Sunday, August 31, 2014

Continental Open 2014, Round 1, Attack and Defense

Continental Open 2014, Round 1, Li, Depei v Reed, Harvey (0-1)
This is a game where the phases of building up tension, attack and defense are very clear. The buildup of tension proceeds where Black induces, and White allows a LS pawn fence to be constructed, thus constraining White's LS Bishop. At the peak of the tension, Black has a Knight optimally placed on f4, and is preparing to place a second Knight on c5 after 17...Nd7, as shown in the game PGN.

NOTE: I am not sure why the game viewer I usually use is broken in Blogger; I'm working with the provider to fix. In the meantime, the full game PGN is viewable via the link below. Please open in a separate window to play along. The game PGN is very heavily annotated.


There is a locked pawn chain, and White cracks, allowing for a tactic, and an attack to start with material loss for White between moves 18-22. This is where Black puts on his "attack hat", and is focused on material gain, throwing his opponent off balance and so on.
The attack hat is cool. Very cool.

Black takes an exchange, plus a pawn in the process. Nice haul so to speak. As all attacks stretch resources, eventually comes a period where the attacker must consolidate and regroup. And at this precise moment must not allow significant counterplay. All chess is give and take, so some counterplay will be there, but if you can chose what counterplay and when, you can frequently steer the game in your favor.
In this game, Black overlooks a tactic and slips and doesn't contain counterplay. Here the two activities (avoid tactics and reduce counterplay) are related. The position demanded Black to consolidate and reinforce the position with 25...Rf8. Instead, Black went one attacking move too far with 25...f4. This allows an embarrasing tactic, and opens the door to considerable counterplay.
At this very moment White plays 26.Nxf4 taking a pawn for free. Huge embarrassment. Black has a choice (a) lash out and try to scare the opponent into caving (not likely because they are already thrilled and emboldened with the latest capture, or; (b) put the defense hat on, shut uo, be careful, and color inside the lines.

The defense hat is clearly not cool.
Other players walking by in the chess tournament will see you are under pressure. If you are prone to blushing, your opponent and everyone else will see you are feeling the pressure. That is ok. Defense is an honorable activity in a chess game. And as an extra bonus, Black was still an exchange up... if he can survive long enough to put it into use.
Defense happens.
In this case, Black needed to swallow his pride, do the consolidation which needed to happen earlier, except now constrained by White's pressure. However, chess is give and take, and when White is attacking, cramming a bunch of pieces into a small space, this actually gives Black room to defend, and in the process coordinate. All Black needs is some minor errors on White's part.
On 30.Bg4, such a minor error happened. White presumably is preparing a skewer of Black's Rook and King to get the exchange back. However this allows Black to offer an indirect exchange of Rooks with 30...Ne4. White tries to avoid the trade and keep the skewer possibility open by moving his Rook to attack the offending Knight. But the Knight is defended, and this gives Black just enough time to move his King to h8, and the skewer possibility is gone. So is the indirect Rook trade. But still this is ok for Black, becuase the "momentum" of White's attack is stalled becuase he is falling out of coordination. The focus of the attack was g7, but that is worth less as a focus now that the King is on h8. White moves the Rook to h3 to presumably get ready to attack down the h file, but he has too many of his own pieces in th way. In fact White is so tight on space that one of his Knights is trapped, and the only way out is to "sac" a Knight for a pawn on 38.Nxg5. After forcing more trades, by move 41.Rxh5+, White is now a full Rook down, and his lone Rook is not doing anything, despite a momentary check on that move.
White's last Rook is traded 44...Rxf5, and White's King is constrained in a 2x2 cell with 49...Rf3. Quuen the outside pawn and deliver mate with 57...Rh3#.
Moral of the story:
Attack is nice, but attacks don't go forever. At some point you need to consolidate. If your consolidation is difficult or poorly executed then you will be defending. Defending is ok too, it is all part of chess. Simply look for small errors, and work to uncoordinate the other side, and soon you will be reaching for the attack hat...
Happy chess!

-- DHLC, Dan Heisman Learning Center (
-- MetroWest Chess Club (Natick MA):
-- SouthWest Florida Chess Club (Estero FL): 
-- Cape Coral Chess Club (Cape Coral FL): 

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