Breaking down a combination

Oct 18, 2007, 1:53 AM |

Breaking down a combination can be a fun thing to do. I played a combination that was not so deep or difficult to find, but it took a lot of planning out before I built the courage to pull the trigger. It's not that the combination was so committal that I could not pull out, but my spidey senses were telling me it should work, and I had a difficult time working everything out.

For a patzer such as myself, the beginning position has a lot going on.

The first diagram here shows the beginning position. It can clearly be seen that white has a space advantage, but I remember being worried I might over-extend myself. Nevertheless I wanted to push for an advantage, and I had the feeling this was possible.

The black queen had just come from d8 to d6 to allow black to answer Nxc6 with Qxc6 instead of doubling the pawns.

This got me thinking... with the queen on c6 and the King on g8, this opens up the possibility of a knight fork on e7. The good news is I have a knight poised to go to the e7 square (from d5).

The problem is.. once the queen moves to c6, there will be the knight on f5 and the bishop on c5 both defending the e7 square. I shrugged the idea off, and looked for a "real plan".

The more I looked, the more the idea of Ne7+ kept poking at me. I remembered a game analysis of a game Kasparov played when he was 13 years old. He had sunk into thought for 25 minutes trying to figure out how to take advantage of his opponent's position. From there, he made 15 moves in 15 minutes and had a completely won game. The analyzer made the statement (and I paraphrase) 'Sometimes it's a matter of finding the thematic blow, and conjuring it up with whatever diabolical means at your disposal'. In that game Kasparov saw amazingly far ahead in the position, and had the whole combination worked out in his head before embarking on a very dangerous looking continuation.

I decided to work out a way to make Ne7+ happen. The first couple of moves are clear.

(see diagram 2)

1. Nxc6 brings the queen to the desired square... 1... Qxc6. 2. Bxf5 Bxf5 and the knight is removed from the defense of e7.

The first part of my plan was clear, but what now? Bd4? This does not oblige the black bishop to vacate the diagonal much less the c5 square, and an exchange on c5 would only take the black queen from where I wanted her. No, this would not do.

I looked at b4 but I didn't like the idea of opening the a file. I looked elsewhere, before finally deciding to work out the position on the practice board. Turns out, opening the a-file is not only okay, but very helpful to white in many variations.

Yes... b4 was definitely the way to do it. 3. b4 axb4 4. axb4 and the bishop is now obliged to vacate the c5 square. Of course the bishop drops back to d6, minding the e7 square, 4... Bd6. After 5. c5  now black has some concrete problems to solve. There is no completely satisfactory continuation that I can see, have a look for yourself: (see diagram 3)

I felt very good about my position and did not see any way for my opponent to wriggle out of the combination. The Ne7+ was not a foregone conclusion at this point, but to avoid it my opponent would have to throw away material and that to me of course was just as good.

My opponent's next move was not what I expected, at least not yet. I thought for sure he would exchange on the a-file and use the check Bxh2 to give him some room to work with.

But my opponent played a tricky move which unfortunately for him, did not work due to a tactical stroke.

My opponent played 5... Be6? which offers the exchange of white's powerful knight on d5 for black's endangered bishop on d6.

Luckily due to my extended "think" before the combination started, I had this move in mind... it's not difficult to find at all... but take a second and see if you can find my coup de grace? (see puzzle)








6. Qd4! is an obvious move, but in my "think" it took me a while to come up with it? Why, because I was so transfixed with the idea of Ne7+ that my blinders were on. I was simply trying to make Ne7+ work. Qd4! threatens immediate mate on g7 and forces 6... f6. A fatally weakening move. This is one very good lesson... keep flexibility of thought. Do not concentrate so hard on making one combination work that you overlook quicker or better combinations.

(see diagram 5) Here 7. Nxf6 was an interesting option, and may have even been better. If 7... Rxf6 8. Rxa8 Bf8  and 9. b5!! wins. While 7... gxf6 8. Rxa8 and black cannot take back on a8 leaving the f6 pawn ungaurded and white's position is uncontested.

But I played 7. Rxe6 which looks strong but after the possible 7... Rxa1 8. Bxa1 Bxh2+ 9. Kxh2 Qxe6 10. Nxc7 there is still a bit of technique needed for white to put black away.

My opponent played 7... Rfe8 8. Rxe8+ (Rxa8 was also possible here) Rxe8 9. cxd6 cxd6?? Black should have played 9. Qxd6, and while he is materially and positionally beaten, the final Ne7+ blow would not have landed.

The threat of Ne7+ has won the game for white, it didn't even need to be played at this point. But the position is now ready for it.

The final blow...

The game is over, the family fork has been delivered. (see diagram 6... final combination)

10. Ra8! Rxa8 11. Ne7+ wins the queen.

A very satisfying combination. Not extremely deep, and certainly would have been seen quickly by strong players, but it cost a chess-challenged guy like myself quite a bit of energy to conceive. The pay-off was exhilarating as the game played out more or less as I had envisioned. Again, the Ne7+ threat cost black the game long before it actually landed. Sometimes the thematic blow is there, you just have to work around the obstacles to get there.