Monthly Archives: June 2009

Chess Tactics: Isolated Queen pawn and its importance in Middle game

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Filed under Chess Strategy, Chess tactics
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The effectiveness of the middle game in chess, where the real battle of the minds takes place, depends to a great extent on the strength of the opening moves. It is the opening moves that set the stage for the middle game to flourish. A wrong pawn move or an ineffective bishop in the opening stage will have its serious consequences on the middle game. One of the outcomes of an opening, which can either be very effective if used prudently or might turn out to be a hindrance, is the isolated queen pawn. In some of the games, after the initial exchange of pawns in an effort to gain control over the center, an isolated queen pawn might remain in the board. Isolated queen pawn refers to the black pawn in d5 or a white pawn in d4 without any pawn support in either “c” file or in “e” file.

The unique features of the isolated queen pawn either in “d5” or in “d4” is that the square immediately in front of the square gains magical properties. Since the pawn is isolated, there will be not be any pawn either in c file or in e file to attack the square in front of the isolated queen pawn, and as such the square “d4” or “d5”, as the case may be, can be occupied by any piece and reap the benefits of that square.

Let us try to understand the effectiveness of the isolated queen pawn and its importance with the help of the following example played between two grandmasters. This is the position in the game after 12 moves. It is the turn of black to make his 12th move.

hches

The Isolated Queen Pawn in this case is the black pawn at d5. As stated above, the “d4” square in front of the isolated queen pawn assumes significance, which is protected for now by the Black Knight at c3.

White, for its part, can either capture the black pawn at d5 using its Knight at c3 or move the Knight to b5 – Nb5 – to protect the d4 square.

It is the turn of the black to move now.

12. …. Ba3
13. Bxa3 Nxc3
14. Qc2 Nxe2+
15. Qxe2 Bg4
16. Bb2 d4

The brilliant play by Black in this context helped him to gain major advantage, and White, despite having three pieces threatening the d5 and d4 squares, could not do anything worthwhile to gain control over these squares.

17. h3 d3 Now this last move by black to d3 virtually sealed the game in his favor as his pieces are well developed and the black pawn in d3 is a huge advantage for Black.

The game proceeded as follows and reached its normal conclusion – victory to black over white.

18. Qd2 Bxf3
19. gxf3 Ne5
20. Bxe5 Rxe5
21. Kh2 Qd7
22. Rg1 Rc8
23. Rad1 Rd5
24. e4 Qd6+
25. Kh1 Rd4
26. Rc1 Rxc1
27. Rxc1 h6
28. Qc3 d2
29. Rd1 Qd7
30. Kg2 Rd6
31. Qe3 Qb5
32. f4 Rd3

0 – 1
Effective utilization of the isolated queen pawn is one of the hallmarks of the middlegame and should be in the armory for gaining control over the game.

Chess tactics : Importance of controlling the d4 square in middle game

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In the game of chess, the middle game plays a very important role. It is in this stage that the fate of the game is effectively decided and involves a series of tactics and strategies to attack and counter attack the opponent. A good opening paves for an intriguing contest in the middle game. Many chess players, in their early days of playing chess, ignore the pawns or do not realize the importance of pawns and sacrifice their pawns very cheaply. If one were to improve the skills and graduate himself to higher levels such as International Master or Grand Master in Chess, then he or she should have all-round skills – both positional skills and tactical skills – and should be in a position to evaluate each and every position according to its due merit and capability.

One of the major aspects in an opening is to have a fair control over the center board – any one or all of the four squares in the center – d4, d5, e4 and e5.

It is quite possible that as a result of a kind of opening you might be following, you might end up with an isolated queen pawn while playing black pieces. Isolated Queen Pawn refers to the queen pawn of black located at d5 square with no points in either files to support it. Having such a position might turn out to be very advantageous in some cases and at the same time might also turn out to be a hindrance. But effective tactics can help you reap the benefits of that isolated queen pawn in d5, and also pave way for controlling the all-important d4 square in the board. It is needless to say that one who has effective control over the d4 square can exert more pressure on the white pieces and ensure that with reasonable tactical skills aspire for victory over the opponent.

Let us try to understand the importance of controlling the d4 square with the help of this game played between two grandmasters.

This is the position after 15 moves. It is the turn of white to move now.

chessgraph

(White to move)

The black pawn at d5 is the Isolated Queen Pawn, as it has no pawns in the “c” file and the “e” file. Black pieces are fairly developed and the key d4 square is in the control of the black. Though white’s knight at f3 and pawn at e3 also attack the d4 square, they are pinned by the black light squared bishop at g4 and the rook at e8 respectively.

Realizing the importance of the d4 square, white tried to win back the control, but his attempts proved futile by the smart play of black.

The game continued as follows :

16. Rd2 …. White tried to wrest control over the d4 square. However, some very interesting attacking play by Black nullified the efforts and black takes control over the game as can be seen below
16. …. d4
17. Nxd4 Nxd4
18. exd4 Bxd4
19. Bxg4 Rxe1+
20. Qxe1 Nxg4

The position after 20 moves is given below:

chessgraph2

(White to move)

As you can see, black has not only wrested control over the vital d4 square, but its pieces have pierced into White’s territory and are very interesting positioned to go for all out attack.

The game proceeded further as detailed below, but the result was never in doubt and it is black which having effective control over the vital d4 square is likely to emerge victorious barring any foolish mistakes on his part.

21. Ne4 Qxh2+
22. Kf1 Qh1+
23. Ke2 Qxg2
24. Kd1 Qf3+
25. Qe2 Qh1+
26. Qe1 Qf3+
27. Qe2 Qxb3+
28. Ke1 Ne5
29. Ng5 Bc3

0 – 1

This is an interesting game underlining the importance of having control over the d4 square, the opportunity for the same being provided by the Isolated Queen Pawn.

The coming battle for the Chess crown

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Filed under Chess tactics, General Chess
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In order to take a look at the shape of things to come in the future world of chess, we necessarily had to come close to the present first. The most important event coming in near future is the World Chess Championship match, planned to be held in April 2010 and the bidding process for selection of venue will end on September 30 of this year. Everybody by this time knows that Veseline Topalov of Bulgaria will be challenging the reigning champion Viswanathan Anand of India to determine the World Champion in 2010, after which such matches will be held at two year intervals.

But before I took up my telescope again to take wistful looks at what I consider as the romantic periods of chess, I was wondering where to focus attention in this present era. Then I got the idea: what better than to look at recent games between the defender and challenger to the title.

To dissuade people from making own different interpretations of what I am going to present, I want to make clear my criteria for selection of the two games played between these two players. I wanted both games from recent periods (2007-2008), both players getting to win while playing as White, and both games to be of comparable length but fairly short (within 30 moves) to keep our article size within limit! That automatically limited my choice and in fact I could get only two that met all the criteria, so no one can blame me for a biased selection!

The first game was played at Leon in 2007 with Anand on the White side winning in 29 moves and the second one was at Bilbao in 2008 with Topalov as White winning in 25 moves. We would like to assure readers that because the way the games were chosen, they cannot purport to represent the actual playing ability of the players. The readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

You have of course seen example of Vishy’s play in The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master and the fighting spirit of Topalov in Attacking Chess Tactics: Hounding the enemy King which produced one of the great games of chess in spite of his losing it to Kasparov.

Though neither player needs any introduction, we want to keep up the practice of presenting the actors before showing their acts. Anand has already been introduced in The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master, so we need not do it again.

Veselin Topalov (b.1975) was born in Bulgaria and became the World under-14 champion in 1989 and a GM in 1992. Along with Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand, he has also crossed the FIDE Elo rating of 2800, the only four players ever to do so. Though living in Spain, he represents Bulgaria in Chess Olympiads.

The diagram shows the position in Anand-Topalov game after 24 moves.

anand-topalov game

25. b6 Ra5 White was threatening 26. Bb5+ to capture the rook
 
26. Rd1 Bg5 It is right strategy for Black to try to exchange White’s Bishop of the same color as the promotion square b8 for White’s NP
 
27. b7 Ke7 Black had to attend to the immediate threat posed by White before he could implement his strategy!
 
28. Bb6 Re5 Threatening the Rook was just a gain in tempo but White’s aim went deeper than that!
 
29. Bd8+! Resigns The best Black could do was 29. … Rxd8 (best) 30. Rxd8 Kxd8 31. b8=Q+ Kd7 32. Qxe5 with an easy win for White

The Topalov-Anand game after 21 moves stood as under:

topalov-anand game

22. Nf3 c4
23. Qh4 Nc5
24. Re7 Rd8 In the given situation 25. Rxe8 Rxd1+ 26. Kg2 Rxe8 getting two Rooks for the Queen must have been acceptable to Black (and so, White would not give him that benefit!)
 
25. Rf1 Resigns The likely continuation could be 25. … Qc6 26. Ng5 h5 27. Nxf7 Rxf7 28. Rxf7 Kxf7 29. Qxd8 giving White one extra passed pawn and a Rook against Knight, which should be enough for him to win.

Watch first Game – Anand Won

Watch second Game – Topalov Won

Shape of things to come in the world of chess?

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Though no one has complained as yet, but in response to our article Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: recovering the investment with interest, one reader held that White (Schulten) simply played badly and another reader felt that the game was very old, implying rightly that modern players with White pieces would not play that way and fold up so easily!

Accepting their points, I would still like to bring out what Grandmasters almost a centuries later and of the stature of Mikhail Botvinnik and Nigel Short had to say about Morphy’s play and their comments were included in the article so that readers may not hasten to a judgment. A player like Bobby Fischer held that Morphy was probably the greatest of them all! We could certainly argue on Fisher’s views but there is no denying the fact that great players can make good players look average!

In any case, I accept that most of the illustrative games used in the articles so far belong to periods possibly half a century earlier or even before that. Why is this fascination with period pieces!?

The number of games played all over the world is increasing very fast thanks to online chess. Modern communication technology is making the moves and results available almost in real time, whether the chess play is over the board or online. With easy access to powerful computers and progressively more sophisticated software, almost anyone can dissect a game threadbare, what used to be the prerogatives of chess masters in earlier days! With so many analysts from Grandmasters to club players equipped with their PC and software, the openings have been analyzed to a depth where you can possibly rattle off the first dozen moves in any opening without even thinking! If anybody makes a mistake, it is because all people are not blessed with a computer-like memory! There may also be the tragedy of missing the forest in looking at the trees!

I sometimes wonder if it is tending to make modern games more stereo-typed (for want of a better word) and there is less to enthuse people the way Morphy games used to do 150 years earlier, or Marshall games 100 years earlier, or Tal games 50 years earlier…

You may argue that their games used to be flawed on many occasions, but can you deny the magic also that they produced by some electrifying moves? When you play through the games in Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: diverting opponent’s piece or Chess tactics: A move worth some gold pieces? or Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: gaining space for attack, do you think of the flaws or wonder at the way the victors conjured up their moves?

In one article, I expressed that according to experts, all brilliancies arise out of mistakes by one player. In fact, if both players played perfect chess as per the theoretical lines projected by analysis, what result would you expect from such games? And when you choose to play games from master level, what percentage of those do you take from drawn games? Quite low compared to the decisive ones, I am sure.

If I may use a simile, modern nutrition theory and health studies have analyzed all our food to such an extent that anyone caring about it knows for each food its calorie content, the chemicals it contains, their favorable/unfavorable effects, the risks of diseases we run and so on and so forth. But how much will you enjoy your food if you keep doing it for all your food? Conversely, do you think of these when enjoying your triple sundae? How many of us do not have weaknesses for ice-creams and chocolates in spite of knowing their flaws in respect of health-giving quality? If you stick to the guidelines, you will be in better health (!) probably, but I wonder how much enjoyment you will have left in that life.

Chess is a food for your mind and some analysis definitely helps us to understand complex positions. But over-analysis will surely create the same effect as I described for your favorite foods. I have another thought on game analysis which may appear controversial to many of you. It is my view that unless the players themselves annotate their games immediately afterwards, the analysis of moves that get published may not reflect the truth behind the logic of the moves when those were played. Except where a link can definitely be established between a previous and a later move (like Breyer’s 14th and 23rd moves in Chess Tactics: Well thought-out combinations), we can never be sure how much of the brilliant idea in a move owe itself to the player and how much to subsequent analysis! Also of relevance are our thoughts on chess logic and chess intuition.

Such may be the thoughts working in the unconscious mind of all those people like me who love to play and discuss the games that Morphy, Marshall, Tal and others of their ilk have left behind. Let us keep playing and enjoying and sometimes getting thrilled! In future, we may only be getting more and more drawn games.

We just produced some food for thought – how the reader takes it will depend on individual appetites! If your curiosity is aroused regarding the truth of the matter, you may like to compare between the periods say 1950-1959 and 2000-2009 regarding the percentage of drawn games in total games played. Or a similar comparison for the games from the World Champions of say 1905, 1955 and 2005. I do not mind getting corrected. Any takers to find and share with us?

To save this article from boring you to death, given below is a game from 1925 played at Debrecen (Hungary) between David Przepiorka and Lajos Steiner who even in their times were not among the notables. Just play it and think what I said.

David Przepiorka (1880-1940) was a Polish player of Jewish origin and became the Polish champion in 1926. He was executed by the nazis in a concentration camp. Though not well-known, he has to his credit victories over some more famous players like Teichmann, Tarrasch, Spielmann, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch etc.

Lajos Steiner (1903-1975) was a Hungarian Champion in 1931 and 1936. He emigrated to Australia in 1939 and became Australian Champion a few times. He was awarded IM in 1950. Like his opponent, he had also scored victories over players like Tarrasch, Marshall, Tartakower, Gruenfeld, Nimzowitsch etc.

Watch the Game

 

No one pointed it out, so we presume everyone missed a small error in the video! At the end, it says “Black Resigned” but if you have watched the video carefully, you will see that Black went all the way till he was checkmated!

“The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master”

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Filed under Attacking tactics, Chess tactics, Defensive strategy, General Chess
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It takes a lot of effort in searching for suitable content, collecting information, and finally creating and editing the article for putting it up on the blog site. All this effort gets its reward when readers come out with their comments which shows firstly, that they have read it and secondly, that they felt something about it! We are thankful to the readers who write back for another reason also: their views and comments give us ideas for fresh articles and these help to sustain the cycle.

The idea for the present article came from the comments of two readers on two different topics.

Reader Ralphe commented on Chess Trivia: What the List of Grandmasters reveal by saying “I wonder why Vishy is not in the list, he was pretty young when he got his GM as well.” We clarified to him why Vishy was not on the list, but that set our thoughts to write some article using one of his games when he was pretty young. But which aspect should we consider as a theme for our article?

Here we came to remember what reader Chess king had to say on Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: to seize initiative. He brought us the quote from GM Bent Larsen: “The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master”. So why not show that Viswanathan Anand, more popularly known as ‘Vishy’ in chess circle, had it in him even when he was barely 16!

This game we have chosen was played in London in 1985 when Vishy was still an IM and his opponent Mestel was a GM.

Viswanathan ‘Vishy’ Anand (b.1969) became an IM in 1984 at the age of 15. He won the Indian Championship in 1985 and World Junior Championship in 1987. He became the first GM from India in 1988. He became FIDE World Champion in 2000 and proved his undisputed ability in the rapid play version of the game by becoming 2003 FIDE World Rapid Chess Champion. In 2006, he became only one of the four players ever to cross FIDE Elo rating of 2800 (others are Kasparov, Kramnik and Topalov). After FIDE was reunited in 2006, Anand became the undisputed World Champion in 2007 by winning the double round robin tournament held by FIDE with 8 top players (Kramnik – reigning champion, Anand, Gelfand, Leko, Svidler, Aronian, Morozevich, Grischuk) of the time with the exception of Topalov. He successfully retained the title in 2008 by defeating Kramnik in the older format of match play between Holder and Challenger. He is the current World Chess Champion.

Note: As compensation for being denied entry to the 2007 tournament, Topalov was given some special privileges by FIDE by which, after defeating Gata Kamsky in February 2009, he is the new challenger against Anand for World Championship Match to be held later this year

Andrew Jonathan Mestel (b.1957) of UK was World Under-16 Champion in 1974 and became an IM in 1977 and GM in 1982.

The diagram shows position after 18 moves.

starting an attack keeping an eye on enemy's threats

19. Nf5 Rfe8 if 19. … Bxc3 then 20. Qxc3 Qxa2+ 21. Kc1 and any idea of Black bringing pressure on White Queen and c2 square by Rac8 fails due to White’s threat of Qg7# and trying to counter that allows White Queen to capture the Knight at b3
20. Nxg7 Kxg7
21. Qd4+ e5 This move of Black was an error because in trying to guard against one line, he exposed himself in another as White proved soon
22. Qxd6 Rac8 In trying to create his own threats, Black overlooked what White had in mind
23. Qf6+ Kg8 After Black’s previous move, White was aware that once Black got time to play Rxc3 to remove his defender knight, his King would be two moves away from a mate starting with Black’s Qxa2+. He had to be sure of retaining his tempo against that threat at the back of his mind and this showed that he had the stomach for it!
24. Rd7 Rf8 White was threatening mate in two against Black’s mate in three!
25. g6 Resigns 25. … fxg6 was obviously out because of 26. Qg7#, but other alternatives do not provide any respite. For example:
25. … hxg6 26. Rg1 with threat of 27. Rxg6+ followed by mate next move irrespective of Black’s response
25. … Rxc3 26. gxf7+ Rxf7 27. Qxf7+ Kh8 Qh7#

The position after White’s 25th move is shown below.

disregarding the Damocles' sword

So you see how Vishy kept his nerve to always remain one step ahead of Black’s threats working on the principle of attack being the best defense!

Watch the Game