Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Understanding Compensation

I realise that I am overly materialistic as a chess player, and my understanding of compensation is pretty weak. I'm not sure why this is, as when I was younger I enjoyed sacrificing and attacking chess. I guess that my sacrifices were always based on attacking or tactical ideas, and not on positional ideas. I tend to be a pawn grabber who tries to hold on to material. Is it possible to remedy this situation, or is it even necessary?

Of course it is important to fully understand all aspects of the game, and to be able to apply those ideas in your games, but I really have no problem adopting a style of play. And I suppose I am always going to be taking poisoned pawns, or defending against gambits. One gambit that I've never looked at too deeply is the Evan's Gambit, at least not in terms of working out a black repertoire.

As a lazy...oops, sorry, I mean time constrained player, I'm looking for repertoire choices that are easy to understand and not too complex to learn. The only trouble is, cutting corners and taking easy to learn lines can often mean playing inferior positions.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4!?

So white just gives up a pawn? What does white get for it? For the pawn, white will get a lead in development and an attack against some key squares and lines in black's position. The more white wins I see, the harder I find it to choose a line for black to play. When I was young, the Evan's was not considered fully sound and so was not seen around too much. That was changed in the 1990's when Kasparov, among others, started to play it. For players of my generation, it is still difficult to accept it is fully sound, but proving it isn't sound is something else.

4..Bxb4 - It is possible to decline the gambit, though against my nature. 5.c3

The question is, where should the bishop retreat to, a5, c5, e7, d6? Funnily enough, the latter move is the one I have been choosing as a repertoire, 5..Bd6 or the Stoneware Defence. But I have found it difficult to play this system. I have recently seen a game with Nakamura on the white pieces, where black has an extra pawn but can do hardly anything, an excellent example of compensation for a pawn.

Games like this do nothing to inspire me to play this variation. Black grabs a pawn, and then takes a pounding, hoping that white's haymakers don't connect and somehow he emerges a pawn ahead. I think I have to put some work in to find something a little more active.

I recently played games where I underestimated my opponent's compensation, sat back and allowed them to gain more than adequate compensation for a pawn investment.
I was black here against Bill Jordan and expected Bill to take my e4 pawn re-establishing material equality. Instead Bill played 15.Nd5 using his development advantage to create threats. For the rest of the game I was unable to fully develop my queen side, and although we both traded blunders later in the game, I lost the game mainly due to Bill's more active pieces.

Until I understand the concept of compensation for material I will always struggle with positions like this, but playing and thinking about them can only help improve my understanding.

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