Thursday, January 2, 2014

DHLC Swiss 11, Round 2, "Wrong targets in a Grand Prix turns into draw”

Ready, Fire!, Aim... oops...

DHLC Swiss 11, Round 2, hreedwork v kasparov57349 (1/2-1/2)
This game illustrates important points in a chess game relating to targets, plans, pressure, tactics and attacks. Thanks to “dacster13” of for help analyzing the game, and for his structured method to help me understand how to build pressure in a position.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Bb5

White’s light squared Bishop has two main options, Bc4 and Bb5. In past games I have tried Bc4 with tough games and Be2 with bad results. Bb5 seems to give a playable game for me. For more on the difference between Bc4 and Bb5 plus general plans, try these videos:
4…Bd7 5.Nf3 g6 6.0–0 Bg7 7.d3 Nf6

 Up to this point, we have typical development. I am still a low rated player so I will not pay too much attention to exact and subtle move orders. However I do try to follow a “plot”. And this is the moment in the game where my concept of the plot diverges from “typical”. In fact I was mixing systems.
A typical Grand Prix wants White to attack Black’s fianchetto with ideas like Qd1-Qe1-Qh4 coupled with Ng5, to put pressure on h7. However during the game my mind was thinking more traditional Closed Sicilian, where White uses a [Queen Qd2/Bishop Be3] battery to force an exchange of Black’s Bishop on g7. In that case, in order to restrain the Black Knight on f6 from Ng4, thus forcing an exchange with Be3, diffusing the attack, White typically plays h3. 
So I am pursuing the wrong plan and the wrong target. At least I’m headed for the right quadrant of the board, lol. And eventually I sort out what I need to do. But it takes longer, giving Black time to defend, and I never quite got the execution to where it needed to be.
8.h3 0–0 9.Be3 a6 10.Bxc6 Bxc6 11.Qd2 Bishop, Queen battery is complete, but again, this sidesteps the thematic Qe1, Qh4 part of the attack. 11…b5 12.f5 b4 I understand from regular Closed Sicilian and the Grand Prix attack videos I reviewed (see above), that Queenside attack is typical. I fully expected this advance, and prepared the next move for this moment. 13.Ne2 a5 14.Bh6 Here I achieve the exchange of the Bishops, but I am not attacking in Grand Prix style. This means my target identification is wrong, so my pursuit is wrong. Fortunately I am in the vicinity so to speak, so eventually I regroup to the point where I am making threats, but then my execution falls short.

14...Qb6 15.Kh1 c4 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 Exchange complete, not on to an attack, but mostly accomplished with center pawns, and the f-file. 17.fxg6 Hanky panky before fully developing. I need to bring my QS Rook into play (perhaps Rae1), and/or bring the Queen into the attack (perhaps Qg5). Maybe even strengthening the position of my Knights. Reducing tension with a pawn exchange is probably not the way to go.  17...fxg6 Black should probably capture toward the center with ...hxg6. 18.Ng5. And here I start to collect my pieces around the Black King for an attack. In the meantime Black has been pursuing Queenside goals, but as slow as I am, that operation is even slower. So despite forcing some exchanges on that side of the board there isn’t too much going on, except needing to be mindful of the potential threat along the diagonals from Black’s Queen and Bishop toward the White King.

18...cxd3 19.cxd3 Kg8 20.Rf3 This is ok, preparing to double Rooks, but that never happened. Probably better is to increase pressure with Knights and Queen, as in typical Grand Prix attack. 20...Rac8 This move told me Black wasn't sure about how to counteract the Kingside attack. This lets White recoup from the weak Rf3 move just played. 21.Ne6 Rf7 22.Qh6.

Finally, White has both the Knight and Queen close to position. Ideally the Knight would be on g5, so there is a double attack on h7. But then h7 could simply move. However a White Bishop on h6 could restrain the h7 pawn until the right moment. But I exchanged that Bishop off a while ago, so now what? Despite the shortcomings, White for a while manages to build some pressure and keep Black occupied. 
22…Bd7 23.N2d4 Good intentions, but better is to reposition the Knight on e6 with tempo, then bring up the other Knight. 23...Bxe6 24.Nxe6 Qb5 Here I thought White was all done with the attack due to the Queen. But I think there are still possibilities.  25.Ng5 Rg7. Here White can bring another undeveloped piece into the attack with 26.Raf1. This could help intensify the pressure. Instead White relaxes the pressure somewhat with 26.Ne6 Rf7 but alas, I didn't see all the possibilities, and considered the position a draw, so I steered toward a draw. Preconceived notions limited my true possibilities. 27.Ng5 Rg7 28.Ne6 ½–½

Deep Dive, Cultivating a Target

Part of where I need to focus and improve is my conception of targets, and how to cultivate them. Credit goes to “dacster13” of for help in this area. Below is a short sequence of diagrams he developed to illustrate an organized way to think about cultivating targets.
Consider the diagram below which is a partial schematic of the Grand Prix attack. We see the target is the f7 pawn is the target (as part of an attack along the h-file). The dark squared Bishop is there to restrain the h7 pawn, and at the right moment exchange Bishops, and exposing the h7 pawn to attack. In this case we see the target, we see restraint on the target, and we see one attacker. Black has one defender (Black King), so White needs more.

Now let's add one more attacker so we have two attackers on h7, and still one defender, we get the diagram below. Note that this setup of pieces requires a coordination of opening moves to achieve this in as few moves as possible. The Bishop on h6 still restrains the h7 pawn, with attackers Queen on h4 and Night on g5.

Now, let's add a defender for h7, with a Black Knight on f6. This holds the position. but introduces an important concept. The Nf6 defender is now constrained to f6 in order to hold the position. This increases the options for attack, for example d4 followed by e5. More options for the attacker is good, and is increasingly hard for the defender to keep up. Eventually this method leads to too many immobile pieces and threats which cannot be met, and either a loss in position and/or material is the result, see below.

Last, let's consider bringing Rooks into play. One or more can be added to the attack, either through the obvious pressure along the f-file, or also effective by a Rook lift over to the h-file, adding to the attacking force on h7, as shown below. A key point is that the art of attack, which I am still learning is how long to build pressure and potential threats, before executing the threats, in this case by Bxg7, exposing the line of attack down the h-file.

I mostly write these blogs to help me organize my thoughts and help me learn. As a bonus, I also hope this blog post is helpful to some other players.

-- Special thanks to dacster13 of
-- DHLC, Dan Heisman Learning Center (
-- MetroWest Chess Club (Natick MA):
-- SouthWest Florida Chess Club (Estero FL): 
-- Cape Coral Chess Club (Cape Coral FL):