The end of the beginning of the end

by ChessBase
12/23/2009 – A novelty on move 36, one which nobody can refute? That happened not with the help of a contemporary sixteen-core machine, but back in the Orwellian year of 1984, in a game from the Soviet Championship. The beginning of the end of chess? No, as Dennis Monokroussos shows us in this week's Playchess lecture. The resolution came from GM Mihail Marin in March this year. 9 p.m. ET.

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Playchess training with FM Dennis Monokroussos

The end of the beginning of the end

How's that for a mysterious title?

Back in the Orwellian year of 1984, the game Novikov-Tukmakov from the Soviet Championship horrified enthusiasts everywhere. It wasn't the play was poor or that etiquette was breached. No, the reason people were wringing their hands over this game was that Novikov had prepared a novelty on move 36, in a bishop vs. pawns ending, and this renewed the eternal chorus over the pending death of chess. This sort of hyper-preparation seemed so extreme that some took it as if it marked the beginning of the end of our game as we knew it. If preparation was starting to reach such absurd depths, then clearly chess was in trouble.

Meanwhile, the game has marched on and yes, preparation has gotten deeper. Still, on the specifics of the variation chosen in Novikov-Tukmakov, it seemed that White had spoken the last word. Even Garry Kasparov admits that back in 1986 he tried to overturn the verdict that White was better, but couldn't find a "clear-cut way" to draw.

Now we come to the present day. Earlier this year, in March, in Reykjavik, Mihail Marin showed that Black can draw; in fact, he can even fight for a win, and win he did against Yuri Shulman. With best play, it seems that the ending should be a draw, but even well-prepared opponents will have practical difficulties proving it over the board. It's a fascinating ending, and it's significant for Grünfeld theory as well. But perhaps most important of all, it shows that chess is far from dead. If many strong grandmasters working on this ending from time to time over several decades still haven't analyzed it into the dust – even with the help of contemporary engines – then we can say that we have reached the end of the beginning of the end. This is so not because we're at the end of the end or the middle of the end, but because it turns out that the end of chess as we know it isn't near after all.

When we look at the Shulman-Marin game tonight, we'll go easy on the ruminations and delve into the fascinating endgame. I think you'll enjoy it, and if you're interested here's what you do: log on to the Playchess server at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday night (= 3 a.m. CET Thursday morning), go to the Broadcast room and select Shulman-Marin from the Games tab. Then sit back and enjoy!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). You can find the times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date, with exact times for most larger cities here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures.

Monokroussos in Mexico: World Championship 2007

Dennis Monokroussos is 43, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and has worked as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

Playchess Training with IM Merijn van Delft

Everyone is invited to join this weekly training hour on Wednesday evening. Together we will have a look at the most recent grandmaster games. Recurring themes during our analyses and discussions are the latest opening developments and how to work on your own chess.

A word about myself: I was born (March 13, 1979) and raised in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. In 1995 I won the Dutch U16 Championship and played the European Championship in Poland and the World Championship in Brasil. In 1998 I moved to Amsterdam to study psychology and had a great time there. In 2003 I met my wife Evi Zickelbein and ever since we've been living together in Hamburg, Germany. In 2004 I made both master titles: one at the university and one in chess. Since 2005 I've been working fulltime in the chess world: training, coaching, writing, organizing and still actively playing myself. By now I have about fifteen years of experience as a chess trainer. Together with my dad I wrote a book about chess training (Schaaktalent Ontwikkelen), of which the Dutch version is already available and the English version will follow April 2010.

IM Merijn van Delft's lecture starts at 20:00h Central European Time (Berlin, Paris, Rome), which translates to 19:00h London. You can find the times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. The lecture is in the "Broadcast" room of Playchess. It is free for Premium Playchess members (50 Ducats for others).


The lectures are broadcast live on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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