How the Best Handle their Queens

How the Best Handle their Queens‎

WIM energia
28 | Middlegame

What is a chess genius?  I cannot answer this question but I can give examples of the play of a chess genius. I came from the country where no one questioned whether this person is a genius or not; it was accepted he is.  The games that I will present feature queen sacrifices by him. This is just a small example of his creativity.  There are many creative, orthodox, fearless chess players but not many of them reach the elite. Ivanchuk for 20 years has held his position among the top players in the world, his list of wins of international tournaments is numerous. The most recent example is Jermuk 2009. His ideas are tested on the highest level and prove to be correct. People say he is eccentric, that he lives on his own planet, Anand says that “Every day is a surprise with him.”

The first game is from 1987, more than 20 years ago! Let’s first evaluate the position. White is clearly better due to an advantage in space.  D6 is a target and the queen and rook attack it already. White has a strong h5 pawn, which pressures the black kingside. If it advances the knight on f6 will be hanging.  Black's plan might be to play Bc6 and d5, getting rid of the weakness on d6 and grabbing some space.

The position is fresh out of the opening. Ivanchuk still needs two tempi to castle. White has a mobile pawn center, while black took some space on the queenside. Black's idea would be to play either c5 or e5 at some point to undermine the strong white center.  But one has to be careful of opening the position here, remember that black is behind in development and might come under attack. Ivanchuk calculated a long more or less forced line that leads to the advantage of black, but to see the whole line in one’s head is not an easy task because the solution is  unorthodox and creative. Try to find it by yourself before looking at the game.

The next example features a position from the Queen's Indian Defense. The pin on d2 is unpleasant for white. Black has two pieces attacking Nd2. There are also some tactics involved on the long diagonal h1-a8. Black’s last move was to castle. He is ready to support his central knight. Black will be better in the normal course of the game. Ivanchuk does not want to settle for a worse position with white and finds a move that makes things complicated. This strategy is good from a psychological point of view. Black already is in the mood of playing a peaceful position with a slight edge that will go into a long fight. Suddenly, white changes the pace of the game and black may have a bigger advantage but he has to work his full 100% to prove it. And it is not easy for humans... Don’t try this against comps !


If you search the database, there are tons of games of Ivanchuk where he plays without a queen. The next example is from a game against Topalov, another paragon of creativity. This was a blitz game so some heavy mistakes are possible. In blitz one is guided more by intuition and also one does not need to care about rating and the games do not carry the importance of the real game so there are more interesting and creative ideas.  With the last move c4 black threatens to win the e4-pawn after white queen moves away.

So, we looked at some examples of Ivanchuk’s handling of queen exchanges for a couple of pieces. One can notice that many decisions carry a psychological character- the opponents lose track of the game as it was in Topalov’s game for example. A queen sac fora couple of pieces is a great defensive resource when one can choose between playing an inferior position down a pawn and no counterplay or sacrificing a queen but having some counterplay. One has to think outside the box when coming up with queen sacrifices, to go against stereotypes, to cross the boundaries… and sometimes this is where the truth to the solution of chess problems lies. And if it is there, then correctly solving chess positions one also gets the aesthetic pleasure from the solution. I hope Ivanchuk’s examples would be an inspiration for you.


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