Sunday, November 1, 2020

Practical chess part 2

It becomes more and more clear that we won't be able to play regular on the board chess for a long while. For me chess isn't worth taking huge health-risks nor can I afford it to take sufficient precautions to play chess safely. However there aren't many alternatives for playing chess. We can't consider online chess seriously as you never know who or what is exactly playing against you. Last couple of months one after the other cheating-scandal occurred to that extent that even mainstream-media like the guardian reported about it.

Maybe we should for online chess just admit that cheaters can't be avoided and therefore we stop trying to block engines. Then everybody will have the same tools and on top the games will become much better played and more interesting. This sounds to me much more educational than the countless blitz- bullet-games which are mostly a waste of time.

On the other hand I don't think chess is fun anymore when all games are drawn in a tournament due to everybody using extensively engines to select moves. That is exactly what happened in a recently finished top-tournament at iccf: Joop van Oosterom Memorial. All 28 games were drawn despite a lot of combativeness and games played out till the end. Many games ended in a repetition of moves.
This result was more or less predicted for some time already see my article of 2015 computers achieve autonomy. Or as Nigel Short described it on twitter: correspondence-chess is even more dead than a Norwegian blue parrot. Former-worldchampion correspondence-chess Leonardo Ljubicic still tried to defend correspondence chess but he couldn't undo the damage anymore. Besides I don't believe there exists one correspondence-player playing correspondence chess to donate for free opening-novelties to on-the-board-players or opening-books. Also correspondence-chess is played to win games/ tournaments just like regular on-the-board-chess. Without winners/ losers a competition does't make sense anymore.

Similar comments also were heard at the most recent final of the standard world-championship. 28th of November 2018 a rapid-match had to define eventually who is world-champion as all 12 standard-games were drawn. So also for otb (at least for the elite) people wondered if standard chess still makes sense if there are no winners/ losers anymore.

However I think we are making too quickly conclusions this time. Contrary to correspondence-chess Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruano did have some real winning positions in their standard games. For different reasons they didn't manage to convert those into full points. I made a small research with Stockfish and Leela to prove this claim and found out that at least 5 games would've been decisive if an engine could've been consulted in those won positions.

In other words working every dag with the best engines won't even for the strongest humans be sufficient to emulate the power of an engine in standard chess between humans. As I stated before in part 1 we humans don't have the capabilities to play the same way as the current engines do so we will always lag far behind. This does't mean however that it isn't possible to prepare a bulletproof repertoire. A small group of players is able today to select openings which can't be refuted anymore by using the enormous amount of available opening-knowledge and combine this with extensive analysis made by the best engines.

Obviously this doesn't mean that topplayers don't lose anymore games in the opening. Our memory is only a fraction of a standard chessbase-database. Besides many positions can be easily neutralized by the engine but without this tool it is often very different at the board. Personally I am since a couple of years not anymore trying to refute openings like before I was always expecting to do see my articles about the scientific approach part 1 and part 2. As refutations are often not anymore existing, it makes sense to look at other aspects of the opening. Nowadays I know of certain lines that if my opponent has analyzed the opening as deeply as I did, chooses to play the mainline and can reproduce everything on the board that a draw becomes inevitable .

At the elite-level we see openings with a lot of forced moves often are drawn very rapidly even when played at a standard rate of play (see e.g. the game Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Boris Gelfand played in 2013 which was already covered in my article iccf). Anyway at my level I don't see any danger of such sort of non-games. I don't know anybody of my environment analyzing games so deeply as I explained in my article to study openings part 2. Therefore I don't reject lines anymore of which I know in advance they are leading to a forced draw like in the opening shown below.
[Event "Analyse Schliemanngambiet"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C63"] [PlyCount "43"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 Nf6 6. Nxf6+ Qxf6 7. Qe2 Be7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxe5 Qe6 10. Nf3 {(This line is already again dead in correspondence-chess but I don't think this should be also for otb-chess.)} 10... Qxe2+ 11. Kxe2 c5 $1 12. Re1 Bb7 $1 13. Kf1 Bxf3 14. gxf3 Rf8 $1 15. d4 cxd4 16. Bg5 Rf7 17. Re4 d5 18. Re5 Rd8 19. Rae1 Rd7 20. b4 h6 $1 21. Bxe7 Rfxe7 $1 22. Re6 {(3 very recent correspondence-games arrived to this position which is almost impossible to find independently. Besides it is not trivial to draw with black without assistance from an engine.)} *
A game with this specific line was already covered in my article novelty-seeker part 2 in which you notice that I rather easily won despite the theoretical evaluation. Besides I also want to add that white plays a bit easier in the final position. I mean that although all games in correspondence-chess were drawn with this position, I would still continue to play. White risks nothing and black still needs to fine a few accurate moves.

So playing lines which are easily drawn by engines, doesn't mean I play only for a draw. It is just a risk-free way of playing for a win with a draw always in the hand. This is something very different than the scenarios described in my articles to play for a draw against a stronger opponent and white plays a well-known drawing-line. Still we can question ourselves if this sort of chess is fun to play. It can be very efficient but in the end it is not creative at all.

I got this sort of remark after my 7th game in Open Prague this summer. In that game I chose for a theoretical line of which I knew in advance that it ends in a drawn-endgame but with a pawn extra for me. However my opponent wasn't in the mood for such kind of game and therefore tried an idea which he had analyzed a year earlier with the German grandmaster Artur Joesoepov and which leads rapidly to big complications.
[Event "Analysis Poisoned pawn Winawer-line"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C18"] [PlyCount "59"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Qg4 Qc7 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 cxd4 10. Ne2 Nbc6 11. f4 dxc3 12. h4 Bd7 (12... b6 $2 {(My opponent of the 7th round in Open Prague wasn't in the mood for the mainline and therefore chose an idea which he had studied a year earlier with the German grandmaster Artur Joesoepov.)} 13. Nxc3 Nxe5 14. Nb5 Qb8 15. h5 $1 {(In my correpondence- database I found 11 games won by white by the strong h5 played between 2013 and 2019. I nor my opponent were aware about it during our mutual game. I played the much weaker fxe5 and eventually lost the game.)} 15... a6 $5 16. Nd4 $1 Qd6 $5 17. Ne2 $1 Ng4 18. h6 Kf8 19. Qd3 Rh8 20. Bb2 $5 Rxh6 21. Rxh6 Nxh6 22. O-O-O $1 Ke8 $16 {[%eval 142,18]} 23. Qh3 $1 Nhg8 24. Qh8 Bd7 $1 {(A correspondence-game played in 2016 continued with a5. Bd7 is the recommended move by the best engines today but even after the improvement black is much worse.)} 25. g3 b5 $16) 13. h5 O-O-O 14. Qd3 d4 15. h6 Rg6 $1 16. h7 Rh8 17. Nxd4 Nxd4 18. Qxd4 Bc6 $1 19. Bd3 Rxg2 20. Be3 Rg7 $1 21. Rh3 Nf5 $1 22. Bxf5 exf5 23. O-O-O Rgxh7 24. Rxh7 Rxh7 25. Qxa7 b6 26. Qa6+ Bb7 27. Qb5 Bc6 28. Qb3 Kb7 29. Qxc3 Rh1 30. Rxh1 {(This was exactly the final position of the correspondence-game played in 2019 between Artur Kovacs and David Sogin. Otb I would continue with white but black shouldn't have much troubles to draw despite having a pawn less.)} *
After the game I discovered via correspondence-games that his idea was meanwhile already refuted. My opponent wasn't aware about it when I told him about it later. Probably he would've not tried it otherwise. I already wrote here earlier that sometimes it is useful to play some outdated analysis if this puts your opponent out of book see the fake truth part 2.

Nevertheless playing some stuff which you don't know well, can also be very risky as I recently demonstrated in chess position trainer part 4. So my opponent in Prague was lucky that I hadn't studied his idea at home earlier with an engine.

Therefore more and more players prefer today to choose openings in which the play is less forced. It is not a coincidence why e.g. the quiet Italian and Berlin have become so popular in recent years even among amateurs. This allows us again to play real chess instead of checking who has the best memory/ analysis. Unfortunately also in those safe openings we see people trying to get an edge by analyzing very deeply a broad spectrum of key-positions. I am thinking about the recent publications the modernized berlin wall defense and of course also The Italian Renaissance part 1 and part 2. Nowhere we find anymore complete safety.


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