One of the most common and important positional motivations for exchanging pieces is to remove a key defensive unit.
In the following diagram, White clearly has a huge advantage, but he still has to find a way to break through. Polugayevsky realises that the key defensive piece holding Black’s position together is the Ne6, which is the only piece able to defend the weak dark squares on the black kingside. Polu therefore plays to exchange it off, after which he is quickly able to take aim at the enemy king and force a decisive sacrificial breakthrough.
Solving endgame studies is a very important training device, as well as being great fun. It helps to develop accurate calculation above all, whilst also training one’s imagination. To mark the death last week of Sir Jeremy Morse, a major figure in problem chess, and also the former chairman of Lloyds Bank, responsible for the LB Masters tournament (and, incidentally, the man for whom the TV detective Inspector Morse was named!), this week I feature a study composed by him. Solution next week. If at all possible, I recommend you solve it without moving the pieces, thus replicating a game situation, but if you find this too difficult, then by all means moves the bits round on the board.
Evening Standard 1955
White to play and win.
To complete this series, a game which is possibly the best anti-Minority Attack game I have ever seen. Kasparov puts on a veritable master-class. Note many of the themes we have already seen, such as using d6 as a knight outpost. Most striking of all is how Kasparov exchanges queens in the middle of his kingside attack, realising that his play on that wing is also a deadly a positional plan, involving the undermining of the white pawn structure. Nimzowitsch would have loved the game!
You can find this game, with much more extensive notes, in my book “50 Essential Chess Lessons”.
Thus far, we have seen successful examples where Black manages to exchange light-squared bishops early, which usually favours him. Against an accurate white move-order, this is not possible, but Black is still not without counterplay. A piece attack on the kingside is his main weapon. The following game sees this work very well against slow white play. Fuster hunts down and eventually annexes the poor black a-pawn, but while he is doing so, his kingside comes to resemble the Marie Celeste, and his monarch pays the price.
This week’s game is a cautionary example of when the black plan with b7-b5 can go wrong. As we mentioned last week, a critical factor in this plan’s success is usually that he have a strong grip on e4. White usually tries to react to b5 by breaking in the centre with e3-e4, which, if successful, threatens to undermine the black structure.
The following is a classic example. Spassky’s b5 is misjudged, and further subsequent inaccuracies enable Karpov to give a perfect demonstration of the white strategy.
Another example of the strategy seen in Bobotsov-Petrosian can be seen below, but with an added twist. As well as exchanging light-squared bishops and getting his knight to d6, Black also plays the prophylactic advance b7-b5, preventing the Minority Attack from proceeding. This is an excellent strategy, if Black can then occupy c4 with a knight (thus sheltering his weak c6-pawn). The other crucial factor in the success of the b5-plan is that Black have a firm grip on the e4-square – if White can answer …b5 by breaking in the centre with e4, Black’s strategy can prove incorrect (the classic example of this will be shown next week).
In this example, everything works perfectly for Black. Having secured his queenside, he turns to the attack on the kingside, a decisive sacrifice on e3 crowning a model demonstration.
A lovely and highly instructive game, made all the more impressive for the fact that it was a blindfold game!
The QGD Minority Attack is a very popular choice for white players, mainly because of the apparent simplicity of White’s play – “you just develop, play Rab1. b4-b5, bxc6 and then exploit the weak pawns”. It is true that in practice, White scores disproportionately well at almost all levels, but this is only because black players tend to lack a decent understanding of how to handle their position. When really great players are Black in such structures, the white system usually looks much less impressive. Over the next few weeks, we will look at a few classic examples of how to play the black structure.
Rule number one for Black is to try to exchange light-squared bishops, thereby weakening White’s control of c4. Rule number two is: having done so, put a knight on d6. These two things, if achieved, will usually be enough to render the white Q-side play ineffective, whereupon Black can attack on the kingside.
The following game is a classic example of the strategy.
As last week’s game showed, Nimzowitsch’s blockading knights were a great feature of his play. This week’s game sees a very strong master humiliated by the said steeds. After being landed with the doubled pawns, Mattison fails to seize the early chances to activate his position, even at the cost of a pawn, by c4-c5 or a later Nd2. Instead, he plays aimlessly and allows Nimxowitsch to establish an unbreakable grip. From move 15 onwards, it is all one-way traffic, and White resigns on move 23 in a position where, for the moment at least, he still has material equality. However, that is a purely temporary state of affairs, as the pawns on a2, c3 and e4 are all dropping off in short order.
The game is analysed in great depth in my new book, Nimzowitsch Move by Move, available from fine bookstores everywhere!
The first player to write extensively about the concept of two weaknesses was Nimzowitsch, who had a chapter on “Alternation” in his classic book, My System. By a coincidence of truly Plaskettian proportions, my own new book, “Nimzowitsch Move by Move” (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nimzowitsch-Move-Steve-Giddins/dp/178194198X ) has just been published by Everyman, and includes 30 of Nimzo’s best games, deeply annotated in the Q&A style used in the series. That seems a suitably tenuous, but nonetheless sufficient excuse to give a classic example of the man himself employing two-front strategy.
The game that follows is annotated extensively, over some 9 pages, in my book, but what principally concerns us here is the way in which Nimzowitsch keeps switching his attack from the kingside to the queenside and back again, especially starting from move 29. Whilst preparing a breakthrough down the g-file, Nimzo also keeps torturing White with threats against the a2-pawn (29…b5!, allowing a later Qa6, etc). White sets himself up to meet gxf4 by taking with the bishop, keeping things blocked, but Nimzo’s alternation tactics induce some discoordination in the white camp, and the constant switching of the attack between the two flanks eventually sees Black force a collapse of the white defences on the g-file. But then at move 38, just as the kingside looks about to cave in and both white rooks have had to come over to shore up g3, Nimzo switches his queen back to a6 again and calmly lifts the a2-pawn, and it is Black’s passed a-pawn which actually delivers the final blow. A perfect demonstration of two-wing strategy.
By the way, did I mention that my book is available from fine bookstores everywhere?
This week’s example sees an impressive grind against the master of such things, Anatoly Karpov. White emerges from the opening with the better endgame, thanks to the weakness on d5. Gelfand’s note to move 23 reads “White needs to create a second weakness, as in Nimzowitsch’s book”. The plan behind 23.a4 is to advance the pawn to a5 and fix a6 as the second weakness. This duly happens, and after a long grind, the combined effect of the two weaknesses eventually sees the black defences collapse.