Candidates in Forcing Tactics
Over the last few days I have been looking at a few more difficult tactical positions (for me) - white to play and win and similar puzzles. Really I have been trying to stretch my visualisation and calculation. However, I have been finding that in some situations it is not my ability to calculate that has been letting me down, in many of them, but my choice of candidates.
I have selected two examples below. If you want to play along give yourself 4-5 minutes on the first example and about 10 minutes on the second. At least this is the time I spent on these. (In the end I am interested in spending the same amount of time I could invest in such situations OTB at club times, but perfecting this can wait a little.) Obviously you cannot move the pieces below on the board as the whole point for me is being able to calculate as you would OTB.
How I Thought - Position 1
In the first position I felt the choice of candidates were fairly limited. Nxf6+ is the move that immediately stands out clearly, especially as it is obvious that black has to take this or the queen mates next move 1...Kh8 2. Qh7#.) In fact faced with such a clear move I think I just jumped right in quickly and analysed that line. 1. Nxf6+ exf6 2. Be4 but then black has 2...Bg6. How about 3. Nd6 or 3 Bxg6 hxg6 4. Qxg6+ Kh8 and then try to get the Knight involved with 5.Nd6 but then Qd7 looks OK for black though white can throw a check in and relocate the knight?
White looks dangerous here can maybe force a draw, but no immediate easy win (remember I was still looking at the starting position). I looked around, backtracked a little went to the start position, considered and dismissed 1. Ng5 and then looked at the solution. (Perhaps I should have given myself longer?)
Solution - Position 1
Well done if you found that. (Position taken from Tactics Trainer 2000-2200 range.) So in conclusion again my calculations seemed accurate, what let me down was in not finding the 1.Ncd6 candidate. Interesting to note though it had figured in my combinations. A coach I had once said it is often a good idea to invert moves in tactical sequences and this is perhaps an example of that in action? The bottom line though in this position was that I should have aimed to explore more candidates from the outset and not to fixate upon one move, even if it seemed to be the obvious continuation.
This position I set up on the board and gave myself 10 minutes. I didn't write down my thoughts but they are fresh in my mind. I thought this was a good position and the sort I am interested in because if you where playing white here OTB you would likely suspect that white has a forcing sequence available. I suspect that black's last move must have been either c7-c5 or c6-c5 so if you had time here you wouldn't automatically play something like Nf3.
Anyway, white has a lot of options here, too many perhaps which in fact was my downfall I think, white is very candidate rich in terms of forcing tactics. He has three queen checks, a rook check and two knight checks as well as a host of other useful looking moves like for example Nxe6 or Rxf6. True a lot of these checks appear to be going nowhere like the queen checks but they still have to be considered. So with these on board I saw the six checks and two interesting looking captures, especially Nxe6 which I liked for some reason.
I first looked at 1. Nxe6 figuring the knight has to be taken on account of 2. Rxg7+, Kh8 3. Qxh6#. However, there seemed little joy as 1...Qxe6 or 1...fxe6 seemed to work. Shame that the bishop on e7 stopped the knight fork on g5 and the win of the queen.
I then started to eliminate the checks and think I calculated accurately that none of them appeared to work and was happy with my workings, though now my time was up, I had burned out and I had really found nothing concrete at the end of 10 minutes. So I looked at the solution in the book.
Position 2 - Solution
The position as written in the Chess Travellers Quiz Book by Julian Hodgson:
1 Rf6! (threatening Rg7+) 1...Bxf6 (1...cxd4 2. Rxg7+ Kxg7 3 Qxh6+ Kg8 4. Qg5+; 1...gxf6 2 Qg4 mates on g7; 1...g6 2 Ng5+ Kg7 3 Ngxe6+ fxe6 4 Rfxg6+! mates) 2 Nxf6+ Kh8 (2....gxf6 3. Qg4 again) 3 Qg5! hxg5 (or 3...Rg8 4. Rh3 mate. 10 points. Quite snappy for a ten-pointer, but there are a lot of side variations. 8 points if in the main line you chose a slower win at move 3.e.g. 3. Qg4 g6 4. Qf4 Kg7 5. Qe5.
Well the author here thought the position was 'quite snappy' but grudgingly admitted there were a lot of side-lines. Overall quite hard I thought, but the point is to try and stretch my calculations here. The main line runs:
It is not important that I didn't find this position and I only expect to find 1 out of 3 perhaps at this level, the point here for me though is that although there was a lot of candidates to start with, at least seven or eight that you have to consider, the winning continuation was another candidate yet again in Rf6. Well done if you found this by the way. It was a tricky move so I am not surprised that I didn't see it and Qg5 was too. What I can take from this position though is that I need to be able to elminate potential candidates much more quickly, so that I can then stand at least a chance of finding moves like Rc6 here - a ninth candidate move perhaps? I had spent too much time in elminating the other candidates that I had no time to search for more, I was already overwhelmed by the potential candidates. Again though, my calculates were accurate. None of these lines went deeper than five moves ahead, most of them three, it was just all about how to deal with potential candidate moves, something that these positions and other puzzles have drawn my attention to and something that I will be working on in the coming weeks and months.