Tag Archives: Chess Opening

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.

 

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.