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Critical Positions, The GMs’ Secret.

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What makes that a chessplayer starts to dominate the Chess scene becoming unbeatable and beating all of his opponents?

Fischer, asked about it, replied: “They make mistakes”. Kasparov, somehow obscurely, wrote speaking of Karpov and himself-  that champions and candidates had managed to pass to a different era keeping themselves active. He also mentions that Karpov was able to find the algorithm which allowed him to readapt and readjust himself to the new and changing conditions (once he reached the summit. (Curiously enough, around 1992 I  heard GM Leonid Yudasin speaking about the same  idea in an interview: he was looking for “the algorithm” that would allow him to improve and keep among the best chessplayers in the world…)

So the rest of us when we try to understand the GMs’ ideas are doing the same: we are looking for an algorithm. One of the problems is that no matter how many books you can read, how many annotated games you may study. In fact, they (the leading and top GMs), never discover their real secrets.

But from time to time some small bits appear passim, here and there, passing nearly or totally unnoticed. This is why, after having listened Spassky said that one of his major qualities is that of “appreciating the critical points in the games”,  after studying thousands of games trying to find the slightest of evidences and after reading GM Dorfman’s book about his “method”, I realised that the theory of the critical points is of paramount importance to understand Chess and improve one’s level. (Dorfman’s book is difficult to understand. He apparently derives a method of his own games. This has always been suspicious to me: you had the method and this allowed you to become stronger or you played to the best of your understanding and then suddenly you realised your play contains a method or what else????. But if he wants to try to hold his “method” he is compelled to give away some secret, he does it but the result is very poor, as if he had done it very, very reluctantly : he only mentions 3  principles to recognise critical points. But the clue is enough to catch him on the hop.

First, we can understand a “critical point” as a juncture in the game where a decision has to be taken and this decision may imply altering the strategical characteristics  of the position or deciding which type of strategical set-up we want to arrive to (when you have to decide whether you want to accept an isolated QP or hanging Pawns, you are in a critical position. When you have to decide whether to play  “d5”  closing the center or  “de5:” opening it, you are in a critical position. ) In many notes to games we have been told that there are three phases in a game: the opening, the middlegame and the endgame, and that the best chessplayers have  mastered the art of the transition between them etc, etc, etc. This is true in very general lines, so general that in fact we have managed to learn the “mantra” without really understanding it.

In fact this is so but as happens with icebergs, the largest portion is under the water.

In my humble opinion, a critical point appears when:

1. -Theory ends (because it really ends or the player knows no more.)

2.- Exchanges of pieces have to be made and the player has to decide whether to keep them or not in view of strategical considerations.

3.- When the player has to decide whether to exchange Queens or not.

4.- When a liquidation into an endgame has to be carried out or not.

5.- When a counterstrategy has to be decided to respond to the opponent’s attack (for instance to reply with a center action, an attack on the opposite flank,etc.)

6.- When a transformation in the nature of the position has to be decided
(for instance closing or opening the position)

7.- When the type of center has to be decided.

8.- When the player has to decide to enter a position with heterogeneous forces different balance of forces, (for instance , pieces +Pawns vs. Queen)

9.-When decisions on the Pawn structure have to be taken so deciding the type of the ensuing strategical play: for instance accept an isolated Queen’s Pawn, hanging Pawns, to retake an opponent’s capture on c6 with the “d” or the “b” Pawns.)

10.- When the player finds a new move on the board and has to decide to play it or follow the book continuations.

The following game is a tense struggle. Not all interesting games are those ending with a victory.

W.: R. J. Fischer  (1/2)

B.: B. V. Spassky (1/2)

Rejkjavik 1972. World Championship .4th. Game.

1. e4  c5  2. Nf3  d6  3. d4  cd4  4. Nd4:  Nf6  5. Nc3  Nc6  6. Bc4  e6  7. Bb3  Be7  8. Be3  0-0  9. 0-0  a6  10. f4  Nd4:  11.  Bd4:  b5  12. a3?!  Bb7  13. Qd3  a5!  14. e5  de5  15..fe5  Nd7  16. Nb5.  Nc5!  17. Bc5:  Bc5:  18. Kh1  Qg5  19. Qe2 (Smyslov suggested 19 Qg3 as better)   Rad8  20. Rad1  Rd1:!  21. Rd1:  h5  22. Nd6  Ba8  23.  Bc4!  h4  24. h3  Be3!?  25. Qg4  Qe5:  26. Qh4: g 5  27. Qg4  Bc5  28. Nb5  Kg7  29.  Nd4!  Rh8!  30. Nf3  Bf3:  31. Qf3:  Bd6?  32. Qc3!  Qc3:  33. bc3  Be5  34. Rd7  Kf6  35. Kg1  Bc4:  36. Be2  Be5  37. Kf1  Rc8  38. Bh5!  Rc7  39. Rc7:  Bc7:  40. a4  Ke7  41. Ke2  f5  42. Kd3  Be5  43. c4  Kd6  44. Bf7  Bg3  45. c5 Draw agreed.

W.: Tiviakov (0)

B.: Kasparov (1)

Wijk aan Zee 2001

1. e4  c5  2. Nc3  d6  3. f4 (Grand Prix Attack) , g6  4. Nf3  Bg7  5. Bc4  Nc6  6. 0-0  e6  7. d3  Nge7  8. Qe1  0-0  9. Bb3  Na5  10. Be3  b6  11. Bf2  Bb7  12. Bh4  Nb3:  13. ab3  Qd7  14. Qg3  f5 !  15. Rae1  Nc6  16. ef5  gf5  17. Re2  Rae8  18. Rfe1  Kh8  19. Qh3  Nd4  20. Nd4:  Bd4:  21. Kh1  Rg8  22. Nd1  Rg6  23. c3  Bg7  24. Ne3  Rf8  25. Bg5  h6  26. Bh4  b5  27. Nf1  b4  28. cb4  cb4  29. Ne3  Rg8  30. Bg3  Bd4  31. Nc4  R8g7  32. Qh5  Kh7  33. Ne3  Qb5  34. Rd2  a6  35. Qh3  h5!  36. Re-e2  h4  37. Be1  Be3:  38. Qe3:  Qc6  39. Qh3  Qc1 -+  40. Qh4:  Rh6  41. Rc2  Qd1  42. Rc-d2  Qb1  43. Qf2  Rg2:  44. Qg2:  Bg2:  45. Kg2:  Qa2  46. Rc2  Rg6  47. Bg3  Qb3:  48. Re-d2  a5  49. Kf2  a4  50. Rc6  a3  51. ba3  ba3  52. Ke2  e5  53. fe5  f4/ White resigned.



Written by QChess

August 30, 2012 at 5:07 am

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