How To Use Dynamic Diagonals

How To Use Dynamic Diagonals

| 39 | Strategy

People spend too much time reading opening books.

There you go, I have said it. Think what you may of this statement, but it seems to me that the chess market is saturated with opening books. So many people will blindly buy a book, add to their collection, and never spend any time reading the contents. Yes, the opening is important, but other areas of chess are equally if not more important.

In this article I am going to try and teach you how to make use of diagonals in a more effective way. Forget the opening, this is aimed at mastering an important middlegame technique.

"He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger." -- Confucius

To improve we must learn and notice certain patterns when playing chess. Let's dive into the first pattern that I want to show you, where one of the most creative grandmasters ever, David Bronstein, creates a beautiful picture on the board.

Such great use of the diagonal! How did Black spot this idea, and how can this help us in the future?

1) White's king was weak, especially as there was no pawn on c3 to defend it. This meant when the bishop arrived on e4, White already had to be careful. 

2) White was lacking any dynamic counterplay, so Black had time to maneuver his pieces to better squares.

It is spotting ideas like this that makes great players stand out from mediocre players. Let hope you now remember the idea of ...Be4! ...h6!! ...Bh7!! and ...Qg6!!/...Qf5!!

Now to a maneuver that I really like, a switch of diagonals that can have devastating consequences.

This is making best use of a "hidden diagonal": the a7-g1 diagonal. Once the Black queen places itself on a7, Black's pressure only increases on White's position. What can we learn from Rubinstein's idea?

1) Like in the previous example, this maneuver is only possible because there is no imminent danger to Black's position, so Black has time to rearrange his pieces. This is one of the key things to remember when undertaking what can be lengthy maneuver. These maneuvers will only work, if you have ensured that you have time to go about putting them into practice. In other words, if your king is about to subjected to a devastating attack then you clearly do not have time to play a five-move maneuver!

2) The key pattern to remember here is when one side has played a3, h3, ...a6 or ...h6. This then opens up the diagonal for a bishop or queen to maneuver to. After all, improving at chess is really about learning more patterns and then being able to put them into practice in the right circumstances. Hopefully the diagram below will help reinforce this maneuver for you.

This idea of taking use of such a diagonal has occurred in a number of games, and in my eyes it really is one of the most beautiful examples of piece maneuvering in chess. Let's take a look at it in another game.

Botvinnik was one of the founding members of the "Soviet School of Chess" -- a school that produced, and produces, some of the best players in the world. Kasparov was one of the most notable members of this school, and with maneuvers like this we can see why we have a lot to learn from the great ex-world champion Botvinnik. 

What key points can we learn here?

1) This idea is much stronger in some openings, and mainly in closed positions where the pawn structure is locked. The French Defense being a good example of this. Why closed positions? Because there is, by nature, more time to maneuver. Unlike open positions, closed positions involve more positional play.

2) When you see a half-open file (in this case the h-file) aim to place your heavy pieces (queen and rooks) on that file.

Here is the pattern of Black's devastating idea:

I found a game from a regular contributor, IM Thomas Rendle, where this maneuver was yet again played in a French Defense structure. It was clear that Thomas has clearly seen this idea before. Can you find the correct idea in the following diagram?

Very nice! Let's take a look at the pattern of that queen rearrangement.

What other things can we note about Black's position again here?

1) Black has traditionally  a bad light-square bishop in these types of pawn structures. Why? Because Black's own pawns are all placed on light squares so it is hard for the light-square bishop to escape. This position breaks that rule somewhat, as Black, very cleverly, has placed his light square Bishop on a4. From where it is ready to jump to the 'other side' of Black's pawn structure via c2. - Again a very typical maneuver in the French Defense.

2) Yet again, the main reason this idea works though is that: 

a) The pawn structure is locked.

b) Meaning the position is closed.

c) Therefore there is less urgency on the position and more time to maneuver pieces.

3) Remember, there is no point looking for long, drawn-out maneuvers if you are about to be the victim of a devastating attack!

We will now finish this article with a rather different use of this maneuver. Not to confuse you, but to show you that in chess certain rules can always be broken. Yet to break them, you need to have a great understanding of the game!

In this case Gary took use of a diagonal, but in a very tactical nature. Normally this is not possible, but here positional play was combined with great calculation. Let's take a look at the pattern of the queen.

Hopefully this article has opened some of your eyes to this concept of the "sneaky diagonal."  Maybe you will get a chance to play this idea in one of your own games. If you do, then please contact me!

I am also planning on making some premium videos for on this theme, so keep an eye out on them. I do find that some people learn easier from articles and others from videos, so my aim is to give you that choice.

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