The Secrets Of Grandmaster's Moves | Tata Steel Edition

The Secrets Of Grandmaster's Moves | Tata Steel Edition

| 29 | Strategy

Computers have dramatically changed our perception of the game of chess. The biggest change is probably the lost sense of a big mystery. Long gone are the times when chess aficionados around the world for years analyzed complicated positions that happened in world championship games. Today, all you need to do is let an engine work overnight and by the next morning, you'll know almost everything you need to know about the position.

A queen endgame that World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik analyzed for a month? Are you kidding me? Tablebases will give you the evaluation instantly! As the result, very frequently people miss the main attraction of the game of chess: the human element. This element has been on display at the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

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2022 Tata Steel

Chess is most and foremost an intellectual contest between two people and it is all about over-the-board decisions they make. It is sad to see a chat during any big tournament where you'll find many comments like this: "Is he a real grandmaster? How could he miss that after 32.Be6 it is +3.7?." I am sure that you, my dear readers, are not like this!

So, instead of looking at the engine's evaluation, try to figure out why a very strong player played his move, even if it is a bad one. I can assure you that you will learn way more about chess this way. Also, it is very entertaining, because you feel like a detective trying to figure out the reason a move was played.

Today I'll share with you some of my findings in the games played during the 2022 Tata Steel tournament. Let's start with the following entertaining game. Can you guess the move played by GM Magnus Carlsen?

If it was an easy question for you, pat yourself on the back: you have a nice grasp of positional chess. This is a typical move White plays in similar position when he wants to kick the e4-bishop from the center without trading it for his own fianchettoed g2-bishop. There are literary dozens of games where this idea was played. This one for example:

So, as you can see, there is no mystery so far. Carlsen is playing a standard move for positions like this, which gives him a pair of bishops. But look at the next diagram. I bet you won't be able to find the following remarkable sequence of moves played by GM Jorden van Foreest!

As the result of this brilliant sacrifice, Black unexpectedly got a fantastic attacking position! When I saw these moves, naturally my first reaction was "wow!" The next step was a logical question: what could have helped the young Dutch grandmaster find this magnificent idea (that is, besides his big talent, of course)? I think I found the answer! Look at the following beautiful game van Foreest played just a couple of months ago:

There is a lot to like about this remarkable game: a stunning pawn sacrifice on move eight, a great exchange sac on move 25, etc. But the key moment of the game was actually left behind the scene. Can you find how White could get an enormous advantage in the following position?

I have no doubt that van Foreest was absolutely stunned by this unexpected idea when he analyzed the game with an engine and probably decided to use it when an opportunity arose. So, when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right? This is how poor Carlsen got under attack! But don't feel bad for King Magnus. He's had this kind of pawn structure in previous games and his opponents tried to attack him already. Here is just one example:

Let's get back to our main game. How would you play in the following position?

Why did the Dutch grandmaster miss this variation? I guess he doesn't read articles! Just three weeks ago we investigated this exact type of trade and saw that even world champions can sometimes get confused.

The last really interesting moment happened on move 38 when both players missed a forced win for White. Can you find it?

Don't rush to criticize two super GMs for missing this variation. I have a pretty good idea of what went wrong here. Both opponents didn't see the intermediate move 41.Qg4!! It is a very instructive moment: intermediate moves (a.k.a. Zwischenzug) are very easy to miss and frequently they can decide a game instantly, like in this case. If you are not very familiar with this concept, hit the books on tactics, it will dramatically improve your chess!

Meanwhile, after all these adventures, our main game ended in a draw:

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