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Swinging for the Fences

  • IM Silman
  • | May 2, 2012
  • | 6479 views
  • | 16 comments

Jared Collins (1528) - John Laning (1478), B12, Foolish Moves Mobile AL, 2009

45 minutes on the clock for each player

1.e4 c6 2.d4 

Jared Collins said: “I tend to be aggressive, and when offered the entire center I will usually take it.

I don’t consider that to be aggressive – it’s just sensible play. If someone offers you free extra space or the better pawn structure, it’s good for your overall chess development (and your result!) if you take it. 

2...d5 3.e5

Jared Collins said: “Keeping my e-pawn on the board and possibly making it somewhat more inconvenient for black’s knight.” 

This advance has become incredibly popular in recent years. White gains a considerable amount of central space. However, center-busting breaks like …c6-c5 and, at times, …f7-f6 will usually give Black sufficient counterplay. 

3...Bf5 

The main line, and probably the best. However, there are still quite a few unanswered questions in the sharp 3…c5 line. 

4.Nf3

Jared Collins said: “Developing and clearing the kingside for castling.

This simple move (quiet development intending to make use of white’s extra space as the game progresses) was shown to be quite dangerous by Nigel Short, and since that epiphany it’s become white’s main choice. Other lines are 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 (a violent line that pretty much features an “all in” strategy), 4.h4, 4.g4, 4.c4, 4.Nbd2, and just about everything else. 

4...e6 5.Bd3

Jared Collins said: “Offering a trade since there are not too many squares for the white bishop to use.

Rather lame. On move two, White proudly proclaimed his desire to take space if it’s given to him (which is wise). But he now offers a soothing exchange for the side with less territory (which is usually not so wise). Seeking a particular structure isn’t useful if you don’t know how to make use of it. 

Usually White prefers to ignore black’s f5-Bishop, or to hunt it down with a Knight (gaining the two Bs). A common example: 5.Be2 (not rushing to exchange pieces unless he feels he’s gaining something from the exchange) 5…Nd7 6.0-0 Bg6 7.Nbd2 Ne7 8.Nh4 c5 9.c3 Nc6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.Nf3.

Oddly, 5.Bd3 is one of white’s most popular moves in the database, but a closer look will tell you two things: 1) It scores badly; 2) Very few strong players ever make use of it! 

5...Bg6 

Perfectly okay. However, simpler is 5…Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Qa5+ followed by 7…Qa6 with easy play for Black.

6.Bxg6

Jared Collins said: “Getting rid of my not so useful bishop and doubling some pawns for black.” 

Black doesn’t mind the structure after 6…hxg6 at all. It’s solid, and giving Black the open h-file for his Rook can easily come in handy in some lines. 

6...hxg6 7.Qd3

Jared Collins said: “After black’s last move, I had a plan on how I wanted this to go down, or at least something to work toward. At this point, with my queen on the d3-square, she’s aiming at the g6-pawn, which would then be looking dead at the queen if the f7 pawn isn’t there. So, I’m looking at the possibility of getting my knight on g5, then from there, using the knight to capture the e6 pawn. If black captures with …fxe6, then the queen captures the g6-pawn with check forcing the king to move. I then have play with the c1-bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal.

The problem here is that you’re thinking in a purely tactical manner (and I must say that you already have a good eye for combinative patterns). However, you use positional phrases like “gaining space” and “doubling pawns,” but you don’t really have any intention of making use of these things. Instead, you just want to attack. Ideally, you would like to build on your positional gains, and attack from a positional or strategic strength. 

Swinging for the fences from move 7 onwards will often work against low-rated players, but anyone with experience will easily sidestep your obvious threats. Here Black should make his own positional gains while White tightens his fist, hoping his opponent doesn’t see his “brilliant” tactical traps.

To be fair, testing your tactical eye is important in one’s early chess years, and this kind of tactical/attacking exploration is important. However, keep in mind that this is a temporary stage, and as you get stronger (and face stronger opposition) you’ll need to improve in all the game’s areas (an ever-expanding knowledge of positional concepts, tight openings, a solid understanding of basic endgames, etc.). Great attacking geniuses like Alekhine, Tal, and Kasparov all loved to let their tactical genius hang out, but in many instances, the opponent wouldn’t allow a tactical minefield to occur, forcing all these chess titans to show their positional and/or endgame talents too. 

7...Nd7

There’s nothing wrong with this move, but a couple of other choices also deserved serious consideration. 

The well known maneuver 7…Qa5+ 8.c3 Qa6 would have ensured a good game.

Black’s main source of counterplay is usually ...c6-c5 followed by ...Nc6, but I’m guessing that he was frightened of a check on b5 by white’s Queen. Was this fear justified?

8.0-0

Jared Collins said: “41 min remaining My Opponent - 40 getting the king to safety to avoid letting black develop with check on the a5-e1 diagonal with either his bishop or queen.” 

8...c5 9.Ng5

Jared Collins said: “In position, and now ready to roll. Black has even helped take away a run away square by putting his knight on d7. That makes the bishop diagonal on h4-d8 extra nice.

Since you’re obsessed with the idea of Nxe6 followed by Qxg6+, your moves will mirror that obsession and ignore such important things like defending your center (don’t forget the extremely important rule: “The best reaction to an attack on the wing is a counterattack in the center.” I would have been more impressed if you had said, “His King is in the center and mine isn’t, so I want to rip open the middle and take advantage of his central King and my lead in development. To that end, 9.c4 looks right.”

Okay, I don’t know if 9.c4 gives White anything to crow about, but the raw logic of the move pleases me: White’s King is safe on the kingside and White has a lead in development, so if he can crack open the center, he should have good chances due to his opponent’s unfortunate King position. Here’s a sample of what might occur if White follows this mindset: 9.c4 dxc4 10.Qxc4 cxd4 11.Qxd4 Ne7 12.Nc3 Nc6 (the e5-pawn is both an attacking strength and a weakness that needs constant babysitting) 13.Qf4 Be7 14.Ne4 Nb6 (14…Rh5!? intending to meet 15.g4 with 15…Rxe5! 16.Nxe5 Ndxe5 is interesting. Note that 14…Rh5 15.Ng3 Rh8 ends any thoughts of Black castling kingside, but the white Knight on g3 isn’t exactly burning down the barn) 15.Neg5 (15.Be3! Nd5 16.Qg3 is better, when White retains a mild initiative after 16…Qc7 17.Nd6+ Kf8 18.Rac1 Rd8 19.Rfd1 Qd7 20.h3 Rh5 21.Ne4) 15…Bxg5 16.Nxg5 Qc7 17.Re1 Rd8 and black’s fine. 

9...Ne7 10.Nc3

Jared Collins said: “37 min remaining My Opponent - 36 only 2 more moves to that smother check mate. I don’t really expect that to happen, but getting one more member of my army into the fight should help me a good bit.

This move accepts the total destruction of your center. Of course, you pretty much abandoned it with 9.Ng5, but 10.Nc3 continues the “to hell with my center, I want mate!” approach. White should have given his center some support with 10.c3 or 10.Nb1-d2-f3.

10...cxd4 11.Nb5

Jared Collins said: “One more move to a checkmate if he doesn’t move something. Black’s position is very cramped at this point and his pieces are really just working against him.

I guess that’s one way to look at it. However, if I was Black I would be thinking, “White’s doubling down with obvious threats. Does he think I’m an idiot? He’s also letting me rip his center to bits. My victory will be swift, crushing, and (for White) painful.”

Of course, white’s position isn’t quite that bad, but in a game situation I would think that white is already road-kill (If you don’t get excited about your own position, who will?). In other words, both sides would be celebrating the opponent’s imminent demise!

11...Nc6??

Losing on the spot. Black had two good replies to 11.Nb5:

11…Nf5 (stopping Nd6+ and also ending any Nxe6 tricks) 12.g4 (12.Re1 Nc5 13.Qd2 Be7 14.Nf3 Ne4 15.Qd3 Bc5 16.g4 Nh4 and white’s in trouble) 12…Nxe5 13.Qe2 Nd6! 14.Nxd4 Ne4 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Qb5+ (16.Qxe4?? Qxd4 17.Qxd4 Nf3+) 16…Nd7 17.Qxb7 Qb8 (threatening …Qxh2 mate) 18.Qxb8+ Rxb8 19.Kg2 Bc5 when black’s a tad better, but white’s okay.

11...Nxe5 (Why not? This stops the silly Nd6 mate threat, eats an important pawn, gives more support to f7 and g6, and attacks the white Queen.) 12.Qg3 (12.Qxd4 N7c6 is just bad for White) 12…Qd7 13.a4 a6 14.Nxd4 N7c6 (14…N5c6!?) and black’s obviously better (all of white’s mating dreams have vanished).

12.Nxe6! 

Jared Collins said: “35 min remaining My Opponent – 26. This is just devastating at this point, even more than I had hoped for when I first came up with this plan thanks to black’s d7-knight. In addition to the badness on black’s king side, there is now a possible king-rook fork by putting a knight on c7.” 

Yep, black’s almost toast.

12...Qh4??

With this blunder, full toast status has been achieved! Black, in a state of despair, leaps off the cliff. Instead of slitting his own throat in this manner, he had to try 12…Ndxe5 13.Nbc7+ (Or 13.Nec7+ Kd7 14.Qb3 Rb8 15.Bf4 [15.Qxd5+ Kc8] 15… a6 when things aren’t so clear. For example: 16.Bxe5 Nxe5 17.Qxd5+ Kc8 18.Qxe5 Rh5 when Black, though clearly worse, is still plugging away) 13…Kd7 14.Nxd8 Nxd3 15.Nxf7 Kxc7 16.Nxh8 Nde5 17.f4 Ng4 (17…Nc4!?) 18.Nxg6 Bc5 19.Kh1 d3 20.cxd3 Nf2+ 21.Rxf2 Bxf2 22.f5 Re8 and though black’s two pawns down, his pieces are very active. Of course, black’s still much worse, but he’s putting up a fight (which 12…Qh4?? doesn’t do).

13.Nbc7+ Ke7 14.Bg5+, 1-0.

~ Lessons From This Game ~

* If someone offers you free extra space or the better pawn structure, it’s good for your overall chess development  (and your result!) if you take it.

* If you put all your positional marbles into cheap threats, you WILL win some fun games. However, a skilled opponent will dissect your position and leave its remains in the toxic waste container. 

* White proudly proclaimed his desire to take space if it’s given to him (which is wise). But he now offers a soothing exchange for the side with less territory (which is usually not so wise). Seeking a particular structure isn’t useful if you don’t know how to make use of it.

* The best reaction to an attack on the wing is a counterattack in the center.

* Swinging for the fences from move one onwards will often work against low rated players, but anyone with experience will easily sidestep the obvious threats.

* Testing your tactical eye is important in one’s early chess years, and this kind of tactical/attacking exploration is important. However, keep in mind that this is a temporary stage, and as you get stronger (and face stronger opposition) you’ll need to improve in all the game’s areas (an ever-expanding knowledge of positional concepts, tight openings, a solid understanding of basic endgames, etc.). Great attacking geniuses like Alekhine, Tal, and Kasparov all loved to let their tactical genius hang out, but in many instances, the opponent wouldn’t allow a tactical minefield to occur, forcing all these chess titans to show their positional and/or endgame talents too.

* “You may be ever so gifted in the realm of tactics and calculating variations, but if you drift aimlessly from move to move against a strong opponent with a good grounding in strategy, you are doomed to fail.” – GM Pavel Eljanov from the very interesting book, Grandmaster vs. Amateur (Quality Chess, 2011).

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    IM Silman

    How to send in a game: One way is to write to askjeremy@chess.com

    Please add the names AND ratings of both players, where the game was played, and share your thoughts about what you deem to be the game's key moments. Don't send computer analysis -- I want YOUR thoughts, not those of Mr. Fritz! The shorter the game, the more I'll appreciate your submission.

  • 2 years ago

    rahulkadge

    how can i give my games to Silman?

  • 2 years ago

    sswarnendu

    shepi13: yes...23.Kxf2 Qh2+ 24. Ke1 Qg1+(as you noted already, Qh1+ 25.Qf1 )...25.Qf1 Qxe3+ 26. Qe2 Qxd4 27. Rb1 and white is doomed.....thanks, Bxf2+ is indeed a nightmare...it does not allow the time to play f4, preventing the entry of the enemy queen...(which is precisely what I tried to do with f4 in the game)

  • 2 years ago

    shepi13

    Oops, missed Ke1 Qh1+ Qf1. I think you can hold in that variation after Rxf2 but you will lose quite a few pawns for the two pieces.

  • 2 years ago

    shepi13

    I'm still reviewing the rest of the game so I'll post my analysis in a bit.

  • 2 years ago

    sswarnendu

    shepi13: Thanks very much for your posts....Yes Rh8+ was stupid, but to speak frankly....I had already lost heart having dropped my advantage...in fact, I feared I have already close to loosing after I lost my a-pawn..I really put all my hopes on my a-pawn...thought that would secure me the game...after it fell and the a file became his...and his rooks and queen looked so menacing on the open file...and my two minor pieces looked stupid...so I tried to give back the exchange in order to restore equality of heavy pieces...that apart,thanks for guessing and answering my more serious question....I read from master Silman's book about the battle of minor pieces...but the question I was thinking even over the board is that whether my Knight is really better on the good looking post b6 or is it useless because the queenside was already desserted...by the way, the only way to reach d6 is the way my knight finally reached there...there is no other way with the pawn structure...e5 can however be reached by the other knight on f3, but thought that could easily be chased away by f6...and thanks for the strategic advice about the c5 advance....as I mentioned...I know very little opening theory...
    Thaks once again

  • 2 years ago

    peterkubu

    I like Silman's article. They are intuitive and great fun to us who are still learning the gameLaughing

  • 2 years ago

    rdecredico

    Sometimes the best reaction to an attack on the wing is to defend.

  • 2 years ago

    wbport

    In the final position of the diagram after Black's 7th move, it appears 13. Qa4 will hold the Pe5 since it pins one knight and attacks the other, but 13. .. Rb4! gets the queen off its "perfect" perch.

  • 2 years ago

    shepi13

    I would also have rather placed the knight on e5 then d6 near the end there - attacks some pawns instead of staring into space. A knight that doesn't attack anything just looks nice even if it's advanced into the 6th rank.

  • 2 years ago

    shepi13

    I think Qxa6 is a good idea, gets a strong pawn and two pieces for a rook.

     

    Also, I think that we learn best from our mistakes, and those of our opponents. Thanks to IM Silman for the great articles.

  • 2 years ago

    shepi13

    sswarnendu - Don't be so willing to give up two pieces for a rook like you did in the game. Before that you looked like you might have some advantage, but two pieces is a lot in chess, and afterwards you were the one fighting for a draw. I don't understand the idea of Rh8+, you give up a rook because you hope you have a perpetual?? Even if you had checks without the pin he can just run his king to the kingside. Before that you were in an ending in which you probably had some drawing chances.

     

    Note: c5 isn't playable unless the a1 rook is defended, to avoid a file pins (except a few exceptions). Black should counter with b6 and a5. Without this counter attack, you gain a nice positional advantage, but with it black would almost be winning.

     

    One c5  line:

     

    The idea is that c5 is playable because b6 causes damage to blacks pawn structure. With the pawn still on a7 you just lose your center.

  • 2 years ago

    sswarnendu

    I just love master Silman's articles....but on this one, I really am dissapointed. In this game, white just got way too lucky.....White did the very thing master Silman always speaks in his books and articles as what not to do....he threw every positional consideration out of the window in his illusory dreams of getting to the enemy king.....instead of defending his center and enhancing his space advantage, white let black nullyfy his center without a fight and white should have got what he deserved....after the obvious and strong 11....Nxe5....which would have come as a rude shock to white...black is clearly better and would soon eat white alive... I would really much like to hear the analysis of games where it is difficult for me to find out where one went wrong...(of course, I admit, to a player with a rating higher than me, those games might be dissapointing too)....like this game I played some time ago....I thought I had a very good position but suddenly everything vanished into thin air and I am the one who's struggling with the position....

  • 2 years ago

    shengyi

    Another great article by Silman!

  • 2 years ago

    mevans86

    Wonderful article! I've found my head swimming in tactical variations in many of my games recently. I'm getting better at finding tactics, which only reinforces my desire to look for them! I know thinking this way sacrifices strategic thinking, though. A tough line to toe...makes me want to crack HTRYC again... :-P

  • 2 years ago

    sryiwannadraw

    Innocent

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