Art of defense

oginschile
oginschile
Oct 25, 2007, 2:23 AM |
4

Children have wonderful ways of expressing their love.

My one year old sleeps with me and my wife, right in between us to be exact. She loves to feel the safety of laying between us, and at times will express her gratitude. There is no higher expression of a one year old's love than to dive bomb a parent's face with her forehead in the middle of the night.

It work's like this, she sits up, but she really isn't all the way awake. She barely opens her eyes and looks into the darkness. She notices a face below her, she smiles as this is the only thing she recognizes and she heads for it as FAST AS SHE CAN.

POW!!!

This of course brings me to the art of defense!

Defense is a part of the game that simply does not interest many chess players, and for those that try to pay attention to it, many find it more difficult to grasp than the attack.

But mixing a little defense in with your attack can ensure that your attack lands first. This is often the difference between winning and losing.

The following game is a very well-known example of defensive prowess, keeping a cool head under pressure, and of course... counter-attack.

The first diagram shows a position in the early middlegame of a classic duel between Keres and Smyslov. Take a second to look at the position.

Black has just taken a white knight on c3, how would you respond?

Bxc3 could run into Na2 forking the bishop and the rook. The position has a very real potential to open up so this is probably not going to be to a Grandmaster's taste.

However, lets look a little deeper. Look at the whole board... do you see anything striking?

I'm no grandmaster, but I would bet Keres looked and saw a whole lot of open squares on the kingside. Black's position is developed but is hardly fluid enough to funnel defenders to the kingside. Whats more, black just removed one of the few kingside defenders from e4 to take the knight on c3.

These things were not lost on Keres, so his plan for the game probably started to hatch here, or slightly before this point. He continues 15. Rxc3 avoiding the needless exchange of his dark squared bishop, and preparing to move his rook to the kingside.

The next phase of the game unravels seemingly favorably to Keres:

The first time I played through this game there were many moves that were mysterious to me. I remember looking at 19. Rch3 and thinking... but why? Didn't he see that Rg3 pins the pawn and protects the rook on h5?

Of course Keres saw this, the threat of course is 19... gxh5 20. Qxh5. A keen defender though will see that 20... Re8 opens an escape route for the king to escape to the queenside, a rook up. However, 21. a4 threatens to bring the dark-squared bishop to a3 hitting f8 and cutting off the King's escape.

So Keres obviously did not fear 19... gxh5, meanwhile heavy pieces lined up on the H-file create serious threats. So what does Smyslov do? One of the greatest attacking players in history is bearing down on his king's position. Can you find black's best move?

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Carefully consider black's dilemma.

Not a tempo can be wasted, or white's iniative will turn to an insurmountable attack.

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19...dxc4. White's choices now become very difficult. Black's light-squared bishop has been loosed creating now the threat of gxh5. Consider 20. Bxc4 gxh5 21. Qxh5 Be4! And now 22. Bd3 is answered by 22... Qc7! creating back rank mate threats. This move also opens the threat of a dangerous passed pawn (which indeed ends up winning the game).

So what does Keres do now?

***(play through diagram)

Keres appears committed to an attack doomed to fail, though it certainly would have overwhelmed a lesser man than Smyslov.

After 21... Qxd4 black dominates both light and dark squares on critical areas of the board. White's pieces which appeared poised for a mighty combination now find themselves with no scope.

Meanwhile, black's passed pawn is now a concrete threat.

Interestingly enough, this whole defensive scheme was based on NOT accepting the material on offer. Black never did nor ever does take the offered rook. Indeed white's problem was trying to make the attack work WITH the rook on the board.

With dominance achieved and white's attack reduced to little more than a fart in the wind, it is time for serious counterplay.

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A thrilling game complete with sacrifices, aggressive attacking ideas and defensive genius. This was the first game to turn me on to defensive ideas. White's pieces seemed destined for glory on the H-file, but turned out to be horribly inept, benign bystanders watching black's pieces slowly take control of the center and then the whole board.