An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pawn storm in the Sicilian – Salov swindles Gelfand

Salov – Gelfand, 1998

image White to move

The d4 knight is attacked, but it is an essential piece for White’s initiative. How to keep the attack going and justify White’s pile of heavy pieces on the ‘h’ file?
Watch the video for the answer and to see the entire game – White actually got a bit carried away with his sacrifices and was lost right before the time control, but a fortunate swindle brought him a full point.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ivanchuk – Topalov, a brilliant attacking game

I continue to study the typical middlegame positions by making YouTube videos with grandmaster games.
Today it is Ivanchuk – Topalov, 1996.

Here are few key moments:
image White to move. How to prevent Black’s counterplay on the queenside?

image White to move. The key point of the game, Ivanchuk’s chance to shine. Black just played Ne5-c6; does the White rook have to retreat or is there a way to increase the pressure against  ‘f7’ while the rook is on the 7th rank?

image White to move. Bg2 is his least active piece, how to bring it into the game?

The game makes a great impression, given how White sacrifices the pawns to open up the diagonals for his bishops. Here are more observations about this middlegame structure:

  1. White can control the ‘a’ file effectively after black plays b7-b5
  2. b2-b4 normally weakens a lot of squares along the ‘c’ file in the Open Sicilian, but when White has control over the center – can be effective at preventing b5-b4, Nd7-c5, and leaves Black’s ‘b’ pawn a good target.
  3. f7 pawn is also a good target if the Black rook is on e8 and the Black knight leaves e5 square
  4. If you play against Vassily Ivanchuk, and you attack his rook on the queenside, he is probably going to move a pawn on the kingside…

You can also replay through the game in the pgn viewer at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Korchnoi – Udovcic – A Wrench in the French

image White to move.

I would describe the spirit of White’s attack as “he can only take them one at a time”; several of White’s pieces are being attacked, and he keeps sacrificing … In this game Korchnoi shows that he is not only a great defender, but is also able to attack with vigour when necessary. The video has the solution and goes over the whole game (you may notice that this line of the French defence had also occurred in one of my recent games). The game is also discussed on the chessgames forum.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seeing the Entire Board – Attack by John Nunn

An indicator of a strong chess player is his or her ability to see the whole board and combine play on both flanks. The game Nunn – Short, 1986 impressed me in particular – the future world championship contender Nigel Short was caught off guard and had to resign already on move 30. As a side note, if you would like to see more of sharp tactical play by John Nunn, I strongly recommend the collection of his games “Secrets of Grandmaster Chess” or its earlier edition, “Secrets of Grandmaster Play”. Every move in the book is made with a particular goal in mind, tactics and strategy always tied together! As an appetizer, try to solve this position:

Nunn – Short, 1986

image White to move, how to respond to 27… h5 ?

For the solution, watch this video that goes over the entire game:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spoiled Sacrifice in a Blitz Game

DDT3000 – pirulo, 2010, ICC, 3 minutes per game

image White to move 

This is a typical IQP position, with one pair of minor pieces gone off the board, but White (myself) still having enough resources for the attack. Books have been written about this structure, Winning Pawn Structures by Baburin being my favourite one. Black has pressure on b2, and White does not want to play b2-b4 as that would weaken the c3 square. Running down to the last minute on the clock, I realized that my main idea is to exploit the pressure on the a2-g8 diagonal, and that this was as good moment as it would ever be. So …

23. Bxf6 Bxf6 24. Nxe6! A typical idea, all of White’s pieces have lined up for this sacrifice, so if it does not work now, it is not likely to work later either. I already once blogged about a similar sacrifice on e6, where the placement of the White pieces was quite alike.

image Black to move. Black’s rook on f8 and knight on d5 are hanging, so he has to accept the ‘gift’.

24 ... fxe6 25. Rxe6 Qd8?!

image White to move.

Here I messed up my little ‘creation’, and according to my previous idea (from 5 seconds ago), I continued to build up the pressure on the a2-g8 diagonal with 26. Qf3? That allowed Black to escape and the game later ended in a draw. However, there was a much better and simpler idea, that would have left White up two pawns, with a winning position. What was it? Hint – White uses the fact that Qh3 may later attack Rc8.

PS. I find that these IQP structures are really hard to hold for Black without allowing White his moment glory with a d4-d5 breakthrough or piece sacrifice around the weakened kingside structure like in this example. It is quite rare to see a game (at least in my experience) where a favourable opportunity would never present itself and Black would just exploit the weakness of the d4 pawn.

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