I like to take part in a few tournaments on chess.com, multi days per move with no rush and everything at a chilled pace. Of course it doesn’t always work out like that. I find myself so busy that I can’t think through the more complicated moves and leave them to contemplate later only to find I have ten games building up that I have to make moves on…And of course when I’ve signed up for the odd tournament while I wait for another round to finish suddenly I find several rounds starting at once and about twenty games waiting for moves! Aarrgghh!
Member Bernado from Chile has given me a couple of nice games in one of the tournaments but it was a knight outpost that won me the first game. It started with a good old Centre-counter, my e4 being met by the aggressive d5. I’m never keen on playing such an opening myself (and being a lover of the Sicilian I play c5) but facing it is never a problem. The Nf6 variation is always the most common, and currently I’m working towards the Marshall variation with 3. d4 NxP 4. c4 and a comfortable control of the centre. However, online I usually throw another variation in, a more tricker retaliation of Bb5+ (see diagram).
The game was fairly straightforward; a challenge for the open central file that led to exchange of rooks and queens; my inaccuracy where I exchanged a bishop for his central knight thus giving him the bishop pair; and a final position that saw my knight versus his bishop.
And this is where my game winning strategy took shape. It was simple; keep the pawns closed; on squares opposite to the colour of his bishop; and situate my knight on the outpost. Knight outposts, squares usually defended by pawns that the opponent cannot push the minor piece from, can be an extremely strong weapon. Though they sometimes don’t pose an immediate threat, the knight can lurk and wait, hovering for its moment to pounce. Strong outpost squares can result in forks, mates and the demolition of pawn structures. They can protect your own pieces, hinder the advancement of the enemy king, and snap up tactics that can win you the game.
Here the outpost on e5 allows the white knight to threaten both sides of the board. Black has to maintain the draw, the useless bishop unable to do anything except move back and fore. However, can the white knight actually do anything? In this position it certainly doesn’t look it but lets jump ahead a few moves and see just how the piece comes into play…
Fourteen moves later the knight is doing his duty holding the g pawn, blockading black’s king and preventing his entrance into the game, whilst the white king has marched around ready to push on the other side. Once advancement is complete, the knight will swoop in to achieve victory.
48. c4 Ke7
49. Kc3 Ke6
50. b5 d x c
51. b x a P x P
52. K x P
Now, nineteen moves since Ne5, the outpost suddenly makes sense. A black king move to d6 results in a fork, with white checking on f7 and gobbling up the g pawn. The knight also protects the g pawn, can jump to aid the white king’s attack, and more importantly threatens the c pawn. c5 is now available and the king stalks through.
52. ... Bd5
53. Kc5 Ke7?
And three moves later the game was mine. I always teach my juniors the importance of piece development and placing them on ‘better’ squares and I hope this game has illustrated the necessity. Piece placement might not be there for immediate use but it is ready and waiting for its crucial moment.