The Hardest Move To Make

The Hardest Move To Make

| 23 | Opening Theory

The inspiration for today's article was rather unusual. 

Recently, I was lying in bed when a peculiar memory invaded the sleepy recesses of my mind. I recalled an unusual and astute piece of advice given to me by GM Alexander Kalinin many years ago:

Players are inherently reluctant to give up a fianchettoed bishop for a knight. 

"Well," I hear you saying, "I expected something with a bit more, shall we say, pizzazz." Indeed, GM Kalinin's observation resembles one of those "when you see it" pictures: irrelevant and boring until you perceive the wisdom behind it. 



My moment of revelation came a few months back, when I stumbled across the following game.

I was tempted to write this game off as an anomaly, but then I discovered that 24 players repeated Kamsky's blunder. Among them were Macedonian GM Vladimir Georgiev (who resigned after 15...Bxd4 16.Bxd4 e6 17.Ne3 e5 18.Bb7 Rb7), German GM Roman Slobodjan (although his opponent, GM Matthew Sadler, failed to capture on d4) and Romanian IM Iulian Sofronie.

Yet this is no coincidental moment of mass tactical blindness. The concept of giving up the Dragon bishop is so unfathomable  — and the move itself so unsightly — that one's tactical radar is not equipped with the necessary "technology" to see it. 

The subtext of Kalinin's remark, then, is that we should never judge or reject a move on the basis of its appearance. In other words, tactical considerations transcend general reasoning 100 percent of the time. 

The finish of my round two game at the recently concluded Politiken Cup is a case in point.

As a lifelong King's Indian player, I have an inherent attachment to the fianchettoed bishop. Swapping it for a knight (and severely weakening my king in the process) is not an operation that I would normally undertake. However, the specific circumstances of the position called for a less dogmatic mindset. 

Chess is a game of quid-pro-quo. Strong players will never voluntarily damage their position without inducing concessions in return. The converse is also valid: sometimes, positional considerations may fully justify an outwardly irrational trade.

An impressive display by the Estonian grandmaster; 13.Bxc6 is a fantastic idea that directly contributed to the final result. 

I will end by repeating Dr. Tarrasch's famous aphorism, which I first noticed in GM Mihail Marin's excellent work Learn from The Legend:

"It is not important which pieces you exchange but those that remain on the board!" 

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