You Won't Believe These Miracles On The Chessboard
At its heart, chess is a logical game. Every move — no matter how outwardly mysterious — can be explained and rationalized. To be sure, an idea can (and often should) violate general principles, but it still must satisfy the needs of a concrete situation.
In the realm of tactics, such cases are decidedly infrequent. Combinations or sacrifices almost invariably seek to exploit a noticeable deficiency in your opponent's position, such as a weak king or an unprotected back rank.
However, you must keep your tactical radar alert at all times, even when there appears to be no premise for a combination.
Today, I would like to introduce the concept of a "miracle on the chessboard" (MCB): a combination or tactical sequence that springs up out of nowhere.
Put on your tactical peepers and come along for the ride!
The inspiration for this article comes from a recent game that I played against Israeli GM Michael Oratovsky. After a complex middlegame struggle, the following position was reached:
In this highly problematic situation, my opponent grabbed his knight but overstepped the time limit before he could capture on f2. However, it is not hard to determine that after 26...Nxf2 27.Nxf6+ gxf6 28.Qc4+, Black loses the queen and the game.
In fact, the dual threats of Qxe4 and Ne7+ seem to make resignation a viable option. So much so that neither I nor my opponent bothered to revisit this moment during our post-game analysis, deeming Black's position utterly hopeless.
Upon returning to my room and casually running through the game with an engine, I received one of the most profound shocks of my chess career. I will give you the chance to experience the same feeling: Black to play and draw!
An MCB if there ever was one. My king was perfectly safe, Black's position was in the process of apocalyptic collapse, and yet...
But that was act two. The first act occured three rounds earlier, and this time I was the choreographer.
The placement of White's king and queen was, for a lack of a better term, purely coincidental. An underpromotion of this kind is not something you will encounter in a tactical manual, so you must always scan the horizon for tactical possibilities.
At times, an MCB can hide behind a seemingly forced continuation. As GM Dennis Khismatullin famously showed at the 2015 European Individual Championship, turning off the autopilot is an invaluable ability.
And now, dear reader, I invite you to develop your own MCB vision. In solving the following exceptionally challenging exercise, bear in mind Albert Einstein's wise remark: "Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will get you everywhere."
I look forward to seeing MCBs from your own tournament practice in the comments below!