last year to publish a book about it) but 3..Nf6 was for me unknown. Later I discovered that you can also enter the same position via the Russian opening : 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Pxe5 d5 and is one of the many original ideas of the eccentric Georgian grandmaster Baadur Jobava. More than likely Sim borrowed the idea from him.

In the article I mix romantic chess and romantic openings. However we can also split them into a theoretical part (the opening) and a practical part (the middle-game). Jobava demonstrates that romantic chess is still today playable even at the highest level on the condition your opponent hasn't studied yet your new idea. On the other hand the romantic openings (19th century mainly) are only acceptable at the level of the amateur.