Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chess Dossier an Important item for preparation

Creating a Chess Dossier

I. Opponents’ profiles. A standard dossier featuring one of your opponents should reflect his opening repertoire, as well as weaknesses and strengths. This information might prove extremely useful both during preparation for the game and over-the-board. Creating a dossier makes sense when you are taking part in a match, round robin (with all the players known in advance) or have to confront a certain opponent frequently. Of course, as time goes by, the dossier should be updated properly.
a) Reviewing the opening repertoire
Make sure you have ChessBase, Chess Assistant, or any other decent databases ('s shop should have them all in store) that can build a tree of games played by a person. First of all, you have to take a look at all the openings that your opponent has employed throughout his chess career. Even if he didn’t play something for years, there is still a chance of a comeback. Also, it offers information on what types of structures he is familiar and comfortable with. Secondly, pay more attention to recent games, e.g. played within the last two years. This will help you understand what his current opening repertoire is. By analyzing the scores in each opening and the performances, you may come to a conclusion on which systems he knows best and worst.
b) Pinpointing strengths and weaknesses
Depending on how many tournaments a year your opponent plays, you can either take a look only at the last 1-2 years (for relatively active players), or review more games (for people who compete rarely, or on whom there isn’t much information available). When going through games, pay special attention to such factors as: style, preferences in types of positions, recurring mistakes, the way he defends or attacks, tactical prowess, reaction towards unexpected positional transformations, love or hatred for endgames, etc. The more features you know, the easier it is to find your opponent’s Achilles’ heel.
c) Personal observations and other info
By watching your opponent play, you can gain much more useful information. For example, time management (does he often get into time trouble?; does he spend a lot of time in the opening, and in what cases?; how does he handle opening surprises?). If your opponent is famous enough, you may also scan the relevant media (articles, interviews, games’ reviews) to find out more.
II. Your own profile – the real one as well as the public image. Of course, before creating dossiers on your opponents, one should form the correct picture about oneself. To make the evaluation fair and unbiased, you may want to ask your coach or friend to characterize you as a chess player. By enriching the dossier with some personal observations, you will reveal your weaknesses and strengths. This will help you both maximize your results in the short run and create a long-term training program aimed at eliminating the cons of your profile. Also, by asking your chess friends or studying the media, you will learn what your public image is. True masters are skillful in terms of taking advantage of the existing stereotypes about themselves.
Mikhail Botvinnik, one of the pioneers of the dossier-creation method, was persistent in mentioning in the media that he suffered from tactical blindness. There is a widespread belief that his goal was to convince his young and ambitious opponents to attack him at all costs. Meanwhile, more experienced colleagues of the legendary world champion pointed out wisely that Botvinnik has won many great tactical games, so his alleged “tactical blindness” was just a decoy!
The magician from Riga, Mikhail Tal, is still regarded to be one of the best tactical players ever. His contemporaries often thought that he could instantly and impeccably calculate all the variations, so there was no sense in trying to refute his combinations. On the contrary, Korchnoi and Polugaevsky didn’t fall under his charms and always used to perform a thorough check of all the options. Quite often Tal’s brilliancies turned out to be flawed…
The “dark horse” phenomenon (when a rating outsider, who enters a super tournament for the first time in his life and fares successfully), is often connected with exploiting the image of “a lower-class player.” Even experienced top grandmasters sometimes fall for this trap and start taking risks against the “weak link” in order to secure the whole point. As a result, all the “dark horse” has to do is collect easy draws and wins.  
III. Taking advantage of the dossiers. By comparing one’s own dossier with the opponent’s profile, an experienced player makes a decision on how to play. For example, in the book “How life imitates chess”, Garry Kasparov mentions that during the WC match against Nigel Short, a bright tactician, he decided to play more positionally. That is, Garry chose the type of positions he didn’t like that much, but Short simply couldn’t stand them! In other words, it was easier for Garry to outclass Short in a strategic fashion than beat him in a tactical struggle (which they both adore). On the contrary, against Karpov, one of the greatest positional players of all time, Garry tried to create dynamics positions that demand acute calculational skills and tactical prowess from both opponents. Kramnik, who won his match against Kasparov without losing a single game, has taken advantage of a few vulnerable spots of the chess legend: unlimited belief in his superiority in any type of positions; dynamic attacking style; stubbornness. By forcing Garry to play endgames with a minor advantage over and over again, he mitigated his exceptional calculational skills and made him fight on Vladimir’s home turf. As can be seen from the results of the match, the colossus fell due to the excellent strategy employed by Kramnik and his team.
Chess is especially attractive due to its complexity. No matter how good you are at creating dossiers and playing the game, success is never granted. The trick is that your mighty opponents are also on the look-out. They are aware of both their strengths and their weaknesses, and doing their best to come up with a strategy that will help them prevail. Modern top-level chess is not only about otb struggles, but about invisible duels of opponents’ teams. The strongest player doesn’t always win; a lot depends on the preparation against each particular opponent.
As a traditional follow-up, here is the annotation to a recent game of mine vs GM Monika Socko at the European Club Cup:

Socko, M. (2486) vs. Pogonina, N. (2491)
15th European Club Cup Women | Plovdiv BUL | Round 6| 22 Oct 2010 | ECO: C54 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d5 7. Be2 Ne4 8. cxd4 Bb6 9. O-O O-O 10. Nc3 Be6 ( 10... Bf5 ) 11. Be3 f6 ( 11... f5!? 12. g3 h6 ) 12. Qb3 ( 12. exf6 Qxf6 13. Bd3 ) 12... Nxc3 13. bxc3 ( 13. Qxc3? fxe5 14. Ng5? exd4 15. Qb3 dxe3 16. Nxe6 exf2+ 17. Kh1 Nd4 ) 13... fxe5 14. dxe5 Bxe3 15. fxe3 Na5 16. Qa3 ( 16. Qb4 b6 17. Nd4 ( 17. Rad1 c5 18. Qb1 Qe7 ) 18... Qd7 18. Bb5 c6 19. Ba4 Rae8 ) 16... b6 17. Rad1 ( 17. Nd4 Qd7 18. Rf4 c5 19. Bb5 Qe7 20. Raf1 Bf7 ) 17... Qe8 18. Qb4 Qg6 ( 18... Nc4 19. Bxc4 dxc4 20. Qb1 Bf5 21. e4 Bg4 22. Qb4 Be6 ) 19. Qh4 ( 19. Qe7 Rf7 20. Qh4 Qe4 21. Qxe4 dxe4 22. Ng5 Rxf1+ 23. Kxf1 ( 23. Bxf1 Bxa2 24. Rd7 h6 25. Nxe4 Nc6 ) 24... Bxa2 24. Rd7 h6 25. Nxe4 Rf8+ ( 25... Re8? 26. Rxc7 Rxe5 27. Nd6 ) 26. Ke1 Rf7 27. Rd8+ Rf8 ( 27... Kh7?? 28. Bd3 ) 28. Rd7 ) 19... Qe4 20. Qf2? ( 20. Qxe4 ) 20... Nc4 21. Bxc4 Qxc4 22. Qd2 ( 22. Qc2 Qe4 ( 22... Bf5 23. Qd2 c6 24. Nd4 Be4 ) 23. Qxe4? ( 23. Qd3 Rae8 ) 24... dxe4 24. Ng5 Rxf1+ 25. Kxf1 Bxa2 26. Rd7 Rc8 27. Nxe4 Bc4+ 28. Kf2 Bb5 ) 22... Qe4 23. Rf2 h6 24. a3 c5 25. Qd3 Rae8 26. h3 Rf7 ( 26... Bxh3 27. Qxd5+ ( 27. gxh3 Rxf3 28. Rxf3 Qxf3 29. Qxd5+ Qxd5 30. Rxd5 Kf7 ) 27... Qxd5 28. Rxd5 Be6 29. Rd6 Bg4 ) 27. Qxe4 dxe4 28. Nh2 Rxf2 ( 28... Bc4 29. Rd6 Rxf2 30. Kxf2 Rxe5 ) 29. Kxf2 Kf7 30. Kg3 Ke7?! ( 30... Kg6 31. Ng4 h5 32. Nf2 Kf5 ) 31. Ng4 ( 31. Rd6 Rf8 32. h4 ) 31... Rf8 32. Nf2 Rf5 33. Nxe4 Rxe5 34. Kf4 Rf5+ 35. Kg3 Re5 36. Kf4 Rf5+ 37. Kg3 Bd5 ( 37... c4 ) 38. Nf2 Bc6? ( 38... Rg5+ 39. Ng4 Be6 ( 39... h5 40. Kf4 ) 40. Kf4 Rf5+ 41. Ke4 ( 41. Kg3 c4 ) 41... Bc8 ) 39. e4 Rf6 ( 39... Rf8 ) 40. h4 Rf8 41. Nh3 Ba4 42. Rd3 Rf1 43. Nf4 Re1 ( 43... Ra1 44. Nd5+ Ke6 45. Kf4 Rf1+ ( 45... Rxa3 46. Rg3 Kf7 47. Ke5 ) 46. Rf3 Rh1 47. g3 Ra1 48. Rd3 Rxa3 49. Nc7+ Ke7 50. Nd5+ Kf7 51. Ke5 ) ( 43... Bc6 44. e5 ) 44. Nd5+ Ke6 45. Kf4 Bc2? ( 45... Rf1+ 46. Rf3 Rh1 47. g3 ( 47. Kg3 Bc6 ) 47... Bc6 48. Ne3 ( 48. c4 Rc1 49. Rc3 Rd1 ) 48... g6 ) 46. Nc7+ Ke7 47. Re3 ( 47. Nd5+ Kd6 48. Rd2? Rxe4+ 49. Kf3 Ke5 ) 47... Rxe3 ( 47... Rh1 ) 48. Nd5+ Ke6 49. Nxe3 Bd3?! ( 49... g5+ 50. hxg5 hxg5+ 51. Kxg5 Bxe4 52. Kf4 ) 50. h5 b5 51. Nf5 Kf6 52. Nd6 ( 52. e5+ Kf7 53. Nd6+ Ke6 ) 52... a5 53. e5+ Ke7 ( 53... Ke6? 54. Nb7 ) 54. Ke3 Bf1 55. Kf2 Bd3 ( 55... b4?? 56. cxb4 cxb4 57. axb4 a4 ( 57... Bxg2 58. bxa5 ) 58. Kxf1 a3 59. Nf5+ ) 56. Ke3 Bf1 57. Kf2 Bd3 58. Ke3 Bf1
After getting a large advantage in the endgame, I started playing unconfidently and ended up in serious time trouble. My advantage kept shrinking and at some point had finally evaporated completely. As a result, I had to switch to a defensive mode and secure a draw.

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