Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Chess position trainer part 4

The Russian top-grandmaster Alexander Grischuk is a phenomenon in the world of chess. More exactly he always makes you laugh when he is being interviewed. Some months ago I found some beautiful compilations of those interviews which cheered me up in these dark times of not playing any on the board chess see Thug Life Compilation part 1, part 2 and part 3.

It is therefore not a surprise that he is regularly invited to comment live at games played at the highest level. That happened several times in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour with its online-tournaments. Alexander didn't disappoint as I remember one funny quote from him about openings during Legends of Chess which can also be found on twitter: "It used to be like memorizing a poem, because it would be some moves you found yourself, then when computers just appeared it would be like memorizing a poem in not your native language & nowadays it's like memorizing random numbers - it's impossible".

Engines are still becoming stronger every day which means they also start to propose more than we like moves which we as humans have a lot of difficulty to understand. However this doesn't mean that we can ignore those random moves as Alexander Grischuk calls them. The moves shown by the engines are much stronger than the ones we can find independently and it would be silly to think that our opponents won't use the computer for refuting our own creations which just takes a few seconds with a modern engine nowadays.

So no matter you like it or not but today we are obliged to study openings seriously if we regularly have to play against players rated +2200 elo. From +2200 elo onward you can be sure that the majority uses an engine to prepare themselves for a game. There is of course still the choice to vary a lot between openings so trying to study the basics of them or selecting only 1 or 2 but then study it really in depth. A couple of months ago I already wrote about the obstacles which I encounter when choosing for specialization of an opening see memory part 2. The lines are so rare that I often don't manage to remember my analysis about them made x months/ years ago when I need it in a game.

Unfortunately this summer at the Open of Prague I experienced for the first time also the disadvantages of experimenting with new openings (although it is still very limited compared with most top-players). I wrote last month in my article regression-tests that I replaced many lines of my repertoire with (hopefully) better ones but that didn't lead (yet?) to scoring more points. A nice example of such experiments are in the c6-line of the Leningrad. In the 6th round I escaped with a black eye by getting a draw in a lost position as my opponent was worried about the remaining time on his clock.
[Event "Open Praque 6th round"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Kratochvil, V."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A87"] [WhiteElo "2205"] [BlackElo "2281"] [PlyCount "31"] 1. c4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. b3 Bg7 5. Bb2 O-O 6. Bg2 d6 7. d4 c6 8. O-O e5 {(Although I practiced the theory of the Leningrad many times with chesspositiontrainer and I used plenty of time during the game, I still mixed the move-order of my analysis. First Na6 and only after Nbd2 I should play e5 as explained in the book by Adrien Demuth.)} 9. dxe5 Ng4 10. Qc2 Nxe5 11. Rd1 Qe7 12. Nc3 Na6 13. Ba3 Rd8 14. e3 Be6 15. Rd2 Rd7 16. Rad1 {(White has a beautiful position out of the opening. I still managed to draw at move 23 but that is only because white didn't fully realize how winning his position already was and he feared that he lacked the time to finish me off.)} 1/2-1/2
The 8th round was even worse. This time I was lost after only 12 moves against a 150 lower rated opponent. Again I had to thank Caissa of getting a half point for free.
[Event "Open Praque 8th round"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "Kozak, M."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A88"] [WhiteElo "2135"] [BlackElo "2281"] [PlyCount "24"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. d4 O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 c6 8. b3 Qc7 9. Ba3 Na6 {(2 rounds earlier in this tournament I forgot to play Na6. However here it is not good. It takes time to study an opening properly and I also need to change my method of working with chesspositiontrainer as that certainly can be improved.)} 10. Rc1 {(White proposed a draw but I refused although I knew that this was not an easy position for black. I came to Prague to play chess and then I don't agree of course to a draw in just 10 moves against an older/ lower rated fidemaster.)} 10... Bd7 11. b4 Rad8 12. b5 Nb8 {(Here I discovered the concept with c5 followed up with b6 and immediately realized that I was busted. I thought maybe my opponent would still be satisfied with a draw so I cowardly proposed it. I guess my opponent must have not been feeling very well as he accepted and didn't show up anymore for the last round of the tournament. Normally you don't get so easily of the hook against a fidemaster.)} (12... Nb8 13. c5 d5 14. b6 Qc8 15. bxa7 Na6 16. Qb3 Qa8 17. Qb6 Bc8 18. Ne5 $18 {[%eval 206,15]}) 1/2-1/2
So this could've been easily 2 defeats and I probably would've deserved them. Playing new openings without any knowledge is very risky against experienced chessplayers. So I understand very well why some amateurs are sticking to the guns they know best.

On the other hand I already write in the comments of both games that I wasn't completely unprepared for the new opening. I did study the lines at home which we entered in the games with chesspositiontrainer and used the system I explained some months ago in my article in part 3. Nonetheless I couldn't reproduce this during the games.

That is something very different compared to forgetting some old analysis. Here we are dealing with forgetting some lines which were studied only a couple of days ago maximally and often repeated several times (sometimes 10 or even more). Am I young demented or should I just accept it that I can't study openings? I don't think so as the truth is probably somewhere else.

First the tree of lines which I consider as critical for the Leningrad has exploded in the last year. Below summary shows the distribution of complexity of my current black-repertoire. You see clearly on the screenshot that the Leningrad dominates.
With just below 400 moves for the Leningrad one can wonder if I don't make my own life difficult. Don't I exaggerate with the number of moves? Another player also playing sometimes the Leningrad, told me that he plays the opening successfully without much knowledge of it. However he only meets players rated below 2000 and that is a very different type of chess. We can also see this in my 2 games. Besides 400 moves isn't much if we compare this with e.g. the book of Adrien Demuth. His book is 400 pages so 1 (half) move per page is just scratching the surface of the theory.

Besides I also think that I used chesspositiontrainer in the wrong way. In below screenshot you see there are today 3 options to study openings: systematic, random or photo training. I chose for systematic but that was clearly wrong with this opening.
Photo training is just looking at moves. Maybe this works for people having a photographic memory but this doesn't work for me. Already at school I had to work a lot to learn my words of French/ English.... I only managed to do that by repeating them many times and writing them down while the new translated words were hidden. Therefore I prefer random training but with chesspositiontrainer random seems really random. This means you can easily get the same question 10 times on your screen while another only once. Studying 400 moves with this method takes ages. I also thinks it is a waste of time to answer 10 times the same question when you already had it right the first time

If you use systematic then you get all the lines exactly once (unless you made an error). This looks the most attractive approach but there is one big disadvantage. The lines/ moves are always shown in the same sequence. After a while I didn't even look anymore at the screen as I just played on auto-pilot. As a consequence during above games I didn't manage to reproduce in the middle of the sequence which moves to play also because there was no information where exactly I was in the sequence.

I think there are some important lessons to learn from these failures. Randomness is something we need to include in our exercises as in practice this also happens. I contacted the developer of chesspositiontrainer if he could prepare an update about his tool for this. It would be a big improvement if we can get a random selection but taking into account the correct answers already provided by the user.

A quick patch could be to split a big opening of 400 moves into smaller pieces so we have a lower probability of getting the same positions over and over again when we select the random option. However this is not ideal as you will have to lose time switching between the smaller pieces and there won't be a mix between them.

Maybe I should just accept it that I (as an amateur) can't learn such huge amounts of moves by heart at once. It is probably also one of the main-reasons why professionals rarely play the Leningrad. Only when they know in advance which line they will very likely play then it becomes interesting to give the opening a shot. An alternative for the practical tournament-player is explained in my article ideas part 2. A side-line is chosen to surprise your opponent but then we are really looking at short-term while I am more looking for lines which I play longer (multiple times).


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