Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#25: Keene - Toth, Rome 1979

15 … Bg4

Tempting fate, inasmuch as White is presented with a typical exchange sacrifice opportunity.

Ray Keene & Shaun Talbut (How to Play the Nimzo-Indian 2nd edition, Batsford 1986)

A rather typical Ray annotation there. He never was one for densely packed variations. And yet, because rather than despite the economy of words, our scribe is telling us something rather important.

I very much doubt that a player of my strength or even a bit higher would ever play 16 Rxf6 like Ray did against Toth. Consider it maybe, but not a chance of actually doing it. For two reasons.

Firstly, there's how the game actually went.

If I had the position on the board, I imagine my thinking would go something like, "OK, I take then … gxf6, 17 Qd3 Rfd8 to avoid mate 17 Qxh7+ Kf8 … and now what?

An engine will tell you that Black's getting totally killed here. Different story for chessers like me and the guys that I play against (which typically means up to about 200 ECF/2200 Elo). We - I, anyway -  will most likely look at that position and think, "Well I've got a pawn for the exchange and his king's open, but I've got nothing anywhere near it."

The second reason why I'd find it hard to sac on f6 is the defence RDK reckons Black should have tried.

16 Rxf6 gxf6, 17 Qd3 f5

Somewhat uncharacteristically, Keene gives a six move variation here. He concludes that this is the "critical" test of White's play, whilst warning that, "there are many complications concealed in this variation". There he leaves it, not troubling himself to inform the reader precisely what those complications might be.

Anyhoo, a chesser of my kind of strength might get as far as the diagram and then stop. At most we might see the plan of Nf4 and h2-h3 winning the bishop but then perhaps see Black's counter-attack with …Rac8 and an x-ray against c2 and then it would all get a bit too much.

So how to move on from this level of (mis-) understanding and failing to grasp the point? How to get to the stage where you see such things as "typical" and barely in need of explanation? Answer: study an awful lot of similar examples, I suppose.

Which is exactly what I intend to do. 52 posts on exchange sacrifices in one calendar year and if I can average two examples a post, and think about each one for ten minutes or so, that'll be 1,000 minutes' worth of exchange sacs in the memory bank for future use.

Sure, it would have helped if I'd started this project when I was much younger. Back in 1979, say. Because of that and for reasons of sheer lack of talent I'm going to have to accept that I'm never going to reach Ray's standard.

Still, I can improve things a bit. Rook endings? They're so 2013. 2014 shall be the year of the Interesting Sacrificed Exchange ... and just as long as You Know Who manages to keep himself out of The Eye in future, the regular day for tracking my progress will be Mondays.

2014 ISE count: 1
TISE Index
60MA Index

Ray via chessgames and BCM


John Cox said...

Blimey - are you sure? I know plenty of sub-200s who'd go for this position with no hesitation. I think even a risk-averse aged shuffler like myself might give it a go.

Still, all the more need for your project, I guess, which I applaud. You will let us have the occasional rook ending for auld lang syne, though, I trust.

Matt Fletcher said...

From my perspective as a player of about your standard, I can see that Black's really struggling in the game continuation - if that was the only line I needed to calculate I think I'd have played the sac as White.

If I'd played the sac in the game (and I think I might have done, just about) I'd have spent much more (probably too much) of my time wondering what happens after f5 - do you still play Nf4 (threatening h3) and claim that the unassailable knight along with the open king is worth as much as a rook? Seems plausible. But not immediately obvious to me.

Here's to a year of exchange sacs!

Matt Fletcher said...

Actually, is 1. Rxf6 even better for White after 3... f5? The computer's giving me a main line of 1. Rxf6 gxf6 2. Qd3 f5 3. Nf4 Rac8 4. Bb3 Na5 5. Bd5 Qc2 =

Although nothing else is better than Rxf6

Jonathan B said...

Hi guys,

Maybe I underestimate my fellow chessers, maybe I'm talking about just me.


I don't recall anybody saccing an exchange against me for anything other than immediate material gain or mate. I don't recall seeing them happen about me either.

I would certainly accept that the closer that you get to 200 the more likely it is to happen. But up to 180? Very unlikely, I would suggest.

Happy to be proved wrong, though. Show me the games!

I'm planning a Rook Ending Friday post once a month or so to keep the flame alive, but I'm not quite sure about scheduling as yet)

Jonathan B said...

Maybe a post for another day. RDK's 6 move line has a 'computer move' flaw in it.

Jonathan B said...

Oops, published that comment early.

The point being, you could well be right. If the computer assessment is accurate, Rxf6 isn't better for White.

Not that any of that makes RDK's essential point - that Rxf6 is a typical opportunity - any less true.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

"If the computer assessment is accurate"... I think it was Joel Benjamin who wrote, if you are behind in material, and the computer says "=", then you are better. (Well, I guess GM Joel would exclude stalemate. And perpetual. And tablebase positions. And opening book.) In this case though after 17...f5 18.Nf4 Rac8 19.h3 Nxd4 20.exd4 Qxc2 21.Qxc2 Rxc2 22.hxg4 Re8 black is looking pretty active (not checked by computer).

Keene's comment about 17...f5 reminds me of Botvinnik. In just about every game Botvinnik ever annotated, there arises a single moment where the opponent makes a clueless move which allows Botvinnik to execute his strategic masterpiece without resistance. Botvinnik's note says something like, "He could have played X, but it wouldn't have made any difference, for example," followed by variation Y, which variation ALSO sees Botvinnik execute the same strategic plan. Of course, X was the right move, and all the hapless opponent had to do was improve on Y. (Not easy though to prevent a strategic threat that you completely overlook.) Naturally Botvinnik was a genius for seeing plans which his opponents did not, but that's not the same thing as being able to FORCE that plan regardless of what the opponent does. Further, I'm not claiming to be a genius just because I can find an improvement somewhere that keeps Botvinnik's opponent from losing. I'm just saying that Botvinnik, once per game(!), gives a fairly wishy-washy variation at a critical moment.