Good or Bad Piece? Part II
In my previous blog post, we saw the importance of placing our pieces towards the center and on squares where it attacks enemy weaknesses. In the game Van Kampen Thorfinsson, we also saw the method of restricting enemy pieces which can render them ineffective or useless.
Today, I'd like to share with you another game that highlights the power of centralization and improving badly placed pieces. This game is played by another great performer in 2014 Reykjavik Open: Canada's top-GM Eric Hansen, who despite being 100 rating points below his opponent convincingly outplays him and plays a "smooth" game.
Without further ado, let's check out his game!
Hansen, Eric (2587) - Berkes, Ferenc (2687)
N1 Reykjavik Open 2014 2014.03.06
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 exd4 6.Q1xd4 Be7 7.O-O O-O
8.h3! restricting any piece f6-knight or c8-bishop from becoming active on g4.
8... Nb6 9.Bb3! not allowing Black to rid himself of a passive and decentralized knight on b6.
Planning to exchange off some bad pieces which will cost him much time. If 9... Be6 10.B3xe6 f7xe6 will give White a target to pressure e.g. 11.e5! d6xe5 12.Q4xe5.
10.Be3 Nc5 11.Qd2 getting out of the e7-f6 bishop's line of fire.
11... c6 preventing any forward, centralizing moves from White
12.Rad1! simple and strong
12... Nxb3 13.a2xb3 Be6 14.Nd4!
Centralization! Here, it is clear that the d4 knight is the "good" and b6 knight is the "bad" one.
14... d5 15.e4xd5!? a concrete approach
Another good way to continue here is to keep the tension and let Black's knight stay passive on b6 for a little while until we get every piece ready (Rf1-e1). 15.Qe2 Qc7 (Qd7 16.Rfe1 Rfe8 17.Nxe6 f7xe6 18.Qg4) 16.Rfe1.
15... B6xd5 Improving the position of Black's knight would come at a cost 15... N6xd5 16.Nxe6 f7xe6 17.Rfe1 Qd7 18.Bd4
This is White's point: now White's pieces are cleary better placed than Black's, and Black has no compensation or counterplay for the weakness created on e6.
Though the knight is not exactly in the center, it is still a "good" piece because it's actively controlling important squares on the center and the enemy kingside which can be helpful in creating threats on that side of the board.
16... Bf6 17.Bxb6! Why exchange such an active/good piece for a bad one?
17... a7xb6 18.Nxd5 Simply because White can gain material, or a better positional advantage, which is also known as the "Transformation of Advantages."
18... c6xd5 19.c3!?
White decides to restrict Black's active bishop before "cashing in" because his weak pawns aren't going anywhere...
19.Q2xd5 leads to better ending for White, but much accuracy and work are still needed to convert the advantage into win.19... Q8xd5 20.R1xd5 Bxb2 21.Ne7+ Kh8 22.Rd7 Rfd8 ( Rfb8 23.Rfd1) 23.Rxb7 Rd2 24.c4 +/-.
19... Re8 20.Ne3
This moment may be the best time to grab material with 20.Qxd5 Q8xd5 21.R1xd5 Re2 22.Rb1 Ra2 23.Rd7 Raxb2 24.R1xb2 R2xb2 25.b4 h5 26.Ne7+ Kh7 (Ofcourse going to a rook ending is objectively best B6xe7 27.R7xe7 Rc2 28.Rxb7 Rxc3 29.Rb8+ Kh7 30.Rxb6 and how to win this is out of the scope of this article and could be the subject of a separate one.) 27.Nd5! +-
Centralizing the knight even in the ending is powerful! On d5, the knight both defends White's c3 weak spot and attacks enemy pieces.
20... d4!? giving up a pawn by force to create counterplay
21.c3xd4 Ra2 22.Qd3 Rxb2 23.d5
Although Black has managed to achieve material equality and transform his queenside rook into a good piece, he is still worse because he doesn't have another active piece (his queen would've been nice on b4 or c5) to help him put sufficient pressure on targets like b3 and f2. Most of all, Black cannot stop White from quickly pushing down his d-pawn and improving his pieces.
23... Ra2 running back to his camp where it may be useful for defensive purposes.
24.d6 Qd7 25.Nc4 Bd8
Do you have any bad piece?
Improving a badly or ineffectively placed piece can significantly bring benefits to one's position; vice versa, the progress of an army could be hampered by a misplaced piece--one that is ineffective or disconnected from the rest.
26... g6 27.Ne5 time to move forward!
27... Qf5 28.Q3xf5 g6xf5 29.Rc1!
29... Kg7 It's too late for the queenside rook to try and rescue the rest29... Ra8 30.d7 Rf8 31.Rc8 Bf6 32.Ng4! 32... f5xg4 33.Rxa8 R8xa8 34.Re8+ +-.
30.d7 and it's only a matter of time before White wins more material with his passed pawn combined with strongly deployed pieces
30... Rg8 31.Nf3 making way for more heavy artillery
31... Ra5 32.Re8 Rd5 33.Ne5! back in the center to support the passed pawn
33... Rf8 34.Rc3
34... f4 35.Rd3!
Exchanging off the enemy's only good piece to eliminate counterplay and resistance
Not the tempting 35.Rc8? due to a defensive trick 35... Rxd7! 36.Rxf8 (better is 36.N5xd7 Rxe8 37.Kf1) 36... Rd1+ 37.Kh2 Kxf8 =.
35... Rc5 he refuses but this allows White to free his knight from the defence of d-pawn and make more threats
36.Nc4 Rc7 37.Re4 f5 38.Re8 Kg8 39.Rd6 with more weaknesses in Black's camp, White slowly improves the positioning of his pieces
39... b5 40.Ne5 Rc1+ 41.Kh2 Rc3 42.Rde6! with an invetiable invasion on e8, and heavy material loss for Black
42... Bh4 43.Nf3 and Black resigns.
Let's draw some more insights on good pieces and bad pieces:
1) A good piece is one that is actively controlling central squares/squares around the enemy king (Nd4-f5) or defending one's weakness (Ne7-d5).
2) Knights on b6 or g6 (b3 or g3 for White) become frequently bad because it's easy to limit their mobility (e.g. b2-b3 or a bishop on b3).
3) It's okay to exchange off a good piece for a bad one so long as there is a good concrete reason e.g. win of material, positional gains such as giving the enemy more weaknesses or bad pieces, etc.
4) Coordinating a badly placed piece with the rest can greatly improve one's position, as it increases the attacking or defensive possibilities of the whole army.