Category Archives: Defensive strategy

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

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

Chess tactics: Which masters to study?

Filed under Attacking tactics, Beginner Chess Tips, Chess Basics, Chess lessons, Chess Strategy, Chess tactics, Chess Tutorials, Defensive strategy, Forks
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There is no doubt about the necessity to become familiar with the elements of a combination which we understand as chess tactics. In the article gameplan part2, we have listed the elements for you to find examples on each item and study those thoroughly to build up your repertoire. However good you may be in chess strategy and planning your game, you need to employ tactics to give effect to those.

So the question in any beginner’s mind will be: how do I learn to use chess tactics? My answer will be: after you know the elements, study the games of chess masters who excel in combinational play and chess tactics. That is why we have already shown you many such games where the tactics reigned supreme. There are quite a good number of articles at this site and trying to put a link to all those will clutter up this article. You have to search those out through the site map.

The next question obviously is: which masters to study? There are hundreds of Grandmasters and International masters, past and present, and it is true that all of them deploy chess tactics in their games. If you have to study all those, when will you get the time to use those in your play? That is why we need to be selective and choose games from players who excelled in the area of chess tactics and complex combinations. Different people have their own favorites but I am quite sure that some of the names we suggest will occur in every such list! Their names are given in chronological order

Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879)

No one has ever played chess like Adolph Anderssen, nor won as much fame and glory for his charismatic style. Anderssen’s hallmark is the direct (and often spectacular!) Kingside attack.

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941)

The main contestants of his time like Tarrasch and Janowski complained that they could not understand his play and implied that Lasker’s success was due to dubious tricks. Fact is, Lasker was much ahead of his time in his style of play, which found acceptance with later generation of players.

Frank J. Marshall (1877-1944)

He earned a lot of brilliancy prizes by virtue of his daring gambits and sacrificial play. One of his moves is held as one of the top three best moves ever played on a chessboard! Though spectators enjoyed his slash-bang techniques, purists held that some of his moves produced results by virtue of their shock value and not because of deeply calculated combinations. That may be the reason why he never became a world champion but managed to defeat all top players of his time.

Rudolf Spielman (1883-1942)

He was a master of attack with beautiful ideas and brilliant daring play full of sacrifices.

Alexandre Alekhine (1892-1946)

He is one of the greats among world champions and was at home in different styles of play. He was a master of complex positions and well-calculated combinations. Many of his games are still analyzed and experts have not reached a common verdict because of the complexities involved.

Mikhail Tal (1936-1992)

He is one player who probably earned the maximum admiration from the contemporary greats in chess. Tal used some self-derogatory comments about his own play by saying that there were two kinds of sacrifices – the sound ones and those used by him! Botvinnik, a world champion, said that it was not possible to tackle Tal if his pieces were mobile and active with some space and that is why he used to play close positions against Tal. He went on to say that if Tal could have some self-control, it would be impossible to play against him. A player of the stature of Kramnik went so far as to say that analyzing Tal’s game was like discussing what God looked like! When you play through his games, you will wonder if those bolts from the blue were results of intuition or pre-calculated combinations!

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008)

He was a chess genius and many experts believe that had he not gone into self-exile, he could have been the undisputed top player in chess history! He has produced many beautiful games with a long combination the results of which were not easy to see even by top masters. Boris Spassky who played Fischer in the famous championship match commented that playing Fischer was not a question of your win or loss, it was a question of your survival!

Garry Kasparov (1963- )

Another chess genius and holds the highest ELO rating among chess Grandmasters. He is also a versatile player and can play well-calculated combinations.

Alexei Shirov (1972- )

Among the mew generation players, he is noted for his attacking style and creating complications that remind one of Tal, not surprisingly, because he studied under Tal.

Now you know the names of some of the chess masters who have consistently produced great combinations in their plays. But many of them have played hundreds of games, so which ones to study? Go for their best games, some compiled by other chess authors or chess masters and some by the players themselves. These books generally include about 50 to 100 of the best games in their career and studying those few is not a very massive task! Keep a note of the basic principles that have been applied or violated in these games (many brilliancies arose to exploit mistakes by the opponents). These types of controlled study will not only help you to improve your play, but will also provide enjoyment for many years to come!

Two plays to enhance your chess endgame ideas

Filed under Chess Basics, Chess lessons, Chess tactics, Chess Tutorials, Defensive strategy, Endgame Tactics
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We have discussed endgame ideas and endgame tactics in earlier articles but those mostly covered the theory aspect of utilizing your pieces and pawns in an effective manner. You have also seen two chess game positions from actual play that explained how you need to think to some depth to convert your slight advantages into a winning position.

When you have a better position in an endgame, all you need is to apply the techniques you have learned to get the win you deserve. But in positions which look nearly equal, you have to proceed differently.

You should first identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of your and your opponent’s position, and try to see the lines that look promising. Then select the best line and this is where you need your calculating skills. These skills will develop through practice and such practice is best possible by analyzing endgame positions from master plays.

Study how the win was achieved, but do not stop there. Check if the losing side had some option that could save the game for him. Check through drawn games and see if either of the players missed some line that could change the result in his/her favor. Such efforts on your part will hone your skills in deep calculations. With practice, you will not find it such a daunting task, particularly as there will not be many pieces on board and only few lines will be worth pursuing.

In this article, we will see two end game positions that demonstrate both offensive and defensive tactics – for forcing a win from near equal position or snatching a draw from a situation all but lost!

endgame attack tactics

You can see that White has a better material position because of two Rooks and three pawns against Rook and Knight with two pawns for Black. It is White’s move now, but all Black needs to win is a single move of Qg2+ and so White cannot afford to waste any move!

White noted that the Black Queen had the Knight to support it but the Knight at the moment was pinned. Black King and Queen were in one line and so the Queen could possibly be ‘skewered’ if the Knight support could be removed! Black’s second move shows that he understood the danger but could not do anything against White’s brilliant sacrifices!

This is how White realized his aim:

1. Rxh7+ Kxh7
2. Qe7+ Kg6
3. Rg8+ Kf5
4. Rxg5+ Resigns


Black cannot avoid losing the Queen. If 4… Kxg5 5. Qg7+ and depending on Black King’s move to h5 or f5, White uses Qh7+ or Qd7+ to capture Black Queen. If 4… fxg5 5. Qd7+ does the same.

You see that after all, there are really not so many options to consider in many positions if you can read the situation and the calculations also are not very difficult always!

endgame defense tactics

Here Black is decidedly in an inferior position with a Rook and Pawn against White’s Rook and three Pawns, one of which is a passed pawn and only a short way from being promoted. White’s Rook is in the ideal position of standing behind the passed pawn and also protecting against a back row check by Black Rook. All that is necessary for White to win is to keep pushing the NP to the eighth rank. Or is it?

Black depended on White’s ‘natural’ move to take a last chance for salvaging the game! This is how it went:

1. Re3
2. b6 Re1+
3. Rxe1 Stalemate


If White were not so confident of his win and tried to understand Black’s move, he would have played Kf1 and that would foil Black’s ploy! This shows that you can never afford to disregard anything that may be happening on the board.

In Two more plays to enhance your chess endgame ideas, we will examine more ideas in chess endgames.


Two more plays to enhance your chess endgame ideas

Filed under Chess lessons, Chess Tutorials, Defensive strategy, Endgame Tactics
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In the previous article on chess endgames, we discussed two situations to show offensive and defensive techniques applied in endgame positions. In this article, we will see two more endgame positions on similar themes.

endgame offensive

Here we see a very simple set up. But you may have doubt about who has the better position – White with two linked passed pawns or Black with a Rook. Actually, White has a slight advantage because of the favorable position of his King to give support to the pawns.

But still White had to play very precisely to win the game.

1. Kd4 Kb3

White moved to gain ‘opposition’. If Black tried Rf5, White would play Ke4. If Black Rook then captured pawn at g5, White would simply push f-pawn and Black cannot stop its promotion.

2. Ke5 Kc4
3. g6 Re1+
4. Kd6 Rd1+
5. Ke6 Re1+
6. Kf7 Resigns

Black is simply helpless!

If you looked deeper, you will find that Black could offer a greater fight with the following moves. And the more the resistance you offer, the more is the chance of your opponent making a wrong move, allowing you to salvage the game.

4. Kd6 Rg1
5. g7 Kd4


A point to note. If you thought either of g7 or f7 would do for White at move 5, you would be sorely mistaken. It would go like 5. f7 Rxg6+ 6. Ke7 Rg7 and after the White King moves, Black simply exchanges the Rook with Pawn to snatch a draw!

Other moves by White King would be worse. For example, 5. f7 Rxg6+ 6. Ke5 Rg5+ 7. Ke4 Rg1 8. f8=Q Re1+ 9. Kf5 Rf1+ and Black wins the Queen and the game! So one cannot be too careful in endgame situations!

6. Kc6 Kc4

6. Ke6 would be a mistake because of 6… Ke4 7. Kf7 Kf5 resulting in a draw! On the other hand, Black’s attempt to reach the pawns by 6… Ke5 leads to 7. f7 Rg6+ 8. Kc5 and one of the pawns get promoted!

7. Kd7 Kd5
8. Ke8 Ke6
9. f7 Rxg7
10. f8=Q

Black could still make a last attempt by playing 9… Ra1 10. f8=Q Ra8#! But White had a counterplay with 10. f8=N+ Kf6 11. g8=Q Ra8+ 12. Kd7 and Black has nothing effective to do. You will surely appreciate the number of surprises that can remain hidden in a position! You should also make a note of “underpromotion” (pawn promoted to a piece other than Queen) which, though relatively rare, can sometimes offer the only solution to a tricky situation!

endgame defense

This position exemplifies the need to think deeper even after you have found an apparently winning line. White played 1. Rxe8 expecting 1… Rxe8 after which he foresaw 2. Nxf6 Rg7 (to prevent Rh7#) 3. Rxg7 Kxg7 4. Nxe8+ and win!

But what actually happened must have taken White by surprise, though it was not a very difficult line to see.

1. Rxe8 Rh5+
2. Kg1 Rxe8
3. Nxf6 Rh1+
4. Kxh1 Re1+
5. Kh2 Rh1+
3. Kxh1 Stalemate

So what looked like an easy win ended only in a draw.