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Ye all non-believers, have faith: Chess is an easy game!

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Capablanca (1888 – 1942) was a World Champion from Cuba during 1921 to 1927. In his heyday, he used to play such deceptively simple chess that the game seemed to move ahead all by itself. Capablanca himself probably realized this aspect when he lost his touch in the later period of his life.

But if you play through his games from his better period, you will appreciate the sheer beauty of his play.

Here is a sample from 1935 with Capablanca playing as Black. The first 15 moves were as follows.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 d5
4. Bg5 Be7
5. e3 0-0
6. cxd5 Nxd5
7. Bxe7 Qxe7
8. Nf3 Nxc3
9. bxc3 b6
10. Be2 Bb7
11. 0-0 c5
12. Ne5 Nc6
13. Nxc6 Bxc6
14. Bf3 Rac8
15. a4 cxd4

 

The position after 15 moves looked like this.
 

fig5

So far things appear to have moved along fairly expected lines though White has played some strategically wrong moves e.g. his KN has made 3 moves to capture Black’s QN which has just made its first move, losing opportunity to retain initiative or to challenge Black’s intended control of c-file with one of his rooks at c1.

But apparently, the position looks equal with neither player having a decided advantage. Would you agree?

But there is some ‘tension’ in the position with the central pawns and the bishops facing each other. The idea of tension as a chess strategy is something we could add to the list of 50 chess strategies as creating and maintaining tension is fairly common when a player defers a possible exchange. The opponent will keep worrying about your intentions or timing and has to keep an eye on the attacked piece lest he loses it at a wrong time. Once the exchange has taken place, the tension in the position is resolved and your opponent is relieved of some burden. Thus maintaining tension is a strategy whereby you inhibit free play by your opponent but go for the exchange when it suits you.

White probably had a plan to move his queen to attack on the left (or did he have weaker nerves?) but by going for the exchange of bishops, he again handed over a tempo to Black who advanced his rook on the go and could now have his rooks doubled on the open c-file, a chess strategy we have discussed.

In line with another chess strategy, Black later takes possession of the 7th row (from his angle) due to White’s unwise Queen moves away from the battle area.

Another defensive strategy we did not discuss is the creation of an escape square for the king when the big guns (Queen and Rooks) start having free play. This is to avoid getting caught on the wrong foot when these pieces can deliver a baseline check. Black’s advance of KNP to g6 takes care of it and without any worries on the weakness created as there is no enemy bishop to take advantage along the black diagonal.

All these take place duting the following moves.

16. cxd4 g6
17. Bxc6 Rxc6
18. Qd3 Qb7
19. Rfb1 Rfc8
20. h3 a6
21. Qa3 Rc2

 

The position now looks like this.
 

fig6

Black gave an illustrative demonstration of chess strategies (discussed in 50 chess strategies ) for controlling an open file, controlling the 7th row (from his angle), and control of long diagonal (a8-h1) to enemy king’s position by his Queen.

In the above position, White played 22. Qd6 with plans to attack black pawns on a7 and b6, but Black was one step ahead because of earlier gains in tempo. He had also followed the strategy of safeguarding those pawns before launching his attack. While White was concentrating on Black’s pawns, Black’s 22nd move came as a bolt from the blue even though it was a natural outcome of his positional advantages and White should have seen it coming.

22. Qd6 Rxf2
23. Qg3 Re2
24. Resigns

 

23. Kxf2 only brings 23. … Rc2+ followed by 24. … Qxg2 with mate to follow soon. But the text play only delays the inevitable as White will be forced to exchange rooks to prevent doubling of black rooks on row 2 (by Rc2) which would keep pressure on KNP. Once Black exchanges the big powers, his pawn superiority and White’s scattered pawns in three islands will make Black’s win a technicality!

Was there anything complicated about this chess game?