Suffocate the Heavies!

May 30, 2009

Incorporating opening patterns into the Chunky Rook project proves difficult, but I’m going to give it a shot with this pattern from a recent tournament game of mine.

The idea: always consider the breathing space of heavy pieces. We all know that bringing your queen out too early is dangerous because the lady might be chased around (or even hunted down) by minor pieces. But it’s easy to forget that the same goes for rooks: when you see a rook in a cramped position in which your minor pieces are well developed and the pawns near the rooks are hindering the rook or allowing access to your pieces, think about the breathing space of the rook and whether it can be exploited. In this case, the rook at a8 has only two squares to go, allowing an attack with a double threat: gaining the exchange and threatening mate.

The opening: this position arose from a Smith-Morra gambit. The Smith-Morra (or simply “Morra”) is an anti-Sicilian (1. e4 c5 2. d4!? 3. cxd4 c3!? 4. dxc3 Nxc3). Generally, the gambit is not supposed to be uber-sound, but not unsound, either. In other words, it’s perfectly playable until you reach 2000+, at which stage you might want to consider other options.

Be that as it may, the Morra features some interesting attacking ideas, especially if White manages to prevent the Black king from castling. One of the key ideas of the Smith Morra is that three or four of your minor pieces can lead a devastating attack against an uncastled and underdeveloped Black position. Sometimes, the result is mate, and sometimes it’s snatching up a heavy for a minor piece. So when you play the Smith-Morra and exchange queens, consider the attacking potential of your minor pieces against the cramped position: Heavy breathing for the heavies!

The Queensolani

May 17, 2009


Loyal readers, I apologise for the scarcity of updates. A new job has been keeping me not only from regular updates, but also from studying chess and acquiring new ideas. The only chess I get these days is the weekly tournament game. So far, I’m happy with my performance (3 1/2 points out of 4 games). However, my opening leaves much to be desired. At this stage, I’m opting for open games, and inevitably seem to wind up with isolanis. I don’t particulary mind that; the topic of the isolani is fascinating and it forces you to hone your attacking game, which is precisely what I want. Yet many of the subtleties of isolated pawn positions elude me still. One pattern I have to remember is the danger of a pinned queen isolani, arising, for example, in the Panov-Botvinnik attack, my weapon of choice against the Caro-Kann.

This week’s gif, therefore, is devoted to the pattern of the open line and rook-pawn-queen pin in isolated pawn positions. If you play with the isolani, try to anticipate this potential resource for the isolani-attacker, and make sure you can either move or hold on to the isolated pawn without incriminating your piece activity too much (you don’t want to use your pieces to become passive defenders of the isolani!) or, worse even, endangering your queen.

Edit: Apologies for the lame title as well. In my defence: lameness can sometimes serve as a useful mnemonic device!