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.


  1. Dear Brabo,

    Thank you for your extremely thoughtful and well-presented blog. I only just discovered it a few days ago and have little time at present. But, from what I've seen so far, I'm extremely impressed! So, I look forward to finding sufficient time to read further.

    All the very best,
    Stephen Ham

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for the kind words and nice to hear once again from you. We had around the year 2000 a brief interaction about an endgame see
      Unfortunately the original website from Franklin Campbell has been removed. I guess this is the fate we are all sooner or later will suffer after we die. My wife also asked me recently what will happen with this blog if I am not anymore alive.

      Anyway these are too dark thoughts so I wish you a happy new year !


    2. Hello Helmut,

      Franklin Campbell's website coverage of my computer chess match is still alive at:

      I look forward to reading more of your wonderful articles in 2020!

      All the very best,

    3. Thanks for the link. I was still using an old one :
      Great to see not everything is lost.