My pal asks: “How can I improve my game? I study the combinations and I often discover in playing over the great games from the past the correct solution to tactical motifs but I have trouble achieving those positions that offer up such brilliant combinational opportunities.”
So I pulled out some of my chessbooks from my library: WINNING CHESS, C.J.S. PURDY–HIS LIFE, HIS GAMES AND WRITINGS, and EMANUEL LASKER–THE LIFE OF A CHESS MASTER by Dr. J. Hannak.
One way to discover the answer is to seek out the thoughts and writings of thinkers and I do not always go to the moderns or even to the highest rated players in history to find such an answer to an age old question, or; in this case a common enough condition that most amateurs if not all chess players face at some point in their development.
Winning Chess, authored by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld, published by Simon and Schuster in 1948 for example says combinations can be broken down into simple and easily recognizable elements–the pin, the Knight fork, double attack, discovered check, and the double check. They then breakdown hundreds of positions illustrating those themes; added to this are a number of tidbits and quotes:
“Chess is as much a mystery as women–Purdy;
“The defensive power of a pinned piece is imaginary.”–Nimzowitsch;
“All combinations are based upon a double attack.”–Fine;
“Tactics is the most important element in the middle game'”–Tarrasch
“Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.”–Tarrasch;
“No middle game combination–however complex–can be anything more than a network of elementary and compound smites.”–Purdy.
One of Lasker’s favorite lines: “Besides this fear of danger, There is no danger here; And he who fears danger, Does deserve his fear.”
Now, let me mention here something I have not really touched on before regarding my square count theory that was, afterall, initially a way to map the course of a game’s ups and downs using a bar graph of every 5 moves and try to understand how perhaps players like Capablanca and Alekhine determined a plan and course of action. I came up with this idea because I was a rebel and always was interested in how things worked and what made a few great players different from the flock of masters who never quite fit the mold of a Capablanca or Alekhine. In his book CHESS FUNDAMENTALS, I discovered Capablanca’s comment on compound development which laid the grass roots to my early thinking in forming square count.
In essence, one cannot play strictly by square count theory which is illustrated in several of my writings. There are other factors that I pointed to such as the idea of function as featured in Purdy’s writings. That is to say, a piece that is defensive and its role is to defend either a square, a pawn or piece. It is one of the key elements of by careful study of such books as WINNING CHESS or other more recent books that provide tactics galore or computer programmed lessons on tactics and strategy. The basic idea is to acquaint yourself with the types of positions that occur on the board. For the more experienced player who learns to envision possible ideal attacks what can be termed jump start action thoughts that asks the question: can I bring about this position without weakening my own game might be a key to part of a solution of achieving those positions that seem out of reach and troubling to my chess pal. This takes lots of practice and study of master games where one has time to think out such ideas which actually develop from the game score. Discovery of visualizing even a part of the planned action is a step to visualizing a combinative idea–can that piece or pawn defending be removed from its “defensive function”? Another element to consider is the role of exchange or whether to win the Exchange is prudent if it relinquishes dynamic imbalances in the position or enables the opposition to carry out a successful King hunt. Does this have an importance to square count theory? It does because part of the square count is to provide protection of inroads into one’s own position by enemy forces. It is worth noting that every exchange has to be weighed in terms of gain of a tempo by one side or even by jump start of graduated tempi gains due to threats that requires pieces getting in each other’s way trying to defend. In this, a rule of Capablanca was to defend a threat with the least number of players necessary to achieve it.
Going back to the basic question at the beginning, it can be achieved by study that will foster improvement and chess savvy.
St. Petersburg 1909 was a great tournament held a century ago. It was at a time when a chess fever gripped the world of chess by the chess match between Lasker and Tarrasch where clubs, events, news coverage was rampant and such growth and interest spurred an abundance of new ideas, events, and opportunities for masters to compete and thus the St. Petersburg tournament brought together 19 among the best known masters of the day. The 18 round event saw the young Rubinstein and Lasker emerge tied for top honors with an equal 14.5-3.5 result. Lasker had won all 9 games as white and Rubinstein had the tiger by the tail whipping him in 40 moves in their individual contest. Lasker likewise lost his first encounters with Marshall and Tarrasch and subsequently never lost again to the trio which now included Rubinstein!
White: Rubinstein Black: Emanuel Lasker
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 c5
Lasker considered chess a struggle; it included training his sights on the opponent rather than merely playing by rote a variety of book moves most likely in the repetoire of adversaries. He often took risks and considered it more advantage than not as his overall record of results bore out over his long career.
5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nc3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nc6?!
More appropo was simply …Be7 inorder to break the pin and avoid white’s next moves which would allow him more options to respond.
8.e3 Be7 9.Bb5!
Here is a point of Capablanca about compound development (getting close to the enemy guts) and my square count theory.
9…Bd7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.Nxd5 Bxd4 12.exd4 Qg5 13.Bxc6 Bxc6 14.Ne3
Maybe Lasker saw this as a function weakness as the Knight has to defend the g2 square. Hence, on the surface it appears as though 14…0-0-0 15.0-0 Rhe8 16.Rc1!
Charles Warburton once noted that castling Q-side was dangerous because the King remains in the center complex.Black has the opportunity to gain time and decides to risk Q-side castling inorder to expedite his Rooks getting to the center files quickly. He can take the g-pawn as after Rg1 Qa5+ Qd2 Qxd2+ Kxd2 Be4 seems about equal. Lasker obviously wants to test his young opponent.
16…Rxe3 17.Rxc6+ bxc6 18.Qc1 Rxd4 19.fxe3 Rd7 20.Qxc6+ Kd8
White’s square count is going through the roof and leads Black now by 18/9, but most important is the fact that White dominates the position and has the beginnings of a strong attack. He now uses the Rook to cut off and lessen the power of the enemy Queen.
21.Rf4 f5 22.Qc5 Qe7
No help comes from 22…Rd1+ 23.Kf2 Rd2+ 24.Ke1!
23.Qxe7+ Kxe7 24.Rxf5 Rd1+ 25.Kf2 Rd2+ 26.Kf3 Rxb2 27.Ra5 Rb7 28.Ra6
Keeping the a-pawn under attack while cutting off any chance of the Black monarch to advance.
28…Kf8 29.e4 Rc7 30.h4 Kf7 31.g4 Kf8 32.Kf4 Ke7 33.h5 h6 34.Kf5 Kf7 35.e5 Rb7 36.Rd6 Ke7 37.Ra6 Kf7 38.Rd6 Kf8 39.Rc6 Kf7 40.a3 Black resigns (1-0).
As some readers may like the Eng. D. notation, I present one of Herr Lasker’s victories with the White forces.
White: Lasker Black: Vidmar
Ruy Lopez -Steinitz Var.
1.P-K4 P-K4 2.N-KB3 N-QB3 3.B-N5 P-Q3 4.P-Q4 B-Q2 5.N-B3 PxP 6.NxP P-KN3
Lasker in the tmt. book says this is a new idea which doesn’t work out well because White can adopt a different strategy from the usual B-K2 to B-B1 to P-KN3 and B-N2 as previously adopted as a Black strategy and opening plan.
7.B-K3 B-N2 8.Q-Q2 N-B3
I planned to meet KN-K2 with P-KR4 > P-R5.
9.P-B3 0-0 10.0-0-0 P-QR3 11.Be2 P-QN4 12.P-KR4 N-K4 13.B-R6 N-B3 14.BxN PxB 15.P-R5 P-B3 16.BxB KxB 17.PxP BPxP 18.N/4-K2 R-B2 19.QxQP Q-N3 20.Q-Q4 P-B4 21.N-Q5 Q-N2 22.NxN RxN 24.R-Q6 Resigns (1-0).
I mentioned C.J. S. Purdy with whom I had known when editor of the Chess Correspondent. He published Chess World which sometimes was spotty at best due to his desire to always write perfect articles. His book was a masterpiece and if you can obtain a copy of it, the wisdom and value to be gained from the experience will boost not only your skill but appreciation of the complexity that makes up this game CHESS!!