Dear chess friends,
In Issue 24 of Modern Chess Magazine, we provide you with the following articles:
Master the Leningrad Structure
In this article, GM Mihail Marin deals with the structure that usually arises from the Leningrad Dutch. In this survey, however, Marin examines the pawn structure with colours reversed. This usually happens when White plays the so-called Bird Opening which starts with 1.f4.
In the introduction to the current article, Marin writes:
The Leningrad Bird and Dutch openings, to which I will from now on refer as "Leningrad", in order to simplify the discourse, are mainly positional systems. We spend a tempo on move 1 to advance the f-pawn, short term weakening our king without gaining any immediate compensation. The opportunity to start dynamic play will come later, in the early middlegame. The main aim of the Leningrad is to achieve an improved version of the King's Indian. Later in the opening, after the centre is blocked with ...e7-e5 and d4-d5, Black needs to spend some time to achieve ...f7-f5 (usually with ...Nf6-d7, ...f7-f5 and then ...Nd7-f6). If the same structure arises via the Leningrad move order, this implies having saved two whole tempi. While this surely sounds like the optimal scenario and it usually leads to comfortable play, it does not always lead to a clear advantage, due to some strategic limitations of the King's Indian itself. In fact, things can remain interesting and far from one-sided. Here is a typical example from a recent Bird game of mine.
The article consists of 9 model games which explain the main ideas for both colours.
Saving Lost Positions
Fighting in a seemingly hopeless situation is one of the most difficult tasks that we face during our games. This is the topic of the latest article of GM Valeriy Aveskulov.
He introduces the following way:
For people who never played in chess tournaments and are distant from the professional life of our game, it looks like a regular board game, where sporting qualities are not a factor. But any chess professional can confirm that it's hardly possible to be successful at chess without having an exceptional fighting spirit. Fighting spirit comes in many different ways, associated with numerous abilities (the following list is certainly not complete):
1) to win important "must-win" games,
2) to save difficult and even seemingly hopeless positions,
3) to grind out wins from slightly better positions by persistently posing new problems for the opponent,
4) to beat higher-rated players instead of taking draws from good positions,
5) to keep playing ambitiously when leading in tournaments.
In this article, I will present situations in which fighting spirit or lack thereof played a crucial role. I will show you some unbelievable saves and untimely resignations. The common denominator is that they teach us to fight to the last. This article deals with the three most common ways of saving difficult positions: Stalemate, perpetual check and fortress, with two examples of each in the exercise section.
Below, you can spend some time on one of the test positions.
White's last move was Qb4-d4. Black decided that there was no defence against the Qh8 (or Rh8) idea and resigned. Please find the save.
Typical Pawn Structures in Slav Defence
In this article, GM Alexander Delchev analyzes two pawn structures which are typical for Slav Defence.
1. Endgame Structure
This pawn structure is typical for many lines of the Queen's Gambit Declined, the Gruenfeld, and the Slav Defense. In our repertoire, we reach this structure in line 4.Qc2 g6 when Black is attracted by winning a tempo with 5...Bf5 6. Qb3 Qb6 7.c5 Qxb3 8.axb3. What is it all about? White's pawns are doubled but as compensation, he obtains a huge space advantage on the queenside. A simple and very effective plan is to undouble the pawns by means of b4-b5. Black usually has enough time to avoid that by playing a7-a6 and moving the rook out of the pin. But even then is it too early to relax. By moving one of his knights to a5, White can put pressure on the biggest defect in Black's position - the b7-pawn. Black's only hope lays in the counterattack with a quick e7-e5 blocking the f4 bishop and trying to redirect White's attention. Then Black could start breathing as the long-ranging f4-bishop would be out of play and his pieces could come to life. The most important White piece is the Bf4, therefore the prophylactic h2-h3 is an obligatory measure. Most of the test positions are about White's tactical hits on the queenside. I think Black should better avoid this endgame, but if it is not possible then to focus on eliminating White's dark-squared bishop rather than on passive defence.
The author provides us with 2 model games and 10 test positions.
Model Game 1
Practical Endgame Miniatures
In this article, IM Afek keeps providing fascinating and instructive studies. This time, he focuses on practical studies created by grandmasters.
Here is how he introduces the topic:
Top chess trainers recommend solving endgame studies daily as an important part of the learning program at all levels. This enjoyable method is aimed at improving one's creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. It is highly efficient in polishing your calculating and tactical skills, enriching your arsenal of tactical weaponry not to mention the obvious: deepening your endgame understanding and keeping you sharp for your upcoming challenges. All these virtues are essential in shaping a complete and original player; no less so than the knowledge of opening theory and middlegame strategy. Quite a few top grandmasters were also captivated by the charm of composing endgame studies themselves. For this article, I have selected miniature studies created by leading players. Miniatures use not more than 7 pieces to express mainly tactical chess ideas in an artistic, purest form with a unique solution and move order. This economy of material and play clarity, with only relevant pieces present on the board, proves instrumental in practising how to estimate accurately the power and qualities of each piece alone and in harmony with other pieces. You are about to cope with 21 miniatures composed by well-known players.
Below, you can try to solve one of the examples:
How can White capture the dangerous enemy pawn without losing his knight?
Endgame Series 24 - Opposite-Coloured Bishops
In this article, GM Kuljasevic returns to the endgames with opposite-coloured bishops (these endgames have been dealt with in Issues 18 and 19).
In the introduction to the article, he writes:
In Endgame series issues #18 and #19, we covered in-depth opposite-coloured bishops endgames. We looked at many instructive practical examples and formulated a number of important conclusions with the theoretical value. I listed these conclusions right below this introductory passage. We will loosely refer to them as ‘principles’ (e.g. ‘’White followed principle 3’’, or ‘’Black forgot about principle 5’’…) for easier reference, as we explore new examples with opposite-coloured bishops endgames in this issue of Endgame series. Most of these examples have been taken from very recent top-GM practice.
Principles of opposite-coloured bishops endgames:
1. Weaker side often has drawing chances being one, two, or sometimes even three pawns down.
2. Drawing chances usually arise due to the blockade.
3. Drawing chances sometimes arise due to the wrong-coloured bishop (rook's pawn) and, more rarely, stalemate.
4. 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 fewer less apart (i.e. e- and b-; g- and d-) it is usually a draw (there are some exceptions).
5. Winning chances increase as two passed pawns are further (more files) apart.
6. In the case of pawn races, it is critical that the attacker's bishop can simultaneously protect its own passed pawn and block the opponent's passed pawn; otherwise defender's drawing chances increase significantly.
7. Winning ideas for the stronger side: Penetrating with the king, Pawn breakthrough, Overloading defender's bishop, Improving the position of the bishop, Zugzwang, etc.
8. King's penetration is a crucial strategy for the stronger side and for that purpose he has to be ready to sacrifice pawns or even the bishop.
9. It is often difficult to win based on one weakness only (such as an outside passed pawn), so it may be necessary to create the second weakness, usually on the opposite flank.
10. Defender's chances increase if his bishop can block two passed pawns on a single diagonal.
11. Defender's chances increase if his king can block the penetration of the opponent's king by moving diagonally, rather than vertically or horizontally.
12. "Two-on-one" pawn breakthrough sacrifice is a standard manoeuvre to create a passed pawn and improve winning chances.
13. In principle, the defender should avoid putting his pawns on the colour of the opponent's bishop (there are exceptions, sometimes).
14. Mutual weaknesses and asymmetrical pawn structure usually favour the stronger side.
15. When the stronger side has a passed pawn on rook's file and a wrong-coloured bishop, the defender should look for a way to get his king in the square of that pawn and try to liquidate into a B + 2p vs B endgame, which is drawn because the bishop can always be sacrificed for the second pawn.