[The first part of this article can be found at Danny’s Puzzles #1]
I was impressed by the response that I got to my problem solving article. Unlike most of the articles I tirelessly put up on gingergm.com, I actually got some responses!
Unfortunately there were one or two problems. Firstly it was impossible to tell if people were using an engine or not, so the answers had to be taken on trust. Clearly the other problem is the higher rated players will come up with the best answers. As I stated in the original article, the prize won’t always be awarded to the player who comes up with the technically best answers.
In the first game, I asked what was White’s best continuation here.
A nice game to analyse as the lines are forcing. Basically the crucial idea is Rxb7! Key point to remember - when attacking, look out for sacrificial ideas that might bust an obdurate defence. Winning a chess game ultimately isn’t about how many pieces you have at the end of the game, but about checkmating the opponent’s king.
In this next example, I wanted you to analyse three possible candidate moves and decide which one was best. The three choices were 1…Bg4, 1…Qa5 and 1…g5.
This game could really be labelled under the heading “Don’t try this at home folks.” Although Caruana won this game due to the aggressive …g5, we are talking about a player with a very high understanding of dynamic play who can clearly understand when to make such moves and when such play might be too risky.
What I don’t want is for readers to start throwing their pawns up in front of their king, but more to understand that pre-conceptions regarding such play as always being too risky are clearly wrong. Judge each situation on it’s merits.
That’s why I found the comment by Edward Welsch in regards to this problem as being quite revealing. He rejected …g5 giving the reason “g5 unnecessarily weakens our king’s position.” That’s right. Don’t weaken the kings position if it’s unnecessary.
However, here some rudimentary calculation can demonstrate that a few moves later White is under serious pressure, so there are many situations where throwing the pawns forward is justified. What we can learn from this example is to focus on our calculation. If our calculation is good, then we won’t keep getting confused worrying about general principles.
The next game was very similar to the Caruana game.
Shankland went on to outplay his opponent and score a crucial win. I find it very interesting that two very modern players, in Shankland and Caruana, were not afraid to weaken their king if it meant recieving an immediate gain in dynamic chances. Clearly this is a lesson for all of us, that the idea that playing weakening pawn moves in front of your king is always bad, is simply a faulty concept.
This is the final example. White has just played Qc6! A good final try, and the question was what is the best way of meeting that move?
It was very hard to evaluate but I’m actually going to give the prize to Edward Welsch, although it could easily have gone to Mr JS-1000 or Jens Nissen. I did suspect though that Nissen had an advantage over the other players in terms of rating, that might not be correct but as I said before it’s not always about giving the most accurate answers.
Congrats Edward, please contact us at [email protected] to arrange your prize! And thank you to everyone that had a go.
Hopefully I can run a similar competition in the future. A good prize to win could be an hours masterclass with the Ginger GM himself - perhaps on Harry the h-pawn play? Or maybe a signed picture from Charlie the Chess Cat.
I do think this way of going through the positions, explaining why such and such a move might be good and some other move might be bad, is quite useful. I also feel I’ve learnt a lot about some of these positions as well, because I’ve had to think about them more carefully than I might have done otherwise.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
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