## Analyzing a position to create combinations

In Working out Chess Combinations, you could work out an eight-move combination by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and to some extent worked your way backwards to find the moves that created the winning combination. But in the previous examples, there were quite a few pieces on board and the mobility, at least for some pieces, was restricted so that you could eliminate a good number of possibilities.

In the problem that we are posing now, there are only a few pawns and some heavy pieces on the board which is open to both sides for moving respective Queen and Rook. In fact, many beginners get daunted by such positions because they think that there are too many moves possible for their Queen and Rook and taken together with the responses from opponent’s Queen and Rook, the number of combinations may be overwhelming! Let us now examine if we risk getting bogged up in the maze of moves!

I do not have to say who has got the move because if it were White, this discussion would not be necessary. With Queen and Rook on the seventh rank, it is only a matter of two checks by the Queen to checkmate the Black King. But Black having the move, you have to be acutely aware that Black cannot let go of checks if aforesaid action by White has to be stalled. You should also note that in absence of Black Queen and Rook from their base rank, Rb8+ by White is enough to checkmate Black King.

If you consider Qc4+, you know that White Queen cannot interpose by Qe2 as in that case Rd1+ mates the White King (the Queen being pinned cannot capture the Rook). So only option for White is to move the King and e1 is the only escape square available for that. But then Black’s only move is Rd1+ and after Kxd1, he can try Qd3+. Of course White cannot play Kc1 (you work that out), but Ke1 allows still one more check by Qd2+. The White King has to move to f1 but further check by Black at d1 or d3 allows White to interpose with his Queen (by Qe1 or Qe2). After this, Black soon runs out of checks and that puts paid to further resistance by Black. So this line is not tenable.

That leaves Black with only Rd1+ when White’s only option is Ke2. If Black now tries Rd2+, White King can retreat to previous position and Black has nothing left but a draw by repetition of moves. But will you be that desperate for a draw before exploring other options?

You can see that Qg4+ supports the Rook and allows White only two options:
(i) move King to e3 (i.e., Ke3)
(ii) interpose with pawn by f3

It may look that Ke3 is not viable as Black can play Re1+ to capture White Queen. But can Black do that? As soon as Black plays a non-forcing move like Rxe7, White’s Rb8+ leads to checkmate of Black King!

On Ke3 by White, Qd4+ forces the King to move to f3, as Ke2 allows Qd3# mate by Black. With King at f3, Black’s Rd3+ forces King to e2 (you should think why interposition by White Queen at e3 is now futile) but next check by Rd2+ brings King back to f3. Now Black’s Qxf2+ drives the King into the wide open and it should be possible for you to keep checks going with Queen and Rook for a checkmate if King remains on e-file, but if it moves towards g-file, a pawn check at appropriate time ends the White King’s journey!

What about the other option of interposing by pawn move f3? Trying to guard the diagonal, White exposes the King along rank 2 and Black can play Qxg2+! White cannot take the Rook as that would allow checkmate by Qd2#. So the only move for White is Ke3. On Qd2+, the King is forced into the open by its only move Ke4. Black keeps pressure on by Qd4+ and King is driven into the hands of the Black pawns and Black Rook can also attack by Rg1+ when King moves to g-file. You can certainly work out the rest.

So you are now sure that after Black’s first move of Rd1+ in the diagram position, White King cannot avoid checkmate whatever it may do.

In the actual game, played between Heinrich Wolf and Jacques Mieses at Monte Carlo in 1902, White chose the option (ii) at his 30th move and Black delivered checkmate after another 5 moves.

So far as this and the examples in related previous articles on chess combination are concerned, we could find the way by following a methodical approach. But I also told you that such system may not work universally. Situations where a combination came out of the sheer brilliance of a mind and could not be seen even by a Grandmaster opponent, such analysis may not show the way beyond a certain step. This is particularly true where a move makes sense only when seen in context of subsequent moves and the brilliancy is realized by taking all these moves together. The following example is a case in point.

The position shows that Black has one Bishop less but he has two passed pawns extra, one being only two moves away from promotion. Black Rook at a5 is in a position to capture the Bishop at e5 and also to move to a1 for capturing the Queen. Obviously, it is White’s move now and he has to tackle these threats, possible only by forcing moves on Black King to retain a tempo. On the plus side, White has Rook and Queen lined up on f-file and if the line can be opened, he can plan his assault on Black King, possibly with help from his Bishop attacking the g7 pawn and the Rook at c3 moving up to 7th or 8th rank when it can do so. But while working out the attacking plans, White cannot afford to lose a tempo, otherwise Black will launch his counter-attack as described above.

It is easy to see that White can play Ng6+ creating a fork on the Queen and White will be obliged to capture the Knight with f-pawn. White in turn can play fxg3 thereby opening the f-file and the discovered check retains tempo with White. It is apparent that Black cannot play Ke8 (because of White’s Rf8+ and Qf7#) or Ke7 (due to White’s Rf7+ / Qf5+ / Bg3+ / Qd3#). So the only possible move by Black that does not lose immediately is Kg1.

If White plays Rf7 with intention to play Rxg7 leading to mate, Black can counter this by capturing the Bishop with Rxe5 and threatening Re1 next, when White’s plans fall through. Were White’s Rook not standing in his Queen’s way, Qf7+ would be possible but as it stands now, White cannot afford to lose tempo by playing Rf7.

This far could be analyzed through a systematic approach, but can White take his initiative forward beyond this point? It is very difficult to imagine and needed real brilliance by White to make this a famous combination because of his next two moves!

You may give it a try before going through the following moves.

From the diagram position, the game proceeded as follows:

 1 Ng6+ fxg6 2 fxg6+ Kg8 3 Rc8! Rxc8 The move by White together with his next move were difficult to anticipate 4 Rxc2! Rf8 White’s move cleared f-file for Queen while retaining the tempo.White’s Rook cannot be captured because of the threat Qf7+ leading to mate. 5 Rc8 Qe7 White keeps attacking the f7 and f8 squares and Black tried to counter these threats 6 Qc4+ Kh8 6. Bd6 can be countered by 6. … Ra1+ 7 Qh4 Ra1+ Black has nothing better to do as 7. … Qxh4 allows Rxf8# 8 Bxa1 Qe3+ desperation! 9 Kh1 Rxc8 While starting on his combination, White must have seen that Black has no more check after his King moved to h1. 10 Qxh5+ Kg8 11 Qh7+ Kf8 12 Qxg7+ Ke8 13 Qf7+ Kd8 14 Bf6+ 1-0 Checkmate is inevitable on White’s next move

## Working out Chess Combinations

In the first article on Chess Tactics: Method Approach to Calculating Combinationson, we shared our ideas on how to proceed systematically for analyzing a situation for its inherent possibilities. The subsequent step is to work out our next sequence of moves which comprises a chess combination. The whole game of chess is expected to consist of many such nodal points where each node is planned (hopefully!) to yield some advantage, however microscopic it may be. In accumulating these advantages as we proceed from node to node, we expect at some stage to have enough to give us a win – well, that is the general idea!

While describing some suggested methods, we showed a simple example on how to put the ideas into practice. Continuing on the theme in Looking to find the best chess combination in a middle game position, we took up two slightly more complex positions and tried to apply the method for finding out the actual moves that were played over the board.

We will now examine another position and see how far our methods can help to reach the goals we seek. In the position shown below, Black has the move and we will try to figure out his best course of action.

You notice that in terms of material, White has a huge advantage because of his Queen against a Bishop. But look where the Queen is! Excepting for a support to the Rook at f1, a defensive role, it serves no useful purpose and could as well be not there on the board! White QB has become a bad Bishop, being blocked in by the White pawns in front and the QR position is no better. Only the KR has scope of some activity but, for now, it has taken away one escape square for the totally exposed White King in case of a Rook check from g6 along the open g-file. In such event, the King perforce has to move to h1.

You also realize that Black’s Rook at e8 can freely move to e1 when necessary to attack the White King on its base rank, provided the White Rook can be made to leave its present rank. Black’s KB can also join the battle any time by capturing the f2 pawn under certain situations. In a nutshell, Black should be able to force White’s surrender – all it needs is to find the sequence of moves!

When White is forced to move his King by Kh1 because of Black’s Rg6+, a check by Black’s QB from g2 (i.e., Bg2+) would force White to play Kg1. The Bishop then captures the f3 pawn (i.e., Bxf3) to deliver a discovered check from the Rook at g6 and White King has nowhere to go (assuming his Rook remaining at f1).

To enable Bg2+, Black needs to play Bh3 after White’s Kh1 and this, inter alia, attacks the Rook at f1 also. White has only two options:
(i) play Rg1 for capturing the Black Bishop when it comes to g2, or
(ii) play Rd1 to vacate the f1 square for the King’s escape from the discovered check.

We can disregard White’s move like Qd3 to attack the Rook at g3, as it can easily be nullified by Black playing f4 (White could still try Qc4+ but Black’s Kh8 puts an end to it), and then Black can continue with original plans.

If we probe further, we can see that if White plays Rg1, Black could still play Bg2+. This is because, as we noted earlier, the move Rxg2 makes the Rook leave the base rank allowing Black to play Re8+ which becomes decisive!

So the first option (Rg1) is ruled out and we have to consider White’s Rook move to d1. Black can go ahead as before but now White King can move to f1. In this position, Rook at g6 can move to g2 for playing Rxf2+ on next move. White King cannot go to e1, so it has to go back to g1. Black then plays Rg2+ which creates double check by Rook and Bishop and irrespective of King’s move to f1 or h1, it is checkmate by Rg1#.

But what if White plays Qxb6 to stall White’s Rxf2+? No problem, Black captures Rxh2 and White cannot prevent the coming Rh1#.

We can now write down the moves:

1. …        Rg6+
2. Kh1     Bh3
3. Rd1     Bg2+
4. Kg1     Bxf3+
5. Kf1      Rg2
6. Qd3     Rxf2+     (6. Qxb6   Rxh2   7. any   Rh1#)
7. Kg1     Rg2++
8. Kf1      Rg1#

See how you could work out a combination comprising 8 moves! Only thing is that the actual player of Black pieces did not have to think this long to work it out. I am quite sure of it, seeing that he was none other than Paul Morphy! I come nowhere near Morphy, so I can be excused! However, Morphy played the moves a little differently and you can play through the game at any online archive to see how he did it.

Louis Paulsen, who played as White and was among the top five players of that period, propounded the idea that any brilliant attack would fail against correct defense. This idea found acceptance with Steinitz, a future World Champion. But the curious point is that Paulsen failed to prove his idea in this game played at New York in 1857!

## Looking to find the best chess combination in a middle game position

In my view, all chess players get some inspirational ideas from time to time enabling them to produce that game of a lifetime! But since you will like to win on other days also, you cannot solely depend on that stroke of imaginative tactical ideas. You have to find some ways to make your perception work for you to produce, if not a brilliancy, at least a good combination or chess tactics whereby you get an upper hand over your opponent. In Chess Tactics: Method Approach to Calculating Combinations, we presented some methodical approach to find chess tactics that can yield better results on an average.

Lest you come to a wrong conclusion of this being a surefire way to create your combinations, we again stress that the method approach to chess tactics may not be possible for all situations by average players. In several earlier discussions, we have shown where even top Grandmasters could not find the winning move in a particular situation. You may go through Chess Tactics: The role of memory to see how Smyslov failed to find the move that enabled Chigorin to win in a similar situation 40 years earlier.

One of the reasons of failing to see some combinations is our mental block on certain possibilities. A Queen is such an important piece that we automatically assume that when the Queen is under attack by a Pawn/Knight/Bishop/Rook, the defender will try to protect it. That the Queen may have been marked for a sacrifice generally escapes our mind.

Let us see if the method approach would enable us to find the combination employed by Nezhmetdinov against Polugayevsky in the diagram position that was discussed in Importance of chess strategy – Part 2.

In the referred article, you have seen how the game proceeded after White had accepted the Queen sacrifice. Let us see if we can find what prompted Black to make the sacrifice.

Using the system we discussed in Chess Tactics: Method Approach to Calculating Combinations, what can you see in the above position? What are the escape squares for White King? Only d2 and d4, but d2 will not be available if the White Knight moved, which can be induced by an attack on the f4 pawn in the firing line of Black’s Bishop and Rook. Once the Knight moves, Black King loses the escape hole at d2 and now a check by Nxc2+ will take away d4 also. So the King gets checkmated unless White Queen is forced to capture the Knight by Qxc2, and that means losing the Queen because of Black’s Qxc2 with mate threat still looming large!

Therefore, you would expect White to capture the Queen, may be just because it is available (!) or because of seeing through aforesaid combination. After Black plays Rxf4, White has to decide between capturing Black Queen or Black Rook! We have seen how capturing the Rook affects White (he may resist moving the Knight by playing gxf4 but then Bxf4+ leaves no alternative!) and so we would bank on White’s Rxh2. We need not break our head on further analysis as Nezhmetdinov showed the way! (Refer Importance of chess strategy – Part 2)

Are we getting somewhere in using this type of method approach? Let us take up another example to see if it helps there also.

On previous move, White QB captured a pawn at f4, forcing Black to move his Queen from h6 to e6. It is White’s turn now. It will be apparent that Black is not posing any worthwhile threat. Black King has only three escape holes at f7, h7 and h8 in case of a check along g-file, possible by Rxg7 and then by Rg1 (after the King captures the Rook). White Queen can move to h5 square with check to deny all those three squares to Black King if it moves to f7 and Black’s Queen and other pieces are unable to prevent it. If the King tries to move to f6 instead of f7, White Bishop can move to e5 to deliver double check and that is the end of it. So the moves are clear:

1. Rxg7+     Kxg7
2. Rg1+       Kf7
3. Qh5+       Kf6
4. Qg6#

In the actual game played between Lasker and Teichmann at St. Petersburg in 1909, Teichmann resigned after White’s Rxg7+ as he could see what was coming.

## Chess Tactics: Method Approach to Calculating Combinations

From the mails received from many beginners, it appears that they are often at a loss in finding the best sequence of moves they should follow in response to a move by the opponent. In effect, they are asking how to make the calculations for a combination (a sequence of moves to achieve a specific purpose like mating the king, winning some material, gaining space etc.).

In the opening phase, they need to understand the strategic ideas and tactical possibilities for the opening or defense they adopt. With regular practice, these can become fairly automatic response, so we presume that the problem is not for this phase of the game.

But after entering the middle game where each has to chart his own path, the aforesaid problem can surely be significant. So how does one proceed?

You must be very clear about the ideas you have been following till you reached such a stage. Whatever move supports or enhances those ideas are good, whatever takes away or counters those ideas are bad – unless the board situation makes it necessary to abandon the earlier plans and formulate new ones.

One thing is certain – you know what you have in your mind! Problem is to guess what your opponent is thinking. But you get clues from the moves that he is making and do not reject any move by opponent as silly or a mistake unless you become sure of it by observing the disposition of his pieces.

This brings us to the essence of analysis – the moves that have been played (you can see those) and moves that are going to be played (you guess those) because those will have some link to the moves played not only by the opponent but by you also. So think about the purposes behind any move and whether those are offensive, defensive or a mixture of both.

Defensive moves should be relatively easy to identify as those will try to counter threats you have posed by your moves or threats that your opponent reasonably expects you to create. When planning your attack, you may have expected these responses and decided on your counter-action. But if the response is unexpected, try to see if there is a hidden agenda of a counter-attack or creation of a new defensive resource (like a stalemate possibility) and prepare your next moves accordingly.

Offensive moves like a direct attack can be seen easily but those hidden behind some combination may often appear innocent. So, all moves other than obviously defensive ones should be analyzed for their inherent ideas.

Why did your opponent make a particular move? It may be for:

• attacking your piece or pawn (if that is undefended, you can take defensive action but be suspicious if opponent aims at a defended piece, particularly using a piece of higher value as this may be a precursor to a sacrifice or more forces may be on the way)
• getting a piece to a better position (may be strategic but be sure that it does not pose any immediate offensive possibility)
• opening the line for another piece (examine if that creates attacking chances)
• vacating a square for another piece or pawn (see which piece or pawn can occupy that vacated square and what they can achieve)
• control of some other square (look for the piece or pawn which can occupy that square and their possible aims)
• providing support to a piece or pawn that is not under your attack (find why he expects some action around that piece)
• creating a decoy to lure some critical defender away (note which of your defender is targeted and then see which of your pieces or squares will suffer if that defender moves – gives you idea of where the attack may come)
• starting a long-range pin or skewer (be aware of this whenever you see any opponent piece taking up a line to your King, or a piece of lower value is positioned in the same row, file or diagonal to your piece of higher value. Even though there may be other pieces or pawns interposing at that point of time, examine the possibility of those getting removed in some way to activate the pin.)
• initiating the process towards discovered or double checks (these are always dangerous and forcing in nature, the presence of a piece capable of delivering check and in line with your King should alert you about such chances)
• offering a sacrifice (be careful of the possible consequences of accepting the offer unless it is forcing, particularly in the light of possibilities listed above)

Though we have written above assuming you to be the defender, you may keep the same points in mind to plan your own attacking methods and to decide which of these will be most appropriate in a particular situation.

If you have identified some weakness in your opponent’s position and the possibility of gaining an expected advantage, you may even calculate backwards. Visualize the situation you want to achieve with your and opponent’s pieces in required positions. Then work backward on how the pieces concerned can reach those specific positions from their current locations and you have got your desired combination!

It may look simplistic and I do not claim that it is always possible, but if you can discipline yourself to think in those lines and practice such actions, these thought processes will become your second nature over a time.

A simple but concrete example may make the process clearer to you. Take a look at the following position with White to move.

You can see that Black has a material advantage of two rooks and a bishop (of course engineered by White to get his attack going)! Black Queen and Bishop, though sitting in White’s base rank, cannot deliver any viable check and has practically been sidelined. Black’s QN is uselessly posted at the wrong edge of the board and his other pieces are still at their home positions! Black’s King is exposed in the center while White’s Knights and Bishop are dangerously close to Black King with the White Queen ready to come up along the semi-open f-file.

Once you have assessed the position and discounted any viable threat by Black, what moves by White can you think of? A closer look at the Black King shows that of the three squares (d8, f8 and e7) accessible to the King, only d8 is viable as f8 is denied by White Bishop and e7 by both Knights and the Bishop as well. Even if the King moves to d8, it cannot go further via c7 as that square is controlled by the Knight at d5.

Conclusion:
If you can deliver a check now (Nf can do that from g7 with impunity), King has to move to d8 and check by Bishop at e7 with support from the other Knight would create checkmate – provided Black’s KN could be forced to relinquish its hold on e7. You also realize that once the King moved to d8, White Queen can move up (remember that the Knight has moved to g7) to f6 for a checkmate unless Black’s KN intervenes. But this Knight cannot guard e7 if it captures at f6!

So the sequence of moves becomes clear –

1. Nxg7+     Kd8
2. Qf6+        Nxf6
3. Be7#

If it interests you, this game was played between Anderssen (the best player around that time) and Kieseritzky at London in 1851 and the game has earned the title of “The Immortal Game” because of the way White conducted his attack. I am sure any online chess repository will have this game and you can play through the full game – but try to analyze and predict the moves by White (the game lasted 23 moves).

## Chess Opening basics: Ruy Lopez (or the Spanish opening)

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Though traced back to the 15th century, this opening came into prominence in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, it has remained ever popular and is frequently seen in tournaments. It takes its name from a Spanish clergyman of the 16th century Ruy Lopez who made a systematic analysis of this opening. The basic ideas are easy to understand and the strategic and tactical possibilities appeal to players’ imaginations, giving rise to a large number of variations. New ideas or modifications of old ones keep coming up and these have helped to retain interest in this opening.

The present discussion, though made with reference to Ruy Lopez because of its wide prevalence, is to show you how you can analyze openings to understand the issues involved. An introduction to Ruy Lopez was given earlier, this description takes it a little more forward and shows the moves step by step that may appeal to the very beginners.

The diagrams on the left show the main line of play. Those on the right, when they appear, show the possibilities after the last main move.

 All openings aim to achieve a control of the center i.e., control of the four squares d4, e4, d5 and e5 as marked out in the diagram. You may like to refer to point 4 under positional strategies in 50 Strategies to gain the upper hand over your opponent. 1. e4 White KP is trying to take control of d5 and f5 1. … e5 Black likewise counters with aim to control d4 and f4 2. Nf3 This tries to wrest control of e5 by attacking the black pawn and exerts control on d4 2. … Nc6 This defends the e5 pawn and holds on to its share of control of the center and challenges White’s control on d4 3. Bb5 The starting of Ruy Lopez. This indirectly tries to seize control of center by attacking the defender knight of the e5 pawn. If this Knight is removed, White will be able to capture Black’s e5 pawn This move also indirectly prevents Black to move his QP (which would help Black to support his KP and free the line for his QB) because the Knight will be pinned against the King. 3. … a6 This move is known as Morphy Defense, apparently ignoring White’s threat. After this move, Ruy Lopez variations get into two broad categories, one with 3. … a6 and the other without this move. This move tries to drive White’s KB away, preparing the way for b5 at some stage that will force the Bishop to abandon its attack on black QN. But such pawn moves create some weakness in Black’s pawn structure while retaining his hold on his KP. 4. Ba4 The Bishop retreats while still retaining its attack on the Knight. You may ask: why not capture the Knight after what was said at move 3?This is because of the following possibilities. 4. Bxc6 If the Bishop captures the Knight … 4. … dxc6 … the QP captures the Bishop … 5. Nxe5 White Knight captures Blacks KP … 5. … Qd4 … Black Q attacks both the White Knight and Pawn at e4 and in trying to save the Knight, White has to surrender his e4 pawn and its control of the center. Black may have got doubled pawn on c-file but retains the advantage of having both Bishops. Black has another alternative also … 5. … Qg5 … Black Q attacks both the Knight and g-pawn and thus gets compensation for the loss of his KP. So White’s immediate capture of Knight with Bishop at move 4 does not give any benefit but it can be done after his KP is supported. Black has to watch out for such moves by White. 4. … Nf6 Secure in the knowledge of above possibilities, Black is not worried about his KP for the present and tries to make a counter-attack on White’s KP to wrest control of center. 5. 0-0 It is now White’s turn to disregard Black’s threat and proceed with castling to secure his King’s position and bringing KR into play. Why is the threat not considered? The following possibilities show that. 5. … Nxe4 If Black Knight captures the KP … 6. Re1 … The Rook attacks the Knight and captures Black’s KP when the Knight moves away. Alternatively … 6. d4 … White’s QP directly attacks Black’s KP … 6. … exd4 … if Black tries to capture White’s d-pawn … 7. Re1 … White Rook pins the Knight against Black King 5. … Be7 Being aware of above complications, Black places a guard in front of the King which also develops the Bishop and opens the line for castling. 6. Re1 This provides support to the KP and thereby reinstates the initial threat of Bxc6 posed at move 3. At this time, White had three other options to support his KP viz. … 6. Qe2 … support by the Queen … 6. Nc3 … support by the QN … 6. d3 … support by the QP 6. … b5 Black is aware of the revival of the threat against his Knight at c3 and thereby on his KP, so he parries the threat by attacking the Bishop 7. Bb3 The Bishop has to retreat but now has a line to Black’s vulnerable f7 square 7. … d6 The e5 pawn is supported further and lines have been opened for developing QB Black has the option of castling now and playing d6 on the next move.

This is the main line of Ruy Lopez Closed Defense, Classical Variation. It can be seen that Black’s 3. … a6 is instrumental in maintaining his e5 pawn and so long as Black is able to hold on to his KP and thereby a control on the center, his position is satisfactory. If the KP gets exchanged, strategic advantages accrue to White.

You can see that even within a span of 7 moves, so many different possibilities may arise including the strategic and tactical considerations that come into play. Any opening that you plan to follow should be analyzed this way to find the inherent strategies with positive and negative aspects. Your play should be consistent with the strategies to get the maximum benefits till you reach the middle game when you are on your own.