Category Archives: Chess Strategy

Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 2

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In Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 1, you saw how one King, while apparently running away from opponent’s checks, was actually moving towards the enemy camp to assist his own pieces for trapping the opponent’s King. By the time the opponent realized what was happening, it was too late to do anything about it.

The three games we have chosen for this article is slightly different from the aforesaid theme. Here a King deliberately steps out of his castled position and marches towards the enemy King to provide support to his own attacking pieces. Of course this was possible because though opponent’s heavy pieces were still on board, the pawn positions severely restricted their free movement and the attacking King deftly maneuvered through the crowded position.

First game –

position after 30 moves:

king-takes-a-walk7

31 Kh2 Rc8 If Black could guess the intention behind the White King’s move, he could try 31. … Bc8. We would have missed the interesting ending, but White could have still won the game by:
31. … Bc8 32. Ng5 Bxd7 33. Rf4. For example:
 
33. … Bc8 34. Nxf7 (threatening 35. Qxg6#) Rxf7 35. Qxf7+ Kh8 36. Qxg6 Qd7 37. Qxh5+ Qh7 (37. … Kg8 38. Rg4+ Kf8 39. Qh8+ Ke7 40. Qf6#) 38. Qxe8+ and Black has to give up his Queen to avoid checkmate.
 
32. Kg3 Rce8 Black is so short of option that he just keeps moving his pieces without much purpose!
33. Kg4 Bc8
34. Kg5 Resigns 34. … Bxd7 35. Kh6 any 36. Qg7#
 
34. … Kh7 35. Rxf7+ Rxf7 36. Qxf7+ Kh8 37. Kh6 with mate in two moves.

 

Position after 34. Kg5:

king-takes-a-walk8

 

Second game –

position after 33 moves:

king-takes-a-walk9

34 f4 Ra2+ 1…Rxd4 2. f5 exf5 3 e6 Re4+ 4 Nxe4 fxe4 (4…Bb3 5. Ke3) 5 Rc7, threatening Rxc6
35. Kf3 Ra3+
36. Kg4 Rd3
37. f5 Rxd4
38. Kg5 exf5
39. Kf6 Rg4
40. Rc7 Rh4
41. Nf7+ Resigns 41. … Ke8 42. Rc8+ Kd7 43. Rd8#

 

Position after 41. Nf7+:

king-takes-a-walk10

 

Third game –

position after 28 moves:

king-takes-a-walk11

29 Kf2 h6
30. Ke1 Re6
31. Qg3 Be8
32. Kd2 g5
33. Kc3 Kf8
34. Kb4 Bf7
35. Ka5 Kg7
36. Kb6 Kf8
37. Kc7 Kg7
38. Kd7 Kf8
39. Qf2 Rg6
40. Qf5 h5
41. g3 Resigns Black is totally tied up and White will soon be able to create passed pawns that will wear down any resistance Black may have in mind.

 

Position after 41. g3:

king-takes-a-walk12

 

You will notice that the oldest game we chose in Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 1 was played in 1888 (there are even older examples in chess archives) and the latest one in this article is from 2008. So, you now know that such Royal ventures, though not so frequent, have continued to recur for more than a century even when chess theories and styles have undergone a lot of change over these years.

We hope that these games will broaden your thinking on the role of the King and to identify situations where such steps by the King may reap benefits for you.

 

Chess Combinations: beauties from lesser known masters – 3

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Please note:

The best way for beginners to get better at chess and learn these ideas is to setup the position on a chessboard and go through the moves instead of trying to picture it. At this stage, understanding the ideas is more important than taking the burden of memorizing the positions.

As you keep gaining in experience, you do need to develop your power of visualization as without that, you won’t be able to work out deep combinations in your actual play.

In fact, in these articles on chess combinations, that is the purpose behind showing the positions after every few moves as the game progresses. Starting from one diagram and noting the moves till you reach the next one, check if your mental picture of the board tallies with that next diagram.

Continuing our theme on creating chess combinations, played out at a tournament at Bad Pistyan in 1922. Black chose the Neo-Steinitz defense which enhances Black’s chances in the Ruy Lopez opening that normally tends to be more in favor of White. But Black went one step further to take up initiative for a King side action based on his center control of e5 and d4 squares. White’s last move 12. Qd2 indicated his intention to bring a Rook to d1 for increasing control on d4. Black intended to undermine it by attacking the White Knight at f3 with 12. … Bg4. The Bishop would also pin the Knight against the Rook when it came to d1. Because if Black’s initial center control and King side pawn actions, White pieces have been somewhat restricted in their movement.

You should examine how Black continues his campaign from this point onwards.

Position after 12. … Bg4:
 
combination3a
 
13. Rfd1 Nd4   The threat is 14 … Bxf3 15. gxf3 Nxf3+ attacking the Queen also.
 
14. Bxd4 exd4  
15. Ne2 c5   Knight retreated as 15. Nxd4 Bxd1 would lose the exchange. Black brought more support for the pawn which further strengthened his hold on the center..
 
16. Ne1 Ng6    
17. f3 Be6   White was able to drive away the irritating Bishop but at the cost of weakening his castle. Black immediately shifted attack from flank to center.
 
18. Rac1 Ne5    
19. Bb3 b5   Black keeps raising the ante!
 
Position after 19. … b5
 
combination3b
 
20. cxb5 c4   Black was not wasting time to restore his pawn balance. He pressed home his attack expanding his center control
 
21. Ba4 Qb6!   Black again used one of his central pawn as bait to create a pin on the King.
 
22. Nxd4 axb5   White obviously could not capture with his Queen because of 22. … Nxf3+ which loses the Queen. Black timed his pawn capture to maintain his tempo though it meant losing another pawn.
 
23. Bxb5 Rfd8   Now Black creates a two-way pin on the Knight! It is an exemplary chess tactics on how to use the center control by pawns to launch attacks and then giving them up to bring the pieces into attack.
 
24. a4 White is still unaware of Black’s plan to exploit the pin.
 
Position after 24. a4
 
combination3c
 
24. Nd3!   With one move, Black cuts off all the support for the Knight at d4. 25. Rxc4 Bxc4 26. Bxc4 Qxd4+ 27. Kf1 (27. Kh1 Rf2+) Qxc4 28. Nxd3 renews two-way pin on Knight and a solid Rook extra for Black
 
25. Bxc4 Qxd4+ 26. Kf1 Bxc4 (27. Nxd3 Bxd3+ 28. Qxd3 Qxd3+ 29. Rxd3 Rxd3) 27. Rxc4 Qxc4 28. Nxd3 gives same position as above
 
25. Nxd3 Qxd4+  
26. Qf2 cxd3  
27. Rxd3 Qxd3!   27. … Qxf2+ 28. Kxf2 Rxd3 29. Bxd3 Rxa4 leaves White with two extra pawns against a Bishop – still a fighting chance. But Black’s move takes away a Rook against two extra pawns as shown below and White resigned.
 
28. Bxd3 Bd4 29. Qxd4 Rxd4 30. Bb5 Bb3 loses the a4 pawn also.
 
The position after 27. … Qxd3
 
combination3d
 

 

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.