Thursday, December 26, 2019

Which games to analyze? part 3

I promised some time ago to Helmut that I would write an article for this blog when I would have some free time. In November Helmut wrote a great article about which games he analyzes and to which sense it helps us to become a stronger player. So I thought it could be an interesting idea once to explain my method of working at chess. Helmut writes that I am not sufficiently analyzing my own games and I agree with him. I often only look at my games with the engine on my smartphone and only when I forgot something of the opening, I will spend some time at rechecking the theory. I should do more analysis of my games as I do realize that only checking them this way for maximum a half hour isn't sufficient.

However I also think it is at least as interesting to analyze games from somebody else. So when I work at chess, I rather prefer to look at many games of top-players (not only world-top but also Belgian top players) instead of my own games. I try to follow every tournament in which the best players of the world are participating and practically every day I try to select one of those games which I try to study more deeply (approximately 1 hour). Beside this daily work I also check the games of the best Belgian players (normally the 3 highest boards of the Belgian interclub). Finally I also have the habit to monitor a few Belgian players whom are rapidly making progress. Last year this was the youth-player Dries Van Malder giving me many interesting ideas to study. As he is playing less regularly chess this year, I switched my focus to the fresh IM:  Rein Verstraeten

So for this article I selected a few games from Rein which I think are his very best. Please have a look at how I analyzed those games. The first one starts with a Najdorf from Rein. Rein is an expert in the opening and it is definitely one of the best played Najdorf games I've ever seen.
[Event "elllobregat open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.12.08"] [Round "6"] [White "Samant, Aditya"] [Black "FM Verstraeten, Rein"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2307"] [Annotator "Sim"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nf3 Qc7 {Although this has been played by GM Xiong, a Najdorf specialist, I do think some recent games are showing an edge for white.} 8. a4 Be7 {Rein improves on this idea and first plays the bishop to e7} (8... h6 9. a5 Be6 10. Nd5 Nxd5 11. exd5 Bf5 12. c4 Nd7 13. Be2 Be7 14. O-O O-O 15. b4 Bh7 16. Rc1 Rac8 17. Qb3 Kh8 (17... f5 18. c5! {!}) 18. Nd2 f5 19. f4! {!}) (8... Be6 9. Ng5) 9. a5 O-O 10. Be2 Be6 11. Nd5 (11. O-O Nbd7 12. Ng5 Bc4 13. Ra4 Bxe2 14. Qxe2 {This is the mainline of which I think this position is easier for white. Of course black can deviate example with playing Nd7 earlier}) (11. Ng5 {Pg5 is not a problem anymore as capturing on e6 is no threat, often a double e-pawn is interesting to cover the important squares f5 and d5} 11... Nc6 12. Bb6 Qd7) 11... Nxd5 12. exd5 Bg4 13. Bb6 Qc8 14. Ra4 Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Nd7 16. Be3 {maybe slightly more accurate was f5! and the game can continue with ...:} 16... b5 (16... f5 17. O-O e4 18. Be2 Ne5 {with equality}) 17. axb6 Bd8 {This is a positional master-plan. It is always good to exchange the black-squared bishops in these kind of structures.} 18. Rb4 (18. Qd3 {this should be slightly better for white but I never believe this should cause troubles for black in practice} 18... Bxb6 19. Bg4 Bxe3 20. fxe3 Nc5 21. Bxc8 Nxd3+ 22. cxd3 Rfxc8 {with immediately equality}) 18... Rb8 19. O-O a5 20. Rb5 Bxb6 21. Bxb6 Rxb6 22. Rxb6 Nxb6 {Black is very comfortable. He has a strong knight against bad bishop. Rein exploits this advantage perfectly in the rest of the game.} 23. Re1 Qc5 24. Re3 a4 25. Rc3 Qb4 26. Qa1 f5 27. Qa3 Qxa3 28. bxa3 Rb8 29. g4 e4 30. Be2 Kf8 31. Rc6 Ke7 32. gxf5 Nxd5 33. Rc4 Rb1+ 34. Bf1 Re1 35. Rd4 Nc3 36. Kg2 d5 37. Rb4 Ra1 38. Ba6 Rxa3 39. Rb7+ Kf6 40. Rc7 Kxf5 41. Rxg7 Ra2 42. Rc7 Rxc2 43. Bb7 Ke5 44. Bc6 a3 45. Ba4 a2 46. Bxc2 a1=Q {and white resigned} 0-1
Game number 2 is an analysis which I received from Rein himself. I want to share it as I think it is a very clever piece of opening-analysis and Rein also displays a very good technique. I like to read analysis of strong(er) players as it learns you a lot about chess very quickly.
[Event "Kavala 2019"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.08.06"] [Round "4"] [White "FM Verstraeten, Rein"] [Black "GM Pavlidis, Antonios"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A87"] [BlackElo "2559"] [Annotator "Verstraeten,Rein"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] {My opponent has played the Dutch a few times before but I did not expect, let alone prepare for it. Arguably playing the Dutch is in itself already a questionable decision but the decisions my opponent took in the opening are simply inexcusable for a grandmaster.} 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. Re1!? {I have played this move many times before and there's even a game of mine to be found in the database.} 8... Qf7 9. e4 fxe4 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 (10... h6 ⩲ {Verstraeten-Godart, Belgian Youth Championships 2012.}) (10... Nc6 $8 11. d5 Nxe4 12. Rxe4 Ne5 13. Rf4 {Black can maintain equality with accurate play. Verstraeten-Le Quang, Paris 2018.}) 11. Rxe4 Bf5? {My opponent had barely spent 5 minutes before playing this losing move!} 12. Ng5! {The start of a very nice combination which I already knew for more than 8 years!} 12... Qf6 13. Rh4 h6 14. Bd5+ e6 15. Nxe6 Bxe6 16. Rf4 Bxd5 17. Rxf6 Rxf6 18. cxd5 Nd7 19. Be3 Nb6 20. Qb3 Rf5 21. a4 a5 22. Rc1 Rf7 (22... Rc8 23. g4 Rxd5 24. Rxc7 Rxc7 25. Qxb6 Rf7 26. Qd8+ Kh7 27. Qe8 Rc7 28. Qe6 {was my intention}) 23. Qb5 Raf8 24. g4 {Further restricting black's position by not allowing the rook to return to f5.} 24... h5 25. h3 hxg4 26. hxg4 Bf6 27. b4 {Going in for the kill!} 27... axb4 28. a5 Nc8 29. Qxb7 c5 30. dxc6 Rxb7 31. cxb7 Nb6 32. axb6 b3 33. Rc8 Bd8 34. Bc1 {The second highest rated opponent I have ever beaten. Obviously, the opening was crucial factor in this game but I am also very happy with my conversion technique.} 1-0
The last game brought Rein the title of international master. Congratulations Rein !
[Event "elllobregat open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.12.09"] [Round "7"] [White "FM Verstraeten, Rein"] [Black "GM Girish, Koushik"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E11"] [BlackElo "2506"] [Annotator "Verstraeten,Rein"] [PlyCount "159"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 {Rein got the title of international master by winning this game} 1... Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Qc2 Nbd7 9. Rd1 Ne4 10. Bf4 g5 11. Bc1 f5 12. Nc3 Bf6 13. b3 Qe7 14. Bb2 Qg7 15. e3 Rf7 16. a4 a5 17. Ne2 h5 18. Nc1 (18. Ne1 {probably slightly stronger}) 18... h4 19. Nd3 hxg3 (19... Qh6 {we should keep the tension a bit longer}) 20. hxg3 Qh6 21. Kf1 g4 22. Nfe5 Nxe5 23. dxe5 Bg5 24. Ke2 Qh2 25. Rg1 b6 26. Kf1? (26. Bxe4 dxe4 (26... fxe4 27. Nf4 Bxf4 28. gxf4 Rg7 29. Rg3 Ba6 30. Rag1 Rd8 31. Ke1 c5 {with counterplay}) 27. Nf4 Bxf4 28. exf4 Bb7 =) 26... Ba6? (26... Bxe3 {and this would've been bad for Rein} 27. fxe3 Nxg3+ 28. Kf2 Ba6 29. Nf4 Ne4+ 30. Ke2 dxc4 31. bxc4 Rd8 32. Rad1 Rfd7! {missed in his calculations.}) 27. Rh1 Nxg3+ 28. fxg3 Qxg3 29. Qf2 Qxe3 (29... Qxf2+ 30. Kxf2 dxc4 31. Rh5 =) 30. Qxe3? Bxe3 31. Ke2 f4 32. Rh4 Rg7 (32... dxc4 33. Rxg4+ Rg7 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. bxc4 {white is slightly better but it should be defensible for black}) 33. Rah1 Rf8 34. cxd5 (34. Ba3 {this would finish the game} 34... Rf5 35. Rh8+ Kf7 36. Bd6 dxc4 37. Bxc6 cxd3+ 38. Kd1 {this was very hard to see in advance}) 34... cxd5 35. Bxd5 Kf7 (35... Bxd3+ 36. Kxd3 Kf7 37. Rh6 +-) 36. Bc4 Bxc4 37. bxc4 g3 38. Nxf4 g2 39. Kxe3 gxh1=Q 40. Rxh1 {from here onward it is a matter of good technique} 40... Rc8 41. Nh5 Rg2 42. Rf1+ Kg8 43. Ba3 Rh2 44. Nf6+ Kh8 45. Kd4 (45. Be7 Rxc4 46. Rg1 Rh3+ 47. Kd2 Rc8 48. Ne4 +-) 45... Rc2 46. Kd3 R2xc4 47. Rh1+ Kg7 48. Rg1+ Kh8 49. Rh1+ Kg7 50. Rg1+ Kh8 51. Rg8+ Rxg8 52. Kxc4 Rg1 53. Nd7 Rb1 54. Bd6 Kg7 55. Kd3 Kg6 56. Kc2 Rh1 57. Nxb6 Kf5 58. Nc4 Ke4 59. Nxa5 Kd5 60. Nb3 Rh3 61. Nd2 Kc6 62. Bb4 Re3 63. Bc3 Kc5 64. Kb3 Rh3 65. Ne4+ Kd5 66. Nf6+ Kc5 67. Ne8 Rh8 68. Nc7 Rb8+ 69. Nb5 Rc8 70. Bb4+ Kd5 71. Bd6 Rc1 72. Nc7+ Kc6 73. Nxe6 Rb1+ 74. Kc4 Rc1+ 75. Kb4 Rb1+ 76. Ka5 Re1 77. Nd4+ Kd5 78. Nc2 Rb1 79. Nb4+ Kc4 80. Kb6 1-0
At the beginning of this article I tried to demonstrate to the reader how I approach the middle-game. So I check a lot of games and analyze them briefly. I also first look at the games without an engine and do only afterwards a quick blunder-check with an engine.

For the openings I have worked out myself completely a repertoire with chessbase-files about each opening. However many ideas which I use, are stolen from the most recent book I found about that particular opening. It takes a lot of time to build those files but I think it is important work as it gives you a good idea about which positions you will get on the board. I think it is also very useful to know in advance you get only positions which you like to play. Personally I like to fight for the initiative so I will always try to avoid openings in which I need to defend.

As an amateur I believe it is also important to keep the amount of theory under control. So I prefer to select interesting side-lines instead of playing main-lines. This way I only need to check my files once a game is played with my side-lines. If it is an interesting idea then I make an update otherwise I ignore it. It is a piece of advice which I got myself from a player varying continuously between 7 openings. Some people will consider this is too much change and probably this is indeed the case for an amateur. It is the reason why I prefer to stick with one big opening and only vary of lines instead.

I am curious to read about in how you think analyzing games of other players is more important than analyzing your own games. I also think quantity will teach you more than quality. Wesley So once said that he has difficulties not getting too excited about analyzing just one position. You need to manage your time properly and spend to every part of your repertoire sufficient time.

Sim Maerevoet

Note Brabo: 
Sim Maerevoet had in December 2015 a fide-elo of 1687. Exact 4 years later at the age of 18 years old he has now 2413. So we talk here about a gain of 726 elo in a rather short time-frame and achieved without external help (no trainings from IMs/ GMs as far as I know). I am delighted that Sim wants to share on this blog his method of working as I am convinced it will inspire many other (young) players. The article also shows another more pragmatic approach to chess compared with my own more theoretical articles. Chess has many facets. I would like other (strong but not necessarily) players would stand up and come here to explain their experiences. It is something we can all learn from it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My most beautiful move part 4

Almost 8 years I am running this blog (I started in Dutch and after 1,5 years also translated the articles to English). Only last year in June I had for the first time no inspiration but normally there is always something which I bump against worth to share on this blog. I rarely get feedback about my articles but the statistics of my blog tell me that there seems to be a quite large loyal reader-audience. Sometimes a player tells me that they used something from my blog successfully in their games see chesslinks. Nonetheless I can definitely use some motivation as I spent for sure at least 1000 hours already at writing articles for this blog.

However recently I met the negative side of blogging. Many Flemish players know meanwhile that I maintain a blog. Also more and more people start to realize that I am actually playing the lines about which I write. So in the last year I experienced an exponential growth of opponents using the content of the blog against myself. Thanks to my article Dutch steps in the English opening part 2Belgian FM Adrian Roos could anticipate my switch from the Stonewall to the Leningrad Dutch against the English in our interclub-game of last season. Belgian FM Roel Hamblok admit that he read in my article killer novelties that I don't answer 1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 anymore with 2...d5 but that I recently switched to 2...Nf6. Besides he told me that thanks to my article leela lc0 he was not only able to install the engine on his computer but he also used it intensively to prepare our game.

Even against non titled players I am not safe anymore. John Weynen, 1584 fide confessed after our game that thanks to my article cats that he was aware about the winning piece-sacrifice on e5 against the lion which of course he avoided. I wasn't able to check with Marie Dgebuadze, 1915 fide but it seemed a too big coincidence that Marie played at move 15 in a very rare line exactly the recommendation I gave for white in my article the scientific approach part 2. Each of the examples mentioned were played solely in 2019 and probably I am still missing some.

Belgian FM Warre De Waele made some time ago the remark that I share a lot of information about myself on my blog. He didn't say that I was stupid but I also realize that speaking is silver and silence is gold. The Dutch blogger Maaike Keetman even got explicitly the choice between her blog or a national selection to EK/WK from her coach Zhaoqin Peng, a Dutch grandmaster. She chose to play so stopped blogging since 2015.

No, this is not a prelude to the end of this blog. I think this blog has more value than the few ratingpoints I lose. Besides the losses shouldn't be exaggerated. The openings only had a limited impact on the results of my games. Also many articles needed research and interesting analysis which I probably would've never made otherwise.

Sometimes I also discover some unexpected positive side-effects from this blog. In tournaments I am sometimes addressed by total strangers for me, following my blog already for years. In the last open of Leuven I noticed that the tie-breaking system was changed from TPR to Bucholtz. Last year I wrote in my article byes that TPR isn't fair when byes are allowed. Maybe it is coincidence but I guess somebody of the organization read my article and liked my comment. However the best initiative must be a reaction on my article "my most beautiful move part 3" by Marcel Van Herck, reading my blog already for many years. He used the theme of the article to organize a study-competition. In the 12th ARVES Jenever tournament 2019 the participants had to create a study in which a piece is captured by black with check. White can recapture but prefers instead to interpose a piece to stop the check. The winner was the Russian grandmaster (compositions) Oleg Pervakov with below magnificent study.
[Event "White wins, study by Oleg Pervakov"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r6b/2K5/6P1/5N2/kN3Q2/8/6b1/6q1 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "13"] [SourceVersionDate "2019.12.10"] 1. Nc2+ Bd4 (1... Kb3 2. Ncd4+ Bxd4 3. Nxd4+ Ka3 (3... Kc4 4. Ne2+ +-) 4. Qg3+ Kb2 (4... Kb4 5. Qb3+ Kc5 6. Ne6#) 5. Qb3+ Ka1 6. Nc2#) 2. Nfxd4 Be4 (2... Ra7+ 3. Kd6 Qd1 4. Kc5 Ra5+ 5. Nb5+ Kb3 6. Qc4+ Kb2 7. Qc3+ Kb1 8. Qxa5 Qxc2+ 9. Nc3+ Kc1 10. Qa1+ Kd2 11. Qd1+ Qxd1 12. Nxd1 Be4 13. g7 Bh7 14. Nf2 +-) 3. Qxe4 Qg3+ 4. Kb6 (4. Kd7?? Ra7+ =) 4... Ra6+ 5. Kxa6 (5. Kb7?? Ra7+ 6. Kxa7 Qc7+ =) 5... Qxg6+ (5... Qd3+ 6. Nb5+ Qxe4 7. Nc3+ +-) 6. Ne6+ {(Our theme.)} (6. Qxg6?? {(Stalemate)}) 6... Qxe4 7. Nc5# 1-0
The jury praised the composition because it wasn't only economically (they mean that only few pieces were used on the board) but also that no less than 4 queen-sacrifices were inserted into the solution. The other studies are definitely also worth a look. Please see the link above to check them.

Chess-compositions are the ideal playing-ground for themes which we rarely or never see in standard tournament-practice. Exceptions confirm the rule as I recently bumped by coincidence against below game while analyzing the opening of my game against the Dutch FM Joey Grochal with exactly our theme.
[Event "16th European Individual Championship Women"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.05.29"] [Round "?"] [White "Arabidze, Meri"] [Black "Hoang, Thanh Trang"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2403"] [BlackElo "2472"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Qb3 Qe7 6. Bg5 b6 {(I chose for the more solid 0-0 against Joey Grochal in the 8th round of Brasschaat played in 2019)} 7. g3 Bb7 8. Bg2 h6 9. Bxf6 Bxc3+ 10. Qxc3 {(I find it strange that both colors missed Nd2. Of course it looks natural to take back immediately.)} (10. Nd2 Bxd2+ 11. Kxd2 Qxf6 12. Bxb7 Qxd4+ 13. Ke1 c6 14. Bxa8 {(This looks easy to calculate especially for +2400 players.)}) 10... Qxf6 11. O-O O-O 12. Rfd1 d6 13. e3 Be4 14. Ne1 Nd7 15. f3 Bb7 16. Nd3 a5 17. Rac1 Rad8 18. Qc2 e5 19. c5 dxc5 20. dxc5 Ba6 21. c6 Bxd3 22. Qb3+ Qf7 23. Qxd3 Nc5 24. Qxd8 Rxd8 25. Rxd8+ Kh7 26. Rcd1 Qxa2 27. Bh3 Qb3 28. Bxf5+ g6 29. Bh3 Qxe3+ 30. Kh1 h5 31. Rf1 Nd3 32. Rd7+ Kh6 33. Rxc7 Nf2+ 34. Kg2 Nxh3 35. Kxh3 Qe2 36. Rc1 g5 37. Rh7+ Kxh7 38. c7 g4+ 39. fxg4 Qxg4+ 40. Kg2 Qe2+ 41. Kh3 Qg4+ 42. Kg2 Qc8 43. Kf3 Kg6 44. Ke4 Kf6 45. Rc6+ Ke7 46. Kxe5 Kd7 47. Rc3 Qe8+ 48. Kd4 Kc8 49. Kd3 Qb5+ 50. Kc2 Qe2+ 51. Kb3 Qxh2 52. Ka2 a4 53. Ka3 b5 54. b3 Qd2 55. Rf3 b4+ 56. Kxa4 Qd7+ 57. Kxb4 Qd6+ 0-1
I suspect the theme is so rare that we miss it when it occurs on the board in a game. Especially nowadays when play is much faster, we see many players trying to play some quick moves which at first sight look forced. Only afterwards we discover with an engine that the automatic move wasn't forced at all.

Writing a blog brings a mix of positive and negative emotions. I would like to see more positive reactions here and ask for some abstention of people using my blog against myself. Of course I am 100% responsible for what is published here but my motivation to continue will ultimately depend if there exists an acceptable balance.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The initiative

Older players will likely still remember the time when we could beat the best engines available. I never experienced that myself. I started to play regularly chess at the age of 14 and while I quickly improved, I never could catch up in the 90ties with the engines. From 2000 onward only topgrandmasters could still challenge a computer but around 2006 this also ended. After that the engines kept on improving at a steady pace. For an amateur it became increasingly difficult to detect the differences between the engines. Nowadays I see many chessplayers don't search anymore for the best engine and are satisfied with an engine of which they know that it can beat any human in the world.

It is indeed irrelevant to have the best of the best for just a blunder-check. Only a few will also try to discover the little nuances in a game. Today the top-engines have become so strong that they can find in the most complex positions very quickly the right track and beside can not only maintain an initiative stubbornly but also increase it methodically. Last summer I had multiple favorable positions in the Open Brasschaat of which I had no clue about what I should do. A first example is against the 15 year-old Marie Dgebuadze. After a small mistake of Marie I obtained a very nice position but then I didn't push through. The engine demonstrates with accurate play that I hesitated too long which allowed Marie to neutralize my initiative.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 2de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Dgebuadze, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r5/3rq1pk/1p2p2p/2p1Pp2/p1Pn1PP1/P2RQ2P/1P4B1/3R2K1 b - - 0 32"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "1890"] [BlackElo "2269"] [PlyCount "8"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "2r5/3rq1pk/1p2p2p/2p1Pp2/p1Pn1PP1/P2RQ2P/1P4B1/3R2K1 b - - 0 32"] 32... g6? {(I choose for solidity but hereby I miss an opportunity. After fxg4 there is a hole on e4 and the h-line opens but white can't profit from it. Contrary black will be able to infiltrate via Qh4 and set up a dangerous attack on the f-file by doubling the rooks.)} (32... fxg4! 33. Qe4+ Kh8 34. hxg4 Rf8 35. Rf1 Qh4 36. f5 Rdf7 37. Re3 exf5 38. gxf5 {[%eval -123,41]}) 33. Qf2? {(The right plan but the wrong sequence.)} (33. gxf5! gxf5 34. Qf2 Rg8 35. Kh2 Qd8 36. Rg1 h5 37. Bf1 =) 33... Rdd8? {(It is more complicated but again fxg4 is very strong. )} (33... fxg4! 34. hxg4 Rf8 35. Be4 Qd8 36. Kh1 Rdf7 37. f5 exf5 38. gxf5 Rxf5 39. Bxf5) 34. Rg3? {(Also white doesn't play again the right move-order so first gxf5 is necessary.)} 34... Rc7? {(Indeed I don't dare to play fxg4 and I don't get any new chance afterwards.)} (34... fxg4! 35. Rxg4 (35. hxg4 Rf8 {(This menaces Rxf4 with a double attack of the knight on e2.)} 36. Re1 Rf7 37. Be4 Rcf8) 35... Nf5 36. Re1 Rd4 37. Be4 Rxc4) 35. gxf5 gxf5 36. Kh2 {(White is first on the g-file. A draw became inevitable which occurred 10 moves later by a perpetual check.)} 1/2-1/2

I couldn't achieve more than a draw at the end. However int he second example it went even more sore. If you check the rating of the 25 year-old Yago De Cuyper then you find out that I should win easily as +500 difference is a massive gap. Nevertheless during the game this wasn't the case at all. Again I get the upper-hand in the middlegame but also here I hesitate which allows my opponent to counter-attack. I was shocked especially when the engine showed me how a few moves were needed to convert my initiative into a clear advantage.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 6de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "De Cuyper, Y."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6r1/1b2qk1p/pp1bpn2/3p1p2/1P1P1Np1/PNRBPPP1/2Q2KP1/8 b - - 0 29"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "1770"] [BlackElo "2269"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "6r1/1b2qk1p/pp1bpn2/3p1p2/1P1P1Np1/PNRBPPP1/2Q2KP1/8 b - - 0 29"] 29... Rd8? {( I feared a4 with a5 next. I counter this threat but due to it I miss a brilliant combination. It also didn't help me that I only had 10 minutes remaining on my clock.)} (29... gxf3! 30. gxf3 h5 31. Bf1! (31. a4 h4 32. gxh4 Ne4+ 33. fxe4 Qxh4+ 34. Kf1 Bxf4 35. exf4 Qh1+ 36. Ke2 Rg2+ 37. Kf3 Qh3#) 31... Ne8 32. Nc1 h4 33. Ncd3 hxg3+ 34. Kg1) 30. Nc1 Kg8 31. Nce2 Kh8?! {(I lose track of the right plan completley. My king isn't safer at all on h8 instead of f7.)} (31... Kf7! 32. Qb1 {( Qc1 is also of course a possible route to h1.)} 32... Rh8 33. Qh1 h5 34. Qh4) 32. Qc1 Re8 33. Qh1 Qf7 34. Bb1?! {(First Rc1 to switch immediately to the h-file is stronger.)} 34... gxf3?! {(This exchange only solves the problem of the double g-pawn and on top frees the h3 square for white.)} (34... Rc8! 35. Qh6!? Rxc3 36. Nxc3 Bc8! 37. Bd3 Kg8 38. Qg5+!? Qg7 39. Qxg7+ Kxg7 40. Na4 b5 41. Nc5 Kf7 42. Bc2 {[%eval 55,45]}) 35. gxf3 Rg8?! {(I didn't realize yet how bad my position was otherwise I would've tried to pull the breaks with Rc8.)} 36. Nd3 Qe8 37. Qh4 Qg6?! {(I panic with less than 2 minutes on the clock remaining. The position became already very difficult for me.)} (37... Nd7! 38. g4 fxg4! 39. Nc5 Rg7 40. Nxb7 Be7 41. Qh6 Nf8 42. Rc7 Bh4+ 43. Qxh4) 38. Nef4 Qg7 39. Rc1 Qg5 40. Qxg5 Rxg5 41. Ne5 Rg7 42. Nxe6 Re7 43. Bxf5 {(White is 2 pawns up and also has the attack. My position is completely lost and I considered for several minutes resignation. How it is possible against somebody 500 points rated lower? How I won from this position is a miracle but not relevant for this article.)} 0-1

It was a miracle that I still won the final position but this has no relation with the initiative so would only digress us. More interesting is to check if there are some symptoms in my game which explain these failures. Why can't I maintain the initiative against these "weaker" players?

The question was raised to me if I don't practice sufficiently tactics. I did miss some hidden motives which caused me to not consider some moves. On the other hand at I maintain for some time already a 3100 rating which puts me at the top of the Belgian players so I don't think I am worse in tactics than others. I also got the advice to study more Dutch games so I get acquainted to common combinations in this opening. I have more than 20 years experience with the Dutch so I think that I can consider myself an expert in the Dutch. Therefore I do dare to claim that the examples shown are not standard at all.

No in both examples I hesitated to push my pawns on the king-side as there are always risks connected to it. I couldn't properly evaluate it so I chose to wait. Very often the apple falls from the tree by itself or you get a better and easier opportunity. In above games it didn't happen this time so I spoiled the advantage.

By the way I am definitely not the only one having this problem. Recently I was at the other side of the board sitting. The Belgian FM Roel Hamblok got a winning initiative in the interclub against me with a clever game-preparation but it wasn't trivial to convert it into a win. White hesitated to sacrifice any material and just chose normal developing moves which allowed me to fight back in the game.
[Event "Chesspirant - Deurne"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Hamblok, R."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k1r1b1r/p1pq2p1/1pn1bp2/1B1p1p1p/NP1P4/P3P3/2P1NPPP/R2QK2R w KQ - 0 12"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2290"] [BlackElo "2301"] [PlyCount "23"] [EventDate "2010.04.20"] [CurrentPosition "1k1r1b1r/p1pq2p1/1pn1bp2/1B1p1p1p/NP1P4/P3P3/2P1NPPP/R2QK2R w KQ - 0 12"] 12. Qd3?! {(After the game Roel told me that he made good usage of my blog. Not only had he read that I would probably play this line but he also learned to work with Leela. However to win this won position isn't easy as you need to sacrifice a piece on c5 for some long-term attack which isn't every-bodies cup of tea.)} (12. Nc5! bxc5 13. bxc5 Ka8 14. c4 Rb8 15. Qa4 Rxb5 16. cxb5 +- {(Material is only equal. However Leela and Stockfish consider the attack of white decisive but I don't find it so simple yet.)}) 12... Qd6 13. Nc5 Bc8 14. O-O {(Too slow. More powerful are c4 or first Na6.)} (14. Na6+!? Ka8 15. c4 dxc4 16. Qxc4 Bxa6 17. Bxa6 Nb8 18. Rc1) 14... Ne7? {(Of course I realized that my position wasn't good and I had to do something urgently against the threats around my king. Ne7 is a standard move in this line but the engine sees it differently and better as often.)} (14... Ka8! 15. Na6 Nb8 16. Nxb8 Kxb8 17. c4 dxc4 18. Bxc4) 15. Rab1? {(White hesitates again but I admit that the complications after Na6+ aren't easy.)} (15. Na6+! Ka8!? (15... Kb7!? 16. a4 c6 17. c4 cxb5!? 18. c5 Qd7 19. Rfc1 Ka8 20. cxb6 Bxa6 21. Rc7 Qxc7 22. bxc7 Rd6 23. axb5 +- {[%eval 257,17]}) 16. c4 dxc4!? (16... c6!? 17. c5 Qd7 18. cxb6 cxb5 19. Nc7+ Kb7 20. Rfc1 axb6 21. a4 Kb8 22. a5 +- {[%eval 248,16]}) 17. Bxc4 h4!? 18. Rfd1! h3!? 19. g3 c6 20. b5! +-) 15... Ka8 16. Na4?! {(The engine still recommends Rb2 with some small advantage but I don't think any human can discover such moves.)} 16... h4 17. h3?! {(Roel has lost all his advantage and now needs to be careful himself. C4 is more energetic.)} 17... g5 18. Ba6 Qc6?! {(The refined Qd7 is stronger.)} (18... Qd7! 19. Nac3!? Bxa6 20. Qxa6 Rg8! 21. Kh1 Bh6) 19. Bxc8 Nxc8 20. b5? {(White needs to advance the a-pawn as quickly as possible and this is only possible by first moving the knight.)} 20... Qe6 21. Rfc1?! {(White wants to push the c-pawn but fails. Again Nb2 is the best chance still with the idea of a4.)} 21... Nd6 22. Nb2 Nc4 23. Nxc4 {(White offered a draw as he realized his advantage disappeared. However meanwhile I figured out that I could start to hope for more so I declined and continued the game.)} 0-1

I earlier warned in my article sacrificing for the dangers of it. You often are left empty handed when the attack doesn't win immediately. Correct sacrifices demand a high degree of precision to make them work. So I understand perfectly why Roel preferred to slowly build up his position instead of making some gambles. It did however let the initiative fade away.

The volatile character of an initiative only leaves a window of opportunity open for a limited time. Between 2300 and 2800 there is a big gap of playing strength. How you manage an initiative is definitely a key-element of it. Some books learn players to think out of the box and to look beyond the risks but likely talent has the final word.