Tarrasch and the Anarchist Bishop

I recently got back in to playing some chess, dear reader. For some time now, my main chess activity has been writing about our wonderful game, and I do dare say that I might regret not leaving it that way as time goes by. However, I must say that having joined up at one of the numerous chess servers around, I am finding it rather enjoyable to be back at the board. The bug is back.

I have noticed that the website I play at has a tactics training feature, paying members can play an unlimited number of tactics per day, and are rated depending on their success. I fast became addicted, even though my initial experience with the tactics was quite humiliating. It really is quite amazing how the brain slows down and becomes lazy when one is not using it, the sharpness fades and we can forget even elementary things. Thankfully, just before my laptop went flying off of the balcony, my brain started to wake up, and I began making progress, and feeling somewhat on the road to my former self, when I was playing chess like there was no tomorrow, including a couple of hours of live online chess daily.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it surprises me that looking at the players on the site I play at, it appears that the percentage of them who take advantage of this tactics trainer is rather low. To be honest, I don’t really understand it, tactics are a very important part of chess, and the more a player practices them, the easier he/she will recognise important tactical and thematic patterns. One can never practice them enough, and I think that most chess coaches would say that a few hundred at least are required before very much benefit is felt from them. If they are able to be practiced for free, at the click of a mouse button, then this is a gift to the modern day player that the old masters did not have.

Such a master would be Siegbert Tarrasch, (1862-1934), one of the most influential chess players of all time. Tarrasch was one of the advocates of the chess principles that we still follow today, rapid development, castle early, focus on the centre. He did things ‘by the book’ so to speak. This made him a target of the games hypermodernists. What we are going to look at, is a game played by Tarrasch in 1914. From what I can gather, he was facing a consultation team, named ‘Allies’. I’ve annotated the game, so I wont give too much away here, only to say that it is very illustrative when it comes to the principles of good opening play, and how to approach things when the opponent does not develop effectively. In the case of ‘Allies’, this included leaving the King precariously situated in the centre.

I advise the reader to take time when playing through the game, as much can be learned from it. In a way, I selfishly hope that it is the first time you are seeing it, as Tarrasch’s knock-out blow is I think right up there with the finest moves the game has ever seen. It was his wide appreciation of the chess board, of patterns and tactical themes, that allowed him to deliver it.

Enjoy …

John Lee Shaw