Monday, May 17, 2010

The sacrifice

I'm not talking about giving up material for the initiative or an attack. I'm talking about accepting the inability to think too deeply that goes along with entering an “active” (30-minute) chess tournament. With life's many demands, it is often more convenient to play a tournament that lasts one day instead of two or three. But there is a price. If you treat active chess like classical chess and try to find the best moves as much as possible, you will inevitably fall behind on the clock. We all know what can happen then.

Here is an illustration of this theme from a recent active game of mine. The result was favourable for me, but later analysis showed the creative aspect to be anything but satisfying.

The diagrammed position arose in the game Scoones-Milicevic, Vancouver Express Open 2010, a 16-player Swiss System event hosted by Metro Vancouver's official Russian-language newspaper. This encounter was played in the last round and was crucial for deciding who would finish in second place behind the winner of the event, IM Stanislav Kriventsov.

White has two bishops against a rook and pawn, but more important than that, he has the ability to start a dangerous attack against Black's king. The downside is that White has only 90 seconds left on his clock.

37.Bc4+! Kg7 38.Ne6+ Kh6?!

With 2 minutes on his own clock, Black goes wrong – by the standards of active chess. He had to try 38...Kg8!? 39.Nd8+ Kg7 40.Nxb7 Ra8 and hope that White ran out of time while trying to promote his queenside pawns. The text leads instead to a mating attack.

39.Bf8+ Kh5?!

Here too Black should give up further material with 39...Rxf8 and hope that White cannot convert within the time limit.

40.Be2+ Kh4 41.Bg7?!

When I played this move I believed it was quite brilliant. White threatens both 42.Bxf6+ followed by mate, and 42.Bxh8 winning a rook. However, much stronger was 41.Bc5!, when Black can stave off mate for only a couple of moves.


Here 41...Rf8 was slightly stronger but by now it would not change things much.


It isn't too often that capturing a free rook merits a question mark. But it does happen, and this is one of those times. Much, much stronger was 42.Nf4! threatening 43.g3 mate. The only defence is taking the knight with 42...gxf4, but then White mates with 43.Bxf6.

After taking the rook I was down to 60 seconds on the clock. Fortunately (for me) I managed to exchange off my opponent's remaining knight and then queen my b-pawn, ending the game quickly.

There is only one way to improve at active chess: practise, practise, practise!

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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.