Monday, February 12, 2018

Reading the board equals game result?

Reading the board appears a critical factor in one's chess results. It would seem that correctly understanding the current position, coming up with a suitable plan for the circumstance, and then seeing and correctly assessing probable future positions would greatly increase one's chances. If not chances of winning then at least one's chances of not losing.

One master of reading the board is Vladimir Kramnik. A former world champion, upsetting long time reigning champ Garry Kasparov in a year 2000 match, Kramnik is still one of the top players in the world.

Basically a positional style player, Kramnik appears to have a penchant for possibly provocative continuations. Sometimes this aggressive tendency backfires but more often than not it gains him an advantage.

Kramnik's over the board plans usually need a clear current and future board read to succeed. The following two games, which might be classified as positional queen sacrifices, appear to be good examples of his vision and daring.

The first is Kramnik - Aronian from the 2017 YourNextMove blitz tournament. After 14. Nxd5 Qe6, Kramnik snatches a pawn but faces a nasty pin on the e5 knight.

The game continues: 15. Bb2 Nc6 16. Nxc6 Bxf4 17. Nxf4 Qd7 18. Nxd8 Rxd8 19. Bxf6 gxf6.

Trading his queen for rook, knight and pawn. Kramnik apparently foresaw enough compensation with having no significant positional weakness and Black's shattered king side pawns. His probable assumption that he was at least equal seems correct as the game was drawn.

In Kramnik - Jones, Tata Steel 2018, after 16.Nxc4 Bg4 17.Qf1 Bf5

He goes for the Queen sac with: 18. Be3 Bd3 19. Bxd4 Bxf1 20. Bxf1 c5 21. Bxc5 Nd7 22. Bd4 a4.

Resulting in a rook, bishop and pawn for the queen. But Kramnik also realized that his passed b-pawn could become dangerous very quickly, Black's a-pawn would need a constant defense, and that it might not be so easy for Black to coordinate his pieces to handle both. I'm guessing that he figures he's better and engine analysis seems to agree.

To sac a queen for a potential non material advantage takes some daring. But to be successful, it also takes an extraordinary ability to properly see and assess the future board position. These examples suggest Vladimir Kramnik reads a board as few others can.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Getting an edge through opening knowledge.

Sergey Karjakin is a very strong grandmaster. Awarded the GM title when he was only 12 years old, Karjakin is also a known expert with the Queen's Indian Defense. In his 2016 Candidates tournament win, setting up a World Championship challenge against Magnus Carlsen, Karjakin played 5 Queen's Indians out of a total 14 games.

Earlier, in 2008, Karjakin faced former world champ Anatoly Karpov's QID as white. Karpov, no stranger to the QID himself, offered his opponent the opportunity to enter an aggressive 4...Ba6 6...c5 white pawn sacrifice line.  Karjakin mixed it up further with a temporary Knight sacrifice on the f7 weakness.

The position after 10. Ne5 Bc6:

Karjakin followed with 11. Nxf7 Kxf7 12. Bxd5 Bxd5 13. Qf5 Ke8 14. Qxd5 Nc6 and gets:

Though he did not gain any material advantage, it appears Karjakin did get a noticeable edge.

1. Black is now unable to castle.
2. White has an initiative on the half open d- file.
3. White has a mobile king side pawn majority.

I believe Karjakin had seen this tactical possibility in his work studying the QID.  With the plusses gained through that knowledge, he was able to maintain the initiative and eventually push home a winning king side pawn in this game.

A very nice and instructive win by Sergey Karjakin. A game well worth checking out.