Attacking f7, Winning the Queen

September 27, 2009

Sacrifice on f7, followed by knight intrusion on e6, smothering the queen:middlegame_f7queenwin1 Sacrifice at f2, followed by discovered check, winning the queen: middlegame_f7queenwin2

The Art of Blockade (I)

September 19, 2009

I was watching Dennis Monokroussos’ commentary on How Not to Play the Pirc, in which he discusses the idea of blockading a pawn with a piece so as to restrict enemy piece mobility. Black’s bishop blocks the pawn on c3 and remains active and at the same time thwarts White’s plan to intrude with his knight at d5 via c3 once the pawn moves. middlegame_blockading_01

Knight Time

September 15, 2009

A guide to quick calculation found in Josh Waitzkin’s Attacking Chess. middlegame_knighttime

Patterns in Kingside Attacks

September 12, 2009

In my experience, nothing benefits the aspiring patzer as much as listening to more experienced players playing over games and articulating their thoughts, ideas and plans. These days, luckily, YouTubers around the world provide us with plenty of opportunities to do just that. Three of my favourite contributors in that respect are Kingscrusher, GreenCastleBlock and Claus Jensen. Claus, I discovered today, also has an excellent blog at First, I would like to thank them for sharing their experience with the rest of us.

Second, I would like to point you to a video by Claus that ties in nicely with the Greek Gift and kingside attacking ideas that I have been concentrating on lately. The video features a game he played against the French Defence, and his commentary contains a host of ideas relevant to kingside attacks. An excellent training exercise, I believe, would be to set up the board whenever Claus says “decisive attack” or “Black’s lost here” and find the correct moves to prove him right (or wrong). Here’s the video in question. (I refrain from embedding as I prefer not to slow down the blog unnecessarily.) Enjoy!

Queen Versus Pawn on the Seventh (II)

September 11, 2009

I commented on a queen versus pawn endgame over at In Honor Of Nezhmetdinov and I’m going to seize the opportunity to refresh my endgame knowledge (most of which I’ve acquired through Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course). Previously, I posted the idea of getting the queen in front of the bishop/rook pawn. A second strategy versus the bishop/rook pawn is closing in with your king first. Since we’ve just acquired a queen, we’re tempted to check the hell out of the enemy king, somehow hoping to squeeze our queen in between the pawn and the king. But this often leads to a draw. A more promising way is to activate our king. Remember this: you can only win this kind of endgame if you can either block or snatch up the pawn immediately with your queen, or if your king is close enough to participate in the attack. In other words: whenever you play with a queen against a bishop/rook pawn on the seventh, consider the king moves. Here’s the sequence I suggested for Nez’s game; notice how White’s king does all the work while White’s queen patiently awaits her chance:endgame_qp7k

If I calculated this position accurately, then at no point can Black afford promoting his pawn because it would allow White’s queen to move in for a decisive attack thanks to the proximity of White’s king. Here are the variations I posted at Nez’s blog:

[…] I think the endgame is winning for White because White’s king’s already closing in. But it’s still tricky: After 54. … h2 (which I think is the correct move) 55. g8Q (also correct) Kf2 (what else?) White misses the winning shot 56. Kf4! If (A) 56. … h1Q 57. Qa2+ Kf1 58. Kg3! and it’s either mate or losing the queen for Black. And if (B) 56. … Kf1 57. Kg3! h1Q 58. Qc4+! or 57. … Kg1 58. Kh3+! (once again the king move wins; if the queen moves, Black has some annoying defenses by promoting his pawn to a knight) Kf1 59. Qg2+ Game over.

Edit: Ah, endgames are hard. Chesstiger made me go over my variations again. 56. … h1Q 57. Qa+ Kf1 58. Kg3? is a blunder! Instead, White must bring his queen closer: 58. Qb1+ Kg2 and the queen gets closer and closer with checks until …Qe2+ Kg1 Kg3! Also, White has an alternative plan: 56. Qh8! For variations, I refer you to the Nalimov endgame tablebase.

Isolani Weapons: The Greek Gift

September 9, 2009

The Greek Gift sacrifice crops up in isolated pawn positions every now and then in combination with a knight on e5.  Here’s another position from Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess, which illustrates the application of the Greek Gift in isolated pawn positions; it also demonstrates the power of a well-known zwischenzug, the infamous rook lift: middlegame_iso_greekgift

Note that Black moved his knight to d5, leaving h7 undefended. The knight blockade of the isolated pawn is a common theme when defending against the isolani, so if you want to be vily in your attack, you may use it as a bait. In this case, the natural move Nf6-d5 leads to disaster. Note that here the Greek Gift doesn’t produce a decisive mating attack. The off-shot is a simple gain in material (in the above example, White wins two pawns in a superior position). In other words, don’t lose yourself in mating nets if you see a straight-forward path to victory or at least a better position (unless, of course, you’ve got ample time on your clock and strive for the beauty prize). The same goes for tactics that rid yourself of the isolated pawn: do not hold on to the isolani just because you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you can steamroll your opponent with a powerful attack. If you can trade it off to reach a superior endgame, then that’s frequently the best path to tread.

The Greek Gift and the Attacking Zwischenzug

September 8, 2009

In Honor of Nezhmetdinov recently posted on what is arguably one of the best known sacrificial attacking ideas in chess: the classical bishop sac at h7/h2, also known as the Greek Gift. I have chosen to illustrate the Greek Gift with an animated move sequence from the Wikipedia article that features another hugely important idea: the zwischenzug. To play a zwischenzug during an attack basically means to move a piece without giving check. The more I study attacking chess, the more I realise that the art of attack is the art of knowing which zwischenzugs you can afford to make without jeopardising your attack. Such zwischenzugs, in my experience, are ten times harder to spot and consider in your calculation, at least for beginners, because you’re (a) so immersed in your desire to force things and overwhelm your opponent in one seamless chain and (b) because making a zwischenzug often means your opponent has several rather than just one potential responses. (Perhaps I ought to add c) because it takes patience and audacity — a peculiar combination.) To consider the zwischenzug is the antithesis to “patzer sees check, patzer gives check”, and while the following example may be blatantly obvious to advanced players, to me it illustrates very succinctly the idea of the zwischenzug in the attack.   middlegame_attack_zwischenzTimeo danaos et dona ferentes!

Isolani Weapons: Knight Sac at f7

September 7, 2009

We all know the weakness of the f7/f2 squares. Isolated pawn positions are no exception, and a common theme in this regard is the knight sacrifice at f7, especially in combination with a strong bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal. In the following example from Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess, the sacrifice results in a decisive attack for White:opening_isolani_Bb3Ke5

Isolani Weapons: Knight Invasion at d7

September 6, 2009

Credit once again to Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess. This theme resembles the previous one — knight invasion at c6 — except here the knight teams up with the bishop at g5 to remove the defender of the d7 square. I think these pieces-to-squares relationships are a crucial part of acquiring pattern recognition: you first absorb the fact that the bishop often comes to g5, attacking a knight on f6; then you begin to understand that the knight often comes to e5, and that the knight on f6 defends d7; finally you put two and two together, realising that there’s an important relationship between knights and bishops and the g5-f6-e5-d7 squares. The same, of course, applies to the h7-square, the knight on f6, and a white-square bishop on the b1-h7 square opting for a mating attack. From now on, I’m going to add piece-position tags to my posts. Chess is beautiful!


Isolani Weapons: Knight Invasion at c6

September 5, 2009

Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess is a good primer on chess strategy. He devotes several chapters to the isolated pawn, the topic I am currently studying. Since I want to practise and improve my attacking chess before focusing on strategy (following the logic that you can always make a closed game open but not vice-versa), I am building my opening repertoire around isolated pawn positions. According to Pandolfini, isolated pawn positions also force you not to be lazy — a serious challenge for players such as myself and others, who profess to have a tendency to play impatiently and shun thorough calculation. In Pandolfini’s words:

Naturally, great demands are placed on the player who accepts an isolated d-pawn. You must play with exceptional energy, never allowing your attention to wander. You must see the entire board, not just a specific sector. Pieces may shift into action across the center, from one side of the board to the other, at a move’s notice. Calculation of possible variations is a necessity. Your analysis must be precise and penetrating. In short, if you want to improve your game, try to play openings that generate isolated d-pawns. Be willing to take either side; to play with the isolated d-pawn and to play against it. All aspects of your play will improve.

Goodness me.  Well, I don’t doubt that calculation is paramount, but I still believe that ideas are half the battle. And so I’ll be presenting some of the ideas mentioned in Weapons of Chess to illustrate how you can use the isolani to your advantage. The first idea in this series is “knight invasion at c6”. If you manage to use the squares protected by your isolated pawn as outposts, your knights may become very powerful. A knight on e5, for instance, can challenge your opponent at c6:middlegame_isolani_knightc6

Here’s the same idea combined with another one, the “removing of the defender” of the c6 square:middlegame_isolani_knightc6_02