Dear chess friends,
In Issue 18 of Modern Chess Magazine, we provide you with the following articles,
Typical Anti-Sicilian Structures
In his first article for Modern Chess Magazine, the Latvian GM Artur Neiskans provides you with an overview of the structures arising from the so-called Moscow Variation in Sicilian Defence (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+). In the database Moscow Variation against the Sicilian - Complete Repertoire against 2...d6 he examined the theoretical subtleties of this line.
Within the framework of the present article, he covers 6 structures which are typical for this variation. When dealing with a given structure he follows a simple logic:
- Explanation of typical plans and ideas
- Extensively annotated model game
Here is an example:
This is a classical pawn structure from the so-called Maroczy Bind setup where Black has developed his bishop to g7. Of course, it very much depends what actual pieces are present on the board but still, we can draw some guidelines to follow. First, let's take a look what Black wants. Usually Black has two potential breakthroughs with the pawns:
1) either with or without the help of the a-pawn prepare the b7-b5 push. The idea is to eliminate the annoying bind White has put on Black and free some space, most often giving two open or semi-open files for Black rooks on b-file and c-file. If the b-pawn push is successfully executed, it will also make Black easier to prepare the d6-d5 To meet it, White has a few options. He can play a2-a4 not only with intentions to double take on b5 but also organize a passed pawn by playing cxb5, followed by a4-a5, which can be supported by b2-b4. At some occasions, White can freely allow the b7-b5 to be executed as after the exchange the pawn on b5 or a6 might become a weakness. If Black has positioned his rooks on a-file and b-file, White can meet b7-b5 with c4-c5 by trading the c-pawn for Black's d-pawn. This would undermine Black's strategy placing both rooks so far in the corner solely hoping to open some lines.
2) A very common idea for Black here is also aiming for a f7-f5 breakthrough. The idea is either to secure an outpost on e5 for a piece after the fxe4 and fxe4 or perhaps even f5-f4 or force White to play exf5 which can be met with gxf5, followed by e7-e5 and very typical for endgames maneuver Kg8-f7-e6, giving Black a little center. This idea most often works in the endgame phase, less in the middlegame. If White has both rooks still at the board, it makes sense to go for the exf5 plan and position both rooks at the e-file and d-file, potentially also bringing a knight to d5 and targeting the weak e7 pawn. White's typical plans vary on what pieces he has on the board, but I would always recommend keeping as many pieces as you can, especially the queen who can contribute to a successful kingside attack. The most common pawn push for White here is to prepare f3-f4 and either f4-f5 for a direct assault against the Black king, or the positional e4-e5, which allows White to organize a potential passed pawn at the queenside.
Defense in Practical Games
In his first article for Modern Chess Magazine, GM Pavel Eljanov examines one of the most underestimated topics in chess literature – The Defense in Practical Games
The Ukrainian GM reveals some of his secrets which help him to be among the best players in the world.
The article contains 5 deeply annotated example practice and 22 test positions.
Before each example, you will have a chance to step into the GM’s shoes and interactively test your defensive skills. You can follow your progress in My Results section.
Let’s take a look at some of the author's thoughts about The Defence in a Practical Game.
Regardless of your game situation, you should always remember Lasker's famous saying: The hardest game to win is the won game. It is impossible to give a universal prescription for all cases how to defend stubbornly or on the contrary how to convert a decisive advantage without flaws. Nevertheless, some rules exist. In four of the examples that I give in the article, the strong side was too rushed to convert his advantage. This is indeed a very common mistake which is often associated with banal fatigue and a lack of patience. Using the "do-not-hurry" principle formulated by Mark Dvoretsky in his books can often help in overcoming this haste in converting advantage. Also, you can check the games of such great technicians like Ulf Andersson, Anatoly Karpov, and Magnus Carlsen. When defending bad positions, it is necessary, of course, to preserve the presence of the spirit and wait for the moment when you can take your opponent out of his comfort zone. Usually, a sharp change of the situation could be very unpleasant for your opponent who is trying to increase the pressure gradually. No battle has yet been won after a premature surrender!
Here is an example when you can try to solve 5 test positions from the game Grischuk – Eljanov
Brilliant Missed Opportunities - Missed Stalemates
In his second article IM Afek continues to reveal a lost chess fortune.
In this article, he shows missing stalemate ideas, even at very top level.
The goal of this article is to increase the understanding of this topic and to teach the reader to pay attention to this very important defensive idea.
The article contains 3 introduction examples and 12 games + 12 interactive tests.
In the 12 games, you can see how the actual games continue and later you can try to find what the players missed in the game.
Here is what the author says about the Stalemate:
Stalemate is a frequent guest in the later stage of the game, in the endgame theory as well as in the art of the endgame study. Stalemates are less seen over the board in practice. This might be the reason that it is so often associated with the most amazing blunders at all levels. Unusual oversights by top grandmasters and world champions are no exception. The appearance of such a paradox over the board is so unlikely that overlooking an upcoming stalemate defense by the opponent or even missing their stalemating option to save a desperate position is not uncommon.
The position on the diagram below is from the author's own practice.
The experienced GM Dgebuadze (White) played in this position 1.Rb7+?? and end up in a hopeless ending after 1...Kh6.
Can you find how White can save the game?
Endgames Series 18 - Opposite-colored bishops: Part 1
In the previous two issues of Endgame series, we have discussed endgames with bishops of the same color.
It seems, though, that in practice even more often we get endgames with bishops of opposite color.
In this issue, we will, therefore, make a natural transition from same-colored bishops to opposite-colored bishops endgames.
One peculiar and well-known feature of such endgames is that they can have drawish tendencies even when the weaker side is down several pawns. This is due to the powerful defensive technique called blockade.
The blockade is, of course, possible in various types of endgames, but it is probably best pronounced precisely in opposite-colored bishops endgames.
The author starts the article with one example from his practice
In the current position is a pawn down and his pawns on the queenside are weak.
GM Kuljasevic manages to save the game and showing the power of blockade.
In the viewer below you can see the endgame with detailed comments.
The article contains 5 commented examples and 5 test positions.
The author also provides us with 7 important rules:
- Weaker side often has drawing chances being one, two, or sometimes even three pawns down
- Drawing chances usually arise due to the blockade
- Drawing chances sometimes arise due to the wrong-colored bishop (rook's pawn)
- With two passed pawns which are three or more files apart (i.e. f- and b-; g- and c-) the stronger side usually wins; with two passed pawns two or less files apart (i.e. e- and b-; g- and d-) it is usually a draw (there are some exceptions, see Adams-Navara)
- Winning chances increase as two passed pawns are further (more files) apart
- In case of pawn races, it is critical that the attacker's bishop can simultaneously protect its own passed pawn and block opponent's passed pawn; otherwise, defender's drawing chances increase significantly
- Winning ideas for the stronger side: Penetrating with the king, Pawn breakthrough, Overloading defender's bishop, Improving the position of the bishop, Zugzwang
Benoni Strategy - Piece Play
In this article, GM Mihail Marin starts examining the subtleties of the piece play in Benoni type of positions.
Here is what he has to say about the typical piece arrangements in this structure:
Time has come to talk about the optimal piece trajectories in static positions, where pawns offer only the immobile background for piece play. In the initial phase of the game, Black has an almost chronic lack of space, meaning that he needs acting with care when developing. The main conflict is between the minor pieces (except the fianchetto bishop, which has its independent "life"). As in other openings with a white pawn on d5 and a black one on d6 the key square is d7. In principle the most solid development involves ...Nbd7 but this leaves the c8-bishop at least temporarily passive. Alternatively Black can play ...Na6, leaving the h3-c8 diagonal open, but after a later ...Nc7 the knight does not always have an easy life.
The conclusion is that for Black it would be best to exchange one of his minor pieces, most typically with ...Bg4xf3 or ...Ng4 and Ne5 (any of them). But as we will see below, sometimes it is possible to use concrete details of the position to open horizons for all pieces. In principle White has it simpler as he enjoys considerable space advantage. But a closer look reveals some conflict between his minor pieces, too. The e4-pawn is one of Black's main targets, needing permanent defense. An early f2-f3 implies developing with Nge2, but this causes some problems with the f1-bishop. If Bd3 and Nge2, ...Ne5 may be molesting for instance. Optimally, White would play Nh3-f2, but if Black is accurate enough he would keep the h3-c8 diagonal open until White commits his knight to e2.
Defending e4 with f2-f3 is not the only solution, of course. White frequently plays Nf3-d2, but this I likely to delay the queenside development by obstructing the c1-bishop. The dream scenario would be Bf4 followed by Nd2, but Black can usually organize his pressure on e4 by one move earlier than White develops his bishop. After clarifying all these abstract aspects, we will start examining things more concretely. Since we have mentioned Nd2, it is worth saying that White's dream is stabilizing the knight on c4 (usually with a4-a5). This would paralyze Black's queenside and keep d6 under permanent pressure. As a general observation, piece pressure usually is good enough for helping one of the players stabilizing the position to his favor, but after obtaining an advantage, he will most likely have to resort to pawn breaks to make progress.
In the first example from the article, White managed to carry out this plan in pure form, without the contribution of pawns nor allowing Black any shadow of counterplay.