Choosing Candidate Moves
I believe that it is always better to do a decent moves, than sometimes find genial combinations, but from other hand - often make mistakes in calculations and evaluations. Stability is always better. How we can improve quality of our moves? Or how we can make right decisions in the critical moments? There are special searching systems that can help us and in this article I want to talk about one of them. First of all we need discipline and patience to develope necessary skills. After that we have to look for candidate moves according to next subjects:
Let's analyze all 4 themes and their meanings.
1. Pieces: We have to look for the ways to improve position of our pieces. Also, if we can make passive any of opponent's pieces.
2. Pawns: It is similar to the first subject. We need to notice all possibilities that improves our pawn structure (for example getting passed pawn, advanced pawn, better flexibility of the structure ect.) and also options to weaken opponent's pawns.
3. Exchanges: Is there any kind of exchange (piece/pawn) that clearly would be in our favor?
4. Prophylaxis: After finding candidate moves from previous themes, we have to think if there is some positional or tactical threat from the opponent? In this case we definitely have to pay attention to the opponent's last move. After analyzing all these 4 subjects and getting final "pack" of candidate moves - we have to make our choise for the optimal continuation that is also quite responsible process.
Looks difficult and complicated, but nobody says that we need to use this system for every new move. System can be very useful at least in critical moments.
Let's see how everything can happen in practice:
First of all let's evaluate the position. What can we say about pawn-structure? Black has 3 islands and normally it's not a positive thing. It's hard to protect many separated pawns. Maybe we could consider that d5 pawn is passed pawn, but as there are still a lot of pieces at the board - I can hardly believe in it. d5 is isolated and blocked pawn that makes passive e6 Bishop (signs of the "bad bishop") at the moment. If we'll imagine that all the pieces have dissapeared from the board - White has winning endgame as they will get corner/far away located passed pawn on the Queen's side. So, with the pawn structure everything is clear. What about pieces? Here also White has slight advantage - their pieces are a bit better developed. There are no dynamical motivations in the position as we have statical endgame and it's quite easy to make conclusion: White is better.
Now we have to use our searching system to find candidate-moves and make choice:
1. Pieces. Can we improve position of our pieces? Yes! Rook a1 is still out of the play and it looks very logical to play 1. Rac1 taking the open file. We have first candidate move, but we must not stop so quickly. There are also some other possibilities. For example simply 1. Bd4!? Can we make passive some of opponent's pieces? Yes! for example very positional and technical move 1. f2-f3 that takes under control g4 and e4 squares and knight f6 starts feeling very uncomfortably.
2. Pawns. To be honest, pawn structure is very simple and there are no too many possibilities. For example same 1. f2-f3 that we already mentioned in case of disturbing knight f6. 1. f2-f3 also opens some space to the center for White King. something else about the pawns? Can we weaken opponent's structure? Not really. Could be considered 1. a2-a3 with idea of b2-b4, but I don't see reason to rush with this when some of our pieces are still waiting to enter into the game.
3. Exchanges. We can clearly see 2 potential possibilities to exchange pieces. 1. Be3-c5 exchanging good bishop of the opponent and 1. Na4-c5 trying to get pair of Bishops. Are both possibilities in our favor? I think yes. Just matter is which one of them can be more useful.
4. Prophylaxis. Does Black threaten anything? Not really. So we already have "pack" of candidate moves:
a) 1. Rac1
b) 1. Bd4
c) 1. f2-f3
d) 1. Nc5
e) 1. Bc5
Which one would you choose?
Let's compare moves. I think 1. Rac1 is more useful than 1. Bd4 as there is no rush with improving already developed bishop. Would be better to bring the Rook into the game. I would say same about f2-f3 as 1... Ne4 or 1... Ng4 hardly can disturb us. At the moment these jumps of Knight would be just loss of time for Black.1. Nc5 or 1. Bc5 are more concrete decisions. I personally think that exchanging knight for Bishop e6 is not such a big deal as Black improves pawn structure in the center and d5 pawn is not isolated anymore. However, it still offers solid advantage to White. 1. Bc5 is also very good idea as guarantees c5 square for knight and we start pressuring a6 and e6. Black has to lose time for 1... Rfe8 after 1. Bc5... Fischer played:
This move together with 1. Nc5 are the first lines of the computer engine. Later 1. Rac1 and 1. Bd4 are coming. So, this logical system of finding candidate moves let us to make quite good decisions.
1... Rfe8 2. Be7 Re7
Let's use our system again! Maybe we mechanically want to play 3. Nc5, but we agreed in the beginning that Chess need discipline and patience.
1. Pieces. 1. Nc5 will be answered with 1... a6-a5 and I don't think that attack of the pawn gave to us huge credits. Black moved their weak pawn to the better square and that's all. We also have 1. Rac1 (just bringing piece into the game) and 1. f2-f3 (improving pawn structure and making passive f6 knight) Probably that's all about pieces.
2. Pawns. Well, again 1. f2-f3 of course... We already knew this. Also would be so nice to fix Black pawn on a6! it would become permanent weakness for them and would make e6 bishop even worst. So, maybe 3. b2-b4? it does not look like fixing a6 pawn as they can move 3... a6-a5, but then we can just advance our b pawn 4. b4-b5! It becomes very strong passed pawn supported by almost all white pieces and it's hard to block it.
3. Exchanges. At the moment there are no more exchanges. Black would be very happy to exchange their e6 bishop for white knight after Nc5-e6. So, I suppose we are not going to help to our opponent.
4. Prophylaxis. Black is too passive for creating some threats, but maybe they would improve a bit their position by playing a6-a5! Pawn moves to the less attacked square and Bishop e6 feels a bit more comfortable.
So we have next candidate moves:
and this time it is quite easy to choose the best one.
And again this is the first line of computer engine! Later are coming Rac1 and f2-f3.
3... Kf8 4. Nc5 Bc8
Let's practice again!
1. Pieces. We have 5. Rac1. At the moment I don't see what else we can do in case of piece activation. There is of course also our old friend - 5. f2-f3 to passive f6 Knight and open space for our King.
2. Pawns. We already mentioned about 5. f2-f3. Also 5. a2-a4 could be played or just solid 5. a2-a3.
3. Exchanges. We have only one possibility - Rooks. But I don't think that 5. Re7 will be good move as it does not give anything to us, but helps Black King to come to the center. So, we decline this option.
4. Prophylaxis. I don't see anything that could improve Black's position or any direct threats.
According to these candidate moves probably I would choose 5. f2-f3. It as was played also in the game. Computer gives: 5. Rac1; 5. a3; 5. f4!? 5. Kf1 and only after these options we can see suggestion about 5. f2-f3... But I don't think that it is very important point or we made wrong decision. f3 (probably most human decision) also guarantees big advantage and computer approves it with evaluations.
5. f2-f3! Rea7?!
Passive move. Probably Petrosian wants to liberate c8 Bishop.
White has very pleasant position and there are a lot of good moves. I don't think that we need some special order of moves. It is matter of taste for now.
1. Pieces. 6. Rac1; 6. Kf2; are most natural continuations. Also there is 6. Re2 - doubling Rooks or maybe more active 6. Re5 keeping the eye on d5 pawn!
2. Pawns. 6. g2-g4!? - already starting to get more space on the King's side. Knight f6 starts feeling very uncomfortable. Also 6. a2-a3; 6. a2-a4;
3. Exchanges. There are no exchanges in near future and we don't need them.
4. Prophylaxis. Last move of opponent was Rea7, that probably did not change the case of position. Ok, now Bishop c8 is free, but I don't see where it will go. We don't need to avoid anything.
Which move did you chose? I would play 6. Kf2. Fischer played:
Computer was suggesting 6. Rac1 as first line. then a2-a3, Kf2, Re5 ect.
1. Pieces. 7. Rc1. From view of activation our pieces and 7. g2-g4 in case of disturbing f6 knight. Also 7. Kf2 and 7. Rae1
2. Pawns 7. a2-a3; 7. a2-a4; 7. g2-g4 Everything is very logical
3. Exchanges. We have only one - 7. Nd7 exchange, but looks ugly for us. Why to exchange our beauty Knight for bad Black Bishop? But wait a minute! Chess is not only Strategy. We have also concrete decision - Dynamical play. 7. Nd7 Rd7 8. Rc1 allows us to use c file and very strongly activate Rook. Knight f6 is out of the play thanks to f3 pawn and our Bishop dominates. It is specially sensible as play can go on the both flanks. So, We must not decline so quickly surprising 7. Nd7 idea!
4. Prophylaxis. hard to believe that Black can have threats in such a passive position, but let's check it. Last move was 6... Bd7. Bishop can continue and move to b5. That could be good improvement of Black's position. Such a passive bishop goes on a good square and solves a6 pawn's problem. Furthermore, in case of exchange on b5 - Black Rooks will win a2 pawn. No, things start looking ugly for us. So, maybe we have to go back to the pawn structure improvement and also prophylaxis - 7. a2-a4 that avoids Bb5 idea? Looks good. We keep all credits of the position and Black stays under huge pressure.
So we have:
a) 7. Kf2
b) 7. Rae1
c) 7. Rc1
d) 7. a2-a3
e) 7. a2-a4
f) 7. g2-g4
g) 7. Nd7
But we already know that some of them can be easily declined as we know Black's idea and only 7. a2-a4 or 7. Nd7 would be left. Which one would you choose?
Fischer played 7. Nd7!? But computer prefers 7. a2-a4! giving even more advantage. In almost all old Books in the annotations for this game commentators are saying a lot of compliments to Fischer's choice, but actually it is not the best continuation. We don't need to rush here. 1. a2-a4! is very strong positional move.
In the end let's solve one puzzle as a continuation of our theme about choosing candidate moves: