Category Archives: Chess Strategy

Chess Tactics: Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice Part 1

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In the game of chess, bishops play a very important role both in attacking the opponent’s King as well as in defending one’s own King, especially using its unique capability of moving along the diagonals.

Before dwelling further into the attacking aspects of the bishop, let us recollect some of the basic features of the opening principles. In the opening stages of the game, we were taught that the pawn movements should be kept to the minimum such that the minor pieces such as knights and bishops are developed. Then the next thing one is advised to do is to go for castling either on the kingside or in the queenside, whereby the King is safeguarded, and the rooks at the flanks are brought to the center of the first or last ranks.

Mere castling of the king will not guarantee 100% safety and the castling should be followed with adequate precautionary measures in order to avoid devastating attack on the kingside by the bishops along the diagonals, especially the light-squared white bishop. Sounds strange – is it not? Read on.

This attack is primarily suitable for the player using white pieces when and only when the opponent castles on the kingside and the king is placed at g8 with pawns placed at f7, g7 and h7 respectively. The broad idea is to sacrifice the light-squared bishop of white by capturing the pawn at h7, drawing the king out and using the knight at g5 and the Queen moved to the “h” rank to say checkmate.

This attack on the castled black king by sacrificing the light-squared white bishop at h7 is called as the classic bishop sacrifice. This is one of the oldest attacks on the castled king, tried and tested as early as early 1600s, as writing about this attack is found in Gioachino Greco’s handbook in 1619. It is believed that Greco introduced this classic bishop sacrifice and as such the attack is also referred to as Greco’s sacrifice by some of the writers.

Before exploring more about this Greco’s sacrifice or classic bishop sacrifice, let us look at the game played by Greco where he employed this attack successfully. As per Greco’s handbook of 1619, he reached the position in the game as given below after six not particularly intelligent moves.

1stsacimage

(White to move)

Now, here comes the brilliant display of white involving the classic bishop sacrifice.

The mainline of the game is as follows :

7. Bxh7+ Kxh7
8. Ng5+ Kg8
9. Qh5 Re8
10. Qh7+ Kf8
11. Qh8# 1 – 0 There ends the game in white’s favor after the sacrifice of the light-squared bishop.

 
In Part 2 of Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice we will look at some of the variations and how to play those variations for a win. Continue reading Part 2 of Bishop Sacrifice.

Chess Tactics: Attacking castled King with the classic Bishop sacrifice Part 3

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Before learning more about the nitty-gritty aspects of this classic bishop sacrifice, let us explore one more game in the same category in a more systematic way for better understanding of this idea of attacking the castled king with bishop.

The position of the game is given hereunder:

agame

(White to move)

It is the turn of White to move and he launches the attack straightaway.

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7
2. Ng5+ ….

 
As stated earlier, let us analyze the game in a systematic way and try to explore all possible variations at the disposal of the black King and White’s response to those moves.

A cursory look at the position reveals that the black king has three options, in fact four options, at his disposal.

Black King can move either of the following four squares – g8, h8, g6 and h6.

Moving to h8 might not yield any result as the White can place his queen at h5 and threaten with check. Black king has no other option but to move to g8 and Queen’s next move to h7 is mate. So, this option is ruled out, in the first instance.

Let us look at the other three options.

Variation #1 – moving the king to g8:

The moves in this variation would be as follows:

2. …. Kg8
3. Qh5 Re8
4. Qxf7 Kh8
5. Qh5+ Kg8
6. Qh7+ Kf8
7. Qh8+ Ke7
8. Qxg7# 1 – 0

 
In this variation, White has used the pawns at h7, f7 and g7 as the primary points and relentless less pressure on the Black king with a series of checks ensures victory for the White, at the cost of the bishop sacrifice at h7.

Variation #2 – moving the king to h6:

The moves in this variation would be as follows:

2. …. Kh6
3. Qg4 Rh8
4. Nxe6+ Kh7
5. Qxg7# 1 – 0

 
Here white might also consider using the discovered check in the third move itself instead of Qg4 and capture the black queen, while ensuring that victory is assured.

Variation #3 – moving the king to g6:

This is one variation where black has some sort of chance to extend the game and force any mistakes from white.

2. …. Kg6
3. h4 Rh8
4. h5+ Rxh5
5. Qd3+ f5
6. exf6+ Kxf6
7. Qf3+ Ke7
8. Qf7+ Kd6
9. Qxh5 …. White can win from this position

 
Now, we have explored the game in its entirety with all the possible variations, and can conclude that this classic bishop sacrifice would be worth considering for attacking the castled king.

However, one needs to exercise great caution as any wrong calculation or non-satisfaction of any condition might jeopardize the entire plan and would backfire abruptly.

Before considering this option, one should question himself whether the sacrifice of the light squared bishop at h7 is feasible or whether it would yield the desired outcome. The answer for this question lies in the satisfaction of certain specific conditions, both from the perspective of the location of white pieces as well as black pieces. If there is any deviation in this basic position that need to be fulfilled, there is no guarantee that the sacrifice would yield the desired results. In Part 4 of classical bishop sacrifice we will look at things to consider before going for the bishop sacrifice.

Continue reading Part 4 of Classical Bishop Sacrifice

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

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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.

Middle game tactics: Dilemma over the choice of rooks to move

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One of the important set of pieces with unique advantages of moving forward and backward only on verticals and horizontals and not otherwise is the rooks. The importance of the rooks can be assessed by the fact that the value of two rooks is more than the value of the Queen. No other combination of the major and minor pieces gives a value more than the value of the queen in the game of chess. The rooks are basically stationed at the flanks at the start of the game. As part of the opening strategy, it is imperative that the players try to bring these two rooks into play by preferring to castle and prepare the rooks for further development.

At the start of a typical middle game stage, one could invariably find both the rooks occupying the back ranks while all other minor pieces leave that first rank and take interesting positions in the other ranks. Most of the time even the Queen moves out of the back rank, but the rooks will be stationed there before preparing for the development.

It is imperative that which of the two rooks should be moved as part of the development or defence should be correctly assessed, based on the evaluation of the position of the board, and a wise decision is taken. The choice of the wrong rook for movement will not only complicate the position, it might give away the advantage to the opponent to pounce on the weakness.

To emphasize this important fact, let us look at a part of the game played in German Bundesliga by two grandmasters, where a wrong decision by white has forced him to part with the control over the board and ultimately after great defending and futile attacking, had to settle for a draw.

This is the position of the game after 15 moves, and it is the turn of the White to make a move.

picta1

(White to move)

A cursory look at the position indicates that both the players have developed their pieces fairly well, and are in the midst of an intriguing middle game. It is obvious that White would want to move his rook to the e1 square to share the advantage of the open e file. Here comes the dilemma as to which of the two rooks – rook at c1 or the rook at f1 – that should be moved to the e1 square – is the problem.

The merits of moving the rook at f1 to e1 include – having two rooks at each side – queenside and the kingside – and exercising control over the “c” file and the “e” file. On the contrary, moving the rook at c1 to e1 means the rook at f1 is blocked.

White decided to go ahead with the second option of moving the rook at c1 to e1.

The moves are as follows:

16. Rce1 Qd6
17. Re3 …. White anticipated that an exchange of Rooks as:

1. ….. Rxe3

2. fxe3 ….. would strengthen his position with the Rook at f1

17. …. Bg7 Black did not accept the invitation for exchange

The game continued further and after another 30 moves or more, both the players agreed for a draw.

This is a nice example, which emphasizes that every move, especially the wrong ones such as this one by white, should be judged on its merits.