Combinative Chess

Combinative Chess

| 23 | Tactics

"Chess"  circa 1913
by Annti Favén

      "A combination is a tactical maneuver in which you sacrifice material to obtain an advantage, or at least to improve your position.   So, strategy then, is your general plan, while tactics are your specific means of carrying it out." Fred Wilson, "303 Tricky Chess Tactics."

     Many 19th century players believed that the combination is the apex of chess brilliance.  And it seems true that many of us see the combination as an element of the "art" in chess and often refer to combinations as "beautiful."

     While it's said that combinations flow from position,  it can also be said that the possibility of combinations, or other tactical considerations, is often the glue that holds a position together. 



 “Le jeu d'échecs”  circa 1880
by Charles Bargue


      Some players believe that a combination is a spontaneous creation, that the possibility of a sacrifice springs up int eh mind like a flash of genius, as surprising to the player as to his opponent. The truth is that combinations due to pure chance are not merely fantastic.  There are combinations based on the opponent's errors; and most "traps" may be classed among these. There is even the type of player, the coffee-house expert, who speculates on the ignorance and inexperience of his adversaries. But this is a detestable and inglorious style of play, based on others' weaknesses, not one one's own strength. True combination is quite another matter. The crown of a fine player's logical chess, it must be prepared, and not left to chance. Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, "The Art of Chess Combination."

"Chess Table"  circa 1935
by Moshe Rynecki

     Tactics are the most important element of the Middle Game. We must above all "see" what is more or less hidden. We must exploit opportunities for combinations wherever they are offered. Here there is only an illusory guard, there our opponent has a man quite unguarded, or a double attack, etc., is possible. Over and over again there occur the tactical maneuvers ... and these opporutnities must frequently be created by a sacrifice. Mistakes by our opponent must be recognized as such, and also those that we ourselves are about to make. Siegbert Tarrasch, "The Game of Chess"

Queen Nefertiti playing a chess-like game (Senet)
1295-1255 BCE

     People are deceived by words. They hear of a "brilliant combination" in chess ... But look at what you really mean and you will find that a brilliant combination in chess is nothing in the world but a power of so anticipating moves, and the effects of moves, so as to bring a good many pieces to act on the same square—i. e., either on the same piece or else on the pieces which support it. —Walter Beverly Crane, "Lasker's Chess Magazine."

      Lasker, as quoted by Chernev in "The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played,"  also wrote,  "In the beginning of the game ignore the search for combinations, abstain from violent moves, aim for small advantages, accumulate them, and only after having attained these ends search for the combination - and then with all the power of will and intellect, because then the combination must exist, however deeply hidden."

"Chess Players"
by Abani Sen

     So, it seems that combinations are tactical maneuvers, usually involving a sacrifice with pieces working together to gain a sudden advantage by exploiting an opponent's mistake or poor position.  Furthermore, combinations may appeal to an observer's aesthetic sense, eliciting joy or at least a smile, just as any pleasant surprise might.  Combinations can range from quick and simple to very deep and subtle. They can take the form of thunder and lightning or that of the unrelenting tide. They can be decisive or merely flashy.  


"Game of Chess"  circa 1839
by Josef Danhauser

This painting tells the story of a supposedly actual event.  A young man became deeply indebted to a money lender named Escales and was unable to repay him.  In order to save the young man from retribution, his lover suggested a game of chess between herself and Escales (his freedom vs some unspecified stake on her part). She won the game, freeing her lover. (this is very similar to a possibly earlier story in which a woman, disguised as a man,  saved her husband from the guillotine by defeating Robespierre in a game of chess. recounted by George Walker in "Frazer's Magazine," December 1840.)


     Whether one calls it creative art or merely a blend of astute observation with careful calculation, below are ten positions in which one player saw something a little differently than his opponent and played unexpectedly. 
     Some of these games are well known, others less so.


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