Claustrophobia in Chess

Claustrophobia in Chess

May 22, 2016, 8:11 PM |

That dreaded feeling in Chess ... all your pieces are trapped along the back ranks and you can't move!!


Ever since I ventured to the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, I believe I've developed a mild case of Claustrophobia. Whilst hunched over crawling throught these tunnels, tourists were taking photos in the group in front and behind me to the point where things were moving a snail's pace. Nowadays I get a slight panic in a lift if there is the thought it might break down.


The photo below was me before going into the Cu Chi tunnels.

I've always wondered whether Claustrophobic Chess players have a fear of Smothered Mate! Knightmare!!

When we feel cramped, our psychological instinct may be to lash out in the bid to free ourselves.

In Chess, this can be the worse thing to do.

On the White side of Ruy Lopez, my opponent atttempted Queenside expansion with ... f5 before realising this would critically weaken e5. He made a concession, which gave me control of light squares at f5 and g6. His pieces had to retreat to his first and second rank to prevent the invasion. After he secured any Kingside entry, psychologically I believe he was tired of being in a cramped position. 

Don't Open the Game when Behind in Development

Black to Move

My opponent played 21. ... c5 in an attempt to "free" himself. A principle of Chess is not to open the game when behind in development. With Black's pieces passively placed on his back two ranks, his Knight out of play on h7, only White can profit from the opening of the Queenside.


Thus after 22. Bd5 Ra7 23. a4 White takes over the control of both centre and Queenside.


Black should have given priority to untangling his pieces first.

Target Hunting

White to Move

With the Queenside open and the White Bishop's actively placed, I fixed my target on to Blacks a-pawn.

To that end, 28. a5 fixes the target of the a-pawn and prevents ... Na5.

There followed 28. ... Qb8 29. Rec1 Rc7 30. Bb6 Rxc1 31. Rxc1 Rc8 32. Rxc8 Qxc8 reaching the following diagram

The point of my play is that now 33. Qc4 ensures the a-pawn drops, or after exchanges on b6 White gets a passed b-pawn with Black's Knight on h7 out of play


Cutting off the King

Black to Play


My opponent ran out of time, but it is instructive as to how White improves his position and wins. One of Black's pieces is eternally tied to the b8 square, whilst the b-pawn is weak. 

A key idea for White is to cut off the Black King from the e-file. White's Bishop controls e8, his pawn controls e6 and the White Knight comes to d5 to control e7.

After this, the White King has a leisurely trip to the Queenside, whilst the Black counterpart can not oppose.

My Game Annotations and Analysis