Category Archives: Chess Strategy

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  

 

Chess Opening: Queen’s Gambit Theory to Practice

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While learning the theories behind the chess openings especially with an eye to center control and development of pieces, you must understand that if both players could continue along the best theoretical lines, the game would end in a draw! But theory cannot take you to the end because if it could, there would not be any point in playing that kind of chess!

So a stage will come where theory comes to an end ideally with both players at level, and thereafter the players are on their own. The game is then decided through one player making some mistake, however slight it may be, and the other player being able to identify and exploit it. You will often notice that one may be able to get away with a minor mistake but situation keeps getting worse with each additional wrong move. Of course, a palpably bad move will draw the curtains on the game that much faster!

In the three-part article on Chess Opening: Control of Center, we just showed how the initial moves for different openings aim to seize control of center. What happens after those initial skirmishes depends on how each player carries forward his ideas. Unless you examine practical games arising out of those opening moves, your grasp of the potentials will remain a little nebulous. For this reason, we plan to show you at least two master games on the openings discussed, one going in favor of White and the other in favor of Black, so that you get an idea of why those games produced opposite results!

In Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3, we took you up to the sixth move. In the following two games, you will see identical development up to the 12th move after which those take their own path.

Max Euwe-George Thomas
Hastings, 1934
  Milan Vidmar-Movsa Feigin
Hastings, 1936

 
1. c4 e6     1. d4 d5  
2. Nc3 d5     2. c4 e6  
3. d4 Nf6     3. Nc3 Nf6  
4. Bg5 Be7     4. Bg5 Be7  
5. e3 0-0     5. e3 Nbd7  
6. Nf3 Nbd7     6. Nf3 0-0    
 
QGDgame1   QGDgame1
 
Though the first game started differently, it has ultimately reached the same standard position. These initial moves were shown to impress on you that even when you are on unfamiliar ground, it is often possible to bring the game back to known territory through transposition of moves.
 
7. Rc1 c6     7. Rc1 c6  
8. Bd3 dxc4     8. Bd3 dxc4  
9. Bxc4 Nd5     9. Bxc4 Nd5  
10. Bxe7 Qxe7     10. Bxe7 Qxe7  
11. 0-0 Nxc3     11. 0-0 Nxc3  
12. Rxc3 e5     12. Rxc3 e5    
 
QGDgame2   QGDgame2
After the previous position, moves 7-12 are identical to bring both games to same identical position as dictated by theory of ECO code D68. If ECO code D69 is followed, the next two moves would be 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5. If you see the next two moves of the first game, you will see that it stuck to this route with a little difference in sequence, but the second game went into a different variation which went astray at move 15.
 
13. Nxe5 Nxe5     13. d5 e4!  
14. dxe5 Qxe5     14. Nd4 c5!  
15. f4 Qe7?   By retreating the Queen there, Black allowed the unhindered progress of White’s KBP   15. Nb5 Nf6   By chasing the Knight with his pawns, Black gained in tempo while acquiring more space. Black is eyeing the g4 square for his Knight taking advantage of the absence of defensive pieces close to White’s King. 15. Nc5 Qe5 16. Ng3 Nf6 would give White a better but complicated game.
 
16. f5! b5     16. Qb3 Qe5   White probably planned to advance his QP but Black’s Queen move pre-empted this by creating threats on White King’s position with a possible Ng4.
 
17. Bb3 b4   Black offered his c6 pawn to get White’s e3 pawn. White has no objection, he just wanted to time it right!
 
  17. Be2 b6   Not 17. … Nxd5 as 18. Rxc5 would pin the Knight. But after the text move, this would be possible.
QGDgame3
 
 
18. f6! gxf6   The Black Queen’s position enabled White to sacrifice his KBP to break open Black’s castle.   18. Rd1 Rd8   Trying to support the QP, White left his KBP weak and Black’s QB can force the exchange of White’s defender Bishop pinned against his Rook at d1.
 
19. Rxc6 Qxe3+   White timed the exchange of the pawns to bring his Rooks to exploit the broken castle of Black King. You may also notice how White’s pawn moves were gaining tempo whereas Black’s pawn moves were not getting anywhere!
 
  19. f4 exf3  
20. Kh1 Bb7   Though Black opened a line to the White King for his Bishop, White’s threats are more real. 20. … Be6 could provide a defense against White’s threats.
 
  20. Bxf3 Bg4  
  QGDgame4
 
21. Rcxf6 Qe4   Black goes through his plans oblivious of White’s threats!
 
  21. Rcd3 a6  
QGDgame5
 
 
22. Qd2! Kh8   Black vacated g8 square to position his Rook but White continued to be one step ahead!
 
  22. Na3 b5   The Knight has practically been forced out of the game!
23. Bxf7 Rac8   Black was hoping to get his QR to the 7th rank at c2 as the option of Rg8 has been taken away.
 
  23. R3d2 c4   Black’s pawns keep marching ahead, severely restricting the movement of White pieces.
24. R6f2 Rcd8   White defends his KNP and prepares his Queen to take control of the open g-file.
 
  24. Qc3 Qh5  
25. Qg5 Rd6   Black prevented 26. Qf6# but did not anticipate White’s stunning response!
 
  25. Bxg4 Nxg4   White had to give in to allow the Knight’s move.
26. Bd5!! Resigns   Black cannot handle the mating threats by White Rook at f8 and by White Queen at g8.   26. h3 Nf6  
    27. Rd4 Rd6  
    28. Nc2 Re8  
The last board position is shown below.   29. Qa5 Rxd5   White kept alive a mating threat on Black’s base rank and threatened to decimate Black’s Queenside pawns.
 
QGDgame7   QGDgame6
 
    30. Rxd5 Nxd5  
    31. Rd2 Qg6  
    32. Rxd5 Qxc2   White accepted the exchange of Knights hoping to save his KP by virtue of his threat of baseline mate of Black King.
 
    33. Re5? Qd1+   White resigned as he cannot avoid losing his Rook. White could offer greater resistance by 33. Rd8 Qc1+ 34. Kh2 Qxe3 35. Rxe8+ Qxe8 36. Qxa6 though Black would retain a marginal advantage because of his extra pawn.
 
The last board position is shown below.
 
  QGDgame8

 

Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3

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In continuation of Chess Opening: Control of Center to show how different openings aim to control the center squares, we now examine the opening strategy behind Queen’s Gambit Declined. This opening has been considered as one of the most reliable defenses of Black against White’s d4. The position reached by the moves described here can be achieved through many other sequence of moves. All these QGD openings are covered under ECO codes D30-D69 and all aim to create a foothold in the center by advancing pawns or using pieces while developing them.

The main idea for White is to offer a gambit of QBP as a temporary sacrifice, which weakens Black’s hold on the center whereas Black declines this offer and goes for a solid build-up. His pawn move e6 helps in this and facilitates the development of his KB but has the disadvantage of blocking his QB, the freeing of which remains a headache for Black.

QGD1
1. d4 d5   White takes control of the central square e5 and semi-central c5. Black does same for e4 and c4.
 
QGD2
2. c4 e6   White offers a pawn but this sacrifice is only temporary as White can recapture the Black pawn soon. This gambit and refusal by Black to accept it gives the name to this opening. Black just continues to strengthen his center position.
 
QGD3
3. Nc3 Nf6   The development of these Knights cancels out each other’s influence on e4 and d5 squares to maintain status quo at center.
 
QGD4
4. Bg5 Be7   White creates an indirect pressure on e4 and c5 by pinning Black’s KN and nullifying the Knight’s influence on the center. Black simply removes the pin while developing his KB and clearing the way for castling.
 
5. e3 0-0   White goes for strengthening his center and opening the lines for developing his KB. Black takes this opportune moment to safeguard his King.
 
QGD5
6. Nf3 Nbd7   These create pressure and counter-pressure on e5 square. Additionally, White Knight supports d4 pawn and the QB and Black QN supports KN and the c5 square. White should remain aware that his QB is in the firing line of Black’s KB and Queen.
 

 

White will try to take advantage of the inactive QB while Black has to find a way to activate it or exchange it to free his position. One way to free the QB is to push KP to e5 but Black first needs to exchange his QP to avoid its getting isolated. Other alternative is to bring it out via b7 after playing b6, but it becomes essential to play c5 to maintain a balance at center.

Black usually refrains from exchanging his QP with White’s QBP as it surrenders the center, but can do so when he gets some advantage out of it like gaining a tempo in attacking White’s KB if it moves to d3. Black also uses pawn move c5 to attack White’s center. After an exchange of Black’s QP and White’s QBP, White gets a majority in the center While Black gets a Queenside pawn majority and each player tries to utilize the respective advantages to launch their attacks.

Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 2

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In Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1, we looked at two popular KP openings to understand how those resolved the tussle between White and Black for control of the center. Here we take a similar look at a common QP opening to realize the chess tactics involved in this case.

Nimzo-Indian Defense
The classical theories on the strategy of chess openings, as formulated by the first undisputed World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900), was further refined by Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934). These stressed the importance of center control by occupation or by direct application of pressure on those squares by using pawns, developing pieces to support that control, and playing to obstruct opponent’s plans in this regard.

It was Aaron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) who challenged these conventional and fairly universal ideas with his own in My System, which was probably the most widely read book on chess theories. His system found expression in several openings that bear his name, and Nimzo-Indian Defense happens to be the most important among his hypermodern theories and very widely used in master games till today. It appears that the defense was first played in a Rubinstein-Alekhine game at Leningrad in 1914 (won by Black in 28 moves).

What is significant in this opening is that Black does not commit any pawn structure at the start, thus retaining considerable flexibility. Black exerts control on the center indirectly from a distance by use of his pieces and also undermining the influence of enemy pieces on the center.

Let us see how all this is accomplished.

 

nimzo-indian1
1. d4 Nf6   White wants to control the central square e5 and semi-central c5. Black applies pressure on d5 and e4 by the Knight (a direct control would need Black to play d5, which normally leads to Queen’s Gambit opening).
 
nimzo-indian2
2. c4 e6   White now counters Black’s pressure on d5 by his pawn move and Black uses his KP to strengthen his hold on d5.
 
nimzo-indian3
3. Nc3 Bb4   White develops his QN, adding to the pressure on d5 by his QBP and exerting a measure of control on e4. Black again goes the indirect route to nullify the influence of White QN on d5 and e4 by pinning it. Black also creates the possibility of exchanging his KB with White’s QN, surrendering the advantage of Bishop pair to create a liability of doubled pawn for White on c-file.
 

 

In this defense, Black generally puts his QB in fianchetto by playing b6 and Bb7, applying the Bishop’s influence on the long diagonal including the center squares d5 and e4 in harmony with his KN.

If Black exchanges his KB with White’s QN, his strategy will be to close the center to minimize White’s advantage of Bishop pair. You know that an open game gives a great advantage to player having two Bishops and obviously White’s strategy will be to go for such a game.

At this stage, 4. e3, a quiet looking move, is considered to be White’s most potent weapon against Nimzo-Indian Defense. 4. Qc2 (with the idea to retain Bishop pair without doubling of pawn) and 4. a3 (a venturesome continuation and forcing Black’s hand to play 4. … Be7 or 4. … Bxc3) are also playable. Kasparov used 4. Nf3 (a kind of wait-and-watch move) to considerable success against Karpov in their championship match.

To remain within the ambit of our article, we will consider the normal variation only.

 

4. e3 0-0   White consolidates his QP and goes for development by opening a line for his KB.
 
nimzo-indian4
5. Bd3 d5   White is building up his pressure on e4 and will aim to place his KP there. Black continues with his center control by advancing QP.
 
nimzoindian5
6. Nf3 c5   White KN increases his control on e5, but Black undermines the pressure by threatening White’s QP with his QBP.
 
7. 0-0   White has completed his initial development and in case of doubled pawn due to Black exchanging Bishop with Knight, White can hope to undo it if Black takes his QP. Otherwise White can capture with his Knight to position it centrally. Black does not have any problem in completing his development and his share of center offers many chances of counterplay.

 

In Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3, we will see how the another important QP opening viz. Queen’s Gambit Declined goes about the struggle for the center.