Two games, Two knights, One opponent

Two games, Two knights, One opponent‎

WIM energia
15 | Strategy

To come up with a correct plan one needs to have a correct positional evaluation. We were taught that a bishop is better than a knight in open positions, that the two rooks are better than the queen, etc.  This common sense knowledge guides us during the game and simplifies our decisions greatly. It can sometimes hurt us in choosing a plan though. Looking deeper into a position and thinking outside the box is a degree of mastery that even very strong player have problem with. I would like to give you two examples of where going against stereotypes was the right path on the way to choosing the correct plan.

The following game was played in the Philadelphia Open tournament this past weekend. Maybe you are tired of my games but giving examples from my own practice is the best way to teach, since I can relate to them much better than to games that are not mine. The following position happened against International Master Sarkar in Round 7, when the fire alarm went off in the playing hall and we all had to be evacuated. Staying outside in the fresh air for fifteen minutes made me wonder if this distraction would help my opponent to find the right plan, since he could think about the position in his head or would it harm his concentration. It turned out as he said after the game that before the alarm went off he came up with a plan and then did not bother to think about some other plan. His mistake was in not thinking about what his opponent is going to do next. I was fully aware of the dangerous plan that he could have played and my next move reflected the prevention of the plan.

Let’s evaluate the following position. White is down an exchange for a pawn but this does not mean much since the b6 and d6 pawns are extremely strong. Some endgames for example rook versus knight will favor white if the black king is away from the pawns. The position is unclear, the only way for black to improve is to bring the king to help stop the pawns. Should he do it right away with Kf7 or Kf7 after Qd4? After Qd4 Qxd4 is more or less forced, then exd4 and what about the resulting position evaluation? Before white had the passed pawn d6, now white has pair of passed pawns d6 and e4 that can protect each other. Black got himself an isolated pawn on d4 that is blockaded by white knights. So, Qd4 cannot benefit black, right? No, not right, it is only right from superficial thinking as we did above. What does white want? White wants to promote pawns but if I move the pawns then the rook or bishop will capture them. Therefore, white needs squares for the knights but if I play e5 then this square will be taken by the pawn not the knight and the black king will blockade the pawns d6-e5 by staying on e6. After which white can resign. Playing Qd4 benefits black because obtaining two passed pawns: e4 and d6 does not benefit white because I cannot promote them, since the king will blockade the pawns. This thinking process required throwing out the common beliefs that two connected passed pawns are better than one. Also it went against the common conception that the king is a poor blockader. In the game Kf7 was played right away. Qd4 is still a threat, how to defend? Playing Qd5! Going into the endgame with less material and doubling one's own pawns! This is the paradox of the position, it turns out that the d6-d5 chain of pawns is better than d6-e5 because d6-d5 takes the e6 square from the black king providing many support squares for the knights.

Actually, it was GM Josh Friedel’s idea to show this example here; since he really liked the end of the game, he thought you would like the ideas too. The following example he supplied to me, since he found similar ideas in his game against Sarkar. I feel bad showing two lost games of Sarkar in one article… but this is nothing personal just having educational goals in mind.

In the following position black has the advantage of the two bishops, a strong c4 pawn that supports the b3 and d3 squares for the black knight to jump into. White has an isolated d4 pawn but is ahead in development and the a5 pawn grabs much space. Now, he is facing a question of what to do with the rook on e6, since it is under attack. Josh sacrificed the exchange here, it was a deep plan and required a correct assessment of the resulting position. You might think it is just a tactical operation but let’s give a word to Friedel:

“Well, I had to see the whole exchange sac line with Bf1-xc4 and Rf7-- without that it is just bad. I wasn’t sure what to do if I didn’t take f6, and I felt like I had at least enough compensation for the exchange.. at least not worse.”


For the next week there are nice Botvinnik games to look at:







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