Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

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International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that readers have about the game of chess.

If you want to ask Andrew a question, then send an email to and next time your question could be featured!

Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers...

Eric Raunig asks about the minority attack. What should he be looking for if he wants to launch this attack?

The classic minority attack is seen in the Exchange Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. It's basically a mechanism whereby a mobile pawn front assaults a static group of pawns in order to force weaknesses.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 0–0 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.Nf3 Re8 10.0–0 This is still one of the easiest ways to play the Queens Gambit Declined for White. He has a clear plan and Black has limited opportunities for counterplay. 10...Nf8 11.Rab1 a5 12.a3 g6 13.b4! 

Here we go! You will note that White intends to move his pawn to b5 and then continue with bxc6,leaving Black with a weak,backward pawn on c6. Black will then be tied up defending after which White has control of the position. 13...axb4 14.axb4 Ne6 15.Bh4 Ng7 16.b5 Bf5 This is a very laudable idea,but rather slow. Black exchanges of his worse Bishop at the cost of some time. White moves in and weakens the pawn. 17.bxc6 bxc6 18.Bxf5 Nxf5 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.Na4!

 A typical idea. White attacks c6 directly and maybe intends to station the Knight on c5; a very nice outpost. 20...Rc8 21.Rfc1 Nd6 22.Nd2 Carefully preventing Black's Knight from reaching c4. 22...Re7 23.Nb6 Rcc7 24.Ra1 Ra7 25.Qc5 Rxa1 26.Rxa1 Qc7 27.Rc1 Black has been reduced to a totally passive position by the simplest of means. 27...Nb5 28.Qxc6 Qxc6 29.Rxc6 Re6 [29...Bxd4 30.exd4 Re1+ 31.Nf1 Nxd4 32.Rc8+ Kg7 33.f3 does not bale Black out.] 30.Rc8+ Kg7 31.Nxd5 Ra6 32.g3 A nice,easy game to understand. 1–0


Jonathan Fowler asks: What is the best way to defend the Queens Gambit Declined?

I have always had a sneaking regard for the Tartakower Variation. Black embarks on an effective and wholly logical system of development.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6! The first key move, nudging the Bishop, blunting any battery with Bd3 and Qc2 and giving the King a back-rank bolthole should he need it. 6.Bh4 0–0 7.e3 b6!

The second key idea. Black has to develop his Queenside somehow. Left to his own devices Black will now play ...Bb7,...Nbd7 and the important freeing move, ...c7-c5! 8.Bd3 [8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Rc1 Be6! folllowed by ...c5 shows that Black's position can be flexible.] 8...Bb7 9.0–0 Nbd7 10.Qe2 c5 11.Rfd1 Rc8 12.Bg3 cxd4 Ginsburg logically downgrades the White pawn structure. 13.exd4 dxc4 14.Bxc4 Nb8 15.Ne5 Nd5 16.Ng6 More flashy than anything else. Black is able to cope comfortably because he has developed so logically. 16...Nxc3 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.bxc3 Qa3 19.Bxb8 Rxb8 20.Bb3 b5 21.Rd3 Qd6 22.Rad1 Bd5

The computers show equal, but my instinct tells me it is going to be easier for Black to attack the queenside weaknesses than it will be for White to do something on the other flank. 23.Rg3 Rfd8 24.Qg4 Qf8 25.Qf4 Kh8 26.h4 a5 27.Re1 a4 28.Bxd5 Rxd5 29.Rb1 Rc8 30.Rb4 Rf5 31.Qd2 Qd8 32.Rg4 Qd5!

Centralization is a key theme in chess overall. A piece is more powerful in the middle. Now Gheorghiu's position starts to go downhill. 33.f3? Cutting his Rook on g4 out of the game. [33.Qc2 g6 34.Rg3 Kg7 35.Re3 Rc4 36.Rxc4 Qxc4 37.Qb2 was a better stab at defence.] 33...Qc6 34.Rf4 Rxf4 35.Qxf4 Qxc3 36.Rxb5 Qc1+ 37.Qxc1 Rxc1+ 38.Kh2 Rc2 39.a3 Rc3 40.d5 exd5 41.Rxd5 g6 42.h5 g5 43.Rd6 Kg7 44.Ra6 Rxa3 Inevitable, but maybe this should still be a draw. 45.Kh3 Ra2 46.g3 [Holding the fort with 46.Kh2! is an alternative try to defend.  46...a3 47.Kh1 Ra1+ 48.Kh2 a2 (48...Kf8 49.Rxh6) 49.g3 Kf8 50.Kg2 Ke7 51.Kh2 Kd7 52.Kg2 Kc7 53.Kh2 Kb7 54.Ra4 Kb6 55.Kg2 Kb5 56.Ra8 f5 57.Kh2 Kb4 58.Kg2 I'm not sure I see how Black breaks in.] 46...a3 47.Kg4 Ra1 48.f4 gxf4 49.gxf4 Rg1+ 50.Kf5 Rg3 51.Ra8 Rb3 52.Kg4 Rd3 53.Ra6 Re3 54.Kf5 Rb3 55.Kg4 Rd3 56.Ra7 Kf6 57.Ra6+ Ke7 58.Rxh6?? [58.Kf5] 58...Rd6 59.Rh8 Ra6 60.Rc8 a2 0–1.

There are reasons why the Tartakower Variation has been used at the highest level for decades. Basically, it is totally reliable. 

Mark Godfrey asks about the best way to study endgames.

There's no doubt that in these days of fast time limits and long sessions of play, a good grasp of the endgame is essential. The endgames should be studied in chunks or thematic positions. When a standard thematic endgame appears on the board, you must be able to play it quickly and effectively. The best book by far that I have seen on the endgame is ' Fundamental Chess Endings' by Muller and Lamprecht.  You can work through the material methodically, using the training routine I outlined last week. Little and often!

Fabor the Guru asks about the tailoring of a study routine around family life. He has 2/3 hours per week to spend on chess.

I recommend variety. Do different things each day. Make sure you play as much as study. Do not only play internet chess; go out to a chess club and play face to face. Make sure you don't get stale or frustrated. Finally, keep fit. Far too many chessplayers are unhealthy, overweight. You have a much better chance to improve if you are in good physical shape.

Finally, Daniel Miller asks what is the most effective way to study the middlegame?

I would say its very important to see the chess game as a WHOLE and that the opening, middlegame and ending are all linked. Critical positions occur in a game of chess where a player has to think carefully about what to do. We can all play like the World Champion for 95% of the game,but it 's what happens the other 5% of the time that makes a difference. ANNOTATING one's own games is by far the best way to develop an instinct for these important moments in the struggle. You learn about your own strengths and weaknesses and how the game really ticks. Don't skip this; a lot of players are too lazy to look at their own games. How can they expect to improve?

I finish by showing a recent game by Svidler with notes by a top Grandmaster, where he focuses on the important stuff. Until next time!

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 h6 8.Bg2 e5 9.Nf5 g6 10.h3!? Cheparinov is willingly playing this line, where Black gets the material, but his position is extremely compromised and very risky.  See the move list for alternative lines.

10...gxf5 11.exf5 Nc6 The defender is playing with fire. Each move is worth its weight in gold and only the best defence can limit the danger lurking in this sharp position. [11...d5!? 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Bxd5 Nc6 14.Qf3 Bd7 15.0–0–0÷] 12.Qe2 Qa5 [12...d5?! 13.0–0–0 Bd6 (13...d4? 14.Bxd4!+-) 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Bxd5±]

13.0–0–0 Bd7 14.f4 Rc8? The whole experiment might have turned out favourably for Black, but he had to find the courage to test the limits of queenside castling.  [14...0–0–0!? 15.Qc4 Be8 (15...exf4 16.Bd2 (16.Bxf4?! Qb4) 16...Ne8! 17.Qxf7 Ne5) 16.Rhe1 exf4 17.Qxf4 Ne5] 15.Kb1! Nb4 [15...Be7 16.Qf2 Nd4 17.Bxd4 exd4 18.Qxd4 Qc5] 16.a3 Rxc3 [16...Nc6 17.Qf2 Qc7 18.g5 hxg5 19.fxg5 Nh5 20.Nd5] 17.axb4! Svidler is ready for the obvious counterplay. In the situation, where Black is losing the initiative Svidler's attacking setup will become powerful. [17.bxc3 Nbd5 18.Bd2 Nxc3+ 19.Bxc3 Qxc3]

17...Qxb4 18.fxe5 Ba4 [18...dxe5 19.Bd2 (19.Bd4 Rxc2 20.Kxc2 Ba4+ 21.Kb1 Bxd1 22.Rxd1+-) 19...Rxc2 20.Qxe5+ Qe7 21.Rhe1 Qxe5 22.Rxe5+ Kd8 23.Kxc2+-] 19.exf6! The most charming move of the whole game. White is ready to part with material, but insists on keeping the huge positional advantage. [19.Rc1?! Nd7 20.exd6 Kd8 21.Bd2 Qc4 22.Qxc4 Rxc4 23.b3 Bc6 24.bxc4 Bxg2÷]

19...Bxc2+ 20.Qxc2 Rxc2 21.Kxc2 d5!? Cheparinov badly needs to bring his pieces out of the cage, otherwise Svidler would pile up on the c-file with the devastating effect. [21...h5 22.g5 Qb5 23.Bd5 Qd7 24.Rhe1±] 22.Rxd5 Qa4+ 23.Kb1 Bb4

24.Bc5! The final subtlety, the black king is locked in the centre and will die a hero's death. 24...Qb3 [24...Bxc5 25.Re1+ Kf8 26.Rd8++-] 25.Re5+ Kd8 [25...Kd7 26.Re3 Qc4 27.Re7+ Kc8 28.Rc1 Qxc1+ 29.Kxc1 Bxc5 30.Bxb7+ Kb8 31.Rxf7+-] 26.Bxb4 Qxb4 27.Rc1 [27.Rc1 Qd6 28.Rd5+-]  1–0

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