|Playing hall before the first round|
Games 1 and 2: Mad about squares
After a few moves into my first game, it became apparent that my opponent was a beginner, who fed me a free piece on the tenth move. But early in the opening, I made a major inaccuracy, which weakened the squares around my king. Thank goodness the other side was not able to exploit this weakness; a more seasoned veteran would have punished me badly for this mistake!
A close shave, and a good lesson on the dangers of creating weak squares around the king!
Game 2 was when the day's struggle really began.
|Position after 12. Nh4|
The position resembles a reverse King's Indian; the centre is closed but Black has the spatial advantage rather than White! With their last move (12. Nh4), White prepared an f2-f4 advance, reminiscent of Black's classic f5 pawn break in the King's Indian. How should I, as Black, respond?
A glance at the pawn structure reveals a pressing problem for both sides: The bishops risk being shut out of the game. For Black this can be solved with … Bc8 and … Ng4 finding new diagonals, while the White clerics find a better future on c1 and h3. Another point worth noting is that the dark squares—especially e3—in White's position will be weakened if White pushes f4. Thus, if Black can threaten to swing a knight onto e3, it might discourage White from getting in f4.
Thus, Black should consider … Bc8 relocating their pieces to the kingside, where the heat of the action is most likely to take place. This should be followed up with … Ng4, preparing to occupy e3 should White insist on advancing f4. In essence, this would escalate into a battle of squares, similar to Game 1.
So, did I play Bc8? No… during the game, I was so "mesmerized" by the prospect of White getting in f4 that I didn't even look at the e3 square. Instead I decided upon a half-hearted attempt to mimic White's plans with 12... Nh5, preparing my own pawn push f5. But this gave my adversary the initiative after 13. Qd1 Bxh4 14. Qxh5 followed by 15. f4, and White struck first. While the game was still playable after that, a terrible blunder soon sealed my fate, and spoiled what could have been a very interesting game.
What can we learn from Games 1 and 2? While chess is a battle of pieces, one should not forget about the squares. Along with the pawn structure, they form the terrain through which pieces seek anchor points and offensive/defensive pathways. A weak square near a king can be deadly, for it can be used as an invasion point for enemy pieces.
To summarize in a flamboyant manner, I paraphrase a famous quote from “Red Cliff”: With a strong understanding of squares, all 64 squares on the board will become soldiers at your command.
Game 3: Beware the pawn centre!
Back to the White pieces, and a tumble down the ranking table after my team's whitewash in Round 2. Funnily enough, I found myself in a "King"s Indian-ish" position again, with one difference: My pawn centre was not locked up, but instead given the freedom to advance anytime!
"It is of the greatest importance to strive for the mobility of our pawn mass, for a mobile mass can in its lust to expand, exercise a crushing effect"
-Aaron Nimzowitsch, My System
Soon, I was teaching my opponent a lesson on how dangerous an unfettered pawn centre can become:
The lesson from this game is a reminder on why a pawn centre should be blockaded, especially in King's Indian positions. Their desire to expand and wreck unparalleled destruction must not be underestimated!
|"I came in like a wrecking ball..."|
With that I wrap up the first half of IFG 2017; in Part 2, I will go through my next 3 games.
To be continued…