Monday, May 18, 2020

Swindles part 2

As we won't be able to play chess for many months, it is important to do something useful with the freed time. So one of the very first things I did when the lockdown started, was selecting an interesting book to read. I didn't need much time for it as I already follow for several years the blog of the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon so I knew in advance that his new book The Complete Chess Swindler could never be a wrong choice.
Originally the author had the intention to give an anthology of the most beautiful and fantastic swindles in the history of chess. However while writing his book David discovered that it was possible to create a manual to teach people finding swindles in their games. I think the book is an admirable effort but I don't expect that having read the book, has made of myself a much better swindler. Anyway for me this book is in the first place a very nice collection of swindles and some good stories which makes the book very enjoyable to read.

Besides this doesn't mean that no other players can learn something from this book. I fully agree with the author that endgame-technique/knowledge is on the top of the list of skills a swindler must have. On my blog I gave a dozen examples in several articles about endgames in which I was able to steal half or even full points. Playable endgames are achieved in only a small number of games but in those few games I see many players could make a lot of improvement in that domain.

The last in the list of skills is sportsmanship or rather the lack of it. It is clear to me that the author was having doubts about to include it or not to the book. He also mentions in the book that he only inserted the swindles which are still legally allowed. Maybe 1 of the most funny ones is the toilet-swindle. You notice that your opponent is wiggling on his chair and most likely needs to go to the toilet. However your opponent has also very little time left on his clock while on the other hand you still have loads of it. Therefore to maximize his discomfort you start to play very slowly or even not all anymore for a longtime. This leaves your opponent with a very difficult choice between wet pants, losing on time or keep on suffering and trying to survive till the end of the game. Well you wan't believe me but such choice I had to make in the last Open Cappelle La Grande in round 5 against the Bulgarian grandmaster Radoslav Dimitrov. I don't know why I deserved such treatment but in a position which is a dead-draw my opponent let his clock run down on purpose for 38 minutes (readers wanting to check this, can still read today the clock at whites 67th and 68th move on chessbomb).
[Event "Open Cappelle La Grande 6de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Dimitrov, R"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/k7/8/K7/P7/3N4/4p3/8 b - - 0 67"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2251"] [PlyCount "36"] 67... Kb7 {(Only now white realized that a win became impossible. By taking the black a-pawn, black can now get much quicker to the white a-pawn. Instead of accepting the draw, white let his clock run down for 38 minutes likely with the intention to use the toilet-swindle.)} 68. Kb5 Ka7 69. Kc4 Ka6 70. Kb4 Kb6 71. Ne1 Ka6 72. Nc2 Kb6 73. Kc3 Ka5 74. Kb3 Ka6 75. Nb4+ Ka5 76. Nd3 Ka6 77. Kb4 Kb6 78. a5+ Ka6 79. Ka4 Ka7 80. Kb5 Kb7 81. a6+ Ka7 82. Ka5 Ka8 83. Kb6 Kb8 84. a7+ Ka8 85. Ne1 {(With a knight on d4 white could allow the promotion as then he would be on time for delivering mate at c7. Stalemate is a nice conclusion of this game. )} 1/2-1/2
Everybody in the playing-hall saw it was a draw, even my daughter Evelien rated 1400 elo had seen it and almost felt asleep at a board a bit further. Anyhow I didn't want to give him a half point so I squeezed my balls and tried to manage the pressure. Finally Radoslav ended the game with stalemate having a big grin on his face. I had suffered enough. Some grandmasters are really weird people. Besides that evening we still had to play a second game so I didn't understand what there is to gain by wasting a full hour this way.

However except skills which we should or shouldn't have, psychology probably plays even a bigger part in swindles. The domain of the swindles starts when normal moves won't help you anymore to save a game. The author categorized the swindles into 4 types depending on which weakness was exploited: rush, hubris, fear and control. Most of the examples shown are prepared by the author as exercises as they consist of one concrete idea. Beside also a remarkable collection of biggest swindles are annotated in the book of which one side has a clearly lost position for many moves but in the end can still surprisingly reverse the result. To emphasize the size of the miracles, the author added to each of those games an evaluation-profile of the game generated by the engine.

Only 2 years ago I wrote in my article Swindles part 1 that such swindles are very rare in my games but last year it seemed like the gods of chess had a special interest taken in my games. Not in 1 but in a several games many incredible things happened. I guess the game I discuss below is maybe the most insane one of them all and for sure got a lot of spectators thrilled till the end. I start when we just passed move 40 and get an extra 30 minutes each. I am totally lost. The defeat was unavoidable but how was this possible against a player rated 500 points lower? How did I manage to get into such troubles? Ok, the opening didn't go smoothly but it was in the middle-game that my opponent ripped my position apart. Other players drummed around as it is not everyday you can enjoy such upsets.
[Event "Open Brasschaat 6de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "De Cuyper, Y"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "7k/1b2r2p/pp1bNn2/3pNp2/1P1P4/P3PPP1/5K2/1BR5 w - - 0 43"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "1770"] [BlackElo "2269"] [PlyCount "56"] 43. Bxf5 {(White is 2 pawns up and has also the attack. In other words I am completely lost. I seriously considered to resign but how was this uberhaupt possible against somebody rated 500 points lower.)} 43... a5 44. Nd8 Kg7 45. Nxb7 Rxb7 46. Rc6 Be7 47. Bc8 Ra7 48. Rxb6 {(It is too late to bother about the pawns which are dropping.)} 48... axb4 49. axb4 Ra2+ 50. Kf1 Nh5 51. g4 Ng3+ 52. Ke1 Bh4 53. Rb7+ Kf8 54. Rxh7 {(This is number 4 but now I finally get some counterchances.)} 54... Nf5+ 55. Rxh4 {(My opponent started to get very nervous here. The exchange-sacrifice is still winning but it complicates things. In the playing-hall there was also noise as somebodies mobile ringed and other people started to talk loudly about their game which had just ended. It was very disturbing.)} 55... Nxh4 56. e4?? {(Only now white throws away the win but with only 5 minutes on the clock it is not simple anymore.)} (56. b5 {(First Kf1 is also possible and likely just transposes.)} 56... Rc2 57. b6 Ng2+ 58. Kf1 Nxe3+ 59. Kg1 Rxc8 60. b7 Re8 61. b8=Q Rxb8 62. Nd7+ Ke7 63. Nxb8 Kd6 64. Na6 Nc2 65. Kf2 Nxd4 +- {(A tablebase-win but in practice things could go differently.)}) 56... Ng2+ 57. Kf1 Ne3+ 58. Kg1 Rb2?? {(However with this natural move I also commit a mistake. Dxe4 and Rg2+ were correct.)} 59. exd5?? {(White misses a brilliant win with b5. The b-pawn is sacrificed to activate the king. After that white can with accurate play slowly push the mass of pawns.)} 59... Nxd5 60. Nc6 Kf7 61. Bd7 Kf6 62. b5 Kg5 63. Ne5 Ne3 64. Nd3 Rd2 65. Nf2 Rxd4 66. Bc6 Rc4 67. Ne4+ Kf4 68. Kf2 Rc2+ 69. Ke1 Kxf3 70. g5?? {(The final minute, you want to push back black without losing a pawn and then disaster strucks.)} 70... Re2# 0-1
In the game I more or less execute what David advises in his book. When you are lost then it is important to complicate the game at all costs and often king-safety can hereby play a crucial role. I noticed white's king was standing alone so I made sure some open lines were created at all costs. Suddenly I was able to create some threats and white panicked. The exchange-sacrifice wasn't necessary. It is still winning after it but it gets much harder to find the right moves. In the end white even collapsed as he was running out of time. White thought by pushing his pawn that he could divert my pieces but missed a surprising mate. In the game I already sensed this would happen after I took his pawn on f3.

Less outspoken but with much more at stake happened in the most recent round of the Belgian interclubs so just before the federation decided to stop the championship and later even to nullify all the results. Again we are at move 40 and I have a completely lost position. Many players already resigned better positions see e.g. resigning. Also my opponent the Belgian FM Hendrik Ponnet was confident about the outcome and had a stroll after the hectic moves just before the time-control. However I guess he relaxed too much at that moment as he allowed completely unnecessary counter-play in the next moves. Hubris is maybe not the right term here but for sure he lost focus.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - KGSRL"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Ponnet, H"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r1r2/1b5p/p7/2b1pkp1/2B2p2/1PP5/1B4PP/3RRK2 w - - 0 41"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2296"] [BlackElo "2288"] [PlyCount "46"] {(Black not only has an extra pawn but also his pair of bishops is working fantastically. On top white's king is stranded in the center where the hostilities will start any moment. The decision is just a matter of a few more moves. Kibitzers were sure the game was finished including my opponent Hendrik as I have no counterplay at all.)} 41. b4 {(However even the most ugly positions possess often something good which is here a pawn-majority on the queen-side. So logically I try to use this last asset but normally this shouldn't cause any real problems for black.)} 41... Bb6 42. b5 axb5 43. Bxb5 e4 44. Ba3 Rf7 45. c4 f3?? {(Black built up with some strong play a clearly winning position but in his last moves Hendrik relaxed a bit too much and now white has created counterplay. Black is still winning but the path has become narrower. F3 is the wrong pawn-push.)} 46. c5 e3 47. gxf3 Rxd1 48. Rxd1 Bxf3 49. Be2 Bxe2+ 50. Kxe2 Bc7 51. Kxe3 Bxh2 52. Kf3?? {(I missed a few times an instant draw but now I have to make a difficult decision. Is the c-pawn strong or should I try to defend with my king on the weak wing as the standard rule says? I make the wrong choice so c6 was mandatory.)} 52... g4+ 53. Kg2 Be5 54. Bb4 Ke6?! {(Both players were again playing on increment but this time we both knew that this game would decide the match. Not surprisingly mistakes were unavoidable. Here Rb7 wins for black.)} 55. Be1 Ra7 56. Rd2 Ra3 57. Bf2?! {(I immediately regretted this move as of course I had to use the c-pawn to create counter-play which can only with Rc2.)} 57... Rc3 58. Re2 Kf5 59. Ra2 h5 60. Re2 Bf4 61. Ra2 g3 62. Be1 {(I realized that Bg1 would be very easy to answer. Suddenly I noticed Be1 so I thought why not try it as a last trap.)} 62... Rxc5?? {(Black's rook is attacked but also the c-pawn isn't defended anymore. That pawn annoyed black for many moves already and then you miss that by taking the pawn you don't protect the g-pawn anymore sufficiently.)} 63. Bxg3 {(Almost everybody looked at each other as what happened here. I escaped miraculously.)} 63... Bxg3 {(This draw gave us a very valuable match-point in our relegation-battle which later was nullified due to the corona-crisis.)} 1/2-1/2
Hendrik had to win the game twice. At the end of the game the tension rose as it became clear our game would not only decide the match but probably even play a crucial role in the very nerve-wracking relegation-battle which was ongoing this year in second division. If I would make a draw then we would win the match and have good odds to assure our spot in 2nd division in the last 2 matches of the season. However I once more got into problems in the game and the crowd around our board started to grow as the climax was getting nearby. With literally a few moves away from the defeat, I decided to gamble. My opponent had very little time left on his clock so I tried a last trick by giving up my last pawn and it worked. The c-pawn annoyed Hendrik for so many moves that he took it when he thought I just was chasing his rook. However by doing that he dropped his important g-pawn after which a dead-draw rook-endgame occurred. It was an incredible swindle which allows us today to look forward with some satisfaction to battle next year again in second division.

As I was in the last 2 exciting swindle-games each time the hero, it is therefore fair to also be once the anti-hero. Such game I experienced in the last round of Cappelle La Grande against the French grandmaster Adrien Demuth. Some players told me that I missed a IM-norm due to it but what value do IM-norms have when your own rating dropped below 2250 fide. In the game I had during many moves a clearly won position. Also in this game we see how black with a direct attack on my king tries to brake my control of the game and finally manages to do this as I panic when having little time on my clock. In the endgame I got close a second time to the win but then it is already technically difficult. Finally the grandmaster had little effort to find the draw by liquidating to an endgame with an exchange less but which is rather easy to defend.
[Event "Open Cappelle La Grande 9de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Demuth, A"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r3k1/1bq2rbp/p5n1/2pPp1p1/Pp2Pp2/5P1P/1P1NBBP1/R1Q1R1K1 w - - 0 25"] [ECO "C60"] [WhiteElo "2251"] [BlackElo "2500"] [PlyCount "146"] {(Black's opening was a fiasco and he has now a strategically completely lost position. Black has two useless bishops. White has a dangerous protected passed pawn and will on the long term swipe the queen-side. Black has zero counter-play.)} 25. d6 {(This already wins material but after the game my opponent told me that probably it would've been more practical to play it more quietly. The engine doesn't consider this a mistake at all but we humans play of course a different kind of chess.)} 25... Qxd6 26. Bc4 Nh8 {(A grandmaster is allowed to play such moves. The idea is after white takes the rook that the knight covers the critical square d6. Also it frees g6 for the queen to start a direct attack on the white king via the g-file.)} 27. Rd1 Qg6 28. Nb3 h5 29. Nxc5 {(The exchange doesn't run away and meanwhile I destroy the queen-side. I did however notice that I couldn't avoid some heavy tactics anymore which isn't exactly fun when you are slowly running out of time.)} 29... g4 30. hxg4 hxg4 31. Nxb7 Rxc4 (31... gxf3 32. Bxf7+ Kxf7 33. Rd7+ Ke6 34. Rd6+ +- {(This I had calculated in the game but it costed me some precious minutes.)}) 32. Qxc4 gxf3 33. Qf1 {(However this is pure panic after which the win gets technically much more difficult. If I had more time then I likely had discovered the maneuver Qc4-c8-h3 which is much stronger.)} 33... Rxb7 34. Rd8+?! {(My last moves weren't the best but only now the win gets jeopardized. Bc5 and Be1 are stronger so the queen gets the possibility to take back at f3.)} 34... Kh7 35. Rd3 Nf7 36. Bh4 Qxe4 37. Qxf3?! {(Leela chooses for the stronger Rxf3.)} (37. Rxf3! Rb6 38. Re1 Qf5 39. Rh3 Rh6 40. Qf3 b3 41. Kf1 a5 42. Qd5 Rh5 {[%eval 139,16]}) 37... Qxf3 38. gxf3 e4 39. fxe4 Bxb2 40. Rb1 Bg7 41. Be1 a5 42. Rd5?! {(Kf1 is considered as critical but even then black has good chances to draw.)} (42. Kf1! Rb8 43. Rd7 Kg6 44. Ra7!? b3 45. Ra6+ Kh7 46. Ke2!? Ng5 47. Rxa5 Nxe4 {[%eval 76,17]}) 42... Re7?? {(During the game I wondered if b3 doesn't work. Black wasn't playing his best tournament obviously.)} (42... b3! 43. Bxa5 b2 44. Kf2 Rb3 45. Bc7 Ra3 46. Bxf4) 43. Rxa5 Rxe4 44. Bxb4 Bd4+ {(Just like earlier in the game black again uses his pieces to attack my king and also this time he manages to confuse me.)} 45. Kf1 f3 46. Be1? {(Of course I want to avoid f2 but this isn't winning anymore which I could still do but only via some accurate moves starting with Rb3.)} 46... f2 47. Bxf2?! {(The engines choose Bd2 but I don't think white has still realistic winning-chances with it.)} 47... Rf4 48. Rh5+ Nh6 {(This self-pin is necessary and I had detected it a bit too late.)} (48... Kg6?? 49. Rh2 Bxf2 50. Rxf2 Rxa4 51. Rb6+ Kg7 52. Rb7 +- {(I had set up this trap but a grandmaster won't miss this.)}) 49. Rh2 Bxf2 50. Rb7+ Kg6 51. Rxf2 Rxa4 {(Black escaped to a tablebase-draw. )} 52. Rb6+ Kg5 53. Rb5+ Kg6 54. Rg2+ Rg4 55. Rb6+ Kg7 56. Ra2 Rg6 57. Ra7+ Nf7 58. Rb3 Rf6+ 59. Ke2 Re6+ 60. Kd3 Rd6+ 61. Ke4 Re6+ 62. Kd5 Rd6+ 63. Kc5 Rf6 64. Rg3+ Rg6 65. Rf3 Rf6 66. Rxf6 {(I wanted my king closer before I exchanged rooks but I didn't manage. If the knight is stranded in a corner then sometimes it is won. Here black has little problems to avoid such scenario.)} 66... Kxf6 67. Kd5 Ng5 68. Ra1 Kf5 69. Rf1+ Kg4 70. Rf8 Kg3 71. Ke5 Nf3+ 72. Ke4 Ng5+ 73. Ke3 Kg4 74. Rf4+ Kh5 75. Ra4 Kg6 76. Kf4 {(This was the last time that black thought for several minutes. He had still sufficient time to find a good setup.)} 76... Kf6 77. Ra6+ Ne6+ 78. Ke4 Ke7 79. Ke5 Nc7 80. Rd6 Ne8 81. Rh6 Kd7 82. Ra6 Nc7 83. Rd6+ Ke7 84. Rh6 Kd7 85. Rg6 Ne8 86. Rg1 Nc7 87. Rd1+ Ke7 88. Rd2 Ne8 89. Rh2 Kd7 90. Rh7+ Kc6 91. Re7 Nc7 92. Rg7 Ne8 93. Rg6+ Kd7 94. Re6 Nc7 95. Rb6 Ne8 96. Rb7+ Nc7 97. Rxc7+ Kxc7 {(Like this I avoided to propose a draw as I wasn't in the mood for that anymore.)} 1/2-1/2
Such swindles demand creativity (26... Nh8!!??) but also perseverance of defending inferior endgames. I personally think this is much more interesting than just 1 idea. One last tip of the book I think is still useful to share. When you want to create a swindle then first try to figure out if there is a move which your opponent really likes to play. Then look to what your position still can offer. Try to find a move which uses this last trump card and at the same time doesn't seem at first sight to prevent the move your opponent wants to play. The book but also our own practice proofs such approach often let you swindle successfully.


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