Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sore losers

While chatting a lot with other chess-parents I became conscientious how much ignorance there exists. People are convinced that our noble game is only played by gentleman always willing to help each other and never doing something wrong. Only after a couple of tournaments the first cracks appear in this idealistic view.

Chess is no exception to other sports and activities. You have nice and less nice people. In the last couple of months I experienced 2 situations in which people were accused of cheating. In both cases I detected a very high degree of typical engine-moves so something you don't expect from a player. Besides the players visited very often the toilet during their games. However some bullet-proof evidence was not found (nor searched) so I am obliged to be careful. We should avoid openly accusing somebody in such case as I explained already in my article distrust.

However I believe we shouldn't ignore those signals. It is a potential time-bomb for competitive chess and could accelerate the shrinking of chess-clubs. There exists no cheap/ free solution for standard-chess. Anyway you can't forbid somebody to visit a toilet.

To let every player sign a charter of fair-play at the start of a tournament won't stop the real cheaters but looks still useful to me. With this symbolic act you show your strong disapproval to cheating and probably some will think twice before trying. Also I would demand as organizer that each player sits at the board when he has the move. In my article food and drinks part 2 I wrote that this is just standard behavior but in practice I do see people going to the toilet from the moment they have seen the answer of the opponent.

Now arbiters should be a bit flexible with such rule. If you are away from the board while your opponent has the move then you can't always be back immediately in time. Or when your opponent plays so fast that you never get the chance to get up from the board then you should still be allowed once to get a small break.

Last I experienced something else. My opponent deliberately didn't return to our board but preferred to walk around/ kibitz. In the meanwhile more than a half hour went off his clock. It was my 8th game of Open Gent which I showed in my article jokes. As I wrote earlier, I don't have problems with players continuing the game in a dead lost position but then you keep sitting at the board. Besides it is not the first time I experienced something like that see Deurne wins the zilveren toren. However it was the first time that this happened by a pretentious absence from the board.
Photo of Dominik Klaus, from Chess-DB.com
I give him the first prize for worst loser which I ever played against. I even consulted during the game the chief-arbiter Marc Bils for this behavior without any success. On the other hand it is something which I very often experience online. The anonymity very often generates some bad mannered behavior. Even some strong players are not immune for the virus of being a sore loser. In the game below the black player (if it is his real name, a Russian international master) simply let himself run out of time in a completely lost position. So I just had to wait 2,5 minutes to claim victory.
It is not a record. I already once experienced that after 8 seconds playing my opponent blundered a piece without compensation and let his remaining time run out. Or even worse are the sore losers playing 1 more move just before running out of time (so after several minutes) just to check if you are still attentive online. Not seldom they still score a point with this act as their opponents don't expect such evilness.

While you lose only a few minutes online due to sore losers, a completely different magnitude happens in correspondence chess. In below correspondence-game my opponent could've resigned surely earlier as I only got victory when I announced mate in 5 in the final position.
Probably we could've saved a couple of months if white resigned more properly. Besides it are again not only weak players that are sore losers. There are stories known of strong players continuing till mate while dragging the game maximally via their saved time. Earlier with the traditional mail a lost position could be dragged for 2 more years. Not seldom you could hear that a player with a completely lost position still won the game as the opponent deceased! Nowadays correspondence-chess is played on a server which allows things to proceed quicker. Nevertheless in the game below, black manages to drag the game for months in a completely lost position.
As the standard rate is 10 moves per 50 days see iccf playing rules black has 500 days for his 92 moves. You really need to be very patient when you play correspondence chess.

Running down the clock is a weapon sore losers often use. It seems there is not much you can do against it. A smart Bronstein clock could avoid such bad behavior but very few are interested. Today's clock with fixed increments is already hard to manage for many players.

Brabo

Monday, October 2, 2017

Schadenfreude and why we support for the underdog

In the last couple of weeks we saw the world-top playing -first in the World Cup, in which 2 places for the candidates were at stake (and ratingpoints for those not able to reach the final), next in the very strong Island of Man, which offered a second chance.

The WK-cycle offers today several ways to get to the candidates. For the world-top this is maybe a track which offers more opportunities to qualify for that tournament: via the criterium-tournaments of the Grand Prix, via the World Cup knock-out tournament, as the losing finalist of the previous world-championship, or via the rating. Only one strong (+2700) player will get a wild-card of the organizers - that is a matter of attracting sponsors of course.

A.f.a.i.k. this is a better and shorter system than in the past. Before Fide the world-champion chose the opponent, which wasn't fair (Lasker avoided Rubinstein and never granted Schlechter a real match; Aljechin avoided Capablance and did not permit Keres to play a match). The Fide defined a system but it became a terribly long path for the new challengers: zonal and inter-zonal tournaments first and then you had to survive the candidates-tournaments or matches. Only after having provided the world-champion lots of material to study, you could start as challenger the final match. And besides that Tal and Smyslov (and Kasparov) were also unlucky that a world-champion has the right to get a second match...

The actual cycle is much shorter - you already need to be world-top to get a chance. There are no surprises anymore like Van der Sterren, qualifying from a zonal tournament at advanced age to the candidate-matches.

But despite that as a world-top-player (say top-20) you are in a comfortable position at the start, you are not alone. In each tournament the road to the candidates is hard. If you look at the standings of the Grand Prix (see FIDE Grand Prix 2017) then well-known players like Nakamura, Aronian, Nepomniachtchi, Adams, Svidler, Giri, … did not succeed to qualify via this path.

And the World-cup as an enormous lottery, even Carlsen couldn't avoid elimination. We are lucky that two top-players have qualified for the candidates making it a lot more attractive. Aronian has a lot of fans and Ding Liren is still rather unknown - at this level anyway.

So for the aspiring world-champions there was only one real alternative: to get selected based upon the average rating. At twitter Martin Bennedik (@bennedik) offered live the average ratings so the players didn't need to calculate themselves. This service adds of course pressure - also in the world-cup at the players. If you checked the live ratings (2700chess) before and after the world-cup (and before Isle of Man) then you saw that almost all the top-players lost points. The reason was simple. The ratingdifferences were often too big that even winning a match with 1,5-0,5 would mean losing points. Besides also many top-players preferred the rapid-games and recorded 1-1 which also harmed their ratings. In the end even the 2 finalists didn't win any extra points after a couple of weeks playing.

But the Kramniks, Nakamura's and Anands of this world had to force something as their average rating was only second priority, next to getting through to the next round. This explained the sometimes forced play (see the elimination of Anand, after playing too aggressive against sensation Kovalyov).

It is why in the Isle of Man, there was a lot of attention to the rating-duel between So, Caruana en Kramnik, all very close in terms of ratings. The stakes were high, as elimination in this rating-race would mean no ticket for Berlin. Every player was a potential winner.

As the tournament started in the first round with Caruana-Kramnik, we immediately witnessed a crucial moment when it became clear the players were playing for a win. As Kramnik lost, he was forced in the next rounds to make up ground. But in round 3 he lost again - against a ghost of the past: James Tarjan. Also here - under pressure due to the circumstances-, Kramnik overplayed his position. Tarjan, with white, played quietly the chess-equivalent of Catenaccio and let Kramnik come. He built up a nice position but didn't calculate well his combination, Tarjan saw the hole and just took the point with "normal" play.

Kramnik must have been mentally broken - a more emotional player (think the type like Kortchnoi) would have destroyed the board. But Kramnik took the defeat with dignity and his - automatic- elimination for the world-title. In a "normal" open tournament against a veteran rated 400 points less. It must hurt.

The press loved it - what a story. A noble "unknown player" (although, double Olympic gold and in may 1981 conform Chessmetrics top 40 of the world), 23 years older, eliminates an ex-world-champion. This is the classic David against Goliath tale. The mouse that roared. It reminds me of the Tour de France of 1956 won by the absolute underdog Walkowiak. Or Rulon Gardner, defeating one of the best sportsmen of all time, the almost invincible wrestler Alexander Karelin, in his last match for Olympic gold.

We love champions and we like to keep track of records and lists. But at some moment their era ends. And this we also like to witness. How great Anand and Kramnik were, their generation must make slowly place for the superkids, able to play a gear faster - and especially are extremely tough, if needed playing till 2 bare kings (which Fisher also once did - and even played 3 more moves).

It is not hard to support Tarjan - it is a nice story. An old grandmaster returns to play chess and defeats one of the greatest players of the latest years. It’s the stuff that makes heroes. But as said, it was mainly Kramnik losing the game, not Tarjan winning it.

Losing a game when you are the big favorite (at rating) hurts - I can tell you from experience. I once lost a game against somebody 450 points lower rated in the interclub - the way how will likely be considered by my opponent as his most beautiful game ever:

It just demonstrates that you should never underestimate somebody. Everybody can have a good day and has a hidden supply of strength. The game against Kramnik was for Tarjan one of his best experiences in his career, but for Kramnik was it a bitter pill to swallow - especially considering the circumstances. His goodbye from the world-champion-cycle (together with Anand - Topalov, Gelfand, Ivanchuk which we already lost earlier) marks the end of a great generation of players - Kramnik was probably the last one of the school of Botvinnik-Kasparov.

It is now at the generation grown up with Fritz and internet. It is a generation which adds creativity to perseverance. The players don't know the classics anymore but can calculate very well and dare to take risks on top of a very good endgame-technique. And finally novelties at move 5 varied with novelties at move 25 or 35...

Chess has changed but not necessarily bad. The generation of Carlsen has shown us beautiful things and there are still nice things ahead of us.

HK5000

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jokes?

While reading the book H.E. Bird of Hans Renette I noticed not only that in the 19th century a lot of matches are organized but also many games are played offhand. At that time it was normal to visit a club and play an informal game against some random available player. This we don't see often anymore today. If you don't make any appointment with a player in advance then you risk not getting any game in a club. I often encountered that I left the club after a half hour to go back home as I wasn't able to find anybody free willing to play chess with me.

This sets the bar for newcomers of course a lot higher. I sometimes hear people getting rejected of a championship as the competition has already started. They need to wait for a couple of months to join any new competition. A sad consequence is that many drop out immediately after the introduction. Today we don't have enough fresh blood so this only accelerates the ageing of the club.

Likely the wide choice of tournaments explains the lack of interest in offhand games today. Most regular clubplayers don't want to play anything else than the tournaments and prefer to have a drink at the bar when they have finished their games. It is a pity as those offhand games are ideal to get softly introduced to our noble game. The score is not recorded and it allows you to experiment without needing to worry about the outcome. In offhand games it is not forbidden to talk or laugh during play at contrary as it often creates a positive ambiance.

On the other hand online there are still a lot of offhand games played. A distinction can be made between rated and unrated games but I don't consider this difference very important. An online rating has very little value as any serious controlling mechanism lacks. Personally I don't play tournaments online so you could argue that my online blitz are only offhand games. In any case I look at those games as fun so I sometimes just fool around with my opponents.
Mostly it are very weak opponents not resigning. Besides I recommended my son Hugo to continue playing till mate when he started in the youth-tournaments see resigning. Nowadays he has outgrown this phase as he does resign when he feels further resistance has become futile.

When a strong(er) player plays till mate then something is not ok. People need to respect their opponents and if they don't then they deserve to be teached a painful lesson.
I ignored on purpose many times mate in 1 to end the game by creating a series of queen-promotions. Honestly I would have preferred knight-promotions but this was too cumbersome. I didn't want to tire myself by first switching off the default setting of automatic queen-promotions and later after the game reset the toggle. A famous example of completely redundant knight-promotions is of course the online game between Crafty - Nakamura played in 2007.
Everybody loved it how the engine was ridiculed but such behavior against people does not get the same response. It is not because chess looks like a sadistic exam that we should behave like sadists. It is a grey zone of what can still be considered as a joke or what people feel as an insult. Besides accidentally the American grandmaster Gregory Serper wrote a couple of weeks ago an article at chess.com about all sorts of insults in chess. He strongly disapproves such offenses as it only harms chess.

Publicly we should for sure not get involved in such stupid jokes. You risk to get beaten by your angry opponent and not seldom such joke ends badly. The whole world laughed at Nakamura a couple of months ago when he was punished for his arrogance in Paris Grand Tour Chess when he promoted completely unnecessarily to a knight instead of a queen.
Last Stefan Docx asked me after finishing my 8th round game of Gent why the game lasted so long. At move 17 I was already an exchange and pawn up for which my 250 points lower rated opponent, had no compensation at all. Besides we both had still plenty of time on the clock as we only consumed a half hour. However even in such completely won situations, I stay focused. I will keep looking for the best moves and won't play faster nor play some silly moves. It is also one of the reasons when I almost never suffer of inexplicable mistakes often connected to not being fully concentrated see my article mistakes.
Initially I thought my opponent would resign after move 17 but I was not disturbed when he preferred to continue the suffering. However at the end things became really ugly as we still had each more than a quarter on the clock remaining. Also this wasn't the only thing which was not nice. Much worse was another bad joke my opponent applied during the game. However this is for a next article.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Evolution

The big news of last month was of course the comeback of Garry Kasparov. He played again a tournament for rating while his previous one dated from 2005. Well as a matter of fact it was only for rapid and blitz ratings which even didn't exist back in 2005.

Of course I was also curious about how Kasparov would fare. So I started to follow the broadcasting attentively. However my interest very quickly faded away from the event. The combination of the late starting-hour (they played in Saint Louis/ US), the many mistakes specific to the quick tempo (rapid/ blitz) and probably also the lack of excitement in the fight for the first place made that I only saw a limited number of games. Rapid/ blitz never really interested me (I still didn't play any fide rated game at that tempo) and the mimics of Kasparov see kasparov what went wrong didn't compensate for the tragic suffering of the once so feared monster of Bakoe.

In his best years this tournament would've been catastrophic for Kasparov. He wasn't satisfied himself with today the 13th place in the world for rapid and the 9th place in the world for blitz while he was used for many years to be the number 1. Afterwards there was a lot of debate about what went wrong. Probably his age 54 years old plays a role but much more important was his absurd time-consumption which doesn't have at all a link with age. A good explanation of why can be found in the article Why was Kasparov deep thinking? If you play regularly then you make some decisions automatically. However if you haven't played for a long time any competitions then this automatism has disappeared and you try to compensate that by extra calculations which burn precious time.

I already described those dangers in my article inactivity. You need to play a minimum of games to maintain the game-level. It is the reason why I subscribed for the maneblusserstornooi of Mechelen. The playing days and the tempo are not optimal but sometimes you need to make compromises. The club-championship of Deurne is this year even weaker than last year see the list of participants. It does not fulfill again my minimum-criteria (which many already consider very low).

On the other hand the hyped circus also generated unrealistic expectations of Kasparov. Besides despite some hard counter-proof still many believe elo inflation exists so people consider today's topplayers ready to be butchered by Kasparov. In other words it was very hard to get a proper preview of what the results would be also because his comeback was something very unique in the chess-world. After the tournament it all became much more clear. Now we understand much better which impossible mission Kasparov had started. If we look today objectively to his results then we should admit that he did in fact very well considering the exceptional conditions.

He demonstrated that he is still dangerous for any top-player and his opening-repertoire is still top-notch. In most games he got fine out of the opening with some strong modern chess. It seemed he never quit studying openings and he very well adapted himself to the most recent evolutions. Kasparov definitely didn't make the error to stick to some old likely obsolete analysis.

Last I experienced how dangerous it is to use some old theory which was even played in a world-championship. In 2006 I scored a nice victory in this line see the influence of world-championships at openings but it is again the Belgian IM Stefan Docx showing me that I still have a lot of work to do at my repertoire (see for earlier examples to Dutch steps in the English opening and grandmaster-norm for Stefan Docx).
I am for sure not the only player making sometimes this error. Besides here we see a clear difference of approach between young and older players. Young players build up their repertoire upon hyper-modern systems which are today considered critical. However older players often keep on playing what they learned in their youth and don't follow so much the latest trends. The 67 year old Robert Schuermans definitely fulfills above description of an older player. He likes to play old and long forgotten systems of Fischer, Karpov and other old grandmasters especially against young players. Not seldom he scores because these young players don't know the classics.

However in Open Brasschaat it went completely wrong against the 15 year old Sterre Dauwe rated 200 points lower. Robert had really bad luck this time. Sterre is one of my best students in KMSK and 2 weeks ago I showed at the onjk (where we met each other) my analysis of my game against Stefan Docx. It is really a coincidence that Robert played exactly this line so permitting Sterre to extract very easily an advantage from the opening.
In my articles old wine in new skins part 1 and part 2 I showed a couple of examples in which old openings were successful. However this new article demonstrates that when the surprise-element is missing, things become much more dangerous. Even copying something played in a world-championship analyzed before and afterwards by some of the best players, doesn't guarantee a good opening. Openings are evolving and today even quicker than before with the ever stronger becoming engines. Every top-player works very hard to keep track of all those evolutions and even add something extra to it themselves. Otherwise you are doomed to be horribly out-dated like probably most amateurs.

Brabo

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Royal forks

The summer-holidays are again behind us. For many it was a period to recharge the batteries and play little or no chess. Others contrary were (very active). Any news about them was shattered all over the web as there exists no general platform where the local news is published. It is a shame as some of our youngsters performed excellently and this deserved much more recognition. First there was the 10 year old Enrico Follesa playing for Temse and gaining in 1 month 276 elo which very likely is a Belgian record. It is definitely not a world-record as the Slovanian FM Jergus Pechac managed in april 2015 to gain 426 points in 1 month.

Another Belgian record got smashed by the 11 year old Daniel Dardha playing for Hoboken. He just won the -12 youth-championship of the European Chessfederation which took place in Czechia. This makes him the youngest FM ever in Belgium. Besides now that I am closely involved at youth-chess, I also learned that there are 3 different types of youth-championships of Europe in which standard chess is played. So 1 for the European chess-federation, 1 for the European Union which happened beginning of August in Austria and 1 for the European countries which started yesterday in Romania.

Those exceptional results of these very young players didn't happen by accident. Not only their own efforts play a role but at least as important are the selfless sacrifices of their parents. I really liked the beautiful tribute of Daniel on his facebook to his father. With their permission I copied it here.
Behind any youthchampion there is a sweating coach and supporting parent 
Few realize how big the efforts of the parents are to allow their children achieve that kind of success. If you just wait to get support from the club, federation then I fear this can take forever. In the article How much time do you spend at chess I already showed a glimpse of how I support my son. Last year I accompanied my son 25 full days and this year it will probably be double. This summer Hugo played his first big tournaments with some success. He won the Open Dutch champion -8 and made a very nice performance in the very enjoyable mastertournament of Bruges by which he was rewarded by a very nice first 1474 fide elo.

Of course it is a matter of setting priorities to spend 25 full days or more as parent to support your child to his activities. You can't demand something like that from anybody. Besides it is often very boring waiting. Some parents are staring for hours at the door where their child should pop up after having finished their game. A fantastic article about the sacrifices chess-parents make can be read here. For me it is easier as chess is my own biotope. Even during the Brugse meesters where very few other chess-parents were, I didn't have the feeling of getting bored at all.

More and more often I take my laptop to the tournaments to continue analyzing my own games. After the Open Gent I had 9 freshly played games at which I spent together approximately 1 month. Regularly people are surprised hearing how much time I spend at the analysis. What is the fun of all that or is there really so much to learn from a couple of games. Well I am not only looking at the evaluation of the moves. Sometimes I also discover some truly beautiful treasures. See example a fragment of my analysis of my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Boris Chatalbashev (the complete game was covered already in my previous article).
This is an unavoidable deflection of the king by a full queen-sacrifice followed up by a royal fork. I've been googling for some similar examples and it seems something quite unique. A very famous example of it are the missed chances in a worldchampionship-game between Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe played in 1937.
Not less famous is another example again from a worldchampionship-game but this time between Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky.
Tigran is probably the only player whom got it twice on the board see his game against Vladimir Simagin although there is a little difference here as the royal fork can be avoided by black.

At the collection-site of royal forks there are many other beautiful examples but except the ones already mentioned in this article none fully fulfill at all my strict conditions. Many are without a queen-sacrifice or are not pure as some material is captured while sacrificing. In others we don't see a deflection of the king. Finally there are also many were the royal fork was not forced and could be avoided however often leading to a quick mate.

Discovering these little cute things are what makes analyzing something I enjoy. For sure this relieves the task of the chess-parent as the waiting becomes much easier. In the meanwhile I have finished the analysis of all my games of Gent so it is time to play some games myself and to experience new adventures on the board.

Brabo

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Openingstrategy

My previous article described how little time many players put at studying openings. A reader reacted that it is not so important for 2000 rated players as they anyway throw away often half or even full points in the middle- and endgame. He has a point of course. If you want to improve then you better look where the most progression can be made. It will rarely be the opening for any amateur so you better work at other domains of chess. On the other hand I want to add that it is still better to do something than nothing at all. In other words studying openings will not be completely useless for weaker players.

In this article we will go to the next level of opening-strategy so this is a warning for the readers. As average amateur you will not very often encounter what I will describe in this article. That is not only because a lack of opening-knowledge but especially because the strategy is based upon the repertoire of the opponent. Most amateurs have very few games in the databases which makes a preparation rather hard or even impossible. Only above 2200 elo we see that the number of games in the database is sufficient to tell us something of the repertoire of a player see the list of strength.

A basic opening-strategy consists of defining an answer upon all possible openings the opponent has played in his games which can be found in the database. I developed my own method for this see archiving and using databases but I know by experience that only very few (masters) do something similar. Most competitive players are satisfied by much simpler receipts which are rather based upon finding playable positions while the critical sharp lines are avoided. The Welsh grandmaster Nigel Davies recently wrote at his multi-blog that his comeback went smoothly as he limited himself to a very simplified opening-strategy.

Nowadays we will see that the strongest amateurs/ professional players will use an even more sophisticated opening-strategy. Contrary to most amateurs (I am one of them), they learn multiple opening-repertoires. I play exclusively 1.e4 but higher rated players will more likely play 4 different first moves like 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.Nf3 and 1.c4. This not only makes it harder for the opponents to prepare against them see again my article the list of strength but it also makes it easier to steer the opening to the preferred positions.

This last part seems to be an enormous asset when you don't have much time to prepare or you don't know much about the opponent. In theory you don't even need a chess-engine for that. E.g. at chess.db you can get already a profile-analysis of the opponent so you have a good picture of his/ her opening-repertoire. You know in a couple of seconds what can/ will happen in the different opening-repertoires. With this information you can make a best estimate of the rate of success for each of the repertoires and select the best one.

Some of my opponents at Open Gent used this advanced opening-strategy against me. In my game against the Bulgarian grandmaster Boris Chatalbashev (also winner of the tournament) this was probably the most clear. The game started already at the preparation. We got only an hour from the organisation so I immediately started to look at the games of Boris. I quickly discovered that Boris likes to play 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7. I answered this with 3.Nf3 and 3.Nc3 in the past. After 3.Nf3 Boris answers normally with 3...d6 and sometimes with 3...c5.
Games Boris Chatalbashev starting with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3
After 3.Nc3 it appeared that Boris not only plays 3...d6 but also sometimes 3...c6
Games Boris Chatalbashev starting with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3
Currently I slightly prefer 3.Nf3 but I liked also the fact that I would avoid 3...c6 after 3.Nf3. That is not because I do not like to play against the 3...c6 variation but it was good to cut the lines as 1 hour preparation isn't enough to look at everything properly. Besides Boris also plays the Sicilian Dragon and I noticed that after 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 c5 that I would transpose with 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4.

Of course I got a cold shower as after I played 3.Nf3 Boris surprised me by playing anyway 3...c6. After the game I asked him why as in the database his earlier games didn't continue with 3...c6. Boris laughed. He told me that normally indeed he doesn't answer with 3...c6 after 3.Nf3 because of 4.c4. However he noticed by checking my profile that I only opened with 1.e4. So he knew in advance that I wouldn't try 4.c4 as I have no experience at all with the Kings-Indian. On the other hand he did like the positions after 3.Nc3 as he had studied them only recently.
It is not because the opening-strategy works that you automatically win the game. I deviated from my earlier games in this opening see correspondence-chess. It was a modest try to surprise but mainly an idea that I wanted to give a shot in a standard game. I couldn't remember exactly my analysis as last time that I checked the line was beginning of this year for my preparation against the Belgian expert Ward Van Eetvelde.

It is probably not the best example to explain this advanced opening-strategy but definitely one where there is no doubt that the grandmaster let his choice depend on my repertoire. This is for most average club-players no option as it demands many years of study and training to use such strategy successfully. Besides I guess you also need an universal style for this strategy. I mean you need to be an all-round player able to compete at all the domains so positionally, tactically,... Our world-top are all models for this strategy.

Brabo

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The open games

If you watch the games of our youngest players then you notice a lot of Italian four knights. That is of course because many teachers use this opening in their classes. The opening is very solid and for beginners there are enough possibilities to play an interesting game. It is perfect to make your first steps at chess and develop yourself. Besides it only takes a few minutes to teach and learn the opening so more important aspects of chess like tactics can get more attention.

A couple of individuals at youth-tournaments try to profit from this by using some home-studied traps. It are often very sharp gambits which are very efficient as normal developing moves don't work as defense and exact knowledge of the opening is mandatory. When I found out that my son Hugo lost some crucial games in the tournaments due to that strategy so not because of inferior skills, I realized that I needed to help him.

I am a specialist of the open games so I know very well what enormous amount of theory exists today of the open games. Further I don't think it is ideal to force a child to play like I do see the scientific approach. Therefore Hugo switched from 1.e4 e5 to 1.e4 c6. With white we started to play exchange-variations of the Spanish see my article bjk. So theoretically these openings aren't the most critical ones but this way he does get each time positions which allow him to play a long game of chess.

It is not only the choice for the open games of trainers which I question. I am also often surprised how it is possible that stronger/ more experienced players choose open games while it is evident that they know barely any theory. 3 times in the past Open Gent I encountered a lack of basic theory-knowledge in the play of my opponents. Let us have a look to my first round against nonetheless a player of +1800. If you play the Ponziani then I expect that you are at least aware of the Fraser-defense.
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On my blog I wrote 2 articles about the opening see 14 x sos and computers achieve autonomy but just like my opponent of the previous article, he didn't read it. Maybe my opponent doesn't know this blog but I don't find that a good excuse as the Fraser-defense is basic-knowledge for any Ponziani-player.

Besides I also consider basic-knowledge the classical mainline of the Spanish: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 etc... However my opponent in round 3 managed to mix up the order of the next moves by playing 8.h3 instead of c3. I took advantage of this by using the same idea which I showed earlier in my articles the sequence and familychess part 2.
It is remarkable that this inaccuracy popped up in 300 mastergames while 2 out of 3 just transposed back to the mainlines. The difference of evaluation is small but can be noticed when you look at black's score which is clearly better with Na5.

A much larger difference of evaluation after mixing up the right sequence is my 3rd example. Also here we see my opponent choosing for an open game while not being versed too much by knowledge.
In my database there are 32 mastergames with the same mistake. Online I already got it 19 times on the board. I mean the examples are definitely not isolated cases.

It is especially stunning that these are very elementary positions of the open games which are misplayed by many players. So we are not talking about missing a new strong novelty somewhere deep into theory. I can only deduct that many players like to play intuitively and are not willing to study properly the openings. In open games this will regularly lead to disasters if the opponent is booked up. I believe switching to less demanding openings is absolutely necessary for those "lazy" players.

Brabo