Ashvin’s post on March 20th had a great illustration in the 9th round of the Candidates Tournament in London. Facing some very serious preparation by Vladimir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen was forced into a critical position. Yet he managed to find a brilliant defensive sequence starting with 22…Re8! and later 25…Nd5!. Here’s the game:
Good defence is certainly a vital aspect of chess, and one which is often underestimated by players at club level. One of the problems is that not many people think that it’s a fun way to spend their leisure time so will tend to try for a swindle and then give up if it doesn’t work. Yet as Paul Keres pointed out in The Art of the Middle Game the correct strategy is to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to win the game. And when faced with such a stubborn defence it often happens that the player who is better makes a mistake.
Are there any ways to cultivate good defensive skills? Well reading The Art of the Middle Game is a great start. I think it’s also important not to play too much quick stuff on the internet as it’s too easy to give up and play another game from a better position. Longer time limits are certainly better, as is setting a limit on how many online games you’ll play at a time. This will give the games you play greater value, hopefully fostering greater tenacity when you play them.
Finally, one of my own methods of putting up resistance in a poor position is to recall the following speech of Winston Churchill. We shall indeed fight them on the beaches as this never say die mentality helps save a lot of lost positions: