Thursday, August 26, 2021

Mighty Blockading Knights

The first introduction to the game of Chess lay in the fascination of Knights for me. They are the most unique pieces on the chessboard and the ability to fork a King and Queen and/or Rook(s) were simply fascinating to understand as a child. World Champion Capablanca considers that the Knight is a very dangerous piece for an amateur but as one's strength develops he starts appreciating the value of Bishop. While, this is very true, the fascination with Knights nevertheless does continue as one grows into a stronger player with a deeper study of Chess Strategy.

When talking about passed pawns, Nimzowitsch was the first teacher who taught about blockading them. Of course this has always been known to masters intuitively and were employed in their games. Nimzowitsch discusses his thoughts about Knights being excellent blockaders of passed pawns. In addition when we come to the concept of protected passed pawns, there is no better piece to blockade than the knights. They not only block the passed pawns, but they attack its protector! This is only possible because of the Knight's unique movement pattern on a chessboard.

When looking at a recent game of Caruana against Shankland, I was very impressed with the strategic depth and control he showed in the game.

Caruana-Shankland Sinquefield Cup 2021

Monday, July 5, 2021

Hypermodern Games of Chess

'In chess the tactics may change but the strategic fundamental principles are always the same, so that Chess Fundamentals is as good now as it was thirteen years ago.' -Capablanca

Control of centre has been considered as  heart of Chess strategy from time immemorial. But as the Cuban World Champion has pointed out, the fundamentals remain the same, though application may change in course of time. I quote Capa from his edition of Chess Fundamentals in 1934:-

'In chess the tactics may change but the strategic fundamental principles are always the same, so that Chess Fundamentals is as good now as it was thirteen years ago. It will be as good a hundred years from now; as long in fact as the laws and rules of the game remain what they are at present.'

When Chess fundamentals was released for the first time in 1921, the Hypermodern era in chess had not flourished in full flow, whereas thirteen years later it had a great number of adherents- Reti,Nimzo, Tartakower to name a few and not to be left behind were the World Champions Alekhine and Capa too!

The Hypermodernists as they liked to call themselves came up with an idea that centre control need not be achieved only by pawn occupation of central squares, but can equally be done from pieces controlling the centre from flanks. Coming back to the Cuban genius' comment the fundamental principle of central control is all inclusive and gives one room for improvement as and when the situation arises. This is a typical feature in any artistic endeavour.

While taking a look at a recent game of Indian Super talent Erigasi, these thoughts about central control by various means were sparked. What if a flank pawn was given up in return for a central one in ordered acquire control of central squares? Surely this must be a method envisioned by Hypermodernists, right? 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Singular Strategy

 "This inexorable consistency in the realisation of his strategic conceptions is, in my view, the main trait of Boris Gelfand the chess player." Vladimir Kramnik

From experience we know that Chess is quite a complex game where we do not comprehend, leave alone control things on the board. As an observer, I have always been fascinated about a player having a wholesome vision of what is going to happen in the longer run and is steering his army in the short run always keeping the bigger picture in mind. This is clearly illustrated in classical games where one player is clearly stronger than the other and hence is able to carry his plan forward in totality giving quite an instructive view to the aspiring student. As many Gurus rightly feel, this has become increasingly rare in modern chess, because the contemporary master never willingly submits to opponent's will and instead throws the kitchen sink at him and even if he were to perish, would like to alter the course of the game. 

Nevertheless there are definitely few occasions in which a player dictates the course of the game as per his vision, and the rarity of such a scenario makes it even more special. Today being the birthday of one of my favourite players( Boris Gelfand) seems like a good time to discuss this aspect. I quote Kramnik from the preface to Boris Gelfand's book- My Most Memorable games( 2004)

'What impresses me most is his ability to create games, where all the moves, from the first to the last, are as though links in a single logical chain. This inexorable consistency in the realisation of his strategic conceptions is, in my view, the main trait of Boris Gelfand the chess player.'

As always World Champion Vladimir Kramnik is clear and to the point! I am sure Boris would agree with him regarding what he considers as his forte. Games at the very top where miniscule errors are exploited and a grand strategy comes to fruition always enthrall me. Boris Gelfand describes this trait of his playing style as one which ,he imbibed from his childhood hero- Akiba Rubinstein who had shown a consistent flair for this aspect in numerous games throughout his career. Let us get started with the chess part

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Question of Timing

 " Chess is a matter of delicate judgement knowing when to punch and how to duck"- Bobby Fischer

The Eleventh World Champion's quote is quite famous and profound. Chess as in life is all about timing. This includes the art of waiting. Knowing when to wait and when to act, would definitely be the hallmark of any great chess player or artist. A recent favourite of mine is this poem by one of the most famous Tamil poets of all time- Thiruvalluvar on the importance of timing.

"கொக்குஒக்க கூம்பும் பருவத்து மற்றுஅதன்
குத்துஒக்க சீர்த்த இடத்து "

A rough translation would be 'One should be like the Crane Bird, which waits almost indefinitely for its prey and when the time to strike arises swoops in on it.'

Thinking from the viewpoint of a chess player, this seems to be of primary importance. In fact this is also what Bobby said about Chess! I would like to share a few interesting game positions which stem from this theme.

Aronian-Jakovenko 2010 Olympiad,Russia

In the above position after 32 moves White continued with 33.Nf2!? 

Thursday, August 27, 2020


"யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி அறிதும்
செம்புலப் பெயல்நீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாம்கலந் தனவே "

இது குறுந்தொகையில் இடம்பெற்றுள்ள செம்புலப்பெயனீரார் இயற்றிய பாடல்
தலைவனின் கூற்றாக வரும் இப்பாடலில் , அவர் கூறுவது நம் பெற்றோர்களுக்கு இடையில்  உறவேதும் இல்லை. எனக்கும் உனக்கும் கூட எவ்வழியிலும்  முன்னறிமுகம் இல்லை .இவ்வாராயினும் நாம் இருவரும் அன்பினால் ஒன்று கூடுகிறோம், மழை நீரையும் செந்நிலத்தையும் போல. இந்த உவமைஅழகும் ஆழமும் பொருந்திய ஒன்று . மழை எங்கிருந்தோ வானத்திலிருந்து வந்து முன் பின் அறியா செந்நிலத்துடன் பிரிக்க முடியா வண்ணம் கலக்கின்றது. ஒன்றின் பண்பை மற்றோன்று உள்வாங்கி தத்தம் இயல்புகளை பரிமாறிகொள்கின்றன . இந்த பாடல் குறிஞ்சித் திணையில் அமைந்துள்ளது , அதன் உரிப்பொருள் புணர்தல் என்பதை தொல்காப்பியம் குறிக்கின்றது . அந்த வகையிலும்  இது ஒரு மிகச் சிறந்த உவமை !

Saturday, August 15, 2020

காலம் அறிதல்

 "பகல்வெல்லும் கூகையைக் காக்கை இகல்வெல்லும்

 வேந்தர்க்கு வேண்டும் பொழுது "

காலம் அறிதல் எனும் அதிகாரத்தில் வள்ளுவப் பேராசான் இயற்றிய முதல் குறட்பா இது. வெற்றி தோல்விக்கு காலத்தை புரிந்து கொண்டு காத்திருத்தல் வேண்டும் என்பதை எளிமையான உவமை மூலமாக விளக்குகிறார்.

எப்படி காகம் அதை விட வலிமையான ஆந்தயை பகற்பொழுதில் வெல்லுமோ  அதே போல் ஒரு நல்ல அரசனுக்கு பகையை வெல்ல சரியான காலம் வரும் வரை காத்திருக்க வேண்டும் என்கிறார்.