Defending Difficult Positions

A discussion broke out on Facebook last week about defending difficult positions. I’ve had a lot of experience of this, perhaps through playing the Modern Defence for so long! And my recommendation is to read the chapter by Paul Keres on this in The Art of the Middle Game.

Essentially Keres states that one must avoid playing for swindles as your opponent then only needs to negotiate a single obstacle before being able to claim victory. Instead it makes it much harder for them if you dig in and simply refuse to lose, searching all the time for the move that keeps you in the game. When faced with such stubborn resistance many people will be unable to continue the perfect series of moves needed for victory. And when they falter you can pounce!

Here’s one of my own defensive efforts against the Australian GM, Ian Rogers. I had the worse position out of the opening because of White’s strong knight but defended myself by making his c-pawn a target (26…b3 cut it off from its friends) and fixing his queenside pawns on the same color as my bishop. The game reached its climax with 50.Rxf7+!, which is calmly met by 50…Kg8!. And then the queen sacrifice with 53…Qxf2+ forces a pawn down endgame which White cannot win.

Did White have better? Well Black’s difficulties would have continued after 43.Nf6+ followed by 44.gxf4, but it isn’t easy to find such things against an opponent who refuses to surrender.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.