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A Useful Waste of Time, Part 2

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jan 22, 2012
  • | 9693 views
  • | 23 comments

Last week we analyzed games where it was wise to spend a whole tempo and play h2-h3 (or h7-h6 for Black) to avoid a very unpleasant pin.  But sometimes it is a good idea to play such a move even if the pin is not our concern at all. In order to understand why we might want to prevent the Bg4 move anyway, we need to touch a strange chess phenomenon of Bc8.  In many openings this poor guy frequently becomes a prisoner in its own camp, especially if Black plays e7-e6 as a part of his opening strategy. In such openings as the Queen's Gambit Declined (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6) and especially the French Defense (1.e4 e6) Black's main goal is to activate Bc8. Also, there are a bunch of openings (like the Alekhine Defense, Gruenfeld Defense, Modern Benoni, etc.) where Black plays Bg4 and then captures the Nf3 as part of the fight for the central squares d4 and e5. So you shouldn't be surprised that one of White's main lines in the modern Benoni goes like this:

 

You might wonder why there is so much fight over the Bc8 development-- after all it is just one piece.  But as GM Tarrasch pointed out about 100 years ago: "If one piece is badly placed, your whole game is bad." Is it an exaggeration?  To some extent, yes.  But as the Maestro himself proved in the next game, his rule has a very good point!
In the next game Mikhail Tal followed the strategic recipe of Dr. Tarrasch.  First restrict the Bc8 and make Black's whole position passive. Then using the superior activity of your own pieces launch a King's Side attack.  Finish the game with an elegant tactical blow!  The game is especially impressive considering that the future World Champion was just 13 years old when he played it!!
In this game both sides pushed their 'h' pawns one square on the 5th move. Please note the difference between these moves. White's move 5.h3! sealed the fate of the Bc8, which was just a passive spectator of the coming massacre. Meanwhile, Black's move 5...h6 was pretty much pointless since White developed his Bishop anyway. His Bf4 was a pretty active piece, so Black eventually decided to offer a trade. 
In the next game two big masters of positional play disputed the problem of the Bc8.  Anatoly Karpov proved that he had learned Siegbert Tarrasch's lesson better:
 
To sum up, the h2-h3 move can have one or more of these ideas:
1) Prevent the dangerous Bg4 pin. 
2) Restrict the Bc8.
3) Prepare the g2-g4 pawn storm.
It can also be just a useless waste of time (mostly in the games of beginners). Wink
In conclusion, let me show you two games from the famous Karpov-Kasparov World Championship matches.  Both games are incredibly complex and their analysis would go outside of our topic (if you are interested you can find excellent annotations by Kasparov in his books about the World Championship Matches vs. Anatoly Karpov).  All you need to do is identify the ideas each player had when he played h2-h3!

Comments


  • 3 years ago

    pravx

    Oh I forgot - in Karpov-Kasparov #1, hxg6 would lead, eventually, to the h4-h5 push using g6 as a hook. It is bad either way for black. I wonder if they (obviously, both of them) had seen all this when h3 was played.

  • 3 years ago

    pravx

    Really good article. In the Karpov-Kasparov game (#1) I think h3 functions as a general light square advance, as a prelude to g4 and trading off the Bs giving more light square control. In the game itself, it worked out well for white since black played fxg6. My question is, what if hxg6 had been played? fxg6 seems to create the majority for white which he makes good soon. I suspect hxg6 has some pitfalls too. For one, it seems to lead to a passive game. It seems that this h3-g4 formation characteristic of Karpov. I had seen long ago, in the Development of Chess style by Nunn and Euwe (which had made a very strong impression on my young self), in Karpov-Timman 1979, that it was remarked that g4 was played not with an intention of a kingside attack, but to gain space. In that game, white played Ng3 which seems to fit with g4. Here, g4+Ng6 just kicks the unfortunate B around to kill it eventually.

    The second game Kasparov-Karpov #2 is much more obvious. White sees that the d pawn is going to be isolated and therefore needs protection. h3 prevents Bg4 (although it is not immediately apparent that the Bc8 could land on g4, it only takes tempo attack with Nb6 to make it possible).

  • 3 years ago

    Justified08

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    nice

    h3!

  • 3 years ago

    peacefulblue

    Just as an illustration of my question, in the Tarrasch Marco game, both Houdini 1.5 and Fritz 12 suggest the move 9. ... d5 liberating the black bishop, in response to 9. c4. Now suppose White wants to keep on trapping Blacks former c8 bishop with pawns, and moves the logical 10. c5. Black answers 10. ... b6 11. b4 a5 and 12 a3 axb4 and the pawn phalanx falls because of the pin on the rook on the a file. So again the bishop is freed. An alternative sequence that seems logical is 10. Ng5 Nc6 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12 cxd5 exd5 13. Be3 and Black is okay in terms of pawn structure and a freed bishop. And if we try kimisiong's suggested 10. b3, we have 10. ... c5 11. Ne5 suggested by kimisiong loses immediately to cxd4. So if instead 11. Nc3 Nc6 12 dxc5 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Bxc5 and black's bishop is at least fully liberated. I really want to learn, so if someone could help me prove that d5 does not liberate black's bishop, I would really be appreciative. Sorry about the bold letters. Something funny happened while I was typing and I can't seem to undo the bold letters. 

  • 3 years ago

    ChrisIsMeChris

    Thank you for the very informative article! I really enjoyed seeing Karpov in peak form, and you've done really well in explaining a single, subtle maneuver in chess, and when to apply it, how it works, and the exceptions to those rules. For all intermediate and up-and-coming advanced players, this is a wonderful look at opening theory, and how it applies to the larger scheme of things.

  • 3 years ago

    peacefulblue

    Thank you very much for the answer kimisiong. However, I have been running variations using Houdini, starting with 9. .... d5  answered as you suggested with

    10. b3 and Black answers c5 going for exchanges. Even with adding Ne5 and f4 in the variations, Houdini finds the position even, with no decisive attack. 

    Could you please specify a possible variation starting with b3, and adding Ne5 and f4 showing a decisive advantage for White? Thank you.  

  • 3 years ago

    1steven

    thanks!

  • 3 years ago

    kimisiong

    In reply to peaceful's question, i think it is bad to move d5....

    B'cuz if black made d5 , white could play b3...after tat white play develop with Ne5 and f4... white's attack will bcome decisive...

  • 3 years ago

    peacefulblue

    May I please know how exactly h2-h3 seals in Bc8? Its a little too subtle for me. For example in the game Tarrasch Marco, after 8.h3 Be6 9. c4 ... Why can't Black just immediately play 9. ... d5 thus opening a diagonal for the formerly trapped bishop? Thank you in advance for any illuminating answer.

  • 3 years ago

    jittu

    karpov ( not an artifical player ) but  garry is **   said gary K.

  • 3 years ago

    haiguise

    Great article! Learned a thing or two.

  • 3 years ago

    leon333

    thanks for the good article

  • 3 years ago

    alphabraveheart2

    A pretty nice strategical concept.  Cool

  • 3 years ago

    Eternity_08

    Such interesting coincidences!

    Today is 23 Jan 2012. Games are shown for 23 Jan 1985 and 23 Jan 1986. Lets make celebration of h-file pawn 23 Jan (especially of its move h2-h3)! Laughing

  • 3 years ago

    bigpaw

    Wow that mate threat in the last game blew me away ! great article

  • 3 years ago

    amispo1

    garry is great.

  • 3 years ago

    gkey

    very impressive !!

  • 3 years ago

    TaintedStreetlight

    When is it smart to trade a knight for a bishop?  In the second to last game, even though the bishop was "cut off" Karpov still chose to take it.  Obviously when it is an extremely bad bishop it doesn't make any sense.  But in the above cases it seemed just an even trade. So what gives?  Was the diagonal at 10. or was it just to create a structural weakness?

  • 3 years ago

    FM gauranga

    That last game with Kasparov winning with White against Karpov is a classic example of a superior knight vs. bishop. Amazing finish with Black's king trapped by all his fellow pieces.

  • 3 years ago

    BirdBrain

    That Tal game is a typical attack you get out of Bird's Opening.  The only difference there is that his first move, 1. e4, allowed him to trade off the e-pawn.  In Bird's Opening, when White adopts a Stonewall, he seeks to play e3-e4 under favorable circumstances to rid himself of the backward pawn, and activate his queen bishop.  

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