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The Wit and Wisdom of Imre Leader
Posted on 2004-12-27 21:39:25
Games played by legends such as Hideshi Tamenori or Ben Seeley are bound to be full of brilliant moves, and are always of great interest, and this is even more true for games played between the two of them. Of course, a series of 2-minute games between any two players tends to sacrifice some quality for the quantity. Such time constraints tend to make many games less viable for full analysis, and instead open them up to the "Blunders” format. Naturally that term gets strained dramatically when talking about two of the greatest (or more probably just the two greatest) players of all time. The 2-minute time limit both creates and excuses these errors to a certain extent – I think most if not all of the examples I will show require more time to see why another move is better, even for players of this caliber. The positions I'll show would be listed as "Blunders” in OQ, but due to the factors of time and extremely high regard in which I hold these two World Champions, I prefer to call them "Missed Opportunities”. I would recommend using a copy of Zebra or other program to run through potential lines while avoiding excessive scrolling, especially as I go off on many different tangents as always. But before you bring Zebra up, see if you can find the best moves in the positions given.
1) Black (Tamenori) to play
2) Black (Seeley) to play
3) Black (Tamenori) to play
4) White (Seeley) to play
5) Black (Tamenori) to play
6) Black (Seeley) to play
Answers and Diversions
1) More control and avoidance; In the actual game, Tamenori plays 43.a7, which fails after white plays out the north and takes advantage of this uneven edge. My first thought was "why not a4, since white has no access to a6”? The problem, as Tamenori may have seen, is that after 44.a2 the potential white b1 is deadly. What about taking away that access with 43.a4 44.a2 45.c8? No, believe it or not that fails to 46.a6!, seen below.
Black can then take the south with either 47.e8 48.f8 49.h8 or 47.f8 48.e8 49.h8, but white can gain access to b1 either way by then playing out the southeast. A similar tactic goes for 47.b7 48.e8 49.f8 50.g7!, and black cannot keep b1 away from white without playing 51.h6 52.h8 53.h7, giving white a free a7. So, since b1 is such a threat, how about taking it away with 43.f8 44.e8? 45.c8 46.b8 47.a4 48.a2 49.a7 50.b2 51.d1 (below) 52.a6! and parity saves the day.
Apparently what's needed is to own the c2-g6 diagonal and avoid a controlling disc on the c3-f6 line. 43.c8! 44.b8 45.a4 accomplishes this. 46.a2 47.a7 and white has to give up all hopes of gaining access to b1, as any attempts to play into the south are disastrous, and the b2 that gained parity in the above sequence fails in a monstrous way here as 49.d1 and 50.a6 51.a1 would not flip b2. Best for white after 45.a4 is 46.d1 47.a6 and white will keep parity and the west edge but lose the north, south and east and a few too many interior discs. Also a fun way to go here is 45.a7 46.a6 47.a4 48.d1 49.e8 50.f8 51.g7! 52.b2 53.a2! and as the black win above, black gets the bulk of the edges and just enough interior discs.
2) Right way to the diagonal; Here Ben plays 43.b7, which looks like a good way of forcing out parity in the southwest except it plays out with 44.c8 45.a4 46.a3 47.a6 48.b3 and now 49.b8 flips e5 and falls victim to the diagonal-controlling 50.g7! 43.g8 also fails after 44.b8, as white will threaten to wedge at f1 if black plays to the east and black's sacrifice of g7 h8 will be swindled as white will play h1 and black will have no wedge. The key here, like in 1) is the f5 disc, but for a different reason. Here line analysis comes into play in a different manner, as 43.c8 flips f5 and creates a solid line from f2 to f6, as seen below.
Why is this important? Ben's b7 move is not meant to be permanent control of the diagonal, but the 43.b7 44.c8 provided a relatively painless way of getting access to a8. After 43.c8 44.b8 45.b7! now the only way of getting to a8 is by f1. 46.f1 47.a1 48.a8 creates a sealed parity region in the southeast, and black can force white's hand. In fact, this sealed region is so damaging that it's best for white to play 46.g7 47.h8 before playing out the f1 trade-off.
3) Hijacking the parity area; Tamenori's 43.h1 holds the east edge but Ben just plays out all parity areas and hands the 5-time world champ a 4-corner loss. Line analysis might have saved the day for black here had he noticed the potentials of the e2-a6 line and the g2-g6 column. Look at 43.e1! below.
Both of the lines I mentioned are vital here. White now has no way of playing into this northeast parity region; 44.f1 falls prey to h1, as white has no access to wedge at g1, and 44.g1 loses to h1 also as white has no f1 response. This is actually very close and complicated from here, the best is 44.a5 45.b7! for a potential 2-disc win. There are also two draws, 43.f8, which leads to a very easy line for black to play, and 43.b7 44.h7! 45.h6 46.g7 and black has a bunch of potential draw lines, all starting in the northeast. I would encourage readers to try out these lines, as many are beyond my analytical abilities, but my favorites stem from 47.e1 48.f1 49.h8 as seen below.
White has two potential draws here. 50.g8 51.b3 52.a8 leads to two draw lines for black;53.b8 54.b2 trades the two white wedges at a5 and a7 for h1 and overall parity with g1, and 53.h1 54.b8 55.a7 (NOT g1 as white will play a7 and black has no access to a5) 56.b1 (NOT a5 as 57.g1 and black gets parity in the northwest due to the c3-h8 diagonal control; after 56.b1 57.g1 58.a5 now will flip b4, and while black still will get a parity swindle with 59.b2, that b4 disc makes it a draw). The second draw begins with 50.a5!. Now black simply cannot play 51.a1, as 52.f8 forces black into the even-squared northeast and white has two sealed parity regions in waiting. 51.h1 does make it fun, 52.g1 53.f8 54.a8 55.b8 and 56.b2! is the only win, as 57.a1 gives white the rest of the moves starting with 58.b1, and other options are worse. The only possible counter after 50.a5 is 51.f8, which unpoisons 52.a7! Now black is forced into that northeast, but after 53.h1, seen below, white has to be the cautious one.
If white wedges at g1, black has to pass, giving white two even-squared regions to play into. The upshot of this is that no matter what white plays, black will get the b-column and parity for a win. White has no access to a8, so 54.b3 guarantees a mass of white discs on both the A and b-columns;55.g1 56.a8 PASS 57.b8 PASS 58.b1 is the draw, and 55.b2 does black no good as it is followed by 56.b1! 57.g1 58.a1 PASS 59.b8 for a white win.
4) More and more diagonal control; 42.a6 and 42.c8 may seem equivalent, but are they? In fact, they are opposites;42.a6, which Ben played, loses by 6, while 42.c8 wins by the same margin. 42.a6 was met with 43.b7, controlling the diagonal, and 44.e8 should fail for reasons I will show later. One big difference between these two moves is the potential response of b7. After 42.c8, 43.b7 may seem playable as it does not give white a free move to h7, but 44.e8! gains access to c2 and a8 and wins by at least 12. The best loss for black from this point? 45.h7 46.h8 47.f8 48.a8 49.b8 50.a6! and black has no a7 reply. Clearly black can't make an effort to grab this diagonal after 42.c8. If 43.b8 44.g2! can control the diagonal forever, winning even without parity after 45.a4 46.e8 47.f8 48.a3 49.a6 50.a7 51.b2 52.a2 53.b7 54.a8 55.c2 and black gets the north and east edges but not enough to win. What if black tries 43.a4? 44.f8!! grabs the c3-g7 diagonal in dramatic fashion and by flipping f4 makes c7-h2 all white, so black's future b8 does not regain access to h8. 45.e8 46.h7! 47.b8 48.c2 reaches the position below.
The 46.h7 move is particularly important, for reasons much like the c8 move listed in 2); by flipping g6 the entire G column is white, and so a black effort to gain control of the c6-f3 diagonal with a g2 move will flip g7 and give white h8. In this scenario, since b8-g8 is all black, h8 would insure access to a8 and by extension access to h1. So, black has to try something else here. 49.b2 50.a3 maintains control, as 51.b1 52.a1 53.a2 54.b7! or 51.a2 52.b1! 53.a6 54.b7! own both the main diagonals. 49.a2 doesn't work either, as 50.a6! 51.b2 52.a3 gains complete dominance of the diagonals and the b-column;53.b7 54.b1 and 53.g2 54.a1! are both devastating. The only rational, and indeed best, option is 49.a6. White can own both diagonals with 50.b7!, and black is placed in the somewhat strange position of forcing a pass and still losing after 51.a3. From here the best black can do is 52.g2 (52.a2 53.b2! or 52.b2 53.b1! are quite a bit worse) 53.h1 and at least 54.b1 gains access to a8. As long as white holds off on his isolated h8, a win is there for the taking.
5) Enabling the reflip; This is the 42.a6 43.b7 44.e8 I said I would show in 4). Here Tamenori plays 45.c8, probably because he noticed that a white move to c2 would steal that opportunity. The problem with 45.c8 is that white still has a move to c2 available, and that gains access to a8; while this may not be a particularly pretty line for white from this point it is still a potential 2-disc win. Tamenori can do one disc better by playing the drawing c2 himself. This leads to a couple of interesting lines, first 46.f8 47.a3 (NOT 47.h8 as white plays b1 and controls the b1-g6 diagonal, and then 48.a3 can be met with 49.a4!) 48.b1 49.a4 50.a2 51.h8, as seen below.
With white's control of the b1-g6 line, black can gain the north and west edges but white will be able to wedge at h7 as soon as black plays h1. Just as tricky a draw is 46.b1 47.f8 48.a8 49.a7 50.b8. Black has two parity-gaining moves with either 51.a3 or 51.a2 (NOT 51.c8, which is tempting but loses after 52.b2! as 53.a1 54.h8 and black has no h7 wedge, and 53.a3 just gives up parity and too many stable discs). But, as many who have read my articles know, I rarely if ever make an example from a one-disc error. So at move 45, is there another move that counters white's c2 threat? 45.a3! does the trick by flipping c3. Now 46.c2 would flip c4, and 47.a4!! flips the threatening e4 right back! 45.a3 enables that important reflip; after the 47.a4 white can play 48.a2, but gaining access to a corner by giving up an uneven edge right next to it is no prize. 45.a3 is useful for other white options also, for example 46.f8 47.h8 48.c2 fails to keep black off of h7 because of the waiting a4. So after 45.a3 white has to give up hope of accessing the b7-f3 diagonal and his best is actually 46.a7 47.a8 48.b8 49.c8 50.f8 51.h8 52.c2 53.a4 54.g2, which keeps h7 away from black but loses even after 55.h1 56.h7.
6) Isolated parity areas and more line control swindles; In this position Ben plays 41.h2, almost certainly looking at making g1 powerful, a similar scenario to the b1 move discussed in 1). The problem with 41.h2 is 42.g6 gives no h7 or h5 option, and so 43.g1 44.h6 and now if black plays 45.a3 white plays out 46.a8 47.b8 48.a7! and black has no play to a6. The same goes for 41.g1 as 42.e1 43.b1 44.g6! 45.h2 46.a8 47.b8 48.a7! wins by 2. The nature of this swindle makes the unusual 41.g7 a draw! This works because it eliminates those possibilities for white. After 42.a8 43.b8 44.h8 white has insulated the black disc at e6, making the swindle void. 45.g1 46.a7 47.a6 48.e1 49.b1 (setting up an isolated 3-empty in the northeast) 50.h6 51.h5 52.g6, leading to the position below.
Parity is just enough to avoid a loss here with 53.g2, locking up the 2-row and getting the last move in the northeast, northwest and with the isolated h7. Does Ben have better than a draw? Yes, 41.a3 wins by 4! This also prevents the swindle if played correctly, for example 41.a3 42.h6 43.h5 44.g6 45.g2 46.g1 47.h1 48.h2 49.g7! (NOT 49.e1 as then 50.a8 51.b8 52.a7! again) and black controls the h1-b7 diagonal, the west edge and a mass in the northeast for the narrow win. But white doesn't have to play 44.g6 in the sequence above, he can also play the entertaining 44.a6!, seen below.
This grabs the b7-f3 diagonal, can black get it back? How about 45.g2 46.h1 47.h2? That has to work, right? No, this loses after 48.a2!, as 49.g1 50.e1 gains access to a8 but has no a7 follow-up! 51.g7 52.b2 53.a8 54.h8 55.g6 56.h7 57.a1 58.a7 59.b8 and nobody gets to play b1. A little trickier for white is 49.g7 50.b8 51.h7 and white has to play 52.b2 (52.h8 53.g6 54.b2 55.a1 56.b1 57.a7 and now when black plays e1 white has no g1 response) 53.a1 54.h8 55.b1, and while black gets parity in a similar fashion with e1 and g1, white gets more stable discs in the southeast. Black can also make white watch his step with 51.g1 instead of 51.h7 in the sequence above, followed by 52.e1 53.a8 54.h8 55.b2 and white has to play 56.g6, otherwise 56.a1 57.g6! and white has no access to b1 or h7! If white doesn't fall into one of these traps, g2 doesn't work, how about 45.e1? This may look like it fails as white can play 46.g6 and take back the diagonal, but in fact black is winning after 47.a7! The reason for this is that with g6 white has created an isolated 3-empty southeast. Now both sides can get into a war of diagonals with 48.b2 49.g2 50.g1 51.a2 52.a8 53.b8 54.b1 55.h1 56.a1 57.h2 and black wins this battle as white has to pass and 58.h7 brings it home. The problem with the position after 45.e1 is that no matter what white does, he is creating an isolated region or a swindle of some sort. 46.b8 for example, is followed by 47.a8 48.a7 49.h8 50.g7 51.b1 52.b2 53.h7! and white has no access to g6. Even better, 46.g1 creates an ugly northeast, and is followed by a wild sequence of 47.b2 48.a1 49.a8 50.g6 51.g7! (maintaining the c2-g6 diagonal) 52.h8 53.g2! 54.a2 55.h7 56.h2 57.h1 58.b8.
While these lesser white options lead to entertaining tangents, black has another winning option after 44.a6, 45.a7! This leads us to 46.a2, shown above. The threat here is 47.a1 48.a8! and black has no access to b8, for a draw. Black can sidestep this with 47.g1! 48.a8 49.b8 50.g6, again creating the isolated three-square southeast. I personally like the straightforward 51.g7 52.h7 53.h8 54.e1 55.b1, which leads to a 2-disc black win. Zebra sees something better at +4, 51.b2! 52.e1 53.g2 54.h1 55.h2 56.a1 57.h8 58.b1 and the light is shed; with b1 white has swept the b1-g6 diagonal, and so now black can play 59.h7 and then g7 for parity.
So in this series of two-minute games, naturally there was not enough time for either player to seriously look at hardly any of the lines I've listed. But one of the marks of a great player is that their games so often produce such interesting, intricate positions, which are pure delight to analyze. In this regard both players performed admirably, as they gave me excellent material with which to work (I hope I used it well!). Hopefully we will see more potential material posted in the future!
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