Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Amateur’s Mind – Part 1

This is a re-print of an article by IM Jeremy Silman (JS) that appeared in Chess Life in January 1993. I think it is a great article that looks at the fascinating differences between how the different level of player evaluates the same position. We will watch a grandmaster (2400+) work, then see how a 1500, a 1700, an 1800 and a 2100 see it.- MN
Starting position - White to move.

JS: “All examples will start from the following diagram:
I presented this position from a game between Alehkine – Marshall (editor’s note: uh…neither one a wood pusher), Baden-Baden, 1925 to various students and asked them to figure out what was going on. Once that was done, we would finish the game with them playing White and me playing Black.
But, let’s first see how Alehkine took care of business:
1.       Qd2
A flexible move. White prepares to make use of his king-side majority with f4. He also now has the option of castling queenside.
1.       ….  Bd7
2.       Qe3!   
A very fine idea. Black is prevented from castling queenside (a-pawn would be hanging) and the Black queen is kept out of the d4 square (restricting Black’s play). Keep that square in mind as we look at how the amateurs handled this position.
2   …..   Bc6?!
Black decides to castle king-side, but it is rarely a good idea to castle into your opponent’s strength (pawn majority side). Better was 2. ….Qa5, then 3. ….O-O-O.
3.       O-O-O
With his king safely tucked away on the queen-side of the board, White can now advance his kingside pawns without safety concerns.
3           …..    O-O
4.       f4   Qe6
5.       e5   Rfe8
6.       Rhe1   Rad8
7.        f5     ……
White takes over the initiative because his advancing pawns gain tempos by attacking Black’s pieces. White’s assault is in full swing, while Black’s counter-attack has not even started.
 7    ….    Qe7
8.       Qg5   Nd5
9.        f6   Qf8
10.   Bc4!   ……
After 10. Bc4!
 From this point on every move is a hammer blow. Alekhine doesn’t give his opponent a moment’s respite.
 10   …….   Nxc3
11.   Rxd8   Rxd8
12.    fxg7!    …..
Taking advantage of the fact that the Black queen is the only defender of the rook on d8.
13.   Kb1!   …..
The “automatic” 13. Bxa2 would give Black a saving check at c5.
 13   …..    Qe8
14.   e6!   Be4+
15.   Ka1   …..
Of course 15. Kxa2??? Allows 15. …..  Qa4 mate!
 15 .  ……      f5
White wins in boring fashion after 15. …..   fxe6, 16. Bxe6+  Qxe6, 17. Qxd8  Kxg7, 18. Qd4+ followed by the capture of Black’s bishop.
16.   Ee7   Rd5
17.   Qf6   Qf7
18.   Ee8(Q)+   
Black resigns as it is mate in two moves.
This powerful performance by the legendary Alekhine was accomplished due to his insight into the possibilities of his opponent. He didn’t just note that his kingside majority was strong. He also looked into consideration the weaknesses that it’s advance would leave him with.
By shoring up these weaknesses before he advanced his pawns, he was able to force the Black army back into a passive stance.”
In the next post, we will look at how mere mortals handled this same position against an IM.

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