Sunday, March 15, 2020

Automatic moves

Slowly my children get better at chess. My daughter Evelien managed to cross the 1400 elo some months ago. My son Hugo did the same with the 1700 barrier but he is playing chess already several years longer. Each coach and chess-parent will likely agree that such results make yourself proud although in the end it is the accomplishment of the children.

Clubs having many youth-players obviously want to see very often new publications of the rankings. Almost everybody wins points each time and even when somebody loses then it is just a temporary thing. However for clubs exclusively of older players each new ranking is torment. My clubmate Marcel Van Herck made recently the remark on facebook that he sees many minus-signs next to the Belgian-ratings of our clubmembers.

I am not so young anymore either so I detest to see much more often the minus-signs compared to the plus-signs next to my rating. A 5th defeat this season in the Belgian interclub pushed my rating even to the lowest level in 18 years. Or to let it sound even more dramatic, my fide-elo dropped below my starting-rating which I got in the year 2000. What is happening? Do I have Alzheimer but I thought chess is the best medicine against it?

First I need to explain that in the year 2000 you could only get a rating if your performance is above 2200 elo. Today the minimum-bar is at 1000 elo so we shouldn't compare startingratings in the year 2000 with the ones which we are used to today. Also having a rating less than 100 points below your own best isn't exceptional at all see peakrating part 2. In brief we shouldn't make a mountain out of a molehill.

On the other hand I still think I am (way) too young to see my rating slowly decrease already. Beside in the last couple of months I became again a much more active player so today I am much more routinized. In the previous years I didn't manage to play more than 10 standard-games each year which were processed for my fide-rating. In the last six months only I already played more than 25 fide-rated standardgames which is about 5x more than before (this is of course because I started recently to play tournaments together with my children).

So in my most recent games I rarely encountered serious time-troubles (can we ever speak about it when playing with increments?). However maybe exactly because of this my play has become too superficial. As every experienced player I try to divide my time properly between the moves during a game. I don't want to spend much time at moves which look forced/ natural so I save time for more complex positions. That is in most cases the right decision but sometimes this also leads to errors. I start with an example from my first game played in the Dutch interclubs for Landau Axel.
[Event "Interclub Landau - Sliedrecht"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Mijnster, N"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6r1/p4p2/1pk1p3/7P/6P1/2b2K2/PP6/7R w - - 0 37"] [ECO "B19"] [WhiteElo "2254"] [BlackElo "2150"] [PlyCount "67"] 37. bxc3? {(I recapture automatically but with the not even difficult move Rc1 I could've kept a much larger advantage.)} 37... Kd6 38. Kf4 f6?? {(Fortunately my opponent doesn't have sufficient time as Ke7 should be drawing.)} 39. h6 Ke7 40. h7 Rh8 41. g5?? {(I knew that this move was necessary to play for a win but first a4 is crucial to avoid b5.)} 41... Kf7?? {(However also black plays superficial chess and after this mistake he doesn't get another opportunity to save the game.)} (41... b5! 42. gxf6+ Kxf6 43. Ke4 a6 44. Kf4 (44. Rh6+ Kg5 45. Rxe6 Rxh7 46. Rxa6 {(This is a tablebase-draw which is rather easy.)}) 44... Kg7 45. Ke5 Rxh7 46. Rxh7+ Kxh7 47. Kxe6 Kg6 48. Kd5 Kf5 49. Kc5 Ke5 50. Kb6 Kd6 51. Kxa6 Kc5 52. a3 Kc6 =) 42. gxf6 Kxf6 43. a4 e5+ 44. Ke4 Kg7 45. Rh4 Kf6 {(White's a pawn is decisive in this pawn-endgame.)} (45... Rxh7 46. Rxh7+ Kxh7 47. Kxe5 Kg6 48. Kd6 Kf5 49. Kc6 Ke5 50. Kb7 Kd6 51. Kxa7 Kc7 (51... Kc6 52. Kb8 b5 53. a5 +-) 52. c4 Kc6 53. Kb8 Kc5 54. Kb7 Kxc4 55. Kxb6 +-) 46. Rh5 Kg6 47. Rh3 Kf6 48. Rh4 Kg7 49. Kxe5 Re8+ 50. Kd6 Kh8 51. Rc4 Rd8+ 52. Kc7 Rd5 53. Kb7 b5 54. Kc6 Rg5 55. axb5 Kxh7 56. Rf4 Rg6+ 57. Kc7 Rb6 58. c4 Kg6 59. Rf1 Re6 60. c5 Re5 61. Kd6 Re2 62. Ra1 Kf5 63. Rxa7 Re6+ 64. Kc7 Ke5 65. c6 Kd5 66. Kb6 Kc4 67. Ra1 Kb4 68. Rb1+ Kc4 69. Kb7 Kc5 70. c7 1-0
When after the game my son Hugo asked why I didn't play 37.Rc1 and I didn't know immediately what he was talking about only then I realized that I played too fast at that moment. Yes there was little time left and there was a lot of noise (Sliedrecht has a very nice bar with a lovely collection of beers but it disturbs the games as it is located in the middle of the playing-hall) but those shouldn't be an excuse.

Worse was what happened in my game of the penultimate round of the Open of Leuven in 2019. I had a won position but blew it by playing an automatic move (I put my rook on the open file at the same time winning a tempo as I attacked the queen of my opponent). After I released my hand from the piece, I immediately realized the blunder as did my opponent the Hungarian expert Pal Suranyi. However by some inexplicable event he switched the winning sequence and missed the golden chance. We both exploded into a big laugh during the game by witnessing so much silliness.
[Event "Open Leuven 6de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "Suranyi, P"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/1p2p2p/1q1p2p1/3Pb3/3N4/1P2B1Pb/5Q1P/3R2K1 b - - 0 33"] [ECO "A87"] [WhiteElo "2100"] [BlackElo "2264"] [PlyCount "21"] 33... Rf8?? {(I played this move instantly because I wanted to save the few minutes remaining on my clock. Bxd4 wins rather straightfoward.)} 34. Ne6?? {(When I saw my opponent playing this move, we looked at each other and started to laugh. Obviously we both had seen the winning Qxf8+ but if you lack time then sometimes strange things happen on the board. Qxf8 should be a winning endgame for white but technically it is not so simple especially if you lack time.)} 34... Rxf2 35. Bxb6 {(White continues the game but I was now fully awake. I don't make any new blunders.)} 35... Rg2+ 36. Kh1 Rb2 37. Ng5 Bg2+ 38. Kg1 h6 39. Ne6 Bf3 40. Rd3 Be4 41. Rd1 Rg2+ 42. Kf1 Rxh2 43. Bg1 Rb2 0-1
In the 2 first examples it is easy to see why the automatic played move is wrong but it is not always like that as in the next example played in the Dutch interclubs. I remember that I was hesitating briefly in the game as I felt recapturing wasn't forced.
[Event "Interclub Goes - Landau"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Van der Kaap, J"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r4/1k4pp/1p3p2/p1Nb4/4P3/1P3P2/6PP/3R1K2 b - - 0 30"] [ECO "C69"] [WhiteElo "2100"] [BlackElo "2264"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 30... bxc5? {(Again played automatically. If I thought a bit longer then maybe I had detected the unorthodox winning Kc6.)} (30... Kc6! 31. Rc1 (31. Ne6 Bc4+ -+) (31. exd5+ Kxc5 -+) 31... bxc5 32. exd5+ Rxd5 33. Ke2 Kb5 -+) 31. exd5 Kc7 32. Ke2 Rb8?! {(The engine prefers Kd6 but I didn't like it during the game.)} 33. Rd3?? {(White already gambled earlier in the game but this time it costs the game. D6 and Kd3 should be a draw although black can push of course for awhile.)} 33... Kd6 34. f4 g6 35. h4 Rb4 36. Kf3 c4 37. bxc4 Rxc4 38. g4 a4 39. g5 f5 40. Rd2 a3 41. Rf2 Ra4 42. Ra2 Kxd5 0-1
The resulting endgame after the automatically played recapturing move was still better for me but not winning. All examples shown above still ended for me well despite I didn't play the right move. By playing fast you always put extra pressure on the opponent. However in the last example my luck finished. Against the Belgian IM Stefan Beukema you can't afford such tactical shallowness.
[Event "Interclub Brasschaat - Deurne"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Beukema, S"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1rb1knQ1/2q3b1/1p4p1/2P1p1B1/N1Pp2P1/3P4/4P2P/5RK1 b - - 0 27"] [ECO "A03"] [WhiteElo "2420"] [BlackElo "2296"] [PlyCount "12"] 27... bxc5?? {(Black has a piece extra but is under enormous pressure. Probably only an engine manages to save this position with Rb7.)} (27... Rb7 28. Nxb6 (28. Qd5 Be6 29. Rxf8+ Kxf8 30. Qxe6 bxc5 31. Qd5 Qd7 32. Qxd7 Rxd7 33. Nxc5) 28... Qxc5 29. Nd5 Qd6 30. Nf6+ (30. c5 Qxc5 31. Nf6+ Bxf6 32. Rxf6 Qe7 33. Qd5 Bxg4 34. Rxf8+ Qxf8 35. Qxb7) 30... Bxf6 31. Rxf6 Qxf6 32. Bxf6 Be6 33. Qh8 Rh7 34. Qxh7 Nxh7 35. Bxe5 Bxg4 36. Kf2 Ng5 37. Bxd4 {(After the extremely complicated tactics we have a non standard endgame on the board.)}) 28. Nxc5 Rb6 29. Ne4 Be6 30. Rxf8+ {(I missed this. It finishes the game immediately.)} 30... Bxf8 31. Nf6+ Ke7 32. Nd5+ Kd7 33. Qh7+ 1-0
I started this article by complaining about my low fide-elo. If my opponents would've taken all the half and full points I offered then it would've been even much worse. Fortunately a bad streak always ends at some moment which was the case recently in the open tournament of Cappelle La Grande (France) which I played. I won back 30 elo which recovers practically all losses made in the previous months. I published a report of my adventure at the site of my club Deurne in which 3 games (draws against +2450 rated players) can be replayed with some light analysis added.


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