Tag Archives: tactical chess

The coming battle for the Chess crown

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In order to take a look at the shape of things to come in the future world of chess, we necessarily had to come close to the present first. The most important event coming in near future is the World Chess Championship match, planned to be held in April 2010 and the bidding process for selection of venue will end on September 30 of this year. Everybody by this time knows that Veseline Topalov of Bulgaria will be challenging the reigning champion Viswanathan Anand of India to determine the World Champion in 2010, after which such matches will be held at two year intervals.

But before I took up my telescope again to take wistful looks at what I consider as the romantic periods of chess, I was wondering where to focus attention in this present era. Then I got the idea: what better than to look at recent games between the defender and challenger to the title.

To dissuade people from making own different interpretations of what I am going to present, I want to make clear my criteria for selection of the two games played between these two players. I wanted both games from recent periods (2007-2008), both players getting to win while playing as White, and both games to be of comparable length but fairly short (within 30 moves) to keep our article size within limit! That automatically limited my choice and in fact I could get only two that met all the criteria, so no one can blame me for a biased selection!

The first game was played at Leon in 2007 with Anand on the White side winning in 29 moves and the second one was at Bilbao in 2008 with Topalov as White winning in 25 moves. We would like to assure readers that because the way the games were chosen, they cannot purport to represent the actual playing ability of the players. The readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

You have of course seen example of Vishy’s play in The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master and the fighting spirit of Topalov in Attacking Chess Tactics: Hounding the enemy King which produced one of the great games of chess in spite of his losing it to Kasparov.

Though neither player needs any introduction, we want to keep up the practice of presenting the actors before showing their acts. Anand has already been introduced in The stomach is an essential part of the Chess master, so we need not do it again.

Veselin Topalov (b.1975) was born in Bulgaria and became the World under-14 champion in 1989 and a GM in 1992. Along with Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand, he has also crossed the FIDE Elo rating of 2800, the only four players ever to do so. Though living in Spain, he represents Bulgaria in Chess Olympiads.

The diagram shows the position in Anand-Topalov game after 24 moves.

anand-topalov game

25. b6 Ra5 White was threatening 26. Bb5+ to capture the rook
 
26. Rd1 Bg5 It is right strategy for Black to try to exchange White’s Bishop of the same color as the promotion square b8 for White’s NP
 
27. b7 Ke7 Black had to attend to the immediate threat posed by White before he could implement his strategy!
 
28. Bb6 Re5 Threatening the Rook was just a gain in tempo but White’s aim went deeper than that!
 
29. Bd8+! Resigns The best Black could do was 29. … Rxd8 (best) 30. Rxd8 Kxd8 31. b8=Q+ Kd7 32. Qxe5 with an easy win for White

The Topalov-Anand game after 21 moves stood as under:

topalov-anand game

22. Nf3 c4
23. Qh4 Nc5
24. Re7 Rd8 In the given situation 25. Rxe8 Rxd1+ 26. Kg2 Rxe8 getting two Rooks for the Queen must have been acceptable to Black (and so, White would not give him that benefit!)
 
25. Rf1 Resigns The likely continuation could be 25. … Qc6 26. Ng5 h5 27. Nxf7 Rxf7 28. Rxf7 Kxf7 29. Qxd8 giving White one extra passed pawn and a Rook against Knight, which should be enough for him to win.

Watch first Game – Anand Won

Watch second Game – Topalov Won

Shape of things to come in the world of chess?

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Though no one has complained as yet, but in response to our article Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: recovering the investment with interest, one reader held that White (Schulten) simply played badly and another reader felt that the game was very old, implying rightly that modern players with White pieces would not play that way and fold up so easily!

Accepting their points, I would still like to bring out what Grandmasters almost a centuries later and of the stature of Mikhail Botvinnik and Nigel Short had to say about Morphy’s play and their comments were included in the article so that readers may not hasten to a judgment. A player like Bobby Fischer held that Morphy was probably the greatest of them all! We could certainly argue on Fisher’s views but there is no denying the fact that great players can make good players look average!

In any case, I accept that most of the illustrative games used in the articles so far belong to periods possibly half a century earlier or even before that. Why is this fascination with period pieces!?

The number of games played all over the world is increasing very fast thanks to online chess. Modern communication technology is making the moves and results available almost in real time, whether the chess play is over the board or online. With easy access to powerful computers and progressively more sophisticated software, almost anyone can dissect a game threadbare, what used to be the prerogatives of chess masters in earlier days! With so many analysts from Grandmasters to club players equipped with their PC and software, the openings have been analyzed to a depth where you can possibly rattle off the first dozen moves in any opening without even thinking! If anybody makes a mistake, it is because all people are not blessed with a computer-like memory! There may also be the tragedy of missing the forest in looking at the trees!

I sometimes wonder if it is tending to make modern games more stereo-typed (for want of a better word) and there is less to enthuse people the way Morphy games used to do 150 years earlier, or Marshall games 100 years earlier, or Tal games 50 years earlier…

You may argue that their games used to be flawed on many occasions, but can you deny the magic also that they produced by some electrifying moves? When you play through the games in Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: diverting opponent’s piece or Chess tactics: A move worth some gold pieces? or Chess Sacrifice as a Chess Tactics: gaining space for attack, do you think of the flaws or wonder at the way the victors conjured up their moves?

In one article, I expressed that according to experts, all brilliancies arise out of mistakes by one player. In fact, if both players played perfect chess as per the theoretical lines projected by analysis, what result would you expect from such games? And when you choose to play games from master level, what percentage of those do you take from drawn games? Quite low compared to the decisive ones, I am sure.

If I may use a simile, modern nutrition theory and health studies have analyzed all our food to such an extent that anyone caring about it knows for each food its calorie content, the chemicals it contains, their favorable/unfavorable effects, the risks of diseases we run and so on and so forth. But how much will you enjoy your food if you keep doing it for all your food? Conversely, do you think of these when enjoying your triple sundae? How many of us do not have weaknesses for ice-creams and chocolates in spite of knowing their flaws in respect of health-giving quality? If you stick to the guidelines, you will be in better health (!) probably, but I wonder how much enjoyment you will have left in that life.

Chess is a food for your mind and some analysis definitely helps us to understand complex positions. But over-analysis will surely create the same effect as I described for your favorite foods. I have another thought on game analysis which may appear controversial to many of you. It is my view that unless the players themselves annotate their games immediately afterwards, the analysis of moves that get published may not reflect the truth behind the logic of the moves when those were played. Except where a link can definitely be established between a previous and a later move (like Breyer’s 14th and 23rd moves in Chess Tactics: Well thought-out combinations), we can never be sure how much of the brilliant idea in a move owe itself to the player and how much to subsequent analysis! Also of relevance are our thoughts on chess logic and chess intuition.

Such may be the thoughts working in the unconscious mind of all those people like me who love to play and discuss the games that Morphy, Marshall, Tal and others of their ilk have left behind. Let us keep playing and enjoying and sometimes getting thrilled! In future, we may only be getting more and more drawn games.

We just produced some food for thought – how the reader takes it will depend on individual appetites! If your curiosity is aroused regarding the truth of the matter, you may like to compare between the periods say 1950-1959 and 2000-2009 regarding the percentage of drawn games in total games played. Or a similar comparison for the games from the World Champions of say 1905, 1955 and 2005. I do not mind getting corrected. Any takers to find and share with us?

To save this article from boring you to death, given below is a game from 1925 played at Debrecen (Hungary) between David Przepiorka and Lajos Steiner who even in their times were not among the notables. Just play it and think what I said.

David Przepiorka (1880-1940) was a Polish player of Jewish origin and became the Polish champion in 1926. He was executed by the nazis in a concentration camp. Though not well-known, he has to his credit victories over some more famous players like Teichmann, Tarrasch, Spielmann, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch etc.

Lajos Steiner (1903-1975) was a Hungarian Champion in 1931 and 1936. He emigrated to Australia in 1939 and became Australian Champion a few times. He was awarded IM in 1950. Like his opponent, he had also scored victories over players like Tarrasch, Marshall, Tartakower, Gruenfeld, Nimzowitsch etc.

Watch the Game

 

No one pointed it out, so we presume everyone missed a small error in the video! At the end, it says “Black Resigned” but if you have watched the video carefully, you will see that Black went all the way till he was checkmated!

Importance of positional factors in chess tactics

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In an earlier article about tactics and strategies (Simple tips to master tactics and strategies), we discussed in general about the importance of tactics and strategies. Let us try to understand the importance of tactics through a practical example. This is a game from Bundesliga tournament in 2001:

Look at the position given hereunder, where it is the turn of Black to move.

chessgamess

On a curious look at the above position, you will find that the number of pieces each player has is the same. Apart from King and Queen, both players have 1 bishop (in same color), 1 knight, 2 rooks and 6 pawns each.

The black pieces are well developed, especially with Knight at c3 in a very good position, controlling more number of squares, the rooks are more centralized and the bishop is also in a good position. In contrast, the white rooks are not in favorable position and the white bishop at g2 is more or less blocked by the knight at f3. The King at f1 is also vulnerable relatively moving closer to the center.

In the normal course of thinking, one might be inclined to make the following moves:

1.….. Qxf4 – (if black does not take the queen, white may capture the queen)
2. .gxf4 b5 (to support the Knight at c3)

Now, let us pause for a moment and think of any possible moves that can give an opportunity to make it advantageous to the black pieces.

Some tactics that might be of use must be explored. Tactics need not be a long one. They might not yield the desired results always, simply because the opponent will also think on similar lines and try to have his own tactics based on his own intuition.

So, tactics basically are for a short duration of may be two or three moves with some target in mind. Let us see whether we can use any such tactic and deviate from the normal course of moves. This is what Grandmasters make – consider the positional factors, analyze and foresee the moves and then make a move.

Let us revisit the pieces and consider them in a different angle – positional factors.

Take a look at the back rank of White – the 1st rank. The King at f1 is protected by two rooks – one at a1 and the other at c1. Look at the rook at c1. It is vulnerable given that the protection for that rook from Queen at f4 might not be there once the queens are exchanged. The rook at c1 is protected by rook at a1 as well. Now, taking advantage of the probable vulnerability of the back ranks of white, we can think of a tactic to disturb the back rank of White.

Again, look at the black rook at c8. If the knight at c3 is removed, black rook at c8 can attack the white rook at c1 and give a check by distracting the other rook. So, black might consider distracting the rook at a1 by taking the pawn at a2 by Knight at c3.

chespositiona

The white has two options here – either it can take the black knight by rook at a1 or else use the rook at c1 to remove the black rook at c8. If white resorts to c8 x c1, then instead of taking the white rook at c8 by black rook at d8, black can consider taking the rook at a1 by queen at f6. In such a way, more than one move and counter move must be considered as tactics.

In this case, black knight decided to take up pawn at a2 and the tactics of distracting the rooks at back rank worked out well.

Black went on to win the game as given hereunder:

22 ….. Nxa2
23 Rxa2 Qxf4
24 Rxc8 Qxf6
25 Rxd8+ Qxd8
26 Rxa7 Bxb3
27 Nd4 Bd5
28 e3 g6
29 f4 b5
30 Bxd5 Qxd5
31 h4 b4
32 Rc7 b3
33 Nxb3 Qf3+

Chess Tactics: How simple tactics helped to improve the location of pieces?

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In the game of Chess, tactics can be used for anything and everything that will ultimately lead to a favorable position in the short term and help us in finally achieving the goal of saying checkmate to the opponent. In this series of articles, we have been looking at the different aspects of tactics.

Tactics, in most cases, is required in almost all types of situations. More so in circumstances where the position is very bleak and unfavorable. Tactics sometimes has to be employed out of despair to overcome the unfavorable position.

Let us try to explore the effectiveness of tactics that was carried out out of desperation.

Take a look at the following diagram depicting the position after 42 moves of white and Black to make the move.

Black to Move

image1

A quick look at the positions of the pieces reveals the following :

  • The pawn structure of White pieces is well developed while the black pawns have weaknesses
  • The passed pawn at c5 is well placed and the rooks at a4 and b2 will exert pressure on black’s double pawn structure at a6 and a7, if Black takes no efforts.
  • White Knight at c3 is unduly exerting pressure on black pawn at d5
  • Additionally, the black knight at f6 is passively supporting the pawn at d5, in that it cannot move from that place.

The following diagram can best explain this situation:

image2

This is one ideal situation where the Black, placed in a highly precarious situation, need to come up with some sort of tactics to change the position and do something that will help him gain an upper hand over the opponent.

What are the options available for Black at this position?

Take a closer look at the white pieces once again. The White king is placed at f2. All the other major and minor pieces are placed on the Queenside. So, if any move is made to attack the King, then it will be difficult for the White o react as most of its pieces are on the Queenside.

Now, what can Black do now? It can either move the pawn at g5 to g4 to disturb the pawn structure and open the “f” file, if white pawn at f3 captures black pawn at g4. What are the other options available? A check on White King using Knight at f6 is one possibility.

What will happen if black gives the check by moving the Knight to g4 – Ng4+?

The white pawn at f3 can capture the Knight at g4 – fxg4. If that happens, the Black’s game is opened up and it might think of giving a check by moving the Rook at e6 to f6. Then White King has two options – either move to g3 or g1. If King moves to g3, the second rook at e7 can be moved to e3 to give a check to King on g3. What does this move do? The White’s Knight is pinned. See that how the things begin to happen. In case White king moves to g1 instead of g3, the position will be much easier for Black – a Check by rook at e7 to e1 would be curtains for White. Can you visualize how the things unfold out of nothing by a single move? This is what tactics is all about.

Having evaluated all these possible options, Black decided to move the Knight, to g4 to give a check on White King at f2.

42. ….. Ng4+

In response to the Black Knight’s threat with a check, the White, having evaluated all the possible options, decided to move the King to g3.

43. Kg3 ……

What should the Black do now? By moving the Knight, which is passively defending the black pawn at d5, the pawn at d5 is exposed. The Knight is also at threat now from white pawn at f3 and King at g3. There is no possibility for giving check on White King.

The Black moved the Knight at g4 to e3

43. …. Ne3

And the position at the end of the 43rd move is as follows:

image3

This is a tactic employed by Black, which helped it to convert its weak position to one of strength. Can you visualize how it has been achieved?

Look at the following diagram:

image4

The Black Knight, which was passively defending the pawn at d5 from f6 is now at e3, at a very active state, while at the same time supporting the pawn at d5. The black can move the pawn at f7 to f5 and then f4 to harass the White King. The Knight at e3 can also harass the White King by capturing the white pawn at g2. This is what tactics is all about. It need not be a grand plan. But a series of small moves, two or three that alters the course of the game.

In this case, the weak location of the black pieces has been transformed to one of strength by a simple tactical move.

By the way, the Black went on to win the game after a series of moves, as given hereunder.

44. h3 f5
45. Kf2 f4
46. Rab4 Kf7
47. Rb8 a5
48. R8b7 a4
49. Rxe7+ Rxe7
50. Ra2 Rb7
51. Ke2 Rb3
52. Nxa4 Nf5
53. Kf2 Nxd4
54. Rd2 Rb4
55. Nc3 Ke6
56. Ne2 Nb3
57. Rc2 Rc4
58. Ra2 a5

White resigned accepting the defeat.

Chess Tactics: How tactics helped convert a losing position to a winning one?

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Tactics play a vital role in the game of chess. Tactics is everything in chess. Chess, as you all know, is a fair game with no room for chance or luck whatsoever to either of the players. The players ultimately decide the fate of their result in the game. A slight lapse of concentration, a slight miscalculation or a little oversight is just sufficient to allow your opponent to say checkmate to you.

Tactics might just involve distracting the opponent’s pieces, sacrificing pieces to achieve a broader goal, mating threats, checks, and all such other things.

Let me explain the role of tactics by way of an example where a literally losing position for the black pieces has not only been avoided, but the black went on to win the game in the next 3-4 moves.

This is the position after 38 moves, and white has to move next:

White to Move

whitetomove_1
Black to Move

A closer look at the position shows that White is in a stronger position with more possibilities for winning.

The Black king at g8 is vulnerable, in that if White rook at b7 gives a check from b8, then black king has no option but to move to g7.  One tactic here for white might be to arrest the movement of Black King to g7, which would then result in a checkmate.  White’s bishop at d2 can be moved to h6 for this purpose.

It is essential that a chess player visualizes at least 2-3 moves in advance and plans his moves taking into consideration all other possible alternatives, such that his goal or tactics succeeds.

Before jumping into the move straightaway, let us see what would be the possible response from black for this move.  Black, visualizing the threat of mate if no action is taken, might have no other alternative but to capture the white bishop at h6 using the Knight at g4.  What will happen if Black Knight at g4 takes the bishop at h6?

One may also notice that the Black queen at e2 and black rook at c4 are in a single diagonal. White might think of moving the bishop at g2 to f1, which will result in a discovered check by Queen. At the same time, the Black Queen can be captured at ease by White bishop making it simpler for White to say checkmate.

The vulnerability of Black’s position and the advantages or possible moves for White, which is to move now, is depicted in the following diagram.

whitetomove_2

So, the White, considering all possible options, has taken the right decision of moving the bishop at d2 to h6, harassing the Black King at g2.  Now the position would be as follows :

white_tomove3

Black is facing a potential checkmate now as the next move by White, moving the rook at b7 to b8 will be a checkmate.

Let us look at the position closely from the black’s point of view.  What are the possible options available to Black to thwart the White’s move.  One thing is he can consider moving the black bishop at f6 to e5 to thwart the White rook’s move to b8. White may then move the bishop at g2 to f1as the black queen and black rook are in a single diagonal.  This move by white’s bishop will also block the Black knight at g4.

What might be the other possibility for Black now?

whitetomove_4

The white King at h1 is also not very safe.  It is equally vulnerable as is the Black king in g8.  One possible option for Black might be to threaten the White king with a check. The Black knight at g4 is at a good position to threaten with a check by moving to f2.  The response from White for that check from Black knight would be either to move the King to h2 or capture the Knight at f2 by Queen.

If the King is moved to h2, then Black can move the bishop at f6 to e5 and the check would be the final nail in the coffin for white, leading to checkmate.  If the White queen captures the black knight at f2, then Black rook at c4 can be moved to c1 for giving check at White king. Now white has no other option but to use his bishop at h6 to capture the black rook at c1.  By this move, Black has successfully thwarted the threat of mate from White and also is in a great position to capture the White queen placed at f2.  This will be a great opportunity for black to win.

The game concluded as follows :
39.    Bh6    Nf2+
40.    Qxf2    Rc1+

And, White resigned the game conceding the defeat. This is what tactics is all about.