When I arrived in Russia I barely spoke the language, and so naturally I thought to myself, '' Why not add to the equation yet another insurmountable task? ''
Though I had played chess in childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana, I had met with little success and put the game aside except for the rare occasion when my friend and I nothing better to do.
So the first time I set foot in the Oktyaborsky Chess Club – stomping ground of many of Moscow's chess elite – I indeed felt myself in over my head. Somehow I managed to sign myself up for a tournament of 16 games of lightning chess, all of which I hopelessly lost, inspiring a variety of responses from my opponents. The first man I played met my elementary affront with stern silence. Another, a rather robust elderly gentleman, simply laughed in disbelief at how anyone could be so blind to what, to him, must have seemed obvious.
Later that evening the club assured me he'd set me up with some good chess lessons, which is how I came to meet Elshad and see that chess, like any art from, can be appreciated by anyone.
From the East, Elshad shows himself in every word and gesture to be a man of the sea, speaking of chess not as if it were a computer program or a math problem, but as a personal philosophy that is connected to everything and does anything but stop at the edge of the chessboard.
And it is Elshad's opening that both illustrates his ideas and gives them life.
"When I was younger,'' Elshad said to me once, '' I used to play normal opening. At this time, I played very weak.
''But then I started experimenting, trying out what wasn't dictated by chess theory and tradition, playing moves that hadn't already been played before. And I worked out a new system, one I'd never seen. And suddenly my fantasy opened up. Chess become an entirely different game
For the first time, I saw that anything was possible.''
The games that follow, which Elshad showed and discussed with me intermittently throughout our time together, are just a few examples of that fantasy, which in times of bafflement may stand as a helpful reminder that what is truly needed is the very move that seems most unlikely.
Elshad – Petrunya
1. c3 Nf6
As early as the first move we see that black is playing a traditional method
2. Qa4 c5
Although white has used a decidedly ''untraditional'' opening, black refuses to reorient itself to an unfamiliar position
3. g4 ..
The question arises: What does white have in mind by using this debut?
What is his motive? By the third move white has asserted himself on both flanks. In this position, the king will not castle, but remain in the center. In going for what is clearly a flank – oriented attack, white appears to give up control of the center. But, as we will see, this is an illusion.
3. . . . Nc6
Black continues to play the ''norm'' – focusing on control of the center while flat – out refusing to react to white's particular attack.
4. b4 . . .
The basic idea of this move is psychological – a provocation. Chess players, as a general rule, want to keep life calm, to remain in the known where they control the situation. As I have observed this, my debut becomes not only a tactic but a psychological experiment.
White is playing what clearly appears to be a bluff, and black, thinking he will surely win, is determined to teach me a lesson, to show me that one should play only according to theory, to tradition – in short, to put me back in line.
Also, chess players often believe conflict arises only in one place, like a nuclear bomb. But the conflict of our current position is not only in the center but spread across the entire board.
4. . . . cb
5. cb g6
6. Nc3 Bg7
Playing the old Indian scheme, black does not believe that white has a plan. For this reason, black merely plays like normal, waiting for white to make a mistake.
But unfortunately for my opponent, such a calm existence is not to be. For white's attack has only just begun. Although only seven moved has occurred, white has in mind not merely an attack, but a storm.
7. Bg2 O-O
8. b5 Na5
As black becomes panicked in response to the attack on his knight, he retreats his knight to the edge of the board. And so now an attack downs the other flank.
9. g5 Ne8
Black, in refusing to organize his own attack, is simply waiting for white to reveal his plans – namely, what will he do with the king? To which side will he castle? We already see where black's king went. It's sitting comfortably in what seems to be a safe haven, the corner of the board, surrounded by many strong figures.
10. h4 . . .
Developing the h flank allows my rook to attack from h1. I believe that pieces often attack very well from their original positions
10. . . . Rb8?
This is a weak move and has no plan. Maybe black is afraid of the bishop on g2. Maybe it wants to play its bishop b6 and after that the knight to c5 and then to b7 in pursuit of control of the center.
11. Ba3 d6
12. Rc1 Bd7
13. h5! a6
Another weak move. Black seems to have not believed that white could do a straight – on attack on the king.
14. Qh4 . . .
White desires to upset black's pawns while black wants to protect point h7 with its bishop.
14. . . . gh
15. Be4 f5
16. Bf3 1–0
Black gave. As you can see, all black figures are passive and weak, While all white's are attacking.
Elshad – Aliev
1. c3 Nf6
(Elshad-Nureev, Lenkaran 1975: 1…c5, 2.Qa4 Nf6, 3.g4 g6, 4.Bg2 Bg7, d3 0-0, 6.g5 Nc8, 7.h4 Nc6, 8.h5 d5, 9.Qh4 f5, 10.hxg6 hxg6, 11.Qh7+ Kf7, 12.Rh6 Qd6, 13. Bxd5+ Qxd5, 14.Qxg6+ Kg6, 15.Qh7+ Draw)
2. Qa4 g6
3. g4 Bg7
4. Bg2 c5
5. d3 0-0
And again we see black very quickly building a house around his king.
6. g5 Ne8
7. h4 Nc6
8. h5 Qa5
9. Qh4 . . .
This move always seems to surprise my opponents.
9. . . . Nd4
10. hg fg
11. Nf3 . . .
If black takes white's knight he gives up the chance to quickly attack white and punish him for playing so unorthodoxically. Black should move his king to f7, and it probably would have been better for white to move his bishop to e4.
11. . . . Nc2+
12. Kd1 Nxa1
Black, in this instance, is showing himself to be very miserly. Instead of eyeing the rook at a1, black should rather have taken my knight at f3, after which he would have been able to sustain a longer attack.
13. Qxh7+ Kf7
14. Ne5+ ....
This move was probably unexpected, as e5 was seemingly protected by the bishop at g7.
14. . . . Ke6
15. Qxg6+ Bf6
16. Bh3+ Kxe5
17. Bf4+ 1-0
Black Resign – for look what has happened to the king's comfortable home.
Elshad - Grigoriance
1. c3 Nf6
2. Qa4 e6
(Elshad-Savyenko, Moscow 2000: 2. … g6, 3.g4 Bg7, 4.Bg2 c6, 5.d3 d5, g5 Nfd7, 7.h4 Nb6, 8.Qb4 N8d7, 9.h5 Nf8, 10.h6 Be5, 11.Nf3 Bd6, 12.Qd4! Rg8??, 13.Qg7 1-0.)
3. g4 Be7
4. Bg2 0-0
As a general rule, chess player's castle. And as this is the third example of such a defense against my debut, we may come to the conclusion that my debut at least brings up the issue of castling.
5. g5 Nd5
6. h4 Nb6
7. Qc2 c5
8. d3 d5
9. Nd2 Nc6
10. Nf1 . . .
This is an interesting moment in the game, a curiosity, as if white is saying to black, ''Bring it on and attack me.
10. . . . e5
But black only solidifies the center.
11. Ng3 f5
12. gf Bxf6
13. Nf3 Bg4
14. a4 . . .
White wants to uncalm the knight at b6 which controls point d5.
14. . . . c4
15. dc Nxc4
We see that black thinks it will surely and quickly win, but the next move shows that white too is thinking about victory.
16. Ng5! g6
Here we see that castling has actually placed the black king in a more dangerous position than the natural home at the center where the white king stands.
17. b3! Nb6
18. a5 Nc8
19. a6 ba
20. Ra4 …..
The bishop has nowhere to go. Indeed it's strange for a bishop to be in such a situation, without a calm resting ground in sight.
20. … e4
And so white plays even more untraditionally.
21. f3 Be5
22. Nf1 …
As this is black's first time to meet such a strategy in an opponent, he doesn't foresee the danger that awaits him.
22. … Qf6
White can't take the bishop at g4, for there's mate when the queen plays f2, and the bishop controls c3.
23. Bd2 Nb6
Few would say here white's winning, for white's king is at the center. Tradition says when one's king is at the center, he will lose. But I want to show otherwise.
24. Ne3 Bh5
25. Rxa6 R1c8?
This is a mistake. Black should have played the rook at d8 to defend the weak point at d5.
26. Rxb6! ab
27. Nxd5 Qd6
28. Qxe4 Rfe8
29. Qc4 Kg7
30. Ne4 …
My knights, which were together at the beginning of the game at f1 and g1, have progressed to the center together.
30. ... Qe6
Elshad – Tsaryov
1. c3 Nf6
2. Qa4 g6
3. g4 Bg7
4. Bg2 0-0
5. g5 ...
The familiar psychological attack. Here it would be better for black to play the knight at h5, but black is probably afraid of the threat of the bishop at f3.
5. … Ne8
6. h4 e5
7. d3 …
Black does the trying psychological mistake here, typing to scold white for playing out of line.
7. … F6??
It is interesting, in the game Chramtsov- Elshad Moscow 1999, white made the same mistake on the 8th move as black does here. It seems that color makes little difference: 1.e4 c6, 2.g3 Qa4, 3.Bg2 g5, 4.Nc3 Bg7, 5.Nf3 d6, 6.0-0 g4, 7.Ne1 h5, 8.f3?? Bd4+, 9.Nh1 h4 (0-1)
8. Bd5+ …
Black cannot defend this attack.
8. ... Kh8
The pawn at g6 is like Rambo, and it needs to be protected.
12. … Nd6
13. Bxg5 Qf5
14. Bxh6 Nxf7
15. Bxg7+ Kxg7
16. Rh7+ …
If the king goes to g8, the rook will take the knight at f7 and white will easily win.
16. … Kxg6
It would have been better for the king to move to g8, but it is still easy for white to win after moving the rook to f7.
by:mohammad ebrahim ahmadi