Tactical surprises

28th_July_09 Tactical surprises

Tactical surprises: a preliminary sketch

the problem:

Let's have a look at an example:

+-----------------+
|r+.+r+k+|
|+b1.g.0p|
|p+n+.0.+|
|+p0.H.)n|
|.+.0.).+|
|+.+P+.+P|
|P)PGN!B+|
|$.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
Stretten-Keen 2009 (W)

The crushing continuation was

1. Bd5+ Kf8

2. g6!

Showing this to the group, Bd5+ was the first move suggested, but Charlie reports that he didn't even consider it! Why the disparity?

Let's see that position in a bit of context: the previous moves were:

+-----------------+
|r+.+r+k+|
|+b1.gp0p|
|p+n+.+.+|
|+p0.+.)n|
|.+.0.).+|
|+.+P+N+P|
|P)PGN!B+|
|$.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
Stretten-Keen 2009 (W)

  • Keen C. - Streeter H. [B23]

1. Nf3 f6

2. Bd5+ Kf8

3. g6!

Now we see that, a couple of moves ago, Bd5 was not a legal move, and would not have been check if it was! So, one tip for not being surprised would be:

  • After each move, try to list any new possibilities for each side, particularly newly legal moves.

To anticipate a little the later discussion, you generally have a little list of 'Moves I would like to make soon' and 'Moves I expect my opponent will make soon', which we might call candidate moves , and you need to be as sure as you can that you aren't leaving anything important off these lists.

Also, that move counts as an intermezzo , an in-between move: White ignores the apparently forcing threat on the Knight. In fact, only checks are genuinely forcing. This suggests another tip:

  • Before you decide on your move, ask: can I, or can my opponent, ignore the threat?

work in progress: identifying and working on a problem

I (DR) found myself regularly falling for destructive combinations against my French Defence, sacrifices of a piece against my central pawns. Here are a few:

+-----------------+
|r+.+k+.4|
|0p+b+.0p|
|.+.+p+.+|
|+.gp1.H.|
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.HQ+.).|
|P).+.)P+|
|$.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
Headlong-Regis 2003 (W)

  • Headlong F. - Regis D. [C02]

+-----------------+
|.+r1.4k+|
|+.+b+.gp|
|p+n+p+p+|
|+p+p)n+.|
|.+.+.+.+|
|).HQ+N+P|
|.).+B)PG|
|+.+R+RI.|
+-----------------+
Benson-Regis 2004 (W)

  • Benson P. - Regis D. [C02]

+-----------------+
|.4r+.+k+|
|0.+.+p+p|
|.+n$p+pg|
|+q+p).+.|
|Q+.).+B+|
|+.+.+.+P|
|.+.+N)P+|
|+.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
Thompson-Regis 2005 (W)

  • Thompson D. - Regis D. [B27]

Diagnosis may be most of the cure here: I should not assume that my long-standing pawn structure is indestructible.

the variety of tactical motifs

  • Take for nothing
  • Checkmate
  • Knight forks
  • Pins
  • Skewers
  • Other forks
  • Discoveries
  • Nets
  • Sacrifice
  • More attackers than defenders
  • Undermining
  • Overloading
  • Double check
  • Queening
  • Clearance
  • Decoys
  • Stalemate
  • Interference

The technician, whose vocabulary has been doubled by Dr. Euwe, will find that White could have saved his soul by a desperado combination. Had this failure anything to do with the fact that Dr. Euwe's terminology was not yet existent at that time!?

-- Reinfeld, to Thomas-Euwe, Carlsbad 1929.

I suggested that you need to be fluent in these motifs. Charlie remarked that this was a 'big ask', but I don't think it's hugely different to learning a new language -- or a new alphabet -- which is definitely a challenge but which loads of people do all t he time.

Fluency comes mostly through practice. A while ago I suggested that fluency comes in stages:

  1. I've heard of it!
  2. I know it when I see it
  3. I can spot it in simple examples
  4. I can spot it in complex examples and I can use it in my own games

exercising imagination by solving problems

"Let us repeat once more the methods by which we can increase our combinative skill:

"(1) by careful examination of the different types and by a clear understanding of their motives and their premises

"(2) By memorising a number of outstanding as well as of common examples and solutions

"(3) Frequent repetition (in thought, if possible) of important combinations, so as to develop the imagination."

-- Euwe, Strategy and Tactics in Chess

I was rather provoked by the notion that flights of imagination are best developed by leaden rehearsal, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

motifs in combination

+-----------------+
|.+.+r4k+|
|0p+q+.gn|
|.+.0.+p+|
|+.0P+p+.|
|PhP+.+.G|
|+.HB+Q+P|
|.).+.+P+|
|$.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
(W) I found this one quite surprising.

Some lessons from this example might be:

  • If there is a move you really want to make, try and make it!
  • Look at your intended moves in different orders: one order might unlock the box

other surprising moves

+-----------------+
|.+.+r4k+|
|+b0R+p+.|
|.0q+p!p+|
|0.+.).+p|
|P+P$.+.)|
|+.+.+N+.|
|.+P+.)P+|
|+.+.+.I.|
+-----------------+
Short-Timman 1991 (W)

I enjoyed all your suggestions here, but once you are shown the first move of the continuation, the idea is apparent and amusing.

The surprise lies in breaking a rule: hide your King in the middlegame, use your king actively only in the endgame.

  • All chess rules are really guidelines!

amazing moves

+-----------------+
|.+r+.+.i|
|0b+.1.+P|
|.0.+.+.+|
|+.+P0.+.|
|.+.+p+.+|
|+P+.$.+.|
|PGr!.+P)|
|+.+.+RI.|
+-----------------+
Zukertort-Blackburne 1883 (W)

+-----------------+
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+p|
|.+.+.ip+|
|+.+.0.+.|
|p+.+r)R)|
|+.+K+.).|
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
+-----------------+
Flohr-Geller 1949 (B)

+-----------------+
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|.+.+k0p+|
|+.+p+b+.|
|p+.+.+.)|
|+.G.+.+.|
|.+.+.+P+|
|+.+.+.I.|
+-----------------+
Topalov-Shirov 1998 (B)

All from Emms' The Most Amazing Chess Moves Of All Time

A fun way to extend your assumptions about what is possible. It makes Euwe's advice a pleasure to follow!

candidate moves (KOTOV) and candidate replies

  • "All candidate moves should be identified at once and listed in one's head." -- Kotov,A Think like a Grandmaster , tr. Cafferty. [1978] (Batsford)
  • Kotov has come in for a lot of stick recently, but I think this is not bad advice. What are you doing that is any better?!

    checks and captures first (PURDY)

    • Examine moves that smite!

    That is, checks and captures.

    every check and every capture? (CHERNEV/REINFELD)

    • Examine every possible check and capture at every move

    Oh, how many games would I have saved by obeying this one!

    I don't know how many people actually do this either, but again, what do you do that is any better?

    The other side of the coin

    +-----------------+
    |.+.+.+.+|
    |+.+P+.0p|
    |.+.+.+.i|
    |+p+.+.1.|
    |p+.+.+.+|
    |)b)N+.+.|
    |.).H.+.+|
    |+.I.$.+.|
    +-----------------+
    Short-Kasparov 1993 (W)

    I don't know what made Short miss this line ( 1.Rh1+ Kg6 2.Ne5+ Kf5 3.Nc6)

    You have to notice that the undefended Knight on e5 cannot be taken and then you have to follow two checks with a quiet move... but once you focus on getting a Knight to cover d8, then you didn't take long to spot it.

    The point of this example is: the other half of the coin of being surprised is missing chances
     

    Work in progress

    Nxe6!, Nxd5! and Qxb5 Qxb5 Rxe6!

    Combination

      ...Re3!

    Short surprise

      Kh2!

    Amazing moves

      Qb4, ...Kg7, ...Nh3

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