DO you know how to play the opening? || King Safety
In the previous two Wednesday columns you had learnt the importance of controlling the centre and developing your pieces quickly towards it. It’s time we move on to the third strategy of the opening stage which you must absolutely focus on: King safety. Keeping your King safe should be one of your primary objectives while playing your chess games.
“Modern Chess is too much concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it, Checkmate ends the game”
- Nigel Short (English Chess grandmaster)
Your objective in a game of chess is to checkmate the opposing king. The strategies and tactics that form the part of your chess studies are the tools you have to use to checkmate the king. Logically speaking, you must have understood th at if checkmating your opponent’s king is imperative, so is to safeguard your own king!
Imagine yourself as a king of an army going to war. Does it make sense to you to fight for your dear life in the battle field while your army men take a nap back home?
Have a look at this little gem. Both the players are considered legends in chess history. Black is certainly a better player than he showed in this game. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter if you are a good player or not. You will lose anyways if you play bad chess.
Actions speak louder than words or reputation.
Reti - Tartakover 1-0
The Caro Kann defence.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Qd3 e5
Black attacks the centre with the idea of ...Qa5 check.
6.dxe5 Qa5+ 7.Bd2
You must observe how Black is losing time by moving out his queen so early in the game. White in the mean time has managed to develop a Bishop.
7... Qxe5 8.O-O-O
White King has castled. Black has his King struck in the centre, is behind in development mainly because he has been running around with his queen.
( Much better is8... Be7 +/- although a safer king, a lead in developemnt give white a good advantage. (8... Qxe4 9.Re1))
9... Kxd8 10.Bg5+
A tactical themem known as double discovered check.
10... Ke8 (10... Kc7 11.Bd8#)
You must keep the squares around your king safe.
“Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation”-Max Euwe (5th World Chess Champion)
You must understand that keeping the king safe is not just a one move activity. It is a long lasting investment you have to make in order to make sure that you don’t lose.
Young Bobby Fischer
This next game is famous in chess literature as the game of the 20th century. Bobby Fischer was an upcoming junior when he played this game. It is widely regarded as one of the finest performance a 13 year old chess player has ever displayed. Have one deep look at this absolute gem.
Byrne, Donald - Fischer, Robert James 0-1
New York Rosenwald
You should not move the same piece twice in the opening! Nevertheless, white does carry an idea of playing d5 at some point.
2.Qa3 ( 2.Nxa4 Nxe4 3.Bxe7 Re8 4.Bxd8 Nxc5+ -+ )
2... Nxc3 3.bxc3 Nxe4!
White's king is struck in the middle of the board due to his faulty development. Black pieces begin buzzing around the poor monarch.
4.Bxe7 Qb6 5.Bc4
White is hurrying to develop his pieces now and run to the safety of his castle
( 5.Bxf8 Bxf8 6.Qb3 Re8 -+ )
White must have presumed that this move saves everything just in the nick of time. Bobby proves otherwise.
( 6.Qxc3 Rae8 -+ )
6... Rfe8+ 7.Kf1 Be6!
A queen sacrfice, one of the most famous ones ever made.
8.Bxb6 Bxc4+ 9.Kg1 Ne2+ 10.Kf1 Nxd4+ 11.Kg1 Ne2+ 12.Kf1 Nc3+ 13.Kg1 axb6
White, although looks to be ahead in material, is being completely dominated upon by the black pieces. White's king position is a picture of pity.
14.Qb4 Ra4 15.Qxb6 Nxd1 16.h3 Rxa2 17.Kh2 Nxf2 18.Re1 Rxe1 19.Qd8+ Bf8 20.Nxe1 Bd5 21.Nf3 Ne4 22.Qb8 b5 23.h4 h5 24.Ne5 Kg7 25.Kg1 Bc5+
Formation of a mating net.
26.Kf1 Ng3+ 27.Ke1 Bb4+ 28.Kd1 Bb3+ 29.Kc1 Ne2+ 30.Kb1 Nc3+ 31.Kc1 Rc2#
A justified end to the game, considering how shamelessly white treated his king. Points to remember: 1. It is justified to sacrifice material in order to claw your way to the opponent's unsafe king. 2. Use your pieces optimally to control squares around opponent's king. 3. Control important central squares and you shall reap the benefits.
The square which you choose to place your king on in the opening stage plays a very important role in the middle game and in certain cases even the endgame. Imagine both the kings have castled in opposite directions. How will you choose to attack?
Have a look at another Bobby Fischer game where the opening witnessed a super sharp dragon variation.
Fischer, Robert James - Larsen, Bent 1-0
This is a standard position out of the Sicilian Dragon opneing, one of the sharpest lines in chess theory.
1... Nxd4 2.Bxd4 Be6 3.Bb3!
3... Qa5 4.O-O-O b5
You must try to evaluate the position here. Both kings have castled in opposite direction. Therefore, it is obvious that there will be a 'pawn storm' on both sides of the board. White has a firm control of the d5 square which is a very important detail to remember.
( Bxb3 5.cxb3! and there is absolutely no semblence of attack on the white king.)
Simply tucking the king away to safety.
5... b4 6.Nd5
the important d5 square begins to shine
7.Bxd5 ( 7.exd5! blinding the black queen from eyeing the kingside.)
7... Rac8 (7... Nxd5 8.Bxg7 Kxg7 9.exd5)
8.Bb3 Rc7 9.h4
all said and done on the queenside, white begins his almost mechanical attack on the black king.
9... Qb5 10.h5 Rfc8 11.hxg6 hxg6 12.g4 a5 13.g5 Nh5 14.Rxh5
"Pry open the h file, sac, sac, mate"-Bobby Fischer
14... gxh5 15.g6
of course, what elese?
15... e5 16.gxf7+ Kf8 17.Be3 d5 18.exd5 Rxf7 19.d6 Rf6 20.Bg5 Qb7 21.Bxf6 Bxf6 22.d7 Rd8 23.Qd6+?
( 23.Qh6+ Ke7 ( Bg7 24.Qd6#) 24.Qh7+ Bg7 25.Qxg7# was a faster mate.)
Points to remember:
1. You must observe how Fischer played moves like Kb1 to make sure his king was absolutely safe.
2. You have to attack the king by using your pawns when the kings are castled in opposite directions. These are called pawn storms.
That's it on the opening series folks! In a short interval, we'll commence the 'golden rules in middlegame column. To recap the golden rules:-
1.Develop your pieces towards the center
2.Control the center
3. Keep your king safe or nothing else will matter.
That's it for today! Do share your questions, comments and feedback. If there is any particular topic you like to be covered, do let us know!