How To Ignore A Threat And Win
In The Complete Book of Chess Strategy, IM Jeremy Silman defines prophylaxis as "a move or strategy that stops the opponent from undertaking some type of action or plan."
Coined by Aron Nimzowitsch in his seminal work My System (1925), it is a vital notion that forms the nucleus of a grandmaster's positional arsenal.
However, to succeed in the world of modern chess, you must not only develop a profound understanding of strategic concepts, but also know when to violate them. To this end, the following recent game is worth a thousand words.
A fantastic effort by Anand, even if his technique was uncharacteristically sloppy. 26.Nhf5 is a real super-GM move, and a prime example of what I call anti-prophylaxis.
Sometimes, ignoring a threat or idea is the best way to deal with it.
To be sure, a timely prophylactic measure can be devastating for your opponent, but it can also disrupt the coordination of your forces and relinquish the initiative. In this article, I would like to present several instances where an anti-prophylactic approach brought success.
IM Silman pointed out that the best way to parry a threat is to counter it with a threat of your own. Indeed, "counter-threatening" is the most common manifestation of anti-prophylaxis. Take a look:
Of course, tactical counterblows do not grow on trees, and it is not always possible to parry a threat in such convenient fashion! Still, we often fall into the psychological trap of overestimating a threat, especially if we are facing a stronger opponent.
A masterful performance. Seirawan did not buy into appearances, soberly evaluating 29...g5 and quickly realizing that it was far less effective and intimidating than it looked.
And now, dear reader, I invite you to try your own hand at anti-prophylaxis. To finish White off in the following game, you will have to find a series of precise anti-prophylactic moves. Good luck!
Hopefully, the lesson is clear: prophylaxis is not the only way to deal with a threat!