Friday, March 07, 2014

An outpost, an outpost, my kingdom for an outpost!

Hi Pilgrims,
Well may your whole kingdom depend on an outpost. Apologies for the tardiness of this new posting.

First, some grumpiness given expression. Recent faster time-controls in professional chess is an affliction which has been increasing over the last decade and may now be approaching levels at which we need to call in experts in epidemiology to put this scourge down. Faster time controls equals poorer strategic decisions which equals shallow play which leads to tactical errors and therefore poorer chess. Fans may like it – afficionados do not. Botvinnik was right to stay away from this form of chess.

It does not help that games now have to be completed at one sitting to avoid cheating with computers, so endgame play suffers as well.

Now that I have got this off my chest I feel better already.

The following game is between two amateurs and illustrates the importance of sound development and gaining an outpost for you pieces. Eventually one opponent succumbs to such pressure, makes a blunder, and loses the game. This happens to the professional players as well although their ‘errors’ tend to be more nuanced and the exploitation of error is undertaken far more skilfully than any amateur can do it. Well, I should think so!

This game is for beginners or amateurs and illustrates some basic themes.

Jose Miquel of Spain (1255) Versus George Eraclides of Australia (1584)
Played on Lechenicher SchachServer

February 2013

Queen’s Pawn Irregular

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. c3 (he is trying to blunt the future action of the g7 Bishop, but in the process he concedes too much space in the centre, while Black gets on with development) O-O 5. Qc1 (far too premature; development with g3 or Nbd2 was better) d5 (the Gruenfeld set-up is more effective here because it captures more space) 6. Bh6 Nbd7 7. Bxg7 Kxg7 (the King guards the black squares quite adequately for the remainder of the game; White is simply not sufficiently developed to do anything substantial but he still continues with his flawed, time-wasting, plan of an early attack) 8. h4 h5 (note that in these types of positions, with the Black King on g7, a player can always swing a Rook across to h8 if needed for the defence) 9. Nbd2 (finally some development; White’s style seems to be to attack, and only if unable to make any progress, think about development; it is as though Steinitz never existed to enunciate his principles of chess; perhaps because both players are amateurs, White thought principles could be set aside; alas, you cannot ignore sound principles without incurring a cost) c5! (central play before White can fully develop) 10. e3 Qc7 11. g3 (11.b5 c4 cramps White and the position is then even - Black's Queen Bishop and White's Queen's Knight are both 'developmentally challenged') e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Qxe5 14. Nf3 Qe7 (the seeming win of a tempo – after having given so many away – which forces the Queen to retreat, only serves to drive her to where Black intended the Queen to be) 15. Bg2 Bf5 (15...Bg4 was also good but on f5 the Bishop is eyeing e4 and d3 for future action) 16. O-O Rad8 17. Ng5 Ne4! (Black now sees a possibility for an outpost)18. Nxe4 dxe4! 19. Qc2 Rd3 (and now we have an unassailable outpost; positionally, White is lost because Black controls the d-file absolutely) 20. Kh2 Rfd8 21. Rad1 R8d6 22. Rfe1 Qd7 23. Rxd3 Rxd3 24. Bf1 Rd2 25. Qb3 Rxf2+ 26. Bg2 Qd2 (note how safe the Black King has been throughout the game) 27. Rg1 Bg4 (28. Qxb7 Bf3 and it is over) 0-1
The lessons from this game between amateurs are firstly, not to neglect development, especially because of an ephemeral, premature attack. The opponent must have made some error, there must be a disturbance of the equilibrium in your favour (Pachman’s excellent terminology), to justify a commitment to the attack. Also, an outpost in enemy territory, especially one which is hard to dislodge, is highly advantageous. If you do not blunder, then with patient manoeuvring you should win the game.
That’s all folks and may all your outposts in future be incontestable.