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Let's Take A Look

Let's Take A Look...


Nigel Davies

We invite you to submit games to be considered by Nigel in this column. For all games submitted, please provide the following information: (1) Names of both players; (2) Ratings of both players; (3) When and where the game was played; (4) The time control used in the game; and (5) Any other information you think would be helpful for us to know. Please submit the games (in PGN or CBV format if possible) to: nigeldavies@chesscafe.com . Who knows, perhaps you will see the game in an upcoming column, as Nigel says to you, "Let's take a look..."

Crowning the Attack


One of the hardest things to do in chess is to put the ball in the back of the net. Books often give the impression that once you achieve a winning game, scoring the point is almost automatic. Yet in my lengthy experience of playing and coaching Ive found that the moments close to victory are amongst the most difficult and dangerous a player must face. Its not the position thats the problem, its sheer anxiety. After mentally banking the win a little voice starts telling you NOT TO MESS IT UP! The pulse starts racing and you begin to calculate forcing lines. You just want it to be over, but the

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forcing lines dont quite work. Should you forget trying to finish the guy off and just play a quiet move? No, you really want it to be over! Meanwhile youre running out of thinking time and down to your last 5 minutes. OK, lets just play a move. Our opponents can use this anxiety. The longer he keeps the game going, the greater the sense of frustration experienced by the player who is winning but hasnt actually won. Thus the advice of Paul Keres in the magnificent book he wrote with Alexander Kotov, The Art of the Middle Game:
Why concern oneself with positions that are already lost? Provided the opponent plays the continuation correctly there is nothing in fact to be done, so why worry oneself to no purpose? No, lets just try a swindle and if that misfires then give up the game! However it is not so simple as all that and it is against just such a conception that I direct myself in the following pages of this chapter. Lasker has already said that a position can never be so bad as not to offer prospects of defense, and therein lies a great truth. However hopeless the situation appears to be there always exists the possibility of putting up a stubborn resistance. And it is the players task to find these opportunities and make the best of them. When the player with the upper hand is continually confronted by new problems, when, at every moment, one renders the win as difficult as possible, then it is likely that his powers will eventually weaken and he may make some mistake. This issue is a very personal one for me as for years I was really bad at finishing games off. Time after time Id build up winning positions only to fluff it at the last minute. What was going wrong? I think it could be summed up by one of Jon Speelmans favorite expressions, trying too hard to win. He was referring to the moment at which a player with a large advantage tries to force his opponents resignation rather than just play good moves.

This stuck in my mind. Being aware of the danger I started to consciously change my behavior when I
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felt a win was close. Rather than trying to bludgeon an opponent to death in spectacular fashion, I started looking for lines that would give me the best chance of actually notching up the full point. Sometimes this would mean playing some rather dull looking moves, but the results have improved. To some extent I still feel like a patient who might have a relapse at any time; I still mess games up (especially when Im drinking too much coffee) but not as much as before.
All winning positions are psychologically dangerous, but I think the danger can be much greater if you have a supposedly winning attack. You might be playing a game youre rather pleased with and want to finish it off nicely. You start to think about showing the game to your chess friends. Does that sacrifice work? It would be great if it did! But now youre under pressure not just to win the game, but to do it in a way that gives you bragging rights.

Once again a cunning opponent can try to use this against us. In another good book, Dynamic Chess Strategy, Mihai Suba passes on his own advice about how to bamboozle a player whos trying to mate you:
When the opponent has a strong attack on the king, his blood pressure is getting much higher and you can blackmail him with lost endings. This can cause him to deviate from the right path it is unlikely that he will abandon the idea of mate so easily. To illustrate this months theme, lets take a look at a game sent to me by Laurence Ball from Johannesburg. The early part of the game features a nice build up followed by some great attacking chess. But with the players moving into time-trouble the game descends into tactical chaos.

Ball,L (2066) - Erlank,W (2067)


French Defense
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RSA Club Championship, Johannesburg 2002

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 Bxf6 The so-called Anderssen Attack which later proved to be a great favorite with the 'executioner of Berlin', Kurt Richter. White gives up the bishop pair in order to gain time. 5...Bxf6 6 e5 Be7 7 Qg4 Kf8? Giving up castling rights quite unnecessarily. Black should play simply 7...0-0 as he has more than adequate defensive resources on the kingside. A game Richter - Koch, Berlin 1951 continued 8 Bd3 f5 9 Qh3 c5 10 dxc5 Nd7!? 11 f4 Nxc5 12 0-0-0 b5! (Fighting fire with fire) 13 Nf3 b4 14 Ne2 Nxd3+ 15 Rxd3 Ba6 16 Rd2 Bxe2 17 Rxe2 Qa5 18 Kb1 Qa6. With a rook coming to the c-file, Black had good counter play. If Black is determined not to castle kingside it's not unreasonable to play 7...g6. The dark squares this weakens are well covered by Blacks dark squared bishop. A recent example went 8 Bd3 c5 9 dxc5 Nc6 10 Nf3 Bxc5 11 a3 Bd7 12 0-0 a6 13 Rad1 Rc8 which was a game Tornay Gomez - Olaizola Ortega, Arrasate Mondragon, 2001. 8 f4 c5 9 dxc5 Bxc5 10 Bd3 Qa5

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I feel that this is slightly premature. Black's queen is usefully placed on d8 for the time being as it helps cover the dark squares around his king (f6, g5 etc). A more solid scheme of development is 10...Nc6 11 0-0-0 Bd7 followed by...Rc8. If necessary, Black can hold up f4-f5 by playing ...g7-g6. 11 0-0-0 Nc6 12 Nge2 Rb8 Clearly intending to advance his b-pawn, but this seems rather slow. I would prefer 12...Bd7 though after 13 Kb1 Black is unable to follow up with 13...Rc8 because of 14 Nxd5. This is one of the problems with 10...Qa5, the queen no longer guards the d7 square.
13 Kb1 b5 14 Nc1

A nice move, taking time out from his aggressive ambitions on the kingside to slow up Black's attack. The idea is to play 15 Nb3. 14...Ba6 14...b4 is well met by 15 Nb3 as 15...Qb6? 16 Na4 wins a piece.
15 Nb3 Qb6 16 Nxc5 Qxc5 17 Rhe1

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Intending f4-f5. 17...g6 After 17...b4 there would follow 18 Na4 Qa5 19 Bxa6 Qxa4 (19...Qxa6 is answered by 20 Nc5) 20 Bd3 which threatens to take a can opener to Black's defenses with f4-f5.
18 Qh4 Na5?

In a deeply unpleasant position Black makes what I assume was an oversight. But looking at this position it's difficult to give him good advice: 18...h5 is answered by 19 Bxg6, 18...b4 is answered by 19 Nxd5 and falling back into passive defense with 18...Qe7 leaves matters looking rather desperate after 19 Qh6+ Kg8 20 g4 etc. With no counter play in the offing, Black is a sitting duck.
19 Bxg6! Qe7

Taking Suba's advice and offering to go into a lost endgame. White in turn continues to play for mate. Should he really continue to play for the attack? If I were playing White, then these days I'd have the queens off! As it is White decides to continue his attack without worrying about Black's counter threats on the other side of the board (Nc4 and Qb4). Objectively
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speaking this is also winning for White, but from a practical point of view it's complicated. As we shall soon see, it could all have ended in tears. Accepting the sacrifice loses quickly as after 19...fxg6 20 Qf6+ Kg8 21 Qxe6+ Kf8 White has 22 Qxa6 at the very least. Given my present brutish attitude, I would once again eschew artistry and take the bishop. Unless, that is, I saw a forced mate! Sorry, chess fans; beauty doesn't pay the mortgage!
20 Qh6+ Ke8 21 Qg7 Rf8 22 Bxh7 It looks as if White has a relatively safe line in 22 Bd3 Nc4 23 Bxc4 (23 Ka1 Nxb2 would once again set the heart racing!) but after 23...bxc4 24 Ka1 Black can try 24...Rxb2!?. White can still win with 25 Nxd5 (25 Kxb2 Qb4+ 26 Kc1 Qxc3 is inconclusive) 25...Rxa2+ 26 Kxa2 exd5 27 Rxd5, but wouldn't it have been easier just to swap the queens off on move 20?

22...Nc4 23 Ka1 Qb4 24 Rb1 Na3 25 Nxd5!! With both players down to their last five minutes, White finds a really great idea. The problem is that it needs to be followed up very, very accurately 25...exd5 26 e6 Nxb1 27 exf7+
With the flags hanging the game descends into chaos White can win with the magnificent 27 e7 after which 27...Kd7 28 exf8Q Rxf8 29 Rxb1 and 27...Qxe7 28 Rxe7+ Kxe7 29 Qe5+ are both easy for White. 27...Qxe1 meanwhile gets mated after 28 exf8Q+
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Kd7 29 Qfxf7+ Kd6 30 Qc7+ Ke6 31 f5#. Does this justify Whites decision to play the attack? Yes and no, Id say it depends on things such as the time youve got left for the remaining moves. If youre short of time it can be very difficult to calculate intricate lines like these. 27...Kd7 28 Bf5+ Kc7 29 c3?! Letting Black back into the game. White seems to be winning with 29 Re8! Qd6 (or 29...Kb6 30 Qe5) 30 Kxb1 which seems to leave Black hopelessly tied up despite his extra rook. Again I have to ask if this is really better than being a pawn up in the endgame? 29...Qd6? Verifying Tartakover's maxim that the player to win is the one who makes the next to last mistake! Black should play 29...Nxc3! after which 30 bxc3 Qc5 31 Qf6 Rbd8 32 Re7+ Kb8 33 Qe5+ Ka8 leaves matters wide open. Now he gets mated by force. 30 Re6 Qxf4 31 Re7+ Kb6 32 Qf6+ Kc5 Or 32...Ka5 33 b4+ Ka4 34 Qxa6# 33 b4+ Kc4 34 Qc6 mate

An exhilarating performance by White, but things could so easily have gone the other way. Of course its difficult for me to claim that the dull exchange of queens (20 Qxe7+) would have been a stronger, especially when one considers that White was winning anyway. But I would suggest that its the percentage play if White hasnt found an arithmetically clear way through the complications.

Further Reading

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Dynamic Chess Strategy by Mihai Suba (Pergamon, 1991): A very entertaining look at dynamic concepts in chess. Rich in insights for practical play The Art of the Middle Game by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov (Penguin, 1975): A classic book by two great players. Keress chapters on the art of analysis and defending difficult positions offer invaluable advice to the aspiring player .

Send your game to Nigel!


We invite you to submit games to be considered by Nigel Davies in this column. For all games submitted, please provide the following information: (1) Names of both players; (2) Ratings of both players; (3) When and where the game was played; (4) The time control used in the game; and (5) Any other information you think would be helpful for us to know. Please submit the games (in PGN or CBV format if possible) to: nigeldavies@chesscafe.com . Who knows, perhaps you will see the game in an upcoming column, as Nigel says to you, "Let's take a look..."
Copyright 2003 Nigel Davies. All rights reserved.

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