Friday, February 21, 2020

The expert part 3

Already in 2013 I wrote on this blog that the Dutch is a dubious opening as white has a large choice of possibilities to test black see a dutch gambit part 2. I didn't mean at that time the opening was refuted. Just white has much more options compared with more solid/safe openings to play something dangerous which means you need to study many more different type of lines as black.

However last month Sim Maerevoet wrote in ideas part 2 that nowadays there exist multiple systems against the Dutch which do give an advantage to white so practically closing the opening. You just need to make a serious analysis and black is toasted. Unfortunately I am getting more and more convinced Sim is right. The last couple of months I only was repairing broken lines of the Dutch. Especially by analyzing with the new engine lc0 many persistent problems have occurred in the Dutch. Lc0 continuously finds holes in my old analysis which previously let me believe those lines were playable.

It seems just a matter of time that I will have to stop playing the Dutch opening in standard games. Sim is not yet using lc0 but I do know many other masters already do. Computers achieve autonomy has clearly gained speed again. The Dutch is with the back against the wall but other risky openings are doing even worse. In the interclubs the Belgian FM Frederic Verduyn complained about the bankruptcy of chess due to the engines. I don't want to be so negative but we will have to adopt our play or will lose (a lot of) ratingpoints.

This can be by playing other openings but also by selecting tournaments in which preparations are less likely. Besides I notice many standard tournaments nowadays prefer to play multiple games per day. The time available to prepare is limited to a minimum. This happened for example in the last round of Open Leuven 2019 in which the pairings were announced less than a half hour before the start of the round.

This lack of preparation-time becomes even more clear in rapid or blitz-tournaments. It is very rare that somebody will prepare in such tournaments for somebody specific. This allows you to play some not fully correct openings and get away with it. Sim responded to me that one of the advantages of the Dutch is that finding good moves for black is easy but I don't agree with this assessment. In my first years with the Dutch I experienced multiple miniatures (defeats in less that 20 moves with black). However playing the Dutch non stop for 25 years lets it look to the outside-world that life is simple for black. In the last 2 years I clearly benefited of this advantage in the rapidtournaments which I participated. I only lost 1 game with the Dutch but won countless others even against some titled players like IM Tom Piceu, FM Sim Maerevoet, FM Warre De Waele, FM Sterre Dauw (my student has just climbed above me on the fide-list)....

In part 1 and part 2 I have demonstrated that it is nowadays impossible to compete against a computer-preparation by specializing in 1 opening. In this article I wanted to show the other side of the medal so being an expert isn't fully useless either. Having good knowledge about the pawn-structures is valuable but also knowing the typical piece-maneuvers is, as noticed by Sim in his most recent article. Below attack against the king in the Sicilian Dragon is probably one of the most well-known opening/middlegame themes of chess but there still exist players not familiar with it.
[Event "Open Gent 1st round"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Thuijls, H"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B77"] [WhiteElo "2333"] [BlackElo "1830"] [PlyCount "35"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 d6 9. f3 Bd7 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 a6 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. h4 {(Maybe black played before only the Dragon against lower rated players. Nevertheless it is very awkward that a + 1800 rated player is not familiar with the standard king-attack which I executed in this game.)} 13... h5 14. g4 hxg4 15. h5 Nxh5 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Rxh5 gxh5 18. Qg5+ {(I wasn't aware of it during the game but this complete game has been played before at least a couple of times.)} (18. Qg5+ Kh8 19. Qxh5+ Kg7 20. Qg5+ Kh8 21. Rh1#) 1-0
After the game I found in the mega-database the exact same game twice more.

At the other side of the spectrum of known themes stands probably below example which I discovered by analyzing my game against Jan Rogiers and which I published fully already here on this blog see the hyper modern french.
[Event "Analysis"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Rogiers, J"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2130"] [PlyCount "33"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Qd3 Qb6 10. Ng5 f5 11. Nxd5 Qxb2 12. Bxc5 Qxa1+ 13. Kf2 Nxc5 14. Ne7+ {(White is a rook down but has a surprising combination.)} 14... Kh8 15. Nf7+ {(White can try to inverse the sequence to make it even more beautiful but then black can postpone mate.)} (15. Qd8 Ne4+ 16. Kg1 Rxd8 {(Black can sacrifice a full queen with Qd4 avoiding immediate mate.)} 17. Nf7#) 15... Rxf7 16. Qd8+ Rf8 17. Qxf8# 1-0
In the rapid-tournament of Gent (24th of November 2019) I didn't miss the chance to execute the same very peculiar theme in my game against Robert Decruyenaere. We played the same opening but a somewhat different line. As the theme pops up very late in the game and the positions are looking totally different, I do wonder if it is just a coincidence. I assume this theme has popped up in other openings too so readers are invited to share if they have encountered something similar already.
[Event "Analysis"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Decruyenaere, R"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2302"] [BlackElo "1932"] [PlyCount "55"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 b6 9. Bb5 Qc7 10. O-O-O O-O 11. Bxc6 Qxc6 12. f5 Bb7 13. Rhf1 f6 14. fxe6 Qxe6 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. Bxc5 Nxc5 17. exf6 Rxf6 18. Nxd5 Rff8 19. Rfe1 Qg4 20. Qd4 Qxd4 21. Rxd4 Rad8 22. Ne7+ {(Before Open Leuven I had checked my analysis of my game against Jan Rogiers so naturally I couldn't miss this theme even if this is only a rapid-game with little time left on the clock.)} 22... Kh8 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Ne5 Rf8 25. Rd1 Bxg2 {(In the game Robbert saw the clue of my idea but the position is obviously also won for me after his g6.)} (25... g6 26. N7xg6+ hxg6 27. Nxg6+ Kg8 28. Nxf8 Kxf8 +-) 26. Nf7+ {(Here too Rd8 is possible but again then it is no forced mate.)} (26. Rd8 Rxd8 {(With g6 and sacrificing a full rook black can postpone mate.)} 27. Nf7#) 26... Rxf7 27. Rd8+ Rf8 28. Rxf8# 1-0
So experience exists in different shapes and formats. I am surely not exaggerating that my +25 years of experience with the Dutch is much more than just knowing by heart some opening-moves. That is also why I find it so hard to dish the Dutch. I wrote above that it is a matter of time but I am not in a hurry. Our national youth-coach Arben Dardha said in a recent interview about his son Daniel that time is precious. Indeed time flies for our youth as once they become adults, it will be increasingly difficult to make further progress. Once you are 43 like myself then this isn't an issue anymore. There are still some lines in the Dutch which I like to investigate closer. Only after I did that then I will be mentally ready to close the big book of the Dutch opening.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Ideas part 2

A month ago I wrote an article about which games to analyze and because it received some positive reactions, I decided to write a second one. Some people asked me what exactly I meant with openingideas which I casually mentioned in my previous article.

So in this article I will explain my working-method and share a few secret opening-ideas (well obviously not so secret anymore as otherwise I wouldn't discuss them here). I did doubt a bit about writing this article as Brabo told me that his own articles are used to prepare against him. Therefore I only share ideas of openings which I don't play or stopped playing a while ago. In this article I make a split between opening-ideas for myself and opening-ideas which I use as starting coach. 

Opening-ideas for myself

When I search for opening-ideas then I try to look for new type of positions or at least less played positions which my opponent likely didn't study deeply. Those positions often have their own specific pawnstructure but I also like it when a different plan must be executed. Below I give an example of such idea. I summarized the different lines so you could play it if you are interested in it. The idea is 6.Nd2 which is only the 5th most popular move but before you look at this idea, try first to check which type of positions arise in the mainline. Normally I study this mainline much deeper so this can be useful for you to do at home as this will improve your understanding of the opening.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A87"] [Annotator "Sim"] [PlyCount "23"] [SourceDate "2020.01.23"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. d4 f5 {Practically anything is good against f5 for an advantage but I do prefer to play my own type of position} 2. g3 (2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nf3 d6 7. O-O Qe8 8. d5 Na6 9. Rb1 Bd7 10. b4 c6 11. dxc6 bxc6 12. a3 {I am no specialist of the Dutch but I think this is one of the mainlines. I am convinced white has some advantage here but black will likely be experienced in this position as he normally analyzed and played it many times.}) 2... Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. Nbd2 d6 7. Re1 Nc6 8. e4 fxe4 (8... e5 9. dxe5 (9. exf5 gxf5 10. c3 (10. Nf1 e4 11. Nh4 Qe8 12. f3 {complex game}) 10... e4 11. Ng5) (9. c3 {the best move}) 9... dxe5 10. c3 (10. exf5 gxf5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. Rxe5 Ne4) 10... f4 (10... Kh8 11. Qe2 (11. exf5 e4 (11... gxf5 12. Nxe5) (11... Bxf5 12. Qb3 e4 13. Ng5 e3 14. Rxe3 Ng4 {this was one of my games against Michael Gurevich. I arrived in this position via a transposition. Here I played Nf7 which is a mistake. I still got a draw after an accurate defense but better is of course to play Ndf3 and never defend!}) 12. Ng5 gxf5 13. Nc4 Qxd1 14. Rxd1) 11... f4 12. b4 Qe8 13. b5 Nd8 14. Ba3 {with unclear play}) 11. b4 a6 12. a4 Ng4 13. h3 Nh6 14. Ba3) 9. Nxe4 {Although this is objectively better for black than in the mainline, I did get what I wanted as I don't have anymore a pawn on e4 as I already played it and the plan with e5 isn't simple to execute.} 9... Nxe4 10. Rxe4 Bf5 11. Re1 e5 12. c3 exd4 (12... e4 13. Ng5 d5 14. f3 {white wins}) (12... Bg4 {this is the most natural move but a very bad one} 13. Qb3+ Kh8 14. Qxb7) (12... Kh8 13. dxe5 dxe5 14. Qa4) 13. Qb3+ Kh8 14. Bg5 Qd7 (14... Bf6 15. Qxb7 Bxg5 16. Nxg5 Qxg5 17. Qxc6 d3 18. Qxc7 {d3 is a bad move but it was hard to find a good one, white's king is much safer}) 15. Nxd4 Nxd4 16. cxd4 Rae8 (16... Bxd4 17. Re7) 17. Qxb7 c5 18. dxc5 Qxb7 19. Bxb7 Bxb2 20. cxd6 Bxa1 21. Rxa1 {it is still a complicated position but white is much better or even winning} *
Such opening-idea doesn't occur randomly. Often I use chessbase 14 to find interesting moves which are less popular but still contain poison. In the picture below you can see how such search looks like in chessbase 14. In the upper-window on the left you see a list of the different moves played in the position on the board with their respective popularity and score. Below you immediately find a list of games played by top-grandmasters with the chosen position. In the upper-window on the right you can find the evaluation of the engine for the 3 best moves.

Positions which I like, are stored to investigate more closely. Often I start the search without an engine but I always check it afterward with an engine to see if it is not refuted. I still use Stockfich 10 as I didn't download yet leela. It often takes 2 hours to find an idea and then I still need to work out the details. Sometimes I also just look at recent games and bump against something fresh and interesting. However important is when building a repertoire that you put special effort into the different transpositions and move-sequences. I wasn't ready to play against the different types of the stonewall as you need to have an idea prepared for all of them. 1 of the more clever systems is the triangle in which black is offering to play the noteboom and if white avoids this then he should take into account a stonewall or a semi-slav. This is of course annoying and generates a lot of extra work. I could of course try to study the complexities of the noteboom but that is against my ideology of the openings. After some research I encountered the idea below.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "D31"] [Annotator "Sim"] [PlyCount "23"] [SourceDate "2020.01.23"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 (2... c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 {Black can also choose to play this way for which you need to be prepared. Sometimes you want to play against the slav with e3 and then the knight sometimes prefers to go to d2 instead.}) 3. Nf3 {That is why I prefer Nf3 as this keeps the most options for white open.} (3. Nc3 c6 {If black plays this sequence then you have the possibility to play e4 with later the funny idea of Bf8. White has also more serious ideas but generally the position is considered difficult but tenable for black} 4. e4 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8. Be2 Na6 9. Bf8) 3... c6 4. Nc3 dxc4 (4... f5 {this would be already a small mistake as it allows white to achieve an optimal setup} 5. Bf4 Nf6 6. e3 Bd6 (6... Be7 {the mainline and also the most logical one but no joy to play.} 7. Bd3 O-O 8. Qc2 Ne4 9. g4 {I think black should never allow this which is why I prefer Bd6}) 7. Bd3 {I rather prefer white here as black had to develop his bishop to d6} (7. Bxd6)) (4... Nf6 {I am ready to play against the semislav as I play it myself with black for years}) 5. a4 Bb4 6. e3 b5 7. Bd2 a5 8. Qb1 (8. Rb1 Ba6 9. Ne5 Nf6 10. Nxc6 {a forced draw} (10. g3 O-O 11. Bg2 Ra7 12. O-O Qb6 13. b3 {with objectively a better position for black})) 8... Ba6 (8... Qb6 9. Ne4 Nf6 10. Nxf6+ gxf6 11. Be2 {and it is an open game}) (8... Nf6 9. axb5 Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxb5 11. Qxb5+) 9. Ne4 Nd7 (9... Nf6 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Bxb4 axb4 12. axb5 cxb5 13. b3 Qe7 14. bxc4 bxc4 15. Bxc4 {it is equal but I prefer to play white}) (9... Qe7 10. g3 Nd7 11. Bg2 Ngf6 12. O-O O-O 13. Nxf6+ Nxf6 14. Bxb4 axb4 15. Ne5 {interesting and equal}) 10. Bxb4 axb4 11. Nd6+ Ke7 12. Ne5 {with a big practical advantage for white, objectively it isn't much} *
Opening-idea 2 is about 8.Qb1 in the triangle, this idea I discovered as I wanted to play myself the noteboom which I find one of the most interesting openings in chess. My main-book for the triangle recommended a very nasty position for black against 8.Qb1 which the engine also doesn't understand very well. So I considered this side-line to be very interesting for a practical game of chess.

Unfortunately I don't have enough flexibility in my repertoire to give you ideas for black. Still I can recommend you to look for such ideas in the games of FM Arno Sterck. He is one of the most underrated players in Belgium but he is one of the main reasons of the success Bruges is experiencing in the interclubs. One of his most recent victims was against the team of eurochess. So his opening-ideas are definitely worth a look!

Opening-ideas for my students

I don't have yet permanent students but I do sometimes give some classes to young players often rated between 1500-1900. At tournaments I also often help 3 players to prepare for their games (I am still looking for some children in the Belgium youth-championship so if you are interested please contact me). I also have rearranged my opening-ideas recently for them. Today I find it more important to use ideas in which you know what to do. This is something which is important for any level of play. I have learned this from the very experienced and excellent coach, FM Roel Hamblok. This is however contradictory to what my own coach Bruno Luyckx (the most motivated chess-coach I have ever met and it would definitely be interesting to write once an article about just him) has taught me. Despite I practically accept anything of Bruno, I do prefer to understand positions above creating chaos. So I will try always to look at openings or ideas with a limited number of pawnstructures. Pawnstructures are in fact the base of any opening and more broadly of chess itself. Below you can find an idea (which I found by using chessbase independently) against the caro-kan for white. It is nothing special but it is very easy to play for white. Ideal for a young student!
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White ""] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B13"] [Annotator "Sim"] [PlyCount "22"] [SourceDate "2020.01.23"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Qc7 {Qc7 is the most accurate move and many books recommend it. The idea is to avoid Bf4.} (5... Nf6 6. Bf4 Bg4 (6... e6) (6... Qb6 7. Qb3 Qxb3 8. axb3 {white wins}) 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. Nd2 {h3 is slightly inaccurate as Ne5 attacks the bishop}) 6. Ne2 Bg4 7. O-O e6 8. Qe1 Bd6 (8... Bxe2 9. Qxe2 {white has the valuable pair of bishops}) 9. f3 Bh5 (9... Bxh2+ 10. Kh1 Bf5 11. Bxf5 exf5 12. Ng3+ Kf8 13. Kxh2) (9... Bf5 10. Bxf5 exf5 11. Bf4 {this isn't fun to play for black at all}) 10. Qh4 Bg6 11. Bxg6 fxg6 {white has a large structural advantage} *
To conclude I want to add that openings aren't the only thing we should study but it is the domain which allows you to master rather easily with the current strength of engines and database. It allows you to ask annoying questions to the opponent from the start. An idea doesn't need to be a refutation. The most important is to take your opponent out of his comfortzone by letting him play non-standard pawnstructures of which you are pretty sure that it wasn't studied yet in detail.

Sim Maerevoet