Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MCC Novice Group

Tonight I was invited to give a lecture to the Wednesday night novice group at the Melbourne Chess Club. It was a really good session with a very attentive and interactive group. I had some issues working out what would be good to present. What would be educational for a group of adult players between say 600-1400 ratings that they probably haven't thought too much about before?

I came upon the subject of exchanging as something which is rarely talked about in chess books. It is an essential piece of knowledge, and a critical part of our chess play. Anyway, here's the lecture, and a big thank you to Amy and Elizabeth for inviting me to present, and to all the people at the MCC who turned up and participated.

In preparing for this lecture, I used an old book by Taulbut and Jones called "Chess Exchanges" published in 1986.

Knowledge and Practice.

It is important to gain more knowledge, but it is equally important to be able to put that knowledge into practice.

 1..Rb2?? Allowed 2.2.Nf7+ leading to a Philidor’s Legacy checkmate 2..Kg8 (2..Rxf7 3.Qe8+ Rf8 4.Qxf8#) 3.Nh6+ Kh8 4.Qg8+ Rxg8 5.Nf7#

Knowing this pattern and being able to use it in a game are different things. Both black and white in the above game knew the theme, but black was unable to use the pattern to his advantage.

Take a look at the next diagram. 

This is from the game Aronian-Anand Wijk aan Zee 2013, and is probably already the most famous position of the twentieth century.Anand came out with the amazing 15..Bc5!? Which left Aronian with the puzzle of working out why he shouldn’t take the bishop: 

16.dxc5 Nxc5 17.Be2 [Not sure the best move here, but everything seems bad for white] 17..Qd4+ setting up a position based on the theme of Philidor’s Legacy! So Aronian didn’t take on c5, but retreated his bishop first, allowing Anand to make one of the most remarkable moves of all time:

16.Be2 Nde5!! Look at all the black pieces en prise! However, most can’t be taken because of the Philidor’s Legacy theme:

17.dxc5 Qd4+
17.exd5 Qd4+ 18.Kh1 Qg1+
17.Nxf8 Qd4+

17.Bxg4 is the only capture that allows white to continue, and was the move chosen by Aronian. However, Anand finished in style with 17..Bxd4+ 18.Kh1 Nxg4 19.Nxf8 f5! [Resisting 19..Qh4 when white has 20.Qxh7+ trading queens] 20.Ng6 Qf6 21.h3 Qxg6 22.Qe2 Qh5 [Threatening 23..Qxh3#] 23.Qd3 Be3 and Aronian resigned as he has no good way of preventing Qxh3.

Exchanging (the main part of the lecture)

Exchanging, or trading is such a basic part of the game, but who really thinks deeply about it? Yet every time we trade, the nature of the game changes, so those moves should be considered critical. Here are some typical trading situations:

Trades to break pawn structures
Trades to open lines
Trades of our bad pieces
Trades of opponent’s good pieces
Trades to get rid of defenders
Trades to get rid of attackers
Trading pieces when ahead
Trading pawns when behind
Trading to reach good endings

If there isn’t a good reason for exchanging, then should it really be done? Here’s an example of that:

Belyavsky-Stean Lucerne Ol 1982

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 [This pawn trade in the opening has given both sides semi open files, thus unbalancing the position] 4..Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 [Najdorf where often white seeks piece activity to counter black’s better structure] 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 [Risky Poisoned Pawn variation, where black goes further behind in development so as to grab a pawn] 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Nb3 [Now black’s queen is short of squares] 9..Nbd7 10.Bd3 b5 11.0-0 Nc5? [Black decides to trade minor pieces as he is ahead in material, and to ease the cramp around his queen. However, white is way ahead in development and uses this to trade to his advantage] 12.Nxc5 dxc5 13.Bxf6 [Removing the last of black’s developed pieces] 13..gxf6 14.Rab1 Qa3 15.Nxb5! White resigned as his queen is attacked as is c7. And if he takes on b5 it leads to disaster: 15..axb5 16.Bxb5+ Ke7 17.Rfd1 and mate follows soon.

Look at the following game and assess the exchanges that happen.

Capablanca,Jose Raul - Mieses,Jacques Berlin, 1913

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 d6 4.c4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.e4 0–0 7.Be2 e6 8.0–0 exd5 9.exd5 Ne8 10.Re1 Bg4 11.Ng5 Bxc3 12.bxc3 Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Ng7 14.Ne4 f6 15.Bf4 Ne8 16.Bh6 Ng7 17.Rad1 Na6 18.Rd3 f5 19.Ng5 Nc7 20.Qe7 Qxe7 21.Rxe7 Nce8 22.Rh3 f4 23.Bxg7 Nxg7 24.Rxh7 Nf5 25.Re6 Rfe8 26.Rxg6+ Kf8 27.Rf7# 1–0

(This was a really good exercise that was the most important part of the presentation. I think all the players present tonight will be happy to analyse games, at least in terms of exchanges, from now on.)

Alekhine-Chajes Karlsbad 1923. 

Knowing which pieces to exchange is a great skill, and it partly depends on your ability to know what you are trying to do in a position. Alekhine wanted to break through on the king side, which is not possible because of black’s light squared bishop. So, 48.Bh5! Ra8 49.Bxg6 hxg6 50.Rh7 [The result of the exchange of bishops is that white has penetrated with a rook to the 7th rank] 50..Rae8 51.Ne5 [Improving the knight as the trade will leave black’s queen in a tight spot and allow white’s queen to improve. 51..Nxe5 52.fxe5 Qf8 53.Qg5] 51..Nf8 52.Rh8! [Avoiding an exchange of rooks to keep the pressure on] 52..Rg7 53.Nf3 [Transferring the knight to g5 and giving e5 to the queen] 53..Rb8 54.Ng5 Re7 55.Qe5! [Alekhine realises that although his queen is good, black will be defenceless without his queen] 55..Qxe5 [55..Qg7 56.R1h7] 56.fxe5 Ra8 57.Rg8 [Doubling on the 8th rank] 57..b4 58.Rhh8 Re8 59.axb4 [Now that black has been reduced to total passivity, white takes a pawn] 59..Ka7 60.Kc3 Ka6 [Ok, so how to win?] 61.Nf7 [Improve the knight back to the centre with gain of tempo] 61..Rec8 62.Nd6 Rd8 63.Rh1! [The rook retreats and swings to the other side of the board to deliver mate!] 63..Rd7 64.Ra1 1-0

Best advice about trading:

1. Consider all checks and captures!
2. When ahead trade pieces.
3. When trading consider the pieces left on the board rather than those that are leaving the board
4. Once a piece is exchanged all its previous moves count for nothing.
5. When behind trade pawns

Hopefully, just being more aware of trading will help you to work out when is good to trade and when is not. It is a more difficult subject than most people think, and I’ve only really talked about simple exchanges. Some exchanging sequences happen across the board and are very complicated in their nature.

Steinitz,William - Von Bardeleben,Curt Hastings, 1895

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 Be6 10.Bg5 Be7

With so many possible captures, the position is a headache 11.Bxd5 Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 [Steinitz solution to the exchanges has left him with a development advantage which he uses brilliantly] 14.Re1 f6 15.Qe2 Qd7 16.Rac1 c6 17.d5! [A pawn sacrifice to open a square for the knight] 17..cxd5 18.Nd4 Kf7 19.Ne6 Rhc8 20.Qg4 g6 21.Ng5+ Ke8 22.Rxe7+!! Kf8 23.Rf7+! Kg8 24.Rg7+! Kh8 25.Rxh7+! Black resigned. After 25..Kg8 26.Rg7 Kh8 it is mate in 9! 1–0

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