Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Janowski trap

The diagrammed position may look fairly modern but is taken from an old game between David Janowski and Ignatz Von Popiel, played in the last round of the Deutsche Schachbund congress at Hannover in 1902. It is White to play.

There are many situations in chess where the player on move has a positional advantage as well as an opportunity to start a tactical sequence. There is a temptation to think that such tactical sequences must end favourably for the player who starts with the advantage. This is not always true, the Janowski-Von Popiel game being a case in point.

As a confirmed representative of the combinative school, David Janowski decides it is time for White's centralised army to exploit Black's inferior development. His chosen method contains a very deep tactical point, but some analysis reveals that Black could have defended himself.

1.e5!? dxe5 2.Bxe5 Qb7 3.Bxf6!?
Janowski was fond of the two bishops, but also knew when to give one of them up.
Von Popiel falls into Janowski's far-sighted combinative trap. Correct was 3...Bxf6! 4.Nd5 Kg7! White gains little from exchanging on f6, so the conclusion is that Black has managed to equalise.
6.Bxg7! Bxd1
There is no turning back. If 6...Kxg7 7.gxf3 and White is a piece up.
7.Bh6 Bxc2?!
Black had to acquiesce to the loss of material. After 7...e5 8.Rxd1 he will continue to suffer, but after his bishop move things end very quickly.
A very nice concluding blow, which threatens mate on the move. The only defence is 8...f6 but it costs Black his queen after 9.Qe6+ Kh8 10.Qf7 Rg8 11.Rxe7 Qxe7 12.Qxe7. Von Popiel resigned after 8.Qe5 and thus Janowski won the tournament.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Find the continuation 1

I recently took some good advice that I believe originated with the well-known trainer Dan Heisman and started a database of interesting positions from my own games. Normally these would stay private but in the wonderful 21st century world of blogging it has become acceptable to make private things public!

The diagram position arose in an online blitz game. It is Black to play and win. As always I would encourage you spend a few minutes deciding what you would do before looking at the solution.

Black has a multi-stage combination that wins a piece:
1...Na5 2.Na4 Qd6! 3.Qc2 Nxc4 4.Qxc4 b5! 5.Qxb5 Bd7!
White's queen must now abandon the knight on a4. He can try a desperate attack..
6.Qh5 Bxa4 7.Ng5 Bxd1
White has a few checks but nothing to compensate for the missing rook.

I was Black in this game. Unfortunately I missed the combination and went on to lose through hanging my queen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Golubev corrected

The extremely sharp Dragon Sicilian position shown in the first diagram arose in the game Palac-Lalic, Pula (Croatian Team Ch.) 2000. It is White to move. Both sides appear to be attacking, and it is not easy to say whose chances are better. The immediate question is whether the knight on c3 must be defended. More precisely, can White ignore it and play 1.Bxh6 right away?

In the game, Palac went for safety with 1.Rd3?! This could and should have allowed Black to barnacle with 1...g5!, but Lalic instead played the mistaken 1...h5? After 2.gxh5 Nxh5 3.Qg2! Black's draughty king position gave White a strong initiative and his attack eventually prevailed.

Some time later this game came under the scrutiny of the noted Dragon theorist Mikhail Golubev, a grandmaster from the Ukraine. He recommended the following continuation of White's attack: 1.Bxh6! Rxc3 2.Bxg7 Kxg7 3.Qh6+ Kf7 4.g5 Ne8 5.Rh4! e5 6.Qh7+ Kf8 7.Rdh1! Here Golubev writes that Black is helpless against the threatened 8.Qxg6 exd4 9.Rh8+ Ke7 10.Rxe8+ and his analysis ends here.

After 7.Rdh1 Black cannot play 7...exd4 because of 8.Rf4+ and wins, so he must find a different move. If we give him the superfluous 7...a5, Golubev's line can be continued as follows: 10...Bxe8 11.Rh7+ Kd8 12.Qxd6+ Kc8 13.Qe6+ Kd8 14.Rxb7 Rxb7 15.Qf6+ Kc8 16.g6! Here the legendary Mikhail Tal would certainly adjudge this as winning for White, and very few would disagree with him.

In passing let us observe that instead of 6...Kf8 Black cannot block the queen check with 6...Ng7 on account of 7.Rh6! Rg8 8.Qxg6+ Ke7 9.Qxd6+ Kd8 10.Qxe5 and with four pawns and a raging attack for the piece White must be easily winning. This idea will resurface in a later note.

Of course there must be something stronger for Black than the superfluous 7...a5. At the very least one could look at 7...Qc7, which gives White almost the same variation with the key difference that the pawn on d6 is now defended. Now After 8.Qxg6 exd4 9.Rh8+ Ke7 10.Rxe8+ Bxe8 11.Rh7+ Kd8 12.Rxb7 Kxb7 13.g6 Black can give back a piece with 13...Bxg6 and fight on with two rooks against White's queen. Whether he would be successful is another matter, but the point is that this is not clearly a forced win for White.

Let us peel back to the position after 4...Ne8 (second diagram) and make White play 5.Qh7+! instead of 5.Rh4. With the square e7 still blocked by his pawn, Black cannot play 5...Kf8 since 6.Qh8+ followed by 7.Rg7+ delivers a quick mate, so Black must reply to 5.Qh7+ with 5...Ng7. Unfortunately this allows White to switch back to the variation analysed above with 6.Rh4! e5 7.Rh6! As before Black has nothing better than 7...Rg8 8.Qxg6+ Ke7 9.Qxd6+ Kd8 10.Qxe5 and a win for White is just a matter of time.

Varying the order of one's moves and gauging the effect is an important part of attacking technique. I wish I could learn to do this properly during actual play!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Power play

I was very impressed by the energetic play of GM Alexander Moiseenko in his game with GM Adam Horvath from the 2005 Saint-Vincent Open. Moiseenko got things going with a strong opening novelty, moved into gambit mode by sacrificing material for a lasting initiative, and then finished off his opponent with some nice tactical play.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Ne5 5.f4 Ng4
This is a very sharp line of Chigorin's Defence. Black must be well-prepared in order to survive.
6.e4 e5 7.Nf3 Bc5 (first diagram)
Here is Moiseenko's novelty, in place of the more usual 8.Qa4+. It looks like a mistake at first glance but things turn out otherwise.
If 8...Nf2 9.Qb3 Nf6 10.Rf1 N6xe4 11.Ng5! and now 11...Nxc3 12.bxc3 0-0 13.Rxf2 h6 14.Nf3 Bxf2+ 15.Kxf2 e4 16.Ne5 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 Qe1+ 18.Bf1 leaves White on top.
9.Nxe5 Nxe5
After 9...N8f6 10.Bb5+ Kf8 11.Qf3 Nxe5 12.fxe5 Qxe5 would transpose to the game but instead of 11...Nxe5 Black might consider 11...Bd4!? with interesting play.
10.fxe5 Qxe5 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.Qf3 Nf6 13.Bf4 Qd4 14.h3 Bd7
If 14...Bb4 15.Bd3 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Qxc3+ 17.Kf2 and White has excellent compensation for the sacrificed material.
15.Bd3 Bb4 16.a3
Perhaps 16.Be3 Qe5 17.0-0 Bd6 18.Ne2 was stronger.
16...Bxc3+ 17.bxc3 Qxc3+ 18.Kf2 (second diagram)
I like 18...Qd4+ 19.Qe3 (if 19.Kg3 Nh5+ 20.Qxh5 Qxd3+ 21.Kh2 Qxe4 22.Bxc7 Qf5! and it is hard to imagine White eking out any winning chances) 19...Qxe3+ 20.Kxe3 Re8 21.Kf3 c6 22.d6 c5 23.Rac1 b6 24.Rhe1 h5! when it is still anyone's game.
19.Rhe1 c6 20.Kf1 h6 21.Bd6+ Kg8 22.Rab1 Bc8 23.Rbc1 Qd4 24.Bc5 Qe5 25.Bxa7 Bd7 26.Bf2 cxd5 27.exd5 Qxd5 (third diagram)
Over the preceding moves Black has not managed to neutralise White's pressure and the awkward position of his king is now a decisive factor. It's White to play and win by force!
28.Rxe8+ Bxe8 29.Qxd5 Nxd5 30.Rc8 Nf6 31.Bd4 Kf8 32.Bc5+ Kg8 33.Be7
The culmination of White's forced manoeuvre. Black must lose a piece and so he resigned here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Exploiting advantages

Here is a position from a recent game of mine. A comparison of space, king safety and mobility suggests that Black is on the defensive, but White must still find a way forward. In this context the bishops of opposite colour are a feature of interest. White's bishop is temporarily restricting Black's knight, while White's knight stands ready to block the long diagonal in anticipation of the manoeuvre ...b6-b5-b4 with an attack against c3. Tripling the heavy artillery on the h-file with the idea of Rh8+ followed by Qxh8# is perhaps White's most obvious plan. If Black does nothing significant over the next few moves his position will become critical.

23.Ne5 Nd7
Black's knight is not doing much so exchanging it for White's more active knight is a natural idea.
White gets nowhere after 25.Ba4 Nxe5! 26.fxe5 (if 26.Bxe8 Nc4! 27.Bxf7+ Kxf7 and Black is better) 26...Rb8 with adequate counterplay for Black. With the text move White avoids the exchange and creates an opportunity to play either Nh6+ or Nf6+ as convenient.
When a wing attack threatens it is often effective to strike a counterblow in the centre. The problem with this pawn lever is that White's is able to keep the centre files closed by simply bypassing the pawn. Much stronger was 24...Qc5 25.Qh3 Kf8 26.Qh7 Qc4, but after 27.Kb1! Qxf4 28.Nh6 Bxh6 29.gxh6 Ke7 30.Bxg6! Nf8 31.Qg7 Nxg6 32.Rhf1! Black must surrender his queen for two pieces in order to stop White's attack.
25.f5! gxf5 26.Bxf5 e4
Also unavailing is 26...Nf8 27.Rdg1 Ng6 28.Qh3! Qxg5+ 29.Ne3! Qf4 30.Bxg6 fxg6 31.Rxg6 with irresistible threats. The text move allows White to win immediately.
27.Rxd7! Rxd7 28.Bxd7 Qxd7 29.Nf6+ Bxf6 30.gxf6
After the exchange of his key defenders Black has no adequate defence against the mating attack with Qe3-h6, and therefore he resigned.

About Me

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.