Space, Negativity, and Dreams

Space, Negativity, and Dreams

IM Silman
Jun 13, 2012, 12:00 AM |
18 | Amazing Games


mixiz said: “I think this is the key position. I think white must win this, having in mind that the opponent won’t play actively since he willingly came so far, and is obviously happy with the bishop on e4. What plan should I follow? What I tried in the game didn’t work. Maybe g4, without exchanging on e4, forcing him to play ...g6, and then transferring my knight to e3? And apart of that, how do I learn to ignore the e4-bishop (and pieces in similar situations), since it is just annoying, not threatening anything?

Where do I begin? Let’s start with your desire to ignore his e4-Bishop. The best way to master that technique is to watch a married women in action. Many ladies, when faced with a husband that does something moronic (like drive his mower into the swimming pool), will give them the silent treatment and ignore them in such a perfect manner that, for all intents and purposes, the man no longer exists. And I must admit that the parallels here are uncanny: you find the e4-Bishop to be annoying – the wife finds the man annoying. You want to ignore the Bishop – she wants to ignore the idiot guy. Since it’s clear that women are the true masters of this technique, you need to ask them and not me.

You also state that White has to be winning. Why? And why do you think Black is willing to sit around and do nothing? No, no, I don’t think White is winning at all (white’s better, but not winning). The fact is that black’s e4-Bishop is a very nice piece and is, indeed, annoying.

There are cases where you ignore a seemingly far advanced enemy piece that looks good, but those situations are based on the advanced “pretty” piece being in a position where it’s not helping the rest of its army succeed with whatever plan the other pieces are trying to fulfill. Chess is a team effort – if an enemy piece isn’t complementing the correct plan, then shun it and allow it to live out its life alone in the hinterlands. However, in the position in question, it’s clear that the e4-Bishop is a serious piece.

To find a logical plan for White, you have to answer a basic question: Why do you think White is winning? What does he have that makes his position so luscious? To me, the answer has to be SPACE. Let’s break things down:

* White has more central and queenside space.

* The center is completely closed, which means both sides need to use pawn breaks to gain wing space and to open files so the Rooks can get into the battle.

* White’s possible breaks are a2-a4-a5, or c4-c5, or g2-g4. 

* Black’s breaks are …a7-a6, …c7-c6, or …g7-g5. Of course, some of these breaks will take preparation, and others can be done at any time.

Black actually has a very solid position, so it won’t be easy to drag him down. Nonetheless, if space is what White has, then he needs to use it. Thus the most logical move for White is 16.c5, grabbing even more space!

After 16.c5 c6 17.a4 the tension grows to a fever pitch. One possible follow up is 17…Rc8 18.Be3 Nd8 19.Rfc1 Qe8 when we have a fascinating queenside battle: White is the master of space and is trying to create some sort of attackable target in the enemy camp, while Black is overprotecting c6 and is ready for anything White can throw his way.

For example: 20.Rc3 Nd7 21.Rac1 Rc7 (21…Rab8!?) and Black is flexibly poised for either …Rb8 or …Rac8, and 22.cxb6? (Something like 22.Qf1 [intending 23.Be2] 22…Bxd3 23.Qxd3 leaves White with all the chances, though after 23…Rac8 the siege will continue) 22…axb6 23.bxc6 Nb8 gives White absolutely nothing since c6 is doomed and a4 is also under attack.



Non_Compos_Mentis said: “I anticipated this position when I castled on move eleven.  Although ugly, 
it actually didn’t look too bad or dangerous. I even thought I might
 be able to at some point move my king to the seventh rank and get a
 rook on the h-file.

Though black’s lack of fear about this pawn structure is right on, I was bothered by two things:

1) It’s NOT ugly. Black enjoys a tight pawn structure without weaknesses, and has absolutely no problems in this position. Calling it “ugly” tells me that he (and many others) feel that any doubled pawn is ugly. Unfortunately, many doubled pawns are extremely useful, so if you train yourself to equate “double pawn = ugliness” then you will prevent yourself from ever understanding them, and from ever using them properly. Words have power, be careful how you use them!

2) During a game, maintaining a modicum of reality is always useful. If your clock is ticking away and you’re dreaming of 50 supermodels throwing gold at your feet, that tells me you have serious concentration issues. In the present position, for Black to think he might dance his King over to e7, play …Rh8, and then mate White is not as far removed from the supermodel dream as one might think – both are preposterous. First off, even if black’s Rook teleported to the h-file, where’s the mate? Second, it hints that Black doesn’t understand his basic plans for this kind of common position: It’s all about pressuring d4 (Rook on the d-file, NOT the h-file), and then smashing the center with …c6-c5 or, in some cases, …e6-e5 (black’s later play verified this since he failed to make either of these thematic breaks). In this latter scenario, the doubled g-pawn is a godsend since after …e6-e5 the f5-square, which would be a nice place for the g3-Knight to leap to if the pawn were undoubled and stood on h7, is now untouchable thanks to the pawn being on g6.

~ Lessons ~

* Unless you’re Walter Mitty (young people should google the name), you should do your best to retain your concentration during a game. Fantasies have no place in the middle of chess battle.

* Negative words might sound innocent, but they can easily affect you. If you label something ugly, your subconscious mind will do its utmost to make you avoid the ugliness. This might also translate into you never fully appreciating the many virtues of whatever the ugly thing (in this case doubled pawns) might be.

* The imbalances dictates the plans for both sides.

* You don’t just come up with a plan because you want to do it, you come up with a plan because the position wants you to do it!

* A closed center means wing play, with pawn breaks usually being the way to increase space in a sector and open files for your Rooks.


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