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.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Which games to analyze? part 2

At the last Open of Touquet (France) the talented and young FM Sim Maerevoet told me that he should once store his scoorsheets digitally on his computer. I thought this was a remarkable statement. I am used to that older or lower rated players don't store their games in a personal database but I don't expect that from an ambitious player with virtually approximately 2400 fide.

It appears Sim barely or never analyzes his standard games with an engine. That is the opposite of how I work. Besides now I also start to wonder if my many hours of analyzing with engines is really useful as meanwhile Sim has 100 points more already then I have. On the other hand I can't imagine that I would get better results by playing countless hours of blitz and bullet at lichess like Sim does.

By the way I've being doing that in the past too and it didn't help me to improve but maybe it is related to the age of the person. Older persons make much harder progress than teenagers. Just maintaining their rating is already difficult. I am not doing so bad when I compare with my contemporaries. Maybe it is not very efficient to analyze games with an engine seriously but it definitely doesn't harm.

Nowadays most of my analysis is spent at deeply investigating the opening and sometimes I do get rewarded for it. In the last round of Open Brasschaat 2019 I used an idea which I had discovered in 2014 after some very extensive analysis made of the opening see my article fashion.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 9de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Van Dijck, B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C60"] [WhiteElo "2269"] [BlackElo "2050"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nge7 5. O-O g6 6. c3 Bg7 7. d4 exd4 8. cxd4 O-O {(In 2013 I encountered b5 by Roel Goossens. I made some extensive analysis about the opening and this time I do remember some important details.)} 9. d5 Na5 10. Nbd2 c5? {(This line was till a couple of years ago very popular but the concept which I use in this game, makes life difficult for black. Maybe a relatively new idea which I found in a game between engines is still playable.)} (10... b5!? {(Or first d6 and only next b5.)} 11. Bc2 d6 12. Rb1 Re8 {(Komodo played successfully this in a game of 2017 already. However nobody has copied it yet.)} 13. b4 Nb7) 11. Bc2 d6 12. Rb1 b5 13. b3 c4 14. bxc4 bxc4 15. Re1 Qc7?! {(A recent correspondence-game continues with c3. It finished badly for black but it is still stronger than Qc7.)} (15... c3! 16. Nb3 Bg4 17. Nxa5 Qxa5 18. Bf4 Qc7 19. h3) 16. e5! {(Black's opening is a fiasco. In the game I kept a large advantage with Nf1 but e5 is already winning tactically.)} 16... Nxd5 17. Ne4 Be6 18. exd6 Qc8 19. Ba4 h6 +- 1-0
However I have to admit that such games are rare. It can take years before I can use some of my analysis and then they are often already outdated. This can be because the newest engine found some holes but also because new trends have popped up in games between grandmasters. Also I do notice that because of the exponential growth of my opening-analysis that I started to forget more often (see e.g. harakiri). In the last Open Brasschaat this was really annoying for me as I suffered from amnesia in 5 out of 9 games. Sometimes I just lost time but in 3 games also my opening went wrong.

I am sure it is much more efficient to read a new openingbook about an opening and immediately learn something about dozens of lines instead of just checking 1 line deeply. Still I do find it 100x more fun to discover 1 idea independently than read 100 new ideas in a book from somebody else. Maybe I should switch to watching dvds as reading books is not only hard work but it is also not easy to remember everything.

Analyzing middlegames is even more doubtful than openings. I spend about 1 hour at it for each game but I don't think that I learn something which can be used in another game. The positions are always very different which makes it almost impossible to find connections between them. Sometimes you also need to accept that we will never have the same tactical skills as the engines. In the earlier mentioned last round of Open Brasschaat I got a chance to become immortal by playing an absolutely insane combination. I showed it to other FM's but everybody agreed that such combination was alien.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 9de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Van Dijck, B"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/2q2pbp/pn1p2p1/n2P4/2p1P3/B3NQ2/P1B2PPP/1R2R1K1 w - - 0 20"] [ECO "C60"] [WhiteElo "2269"] [BlackElo "2050"] [PlyCount "23"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "r4rk1/2q2pbp/pn1p2p1/n2P4/2p1P3/B3NQ2/P1B2PPP/1R2R1K1 w - - 0 20"] 20. Nf5! {(In the game I kept a large advantage with Bb4 but the engine finds a brilliant win.)} 20... gxf5 (20... Be5 21. Nh6+ Kh8 22. Ng4 Bg7 (22... f6 23. Qe3 Nd7 24. f4 +-) 23. e5 Nb7 24. Nf6 dxe5 25. Qe3 Nc8 +- {[%eval 445,36]}) 21. e5 Bxe5 22. Rxe5 dxe5 23. d6 Qa7 24. Rxb6 {(Unbelievable. White keeps sacrificing his pieces.)} 24... Qxb6 (24... f6 25. Qd5+ Kh8 26. Qxa5 +- {[%eval 782,27]}) 25. Qxf5 e4 26. Bxe4 Kg7 27. Qxh7+ Kf6 28. Qf5+ Kg7 29. Qg5+ Kh8 30. Qh6+ Kg8 31. Qh7# 1-0
Beautiful isn't it but I think the chance is 0% that I will ever be able to execute such combination in another game.

After the last standardgame of the most recent worldchampionship a journalist told Magnus Carlsen that the engine shows +2 after 25...b5. However Magnus answered coldly with "I don't care" see world chess championship game 12 carlsen offers draw in better position to reach tiebreaks. He is right of course because he has proven time over time that an evaluation of an engine doesn't have the last word about how chess will be decided between humans. Although I do use engines to define the quality of my games, I also realize that it is impossible to imitate an engine.

Nevertheless i do recommend analyzing your middlegames with an engine when you are still learning and improving a lot. This is especially important when you don't have access to a good coach. I estimate my chances would've been very slim that I would be today an FM if I had before never access at all to an engine. Today the return of analyzing my games deeply has been diminished a lot for me. I still do because chess is more than just playing games and winning rating. I also enjoy it immensely to discover combinations like the one above. I am interested in the truth so like to know what happened exactly in my games. Chess is not only a game for me but also science and art.

Endgames I consider more interesting to analyze properly. There are only a limited number of games reaching an endgame in which the result isn't fixed yet. You won't win much rating by studying deeply endgames. On the other hand endgames which are misplayed are often very painful. They often make a big difference in open tournaments especially at the end when the prizes are announced. Also endgames can often be categorized in groups. It allows you to formulate rules for a certain category. I gave an example of that in  my article exchange pawns when standing worse and at below endgame against the Belgian expert Sterre Dauw I spent quite some time to find out how things should be evaluated.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 4de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Dauw, S"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5kpp/1r6/8/P3R3/6KP/6P1/8 w - - 0 59"] [ECO "C99"] [WhiteElo "2160"] [BlackElo "2269"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "8/5kpp/1r6/8/P3R3/6KP/6P1/8 w - - 0 59"] 59. Kf3?! {(White missed before many quick wins but only now exceeds the drawing-line. Already during the game I saw Kf2 is much stronger to avoid black's rook getting to easily behind the white passed pawn.)} (59. Kf2 g6 60. a5 Ra6 61. Re5 Rc6 62. Kf3 Kf6 63. Re4 Kf5 64. Ra4 Ra6 {[%eval 413,43]} 65. g4+ Kf6 66. Ke4 Ke7 67. Kd5 Kd7 68. g5 Kc7 69. h4 Rd6+ 70. Kc5 Ra6 71. Kb5 Re6 72. Rc4+ Kb7 73. Kc5 Re8 74. Rf4 Ka6 75. Rf6+ +- {[%eval 1818,28]}) 59... Rb1 60. Rc4 Ra1 61. Ke4 Ke6 62. Rc6+ Ke7 63. Ra6 Rg1 64. Kf3 Ra1 65. Ra7+ Kf6 66. Kg4 Rg1 67. g3 Ra1 68. h4 Rg1 69. Rb7 Ra1 70. Rb4 Ra3 71. Kf4?! {(After h5 it is a very narrow path to the draw as Komodo even failed to find it.)} (71. h5 Ke5 72. Rb5+ Kf6 73. Rf5+ Ke6 74. Ra5 h6 75. Kf4 Rc3 76. Ra6+ Kf7 77. a5 Rc4+ 78. Kf5 Rc5+ 79. Kg4 Rc4+ 80. Kf3 Rc3+ 81. Kg4 Rc4+ 82. Kf3 Rc3+ {[%eval 34,55]}) 71... h6?? {(I like to cover the g5 square for the white king but now white gets an unique possibility to get again a decisive advantage.)} (71... h5 72. g4 hxg4 73. Kxg4 = {(This is a tablebase-draw but white can obviously still try to win it in a practical game.)}) 72. h5 Ke6 73. Rb6+ Kf7 74. Ra6? {(The right winning-strategy started by first re-positioning everything on the 4th row and next to run with the king to the a-pawn. Then there is still quite some work to do so it is definitely no walk in the park.)} (74. Rb7+ Ke6 75. Rb4 Kf6 76. g4 {(White's king is already standing on f4 contrary to the line we discussed at move 71 and that makes a world of difference.)} 76... Ke6 77. Ke4 Ra1 78. Kd4 Kd6 79. Rb6+ Ke7 +- {[%eval 553,41]}) 74... Rb3 75. Kg4 Ra3 76. Ra8 Rc3 77. a5 Rc4+ 78. Kf5 Rc5+ 79. Kg4 Rc4+ 80. Kf3?! (80. Kh3 Kf6 81. Rf8+ Kg5 82. Rf7 Kxh5 83. Rf4 (83. Rxg7 Rh4+ 84. Kg2 {(Gxh4 is a cute stalemate.)} 84... Ra4 85. Ra7 Kg4 =) 83... Rc7 {(That is the only thing left which white could try but the draw is very likely anyway.)}) 80... Rc3+ 81. Ke4 Rxg3 82. a6 Ra3 83. Kf4 1/2-1/2
These type of rook-endgames in which 1 player has an extra lonely pawn at the other side of the board is something which occurs regularly in games. However even some FM's admit after the game that they had not idea how to evaluate such endgame correctly and even less which moves to play. I learned that it can depend from some small details like just 1 square difference of the h-pawn or king defines it it is won or only drawn. I also found it interesting to discover the concept of the 4th row line-up for the white pieces which allows the transfer of the king to the other side.

So experienced players won't gain much by analyzing their own games. It is more useful to track the latest trends in your repertoire and just play a lot. That is how the modern strong master is trying to further develop. Analyzing games is still useful for publication and archiving of course. Very likely this blog couldn't exist without it. The statistics of this blog prove that although many players don't have much time to analyze, they still like to look a bit deeper than just the shallowness of a game.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How much time do you spend at chess? part 2

The last 2,5 years I have supervised several times my son (and) daughter while they play chess-tournaments lasting multiple days. In those tournaments I am very often recognized by other players and then the first question I get is why I am not participating myself. Most parents able to play chess, also participate when the tournament-format allows it but I decided not to do. The reason is that too often I've seen small children looking annoyed after their quickly played games and are hanging around the unfamiliar playing-hall for hours without any supervision as their parent was still busy with its own game. Some of those children were only 8 years old and while most chess-players are nice people, there are also some very strange ones with whom I don't want my kids to have contact alone.

So as I wrote already a few times on this blog, I sacrifice a lot of my free time at sitting and waiting while my kids are playing chess. By reading something and chatting with other parents the time passes by more enjoyable but I also bring along my portable to continue the analysis of my own games. Such activity always attracts curious players. I also assume it creates some suspicion as with the current state of available electronic gadgets, you never know if it is not an effort to cheat. A couple of times an arbiter checked my portable to make sure I wasn't analyzing any running game.

When I am still analyzing on the second day the same game, the first dumbfounded questions arise from players. How deep do you analyze your own games? How much time do you spend at analyzing your own games?... However when I am after the 4th day still busy analyzing the same game, every spectator quits looking. Such analysis could be fine for correspondence-chess but that is not the kind of chess which a tournament-player is interested in.

In part 1 of How much time do you spend at chess? I wrote that averagely I spend about 4-5 hours of my personal time at the analysis of 1 of my games. That is an estimated time which doesn't take into account the number of hours processing time which my computers have used. In the same article I mention that my computer probably consumes 5 x more time. If I tell you that I only let my PC run during daytime while I am around then you understand that an analysis can last several days.

How many days exactly and what kind of analysis are made, seems interesting to once investigate. I knew that recently I mainly work at openings but there are big differences between the different games. We need metrics to get a proper view about it. Checking with a stopwatch the time used for each analysis made during multiple months is not a realistic approach but fortunately there exists an alternative called "Autosave.cbh" which generates acceptable results.

I assume most players never heard about this alternative before. What is "Autosave" and how would that ever replace a stopwatch? Some loyal and attentive readers of the blog should remember that I once used this word in the article the game preparation part 2. In that article I talked about databases which were part of the cockpit I use to analyze and one of those databases is "Autosave.cbh". I didn't elaborate about it at that time as it wasn't relevant for the article. Besides the name "Autosave.cbh" explains partly itself. The file saves something automatically.

Just like excel, word, ... also Chessbase takes care that regularly your work is saved to avoid losing everything when the system crashes. Such file is automatically created at the installation and you normally can find it in the directory Chessbase\MyWork see the screenshot here below.
So if your system crashes then often you can still find back your notation + analysis in the file "Autosave.cbh" and bring it back to your favorite-folder. Beside "Autosave.cbh" doesn't save only the most recent version but also earlier versions of your work. This allows you to restore something you erased and which you regret. Or as for this article I was able thanks to "Autosave.cbh" to check how many versions of the opening, middlegame or endgame were saved. 200 versions of just one game in "Autosave.cbh" were no exception for me. A glimpse about this excessive saving, you can see in below screenshot.
Timestamps I couldn't find of the versions but I believe it is fine to assume that each version covers approximately the same time-span. This was also shown when I compared 2 tournaments and divided the number of days used for analysis and the number of versions stored. The deviation was 11% so more than sufficient to make conclusions. The 2 tournaments which I used for the exercise were Open Gent and Open Brasschaat which I played last summer. The analysis of the games of Open Gent were finished the 28th of August which means it took me 27 days (I didn't work at it during the Open Brasschaat). The analysis of my games played in Open Brasschaat were finalized the 17th of October and that corresponds with 47 days of analysis (I didn't work at it when I had to play new standard games for interclub and clubchampionship). Eventually I was able to make a pretty detailed analysis of the number of days I spent at analyzing my 18 games.
Averagely it takes a bit more than 4 days of analysis per game but there are big variances between the games. I spent less than 1 day at my 4th round of Open Gent while the first round of Open Brasschaat took me more than 11 days.

Contrary to expectations, I notice nor the elo of the opponent nor the result of the game influence really the number of days. The time of the analysis is mostly related to the type of opening played. 80% of the time is spent at that phase which isn't such a surprise as I use a scientific approach to chess. You can't play successfully always the same opening without an in-depth study of it.

Openings which I never studied before, take a lot of my time to analyze properly. Nevertheless it doesn't mean that I neglect the other phases of the game. It seems that spending only 5% of the analysis at endgames is inadequate but how many players can claim they spend more than 4 days in the last 2,5 months exclusively at analyzing endgames seriously.

Yes I think this article once again shows that I am not the average player. Most players just play chess and spend only a couple of minutes to check any mistakes. Besides I do this kind of analysis already for more than 20 years. Over the years I have refined my working-methods and put much more emphasis at the opening.

Several international masters told me that they don't analyze their games so extensively as I do. Anyway I don't expect my students to do such analysis. You should only do that if you enjoy it. In a next article I want to discuss how useful this is for your own development. Is it more than just fun?


Friday, October 18, 2019

Pasword part 2

Recently I saw a tweet at twitter stating that “Kens password was hacked”. Apparently somebody had found in 2014 a unix passwordfile, from a very selected group of ITers (you can call them pioneers) and at that time already tried to hack the passwords (unix encrypts the passwords in such way that even admins or a superusers can't decipher them). There were some famous names like Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie , Brian Kernighan, Steve Bourne and Bill Joy. We talked about a team which defined in the years ’60 and ’70 the base of all our current ICT. If you would convert those names to topplayers that we would be talking about Steinitz, Tarrasch, Lasker, Reti and Nimzowitsch, no less.

That unix-file with passwords seemed very difficult to crack in 2014. The hardware wasn't as strong as nowadays. 20 words were revealed quite quickly but five resisted. The last man standing was… Ken Thompson, and his password was chess-oriented.

On this site (ken thompsons old unix password cracked) you can read the story. Encrypted unix makes his password “ZghOT0eRm4U9s” and it appeared eventually to be “p/q2-q4!”. In other words, his password was just “d2-d4!”.

Chess-oriented passwords are strong, and that is no surprise: Kens password contains letters, special characters in an apparently illogical sequence. Now that is a trick which I also use. The reason is simple because if you use as password “1.d4 f5 2.e4!”, then you only need to remember “Staunton”. I also remember that as a student in Oostende I logged on the PDP-11 with my name and “e4e5f4” as password.

There are several sites which allow you to test the strength of your password: 2 good sites are and Other sites give you guidelines about which characters you can add, but these two give an indication how long it lasts to crack your password. This indication largely depends on the speed of the computer and as the first site is more conservative (they think that hackers are very well equipped), I prefer to use the first one.

That “e4e5f4” doesn't survive a second (54 milliseconds), but this changes when you use the full notation: “1.e4 e5 2.f4” which requires already 600 years. With a few extra signs “1.e4! e5! 2.f4?” you increase it to 4 billion years. That is not bad for a simple to remember password - you only need to remember "kingsgambit".

Of course the more moves, the better; the French MacCutcheon (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Lb4) lasts 10^48 years, without using exclamation-marks or question-marks. For people playing this line, it is simple but it is rather long so impractical to use. A rather short one is “Saveedra 6.c7-c8:T!” which  demands already 36 x 10^18 years of calculations, much easier to remember.

If you don't want to remember move-sequences, but rather prefer a chess-name as password, then I can recommend “Roman Dzindzichashvili” (42 x 10^21 years) or “Zurab Azmaiparashvili” (596 x 10^18 years). Have fun en keep it safe!


Monday, October 7, 2019


Having a son or daughter playing chess, requires a lot of patience from the parent(s). Especially when you accompany them to tournaments then you better realize in advance there won't be much time left to do other tasks. Besides as a parent you are mostly ignored by the chess-organisation. Often you are lucky to have a chair on which you can sit as I experienced several times at youth-tournaments that no separate space was provided for the companions.

Also you better try to do something enjoyable while waiting many hours as just sitting (like in the first picture of my article the memory) can be relaxing but surely won't be pleasant. Most parents are therefore armed against the hours of waiting. Some bring their computer to watch a movie. Others are writing a report for the job. I also see some parents gathering together to play cards or other games. I mostly belong to the group of readers so I bring a book, newspaper or some other literature with me.

Although in most cases I don't manage to read much in the end. I like too much talking to other people which probably also explains for a large part the existence of this blog. I don't have much trouble to start making a conversion with an unknown person and that has its advantages. This way you sometimes meet some really interesting personalities.

One example is the mother of Ines Dellaert. I had an enjoyable chat with her during Open Maastricht of 2018 and learned that she was trying to become one of the very first professional drone-pilots in Belgium. In Open Maastricht 2019 I met the papa of Matthijs De Groof. He started a couple of years ago together with his brother a company for gas-pressure-regulators see gasflowsolutions. He travels around the world to explain and sell his products. In the latest onjk an ex-professional-footballer joined my table. We had quite some fun because he was telling many anecdotes from the time he was still playing in the Dutch first division. Finally I want to conclude with the very congenial Alfred Olree with whom I was waiting every day at the same table for our children.

Alfred has an incredible rich life. Beside a very busy job as HR-officer, he is also father of 3 sons, married with (indeed) a Russian lady, youth-leader + director-member of the chessclub de drie torens and finally also has a beautiful passion for cats. Briefly there was enough to talk about for hours and even my wife paused her shopping for awhile to listen to all the stories. If it is about Russia and especially cats then she is interested. Besides it aren't just cats which Alfred has but the extraordinary magnificent Maine Coons. He already won many prizes with them also in Belgium.
Cats and chess, it sounds a weird combination but it happens more often than you probably think. There is even an opening named after the largest cat in the world. I mean the lion of course.

This opening has a very special history. Contrary to most other openings the lion wasn't invented by a grandmaster but by an amateur with the appropriate name Leo. According to archives Leo created the opening about 50 years ago and meanwhile many players have followed his footsteps. Particularly at amateur-level the system remains very popular till even today.

The system has some great assets compared to other openings. First it is an universal system so it can be applied against a wide range of setups. It also delivers excellent counterchances for black which allows to play for a win even against higher rated players. Finally it is very easy to learn which is of course handy for an amateur often not having much time to study chess at all.

Nonetheless the fact that the lion never became a mature opening at master-level in the last 50 years, should warn you that something isn't fully correct. That was last demonstrated in a game of my son which he played in the last onjk. If you have a name as Robin Van Leeuwen then you are almost automatically a fan of the lion but that doesn't mean necessarily you will score more points.
[Event "NED-ch U12 op"] [Site "Borne"] [Date "2019.08.07"] [Round "6"] [White "Hugo"] [Black "Van Leeuwen, Robin"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator ""] [WhiteElo "1435"] [BlackElo "1446"] [PlyCount "41"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O h6 {(A hint that black wants to play the Lion.)} 7. h3 {(The game-preparation only lasted a couple of minutes which made Hugo to forget the right move-sequence. Fortunately we quickly transpose to familiar ground.)} 7... c6 8. a4 Qc7 9. Re1 Nf8 10. Be3 g5 {(Now we have a real lion on the board. I can't understand why a coach teaches such moves to a small boy. He should be expelled. First learn them to develop properly with castling please.)} 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Nxe5 {(Robin was surprised completely. I had shown this piece-sacrifice to Hugo before the game. It takes advantage of the fact that black didn't castle yet. There are a dozen of games in the database where the same winning move was played. However there exist also a few games in which strong players missed the killer.)} 12... Qxe5 13. Bd4 Qc7 14. e5 Nd5 15. e6 f6 16. Qh5+ Kd8 17. Nxd5 cxd5 18. Bb5?? {(Of course white should open the position and take at d5. I was a bit disappointed after the game as this almost spoiled it for Hugo.)} 18... Nxe6 19. Rad1 Nf4?? {(The position is still very tricky. Fortunately for Hugo, Robin makes a mistake. After this Hugo finishes the game swiftly.)} 20. Qf7 Rf8 21. Qxf8+ 1-0
The lion was slaughtered without mercy in the game. Robin told us afterwards than he had never experienced such defeat before with his favorite opening. During the tournament there were beauty-prizes awarded and if I compare this one to the other winners then I am sure it would've made a good chance to win. However I didn't consider it honest to submit that game. I had shown to Hugo the whole idea in advance so including the sacrifice of the knight on e5. Very little creativity existed in the game.

At the master-level this sacrifice is well-known. Also I had met by coincidence the same opening in the most recent edition of Open Gent so I had just before onjk made some deep analysis of it.
[Event "Open Gent 1ste ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Jorritsma, S."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2306"] [BlackElo "1815"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O c6 {(In 3 earlier standard-games I always encountered castling.)} 7. a4 Qc7 8. Re1 h6 {(Black postpones castling and threatens to play g5 with a quick attack. This is called the lion opening.)} 9. Ba2!? {(I never studied the lion properly so I was forced to think for myself. After some extensive analysis I consider today h3 as the most critical continuation.)} 9... Nf8 10. Be3!? {(More critical are Nh4 and h3 but it doesn't harm to repeat moves once of course.)} 10... Ng4 11. Bc1 a5 {(After the game black admitted that he should've repeated the moves as this move just makes it more easy for white to find a plan.)} 12. h3 Nf6 13. Be3?! {(More accurate is first Nh4 to discourage blacks next move of the game.)} 13... Ng6 14. Qd3 O-O 15. Rad1 Bd8?! {(This move doesn't look only ugly but it is also ugly. A simple developing move like Bd7 leads to about equality.)} 16. Nd2 Qe7 17. Ne2 Nh5 18. dxe5?! {(Probably slighlty more accurate is Qa3.)} (18. Qa3! exd4!? 19. Bxd4 Be6 20. Nf1! Bc7! 21. Nfg3 Nxg3 22. Nxg3 Rfe8 23. Nh5 f6 24. f4! Bxa2 25. Qxa2+ Qf7 26. Qxf7+ {[%eval 45,31]}) 18... dxe5 19. Qc3 Bc7?! {(Logical but black loses precious time after this move.)} (19... Qf6! 20. Bc5 Be7 21. Bxe7 Qxe7 22. Bb3!? Kh7! 23. Kh2) 20. Bc5 Bd6 21. Bxd6 Qxd6 22. Nc4 Qc5 23. Nd6 Qxc3 24. Nxc3 Nf6? {(Black has a difficult position. The stiffest resistance delivers Nhf4.)} (24... Nhf4! 25. Nxf7 Nh4! 26. Re3 Nhxg2 {(Or Nfxg2 and then Pf4.)} 27. Rg3 Nh4 28. Nxh6+ Kh7 29. Nf7 g6 30. Kh2) 25. Rd2?! {(The tactics already work but aren't simple to calculate.)} (25. Nxf7! Kh7 (25... Rxf7 26. Rd8+ Nf8 27. Red1 g6 28. R1d6 Nh5 29. g4 Nf4 30. Re8 Be6 31. Rdxe6 Nxe6 32. Rxa8 Kg7 33. Rxa5 +-) 26. Rd6 Bd7 27. Red1 Be8 28. Nd8 +-) 25... b6?! {(Be6 is no fun but necessary.)} 26. Red1?! {(Again I just improve my position instead of executing some complex tactics.)} (26. Nxf7! Rxf7 {(A bit stronger is Kh7.)} 27. Rd8+ Nf8 28. Red1 g5 29. R1d6 Kg7 30. Bxf7 Kxf7 31. Rxc6 Bb7 32. Rc7+ +- {[%eval 648,32]}) 26... Nf4?! {(This was the last opportunity to play Be6.)} 27. Nxf7 {(Now this sacrifice is easy as white wins back the material immediately after Kxf7 thanks to Rd8+.)} 27... Be6 28. Bxe6 Nxe6 29. Nxe5 Nc5 30. f3 1-0
I played this opening less accurately than my son without the knowledge of the analysis I made only later. The sacrifice on e5 is in my game less dangerous but black was aware about it so therefore didn't dare to play g5. However without g5 the lion becomes a little cat without claws.

Cats and chess doesn't sound like a good match to me. Still at home my cat often gets attracted by my chess-activities but does lose very quickly its interest. It is much more fun to have a nap on my warm belly instead of watching some boring pieces moving around.
Just try from this position to reach the computer without waking up the cat. I have to make the most funny movements to push a button and it is practically impossible to get the right position on the board.

Finally this isn't the most funny part of the story. Did you know that I am allergic for cats? Still for our cat I am his most favorite person in the house. I guess it is because I am the one daring the least to touch him. So why do I even have a cat at home? Well that is something you have to ask to the other inhabitants of our house.


Monday, September 30, 2019

To study openings part 3

Some people think chess must be doing great in Belgium as the new national champion Daniel Dardha is only 13 years old. However one swallow doesn't make a summer. If we look at other Belgian children below 14 then Daniel is 450 elo higher rated than the second one. We can't expect that Belgium will become a strong chess-county anytime soon based on just one very talented boy.

We lack well organised training-facilities for our Belgium youth to maximize their potential. There are many small initiatives which are mainly around a bunch of lower rated volunteers doing a tremendous job but that is not sufficient at all to fulfill all the requests. Many children live too far or simply are not aware about the existence of the classes. Besides those classes mainly consist of a basic training using the step-method (often only a few of them). It is a nice start but they lack practical knowledge of how to play a competitive game.

Mainly parents of foreign origin question regularly those training-methods. We have a lot of youth in Belgium with such parents (see memory) so naturally they compare between countries. Last I heard a father with Indian roots telling a coach that in his birth-country they start with endgames instead of immediately teaching tactics on a board full of pieces.

I think this is a clever remark from him as there are indeed many advantages to focus first at endgames. As there are less pieces on the board, it becomes much more easy to see the tactics. Also you get immediately a good feeling of how the pieces relate to each other in terms of value. Finally an advantage in an endgame is often more clear so it becomes more simple to distinguish wrong from right. 

However another recurrent critic I often get is that endgames are boring. Here we see the difference in life-philosophy between people of different origin. In Western countries we believe fun should be given absolute priority so we let children play as freely as possible. However in Eastern countries the educative aspect of chess is considered as the prime-goal. I see many immigrants force their children to play chess as they think it is important for their intellectual development. Fun is rather irrelevant which sometimes creates some sad situations in the class when children tell the chess-teacher that they don't like chess at all but are forced to sit and wait till the class has finished.

I think most people agree about openings that it makes no sense to learn streams of moves at beginners. It is enough to know how to develop pieces, occupy the center with one or more pawns and castle to bring the king into safety. You often hear about children spending too much time at openings while other facets of the game still contain big gaps. It would be much more efficient to focus first at those weak aspects of the game. So it makes definitely sense not to teach any openings during the methods of steps.

Therefore sometimes young players till even a rather high level know very little about openings. From which rating onward should we start looking at openings? Is it ok as 2200 elo rated player still not having any theoretical knowledge of the played variations? There exist indeed such type of +2200 elo players which just play openings based on common sense only (I am thinking of e.g. the phenomenon Ashote Draftian is Flemish champion).

In my article how many games should I play published earlier this year I clearly demonstrated with some examples from the chess-literature that studying openings in an important part of reaching masterlevel. Between a beginner and a candidate-master there is easily 1000 elo but from somewhere in middle (+-1800) I think it does make sense to slowly start building a repertoire. By the way I heard something similar recently from the Belgian IM Tom Piceu. Also he advised an ambitious +1800 player to start working at a repertoire when it appeared he was lacking any basic knowledge of the openings he was playing.

Nevertheless I was a couple months ago shocked to find out the repertoire of the British grandmaster Daniel Howard Fernandez. Daniel plays just like Vladimir Epishin a very wide range of openings (see my article jubilee) but there exists a big gap of concrete opening-knowledge between them. I had the impression of Vladimir that he is very familiar with his openings contrary to Daniel seeming to play just something which is often total nonsense. It is a mystery how you can become a grandmaster with such repertoire. Well he is tactically extremely strong so I guess that probably largely compensates it. Still I don't understand why he doesn't want to work more at his openings when you clearly have a lot of talent. In our mutual game of the past Open Gent I decided therefore to avoid as much as possible any murky positions containing lots of tactics.
[Event "Open Gent 5de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Fernandez, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2306"] [BlackElo "2466"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O c5 {(In 2014 I already once got e6 on the board from the German international master Haub Thorsten whom meanwhile became a grandmaster.)} 7. Be3!? {(I was out book but I did recognize that this position looks very similar to a line from the Najdorf. In that variation Be3 is strong which is also the case here. Beside Be3 there are other interesting alternatives to play for an advantage like a4, dxc5 and Bg5.)} 7... b5?! {(I noticed while preparing the game that my opponent has a very creative style of playing the opening. He likes to avoid very quickly the mainlines. I assume Daniel knew cxd4 is here the standard move but preferred to make sure I would have to play a fresh position without help. Anyway b5 is a very risky novelty.)} (7... cxd4! 8. Bxd4 Ngf6!? 9. a4 O-O 10. a5 Qc7) 8. dxc5 Nxc5 9. e5!? {(The engines choose a different path to keep the advantage.)} (9. Bxc5!? Bxc3 10. bxc3 dxc5 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. a4 bxa4 {(The 2 black a-pawn will soon drop. Also whites pieces are much more active.)}) 9... Bb7 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. Qxd6?! {(I couldn't calculate the complications after a4 at the board. After Qxd6 my advantage decreases but I do avoid the tactics in which my opponents excells.)} (11. a4! b4 12. Na2 Bxb2!? 13. Rb1 Nxa4!? 14. c4 Nc3 15. Qc2 Nxb1?! 16. Qxb2 Nc3!? 17. Nxc3 bxc3 18. Qxb7 +-) 11... exd6 12. Rad1 O-O-O 13. Bd4 Bxd4 14. Rxd4 Ne7 15. a3 h6 16. Rfd1?! {(I don't take any risks. I choose only solid moves but this allows black to equalize.)} (16. a4! Nc6!? 17. Rf4 b4 18. Nd5 Rhe8 19. Re1 Nxa4 20. Rxf7! Nxb2 21. Rc7+ Kb8 22. Bxa6 {[%eval 73,38]}) 16... Kc7?! {(The logical defense but black has a more dynamic and stronger possibility.)} (16... Rhe8! 17. Rxd6!? Rxd6 18. Rxd6 Nd5 19. Kf1 Nxc3 20. bxc3 Ne4 21. Rd3) 17. R4d2?! {(I keep playing it safe. Again a4 is sharper.)} 17... Nf5 18. Nd4 Nxd4 19. Rxd4 Rhe8 20. Kf1 Re5 21. f4 Re6 22. g3 g5 23. Kf2 Rf6?! {(Black is a professional and he obviously plays for a win against an amateur rated 200 points lower. With Rf6 black tries to create some tension but this is again very risky.)} 24. Bf3 gxf4 25. gxf4?! {(I captured back automatically but hereby I miss the possibility to show the defect of black's 23rd move.)} (25. g4! Bc6 {(Contrary to the game Ne6 doesn't work now.)} 26. Bxc6 Kxc6 27. Nd5 Re6 28. Rxf4 Rf8 {(Material is equal but the scattered pawns give white definitely the better chances.)}) 25... Ne6 26. Bxb7 Kxb7 27. Rxd6 Rxf4+ {(I saw this intermediate move too late. From now onward I have to defend.)} 28. Ke3 Rxd6 29. Rxd6 Rh4 30. Rd7+ Kc6 31. Rxf7 Rh3+ 32. Rf3 Rxh2 33. Rf6 {(I had almost played the losing blunder which Daniel had tried to provoke with 31...Rh3+.)} (33. Ne2?? Rxe2+ 34. Kxe2 Nd4+ 35. Ke3 Nxf3 36. Kxf3 {(Black's h-pawn decides the game easily.)} 36... Kd5 37. Ke2 h5 38. Kf2 Kd4 39. Ke2 h4 40. Kf3 h3 41. Kf2 h2 42. Kg2 Ke3 43. b3 Kd4 {(Of course not Kd2 as then white would even win with c4.)} 44. c4 bxc4 45. bxc4 Kxc4 46. Kxh2 Kb3 47. Kg3 Kxa3 48. Kf3 Kb2 49. Ke3 a5 50. Kd3 a4 -+) 33... Kd6 34. Ne2 Ke5 35. Rf7 Rh3+ 36. Kf2 Ng5 37. Re7+ Kf5 38. Kg2 Kg4 39. Rd7 Re3 40. Kf2 Rf3+ 41. Kg2 Rf6 42. Rd4+ Kf5 43. Ng3+ Ke5 44. Rd2 Ne4 {(Daniel sees no progress so tries his luck in the rook-endgame. I would've waited still a bit as now it becomes easy to draw.)} 45. Nxe4 Kxe4 46. Re2+ Kd4 47. Rd2+ Kc4 48. Re2 Rd6 49. Kf3 a5 50. Rh2 {(I have achieved the most optimal position. My rook attacks the h-pawn and can also give checks horizontally. It is no surprise that black starts repeating the moves to conclude the draw.)} 50... Rf6+ 51. Ke3 Re6+ 52. Kd2 Rd6+ 53. Ke3 Re6+ 1/2-1/2
I exit the opening with a large advantage but played it a bit too safe to keep it. I did manage to keep the position simple although that almost wasn't sufficient either to achieve the desired draw.

You would expect that such repertoire wouldn't stand a chance against stronger players. I also thought so until he blew our Belgian top-player Bart Michiels from the board with an awful opening. Black extracted a big advantage from the opening but in the middlegame got tactically completely outplayed. This clash eventually decided that Daniel later became the tournament-winner.
[Event "42nd Eastman Open 2019"] [Site "Ghent BEL"] [Date "2019.07.22"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Fernandez, Daniel Howard"] [Black "Michiels, Bart"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A03"] [WhiteElo "2466"] [BlackElo "2563"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2019.07.20"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. f4 d5 2. b3 Nf6 3. Bb2 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. e3 h6 6. h3 a5 {(After just 6 moves we already have an unknown position. At least I haven't found any game with this position in any database I possess.} 7. g4 Bh7 8. Bxf6 {(If somebody still was familiar with the position then he surely won't be anymore after this move. This exchange is horrible as white weakens all the black squares. Stockfish shows -1,3 for black.)} 8... Qxf6 9. d4 a4 10. bxa4 g5 11. fxg5 hxg5 12. Bd3 Bd6? {(With this logical development black loses his advantage. Nd7 with the idea of a quick e5 is much stronger.)} 13. Ke2 {(It is unbelievable that white will win from this position in less than 20 moves against a 100 points higher rated colleague-grandmaster while no clear blunder happened.)} 13... Nd7 14. Bxh7 Rxh7 15. c4 dxc4 16. Nbd2 Qg6? {(Bart doesn't play sufficiently active. Searching counterplay with e5 is more appropriate here.)} 17. Nxc4 Ke7 18. Qb1 Qxb1 19. Rhxb1? {(Also Daniel doesn't always play faultless. Here Rab1 is much stronger.)} 19... Rxh3 20. Nxg5 Rh2+? {(Bart must have missed something tactically as after Rh4 the position is still balanced.)} 21. Kd3 Ra7 22. Ne4 Nf6?! {(Stockfish already considers the position lost for black after this move. Daniel has indeed few problems to show black's pieces lack coordination.)} 23. Nxf6 Kxf6 24. a5 Bf8 25. Rb5 Rf2 26. a4 Bh6 27. Rh1 Kg6 28. Rhb1 b6 29. Ne5+ Kh7 30. Rh1 f6 31. Nc6 Ra6 32. Rbh5 {(Mate in 9 is already shown on my screen. It is absurd how black's pieces are positioned especially if you know in which position we started 20 moves ago and black is nonetheless a very experienced and strong player.)} 1-0
If you would like to play like Daniel then think twice before giving up studying openings. Daniel started to play chess at a very young age (in 2004 -9 British champion) and has traveled continuously around the world (Singapore, Australia, Europe, ..) He clearly got hardened by this tough life. So copying his approach to chess successfully seems very unlikely to me.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Testing chess-engines

Till a couple of months ago I never bothered about testing chess-engines. I didn't see any value in it. I would never be able to achieve the same quality as the results CCRL publishes weekly. Besides such work is not cheap as you need to invest into hardware, electricity, floorspace,... On top most of those games played by engines are pretty boring. You better watch games of humans to see drama and creativity.

However as I mentioned in my last article, I had an open question for Leela. CCRL nor other sites give me an answer about how strong Leela would be in comparison with the classical engines when both use exactly the same type of hardware. That is a problem for me. I can install for free Leela on my PC but I only want to use it for analysis if I know the engine is one of the 2 strongest ones I possess. I am using that rule already for a very long time see my article of 2012 about how I analyze. Maybe some will consider this a bit silly but it assures me that my opponents will likely not have any better analysis.

So in the end I decided to do the testing myself. Then the next question is of course how to do this job quickly, accurately and as cheap as possible. I could use a set of puzzles but that is only one aspect of an engine. I rather prefer the engine to be tested by playing games but I can't/ don't want to miss my hardware for several months. A good compromise was found in a rapidmatch with the rate of 15 minutes + 10 seconds increment over 100 games. That should give a good indication of the playing-strength. At stake was a place in my top 2 engines so logically I chose Komodo 11 as its opponent for the match.

Then the next question is what do we decide about the openings. Do we give the engines full liberty of choice or do we select a number of positions which need to played out once from each side as TCEC does? The free choice is as we humans play our games but there are some disadvantages to that. The engines will likely play openings which are not part of my repertoire. The risk exists that they play very safe and we get an abundance of draws. Finally Leela will without an openingbook play almost exclusively the same moves in the opening so you risk to see several times the same opening/ game.

Therefore I preferred to let the engines start from a pre-defined set of openings. Which openings to choose is then the next logical question. It didn't take me long to find a good answer for it. I created a new database and injected a selection of 50 recently played games of myself. Next I removed in all games the moves beyond the 10th. The few duplicates which I got, were swapped by selecting a few other of my games. The final result was a nice mix of 50 positions in which some of them the balance was already broken. This way I avoided a too high number of draws. Besides the engines will only play openings which have occurred before in my practice which makes it of course more fun to watch the match.

Finally everything was ready. Via Fritz I activated the window to initialize the match as obviously I wanted to automate the whole process. First I selected Leela. Next Komodo11. I selected the right tempo and the last step was linking to my special database of 50 positions. After verification of all parameters I clicked ok and the match got off.
About 3 full days lasted the match. I let my PC run day and night but I did interrupt the process a few times to allow my PC cool down as around that time we were having temperatures around 40 degrees in Belgium. Anyway it was very easy to continue the match from the point where I paused.

The match was a big success which superseded the tests. First it became quickly clear both engines were very close of strength but also had a very different style. Often games got extremely interesting and besides played from openings all part of my repertoire. A number of times, I sometimes even together with my children, watched live 1 or more games. My children also regularly asked about the preliminary score as we all got attached to little Leela which despite the tactical handicap (more about it later) often managed to defeat the giant Komodo .

It made me want to have more of it so I decided to organize twice more such match in the next months with newer releases of Leela. For the 3rd match I decided to replace some of the openings. If in the 2 previous matches 4 times the same color won (so irrespective of the engine) then it seemed more appropriate to select some other opening to use as test.

2 matches were narrowly lost by Leela. The second match Leela tied with Komodo. I considered this a very unexpected and exceptionally good result on my modest computer definitely not optimal for Lc0. On the other hand the matches didn't give an answer on my original question. The scores were too close to know for sure which engine of the 2 was the strongest. Anyway this is not a disaster as now I got to know Leela very well in the 300 games. I got a pretty good idea when to use Leela for the analysis.

In my previous article we already got acquainted with Leela by looking at how the engine reacts in different types of positions but it is only by replaying her games that we fully realize how different the engine is compared with the traditional ones. So to conclude this article I made a selection of 3 games which demonstrate very well the strengths and weaknesses of Leela. This was not so easy as there was a very large number of beautiful games. I start with a fantastic game played from the Chigorin-variation of the Spanish opening (I covered the opening recently in my article statistics). Leela sacrifices very early an exchange and succeeds like a real boa constrictor to slowly suffocate black.
[Event "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB, Rapid 15m+10s"] [Site "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB"] [Date "2019.05.27"] [Round "13"] [White "Lc0 v0.21.0"] [Black "Komodo 11 64-bit"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C96"] [PlyCount "163"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [Eventtype "rapid"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 {(I play this position with both colors. Leelal shows immediately already an advantage of +0,8. Komodo is more conservative with +0,2)} 11. d4 exd4 12. cxd4 Re8 13. d5 Nd7 14. Nbd2 Bf6 15. Rb1 {(Meanwhile Leela became more optimistic with +1,7. Komodo thinks there are no issues and evaluates the positon as +0,1)} 15... Nf8 16. b3 Ng6 17. Nf1 Bd7 18. Ng3 Ne5 19. Nd2 Ng6 20. Nf3 Ne5 21. Nh2 {(It is typical for Leela to repeat moves before proceeding with her plan.)} 21... Ng6 22. Nh5 Bd4 23. Nf3 Bc3 24. Re3 b4 25. Rxc3 {(After this exchange-sacrifice Leela already gives herself +4. Komodo sees white has full compensation but not much more with +0,5 for white.)} 25... bxc3 26. Qe1 f6 27. Qxc3 Rc8 28. Kh2 Re7 29. Be3 Nb7 30. Nd2 Qa5 31. Qa1 Qc7 32. f4 Rce8 33. Qc3 Qa5 34. Qb2 Qc7 35. g4 Kh8 36. Rg1 Rf8 37. Qc3 Qa5 38. Qa1 Qb5 39. Rg2 Be8 40. Ng3 {(The evaluation of Leela has raised to +8. Komodo now also realizes that his position is not good but +1 is a huge difference of evaluation.)} 40... Qb6 41. Nf5 Ref7 42. h4 Qd8 43. h5 Ne7 44. Nh4 Ng8 45. Qe1 Na5 46. Ndf3 Nb7 47. Bd2 Rc7 {(From here onward Komodo considers the positon lost with a score of +1,7 for white. The score from Leela keeps going up and is now already at +15.)} 48. Bc3 c4 49. b4 a5 50. a3 axb4 51. axb4 Qb8 52. Nd4 Nd8 53. Ndf5 Qb6 54. Bd4 Qa6 55. Qc3 Ra7 56. Bxa7 Qxa7 57. Nxd6 Nf7 58. Nxf7+ Bxf7 59. Nf5 Qc7 60. d6 Qd8 61. Qd4 Be6 62. Ne3 Nh6 63. b5 Nf7 64. b6 Qxd6 65. Qxd6 Nxd6 66. Rd2 Nb7 67. f5 Bg8 68. Rd7 Rb8 69. g5 Nc5 70. Rd6 Nb7 71. Rd1 fxg5 72. e5 {(Leela keeps sacrificing material as it considers activity more important.)} 72... Nc5 73. Rd6 Nb7 74. Rc6 Nd8 75. Rc7 g6 76. hxg6 hxg6 77. e6 Bxe6 78. fxe6 Nxe6 79. Rc6 Nd4 80. Rd6 Nxc2 81. Nxc2 Kg7 82. Nb4 1-0
The extraordinary of this game is that there is no fixed center. The battle rages over the full board but black never gets a change to exploit the extra exchange.

A second game starts from a Dutch stonewall which I encountered in one of my games played end of 2017 against the Dutch IM Xander Wemmers see secret. In the game we see the advance of both rook-pawns which is very typical for the style of Leela. Next we see a magnificent demonstration of activity. Komodo doesn't understand at all what Leela is trying to do.
[Event "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB, Rapid 15m+10s"] [Site "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB"] [Date "2019.07.27"] [Round "20"] [White "Komodo 11 64-bit"] [Black "Lc0 v0.21.2"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [PlyCount "124"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [Eventtype "rapid"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. O-O Bd6 6. c4 c6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Qc2 Ne4 9. Rb1 a5 10. a3 Nd7 {(I encountered this opening on the board end of 2017 in my game against the Dutch IM Xander Wemmers. Komodo shows +0,3. Leela evaluates it as 0.0.)} 11. Be3 Qe7 12. Rfd1 h6 13. Rbc1 g5 14. Ne1 Ndf6 15. c5 Bc7 16. f3 Nxc3 17. bxc3 b5 18. Nd3 a4 {(Leela starts to like black from here onward with -0,4. Komodo thinks white is ok with +0,2.)} 19. Rf1 Bd7 20. Rb1 Be8 21. f4 g4 22. Ne5 h5 23. Bf2 h4 24. c4 h3 {(Here we see again typically Leela playing chess. On both wings the rook-pawns are advanced as far as possible. On top the white bishop is buried alive. Leela already shows -1,4. Komodo sees no danger with 0.0)} 25. Bh1 bxc4 26. Rb7 Qd8 27. Rfb1 Bxe5 28. fxe5 Nh5 {(The only open file is controlled firmly by white. Black has also a very bad bishop. Still Leela is very optimistic.)} 29. e3 Qg5 30. R1b6 Bg6 31. Qc1 Rac8 32. Rb2 f4 {(With this pawnsacrifice Leela frees the bad bishop. Komodo still considers the position equal with 0.0)} 33. exf4 Qf5 34. R7b6 Qd3 35. Rd2 Qf5 36. Ra2 {(No move-repetition as Komodo starts to realize things are not looking so good anymore.)} 36... Rb8 37. Be1 Qd3 38. Qc3 Rxb6 39. cxb6 {(Only now Komodo evaluates the position as likely lost.)} 39... Rb8 40. Rb2 Ng7 41. Kf2 Rb7 42. Bd2 Kf7 {(The execution of the win by Leela is impressive.)} 43. Ke1 Bh7 44. Rb4 Qxc3 45. Bxc3 Bc2 46. Kd2 Bb3 47. Kc1 Nf5 48. Kd2 Ke8 49. Ke2 Kd7 50. Kd2 Kc8 51. Ke2 Rb8 52. Kd2 Kb7 53. Ba1 Ka6 54. Bc3 Rxb6 55. Rxb6+ Kxb6 56. Kc1 c5 57. dxc5+ Kxc5 58. Bb4+ Kd4 59. Kd2 Ba2 60. Bc3+ Kc5 61. Kc1 Bb3 62. Bb4+ Kc6 {(Komodo shows for some moves already -7 and resigns. It probably detested the cat and mouse-game Leela was playing with him.)} 0-1
Leela plays this game as many others with an understanding of open lines, bad bishops which is much more advanced than Komodo.

If you have replayed the 2 previous games then you probably start to wonder why Leela didn't destroy Komodo in the match. Well tactically things got often completely wrong. A nice example is the next one in which Leela sees the combination 5 moves too late.
[Event "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB, Rapid 15m+10s"] [Site "DESKTOP-VE6O9HB"] [Date "2019.06.27"] [Round "2"] [White "Komodo 11 64-bit"] [Black "Lc0 v0.21.2"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [Eventtype "rapid"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. Nc3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Be6 10. Re1 O-O {(I got this opening on the board in my game against Sven Stange of 2017.)} 11. Rb1 Rb8 12. Bf4 Re8 13. Rxe6 fxe6 14. Ne5 Nxe5 15. Bxe5 Bd6 16. Qh5 h6 17. f4 Bxe5 18. dxe5 Rf8 {(The weakness of Leela is tactics. Komodo shows after this move immediately +2,5 while Leela is blind with only +0,3.)} 19. Qg6 Rxf4 20. Qh7+ Kf8 21. Bg6 Qg5 22. Qh8+ {(Meanwhile Komodo shows +18. Leela still is hanging at +0,3.)} 22... Ke7 23. Qxg7+ Kd8 {(Only now Leela awakens. Her evaluation raises to +3. Leela only took Qxb8 into account.)} 24. Rxb7 Rc8 25. Rxc7 Rf1+ 26. Kxf1 Qf4+ 27. Ke2 {(It is remarkable but all these moves were published in an analysis on my blog before.)} 1-0
Fans of my blog will likely already recognized the link to my article the butterfly-effect. All the moves were already covered in that article so it was definitely a surprise to see them all executed on the board.

I got to enjoy testing of chess-engines via these kind of matches. A new match won't be for immediately as other work needs to done first. Besides Leela is building a new network from scratch and today it is still much weaker than the networks of a couple of months ago. It would also be nice for a next match to have by that time newer and stronger hardware.