Modern Advantages

Currently I’m reading Jan Timman’s latest book The Longest Game in preparation for a review.

I’ve long spoken about certain modern advantages about buying books that exist today, but didn’t 30 years ago when I first was playing in tournaments. Chief among them the fact that back in the late 80’s you’d see a book title in a catalog, and maybe a two-line description and that’s what you needed to use to decide whether or not to buy something.

These days you can go online and read excerpts along with finding numerous reviews, etc. This is why it’s generally agreed that we’re in a Golden Age for chess books.

However, there’s a huge advantage these days in the reading of chess books which I’d like to talk about a little today.

30 years ago books were the primary source of learning and improvement. Today they are just the springboard.

Let’s take a look at this position from the second game of the first K-K match.

Here Kasparov plays 8.Nh4 about which Timman says “The critical move, which had been introduced into practice by Polugaevsky in 1980. Before that, 8.Nd4 had been the usual move. However, in that case, Black can return the pawn by 8…Nc6 (Korchnoi’s 8…Bc6 is also possible, intending 9.Nxc6 dxc6) 9.cxd5 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 c5 11.Qd2 d6 with a playable Benoni position.”

This is the final position from that note above:

I sat there looking at that and asking myself “But why 11.Qd2 in that position?  Why block in the c1 bishop like that?” And that takes us to the point I want to make today.

Back in the times in which this game was played, when a club player would see a note like that from a GM commentating on a game it didn’t matter if we understood it or not. If you couldn’t reason out the idea behind the move then you just had to move on. You were also limited to the idea fed to you by the annotator of the game. Whatever they decided to mention as alternatives is what you got to look at. The end.

These days we’re not so hampered.  I simply opened ChessBase and put in the moves to take us to this position before 11.Qd2

Here I’m able to do a number of things. First, I run Stockfish 10 which tells me after a depth of 36 that 11.Qd2 is 0.64, 11.Qd3 is 0.60, and 11.Qd1 is 0.60.  OK, so this shows that there’s nothing inherently wrong with putting the queen on d2. My instinct of “but the bishop” is a knee jerk one, but in this day and age I can learn why.

So I go to the reference tab in my database. I can see that in the 8.5 million games in my database this position was reached 19 times and that there have been four moves played. 11.Qd3 has been played twelve times (last played in 1980), 11.Qd2 five times (last played in 1980), and 11.dxc6 (in 1978) and 11.Qd1 (in 1966) once each.

So now we can look at the games in the 11.Qd2 line. Of the five, four are GM games with one taking place between amateurs. If we disregard the amateur game and look at the four games we see that interestingly, Yuri Balashov was white in three of them, with the aforementioned Korchnoi having white in the other game. The players of the black bits were Timman, Inkiov, Furman, and Karpov.

Since Timman mentions Korchnoi, and since it’s the stem game,  let’s look at that game first.

Now let’s look at the four Balashov Whites in chronological order:

So in looking through those games it becomes easy to see that the idea for White was simply to play b3 and then develop the bishop that way. Therefore the queen being on d2 was not a detriment at all.

It’s also interesting to see that Korchnoi’s plan of b3-a4-Rb1-Ba3-b4 was determined to be inferior by Balashov who then developed the bishop to b2 instead. The engine agrees with the analysis as well.

I’m often amused at the view espoused by some that books are somehow outdated due to the fact that we have so many technological tools at our disposal. To me, books are enhanced rather than downgraded by these advances of the modern age.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *