Chess - The Scotsman 17/03/2012

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GRANDMASTER Andrew Soltis’ brand-new What It Takes To Become A Chess Master is honestly one of the most instructive Batsford chess books that I’ve seen in a long time.

The renowned American author takes us through a really clear and well-structured course in which we get trained to think like a true master. On reading the very first chapter, entitled “What Matters Most”, I was reminded of many occasions when Roddy McKay showed me seemingly effortless, magical games in which he often found his moves simply by asking himself “What does the position require?”, or in other words, “What matters most now?”.

I warmly encourage you to check out for more details about Soltis’ book, but right now let’s enjoy the first complete game from it, as it’s an old favourite of mine between grandmasters Jan Timman and Luc Winants from Brussels in 1988.

White: J Timman; Black: L Winants. Opening: Nimzo-Indian Defence

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Bg5 This very direct, aggressive Leningrad system suits Timman’s attacking style of play. 4...h6 5 Bh4 c5 6 d5 d6 7 e3 g5 8 Bg3 Ne4 9 Qc2 Qf6 10 Ne2 exd5 Here is an abbreviated version of Soltis’ excellent annotation: Black assumed that White would now recapture with 11 cxd5, after which 11…Bf5 gives good play, but consider the position after 10…exd5 a little more. What strikes you about White’s position? There are a lot of things to focus on, but White realised that what really matters is that he has a slight lead in development. Four of his pieces are out, compared with three for Black. That didn’t change after 10…exd5 because the capture is not a developing move. So, White now lengthened his lead with… 11 0-0-0! Because of the threat of 12 Nxd5, Black has no time for 11…Nxf2. 11…Bxc3 12 Nxc3 Nxc3 13 Qxc3! By playing to exchange his opponent’s sole remaining developed piece, Timman is further increasing the White:Black ratio of developed pieces in his own favour. 13…Qxc3+ 14 bxc3 dxc4 15 Bxc4 Be6 16 Bxe6 fxe6 17 Rxd6 Ke7 18 Rhd1 Kf6 19 f4! Giving the Black king no peace. 19…Nc6 20 fxg5+ hxg5 21 Rd7! b6 22 Rf1+ Kg6 23 Rd6! Nd8 24 Be5! Black resigned, in view of 24…Rh7 25 Rf8 or 24…Re8 25 g4!, threatening 26 Rd7 or 26 Rf6+ Kh7 27 Rd7+.

Let’s finish with a bonus for all fans of puzzles, including GM Colin McNab, the new British Problem-Solving Champion. Consider the position wKg1,Qc2,Ne4, Bf4,g2,Rd1,d2,Pa2,b2,e2,f2,g3,h2; bKe8,Qc8,Nf6,Bb7,e7,Ra8,h8,Pa6,b5,c6,e6,f7,g7,h6. Before checking the solution below, can you discover why 1…c5 or 1…Nxe4 2 Bxe4 c5 are losing for Black?

Puzzle Solution: 1…Nxe4 2 Bxe4 c5 3 Rd7! is winning for White, and 1…c5 2 Rd8+!! 1-0 was even faster in Andreikin-Popov from April 2011.