Exchanging while Defending

Exchanging while Defending‎

WIM energia
22 | Middlegame

I sit in a room without air-condition on the top floor of a building. It gets pretty hot, since the outside temperature is rather high, plus the roof is conducting heat. Being helpless in a given situation I ended up in makes me think in chess terms of a defense. That is why I dedicate today’s article to the topic of exchanges while defending. This is a powerful method to use, since your opponent on the attack needs all of his pieces for offense: if you eliminate one or two there would be no army to march at your king. Also, to achieve this attack a player had to make some concessions: material, weakening some complex of squares, creating an isolated pawn, messing up the pawn structure. Through exchanges of his pieces one can use these weaknesses, especially in the endgame. I give examples with sharp tactical play, since most positional decisions have to be backed up by tactics.


White is ready to attack on the kingside. He has all his pieces facing black’s king. The advanced pawns g and h are ready to attack, Rh1 and Rg1 will support them. Black’s king is weakened by the movement of all three pawns: h, g, f. If white succeeds in breaking through on the kingside he would be victorious. On the other hand, black has an extra pawn and the open b file, where he managed to put his heavy pieces to attack the b2-weakness. In the game white decides to launch the attack right away.







Sometimes, even without queens one can get a powerful attack. This is so because even minor pieces or rooks can checkmate the king. In the following position white’s bishop and knight are in close proximity to black’s king. Black has hanging f5, e5 pawns, which gives the opportunity to the opponent to attack them. Also white managed to grab some space on the queenside, potentially chasing away Nc6. Overall, white is better and he tries to win some material with his next move.








This is a typical isolated pawn position. White gets to attack on the kingside, while black tries to exchange pieces and maybe counterattack on the queenside. It looks like white has a powerful attack already, since Ne5 threatens at some point to take on f7, thus activating the bishop on b3. With the next move white brings the last piece to attack. Let's see how black manages to defend.







The next example is from modern play. It is rather a typical type of game, since nowadays the positions that happen in games are highly unbalanced; sometimes it is hard to figure out who attacks whom. In the position below after an opening that included a combination of Naidorf and Dragon, the following middlegame occurred. White’s pieces are located on the queenside and in the center. Thus, he would need some time to regroup if white wants to launch an attack on the black king. Black managed to open lines on the queenside and to push a pawn forward. He seems to be more ready to attack. White is still better, since he has more space in the center and a potential passed pawn on the queenside in an endgame. The typical idea for white is to exchange dark squared bishops, since Bf6 is the main defender of black’s king. This is what white tries to do in the game.








As we saw the decisions of what to exchange and when lead to a very complex, tactical play, where the price of a move was high. In the first example black had to calculate far ahead to see that the extra piece does not give white advantage due to activity of black pieces. In the second example despite having rook and a pawn under attack black put his bishop under attack too to trade white's active piece. The third example features a typical attack with isolated pawn structure. And the fourth game is an example of how many things one has to take into consideration when trading one pair of bishops. Overall, when one is under attack, he should not expect an easy way out, he must work hard at the board to find the opportunity to complicate matters or to exchange the opponent’s pieces.


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