Tactical surprises

28th_July_09 Tactical surprises

Tactical surprises: a preliminary sketch

the problem:

Let's have a look at an example:

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:

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:

Headlong-Regis 2003 (W)

  • Headlong F. - Regis D. [C02]

Benson-Regis 2004 (W)

  • Benson P. - Regis D. [C02]

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

(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

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

Zukertort-Blackburne 1883 (W)

Flohr-Geller 1949 (B)

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

    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!



    Short surprise


    Amazing moves

      Qb4, ...Kg7, ...Nh3