In the second part of the article we will continue to explore games where strong chess players (masters and grandmasters) lost their games in 10 moves or less. Today I want to discuss the most common reason (at least in my opinion) for quick opening catastrophes. It is more psychological in its nature. For many chess players an opening is not a real chess game yet. Since most players (especially strong ones) know openings very well, their thinking goes like this: let's finish the opening first (develop my pieces, castle, etc.) and then the real game of chess will begin.
It is a very popular and also a very dangerous misconception. If you ever attended a big open tournament (especially a scholastic one) then you probably heard what happens after a tournament director announces the start of the round and says 'Now you can start your clock.' The sound of the chess clocks being punched is deafening. People blitz out their opening moves hitting the clock almost instantly.
Indeed, what harm can happen in an opening which you know very well? Well, a lot! First of all even in a position that you played hundreds of times you can accidentally play a wrong move order or make some other silly mistakes which we analyzed in the first part of this article ("Paying no attention"). But most importantly, you can miss some tactics and lose instantly. Yes my dear readers, chess tactics can suddenly appear on the board even when your opponent has no developed pieces at all! Here is a very good example:
(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your tactical skills, so the game is given as a Quiz. Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move and see the annotations if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)
The Dutch GM playing Black probably felt confident in the position on the next diagram. It is just 7 moves from the start of the game and his dangerous opponent (ex-World Champion Tigran Petosian) hasn't really started his development yet, so nothing to be worried about, right?
So how can you be sure that you are not missing some sort of tactics early in the opening? Of course there is nothing that you can guarantee in chess (or our life for this matter, except death and taxes of course), but you can significantly reduce the risk of an early debacle by checking the potential warning signs. So what are those warning signs that might indicate that tactics are about to appear on the board?
It is not rocket science, really, all you need is to remember that any tactic starts with forcing moves. So, if you watch out for forcing moves of your opponent , it will significantly reduce the risk of falling for some unexpected combo. So what are those forcing moves? We'll look at them one by one.
Checks are the most powerful kind of forcing moves since it is simply illegal to ignore a check. Therefore, you force your opponent to do exactly what you want him to do. Or, as I always remind my students, any check can be a checkmate! This is a very basic concept, yet a Polish master forgot about it in the next game:
Even if a check doesn't lead to an immediate checkmate, the consequences can still be very drastic as a future Grandmaster learned in the next game:
Even though captures are not as powerful as checks (after all, legally you can ignore any capture if it is not a check), they can be very unpleasant as well.
Just look what happened to an IM (who won the French championship the same year!) in the next game:
Any move that threatens one of your pieces can be the start of a combination or a tactical maneuver. Remember that any fork or double attack starts with a simple threat. Or just imagine the horror if your opponent threatens a checkmate in one move and you have no defense. 'nuff said!
I suspect that some of you might be wondering (or even be offended) why on Earth I offer you such basic positions to solve? Yes, the positions are simple indeed, but remember that all of these simple moves were missed by some really strong players. Are you sure that you are absolutely invincible to this kind of opening debacles?
to be continued...