Tactical Game Highlights: Pilot Episode

Apr 20, 2014
IGM 2437
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In concurrence with my exploration on positional play, I would like to share tactical highlights from my recent games and other recent tournaments.
To offer something unique in presenting tactical positions, I will start them off a few moves before the tactical shot arises so that you will see how and when they come about. Another reason I’d like to do it this way is for you to see how positional factors pave the way for tactical opportunities.

For this week, I’ll present a smorgasbord of tactical motifs from my games at a FIDE tournament I played last weekend (http://ratings.fide.com/tournament_report.phtml?event16=92885).

Premkumar, H. - Sadorra, J.

DCC FIDE Open III 2014.04.12

BD_10663_115_0.pngDiagram #1

Black is ahead in development and better piece placement; therefore, I need to make threats or start an attack somewhere to make the most of these advantages.

12...Rc8 stopping the natural developing move Nbd2 at the moment by creating a pin threat on the enemy queen.


13.Nbd2? misses my threat 13... Nb4 14.Qb1 Nxd3 15.Qxd3 Bb5 -/+ winning the exchange by force.

13... b5!

BD_10663_115_1.pngDiagram #2

Not just gaining space, but also renewing the previous threat

14.b4?! there's really no good way to stop Black from increasing his initiative

Once again if 14.Nbd2?

BD_10663_115_2.pngDiagram #3

14... b4! 15.axb4 Nxb4 16.Qb1 Nxd3 17.Qxd3 Bb5 -/+ winning the exchange by force as in the previous position.

If 14.Qd1 I was planning to play an active centralizing move 14... Ne4! 15.Nbd2 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Na5 -/+

BD_10663_115_3.pngDiagram #4

Back to the game:

14... Bb8! Another good way to increase the pressure is to open more lines and good squares for my pieces through a pawn sac 14... Ne4!? 15.Bxe4 dxe4 16.Qxe4 Re8 17.Qd3 Ne7 but I wasn't sure how big my advantage here would be during the game.

15.Nbd2? White successfully completes his development, but misses my idea...

BD_10663_115_4.pngDiagram #5

Black to play


It was better to get out of the pin with 15.Qb3 but I still can increase pressure and obtain a better game with 16... Qc7 17.Bb2 ( 17.Nbd2 Na5! ) 17... Bg4 18.Nbd2 Ne4!.

The solution is:

15... Nxd4! a tactical shot characterized by the pin and deflection motifs

BD_10663_115_5.pngDiagram #6

Before continuing the game, I'd like to share what White expected and calculated: the direct 15... Qc7 whose threats can be adequately met by 16.Rfc1

BD_10663_115_6.pngDiagram #7

White simultaneously covers any possible mate threat on h2 and tactic exploiting the weak position of the queen on c2.

Back to the game:

16.Nxd4 Qc7 creating a double attack on c3 and h2

 17.N2f3 Now if 17. Rfc1 Black obtains a winning attack after 17... Qxh2+ 18.Kf1 Qh1+ 19. Ke2 Rfe8+ 20. Be4 Qh5+ -+.

17... Qxc3 18.Rfc1

BD_10663_115_7.pngDiagram #8

18... Qxa1! the last important tactic, which allows me to obtain active squares for my pieces, especially my rook.

During the game, I thought exchanging queens the normal way is less precise 18... Qxc2 19.Bxc2 because I don't get to easily invade c3 or take over the c-file e.g. 19... Rc3?? 20.Bxh7+ Kxh7 21.Rxc3 +-.

19.Rxa1 Rxc2 20.Bxc2 Rc8

BD_10663_115_8.pngDiagram #9

Now the invasion of my rook on c3 is inevitable

21.Re1 Ba7!

BD_10663_115_9.pngDiagram #10

I successfully increased my advantage and eventually won a few moves later.

Here is another game in which I was able to use tactical motifs based on positional advantages.

Sadorra, J. - Sanchez, R.

DCC FIDE Open III 2014.04.12

BD_10663_115_10.pngDiagram #11

Here, I think Black should've occupied the central e4-square with either his knight or bishop to organize some counterplay. Instead, my opponent waited another moment:

13...a5?! During the game I was suspiscious of this move because it doesn't really improve Black's position. I have better placed pieces and better central control so tried to find a way take advantage of these factors before Black improves his pieces

14.d5! Bb4

Here's my analysis if he had taken on d5 right away: 14... exd5 15.cxd5 

a) 15... Bxd5 16.Rfd1!

BD_10663_115_11.pngDiagram #12

using the pin tactic on Black's exposed pieces, similar to what will happen in the game 16... c6 17.e4!

BD_10663_115_12.pngDiagram #13

winning a piece.

b) taking with the queen 15...Qxd5 loses to a skewer tactic 16.Nh4! +-;

c) lastly taking with the knight is also bad 15... Nxd5 due to the x-ray attack on g7 16.Qxg7#.

15.Qc2 exd5

BD_10663_115_13.pngDiagram #14

How should White continue?


During the game, I also considered 16.Rfd1 but it wasn't as clear to me 16... c6 17.Ng5 (17.cxd5 cxd5) 17... g6;

16.Ng5!? was also attractive during the game, but concrete analysis shows that it's not the best way to continue 16.. Ne4! blocking my lines of attack.

Therefore, I played the simple yet strong 16. cxd5!

16... Nxd5 

If 16... Qxd5 it's important to use eliminate a defender (elimination of defender) with 17.Bxf6! before executing the skewer 17... gxf6 6.Nh4, because if I execute the skewer tactic right away 16.Nh4? Ne4! Black blocks the h1-a8 diagonal and escapes!

; and 16... Bxd5 can be met by 17.Ng5! +- now this works because there's no blockading defense on e4 17... g6 18.Rfd1 +- or 18.Rad1 +-.

17. Rfd1!

BD_10663_115_14.pngDiagram #15

The power of the pins!

17... Bd6? Black cracks under heavy pressure

During the game I was expecting the more resistant 17... Qe7 but I still get overwhelming pressure after 18.Nd4!

BD_10663_115_15.pngDiagram #16

or 18.Nh4 Nxe3 19.fxe3 Qxe3+ 20.Kh1 Bxg2+ 21.Kxg2 +/- and during the game I thought that White should also be better here because Black doesn't have enough compensation for the piece.

Back to the game:

18.Nh4 logically increasing pressure on d5

I didn't like 18.e4 Nb4 19.Qc3 f6 because it allows Black to hold on and resist more.

18... Be7 19.Nf5

BD_10663_115_16.pngDiagram #17

The strong placement of my pieces over his exposed pieces and weakness on g7 give White a decisive advantage.

19... Bf6 20.Bxd5 Bxd5 21.e4 

Not 21.Bxf6?? due to 22... Qxf6 allowing Black to escape because 23. Rxd5 will hang the rook on a1! Another lesson here is that one has to keep calculating carefully til the opponent actually resigns :D

21... Bxb2 22.Qxb2 there's no way for him to avoid losing a piece and obtain any compensation for it, so he resigned.


I hope you were entertained by the first episode. Stay tune for more highlights from my other two games next week!

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cynthia 17:27 - 20 Apr 2014
Thanks for these great examples. However, I'd like to ask you one thing. GM Alterman (known for his gambit books and videos) said that Kasparov watched his games, and told him to practice more bold openings. Now, what is your opinion about this: do the tactics spring from the skill of the player, or they spring from some bold openings? Because maybe (just making a silly example) in a Russian Defence is more difficult to find a tactic, compared to some sharp lines of the Sicilian?
Inopov 17:55 - 22 Apr 2014
This is a broad topic, and I believe you're asking about two different questions. Tactical situations can arise in different ways and usually after either one (or both!) of the players make an inaccurate/bad move. To find a tactic and combination in a given moment and to execute it well is a skill.
Bold openings do help in obtaining complicated and tactical positions, but it is not a guarantee that the tactical positions arising from them will always work out in our favor because they are usually risky.

In other words, it is important to train and develop our tactical skills (feeling and vision) in order to make the most of our opportunities during a game and using bold openings increase the chances to obtain tactical positions, to cause opponents to make a mistake, and use our tactical skills to take advantage of them.

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