[2018-05-31: Solutions can be found at Solutions to Danny’s Puzzles #1]
Rather than the usual boring articles where I rant on about every subject on the sun, I thought I’d change tack completely and try to produce something that is more interactive for the reader.
So the purpose of these articles is to give some scenarios that have might have occurred over the board, and ask the reader to come up with the solution to the problem. If you can give the answers in the comment section down below, then the best answer each week will win a free DVD from the Ginger GM shop.
You can’t say fairer than that, can you? The only condition is that the answers aren’t too computer generated. I will be checking each position with an engine, so if it looks as if you’ve just reeled off a lot of computer analysis, then you won’t be winning the prize. Basically very human answers are very welcome!
We are looking to cater for all levels on this website, so I don’t mind mistakes, as long as you are trying! The more answers the merrier as well, and if you’re the only one who’s bothered to reply in the comments section, then expect a DVD in the post!
To start off with I’m giving a position from the game Nakamura-Akobian, from the recent US championships. In that game “Naka” made an early pawn sacrifice with the thrust e5-e6! Akobian took back with the pawn, but he could easily have taken back with the queen, in which case they may have reached the position below.
The question is: find a good continuation for White in this position.
Ok, before we get on to talking about the next game, I want to get my weekly rant off my chest (you didn’t think you were going to get off that easily, did you?)
I’m thinking about the Shamkir tournament and what occurred in the last round. Magnus as so often was dominating, although he was in a position where if he lost in the final game to Ding Liren, Ding would have leapfrogged him and in fact it would have been the Chinese player who would have taken first place in this elite event.
The problem for Ding was, not only was he playing Magnus, the strongest player in the world, but he had the black pieces. In fact Ding allowed Magnus to very easily take the game along dull paths, with seemingly very little resistance in terms of trying to aim for something more dynamic.
The issue I have with this is that it seems to me that commentators are too ready to let a player off in such circumstances. “Oh never mind Ding, you had a great event, of course it’s always going to be tough playing Black against Magnus.” Of course it’s tough, but surely ultimately sport is all about winning, and if you’re in a tournament then you have to do everything to try and win?
Once again the comparison with other sports seems apt. Imagine a scenario where Barcelona are a goal down from the first leg and playing Real Madrid. They just happily accept the situation that they’re going to get knocked out, and don’t even try and score a goal. Or that Jordan Spieth needs a birdie to force a play-off in the last round of the masters, and just aims to make par. Spectators would be up in arms!
It seems to me that in other sports it’s all about winning - the media hypes up any kind of possible winner, however unlikely it seems. Instead of this Ding is in a chance to win and takes very few risks, allows Magnus to play a very drawish line. In some part I can understand this as I’ve been in similar situations myself and also taken wet draws, and especially in Ding’s case he knows he’s locking up a world number five slot on the live rating. So it’s not easy to completely commit but I believe that’s what he should have done.
Anyway, back to the puzzles. I realize that the reader might be familiar with some of these positions, because these are taken from actual games, but not everyone will be. This from a game also played in the US champs.
Black to play. You have a several candidate moves. Assess 1…Bg4, 1…Qa5 and 1…g5. Which move would you play and why?
Another game from the same round of the US championships, this time involving the surprise winner of the tournament, Sam Shankland.
Black to move - what plan would you employ here?
White has just played the very aggressive Qc6. How would you defend against this move as Black here?
That’s the end of the puzzles. You don’t have to provide an answer to all of them, but remember the best replies win a free DVD, and if only one person replies that will be you! I will give my answers in two weeks time.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
Danny’s first DVD for Ginger GM, Improve Your Practical Play was released in September 2013.