13 June 2021

Commentary: FIDE World Cup 2017, Round 5 (Jobava - Yu)

Here we continue with the general theme of a b3/e3 development scheme for White, which appears here with an early c2-c4. White (GM Jobava) pursues a deliberate strategy of restraint, adopting a Hedgehog structure and maneuvering while waiting for his opponent to create a weakness. GM Yu Yangyi as Black does not oblige for most of the game, apparently being largely content to maneuver as well, with typical Hedgehog characteristics: enjoying a space advantage and eyeing the typically weak d-pawn, but not having any truly weak targets to go after. As can often occur, this relatively quiet maneuvering period ends with an explosive tactic, after some of Black's choices weaken his position subtly.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2017.09.08"] [Round "2.5"] [White "Jobava, Baadur"] [Black "Yu, Yangyi"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2687"] [BlackElo "2744"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo Dragon 2"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. b3 d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. e3 g6 4. c4 {challenging the central pawn, taking advantage of White's control of d4 to prevent its advance.} dxc4 5. Bxc4 (5. bxc4 {is also possible, with the trade-off of controlling d5 with a pawn, but no longer having the half-open c-file to use, and isolating the a-pawn.}) 5... Bg7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O c5 {asserting some central control.} 8. Be2 (8. d4 { is usually played here, directly challenging in the center. This leads to a very equal position. However, not necessarily a draw, as we can see from this high-level encounter:} cxd4 9. Nxd4 Bd7 10. Nd2 Nc6 11. N4f3 a6 12. Rc1 b5 13. Be2 Qb6 14. a3 Rfd8 15. Qc2 Rac8 16. Qb1 Ne8 17. Bxg7 Nxg7 18. Qb2 Bf5 19. b4 Ne6 20. Rc3 Bg4 21. Rfc1 Na7 22. h3 Bxf3 23. Nxf3 Rxc3 24. Rxc3 Rc8 25. Rd3 Rd8 26. Ne5 Rxd3 27. Nxd3 Qd6 28. Qc3 Qc6 29. Qe5 Qc7 30. Qd5 Kg7 31. Bf3 Nc8 32. Bg4 Nb6 33. Qe4 Nf8 34. Qd4+ f6 35. Nc5 e5 36. Qd3 f5 37. Bd1 Nc4 38. Bb3 Nd6 39. Qd5 e4 40. Qg8+ {1-0 (40) Nepomniachtchi,I (2784)-Dominguez Perez,L (2758) Lichess.org INT 2020}) 8... b6 9. d3 {now we see that Jobava is choosing to play with a Hedgehog type structure, which required the bishop retreat.} Bb7 10. Nbd2 Nc6 11. a3 {taking away the b4 square from Black's knight and completing the typical Hedgehog pawn structure.} Nd5 {centralizing the knight and leading to the exchange of White's better bishop.} 12. Bxg7 Kxg7 13. Qc2 { the queen gets off the first rank, connecting the rooks, and heads for the now-open long diagonal.} Qd7 (13... e5 {would be a more aggressive and imbalancing approach, setting up a more traditional central pawn presence immediately. Instead, Black maneuvers and prepares it for later.}) 14. Qb2+ f6 {blocking the diagonal and controlling the e5 square.} 15. Rfd1 {the Hedgehog structure typically calls for patient maneuvering and improvement of piece placement, which is what we see in the next several moves.} Rfd8 16. Rac1 Rac8 17. h3 {gives the king "luft" and controls g4. Also a useful waiting move.} e5 {Black now commits in the center, seizing space.} 18. Ne4 {centralizing the knight. It cannot be kicked with ...f5, due to the e5 pawn's weakness.} (18. Ne1 {is liked by the engines, as it reinforces d3 and threatens to activate the bishop via g4.}) 18... Qe7 19. Re1 {White continues patiently maneuvering. The rook overprotects the Be2 and lines up on the Black queen.} Rd7 (19... f5 { would no longer lose a pawn and would gain space, but would be committal on Black's part.} 20. Ned2 Qf6 $11) 20. Bf1 {gets the bishop out of the way of the Re1. It is not needed to protect the Nf3, so this helps activate the rook more.} Qd8 {moving the queen off the e-file and doubling up pressure on the d-file. This however seems slightly awkward, cutting off the Rc8 from moving along the 8th rank, but Black has nothing in particular to do at this moment.} 21. Rcd1 {reinforcing d3 again.} Nde7 $6 {the first slip-up by Black. Now White can advance his b-pawn and gain some space and activity.} (21... Nc7 22. b4 cxb4 23. axb4 a6 {and here the Nc7 controls b5, preventing the b-pawn from advancing further. As can be seen in the game continuation, this advance plays a significant role, attacking and driving away the Nc6.}) 22. b4 cxb4 (22... c4 $2 23. Qa1 cxd3 24. b5 $1 {this wins the knight, since if it moves, White will have the Nxf6 sacrifice, similar to the game.} Na5 $2 25. Nxf6 $18 Kxf6 (25... Bxf3 26. Nxd7 Bxd1 27. Nxe5 $18 {and White will regain the piece while having a much superior position.}) 26. Nxe5) 23. axb4 Nf5 {activating this knight and increasing control of d4.} 24. Rc1 {the rook is now free to do this, since the bishop covers d3, the minor piece serving a useful if limited purpose.} Qe7 { targeting the b-pawn, but essentially forcing White to play the best move.} 25. b5 $14 Na5 {the knight is now largely out of the action. The main effect is to relinquish control of the d4 square.} 26. Rxc8 Bxc8 {Black's pieces are now rather awkwardly placed and are not coordinating well.} 27. d4 {Black now has to exchange, in which case the game is still even, but he misses the threat.} ( 27. g4 $5 {is an alternative leading to some simplification.} Nd6 28. Nxd6 Qxd6 29. d4 $14) 27... Bb7 $2 (27... exd4 28. exd4 (28. Nxd4 $4 Qxe4 $19) 28... Qd8 29. d5 Rxd5 30. g4 Nd6 31. g5 {and the position is rather awkward for Black, despite being temporarily a pawn up, but it is better than the game continuation.}) 28. Nxf6 $1 $18 {a difficult-to-spot tactic, since it visually appears that the pawn is properly defended.} Kxf6 (28... Qxf6 29. dxe5 $18 { and now either the queen blocks on e6 or the discovered check wins the rook.} Qe6 30. Ng5 Qb3 {attacking the Qb2 almost works, but} 31. e6+ Qxb2 32. exd7 { and amazingly the d-pawn cannot be stopped without losing the queen.} Qd2 33. d8=Q Qxd8 34. Ne6+ $18) 29. dxe5+ Kf7 (29... Ke6 30. e4 $18) 30. e6+ (30. e4 { first would also work.}) 30... Kxe6 {now Black's king is exposed in the center, but it is still not so simple to convert the win.} (30... Qxe6 31. Ng5+ $18) 31. e4 {the only winning move, kicking the knight and seizing more squares in the center.} Ng7 (31... Nd6 32. Qa2+ Kf6 33. e5+ Kg7 34. exd6 Qxd6 35. Re6 Qf4 36. Qa1+ Kf7 37. Re3 {and Black cannot stop all the threats to the king, including Ne5+}) 32. Qa2+ Kd6 (32... Kf6 $2 33. e5+) 33. Rc1 $1 {this is a good example of how to conduct a king hunt properly. White first cuts off the escape route, before attempting to directly attack again.} Bxe4 $2 {this looks like a reasonable try, but now White goes after the king.} (33... Qd8 {is the best defence, but it also loses to} 34. Qa3+ Ke6 35. h4 h6 36. Qe3) 34. Qd2+ Ke6 35. Ng5+ Kf5 (35... Kf6 36. Nxe4+ Qxe4 37. Qxd7 $18) 36. g4+ Kf6 37. Nxe4+ Qxe4 38. Qxd7 {White is now up the exchange with a commanding position.} Ne6 39. Bg2 {the bishop finally sees some action.} Qd4 {hoping that White will exchange into a (still winning) endgame, but Jobava can simply increase his advantage.} 40. Qxh7 Nf4 {hoping for a cheapo fork on e2.} 41. Qh8+ Ke6 42. Re1+ {White does not fall for the fork trap, so Black gives up.} 1-0

06 June 2021

"How to Gain Intuition and Learn Fast" (article)

The recent article on Medium "How to Gain Intuition and Learn Fast" - actually an excerpt from a forthcoming book - did a lot for me in terms of expressing and explaining the dual modes in which we learn, "declarative" versus "procedural". This is similar to explaining thought processes in dual modes using the "System 1" and "System 2" concepts, for example as highlighted at Temposchlucker's blog. The core concepts are parallel, in that one mode is conscious and uses explicit rules, while the other mode is intuitive and uses pattern recognition.

The article focuses on examples from learning how to approach solving mathematical problems and foreign language study, which are both complex skills requiring the practitioner to recognize and break down larger "chunks" of information that can then be processed and an appropriate response given. This of course applies just as well to chess study. Some of the training tools and approaches described will be familiar, such as spaced repetition of lessons and interleaving, as they help move knowledge from the slower, rule-based "declarative" learning to where you have a deeper understanding of "procedural" problem-solving.

If this process is not clear, think about learning how to drive a car. At first, it is awkward as you try to keep track of multiple things at once inside the vehicle and in your outside environment. After a certain period of time, things become "automatic" as your mind recognizes what needs to be done from common cues (stopping distance, shifting gears, etc.)

Personally I've experienced this mental shift multiple times, including when studying calculus, learning foreign languages and in the chess improvement process; previously I shared some examples on the chess side of how you know you are becoming a stronger player. There is nothing magical about this phenomenon, although it occasionally seems that way, especially after having reached a learning plateau and being frustrated for some time, then having solutions start mentally clicking into place.