Modern Fights

Modern Fights‎

WIM energia
9 | Middlegame

When we think of the way people played chess in the late 1800s we think of insane sacrifices and attacks that faced almost no resistance. Names like Pilsbury and Morphy, of great imaginative players come to mind. In the early 1900s there was HyperModernism with prophylaxis and Nimzovich, with Reti Openings, etc. As we move further chess techniques improve- both in attack and defense, openings and middlegames. What about modern-day chess? If you have one word to describe modern chess, what would that word be? The first word that comes to my mind is Initiative. From the first moves players create threats, try to impose their own will on the opponent. One example of initiative would be a pawn sacrifice in the opening to get an advantage in development. Exchanges of pieces to win tempos or to impede the opponent’s development are the other examples of keeping the initiative alive. I would like to show very recent games as examples of exchanges or sacrifices in the modern game for the initiative.

            The following scenario took place in the first example. White chose a sharp modern way of playing against the Queen's Indian Defense, where he sacrifices a pawn but gets ahead in development. Then, he exchanges dark-squared bishops in order to keep black's king in the center and gain tempo for more advantage in development. Black tries to ease his defense by exchanging light-squared bishops but this leaves his knight out of play. White exchanges the main defender of black's king, the knight on f6. Black passed by the right moment for a queen swap and had to pay a high price for this.


            The next game features the Botvinnik variation of the Slav Defense. The theory of this line is advanced up to move 25 and in some lines even further. Players must have a great memory as well as some novelty prepared to play this opening for black. The arising positions are famous for non-standard material balance. Black sacrifices a pawn out of the opening but retains active piece play as well as a strong center. Even endgames are very sharp since white creates a passed pawn on the kingside, while black has a couple of advanced pawns on the queen side. There are numerous possible exchanges that both sides face. I will address many of them as the game progresses.


            As you can see, in modern practice there are positions that happen out of openings with unbalanced material. This is so because both sides fight for initiative and sometimes the price is to give up some material. To choose a correct exchange as was done in the second example some number of times is a task of calculating and evaluating numerous variations. Pure 'by eye,' saying "my bishop is good, his bishop is bad" does not cut it in sharp positions. One has to dig through a pile of variations before making the decision on what move to execute.

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