The Initiative [PGN4Web]

Currently I can get formatting or PGN tags correctly shown, but not both

Some things in chess are very concrete and visible -- checkmate, or a knight fork, perhaps, or as we get better, we can also see superior development or pawn weaknesses. There are more abstract features of a chess game which are less easy to see, at least at a glance, and you can appreciate best over a whole game or a part of a game. Annotators often talk about a player's 'feel for the initiative', which is at least a warning that this is not going to be an easy session.

Half a story

For a long while, I understood only half the story of chess. From the introduction to Michael Stean's excellent little book Simple Chess:

"Don't be deceived by the title--chess is not a simple game--such a claim would be misleading to say the least--but that does not mean that we must bear with the full brunt of its difficulty. When faced with any problem too large to cope with as a single entity, common sense tells us to break it down into smaller fragments of manageable proportions. For example, the mathematical problem of dividing one number by another is not one that can in general be solved in one step, but primary school taught us to find the answer by a series of simple division processes (namely long division). So, how can we break down the 'problem' of playing chess?

"Give two of the uninitiated a chessboard, a set of chessmen, a list of rules and a lot of time, and you may well observe the following process: the brighter of the two will quickly understand the idea of checkmate and win some games by 1. e4 2. Bc4 3. Qh5 4. Qxf7 mate. When the less observant of our brethren learns how to defend his f7 square in time, the games will grow longer and it will gradually occur to the players that the side with more pieces will generally per se be able to force an eventual checkmate. This is the first important 'reduction' in the problem of playing chess--the numerically superior force will win. So now our two novices will no longer look to construct direct mates, these threats are too easy to parry, but will begin to learn the tricks of the trade for winning material (forks, skewers, pins, etc.), confident that this smaller objective is sufficient. Time passes and each player becomes sufficiently competent not to shed material without reason. Now they begin to realize the importance of developing quickly and harmoniously and of castling the king into safety."

"So what next? Where are their new objectives? How can the problem be further reduced? If each player is capable of quick development, castling and of not blundering any pieces away, what is there to separate the two sides? This is the starting point of Simple Chess. It tries to reduce the problem still further by recommending various positional goals which you can work toward, other things (i.e., material, development, security of king position) being equal. Just as our two fictitious friends discovered that the one with more pieces can expect to win if he avoids any mating traps, Simple Chess will provide him with some equally elementary objectives which if attained should eventually decide the game in his favor, subject to the strengthened proviso that he neither allows any mating tricks, nor loses any material en route. "

"Essentially, Simple Chess aims to give you some of the basic ideas for forming a long-term campaign. It also shows you how to recognize and accumulate small, sometimes almost insignificant-looking advantages which may well have little or no short-term effect, but are permanent features of the position. As the game progresses, the cumulative effect begins to make itself felt more and more, leading eventually to more tangible gains. Combinations and attacks are shelved for their proper time and place as the culmination of an overall strategy. Given the right kind of position it is not so difficult to overwhelm the opposition with an avalanche of sacrifices. The real problem is how to obtain such positions. This is the objective of Simple Chess."

These permanent (or at least long-term) features of the position that he discusses are things like open files, outposts, colour complexes, space. We might think about different levels of chess: Scholar's Mate (Level 1), tactics (Level 2), opening principles (Level 3), and now positional elements (Level 4).

With this firmly in mind, how can we explain Alekhin's 9th move here?

Alekhine - Poindle [C67] (simul.) 1936

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 Nd6
8.exd6 Bxd6 9.Ng5

This move is not possible to understand in terms of the first four levels of chess. In fact, it directly contradicts the opening principles that we have learned, like don't move any piece twice until you have move every piece once. Alekhin judges that straightforward development (e.g. Re1+) would have allowed Black time to get sorted out - this move denies Black that time. Threat follows threat, and Black can never settle.

[Event "initiative"]
[Site "initiative"]
[Date "1936.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alekhine (simul.)"]
[Black "poindle (CHERNEV)"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C67"]
[PlyCount "59"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4 Nd6 8.
exd6 8... Bxd6 {#} 9. Ng5 {directly contradicts usual opening advice, but
straightforward development would have allowed Black time to get sorted out -
this move denies Black that time} 9... Be7 10. Qh5 g6 11. Qh6 Bf8 12. Re1+ Ne7
(12... Be7 13. Qg7 Rf8 14. Nxh7 d5 15. Nf6#) 13. Ne4 f5 (13... Bxh6 14. Nf6+
Kf8 15. Bxh6#) 14. Nf6+ Kf7 15. Qh4 Bg7 16. Bg5 h6 17. Qc4+ 17... Kf8 {
# White has been trying, but has he got anywhere but in a mess?} 18. Rxe7 {
the characteristic Alekhine touch - the \'sting in the tail\' just as you
thought he was pushing his luck too far} 18... Qxe7 (18... Kxe7 19. Nd5+) 19.
Nh7+ Rxh7 20. Bxe7+ Kxe7 21. Qxc7 Bxb2 22. Ra2 {# White\'s material advantage
is not very big, but Alekhine keeps his opponent pestered with threats
throughout} 22... Bf6 23. c4 Kf7 24. Re2 Rh8 25. Qd6 a5 26. Nc3 Ra6 (26... Bxc3
27. Re7+ Kf8 28. Rxd7+ Kg8 29. Qd5+ Kf8 30. Qf7#) 27. Qd5+ Kg7 (27... Kf8 28.
Qc5+ Kg7 29. Nd5 Re6 30. Rxe6 dxe6 31. Qc7+) 28. Nb5 Re6 29. Nd6 Rd8 30. Kf1 {
threat Nxc8, Rxc8; Qxd7+} (30. Kf1 Kf8 (30... Rxe2 31. Qf7+ Kh8 32. Qxf6+) 31.
Nxc8 Rxc8 (31... Rxe2 32. Qd6+ Be7 33. Nxe7 Re6 34. Nxg6+ Kg7 35. Qg3 Rxg6 36.
Qe5+ Kg8 37. Qxa5 Re8 38. Qxf5 Rge6 39. Qd5 Kf8 40. g3 Rc6 41. Qxd7 Rxc4) 32.
Qxd7 Rec6 33. Re6 Rxe6 34. Qxc8+ Re8 35. Qxb7) 1-0

So, brace yourself for Level 5: dynamic chess.

The Initiative: definition and description

The initiative is the capacity to make threats.

"As the pieces are set on the board both sides have the same position and the same amount of material. White, however, has the move, and the move is this case means 'the initiative', and the initiative, other things being equal, is an advantage. Now this advantage must be kept as long as possible, and should only be given up if some other advantage, material or positional, is obtained in its place. White, according to the principles already laid down, develops his pieces as fast as possible, but in so doing he also tries to hinder his opponent's development, by applying pressure wherever possible. He tries first of all to control the center, and failing this to obtain some positional advantage that will make it possible for him to keep on harassing the enemy. He only relinquishes the initiative when he gets for it some material advantage under such favorable conditions as to make him feel assured that he will, in turn, be able to withstand his adversary's thrust; and finally, through his superiority of material, once more resume the initiative, which alone can give him the victory. This last assertion is self-evident, since, in order to win the game, the opposing King must be driven to a position where he is attacked without having any way to escape. Once the pieces have been properly developed the resulting positions may vary in character. It may be that a direct attack against the King is in order; or that it is a case of improving a position already advantageous; or, finally, that some material can be gained at the cost of relinquishing the initiative for a more or less prolonged period."

-- Capablanca in Chess Fundamentals, Chapter 4. Examples: from initiative to attack

"The main objective of initiative play is not so much to force the win but rather to prevent your opponent from equalising." -- Colin Crouch, Attacking Technique.

[Event "Lloyds Bank op 18th"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1994.??.??"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Akesson, Ralf"]
[Black "Morozevich, Alexander"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "2460"]
[BlackElo "2575"]
[PlyCount "102"]
[EventDate "1994.08.??"]
{Notes based on those by Colin Crouch.} 1. Nf3 1... Nc6 2. d4 d5 3. Bf4 Bg4 4.
e3 e6 5. c4 Bb4+ 6. Nc3 6... Nge7 {Going for fast development and activity as
the main goal of his opening system; despite all recent opening sophistication,
these principles are still goode enough.} 7. h3 Bh5 8. Rc1 O-O 9. a3 Bxc3+ 10.
Rxc3 dxc4 11. Rxc4 Ng6 12. Bh2 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 13... e5 {White has the two
Bishops but Black\'s better development and activity is more important. Black
has the initiative, at least while those two conditions are still true; if
White gets sorted out, he will be better.} 14. d5 Na5 15. Rc3 c6 16. dxc6 Nxc6
17. Bc4 Nh4 (17... Kh8) 18. Qg4 Kh8 19. Rd3 $2 {Forcing Black to develop.} (19.
O-O $6 19... f5 $1) (19. e4 $1) 19... Qe7 $1 {Leaving the f-pawn free.} 20. Rd7
20... f5 $1 {Black must keep going.} 21. Rxe7 fxg4 22. Rxb7 gxh3 23. Bd5 $1 (
23. gxh3 $6 23... Nf3+ 24. Ke2 24... Rad8 {leaves White unco-ordinated:} 25.
Rf7 Rxf7 26. Bxf7 e4 27. Bg3 Rd2+ 28. Kf1 28... Nce5 {with great pressure})
23... hxg2 24. Rg1 Rac8 25. Ke2 (25. Bxg2 $2 25... Nd8 26. Rb4 Rc1+ 27. Ke2
Rxg1 28. Bxg1 Nxg2 29. Rg4 Nf4+ 30. exf4 30... exf4 {
when Black has material as well as activity.}) 25... Nd8 26. Rb4 26... Rc2+ $1
({Passive play is doomed:} 26... Ng6 $2 27. Rc4 Rxc4 28. Bxc4 Nh4 29. Bg3 Nf3
30. Rxg2 e4 31. Bd5) 27. Kd3 27... Rc5 $1 {
Keeping the initiative going, not letting White settle.} 28. Rxh4 Rxd5+ 29. Ke2
Nf7 30. Rxg2 30... Rc8 {White\'s King again is the springboard for Black\'s play.
} 31. Rb4 {
White too must be active, but it\'s just the one Rook that is doing anything.}
31... h6 32. Rg6 {Two now.} 32... Kh7 33. Ra6 {The position has finally
settled down after 30 moves of push and shove. Black is still better, mostly
because the Bh2 is not doing anything. Black\'s better piece activity is enough
to win the endgame; it\'s now a matter of technique.} 33... Rc2+ 34. Kf3 Rd7 35.
Bg3 h5 36. Ra5 Re7 37. Rab5 g5 38. Rb7 {
White exchanges a Rook, making a 3-2 fight into 2-1 .} 38... Rxb7 39. Rxb7 {
Well, White\'s one Rook does have a big idea, which is to create a passed pawn
on the Queen\'s-side. Black mustkeepattacking!} 39... Kg6 40. b4 h4 41. Bh2
41... e4+ $1 42. Kg2 (42. Kxe4 42... Rxf2 {with two passed pawns.}) 42... Nh6
43. Rxa7 Ng4 44. Bg1 {Bleah.} 44... Nxe3+ 45. Kh3 Nd5 46. Ra8 Rc3+ 47. Kg2 (47.
Kg4 $4 47... Nf6#) (47. Kh2 Nf4 48. Rg8+ (48. Kh1 {is the game}) 48... Kf7 49.
Rxg5 Rh3#) 47... Nf4+ 48. Kh1 Rc1 49. Kh2 Ne2 50. f4 Nxg1 51. fxg5 Nf3+ 0-1

[Event "initiative"]
[Site "initiative"]
[Date "1956.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Tal"]
[Black "simagin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B07"]
[PlyCount "89"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f4 Qb6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. e5 Nd5 8. O-O
Nxc3 9. bxc3 e6 10. Ng5 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 11... h6 {# It takes a moment to spot
the sacrifice, but who would play it without seeing a concrete outcome? Black
of course saw it and is calling White\'s bluff.} 12. Nxf7 Kxf7 13. f5 dxe5 14.
fxe6+ Kxe6 15. Rb1 {# Mischievous!} 15... Qxb1 16. Qc4+ Kd6 17. Ba3+ Kc7 18.
Rxb1 Bxa3 19. Qb3 Be7 20. Qxb7+ Kd6 21. dxe5+ Nxe5 22. Rd1+ Ke6 23. Qb3+ Kf5
24. Rf1+ Ke4 25. Re1+ Kf5 26. g4+ Kf6 27. Rf1+ {
# White\'s initiative persists, and Black still can\'t get his rooks working.}
27... Kg6 28. Qe6+ Kh7 29. Qxe5 Rhe8 30. Rf7 Bf8 31. Qf5+ Kg8 32. Kf2 Bc5+ 33.
Kg3 Re3+ 34. Kh4 Rae8 35. Rxg7+ Kxg7 36. Qxc5 R8e6 37. Qxa7+ Kg6 38. Qa8 Kf6
39. a4 Ke5 40. a5 Kd5 41. Qd8+ Ke4 42. a6 Kf3 43. a7 Re2 44. Qd3+ 44... R6e3 {
# And for my last trick:} 45. Qxe3+ 1-0

Quieter forms of the initiative

This is much less exciting, but Black may also struggle to equalise in quieter positions

[Event "Belgrade URS-World"]
[Site "Belgrade"]
[Date "1970.03.29"]
[Round "1.4"]
[White "Hort, Vlastimil"]
[Black "Polugaevsky, Lev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B22"]
[Annotator "Bulletin"]
[PlyCount "131"]
[EventDate "1970.03.29"]
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 e6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Qe4 d6 8. Nbd2
(8. Bc4 {Hort=:H}) 8... dxe5 9. Nxe5 Nf6 (9... Nxe5 10. Qxe5 10... Qc7 {H}) (
9... Bd6 {Vorotnikov-Halikan}) 10. Qa4 (10. Nxc6 10... Qxd2+ $1 {
H/Polugaevsky=:P}) 10... Qd5 (10... Qc7 {P}) (10... Bd7 {Sveshnikov-Browne})
11. Ndf3 Bd6 12. Bf4 {P 13. d1 H/P} 12... Qe4+ 13. Qxe4 Nxe4 14. Bd3 (14. Bb5
$142 {H} 14... O-O $142 {P} (14... Bd7 15. Nxd7 Bxf4 16. Nde5 {P}) 15. Bxc6
bxc6 16. Be3 {P 17.0-0-0 H}) (14. Rd1 {P}) 14... Nxe5 15. Bxe5 (15. Nxe5 15...
g5 $1 {P}) 15... Bxe5 16. Nxe5 16... Nc5 {White declined an offer of a draw.
The queenside pawnmajority givs him some advantage.} 17. Bc2 f6 (17... Nd7 18.
Nc4 Ke7 19. O-O-O Nf6 20. Nd6 20... Rd8 {P}) 18. Nc4 Ke7 19. O-O-O (19. b4 Na6
20. Be4 Rb8 21. Na5 {H}) 19... Bd7 20. b4 Na6 21. Nd6 b6 22. Rhe1 g6 23. Bb3 (
23. f4 $1 {H/P}) 23... Rad8 $2 {H/P} (23... Nc7 $142 24. f4 24... Rhd8 $1 {H} (
24... Bc6 $1 25. f5 (25. b5 Rad8) 25... e5 {P})) 24. f4 Nc7 25. f5 $1 {P} 25...
gxf5 26. Nxf5+ Kf7 (26... Kf8 $2 27. Bxe6 {H}) 27. Rd3 (27. Rd6 {P} 27... Bc8
$140 (27... Ke8 {H}) 28. Rc6) 27... Bc8 $8 28. Rg3 Ne8 29. Nd4 29... Nc7 $1 {P}
30. Nf5 (30. Nc6 Rd6 31. Nxa7 $2 31... Bd7 {P}) 30... Ne8 31. Nd4 31... Nc7
$138 32. Re4 Rdg8 33. Rxg8 Rxg8 34. Nf5 34... Rd8 $8 (34... Kf8 35. Rc4 $18 {H}
) 35. Rg4 Ne8 36. Rh4 36... h5 $1 {P} 37. Rxh5 Kg6 38. Ng3 Ng7 (38... Rd3 $2
39. Bc2 {H}) (38... Nd6 $1 39. Rh4 39... e5 $1 {P}) 39. Rh4 Bb7 40. Rg4+ Kf7
41. Ne2 {Adjourned} 41... f5 $2 {P} (41... Rh8 42. Rc4 Ne8 43. Rd4 Ke7 44. Nf4
Rxh2 45. Bxe6 45... Nd6 {P} 46. Kb2 (46. c4 $2 46... Bxg2 47. c5 bxc5 48. bxc5
Nb5 49. Rd7+ Ke8 50. Rg7 Bc6) 46... b5 47. Rd2 $16 {H}) 42. Rc4 $1 {P} 42...
Ne8 $2 {H} (42... Rd7 43. Nf4 Kf6 44. Rd4 Bc6 (44... Rc7 45. Kd2 {P})) (42...
Bxg2 $2 43. Nf4 Bf3 44. Rc7+ Kf6 45. Rxg7 $1 $18 {P}) 43. Rd4 $1 {H} 43... Rd6
44. Nf4 44... Bc8 $2 $18 {H} 45. Ba4 Rxd4 46. Bxe8+ Kxe8 47. cxd4 Ke7 48. Kd2
48... Kf6 {P 49... e5 H} 49. Nd3 Kg5 50. Ke3 Ba6 51. Nf4 Bc4 52. a3 a5 53. g3
Kg4 54. Kf2 Kg5 55. h4+ Kf6 56. Ke3 axb4 57. axb4 e5 58. Nd3 exd4+ 59. Kxd4 b5
60. Nf4 Bf1 61. Kd5 Bc4+ 62. Kd6 Bb3 63. Nd5+ Kg6 64. Ke5 Bc2 65. Ne7+ Kh5 66.
Nxf5 1-0

Relinquishing initiative

I haven't found it so easy to find examples of this feature, which seems so obvious. Anyone?

[Event "Paris"]
[Site "Paris"]
[Date "1878.07.15"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Winawer, Szymon"]
[Black "Zukertort, Johannes Hermann"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C49"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "1878.06.18"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bb4 5. Nd5 Bc5 6. d3 Nxd5 7. exd5 Nd4 8.
Nxd4 Bxd4 9. c3 Bb6 10. Qg4 O-O 11. Bg5 f6 12. Bh6 Qe7 13. d6 cxd6 14. Bc4+ Kh8
15. Be3 f5 16. Qe2 Bc5 17. O-O-O f4 18. Bd2 b5 19. Bd5 Rb8 20. d4 Bb6 21. Qe4
Qf6 22. h4 b4 23. h5 bxc3 24. Bxc3 exd4 25. Rxd4 Qh6 26. Ra4 a5 27. Rh4 f3+ 28.
Kb1 Ba6 29. Rg4 Rbe8 30. Rxg7 Qxg7 31. Bxg7+ Kxg7 32. Qg4+ Kh8 33. gxf3 Bd3+
34. Kc1 Bf5 35. Qh4 Re2 36. Rd4 Bd8 37. Qg3 Rfe8 38. Rd2 Re1+ 39. Rd1 R1e2 40.
Rg1 Re1+ 41. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 42. Kd2 Re8 43. Qxd6 a4 44. b4 axb3 45. axb3 {
Schallopp: Der internationale Schachkongress zu Paris 1878, p. 113} 1-0

[Event "Lodz"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1913.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Capablanca"]
[Black "Salwe and allies"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C83"]
[PlyCount "105"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5
Be6 9. c3 Be7 10. Nbd2 Nc5 11. Bc2 Bg4 12. h3 Bh5 13. Re1 Bg6 14. Nd4 Nxd4 15.
cxd4 Ne6 16. Nb3 Bg5 17. g3 Bxc1 18. Rxc1 O-O 19. f4 Bxc2 20. Rxc2 g6 21. Nc5
Re8 22. Qd3 Nxc5 23. Rxc5 Qd7 24. g4 c6 25. Rec1 Rac8 26. Qc3 Re6 27. Kh2 Kh8
28. Qa3 Qb7 29. Qg3 f5 30. Qf3 Qd7 31. Kg3 Rf8 32. Qa3 Ra8 33. Qc3 Rc8 34. Qc2
Kg8 35. Kf3 fxg4+ 36. hxg4 Qf7 37. Ke3 Rf8 38. Rf1 Qd7 39. Qg2 Qe7 40. Rfc1
Ref6 41. Rf1 Kh8 42. Qc2 Qe8 43. Qh2 Qe7 44. Rf3 Re6 45. Kf2 45... a5 {#} 46.
f5 $1 46... gxf5 47. gxf5 47... Qg5 $1 48. Qf4 $1 (48. fxe6 Qd2+ 49. Kg3 (49.
Kg1 Qd1+ 50. Kf2 Rxf3+ 51. Kg2 Qf1#) 49... Rg8+ 50. Kh4 Qh6#) 48... Rxf5 $5 49.
Qxf5 Qd2+ 50. Kf1 Rg6 51. Qf8+ Rg8 52. Qf6+ Rg7 53. Rg3 (53. Rg3 Qd1+ 54. Kg2
Qe2+ 55. Qf2 Qe4+ 56. Qf3 Rxg3+ 57. Kxg3 Qg6+ 58. Kf2) 1-0

I know a young nman who often loses the initiative, having got a winning material advantage, and the consequences are sometimes painful to watch:
[Event "Gigafinal U9"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2010.07.03"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Malam, Joel"]
[Black "Slade, Theo"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C02"]
[WhiteElo "113"]
[BlackElo "123"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2009.12.18"]
{Exciting stuff! You did enough to win, but, oh dear, you forgot to change
gear again!} 1. d4 1... e6 2. e4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 (4... cxd4 5. Bd3) 5.
Be3 5... Qb6 $1 6. c3 Qxb2 7. Nbd2 Qxc3 8. Rc1 Qa5 9. Qb3 (9. dxc5 $1 9... d4
$1 10. Bxd4 (10. Nxd4 Nxe5) 10... Nxd4 11. Nxd4 11... Bxc5 $4 (11... Bd7) 12.
Bb5+ $1 {interferes with the attack on the Bishop.}) 9... cxd4 (9... c4 $1 {
You\'re ahead in material and behind in development, so it\'s a good idea to
keep lines closed. You will win later by moving up the Queen\'s-side pawns.})
10. Nxd4 Nxe5 (10... Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bb4 12. Bc3 Bxc3 13. Rxc3 Ne7) 11. Nb5 11...
Nc6 $1 12. Bd3 a6 13. Nd4 {At risk of repeating myself: you\'re winning, so
make sure of it by getting all your pieces out.} 13... Nxd4 14. Bxd4 Nf6 15.
Bc3 Qd8 16. Be5 Be7 (16... Bd6 $1 17. Bxd6 Qxd6 18. O-O O-O 19. f4 e5 (19... b5
)) 17. Bc7 Qd7 18. Nf3 O-O 19. O-O Bd6 20. Ne5 Qe7 21. Bxd6 Qxd6 22. f4 {
Accidents happen when you\'re behind in development! So...} 22... Ne4 $2 {
Oh dear, almost anything else was better!} (22... Bd7 $5 23. Qxb7 Rab8 (23...
Rfb8 24. Qc7 Qxc7 25. Rxc7 Bb5 26. Rfc1)) (22... Nh5 $6 23. a3 Nxf4 24. Rxf4
Qxe5 25. Bxh7+ Kxh7 26. Rh4+ (26. Qh3+ Kg6 27. Rg4+) 26... Kg8) (22... b5 $1) (
22... Rb8 $1) (22... Nd7 $5) 23. Bxe4 dxe4 24. Rfd1 24... Qe7 {
It\'s Black Queen versus the rest!} 25. Qg3 Rd8 26. Qg5 f6 27. Qh4 Rxd1+ 28.
Rxd1 28... Qc5+ $4 (28... g5 $1 29. fxg5 fxe5 30. Qxe4 Bd7 31. Qxb7 Qc5+ 32.
Kh1 (32. Kf1 Rf8+ 33. Ke2 Bb5+) 32... Bc6) (28... b5 $5) 29. Kh1 29... fxe5 $2
{Gives White a draw.} 30. Rd8+ Kf7 31. Qh5+ 31... g6 $2 {Gives White a win!}
32. Qxh7+ 32... Kf6 {Never mind about the material off the board: on the board,
it\'s as though you are a Rook behind (Queen against Q+R)!} (32... Kf6 33. Qh4+
(33. Qh8+ Kf7 (33... Ke7 34. Qf8#) (33... Kf5 34. Rf8+) 34. Qg8+ Kf6 (34... Ke7
35. Qf8#) 35. Rf8+ Ke7 36. Rf7+ Kd6 37. Qd8+ Kc6 38. Rc7+ Kb5 39. a4+ Kc4 40.
Rxc5+ Kxc5) 33... Kg7) 1/2-1/2

The foundations of initiative (activity, King safety, structure and space)

Initiative based on superior piece Activity

We've seen Moro on the rampage, here's a simpler one:

[Event "Vienna"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1955.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kramer"]
[Black "Busek"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D95"]
[Annotator "23: Activity of the pieces"]
[PlyCount "97"]
{The proverbial \"making somethig out of nothing\" consists, in fact of activity
} 1. d4 1... d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Qb3 O-O 7. Bd2 e6 8.
Bd3 Nbd7 9. O-O b6 10. cxd5 {
This exchange after Black commits Nb8 ... else Nc6 is playable} 10... exd5 11.
e4 $1 {White is ahead in development, but if the position retains its closed
character he will not be able to make anything out of it. Black will
automatically make up his leeway (threatening ... Be6 and ... Bd5 blockading
the IQP)} 11... dxe4 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. Bxe4 Nb8 14. d5 $1 {
Playing to dissolve the isolated pawn and reach an open game} 14... Bb7 15. Bg5
Qd7 16. dxc6 {Played in accordance with the rule that an advantage in
development is best exploited in an open game.} (16. Rad1 16... c5 {
Black keeps the play closed}) 16... Bxc6 17. Rfd1 Qb7 18. Bd5 $1 {
The only move to keep the initiative.} (18. Bxc6 18... Nxc6 {
Black gains an important tempo}) 18... Bxd5 19. Rxd5 h6 (19... Bxb2 20. Qxb2
Qxd5 21. Bh6 f6 22. Bxf8 Kxf8 23. Qxf6+ {
White\'s initiative has become a real attack}) (19... Nc6 20. Rad1 {
threatening the 7th rank}) 20. Be3 20... Nc6 {Black is threatening to reach
full equality by ... Rad8; how can White retain the initiative?} 21. Rd6 $1 {
Showing the ... Ph6 was a weakening move. White threatens Rxg6} 21... Kh7 (
21... Rad8 22. Rxg6 Na5 23. Rxg7+ Kxg7 24. Qc3+ {
White has an attack full of promise}) 22. Qb5 $1 {Now the Knight can not very
well move away, as then the White Rook would invade the seventh rank} 22...
Rac8 (22... Na5 23. Rd7) 23. Rad1 23... Rfd8 {Black has achieved his immediate
aim - the neutralizing and subsequent exchange of Rooks. But White\'s
initiative continues unabated} 24. h4 $1 $36 24... Rxd6 25. Rxd6 25... Bf8 {
A necessary preparation for the exchange of the remaining pair of Rooks} 26.
Rd1 Bg7 (26... Rd8 27. Rxd8 Nxd8 28. h5) 27. h5 Qe7 28. b3 Rd8 29. Rxd8 Nxd8
30. Qd5 $1 {Powerful centralization of the Queen} 30... Ne6 31. hxg6+ fxg6 32.
a4 {White\'s initiative has now gather decisive momentum} 32... Bf6 (32... Nc5
33. a5 Qd7 34. Qxd7 Nxd7 35. axb6 Nxb6 (35... axb6 36. Kf1 Kg8 37. Ke2 Kf7 38.
Kd3 Ke6 39. Kc4 Kd6 40. Kb5) 36. Bxb6 axb6 37. Kf1 Kg8 38. Ke2 Kf7 39. Kd3 Ke6
40. Kc4 Kd6 41. Kb5 Kc7 42. Nh4 g5 43. Nf5 $16) 33. a5 Ng5 (33... bxa5 34. Qxa5
) (33... Nc5 34. b4 Na4 35. Qc6) 34. axb6 Nxf3+ 35. Qxf3 axb6 36. Qc6 Bg5 37.
Bxb6 Qe1+ 38. Kh2 Qe5+ 39. g3 Bf6 40. Qc7+ Kg8 41. Qxe5 Bxe5 42. Kg2 Kf7 43.
Kf3 Ke6 44. Ke4 h5 45. b4 Bb8 46. Be3 Bd6 47. b5 Be7 48. f4 h4 49. g4 1-0

Initiative based on opponent's unsafe King

[Event "Moscow"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1935.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Lasker"]
[Black "Pirc"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B85"]
[Annotator "24: Security of the King"]
[PlyCount "39"]
{Black\'s attempt to take the initiative backfires} 1. e4 1... c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.
d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O a6 8. Be3 Qc7 9. f4 {Here Black\'
s prospects lie mainly in his possession of the half-open c-file. His best
chance lies in the minority attack comprising the advance of his two Queenside
pawns combined with ... Na5-c4. Black\'s next move is therefore quite
understandable; the only query is whether it might not have been more pruden
to complete his development first by ... Be7 and ... 0-0} 9... Na5 10. f5 {
White also makes an effort for the iniatitive. In view of his lead indevelopmen
t it is a matter of the greatest importance for him to open the position} 10...
Nc4 {When this game was played it was generally held that a backward pawn must
be a serious disadvantage. No modern master would have any scruples about
playing ... Pe5} (10... e5 11. Nb3 Nc4 12. Bxc4 Qxc4 13. Qf3 h6) 11. Bxc4 Qxc4
12. fxe6 12... fxe6 $2 {Still frightened of the backward pawn.} (12... Bxe6)
13. Rxf6 $1 {With this spl endid Exchange sacrifice, Lasker demonstartes how
vulnerable Black\'s King is here} 13... gxf6 14. Qh5+ Kd8 (14... Kd7 15. Qf7+
Be7 16. Nf5 $3 16... Re8 17. Nxd6 {Overworked king}) (14... Ke7 15. Nf5+ $3
15... exf5 16. Nd5+ Kd7 17. Qf7+ Kc6 18. Qc7+ Kb5 19. a4+ $18) 15. Qf7 Bd7 (
15... Be7 16. Nf5 {thematic} 16... Qc7 17. Na4 Rf8 18. Qxh7 Ke8 19. Bb6 Qd7 20.
Qh5+ Rf7 21. Ng7+ Kf8 22. Qh8#) 16. Qxf6+ Kc7 17. Qxh8 17... Bh6 {Black had bee
n counting on this move, but an elegant refutation puts an end to his hopes}
18. Nxe6+ $1 18... Qxe6 19. Qxa8 Bxe3+ 20. Kh1 1-0

Initiative based on superior Structure:

Initiative based on Space

Another form of structural advantage, I guess. Many games won on the basis of space can be thought of as having an element of initiative to them: the side with the extra space can organise threats much more easily, even if they can't at first break through.

[Event "space V: in a semi-open game"]
[Site "space V: in a semi-open game"]
[Date "1970.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Fischer, Robert"]
[Black \"Gheorghiu, Florin [Buenos Aire"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[PlyCount "69"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 Be7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. h3 O-O 8.
O-O Re8 9. c4 Nc6 10. Nc3 10... h6 {# Black is solid but looks comfortable} 11.
Re1 Bf8 12. Rxe8 Qxe8 13. Bf4 Bd7 14. Qd2 Qc8 15. d5 Nb4 16. Ne4 $1 {
preserving the Bd3} 16... Nxe4 17. Bxe4 Na6 18. Nd4 {
# now Black needs some ideas} 18... Nc5 19. Bc2 a5 20. Re1 Qd8 21. Re3 $1 21...
b6 22. Rg3 Kh8 23. Nf3 Qe7 24. Qd4 {
# White\'s advantage is settling into concrete threats on the King\'s-side} 24...
Qf6 25. Qxf6 25... gxf6 {# Black has achieved an exchange, but at cost of weak
pawns, which we already know about} 26. Nd4 Re8 27. Re3 $1 {confidence!} 27...
Rb8 {Black reckons the Rook is a drawing factor} 28. b3 b5 29. cxb5 Bxb5 30.
Nf5 {and White gains material} 30... Bd7 31. Nxh6 Rb4 32. Rg3 $1 32... Bxh6 33.
Bxh6 Ne4 34. Bg7+ Kh7 35. f3 1-0

Losing the initiative when you have more space is awful; you're defending a much longer line, that is well within reach of your opponent.

[Event "potential"]
[Site "potential"]
[Date "1974.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "webb"]
[Black "hartston, uk ch\'p"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A31"]
[PlyCount "74"]
{I included this game here because I was interested in Bill Hartston\'s comment
at move 14, but I have also included Webb\'s commentary on the psychological
battle.} 1. Nf3 1... Nf6 2. d4 c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 4... b6 {!\"an unusual
move... gets an exclamation mark because White is S.Webb. I like to fianchetto
my KB in such positions, and this is the one move which prevents me from doing
so\" (if he thought Bill would play this, he would play 3.g3)} 5. Nc3 Bb7 6. f3
d6 7. e4 e6 8. Be2 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Be3 10... Nbd7 {which plan? f4/g5? g4/
g5? double rooks on d-file? It\'s not much use knowing you\'ve got a good
position if you don\'t know what to do with it!} 11. Qd2 11... a6 {# WRH: \"Now
the position bears a very strong resemblance to a Sicilian. I felt quite happy
now since I seem to have spent half my life playing Sicilian positions of this
type, which my opponent, not a 1 e4 player, had to be less} 12. Rfd1 {
...familiar with the problems\"} 12... Qc7 13. Rac1 Rac8 14. Bf1 14... Qb8 {
# WRH: White has made a series of natural moves and maintains a spatial
advant- age; nevertheless I believe that Black already has the betterprospects.
The Black pieces... are beautifully placed to leap into action after the
thematic} 15. Qf2 15... Rfe8 {...d6-d5 breakthough\". SW: \"By this stage I was
definitely running out of things to. I still don\'t know what I did wrong,
apart from choosing the wrong opening!\"} 16. Kh1 Bf8 17. Nc2 Ne5 18. Bxb6 {
I would have preferred to defend the c-pawn, but 18. b3 b5 and 18. Na3 d5! are
very unpleasant for White.} 18... Nxc4 19. Bxc4 Rxc4 20. Ne3 Rc6 21. Ba5 {
-+, # BB} 21... d5 22. exd5 exd5 23. Nf5 (23. Nexd5 Nxd5 24. Rxd5 Rxc3) (23.
Ncxd5 Nxd5 24. Rxc6 Nxe3) 23... d4 {opening lines} 24. Nxd4 Rc5 25. Bb6 Rh5 26.
h3 {#} 26... Ng4 {!} 27. fxg4 Rxh3+ 28. Kg1 Qh2+ 29. Kf1 Rg3 30. Rc2 30... Rxg4
{no hurry - W cannot organise a defence} 31. Qg1 Qh6 32. Nf5 {doesn\'t help}
32... Qf6 33. Rf2 Qxb6 34. Qh2 a5 35. Qh3 35... Rg6 {threat ...Ba6+ & ...Bc5}
36. Nd5 {?} 36... Qb5+ 37. Kg1 Bxd5 0-1

You will notice that I have so far drawn example from master play; club games tend to be cluttered with so many errors in tactics and strategy that the issue of the initiative is lost in the fog. But among the top county players you can see the pursuit of a persistent initiative in good style, and I watched one this year:

 Mackle-Edgell XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The psychological initiative

Jonathan Rowson is always interesting to read, and he does not disappoint in his chapter on the initiative (Chess for Zebras). However, he ends up folowing Suba in saying that the initiative is largely psychological in nature. I don't deny that the initiative has strongly psychological elements, but there is something on the board too. Rowson (and I) find this easiest to see in those games where White tries to attack Black's position from the first move, say, in the sharp main lines of the Najdorf. Black can always find a defence after the game, but during a game it's not so easy. The struggle for the initiative in the opening

Alekhin's defence: 1.e4 Nf6 "White has his initiative to defend" -- Tartakower.

The opening can be played to seek an advantage in development, or space, or both, but some lines cannot be understood except as a struggle for the initiative. In many modern variations this makes for very sharp play, and some 'unnatural' moves. The main lines of the Najdorf, an opening we looked at earlier, have this quality. There's a Korchnoi game below to confirm this, and here's another:

[Event "Leipzig ol (Men) fin-A"]
[Site "Leipzig"]
[Date "1960.11.01"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Fischer, Robert James"]
[Black "Tal, Mihail"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C18"]
[PlyCount "42"]
[EventDate "1960.10.16"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Ba5 6. b4 cxd4 7. Qg4 Ne7 8. bxa5
dxc3 9. Qxg7 Rg8 10. Qxh7 Nbc6 11. Nf3 Qc7 12. Bb5 Bd7 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Bg5
Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxb5 16. Nxf7 Bxf1 17. Nxd8 Rxg5 18. Nxe6 Rxg2+ 19. Kh1 Qe5 20.
Rxf1 Qxe6 21. Kxg2 Qg4+ 1/2-1/2

The initiative can be more important than general opening guidelines

[Event "initiative"]
[Site "initiative"]
[Date "1922.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Alekhine"]
[Black "wolf (pistyan)"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D06"]
[PlyCount "79"]
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. cxd5 Nf6 5. Nxd4 5... a6 {
# A famous (and much discussed) demonstration of the initiative.} 6. e4 {
to keep the d5 pawn} 6... Nxe4 7. Qa4+ {
now any interposition on d7 stops the attack on d5} 7... Bd7 (7... Qd7 8. Bb5)
8. Qb3 {hitting the b7 pawn} 8... Nc5 9. Qe3 {preventing ...e5} 9... g6 10. Nf3
Qc7 11. Qc3 {# preventing ...Bg7. All these queen moves are apparently against
theory (\"don\'t waste time with too many Queen moves\") but they are all to get
Black tied down before completing his own development.} 11... Rg8 12. Be3 b6
13. Nbd2 Bg7 14. Bd4 {exchanging off Black\'s best piece} 14... Bxd4 15. Qxd4
Bb5 16. Bxb5+ axb5 17. O-O Ra4 18. b4 Qd8 19. a3 {# no rush: Black is in no
position to retaliate. White\'s vigorous play has kept Black short of the two
or three moves need to untangle the position, and White is now clearly winning
with centralised pieces and better development(!)} 19... Nbd7 20. Rfe1 Kf8 21.
d6 Ne6 22. Rxe6 fxe6 23. Ng5 Qb8 24. Nxe6+ Kf7 25. Ng5+ Kf8 26. Qd5 Rg7 27.
Ne6+ Kg8 28. Nxg7+ Kxg7 29. dxe7 Nf6 30. Qxb5 Ra7 31. Re1 Qd6 32. e8=N+ Nxe8
33. Qxe8 Qxd2 34. Qe5+ Kf7 35. h4 Rxa3 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Re7+ Kh6 38. Qf8+ Kh5
39. Re5+ Kg4 40. Rg5+ {1-0} (40. f3+ Kg3 41. Rg5+ Qxg5) 1-0

The initiative can be more important than material

Kasparov did some video interviews a while ago, and John Watson commented in his review "Kasparov also believes that the new generation of the 90s plays a different kind of chess than that of the 80s, believing that 'initiative can be worth material'." This comment is utterly lacking in historical subtlety. Alekhin's quest for the initiative often took precedence over material, and I can think of a few of Capablanca's games where his initiative won out over a lost pawn. More recently, Alexei Suetin's book Modern Chess Opening Theory, translated by our very own David Richards, gave many examples of material sacrifice for the initiative. Perhaps the top players of the 1990s extended the range and daring of such sacrifices for the initiative, but it is hardly a new insight.

[Event "Lessons from Capa 5 : Zugzwang"]
[Site "Lessons from Capa 5 : Zugzwan"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "F.J. Marshall"]
[Black "J.R.C., (New York 1918)"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D64"]
[PlyCount "78"]
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 O-O 7. Rc1 c6 8. Qc2
dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 {Capablanca\'s move, leading to freeing exchanges.}
10... Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. Qxc3 12... b6 {This is very important, and,
according to Capablanca, is the key to the variation. Black simplifies as much
as possible, and then solves the development of his queen\'s bishop. He intends
continuing with Nf6 ... Rac8 ...} (12... Rd8) 13. e4 Bb7 14. Rfe1 Rfd8 15. d5
15... Nc5 {Marshall is not interested in black\'s freeing operation, and wants
to open the game up for an attack ... 16. dxe6 would leave black with an
awkward e-pawn.} 16. dxe6 Nxe6 17. Bxe6 Qxe6 18. Nd4 $1 {Capablanca had
thought the attack on a2 would force a defensive move, when ...c5 follows with
a better position for black DIAGRAM and if ... Qxa2 : Ra1 wins the queen!
attack.} 18... Qe5 $3 {Capablanca is not interested in defensive play, and
instead offers a pawn and the queen exchange, but for what?} (18... Qd7) 19.
Nxc6 (19. Nf5 f6 20. Qg3 Kh8 21. Rcd1 {else Rcd1 Qf7 : Nh6+ wins the queen}
21... Qc7 22. h4) 19... Qxc3 20. Rxc3 20... Rd2 $1 21. Rb1 {
... a rook on the seventh! Now, white should play for a draw with} (21. Ne7+
Kf8 22. Rc7 Re8 23. Rxb7 Rxe7 24. Rb8+ Re8 25. Rxe8+ Kxe8) 21... Re8 22. e5 (
22. f3 f5 23. exf5 23... Ree2 {
with double rooks on the seventh \"enough to frighten a man to death\" Chernev.})
22... g5 $1 {... but this is a master move: stopping f4, allowing Kg7, and
threatening Bxc6...Rxe5.} 23. h4 gxh4 24. Re1 (24. f4 h3 25. g3 h2+ 26. Kh1 Rc8
27. Rbc1 Kf8 28. f5 Ke8 29. e6 fxe6 30. fxe6 30... Rd6 $1 {wins the knight...})
24... Re6 25. Rec1 Kg7 26. b4 26... b5 {stopping the support of the knight ...}
27. a3 27... Rg6 {# Note the focus on g2. White\'s pieces are totally tied up,
and he is heading for zugzwang.} 28. Kf1 Ra2 29. Kg1 h3 30. g3 30... a6 {
And now white must lose something ...} 31. e6 Rxe6 32. g4 {
Knight moves still lose:} (32. Nd8 h2+ 33. Kxh2 33... Rh6+ {-h1 \'mate.}) 32...
Rh6 33. f3 {... trying to close the long diagonal. If} (33. g5 h2+ 34. Kh1 Rxc6
35. Rxc6 35... Rxf2 {to f6 wins with the pin.}) 33... Rd6 34. Ne7 Rdd2 35. Nf5+
{to stop Kd7} 35... Kf6 36. Nh4 Kg5 37. Nf5 Rg2+ 38. Kf1 h2 39. f4+ {
watch the mate threat!} 39... Kxf4 {
\"An ending worth very careful study\", says Capablanca.} 0-1

[Event "Malta ol (Men)"]
[Site "La Valetta"]
[Date "1980.11.30"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Kasparov, Garry"]
[Black "Petursson, Margeir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "2595"]
[BlackElo "2390"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "1980.11.20"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 b5 6. e5 Nd5 7. a4 e6 8. axb5
Nxc3 9. bxc3 cxb5 10. Ng5 Bb7 11. Qh5 Qd7 12. Be2 h6 13. Bf3 Nc6 14. O-O Nd8
15. Ne4 a5 16. Bg5 Bd5 17. Rfe1 Nc6 18. Bh4 Ra7 19. Qg4 Rh7 20. Nd6+ Bxd6 21.
Bxd5 Be7 22. Be4 g6 23. Bf6 Kf8 24. Qf3 Nd8 25. d5 exd5 26. Bxd5 Qf5 27. Qe3
Rd7 28. Rad1 Bxf6 29. exf6 Ne6 30. Be4 Rxd1 31. Bxf5 Rxe1+ 32. Qxe1 gxf5 33.
Qe5 Kg8 34. Qg3+ 1-0

[Event "Pawn sacrifice: for activity/initiative"]
[Site "St Petersburg"]
[Date "1914.??.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Nimzowitsch, Aaron"]
[Black "Capablanca, Jose"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C62"]
[PlyCount "82"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. Bxc6 $5 6... Bxc6 7. Qd3
exd4 8. Nxd4 8... g6 $5 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Qa6 10... Qd7 $1 11. Qb7 Rc8 12. Qxa7
12... Bg7 {# Black has two tempi for the a-Pawn, no real weaknesses to attack
and faces a passed a-Pawn. \"Any woodshifter would consider himself in clover
in White\'s position... Nimzovitch played quite reasonably all the time, and
yet found himself dead lost within a dozen more moves. (...) It is always very
difficult to play correctly when the enemy has the initiative.\" - CJSP} 13. O-O
O-O 14. Qa6 Rfe8 15. Qd3 {I have seen this move marked as a mistake; White
needs counterplay to stop Black\'s game unfolding, and the Queen on a6 at least
was tying the Black Queen to the defence of c6.} 15... Qe6 16. f3 Nd7 17. Bd2
Ne5 18. Qe2 Nc4 19. Rab1 Ra8 20. a4 Nxd2 21. Qxd2 Qc4 22. Rfd1 Reb8 23. Qe3 Rb4
24. Qg5 Bd4+ 25. Kh1 Rab8 26. Rxd4 Qxd4 27. Rd1 Qc4 28. h4 Rxb2 29. Qd2 Qc5 30.
Re1 Qh5 31. Ra1 Qxh4+ 32. Kg1 Qh5 33. a5 Ra8 34. a6 Qc5+ 35. Kh1 Qc4 36. a7 Qc5
37. e5 Qxe5 38. Ra4 Qh5+ 39. Kg1 Qc5+ 40. Kh2 d5 41. Rh4 Rxa7 0-1

* Modern Chess Opening Theory - NN [B34]

initiative in the opening & a pawn sacrifice for White (Suetin)

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Modern Chess Opening Theory"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "B34"]
[Annotator "Suetin"]
[PlyCount "16"]
{In many modern opening systems ... both players strive to seize the
initiative by sharp tactical play before completing development. ... If White
avoids the sharp lines invited by Black, he often simply loses the initiative
and gives Black easy equality.} 1. e4 1... c5 ({
A Pawn Sacrifice for the Initiative in the Caro-Kann Defence.} 1... c6 2. Nf3
d5 3. Nc3 Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6 6. d4 Nf6 7. Bd3 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Qxd4 9. Be3
Qd8 10. O-O-O Nbd7 11. Bc4 Qa5 12. Bd2 Qb6 13. Rhe1 Nxe4 14. Rxe4 Nf6 15. Bxe6
fxe6 16. Rxe6+ Be7 17. Rde1 Nd5 18. Bg5 O-O-O 19. Bxe7 Nxe7 20. Rxe7 Rhf8 21.
Qg4+ Kb8 22. Qxg7 Qxf2 23. b3 Rg8 24. Qxh7 Rxg2 25. Rxb7+ Ka8 26. Rbe7 Qc5 27.
h4 a5 28. Re8 Qd4 29. Kb1 Rd2 30. Rxd8+ Qxd8 31. Qe4 Qf6 32. h5 {
1-0 Boleslavsky,I-Flohr,S/URS-ch18 1950/URS-ch}) 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4
Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be2 (6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 $1 {must be tried.}) 6... Bg7 7. Be3
O-O 8. O-O 8... d5 $1 $11 *

* a pawn sacrifice for initiative in the opening for White (Kasparov: Geller-Tolush gambit)

[Event "Malta ol (Men)"]
[Site "La Valetta"]
[Date "1980.11.30"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Kasparov, Garry"]
[Black "Petursson, Margeir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "2595"]
[BlackElo "2390"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "1980.11.20"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 b5 6. e5 Nd5 7. a4 e6 8. axb5
Nxc3 9. bxc3 cxb5 10. Ng5 Bb7 11. Qh5 Qd7 12. Be2 h6 13. Bf3 Nc6 14. O-O Nd8
15. Ne4 a5 16. Bg5 Bd5 17. Rfe1 Nc6 18. Bh4 Ra7 19. Qg4 Rh7 20. Nd6+ Bxd6 21.
Bxd5 Be7 22. Be4 g6 23. Bf6 Kf8 24. Qf3 Nd8 25. d5 exd5 26. Bxd5 Qf5 27. Qe3
Rd7 28. Rad1 Bxf6 29. exf6 Ne6 30. Be4 Rxd1 31. Bxf5 Rxe1+ 32. Qxe1 gxf5 33.
Qe5 Kg8 34. Qg3+ 1-0

a pawn sacrifice for initiative in the opening for Black (Browne: Benko gambit)

* Lorinczi P - Browne Walter S [A58]

[Event "Pawn sacrifice: for open lines (Benko)"]
[Site "Olympiad, Siegen (Germany)"]
[Date "1970.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Lorinczi P"]
[Black "Browne Walter S"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A58"]
[PlyCount "64"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 Bxa6 (5... g6 {
is now though more accurate in case of b2-b3}) 6. Nc3 d6 7. Nf3 g6 8. g3 Bg7 9.
Bg2 O-O 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Qc2 Qa5 12. Re1 Nb6 13. e4 Nfd7 14. Bg5 Rfe8 15. Nd2
15... Ne5 {
# A fairly typical Benko position: here the Rf8 must go to e8 not b8.} 16. Nb3
Bd3 17. Qc1 Qb4 18. Bh6 Bh8 19. Nd2 Nec4 20. Nxc4 Nxc4 21. a4 Qxb2 22. Qxb2
Nxb2 23. Rec1 Reb8 24. a5 Rb3 25. Bd2 Nc4 26. Be1 26... Na3 {
(cutting off the a-Pawn)} 27. Bf1 Bxf1 28. Kxf1 Rxa5 29. Ra2 Ra7 30. f3 Nb5 31.
Rxa7 Nxa7 32. Kg2 f5 0-1

other sacrifices of material for initiative (Bronstein: exchange sac in the Grunfeld)

* Bronstein D. - Boleslavsky I. [D89]

[Event "Candidates playoff 1pl"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1950.??.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Bronstein, David I"]
[Black "Boleslavsky, Isaak"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D89"]
[PlyCount "63"]
[EventDate "1950.??.??"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 c5 7. Bc4 Bg7 8.
Ne2 O-O 9. O-O cxd4 10. cxd4 Nc6 11. Be3 Bg4 12. f3 Na5 13. Bd3 Be6 14. d5 Bxa1
15. Qxa1 f6 16. Bh6 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Rfd8 18. Rb1 Qc5 19. Bd2 b6 20. Bb4 Qc7 21.
Rc1 Qb7 22. Qb1 Rab8 23. dxe6 Nc6 24. Bc3 Ne5 25. Bb5 Rbc8 26. Bxe5 Rxc1+ 27.
Qxc1 fxe5 28. Bd7 Qa6 29. Ng3 Qxa2 30. h4 Rf8 31. Qg5 Rf6 32. Qxf6 1-0

not enough initiative

* Novopashin A. - Kortschnoj V. [B97] (Korchnoi: Poisoned pawn)

"I like to coax my opponents into attacking, to let them taste the joy of the initiative, so they may get carried away, become careless and sacrifice material." -- Korchnoi The struggle for the initiative in the middlegame

[Event "URS-ch30"]
[Site "Yerevan"]
[Date "1962.12.01"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Novopashin, Arkady"]
[Black "Kortschnoj, Viktor"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B97"]
[Annotator "Buckley"]
[PlyCount "84"]
[EventDate "1962.11.22"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 7... Qb6 {
The sharpest Sicilian: the Poisoned Pawn variation.} (7... b5) (7... Be7) 8.
Qd2 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Be2 Nc6 12. Rb3 Qa5 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. f5
exf5 15. O-O Be6 16. Rb7 fxe4 17. Rxf6 {# \"I like to coax my opponents into
attacking, to let them taste the joy of the initiative, so they may get
carried away, become careless and sacrifice material.\" -- Korchnoi} 17... O-O-O
18. Rfxf7 Bxf7 19. Rxf7 d5 20. Kh1 Kb8 21. Nxe4 Qxd2 22. Nxd2 Re8 23. Bxa6 Re1+
24. Nf1 Bc5 25. g4 Rf8 26. Rxf8+ Bxf8 27. Kg2 h6 28. Kf3 Bd6 29. Bd3 Ra1 30.
Ne3 Bxh2 31. Nf5 c5 32. Nxh6 c4 33. Bf5 d4 34. g5 Be5 35. g6 Rxa2 36. Nf7 Bg7
37. Nd6 d3 38. cxd3 c3 39. d4 Bxd4 40. Bb1 c2 41. Bxc2 Rxc2 42. Nf5 Bf6 0-1

[Event "Tallinn"]
[Site "Tallinn"]
[Date "1973.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Spassky, Boris V"]
[Black "Tal, Mihail"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E30"]
[Annotator "Chekhov"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "1973.02.19"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bg5 h6 5. Bh4 c5 6. d5 6... b5 $5 {
Black sacrifices a pawn for a central majority and consequently the initiative.
} (6... d6 {Bareev,E-Chandler,M/Hastings/1991/1:0 (37) Inf 53/528/ (11)}) 7.
dxe6 (7. e4 {Levenfish,G-Estrin,J/URS/1951/ (8)}) 7... fxe6 8. cxb5 d5 9. e3
O-O 10. Nf3 $6 {
Black must play actively, or White\'s extra pawn will be the difference.} (10.
a3 $5) 10... Qa5 $1 11. Bxf6 Rxf6 12. Qd2 (12. Qc1 $5 {a3/}) 12... a6 13. bxa6
Nc6 14. Be2 (14. Qc1 $5 14... d4 15. a3) 14... d4 $1 $17 15. exd4 15... Rxf3 $1
16. Bxf3 cxd4 17. O-O (17. Rc1 Bxa6 18. Bxc6 Rd8 19. Qc2 dxc3 20. bxc3 Qe5+ 21.
Be4 21... Bd3 $19) 17... dxc3 18. bxc3 Bxc3 19. Qd6 Rxa6 20. Bxc6 (20. Rad1 Nd4
) 20... Bb4 21. Qb8 21... Rxc6 {The material situation has settled down: Black
has two Bishops for a Rook and Pawn.} 22. Rac1 Bc5 23. Rc2 Qa4 24. Qb3 {
White tries to calm the position.} (24. Rfc1 24... Bxf2+ $1 $19) 24... Qf4 (
24... Qe4 $5) 25. Qg3 (25. Qf3 $5 25... Qc7) 25... Qf5 26. Rfc1 Bb7 27. Qf3 (
27. Qb8+ $2 27... Kh7 28. Qxb7 28... Bxf2+ $19) 27... Qg5 28. Qb3 (28. Qg3
28... Bxf2+ $1 29. Qxf2 29... Qxc1+ $1 $19) 28... Rc7 {Black\'s Bishops are
starting to make threats, and Black is getting hold of the initiative.} (28...
Bxf2+ $6 29. Kxf2 Rxc2+ 30. Rxc2 Qxg2+ 31. Ke3 Qf3+ 32. Kd2) 29. g3 29... Bxf2+
$1 $19 30. Kxf2 Qf6+ (30... Qf5+ $5 31. Kg1 31... Qe4 $19) 31. Ke1 (31. Kg1
31... Qd4+ $19) (31. Ke2 Ba6+) 31... Qe5+ 32. Kf1 Ba6+ 33. Kg1 Qd4+ 34. Kg2
Qe4+ 35. Kg1 (35. Kh3 Rxc2 36. Qxc2 36... Bf1+ $19) 35... Bb7 36. h4 Qh1+ 37.
Kf2 Rf7+ 38. Ke2 Qe4+ (38... Qe4+ 39. Qe3 Ba6+ 40. Kd2 40... Rd7+ $19) (38...
Qe4+ 39. Kd1 Rd7+ 40. Rd2 Qh1+ 41. Kc2 41... Be4+ $19) 0-1

The initiative can be more important than structure

A revealing moment:

[Event "Portoroz Interzonal"]
[Site "Portoroz"]
[Date "1958.??.??"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Fischer, Robert James"]
[Black "Larsen, Bent"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B77"]
[Annotator "Ftacnik"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[EventDate "1958.08.05"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 (6... Ng4 $2 7.
Bb5+ $18) 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Nxd4 (9... a5 $5 {Byrne,D} 10. g4 Ne5 11.
Be2 11... d5 $2 12. g5 $1 $18) 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Bb3 Qa5 12. O-O-O b5 (12...
Bxb3 13. cxb3 $1 $40 {Black cannot make any attacking headway against this
particular Pawn configuration. White is lost in the King and Pawn ending, it\'s
true, but Black usually gets mated long before then. As Tarrasch put it:
\"Before the endgame the gods have placed the middle game.\" _RJF}) 13. Kb1 b4
14. Nd5 (14. Ne2 $2 14... Bxb3 15. cxb3 Rfd8) 14... Bxd5 (14... Nxd5 15. Bxg7
Kxg7 16. exd5 Bd7 17. Rde1 $16 {Suetin,A-Kortschnoj,V/URS-ch/1953/}) 15. Bxd5 (
15. exd5 $1 15... Qb5 16. Rhe1 a5 17. Qe2 $1 $16 {Tal,M-Larsen,B Zuerich 1959})
15... Rac8 $2 (15... Nxd5 16. Bxg7 (16. exd5 Qxd5 17. Qxb4 $13) 16... Nc3+ 17.
bxc3 (17. Bxc3 bxc3 18. Qxc3 Qxc3 19. bxc3 19... Rfc8 $10) 17... Rab8 $1 18.
cxb4 Qxb4+ 19. Qxb4 Rxb4+ 20. Bb2 20... Rfb8 $10) 16. Bb3 $1 16... Rc7 (16...
Qb5 17. Bxa7) 17. h4 Qb5 (17... h5 18. g4 $1 18... hxg4 (18... Rfc8 19. Rdg1
hxg4 20. h5 gxh5 21. fxg4 Nxe4 22. Qf4 e5 23. Qxe4 exd4 24. gxh5 Kh8 25. h6 Bf6
26. Rg7 $18) 19. h5 gxh5 (19... Nxh5 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. fxg4 Nf6 22. Qh6+ $18)
20. fxg4 Nxe4 (20... hxg4 21. Rdg1 e5 22. Be3 Rd8 23. Bh6 $18) (20... Nxg4 21.
Rdg1 Bxd4 22. Rxg4+ hxg4 23. Qh6 $18) 21. Qe3 Nf6 (21... Bxd4 22. Qxe4 Bg7 23.
Rxh5 $18) 22. gxh5 e5 23. h6 $18) 18. h5 $1 18... Rfc8 (18... gxh5 19. g4 $1
19... hxg4 20. fxg4 Nxe4 21. Qh2 Ng5 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Rd5 Rc5 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25.
Rxg5+ Rxg5 26. Qxh7#) 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. g4 (20. Bxf6 $2 20... Bxf6 21. Qh6
21... e6 $1 $10) 20... a5 21. g5 Nh5 (21... Ne8 {Vasiukov,E} 22. Bxg7 Nxg7 (
22... Kxg7 $2 23. Qh2 $18) 23. Rh6 $1 23... e6 (23... a4 24. Qh2 Nh5 25. Rxg6+
$18) 24. Qh2 Nh5 25. Bxe6 $1 25... fxe6 (25... Qxg5 26. Rxg6+ $1 26... Qxg6 27.
Bxc8 $18) 26. Rxg6+ Ng7 27. Rh1 $18) (21... a4 $2 22. gxf6 axb3 23. fxg7 $1
23... bxc2+ 24. Qxc2 $1 24... e5 25. Qh2 $18) 22. Rxh5 $1 22... gxh5 (22...
Bxd4 23. Qxd4 gxh5 24. g6 Qe5 (24... e6 25. Qxd6) 25. gxf7+ Kh7 (25... Kf8 26.
Qxe5 dxe5 27. Rg1 e6 28. Bxe6 Ke7 29. Bxc8 Rxc8 30. Rg5 $18) 26. Qd3 $18 {f3-f4
}) 23. g6 e5 (23... e6 24. gxf7+ Kxf7 (24... Rxf7 25. Bxe6) 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26.
Rg1+ Kh7 27. Qg2 Qe5 28. Qg6+ Kh8 29. Rg5 Rg7 30. Rxh5+ Kg8 31. Bxe6+ Kf8 32.
Rf5+ Ke7 33. Rf7+ $18) 24. gxf7+ Kf8 25. Be3 d5 (25... a4 26. Qxd6+ Re7 27.
Qd8+ $1 27... Rxd8 28. Rxd8+ Re8 29. Bc5+ $18) (25... Rd8 26. Bh6 $18) 26. exd5
(26. Bxd5 26... Rxc2 $1) 26... Rxf7 (26... a4 27. d6 $1 27... axb3 28. dxc7 $18
) 27. d6 Rf6 (27... Rd7 28. Be6 $18 (28. Bh6 $40)) (27... Rxf3 28. d7 $18 {Qd6+
}) 28. Bg5 Qb7 (28... Qd7 29. Qd5 $1 29... Qf7 (29... Rf7 30. Be7+ $1) 30. Bxf6
$18) 29. Bxf6 Bxf6 30. d7 Rd8 31. Qd6+ (31. Qh6+ $1) 1-0

Defending against the initiative

Defence is another session or three, but to some extent it depends on your style: do you prefer to defend in an active, enterprising, opportunistic, counter-attacking style (Lasker, Kasparov, Korchnoi) or is it more your style to be solid, gritty and patient? (Capablanca, Petrosian, Karpov) Of course, all the best players can play how they like, and it's hard to put the latest generation (Kramnik, Topalov, Anand, Carlsen) into pigeonholes.

I mentioned last time Karpov's tenacity in defence: strengthening his position where he can, challenging and exchanging his opponent's strong pieces, making progress with his own ideas when given a chance; here's an example.

[Event "Amsterdam"]
[Site "Amsterdam"]
[Date "1976.05.19"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Timman, Jan H"]
[Black "Karpov, Anatoly"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E30"]
[WhiteElo "2550"]
[BlackElo "2695"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "1976.05.14"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bg5 c5 5. d5 d6 6. e3 exd5 7. cxd5 Nbd7 8. Bd3
Qa5 9. Nge2 Nxd5 10. O-O Bxc3 11. bxc3 c4 12. Bf5 12... f6 {
After 40 minutes\' thought.} 13. Nd4 $5 {A long think from White.} 13... Ne7 {
Played quickly!} (13... fxg5 14. Qh5+ g6 15. Bxg6+ hxg6 (15... Kd8) 16. Qxh8+
Nf8 17. f4) (13... Ne5 14. f4) 14. Bxd7+ Bxd7 15. Bf4 15... O-O {
Keeping it simple.} 16. Bxd6 Rfe8 17. Rb1 b6 18. Bxe7 Rxe7 19. Nb5 $5 {
Coming around to threaten the c-pawn.} (19. Qd2 {\"(White) would stand well but
the position would be too static for him to hope for much\". -- Timman.}) 19...
Rc8 $1 20. Nd6 Rc7 21. Rb4 Be6 22. Qf3 22... Qd5 {Exchanging.} 23. Qxd5 Bxd5
24. Rd1 Be6 25. Rd4 25... Red7 {
So, Black has defended the c-pawn, but White is still better.} 26. f3 Kf8 27.
Nb5 Rc5 28. a4 {Not ideal, but hard to make progress without it.} 28... a6 29.
Na3 Rxd4 30. exd4 Rc6 31. Nc2 a5 32. Rb2 Ke7 33. d5 $1 {
The only way to set further problems.} 33... Bxd5 34. Nd4 34... Rc5 $1 {
Activity and defence.} 35. Rxb6 35... h5 $2 (35... Kd7 $1 {
and Black can defend better.}) 36. Kf2 $2 (36. Ra6 $1 {
winning a pawn after Ra7+/Nb5}) 36... Kd7 37. h4 Kc7 38. Re6 {
\"A little joke\" -- Timman} 38... Kd7 (38... Bxe6 39. Nxe6+ Kc6 40. Nxc5 Kxc5
41. Ke3 Kd5 42. Kf4 $1 {winning}) 39. Rb6 Kc7 40. Re6 (40. Rb1 Bf7) 40... Kd7
41. Ra6 Bb7 42. Rb6 Kc7 43. Re6 Kd7 44. Rb6 Kc7 45. Re6 {
Karpov glides out of trouble like an eel.} 1/2-1/2

Defensive sacrifices

I was very struck, following the first Karpov-Kasparov encounter, in how many games Kasparov sacrificed a pawn. We have seen an example of him doing so when trying to win, but he also uses the same device when trying to get enough counterplay to hold the balance.

[Event "Pawn sacrifice: for activity"]
[Site "Wch34-KK4 Sevilla"]
[Date "1987.??.??"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Karpov, An"]
[Black "Kasparov, G."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D88"]
[WhiteElo "2700"]
[BlackElo "2740"]
[PlyCount "140"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.
Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. f3 Na5 12. Bxf7+ Rxf7 13. fxg4 Rxf1+ 14.
Kxf1 cxd4 15. cxd4 Qb6 16. Kg1 Qe6 17. Qd3 Qxg4 18. Rf1 Rc8 19. h3 Qd7 20. d5
Nc4 21. Bd4 e5 22. dxe6 Qxe6 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Nf4 Qd6 25. Qc3+ Kh6 26. Nd5 Qe5
27. Qd3 Kg7 28. Nf6 Qd6 29. Qc3 Qe5 30. Qd3 Qd6 31. Qc3 Qe5 32. Qb3 Rc7 33. Qd3
Rf7 34. Qxc4 Rxf6 35. Rd1 b5 36. Rd7+ Kh6 37. Qe2 Qc5+ 38. Kh2 Qe5+ 39. g3 Qc3
40. Kg2 Qc4 41. Qe3+ g5 42. Rd2 Qf1+ 43. Kh2 Qf3 44. Qd4 Re6 45. e5 Qf5 46. Re2
{#} 46... a5 $1 {\"An outstanding method of active defence.\" - KEENE.} 47. Qd5
b4 48. Qxa5 Qd3 49. Rg2 Qd4 50. Qa8 Qxe5 51. Qf8+ Kg6 52. Qxb4 h5 53. h4 gxh4
54. Qxh4 Rd6 55. Qc4 Rd4 56. Qc6+ Kg7 57. Qb7+ Kh6 58. Qc6+ Kg7 59. Rc2 Rh4+
60. Kg2 Qe4+ 61. Qxe4 Rxe4 62. Rc7+ Kg6 63. Ra7 Re3 64. Kh3 Rc3 65. Ra8 Rc4 66.
a4 Kg5 67. a5 Ra4 68. a6 Kh6 69. Kg2 Ra3 70. Kf2 Kg7 1/2-1/2

[Event "Pawn sacrifice: for activity"]
[Site "Wch31-KK1 Moscow"]
[Date "1984.??.??"]
[Round "19"]
[White "Karpov, An"]
[Black "Kasparov, G."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D53"]
[WhiteElo "2705"]
[BlackElo "2715"]
[PlyCount "88"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Bxf6 7. Qd2 Nc6 8. e3
O-O 9. Rc1 a6 10. Be2 dxc4 11. Bxc4 e5 12. d5 Na7 13. Qc2 {#} 13... Nb5 $5 {
\"A typical Kasparov decision, offering a Pawn to try and free his position.\" -
Speelman/Tisdall.} (13... Bd7) (13... c6 $2 14. dxc6 14... Nxc6 $16) 14. Nxb5
axb5 15. Bb3 e4 16. Nd4 Bxd4 17. exd4 c6 18. dxc6 Qxd4 19. O-O bxc6 20. Qxc6
Bd7 21. Qd5 Qxd5 22. Bxd5 Ra6 23. Rfd1 Be6 24. a3 Bxd5 25. Rxd5 Rb8 26. Rd4 Ra4
27. Rcd1 Rc8 28. Kf1 Rc2 29. R4d2 Rxd2 30. Rxd2 Rc4 31. Ke2 b4 32. Kd1 bxa3 33.
bxa3 Ra4 34. Ra2 f5 35. Kc2 f4 36. Kb3 Rd4 37. Ra1 Kf7 38. a4 e3 39. Kc3 Rd8
40. fxe3 fxe3 41. Re1 Ra8 42. Kb3 Rb8+ 43. Kc2 Ra8 44. Rf1+ Ke6 1/2-1/2

[Event "wcc"]
[Site "Seville"]
[Date "1987.11.20"]
[Round "15"]
[White "Karpov A"]
[Black "Kasparov G"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D97"]
[PlyCount "85"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 Na6 8.
Be2 c5 9. d5 e6 10. O-O exd5 11. exd5 Bf5 12. Rd1 Re8 13. d6 {
An important moment: White plants a flag deep in Black\'s camp.} 13... h6 $1 14.
h3 $1 {I\'d hate to explain this game to juniors, I\'m forever whining about
pointless rook\'s pawn moves.} 14... Nb4 15. Bf4 Nd7 16. Rd2 {
Anticipating the Queen being squeezed...} 16... a6 {Black has a period of
initiative while he activates his Queen\'s-side majority, using the white Queen
as a target.} 17. Qb3 b5 18. Qd1 c4 19. a4 Nc5 20. axb5 20... Nbd3 {Anything yo
u can do... White is forced to bite off the Knight but regains the initiative,
which persists until the end of the game.} 21. Bxd3 Nxd3 22. Rxd3 {else ...Nxb2
} 22... cxd3 23. Nd5 axb5 24. Ne7+ Kh7 25. Rxa8 Qxa8 26. Nxf5 gxf5 27. Qxd3 Qe4
28. Qxb5 $1 {Black is in trouble.} 28... Ra8 29. Bd2 Rd8 30. Qc5 {
Lets go of the b-pawn for some reason I can\'t fathom.} 30... Qe6 31. Bf4 Bxb2
32. Nh4 Bf6 33. Qxf5+ Qxf5 34. Nxf5 34... h5 {Now the game fizzles out.} 35. g4
hxg4 36. hxg4 Kg6 37. Kg2 Bb2 38. Ne7+ Kf6 39. Nc6 Rd7 40. Nb8 Rd8 41. d7 Ke6
42. Kf3 Ba3 43. Bc7 (43. Bc7 Rxd7 44. Nxd7 44... Kxd7 {
and the extra pawn has no meaning.}) 1/2-1/2

[Event "East Devon Premier"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1999.02.27"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Regis, D."]
[Black "Littlejohns, D."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B14"]
[WhiteElo "1912"]
[BlackElo "1800"]
[PlyCount "91"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 5... g6 {Phase 1: White wants
to attack using an IQP position, and Black adopts the very best formation
against it. However, Black can\'t have everything he wants in the opening
without some difficulties with the d-pawn. If Black captures on c4, White gets
development and activity; if Black does not capture, White will capture
instead and ask Black how he intends to get the pawn back without making some
other concession.} 6. cxd5 Bg7 7. Qb3 O-O 8. Be2 Nbd7 9. Bf3 Nb6 10. Nge2 {
# Phase 2: Black bothers White long enough to get the pawn back. I have
committed a chess sin here - playing a sharp and fashionable variation without
full understanding the ideas. White\'s plan here is to return the d-Pawn by
d5-d6, and announce that Black\'s pieces are misplaced. Not knowing this, I had
some problems handling the next phase, so Black gets the pawn back with a
better position.} 10... a5 {
Unusual and not recommended, but my opponent has had a good time with it.} 11.
a4 Qd6 12. Bf4 (12. Nb5 $1 {
- Behling Robert-Derikum Axel/Bundesliga 1984/85 1984 (28)}) 12... Qb4 13. Qd1
13... Nfxd5 {So, Black has recovered the pawn, and stands more actively. White
scrambles to keep the game going, using Black\'s Queen as a target to get some
better activity.} 14. Bd2 Qd6 15. O-O 15... Bf5 {Just in case the Ne4 idea
re-appears. I felt like I was playing Black here - a cramped position facing
lively pieces.} 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Qb3 Be6 18. Qb5 {Using Black\'s idea!} 18...
b6 19. Rac1 19... Rac8 {# White has got a bit more active now. I had a long
think here and came up with a plan to attack the Queen\'s-side, at cost of the
Bishop pair, using Black\'s Queen as a target again.} 20. Bxd5 Bxd5 21. Bf4 Qe6
22. Bc7 {White has threats of Nf4 and of taking on b6. Those were White\'s
opening remarks to the jury; but now it\'s Black\'s turn, and he can make some
threats of his own; in other words, Black has at least a temporary initiative.}
22... Qe4 23. f3 23... Bxd4+ {Very sensible.} (23... Qe3+ 24. Kh1 Bb3 25. Rfe1)
24. Kh1 $1 {Black missed this one.} 24... Qe3 25. Nxd4 Qxd4 26. Bxb6 {
White\'s King dodge means that this move comes with tempo.} 26... Qe5 27. Bxa5 {
# White\'s plan has been a complete success, rather surprisingly. White now has
such a powerful threat, to advance the passed pawns, that the phase of
struggling for the initiative has passed, and White\'s plan wins the game.}
27... Qf5 28. Bc7 e6 29. b4 Qf6 30. Qc5 Qb2 31. a5 Qa3 32. b5 Qxc5 33. Rxc5 Ra8
34. a6 Rfc8 35. Ra1 Bb7 36. h3 $1 36... Re8 {(time control)} 37. Ra5 $2 (37.
axb7 $1) 37... Bc8 38. Rc6 Re7 39. Bd6 Rd7 40. Rb6 {
A King march to c5 looks best to me now.} 40... Rda7 41. Rb8 Rxb8 42. Bxb8 Ra8
43. a7 Kf8 44. b6 Ke8 45. Rc5 Kd7 46. Rc7+ 1-0

Turning points of a game

...may be seen in the transfer of the initiative. John Watson in Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy talks for a while about the ebb and flow of initiative in modern chess, but without an example to support his highfalutin talk. It is difficult to find games where the initiative is exchanged as a result of good play based on the features of the position, rather than losing the initiative because of a second-rate move. Anyhow, here is a game where we see an exchange of the initiative; play it through and see if you can 'feel' who is pressing.

[Event "wcc"]
[Site "Seville"]
[Date "1987.11.20"]
[Round "15"]
[White "Karpov A"]
[Black "Kasparov G"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D97"]
[PlyCount "85"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 Na6 8.
Be2 c5 9. d5 e6 10. O-O exd5 11. exd5 Bf5 12. Rd1 Re8 13. d6 {
An important moment: White plants a flag deep in Black\'s camp.} 13... h6 $1 14.
h3 $1 {I\'d hate to explain this game to juniors, I\'m forever whining about
pointless rook\'s pawn moves.} 14... Nb4 15. Bf4 Nd7 16. Rd2 {
Anticipating the Queen being squeezed...} 16... a6 {Black has a period of
initiative while he activates his Queen\'s-side majority, using the white Queen
as a target.} 17. Qb3 b5 18. Qd1 c4 19. a4 Nc5 20. axb5 20... Nbd3 {Anything yo
u can do... White is forced to bite off the Knight but regains the initiative,
which persists until the end of the game.} 21. Bxd3 Nxd3 22. Rxd3 {else ...Nxb2
} 22... cxd3 23. Nd5 axb5 24. Ne7+ Kh7 25. Rxa8 Qxa8 26. Nxf5 gxf5 27. Qxd3 Qe4
28. Qxb5 $1 {Black is in trouble.} 28... Ra8 29. Bd2 Rd8 30. Qc5 {
Lets go of the b-pawn for some reason I can\'t fathom.} 30... Qe6 31. Bf4 Bxb2
32. Nh4 Bf6 33. Qxf5+ Qxf5 34. Nxf5 34... h5 {Now the game fizzles out.} 35. g4
hxg4 36. hxg4 Kg6 37. Kg2 Bb2 38. Ne7+ Kf6 39. Nc6 Rd7 40. Nb8 Rd8 41. d7 Ke6
42. Kf3 Ba3 43. Bc7 (43. Bc7 Rxd7 44. Nxd7 44... Kxd7 {
and the extra pawn has no meaning.}) 1/2-1/2

At club level it's even harder to find games where the initiative might go back and forth as a result of something other than errors, but try this one, perhaps:

[Event "East Devon Premier"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1999.02.27"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Regis, D."]
[Black "Littlejohns, D."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B14"]
[WhiteElo "1912"]
[BlackElo "1800"]
[PlyCount "91"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 5... g6 {Phase 1: White wants
to attack using an IQP position, and Black adopts the very best formation
against it. However, Black can\'t have everything he wants in the opening
without some difficulties with the d-pawn. If Black captures on c4, White gets
development and activity; if Black does not capture, White will capture
instead and ask Black how he intends to get the pawn back without making some
other concession.} 6. cxd5 Bg7 7. Qb3 O-O 8. Be2 Nbd7 9. Bf3 Nb6 10. Nge2 {
# Phase 2: Black bothers White long enough to get the pawn back. I have
committed a chess sin here - playing a sharp and fashionable variation without
full understanding the ideas. White\'s plan here is to return the d-Pawn by
d5-d6, and announce that Black\'s pieces are misplaced. Not knowing this, I had
some problems handling the next phase, so Black gets the pawn back with a
better position.} 10... a5 {
Unusual and not recommended, but my opponent has had a good time with it.} 11.
a4 Qd6 12. Bf4 (12. Nb5 $1 {
- Behling Robert-Derikum Axel/Bundesliga 1984/85 1984 (28)}) 12... Qb4 13. Qd1
13... Nfxd5 {So, Black has recovered the pawn, and stands more actively. White
scrambles to keep the game going, using Black\'s Queen as a target to get some
better activity.} 14. Bd2 Qd6 15. O-O 15... Bf5 {Just in case the Ne4 idea
re-appears. I felt like I was playing Black here - a cramped position facing
lively pieces.} 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Qb3 Be6 18. Qb5 {Using Black\'s idea!} 18...
b6 19. Rac1 19... Rac8 {# White has got a bit more active now. I had a long
think here and came up with a plan to attack the Queen\'s-side, at cost of the
Bishop pair, using Black\'s Queen as a target again.} 20. Bxd5 Bxd5 21. Bf4 Qe6
22. Bc7 {White has threats of Nf4 and of taking on b6. Those were White\'s
opening remarks to the jury; but now it\'s Black\'s turn, and he can make some
threats of his own; in other words, Black has at least a temporary initiative.}
22... Qe4 23. f3 23... Bxd4+ {Very sensible.} (23... Qe3+ 24. Kh1 Bb3 25. Rfe1)
24. Kh1 $1 {Black missed this one.} 24... Qe3 25. Nxd4 Qxd4 26. Bxb6 {
White\'s King dodge means that this move comes with tempo.} 26... Qe5 27. Bxa5 {
# White\'s plan has been a complete success, rather surprisingly. White now has
such a powerful threat, to advance the passed pawns, that the phase of
struggling for the initiative has passed, and White\'s plan wins the game.}
27... Qf5 28. Bc7 e6 29. b4 Qf6 30. Qc5 Qb2 31. a5 Qa3 32. b5 Qxc5 33. Rxc5 Ra8
34. a6 Rfc8 35. Ra1 Bb7 36. h3 $1 36... Re8 {(time control)} 37. Ra5 $2 (37.
axb7 $1) 37... Bc8 38. Rc6 Re7 39. Bd6 Rd7 40. Rb6 {
A King march to c5 looks best to me now.} 40... Rda7 41. Rb8 Rxb8 42. Bxb8 Ra8
43. a7 Kf8 44. b6 Ke8 45. Rc5 Kd7 46. Rc7+ 1-0

Regis-Littlejohns

Further reading:

Dvoretsky in School of Chess Excellence, vol.3, says something characteristically sniffy along the lines of 'annotators often mention the initiative, so you can tell it's important, but hardly anybody has written anything good about it...' and then offers a couple of chapters of his own. But don't start there! His books feature a succession of very complicated examples which I expect are just the thing that aspiring IMs should study if they want to be GMs, but are generally hard to make use of if you aren't that good yet.

Nonetheless, I think an understanding of the initiative is useful for club players. Fortunately, Dvoretsky is quite wrong to say that there is nothing worth reading on the subject; besides the references mentioned above, Max Euwe dealt very well with it in his Middlegame books with Kramer, and Hansen's more recent chapter in Improve your Positional Chess uses very much the same framework. I've also noticed (but not read) a long chapter by Beim in How to Play Dynamic Chess . Suba talks a lot about initiative in Dynamic Chess Strategy , a book that I have struggled to get much out of; again, the talk floats a little too high above the evidence.

Topic: 

Class: 

Legacy nid: 

88