Kindred’s Special: The Art of Square Count Defining Moments

One of the defining moments in a chess game is evaluating the nature of the beasts remaining on the board of 64-squares.  Earlier I mentioned that my ideas for ‘square count’ came about through the examination of Alekhine and Capablanca gamesmanship.  I present the following game from The Mozart of Chess–the great Jose R. Capablanca.  His games flowed with a harmony of musical beauty. Thus, in this example which I encourage careful study of all three phases: Opening, Middle Game and End Game, Capablanca creates a picture like an artist painting a gorgeous scene on canvas.

White: W. Winter   vs.  Black:  Jose R. Capablanca      Opening: The Four Knights Game     Hastings 1919  Tournament

1. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Nc3  Nf6  4. Bb5  Bb4  5. O-O  O-O  6. Bxc6  dxc6  7. d3  Bd6  8. Bg5  h6  9. Bh4  c5!  Stopping 10. d4 and suddenly White’s remaining Bishop is in a pickle so requires a clear head to create a working plan. Instead of Winter’s next move, it would seem logical to continue with jump moves 10.Nd2 > 11. f3 to provide an escape for the Bishop along the e1-h4 diagonal and to avoid the Bishop becoming the famous “Bad Bishop”!

10. Nd5 This move is suspect as very weak and perhaps leading to a fatal positional struggle.

10. … g5!  11. Nxf6+ Capablanca probably was amusingly delighted with this forced move which avoids worse by 11. Nxg5 Nxd4! On 11. Bg3 Nxd5  12. exd5  Bg4 with a like position as in the game. He had great vision for position values.

11. …Qxf6  12. Bg3  Bg4  13.  h3 Bxf3  14. Qxf3  Qxf3! 15. gxf3  f6  16. Kg2  a5  Although both Bishops appear to be Bad Bishops (blocked by pawns on the same color squares), Capablanca realizes that the White Bishop is permanently bad, while his own Bishop will eventually blast forth on the Q-side with great power once the pawns are moved to light squares.

17. a4  Kf7  18. Rh1  Ke6  Capablanca taught in Chess Fundamentals that, “In the endgame, first centralize the active King!”

19. h4  Rfb8 20. hxg5  hxg5  21. b3  c6!  Winter may have been hoping for the obvious looking, 21…b5  22. axb5  Rxxb5 23. Ra4  Rb4  24. Rha1 and progress is hard to come by.

22. Ra2  b5  23. Rha1  c4!  This activates the Bishop from its jail cell.

24. axb5  cxb3  25. cxb3  Rxb5  26. Ra4  Rxb3  27. d4  Rb5  28. Rc4  Rb4  29. Rxc6  Rxd4  White resigns. (o-1).

Positional endings are often microscopic in nature because the edge is so tiny for one side.  Usually the side with the inferior position is left with a tempo or a couple tempi short to fully equalize and to split the point.  The importance of Square Count shows up here at move 16 with White having 4 count and Black 7 but with the active King expanding that edge in conjunction with his mobile Q-side pawns.  As that differential grows, so does the winnable position.

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    avoid worse by 11. … Nxd4!

    It’s illegal move

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