Monday, June 24, 2019

According to the wizard of Kozhikode

After Murali's Queen sacrifice in Asian continental, another game featuring an even more spectacular Queen Sacrifice started making rounds across the internet chess audiences. This happened in a game between Grandmaster Mchedlishvili and International Master Rathnakaran in the ongoing 2nd Goa international chess tournament. I have been meeting Rathnakaran right from my junior days in various events. I can't remember even one occasion of not greeting me with a smile! A very pleasant and nice chap, but when it comes to Chess he becomes totally transformed. He could sacrifice many a material with utter disdain, but he would never take his eyes off your King for all his other niceties! As a player he is quite unique in modern Indian circles, as far as I know he is perhaps the only player who has no formal chess training, no deep study/preparation and a skill and understanding that is completely honed by self learning by playing tournament games as well as Blitz and Bullet online. So, nobody really knows how he perceives chess( not even himself!) and he lets his moves speak for him, When I came across his recent interview to Sagar Shah ( immediately after the game) I really enjoyed listening to it. Sagar has done a great job of making Rathnakaran speak a few things about the game which give a glimpse of whats happening behind the scenes in his mind! This was extremely interesting and I think it would benefit chess lovers at large, so I am discussing the game with some comments of my own. I also kept in mind not to interfere the artistic aspect of the game and have reduced my comments to the ones which are absolutely necessary and in a way not to obstruct the view of Rathnakaran's comments.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Queen Sacrifice

"For it is in giving that we receive" -St.Francis of Assisi

Right from the times of Greco until the current day, the idea of sacrifices in chess has appealed to both amateurs and professionals alike. Masters of the yesteryear valued the spirit of chivalry very highly and would even stake their quest for victory in order to create artistic beauty. Perhaps, things have changed a little bit nowadays with the advent of better defense aided with advent of powerful chess engines refuting( in theory) daring and beautiful attacks through cold blooded defense( though, I have to admit, who knows how Alpha Zero has changed even the perception of the engines! ) Nevertheless I know that all of the players aspire to create a lasting masterpiece over the board. If sacrifices appeal to the artistic side of a chess player what can be a better way than to sacrifice the most powerful of all pieces- the Queen?

   While observing the games from the ongoing Asian Continental Chess Championship at China, the following position from the first board duel between two talented youngsters caught my eye.

This is the position after White's 9th move in the game between  the Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja and Karthikeyan Murali of India. Here after 21 minutes of thought former National Champion Karthikyan came up 9...Qxc3!!  From the time spent I infer that it was purely an improvisation over the board than a result of detailed home preparation( which makes it even more impressive!) The sacrifice is purely positional one and there are no forced lines leading to clear assessments in the near vicinity. I do not ( or even want to!) know whether the sacrifice is objectively the best continuation and so on. But things are clear that as a practical player the opponent is in for a big shock when you sacrifice your queen this early in the game for 2 minor pieces.  There can also be thoughts such as " I need to refute this impudent sacrifice etc" which can be counterproductive to a calm thought process. So all in all a brilliant psychological master stroke, but things do not end there! Thinking purely in chess terms also I like the fact that Black gets 2 minor pieces and a pawn for the sacrificed Queen and apart from that wrecks white;s pawn structure a little bit and gains good sole control of dark squares of the board. But all said and done, a Queen is still a Queen and it still requires great guts and imagination to sacrifice it!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Three More Endgames

     Yesterday's game between Cheparinov and Firat from the European Championship rekindled memories of working on Aronian-Dubov World Cup game. Here, the position has a slight difference, both sides have f-pawns instead of g-pawns.

                           Cheparinov-Firat EU Championship 2018

This position was reached after White's 57th move Kd5.

Black continued with 57...Bc3? which is an instructive mistake. White won the game cleanly with 58.Ra7 + Kf6 59. Ra3 Bb2

60.Ra2 Bc3 61.Kc4! Be162.Ra6 1-0  with the idea 63.Kd4 next move and getting the same Zugzwang as in Aronian-Dubov game which I had analyzed earlier in the "Tale of Three Endgames".

However Black could have drawn this game if he had continued with 57...Bg7! or 57... Bh8! 
                           An Important position to remember!

The difference between this position and the one with g-pawns for both sides is that Black's Bishop has two hiding squares behind his King on f6, namely g7 and h8. White's Rook and King duo can never force a Zugzwang as Black always has the moves Bh8-g7-h8. Although this seems counter-intuitive Black should know that he should hide his Bishop in the rear to hold this game! There were 2 more games from very similar positions.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fortress in the Endgame

" In order to improve your game, you must study endgame before anything else" - Capablanca

The Importance of studying the Endgame in Chess can never be overstated.As the Cuban World Champion has said, it is very important for every student of the game. I would like to deal with a couple of examples on the topic of fortresses in endgames. It always appeals to the spectator when a side with a material disadvantage holds his own in a seemingly lost battle. Like the attractiveness of sacrifice in chess, this too captures the imagination of players and annotators alike.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Tale of Three Endgames

"Those who say they understand Chess, understand nothing"- Robert Huebner

The recently concluded World Cup brought a lot of joy to the spectators in the form of dramatic and captivating games. One such game was Aronian-Dubov. The endgame that arose with a Rook and Pawn versus a Bishop and Pawn looked rather simple. But as the game went on it was not at all clear whether the position was a fortress or white had a way to breach it. While discussing the game with my friends Grandmaster Vishnu Prasanna and later with International Master Konguvel, I came to understand how complex the position actually was and how little was I understood when taking a casual look at the position. My Special Thanks to Vishnu for inspiring me to take a deeper look and Blog rather than being lazy and to Konguvel for pointing out Dvoretsky's Endgame and sharing his thoughts. Here are my thoughts about Aronian's endgame.

                           Aronian-Dubov 2nd Game 4th Round World Cup

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Game of Exchanges- Part 2

"There is no such thing as an even trade"- William Lombardy

In the last part we have seen some modern games. So it is now time to take a look at two classical games!