Category Archives: Chess Basics

Center control in Chess makes for a forceful attack

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A vivid example on importance of center control in chess showed you the importance of this aspect of chess openings. At the risk of overstressing the point, here we bring another short game played with Sicilian Defense which is supposed to give Black a good fighting chance against White’s King Pawn opening.

We have already discussed about the theory behind one variation of Sicilian opening in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1 and showed examples in Chess Opening: Sicilian Defense Theory to Practice about the kind of play that can win for White or Black.

Sicilian Defense is the choice of combative players because Black is playing to create advantage, not just to achieve equality. At the same time, Black must realize that by not directly going for the control of center, he may be allowing White an early initiative. Therefore Black has to play carefully so as not to be swept off his feet by a quick attack before his own thrusts have taken effect.

Just adopting Sicilian Defense without this realization is not going to help Black to get the upper hand. He must be prepared to play aggressively but precisely in line with the theories to snatch the initiative, otherwise it could be a recipe for swift demise! That is what happened in the following game played at Bad Gastein in 1948 and we try to identify where Black went wrong and allowed White his brilliant attack.

Nicolas
Rossolimo

 
Ivan
Romanenko
 
1. e4   Aims to control d5 and f5 and create space for King side initiative
 
1. c5    
 
Shows black’s intention to go for Sicilian Defense.
 
This move apparently violates the principle of controlling the central and semi-central squares as it applies pressure only to d4.
 
Unlike moves like …e5 or …Nc6 which challenge center control or develop minor pieces, …c5 does neither. It also needs some more pawn movements like …d6, …e6, …a6 etc., allowing White a lead in development with attacking chances.
 
Then why go for it?
 
On the positive side, it gives Black

  • space advantage on Queenside and further actions on that flank
  • pawn majority at center by exchanging this pawn with White’s d4 pawn when he advances it to get full control of center
  • control of open c-file after the exchange, using his Queen or Rook in that file to facilitate Queenside counterplay
2. Nf3 Nc6   Moves and countermoves to wrest control of d4 and e5 squares
 
3. Bb5  
 
To quote Al Horowitz, this move was ‘actually an idea of Nimzowitsch, who called it one of his little jokes in the opening’. It was Rossolimo who adopted it many times to achieve remarkable success (as in the present game). That is how this line of Sicilian Defense goes under the name of Nimzowitsch-Rossolimo attack (ECO code: B31)
 
The main purpose is to get a rapid development and a strong center with c3 and d4. The struggle for d4 dictates the tactics for both sides and Black must be ready to capture on d4, else White gets great lead in development.
 
3. g6   Black is getting ready to develop his KB to g7 and to apply pressure on d4 and e5 squares.
 
White’s usual intention is to play Bxc6, giving Black doubled pawns. Black’s major responses are 3…g6 preparing …Bg7, 3…d6 preparing …Bd7, and 3…e6 preparing 4…Nge7.
 
4. 0-0 Bg7   White safeguards his King and wants to use KR as part of his attacking plans. Black of course carries on with his development plans.
 
Position after 4 moves
rossolimo_variation1
 
5. Re1   Normal continuation is 5. c3 Qb6 with a struggle for control of d4. The text move was introduced by Gurgenidze for expected line of play along 5. Re1 e5 6. b4
 
5. Nf6   This changes track from control of d4 to attacking e4 pawn and exposed the Knight to an early attack.
 
6. Nc3   White develops his Knight to support his QP as also his KB and adds to the control of d5
 
6. Nd4  
 
In keeping with the strategy discussed against move 3, Black should have gone for 6. … e5 followed later by …Qb6. Other alternatives would be 6 … d6 to enable …Bd7 or to safeguard his King (because of the distant and not so distant pins by White’s Bishop and Rook) by …0-0. The text move was not consistent with any of these ideas and hence a questionable move.
 
7. e5 Ng8   Black’s inhibited play and inconsistencies allow White considerable space in center with tempo through attacks on enemy pieces.
 
8. d3 Nxb5   See how Black is surrendering all initiative to White. While White opens lines for his QB, Black’s QB is still locked in and his King’s Knight has retreated and blocked castling for his King. His center pawns remain immobile. The exchange of Knight and Bishop was originally the intention of White’s 3rd move to reduce Black’s control on d4 and e5. Without being forced, Black Knight has taken the trouble of wasting several moves to give White what he wanted!
 
9. Nxb5 a6   Another questionable move by Black. As subsequent moves show, White’s QN was headed for d6 square, Black’s move just assisted it in taking that step!
 
One of the basic tenets in chess is that you should not force a badly placed enemy piece to move to a better square. By extension of the logic, do not induce your opponent to take a move that he was ready to take. Both these lose tempo for you as you could use that time to make more profitable moves for your own pieces.
 
Position after 9 moves
rossolimo_variation2
 
10. Nd6+! exd6?   White knew that the capture of his Knight would give him a fierce attacking opportunity and so his move was an excellent idea. But Black still fell for it, making a bad situation really worse by exposing his King to the possibility of a discovered check. After this, White’s attack through a brilliant combination simply rolls on.
 
11. Bg5!  
 
White has timed his moves to perfection! He held back the discovered check to first drive away the Queen which could come to some help against what White planned. With an immediate discovered check, Black would be able to extricate himself with Ne7.
 
There is a couple of important lessons here. Firstly, you can sometimes get out of a difficult situation by returning the material that was sacrificed by your opponent to gain an attack. By doing this, you are still even on material, but the opponent’s attack may fizzle out. Trying to hold on to the material only adds to your difficulties.
 
Secondly, you need not be in a hurry to execute a move which is there for the taking when you can make some other move that compels your opponent to attend to it first. All good players know this maxim of looking for a better move when a good move has been found.
 
The text move by White takes care of both these possibilities.
 
11. Qa5   11. … Qb6 would not be any better.
 
12. exd6+ Kf8  
 
At this stage, White’s win was only a matter of time and most players would possibly go for the simple 13. Qe2 with one likely line as:
 
13. Qe2 Bf6 14. Qe8+ Kg7 15. Ne5 (threatening 16. Qxf7#) Bxg5 16. Qxf7+ Kh6 17. Qf8+ Kh5 18. g4+ Kh4 19. Qf3 (threatening 20. Qg3#) Bf4 20.Qxf4 Nf6 (or Qb4) 21. Nf3+ Kh3 22. Qg3#
 
But White found a more elegant line.
 
Position after 12 moves
rossolimo_variation3
 
13. Re8+! Kxe8  
14. Qe2+ Kf8  
15. Be7+ Ke8   15. … Nxe7 16. Qxe7+ Kg8 17. Ng5 with Qf7# to follow
 
Position after 15 moves
rossolimo_variation4
 
16. Bd8+! Kxd8  
17. Ng5 Resigns   It is either 18. Nf7# or 17. … Nh6 18. Qe7#
 
The final position:
rossolimo_variation5

 

A vivid example on importance of center control in chess

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Starting from our article on winning chess strategies in various posts we have stressed the importance of controlling the center in your chess games. In our latest series of articles, we mentioned this strategy as one of the aims for any chess opening as can be seen in Chess Opening: Control of Center, showing the theoretical analysis of some popular openings. This idea was further developed through examples of master games which showed how such opening theories are put into practice in these games.

We now show you a vivid example of how the aggressive play by one GM against another who was somewhat passive in this respect made a very short shrift of the game in only 15 moves. This may be an extreme example and was chosen only to stress our point, therefore don’t expect to get such quick results in your games. However, the idea remains valid.

The game employs Pirc Defense (ECO code: B07) which gives Black an advantage of adapting his center policy to the development strategy employed by White. But this has the drawback of giving White a much greater freedom in the center. As a result, in case of aggressive play by White, Black gets so busy in tackling White’s thrusts that he may miss out on his own plans unless he treads very carefully.

This game was played out in a tournament at Tashkent in 2008. In the FIDE list of Grandmasters as on April 1, 2009, White was ranked at 67 and Black at 393.

Igor Kurnosov
(Russia)
Marat Dzhumaev
(Uzbekistan)

 
 
1. e4 d6  
2. d4 Nf6  
3. Nc3 g6  
4. Bg5 Nbd7   Black’s text move is considered unfavorable. The recommended line is 4. … h6 5. Bh4 Bg7. Other lines like 4. … Bg7 or , to remain more flexible, 4. … c6 followed by b5 and Qa5 for action on Queen side are also expected to give Black a better game.
5. Qd2 a6  
6. 0-0-0 b5  
7. e5 b4   Black overstretched himself by this move if you consider the lines suggested by theory.
 
 
 
centercontrol1
8. exf6 bxc3  
9. Qxc3 e6   The unopposed progress of the advanced White pawns so close to the hemmed in Black King and Queen remain a thorn in the flesh, seriously affecting the normal development of Black pieces
10. Re1 Nb6  
11. d5 Na4   11. Nxd5 would not help against what followed
12. Qc6+ Bd7  
 
 
 
centercontrol2
13. Rxe6+! fxe6  
14. dxe6 Bg7   A case of too little too late! If 14. … Bxc6 15. f7#
15. exd7+ Resigns  
 
  centercontrol3
  The final position

 

15. … Qxd7 16. f7+ Kxf7 17. Qxd7+ Kf8 18. Qe7+ Kg8 19. Bc4+ d5 20. Bxd5#

15. … Kf7 16. Bc4+ Kf8 17. fxg7+ Kxg7 18. Bxd8 Rhxd8 19. Qxa4 gives White overwhelming material superiority.

 

Endgame technique: King and Queen against Pawn on 7th rank with Support of King

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King and Queen vs. King and Pawn on seventh rank

White to play and win.

We have started with White King and Queen quite far removed from Black’s King and Pawn though in actual such situations they may be closer – but the tactics remain the same.

Let us see what strategy White must follow.

  1. Queen must keep Black King in check to stop the pawn promotion except in situation at 6.
  2. Primary aim is to capture the pawn after which checkmate is easy as it becomes a King and Queen vs. King endgame.
  3. Except for giving checks, Queen alone can achieve nothing. To capture the pawn, White King has to occupy one of the three squares on sixth rank that are in contact with the pawn.
  4. To move White King, Queen has to stop moving (i.e., giving check) and this is possible only if Black King can be made to block its own pawn.
  5. To force this on Black, the Queen must be able to give check from a square on Black’s sixth rank which is on a file next to the pawn’s file
  6. When the Black King moves to a square on 7th rank next to the pawn, Queen can take the square on the other side of the pawn.
  7. If the Queen gets an opportunity to move to the promotion square, the fight is over.

In the position shown, if the Queen can force the Black King to d1 or f1 square, then a check from d3 or f3 respectively will compel the King to move to e1 blocking the pawn. The White King can use this opportunity to advance one square and through this process reach d3 or e3 or f3 square after which the Queen can capture the pawn.

Black’s strategy is not to allow the Queen to move to e1 as that virtually ends the fight. His King should remain within one square of the pawn and avoid moving to e1 square if possible.. Even when it is forced to e1, it should go to f2 or d2 on next move depending on whether the Queen is on d3 or f3. If Black King goes to f1 or d1, the Queen will simply move to f3 or d3 to force the Black King back to e1 and the end will be faster!

Use the following to create a .pgn file and use a program like Winboard to play the moves.

1. Qd7+ Kc2 2. Qc6+ Kd2 3. Qd5+ Ke3 4. Qe5+ Kf2 5. Qf4+ Kg2 6. Qe3 Kf1 7. Qf3+ Ke1 8. Kd7 Kd2 9. Qf4+ Kd1 10. Qd4+ Kc2 11. Qe3 Kd1 12. Qd3+ Ke1 13. Kd6 Kf2 14. Qf5+ Ke3 15. Qg5+ Kd3 16. Qg3+ Kd2 17. Qf2 Kd1 18. Qd4+ Kc2 19. Qe3 Kd1 20. Qd3+ Ke1 21. Kd5 Kf2 22. Qd2 Kf1 23. Qf4+ Kg2 24. Qe3 Kf1 25. Qf3+ Ke1 26. Kd4 Kd2 27. Qd3+ Ke1 28. Ke3 Kf1 29. Qxe2+ 1-0

This technique does not work if the pawn is in bishop or rook file. With a bishop pawn, when the Queen checks Black King at b1 (or g1) from b3 (or g3) square, Black King will move to a1 (or h1) square, as the case may be. If the White King now tries to advance, the pawn gets promoted. The pawn can be left unprotected as it will be stalemate if the Queen captures the pawn!

If it is a rook pawn, Black will shuttle his King among squares a1-b1-b2 or h1-g1-g2. If the Queen delivers check from b3 (or g3), Black King goes to a1 (or h1). On check from c3 (or f3) square, Black King moves to b1 (or g1) so that no baseline check is possible from c1 (or f1) and for check from other baseline squares, the King moves to b2 (or g2). White Queen cannot go to b3 (or g3) with Black King at a1 (or h1) as it becomes a stalemate. So White King does not get any opportunity to advance.

But win is possible in these cases if the White King happens to be much nearer, within two steps of the Black King. The pawn can be allowed to Queen but taking advantage of this interval, the White Queen can deliver checkmate with support from the King. Try it out yourself keeping the strategy in mind.

Chess Opening: Sicilian Defense Theory to Practice

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In Chess Opening: Queen’s Gambit Theory to Practice and Chess Opening: Nimzo-Indian Defense Theory to Practice, you have seen that starting with the basic theory of the respective openings discussed in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3 and Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 2, how some actual games proceeded to bring win to White as well as Black. The idea was to enable you to look carefully at the moves by the players to understand where White or Black went wrong in following the rules of chess strategy as well as chess tactics, which handed over the game to their opponents.

In continuation of the same theme for developing your comprehension about the opening theories, we now take up two games using Sicilian Defense that was discussed in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1. Here also, White wins one game and Black wins the other within practically the same number of moves. None of the players may be known to you but all had ELO ratings in 2300-2600 range.

Since you have seen the first five moves of Sicilian Defense Najdorf variation in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1, here we start with move 6 in both the games (ECO code: B95)

Borek Bernard-Tomas Civin
Prague, 2003
  Leonid Milov-Robert Ruck
Griesheim, 2002

 
6. Bg5 e6     6. Bg5 e6  
 
Position after move 6   Position after move 6
 
sicilian1   sicilian1
 
7. Qf3 Nbd7     7. Qf3 h6  
8. 0-0-0 Qc7 Had 5. … a6 not been played, White Knights would be able to move to b5 to harass the Black Queen.   8. Bh4 Nbd7  
9. Qh3 Nc5     9. 0-0-0 Qc7  
10. Bxf6 gxf6     10. Qh3 Be7  
 
Position after 10 moves   Position after 10 moves
 
sicilian2   sicilian3
 
You may note that White’s position is nearly identical in both games, but Black’s position looks cramped in both, though more solid in game 2.
 
11. Be2 b5     11. f4 b5  
12. a3 Rb8     12. a3 Rb8  
13. b4 Nb7     13. e5 dxe5  
14. Bh5 Nd8     14. fxe5 Nxe5  
15. Rhe1 Bd7     15. Bg3 b4  
 
Position after 15 moves   Position after 15 moves
 
sicilian4
 
  sicilian5
16. Nd5! exd5     16. axb4 Rxb4  
17. exd5+ Be7     17. Nf3 Nfg4  
18. Rxe7+ Kxe7     18. Qh5 Bf6  
19. Qe3+ Ne6     19. Re1 g6  
 
Position after 19 moves   Position after 19 moves
 
sicilian6   sicilian7
 
20. Bxf7 Kxf7     20. Nd5 exd5  
21. dxe6+ Kg7     21. Nxe5 0-0!  
22. Nf5+ Kg6     22. Nxg4 Bxb2+  
23. Rd5 Resigns   White was threatening 24. Qh6#
 
23. … h6 24. Qg3+ Kh2 (24. … Kh5 25. Ng7#) 25. Qg7#
 
23. … Bxe6 24. Qh6+ Kf7 25. Qg7+ Ke8 26. Qxc7 (threatening 27. Qe7#) Bxf5 27. Qxb8+ Kf7 28. Qxh8 etc.
 
White missed a quicker win by:
23. Qh6+ Kxf5 24. Qh5+ Ke4 (24. … Kxe6 25. Re1# or 24. … Kf4 Rd4#) 25. Qd5+ Kf4 26. Rd4#
 
  23. Kd1 Rd4+   White Resigned.
After 24. Ke2 Qxc2+ 25. Ke3 Qd2+ 26. Kf3 Bxg4+ 27. Qxg4 Rxg4 28. Kxg4 Qg5+ 29. Kf3 (29. Kh3 Qf5+ 30. Kh4 Bf6#) Qh5+ etc. with checkmate only a matter of time.
The final position   The final position
 
sicilian8   sicilian9

 

Chess Opening: Nimzo-Indian Defense Theory to Practice

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Like we did in Chess Opening: Queen’s Gambit Theory to Practice to expound with examples on how QGD opening theory in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3 can turn out in practice, here we show practical examples on Nimzo-Indian Defense theory discussed in Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 2.

To show both sides of the defense, we picked up two games, one going in favor of White and the other in favor of Black. What should be interesting is that in both these games of approximately equal length, Garry Kasparov was on the Black side and both were played around the same period. It gives a better opportunity to understand what Kasparov (or his opponents) did right or wrong to produce different results! Both games use the chess opening of Nimzo-Indian Defense Normal Variation (ECO code: E53).

Vladimir Kramnik-Garry Kasparov
London, 2000
  Evgeny Vladimirov-Garry Kasparov
Batumi, 2001

 
1. d4 Nf6     1. d4 Nf6  
2. c4 e6     2. c4 e6  
3. Nc3 Bb4     3. Nc3 Bb4  
4. e3 0-0     4. e3 0-0  
5. Bd3 d5     5. Bd3 d5  
6. Nf3 c5     6. Nf3 c5  
7. 0-0 cxd4     7. 0-0 cxd4  
8. exd4 dxc4     8. exd4 dxc4  
9. Bxc4 b6     9. Bxc4 b6  
 
nimzoindian1   nimzoindian1
Identical position has been reached as the same moves have been played in both games.
 
10. Bg5 Bb7     10. Qe2 Bb7  
11. Re1 Nbd7     11. Rd1 Bxc3  
12. Rc1 Rc8     12. bxc3 Qc7  
13. Qb3 Be7     13. Bb2 Bxf3  
 
  Position after 13 moves
 
  nimzoindian3
 
14. Bxf6 Nxf6?   Black’s move creates all the subsequent problems. 14. … Bxf6 would be better. But there are records of other games where the same moves were played and the games ended in a draw but in those games, Black did not accept the offer of Bishop sacrifice by White at move 15.
 
  14. Qxf3 Qxc4!   With the offer of this exchange sacrifice, Black laid a nice trap for White’s Queen!
Position after 14 moves
 
 
nimzoindian2
 
 
15. Bxe6! fxe6   As pointed out earlier, Black could possibly do better to play 15. … Rc7
 
  15. Qxa8 Nc6  
16. Qxe6+ Kh8     16. Qb7 Nd5  
17. Qxe7 Bxf3     17. Re1 Rb8  
18. gxf3 Qxd4     18. Qd7 Rd8  
19. Nb5 Qxb2     19. Qb7 h5  
20. Rxc8 Rxc8     20. Bc1 Na5   The White Queen is pathetically trapped! When Black offered the exchange sacrifice at move 14, he must have envisaged this situation.
 
Position after 20 moves   Position after 20 moves
 
nimzoindian4   nimzoindian5
 
21. Nd6 Rb8     21. Qxa7 Qc6  
22. Nf7+ Kg8   22. Ne8 would fail against 22. … Ng8
 
  22. Qa6 Nc4  
23. Qe6 Rf8   White’s move created Philidor’s position, which possibly made Black to bring his Rook to f8 but the Rook became vulnerable as shown by White at move 25. 23. … h5 could provide stiffer resistance.
 
  23. Rb1 Nc7   White resigned as he has to lose his Rook to save his Queen
  The final position
 
  nimzoindian7
 
24. Nd8+ Kh8      
25. Qe7   Black resigned as 25. … Rg8 26. Nf7# or 25. … Re8 26. Qxe8+ Nxe8 27. Rxe8#. The only line that could offer a longer resistance is 25. … Rxd8 26. Qxd8+ Ng8 27. Qd5 and White would need to play carefully to translate his advantage into a win with Black trying to avoid a Queen exchange.
 
 
The final position
 
 
nimzoindian6