Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chess tactics in end games

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If knowing how to fly on a flight simulator would enable one to pilot a plane, all flying schools would have to close shop! If you do not dispute it (I fervently hope so for the sake of air passengers), then you will also accept that knowing basic endgame tactics can bring awareness of the possibilities but cannot make you win the endgames. And unless you can finish off a game successfully, you cannot hope to win, can you?

The best way to learn effective endgame tactics is to study the endgame plays by chess masters and then try to assess how the actual tactics correlate with the theories you learned. Most often, it will not be a single idea but a combination of several of those.

How about trying to solve endgame studies and problems? These can teach you some specific tactics but remember that barring some, most of the problem composers were not top level chess players themselves! Moreover, composed problems often have an ‘unnatural’ look and not likely to be seen in real games of chess! But if you try to solve the problem given below, a famous endgame composition by Reti (who was a top level GM and reputed for his ‘artistic’ chess games), you will get some new ideas that could possibly be used by you some day.

a classic endgame problem

This problem gives you a more in-depth idea about ‘the Square’ that we discussed in four endgame situations. You will notice that the Black King is ‘within the Square’ for White’s c6 pawn and so will be able to block its promotion. On the other hand, even after using his first move, White King will be well ‘outside the Square’ for Black’s h5 pawn. If you conclude that White is bound to lose, think again! See the tactics by which he can get a draw in this position.

1. Kg7 h4   If 1. … Kb6 2. Kf6 h4 3. Ke5 h3 etc.
2. Kf6 Kb6   If 2. … h3 3. Ke7 h2 4. c7 when both pawns queen
3. Ke5 h3   3. … Kxc6 3. Kf4 and White King is now within ‘the Square’ to stop the RP
4. Kd6 h2  
5. c7   Both pawns queen! If 5. … Kb7 6. Kd7 with same result

 

You can see that so long as White sticks to the principle of approaching both the pawns, possible by its walk along the diagonal, and ready to move either side (guarding his own pawn or chasing the opponent’s pawn), it can snatch a draw! A technique certainly worth remembering.

But as we said at the beginning, if you keep studying memorable endgame plays, some examples of which were discussed earlier (two endgame plays and two more endgame plays), you will gradually understand what kind of tactics can work in what situations. Some may be tactical like mating attack or winning exchanges, while others are positional, like creating pawn majority or a passed pawn, and still others with a mix of both. We will show you some more beautiful endgames in our next article.

Chess tactics: A move worth some gold pieces?

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Frank J. Marshall was US Chess Champion from 1909 to 1936 and was regarded as one of the strongest chess players of his time. But he is much better known as a highly attacking player with a penchant for sacrifices at the drop of a hat! Many experts contend that a number of his gambits and sacrifices were more the result of an impulse depending on their surprise value for success than the outcome of a deeply thought out combination. Whatever may be the truth, his games had immense spectator appeal and you can still enjoy playing through his games if you are not a puritan in chess!

In the following game against Russian Master Levitzky (with White pieces), Marshall’s 23rd move had such an electrifying effect that spectators were reported to have thrown gold pieces on the chessboard. The truth of the matter is still debated and some say that the gold coins were only payments against wagers on the game! Without going into those arguments, we can say that the move was one of the best ever played in a game and different experts have held that the move is certainly among the top three if not the top in chess history!

Position after Black’s 18th move

prelude to a sacrifice

19. Rxd5 Nd4
20. Qh5 Ref8
21. Re5 Rh6
22. Qg5 Rxh3 If 23. gxh3 Nf3+ captures the Queen
23. Rc5 Qg3
24. Resigns Black poses too many threats besides 24. … Qxh2#. If 24. hxg3 Ne2#. If 24. fxg3 Ne2+ and mate next move. If 24. Qxg3 Ne2+ 25. Kh1 Nxg3+ 26. Kg1 Nxf1 with Black a whole Rook ahead

Position after Black’s 23rd move

a memorable queen sacrifice

Do you feel like throwing a few pieces of gold this way?

Chess Tactics: A protected passed pawn is a passport to win

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In the vision to combination article, we showed how the creation of a passed pawn and holding on to it can give a player tremendous advantage over his opponent, particularly in the end-game. Even if your opponent succeeds in preventing the pawn from queening, it is normally possible only with considerable loss of material and that again gives you enough advantage to chalk out a win!

In the following diagram, you can see that the players appear to have equal position in terms of material and position of the Kings. Rather, Black seems to have the disadvantage of doubled pawns. So it is interesting to note how Black prepares to create a passed pawn and hold on to it at any price!

The game was played between Martin Ortueta and Jose Sanz in Madrid in 1933 and the position is after 29 moves have been played.

fig46

30. h3 Rd2
31. Na4 Rxb2 White was trying to protect the NP, but Black captured it nonetheless to get his passed pawn!
31. a4 g4 32. hxg4 Rxb2 33. a5 Bxa5 34. Rxb2 Bxc3 35. Rc2 Bd4+ 36. Kf1 c3 gives enough passed pawns to win for Black
 
32. Nxb2 c3 Black is ready for 4. Nd3 c4+ 5. Rxb6 cxd3 and the Rook is helpless against the linked passed pawns
 
33. Rxb6 If 4. … hxb6 5. Nd3 c4 6. Nc1 to block the pawns
 
33. c4 To prevent Knight move to d3 and play c2
 
34. Rb4 If 5. … cxb2 6. Rxb2 or 5. … c2 6. Rxc4, winning in either case
 
34. a5 Black wins for both 6. Rb5 c2 or 6. Rxc4 cxb2
 
35. Nxc4 c2
36. Resigns

Isn’t it a beautiful end-game?

Chess Tactics: Well thought-out combinations

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In several earlier articles, we have discussed about the need for deep calculation for complex combinations and also examined how deep a calculation is possible by a chess master. In “how far deep can you analyze”, we presumed that Fischer in his game with Byrne must have visualized his 24th move to justify his 17th move i.e., a calculation 7 moves deep!

In the diagram below, we see an even deeper calculation for the brilliant tactical play by White. Normally, in tactical play, we keep our admiration reserved for those unexpected piece sacrifices demolishing opponent’s position. An apparently innocuous move by the King to the next square does not even draw our attention! But the experts hold White’s 14th move as one of the most brilliant plays in chess records and the reason for this will be clear after some time!

Position after Black’s 13th move.

a brilliant move

14. Kf1!!! Nxc3

White’s 14th move is considered as one of the deepest moves ever seen in actual play. The reason will be clear when you come to White’s 23rd move!

15. bxc3 Bb7
16. Qg4 Kg7
17. Rh7+ Kxh7
18. Qh5+ Kg7
19. Qh6+ Kg8
20. Bxg6 fxg6
21. Qxg6+ Kh8
22. Qh6+ Kg8
23. g6! Rf7

White is full two pieces down and once Black could ride the attack, White’s position would be untenable. So now the purpose of White’s 14th move becomes clear. Had he not moved his King from e1 to f1, Black on his 23rd move would be able to escape by playing Bh4+ and then Qe7! White must have seen nine moves deep!

24. gxf7+ Kxf7
25. Qh5+ Kg7
26. f5 exf5
27. Bh6+ Resigns

The likely continuation could be:

27. Kh7
28. Bf4+ Kg7
29. Qh6+ Kg8
30. Qg6+ Kh8
31. Ke2 Bh4
32. Rh1 Nd7
33. Bg5 Qxg5
34. Qxg5 with mate to follow soon

Chess Trivia: To err is human even if both are GMs!

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Are you still smarting from the blunder that made you lose your game against another amateur in your chess club? You would surely wish that you got to play against Nimzovitch or Rubinstein, two of the stalwart Grandmasters in the field of chess, as you might fare better if the following position is any indication!

more missed opportunities

Both the players made moves before and after this position was reached, oblivious of the fact that a mate in two existed (1. Qxf7+ Kh8 2. Qxg7#)!

The occurrence of these blunders is all the more startling in view of the fact that the players were competing for the first position in a tournament and this game would decide the winner!