Van der Stap - Shvartsman

Alexander Shvartsman (l.) plays against Wouter Sosef during Hoogeveen Open 2023. Photograph: Zainal Palmans

Van der Stap - Shvartsman

„Sometimes you have to calculate more than twenty moves deep”



Author: Alexander Shvartsman
My good draughts friend Ben Provoost (we have known each other for years) approached me to make a contribution for draughts platform Damkunst. He asked me to analyse my best game from 2023. I was happy to do so, and after a while I chose to discuss my game against Peter Van der Stap. This duel took place in a tournament in Baarn in June 2023, where I won all seven games.
Against Van der Stap, I can boast of a good score. Of the four games we had played until then, I only had to concede one point. Still, our mutual games never went easy for me. Van der Stap is a solid player, who likes to play strategically and stick to his outlined course. Tactically, he is less strong and he does not always calculate deep enough either.
Because we have crossed paths before, I knew that he is not a player who is out to exchange pieces – even when he is against a strong opponent. So Van der Stap is a pleasant player to have opposite you.
My strategy in the game I will discuss was, as usual, to try to get complicated play on the board and thus get my opponent into trouble. For instance, I try to do that by offering the opponent many choices.
One reason to analyse my game against Van der Stap is that this duel is characterised by a lot of calculation. Also, typical of the game are the various interesting psychological moments. Sometimes you have to calculate fifteen to twenty (or deeper) and it is also very important to estimate what your opponent is going to play. I will go into all these moments and explain what I saw and thought and what my opponent did and did not calculate.
It was my pleasure to analyse this beautiful game, and I hope you will enjoy my report of it.

1.32-28 16-21

This game took place in the 4th round. Why I chose this opening against Van der Stap is not easy to say. Intuition probably played a role, but another reason is more of a practical nature: I know this opening quite well. So I don't have to spend much time on the opening moves, so I can put all my energy into the interesting middle game that arises after this. The flip side is that my opponent can also play relatively fast.

2.31-26 11-16 3.38-32!

White continues to play convinced! Most of my opponents didn't even do 2.31-26 or continued with 3.37-32 and so on.

7-11

I don't really like the forced variants that can arise after 3...18-22.

4.37-31 19-23 5.28x19 14x23 6.31-27 23-28 7.32x23 18x38 8.43x32 10-14 9.41-37

The right wing lock is a fact. Now black has to make a choice.

12-18!?

Black has to decide right now which development he prefers. The most commonly played standard variant is

9...5-10 10.39-33 14-19 11.44-39 10-14 12.50-44 12-18
10.39-33 13-19!?
Developing piece 5 isn't possible anymore, because after 10...14-19 11.44-39 5-10? white has the small combination 12.27-22! 18x29 13.34x5 
The development chosen by black comes from Vadim Virny. At the time of the Soviet Union, he won many nice games in this opening.
11.44-39 8-13 12.46-41 2-8 13.36-31 1-7
I think black has little to gain from the plan 13...18-22?! 14.27x18 13x22 At least because white always has the option to exchange with 41-36 and 31-27.
14.42-38 5-10 15.49-43 7-12 16.50-44 20-24

The opening is over. On the board is a principle position. Black has an economic right wing lock, with no piece on 2. But is it also good? A lot depends on whom the white player is! On the one hand, black does not need to develop any more pieces on his right flank. On the other hand, without a piece on 2 or 7, black's position is not so flexible; the formation 7/12/18, needed to exchange piece 27, can no longer be put in position.

17.34-30?

After this passive move, black's plan works! It was better to keep piece 34 in place and move to square 28 or 29 on the next move.

15-20?!

The standard reaction, but a few moves later I understood that I had already made a mistake. Practically speaking, it was better not to lose an important tempo and continue with

17...14-20!? 18.33-28 18-23 and now: 19.39-33 Possible now is
Of interest is the computer variant 19.27-22!? 12-18
Possible is also 19...23-29?! 20.30-25 10-14 21.31-27 29-33 22.38x29 24x33 23.47-42 and so on.
20.31-27
Or also 20.30-25 18x36 21.25x5 4-10 22.5x14 9x20
20...20-25 21.47-42 25x34 22.40x20 15x24 23.39-34 and so on, with advantage for white.
However, all these variants do not matter that much, because there was no chance that white would have decided on 19.27-22!?
19...24-29! 20.33x24 20x29 with at 21.44-39 the small combination 17-22! 22.27x7 11x2 23.26x17 29-34 24.40x18 13x44 25.43-39 44x42 26.47x38 15-20 This position, with the outpost on 17, is better for black.
18.33-28!
Through 18.30-25 10-15 19.33-28
On 19.47-42 follows 24-29 20.33x24 20x29
19...18-23 20.39-33 24-29 21.33x24 20x29 a position that we have seen before emerges. After 22.44-39 black has the small combination 17-22 23.27x7 11x2 24.26x17 29-34 25.40x18 13x44 26.43-39 44x42 27.47x38 15-20 and so on.
18...18-23 19.39-33 10-15 20.44-39

This is probably the most important moment of the game. Here I invested a lot of time in choosing a plan. If you have played the variants I give in the coming moves, you can answer the most frequently asked question from amateurs to grandmasters: „How many moves can you calculate ahead during the game?" I usually answer, „About 15 to 20 moves." Using this game, you can check whether my answer is correct...

24-29!?

After long calculations, I decided on a very risky plan. I did so because the position becomes too clear after the alternatives. So I don't always play the best move, but take my opponent's capabilities into account in my choices. I hoped my opponent would not see the main variant, and the course of the game proved me right.

I show what I calculated: 20...12-18 21.30-25 24-29
21...17-22 22.28x17
Of course not 22.26x17? because of 24-29 23.33x24 22x44 24.40x49 11x22 and black has won a piece.
22...21x12 23.41-36 24-29 24.33x24 20x29 and after the easy to find move 25.27-21! 16x27 26.31x22 18x27 27.32x21 the game becomes too simple.
22.33x24 20x29 23.39-33?! 29-34?! 24.40x29 23x34 25.35-30?!
Also good is simply 25.43-39 34x43 26.48x39 with a good position for white.
25...34-40! 26.45x34 4-10 An interesting temporary sacrifice. But after 27.41-36 19-23 28.28x19 13x35 29.43-39 white has enough counterplay for the strong piece on 35.
21.33x24 20x29 22.40-34?

After a few minutes of thinking, white decides to exchange black's outpost. To be honest, I expected this answer...

Not so good is 22.30-25? 17-22! 23.27x7 11x2 24.26x17 29-34 25.40x18 13x44 26.43-39 44x42 27.47x38 9-13 and so on.
De strongest move is 22.39-34! and now a long forcing follows. I will show you what I saw during the game and elaborate on my way of calculating. I think this is more interesting than just showing variants indicated by a computer programme. 4-10! Because of the threat 23.30-24!, this is the main variation.
Losing is 22...12-18?? because of 23.30-24!
The following forcing is not so good for black: 22...14-20?! 23.28-22! 17x28 24.26x17 12x21 25.27-22! 28x17
26.32-27!
Very bad is 26.32-28? 23x32 27.34x25 21-26! 28.38x27 17-21! 29.27-22 21-27 and so on.
26...21x32 27.37x28 23x32 28.34x25 17-21 29.38x27 21x32 White cannot win the piece on 32, but can choose an endgame with material advantage, for example with 30.48-42 16-21 31.31-27 32-38 32.27x7 38x49 33.7-1 and so on.
23.43-39! 12-18 24.39-33! White uses tactics to take advantage of the bad piece on square 10. 17-22
Very important is that 24...14-20? 25.33x24 20x29 loses because of 26.27-22! 18x36 27.32-27! 21x43 28.48x39 23x32 29.34x5 32-38 30.5-23+-
25.26x17! The best! Later, we will have a closer look at the alternatives.
25.33x24?! 22x42 26.47x38
26.26x17 11x22 27.47x38 6-11 is better for black.
26...11-17 27.41-36 8-12 28.27-22 18x27 29.31x11 6x17 leads to interesting play.
Also possible, but not so interesting, is 25.28x17 21x12 26.33x24 23-28 27.32x23 18x20 28.30-25 20-24 29.34-30 24-29 30.41-36 19-24 31.30x19 14x23 and the position is equal.
25...14-20 26.33x24 22x42 27.47x38 20x29
27...11x22? loses because of the majority rule 28.30-25! 19x39 29.25x5+-
 So far, the calculation was easy. I now saw the following variants passing by in my mind: 28.17-12
28.32-28?? White hopes for 23x12?? but black takes
28...11x42!-+
28.48-42 11x22 29.32-28 23x43 30.34x5 43-49 Here I likewise stopped calculating after getting a king. But again I sensed danger, and rightly so. Indeed, the computer indicates that white again neutralises the black king:
31.30-24! 49x21 32.42-38! 21x49 33.35-30! 49x35 34.30-25 35x19 35.5x1 After 22-28 however, black again need not despair.
28...8x17 29.32-28 23x43 30.34x5 43-49 Here I stopped calculating. My intuition said the situation could be dangerous for black, but I saw no concrete variants. However, the computer shows that white can capture the black king:
31.30-24! 49x21 32.48-43! 21x49 33.35-30 49x35 34.30-25 35x19 35.5x26 If black now continues with 9-14! he keeps sight of a draw. 36.25-20!
After 36.26-12? of course 3-8! 37.12x20 15x24=
36...14x25 37.26-12 and so on.
22...29x40 23.35x44 15-20

Both players now play a series of logical moves.

24.30-25 20-24 25.47-42 4-10 26.41-36 10-15 27.38-33

I was satisfied with the situation on the board. In my opinion, black has the initiative (which may be incorrect?). Indeed, I have free play on the left flank and on the other flank white has to consider the idea 17-22 and 24-29 and so on. However, a new plan needs to be made.

14-20!?
After contemplating for a while, I rejected the alternative, which gives white little trouble: 27...12-18 28.42-38 17-22 White has now two options: 29.28x17
Surprisingly, white can also take 29.26x17!? 24-29
Best for black is the standard idea 29...14-20! 30.25x14 9x20 after which white does well to force the position with 31.31-26 22x42 32.48x37 11x22 33.28x17 and so on.
30.33x24 22x42 and possible now is 31.17-12! 18x7 32.43-38 42x33 33.39x28 19x30 34.28x10 15x4 35.25x34 and so on.
29...21x12 and after the 'terrible exchange' 30.27-21 16x27 31.31x22 18x27 32.32x21 black can forget about two points.
28.25x14 9x20 29.43-38 20-25
I rejected 29...12-18 because white can then force the position: 30.28-22
30.48-43 and the best thing for black is to play 17-22 31.28x17
After 31.26x17? 20-25! white has a problem and has to fight for a point. For example 32.31-26! 22x31 33.36x27 11x31 34.26-21 16x27 35.37x26 and after 23-29 36.32x21 18-23 37.28-22 23-28 38.45-40 28x17 39.21x12 8x17 40.39-34 19-23 41.33-28 23x32 42.34x23 and so on, white wins back his piece.
31...21x12 and white has again the exchange 32.27-21 16x27 33.31x22 18x27 34.32x21 and so on.
30...17x28 31.26x17!
Possible is also 31.33x22?! 11-17 32.22x11 6x17 and so on, with an interesting position that looks better for black.
31...11x22 32.31-26! 22x31 33.33x22
33.36x27!?
33...18x27 34.32x21 16x27 35.37-32 and so on and white wins back two pieces.
30.48-43 24-30!

Black tries to keep his opponent from controlling the important square 34.

31.28-22!
After 31.45-40? follows the simple idea 19-24! 32.28x19 30-35 33.19x30 25x45-+
It is interesting to check the implications of 31.44-40!? The best is 15-20!
After 31...30-35? 32.40-34 35-40 33.33-29 12-18 black faces some problems.  To equal play leads 34.27-22
34.39-33!? 25-30
The double sacrifice 34...19-24? 35.28x30 40-44 is not so good, because the black king after 36.30-24 44-49 37.33-28 has little room to move.
35.34x25 23x34 and after 36.43-39 34x43 37.38x49 8-12 38.45x34 15-20 39.25x23 18x47 40.28-22 17x28 41.26x19 white has a better position.
34...18x27 35.29x9 3x14 36.31x22 40x29
32.33-29
Not good is 32.40-35? 20-24 33.45-40? 3-9 34.40-34 9-14-+
32.40-34 results after 20-24 33.34-29 23x34 34.28-22 17x28 35.32x14 21x41 36.36x47 13-19 37.14x23 3-9 in an interesting position, but black has a better position.
32...23x34 33.40x29 and black has good counterplay.
31...17x28 32.26x17 12x21 33.33x22

Simple and strong. In such a game type, black should always have his answer ready for this standard attack. And I had that...

15-20!
The best. Not good is the alternative 33...11-17 34.22x11 6x17 and black's right flank looks weak. After, for example, 35.31-26 13-18 36.38-33 8-13 37.42-38 is 15-20? not possible because of the standard sacrifice 38.27-22! 18x27 39.37-31+-
34.31-26 23-28 35.32x14 21x41 36.36x47 20x9

After a forced variant, the situation has changed completely. On the board is now a 9x9 position. The white outpost on 22 is enough protected, so black has no real advantage. However, white does still need to make some good moves...

37.45-40 9-14 38.40-34
The continuation 38.40-35? 14-19 39.35x24 19x30 weakens white's right wing.
38...8-12 39.38-33 14-19 40.43-38 3-9

So far, there was no trouble for the white player.

41.33-29?

This is Van der Stap's first but not last mistake.

A stronger continuation is 41.42-37 19-23 42.37-32 and the best thing for black is to remove white's outpost with 11-17
Not a good plan is 42...12-17? 43.32-27 17x28 44.33x22 9-14? 45.26-21! 13-19 46.38-33! and white will win.
41...11-17! 42.22x11 6x17

A good exchange! Simple and strong. I smell blood now and start playing with renewed energy. The piece on 29 hinders the white game, and black tries to exploit this weakness to the maximum.

43.38-32 12-18 44.42-38 16-21! 45.38-33 18-23! 46.29x18 13x22

Of course, this 7x7 position is still a draw, but thanks to the tempo advantage (+8), black exerts some pressure on the opponent.

47.34-29?
A serious mistake. Van der Stap rejected the variant 47.47-42 19-23 48.42-38 9-13
or 48...9-14
 because he didn't see that after 49.44-40? (33-29 delivers a point if well played) a finesse follows if black plays 30-35? :
but instead of 30-35? black has a wonderful win: 49...13-19! 50.33-29* 22-27! 51.29x18 19-23! 52.18x29 30-35! After this double sacrifice, white is without chance.
 For example: 53.39-33 35x44 54.33-28
54.29-23 44-50 55.32-28 50-45 56.33-29 17-22 57.28x17 21x12
54...44-49! 55.28-22 17x37 56.26x17 49x32 57.17-12 32-38! and the 4x2 endgame causes no more problems.

Much better than the game move or 47.47-42 is 33-29. Now the situation becomes dangerous for white.
50.33-28! 35x42 51.28x8 with a draw.
47...9-13 48.32-28 13-18 49.47-42

The time for concrete calculations now has come for black. Here I have to evaluate a few alternatives.

19-24
The temporary sacrifice 49...30-34 50.29x40 18-23 doesn't result in anything. After 51.40-34 23x32 52.42-38 32x43 53.39x48 21-27 54.48-42 27-32 55.33-29 22-27 56.44-39 17-22 57.42-38 32x43 58.39x48 the position of four pieces each offers no more chances of winning.
Neither is better 49...21-27 50.42-38 30-34 51.29x40 18-23 and to get a point now, white uses another idea: 52.38-32! 27x29 53.26-21!=
50.29x20 25x14 51.44-40 14-19 52.42-38
Losing is 52.40-35? 19-24 53.42-37 21-27-+
What is possible is 52.42-37! 30-35 53.40-34 21-27 and white moves to safety by using the majoritiy rule: 54.37-32! 27x40 55.26-21! 22x44 56.21x14=
52...30-35 53.40-34 18-23 54.38-32

Both players are directing for a clash, which could be dangerous for white. But... black has to move.

22-27 55.33-29?

A mistake that could have been decisive.

A clear draw is there after 55.28-22 Van der Stap missed the majority here 27x40 and saw only the chanceless 55...17x37 56.26x17 37-42 and so on. 56.22x11 21-27 Now follows a simple forcing: 57.11-7 40-45 58.7-1! 45-50 59.1x34! 50x11 60.34-18! 27-32 61.18-27! 32x21 62.26x6=
Also, the illogical 55.34-30?! 27x29 56.28-22 17x28 57.26x17 35x24 58.17-11 is enough for a draw. It is important that after 29-33 another sacrifice follows: 59.11-6! 33x44 60.6-1 24-29 61.1-6 28-32
61...29-33 62.6-1!=
62.6x50 32-37 and now, for example 63.50-44 and the attack on piece 19 brings one point for white.
55...27x38 56.29x18
21-27?

A big mistake.

A not so difficult win was possible after the logical 56...38-42 and now:  After 57.18-12
Also possible is 57.28-22 17x28 58.26x17 42-48! In 'calculating' this variant (time trouble!) I just trusted my intuition (not always right!) and it said that white's two pieces are really too close to king. But... white really has no defensive chances! The other two pieces are not in a good position and easily help black getting two points. For example
59.17-12
Chanceless is 59.39-33 28x30 because white loses another piece after this.
59...19-23 60.18x29 35-40 61.34x45 48x7-+
57...17x8 58.26x17 42-48 59.17-11 follows the nice finesse 19-23! 60.28x19 8-13! 61.19x8 35-40 62.34x45 48x16-+
57.34-30?!
The position is a draw. After 57.34-29 38-42 58.29-24 19x30 59.18-13 there is little more to try for black. For example 42-48 60.13-9 48x34 and attacking piece 17 with 61.9-3 gives white a point. But... remember that both players have no time!
57...35x24 58.39-33 38x29 59.28-23 19x28 60.18-13

After a couple of sacrifices, a 5x2 endgame remains. The black pieces are very uncomfortable − all in the centre. During the game, I had the feeling that black cannot win anymore, and strong draughts programmes confirmed that feeling afterwards. But. I'm still trying to find problems for my opponent...

24-30 61.13-9 30-35 62.9-4 35-40
The alternative 62...28-33 is not better: 63.4x31 33-39 64.31-42 29-34 65.42-48 35-40 66.48-37 40-45 67.37-28 45-50 68.28x11! and black has no tempo to capture white's king.
63.4x31 40-44

Now comes the decisive moment in this 4x2 endgame.

64.31-18?
The final mistake in this interesting game. With 64.31-9 (Several other moves are also good.) 28-32 65.9-20 29-34 66.20-25 34-40 67.25-14 32-38 68.14-28 44-50 69.28x6 38-43 70.26-21 white could achieve a relatively easy draw.
64...29-33

White has lost an important tempo and is now without a chance, because he can't successfully attack any black piece.

65.18-13 44-49 66.13-30

Other attacks are repelled as follows:

After 66.13-19 follows 33-38! 67.19x43 49x32-+
Not better is 66.13-22 and now black can even neutralise the white king in several ways: 17-21
66...49-21 67.22x11 21-17 68.11x22 28x17-+
66...49-44 67.22x11 33-39 68.11x33 39x28-+
67.26x17 49-21 68.17x26 28x17-+
66...28-32

On the way to king, black's pieces support each other...

67.30-19 32-38 68.19-23
After 68.19-24 49-35! 69.24-20 35-24-+
68...38-42 69.23-45 42-48

White gives up.