Chess Surrealism

Chess Surrealism

| 21 | Tactics

Even if you have never heard of chess surrealism, you definitely encountered it at some point.  What is chess surrealism? In art, the key feature of surrealism is the element of surprise, the same is true for chess surrealism.  If you see a position that looks like somebody just dropped a bunch of pieces on the board and they found some random squares for themselves, that is chess surrealism.  Of course the best example of chess surrealism is Fischer Random Chess. But how do we get surreal positions in the old, good traditional chess?  Some people play dubious openings in order to do just that: surprise the opponent.  Is it a good strategy?  It depends.  Let me tell you my personal encounters with chess surrealism. The first example is taken from one of my first tournaments. My opponent surprised me with an unconventional move 1.g4?! I knew that the move wasn't that good, but how should I punish my opponent for his mistake?  The 'refutation" was quickly found.

 (Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)

I wasn't such a bad chess player to blunder a bishop in one move, but I made a typical mistake.  The logic was simple: my opponent played a bad first move, therefore he doesn't know the openings, therefore he is a bad chess player, therefore I have to punish him.  With such a mind set you will underestimate your opponent for sure and overestimate your position.  The next notorious game is a very good example. World Champion Anatoly Karpov is at his prime time and plays GM Anthony Miles whom he beat in almost every single game.  So how did Miles answer the favorite move of Karpov 1.e4?  By outrageous 1...a6??! The most amazing thing is that Karpov lost this game!! In his interview for Soviet chess magazine he explained that he wasn't satisfied by just a better position, he was looking for a checkmate.  So he spent a lot of time on the Greek gift sacrifice, but Black had a defense so it led to an unclear position.  Still looking for a forced win, Karpov sacrificed two pawns but missed an obvious defense and resigned soon.  Here is the game:
Of course in this game Karpov played a very strong GM Miles, so he wasn't thinking that he was playing a patzer, and yet a psychological impact of the 1...a6 move was so strong that Karpov was simply unrecognizable there. 
So what should you do when your opponent unleashes chess surrealism?  First of all don't feel like you should punish your opponent.  Most of the weird looking moves like 1.g4 or 1...a6 cannot be refuted anyway. Look at the weird openings
this way: where do you have more chances to obtain an opening advantage after 1. e4 g5 or in the Petroff Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6)?  With this mind set you don't have burden of refutation on your shoulders, you just play chess. 
In the following game White played strictly in the center and when his opponent allowed the strike, the future GM Wolff didn't miss it!
The lesson I learned from the old game from my childhood was very handy 30 years later when I played a strong American master Miles Ardaman.  Strangely enough, my opponent followed footsteps of another Miles and our game resembled the game Karpov-Miles a lot.
And what about the players who prefer to play junk openings just for their surprising value?  Unfortunately, in most of the cases they become addicts of chess surrealism and remain N.N. till the end of their lives.  Which brings the continuation of the story I started with.  My opponent played the same opening in one of his next tournament and look at this game:
I think this game is the fitting end to the story!
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