Window of Opportunity

On chess.com they asked the question at what age do chess players peak. The funny thing is that they show a graph that clearly indicates that it is between the age of 20-25. Improvement at a later age is just marginal and probably not relevant. The most likely explanations are Elo-inflation and the evolution of modern engines.

Here we have a few examples:
Magnus Carlsen
Fabiano Caruana
Vachier-Lagrave
Hikaru Nakamura
Anish Giri

The same applies for women:
Hou Yifan
Ju Wenjun
Anny Muzychuk

How come? Well, it’s all about the brain. The brain grows until about the age of 14. That’s where the rapid phase of improvement starts. It comes to an end at around the age of 20-25. Bingo! Guess why the legal age of majority used to be 21 in the past.*

What does this mean? For professional players who focus on chess all day long it means that the only way to improve past that stage is working on openings and changing their overall game strategy, like becoming a Drawmeister for instance. For the amateur it doesn’t mean much, because there ist still tons of information left that they have not absorbed yet. This means that even senior citizens who discover chess at the age of 60 can still improve.

One last point to note: In the age of engines here is no hidden information anymore. If your Elo is 2400 then players with Elo 2600 do not know a secret that you don’t know. They play better because their opening analysis is deeper or they remember it better or they physically calculate faster or deeper than you. It’s just that and nothing else! If you believe that training will close the gap, you are wrong. Paying for it after the window has closed is throwing away money. It only makes sense with young players like here.

 
* Note: It got changed to 18 in most western countries by the left-wing-parties in the 70s to make immature people vote for them.

World Corporate Championship

Tune in when world class grandmasters finish off complete beginners in 12 moves. At least FIDE is making a few bucks with it.

DSB vs. Naiditsch

Na das ist mal witzig, die haben doch glatt den Naiditsch abglehnt. Meine anfängliche Begeisterung für seinen Twitch-Stream hat neuerdings stark nachgelassen, aber egal. Auf einen solchen Spieler kann man nicht verzichten! Auf der anderen Seite passt es ins Bild. Der DSB trägt zwei Worte im Namen, die im Sport mittlerweile Synonym für Totalversagen sind: “Deutscher” und “Bund”.

Ok, um fair zu bleiben. Die hatten sicherlich ihre Gründe und die lagen in der Person des Spielers. Seine Integrität war und ist bekanntlich nicht unumstritten. Er muss noch nicht mal ein Abzocker sein. Es reicht, wenn die glauben er sei einer. Einen Rechtsanspruch, in der Nationalmannschaft zu spielen, gibt es nicht. Das wäre schön, wenn Spieler auf Einwechslung klagen.

 
Update: 25.02.2021: Naiditsch hat sich offenbar entschlossen, künftig auf Englisch zu streamen und damit auf einen Teil seiner bisherigen Community zu verzichten. Die einen werden nun sagen, dass er dadurch eine größere Zielgruppe anspricht, die anderen werden sich in ihrer Einschätzung seines Charakters bestätigt fühlen. Letztlich geht es Profis einfach nur um Geld.

Bad score

The story about the Najdorf continues. In the Opera Rapid Qualification the Nadorf was played 8 times. White won 4 games and drew the other 4, which adds up to 75%. In the KO matches MVL and Aronjan played 3 games with an even score (1-1-1).

In the meantime Blübaum played 4 games in the French with black as a huge underdog, winning 2 of them and drawing the other 2. This is quite funny because the good opening scored terribly and the bad opening scored very well. Everything is wrong, it seems.

Keeping options

Here is another example for keeping your options. In the standard moveorder black doesn’t have to play 3…d5. He can also play the Bogo-Indian. It may not be that great, but it’s yet another playable opening that white has to be prepared for.

Looks familiar

Yesterday Duda won a nice game against Dubov after a few adventures. I am not going to show any engine comments, because the complexity of the line where humans are bound to make mistakes is what this line is all about. Dubovs moveorder is dubious. In my game the position was reached with 4. e3 and Nc3 delayed.

The pattern repeats

The story about botched Najdorfs continues in the Opera Rapid Tournament. In the first game Grischuk cannot handle a position where he should be already slightly better and loses without a fight. The second game is a clean win by Giri. The last one features the “creative” Mr. Dubov who sacrifices everything but fails to convert in the end. Good news: At least the Nadorf didn’t go 0/3.

It could have been worse if MVL had not chosen to play the Rauzer. He was better, but found a combination that didn’t work.

Pure Strategy vs. Mixed Strategy

Since lately I made the provocative statement that the Najdorf is a negative freeroll, let me elaborate on Game Theory a bit further.

Here is what you have to prepare if you want to play the Najdorf. In most cases it comes down to very few playable lines, everything else is losing. If you discount forced draws it get even narrower.

Here is what white has to be prepared for against an “e5-player”. This may not look like a lot, but it spreads out on every move.
In the Berlin black can play with Ke8 or with Bd7 for instance. On the other hand forced draws close a few options here as well.

We can do this with 1.d4 (Grünfeld vs. QGD) as well of course:

As you can easily see, in the mixed strategy black uses his advantage in information to keep his options open. For every white move black has at least two viable answers that he can chose from (randomly by simply flipping a coin or rolling a dice). In the pure strategy black is a target and white has all the options. It should be obvious which strategy Carlsen is using and what MVL prefers to do.

When are you freerolling with a pure strategy and when are you getting freerolled? First of all, you need perfect memory. If you have analyzed everything to a forced draw and cannot remember it nor find it over the board you are screwed of course. Let’s call the lines that you have in your file and you know that it but you cannot remember them “known unkown”. There is also the “unknown unknown”, the strong novelty prepared by your opponent that you don’t know anything about. The unknown unknown is that makes Leko wake up in the middle of the night and switch on his computer. This what causes paranoia or makes paranoid people even crazier. If you are playing a pure strategy this is what you have to live with. Eventually you will get trapped. This happens to a lesser degree with a mixed strategy. If you don’t know what you will be playing the next game because you haven’t flipped the coin yet, then chances are you will dodge the bullet with your name.

In order to play a mixed strategy you must answer with e4 with e5 and you must play the QGD in some form, either pure or via the Nimzo. These are the only openings with big branches of viable lines where you can chose which one will be played. White can try to counter this with the Scotch and the Catalan, but they are lacking the bite these days. The Italian is somewhat in the middle. Another strategy for white is to play opening schemes like the KIA. White makes all of his moves, black makes all of his moves and they take it from there. This is pretty much what Kramnik and Georg Meier are doing these days. It’s all about transpositions.

Did Chessbomb troll us?

This is the game as shown on Chessbomb, but is it’s fake news? As you can “hear” here, the game ended four(!) moves earlier when Giri lost on time. Well, not exactly. Sopiko and Robert apparently didn’t get any move-updates. Giri did in fact play the lemmon.

Firouzja’s Dilemma

If you try to play for a win with black then the French is a good option, because it forces white to go all-in. Unfortunately there are forced draws that have to be avoided and that got Firouzja into trouble. In rather unknown territory he tried to be creative but got hit with a very strong new concept. That’s exactly what Giri is known for. Friouzja is a fighter though and managed to escape.

Play it safe!