Forcing Chess Moves

David Navara 2693 (CZE)

Photo: David Llada

vs Hans Moke Niemann 2637 (USA)

Photo: © Lennart Ootes

Tepe Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament 2022
C50 Giuoco Pianissimo

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. O-O d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4 a5 9. Re1 Bg4 10. Nbd2 Nb6 11. Bb5 Bd6 12. Ne4 f5 13. Qb3+ Kh8 14. Nxd6 cxd6 15. Ng5 Qc7 16. Ne6 Qf7 17. Ra3 Rfc8 18. Be3 Nd7 19. Bc4 Qe7 20. f3 Bh5 21. Qxb7 f4 22. Bf2 Rab8 23. Qa6 Ra8 24. Qb5 Rab8 25. Nxf4 Rxb5 26. axb5 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Nd8 28. Rxa5 Nf7 29. Ra7 Ng5 30. Bd5 Rf8 31. h4 Nxf3+ 32. Bxf3 Qf7 33. Re4 d5 34. Rea4 e4 35. Rxd7 Qxf4 36. Bd4 Qc1+ 37. Kh2 Qf4+ 38. Kg1 Qc1+ 39. Kh2 Qf4+ 40. Kg1 Qc1+ 1/2-1/2

1.e4 (B00 King’s pawn opening) 1…e5 (C20 King’s pawn game) 2. Nf3 (C40 King’s knight opening) 2…Nc6 (C44 King’s pawn game) 3. Bc4 (C50 King’s pawn game) 3…Nf6 (C55 Two knights defence) 4. d3 (C55 Two knights defence (Modern bishop’s opening)) 4…Bc5 (C50 Giuoco Pianissimo) 5. c3 O-O O-O d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4 a5 9. Re1 Bg4 10. Nbd2 Nb6 11. Bb5 Bd6 12. Ne4 f5?

Position after 12…f5

(This is a game losing move. GM Niemann cogitated for all of one minute before moving the pawn. Moves this bad simply cannot be played at the very top level of Chess. If the move was prep it was very poor prep. If Hans was unfamiliar with the position he should have taken much more time deciding upon a move before ‘shooting it out there’. Maybe all the recent travel from country to country with little, if any, time to recover from the previous tournament has had an adverse effect. Only GM Niemann can explain what prompted him to make a game losing move in the opening) 13. Qb3+ Kh8 14. Nxd6 cxd6 15. Ng5 Qc7 16. Ne6 Qf7 17. Ra3?

Position after 17 Ra3

When playing Chess one must continually ask and answer questions with the first being, “Why did my opponent make that move?” How does a teacher reply if a student were to ask, “Coach, why did he make that move?” Since you are getting paid you want the student to at least think you have a clue, but honesty compels you to answer, “I have no clue.” Who knows, maybe GM Navara had no clue… The Stockfish program used at LiChess shows 17 f3 as best. At least it is a forcing move. At best the move played in the game is an innocuous move, but still…) 17…Rfc8 18. Be3 Nd7 19. Bc4?

Position after 19 Bc4?

(Again GM Navara plays a less forcing move. 19 Ng5 attacks the Queen and should have been played) 19…Qe7 20. f3 Bh5 21. Qxb7?

Position after 21. Qxb7?

(This move is given in red with this commentary, “Blunder. Bg5 was best.” This is the second time Navara refused to attack his opponents Queen. GM Navara should give some serious consideration to reading this book:

Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation – download book
Charles Hertan

When To Use Force

GM Kevin Spraggett writes in his blog post, Never underestimate the basics, dated August 29, 2018, “Despite playing for almost 50 years, I continue to be amazed how when great players lose it almost always has to do with beginner basics. Witness the following game played recently in the Chinese Team Championship, where Black neglects to make luft…” (

This caused me to reflect upon a game from the recent Sinquefield Cup. In round nine Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave battled to a 119 move draw.

Karjakin vs MVL

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. f3 Bd7 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. h4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Nxd4 15. Bxf7+ Rxf7 16. Nxd4 Rd8 17. Qb3 Qg3 18. Ne2 Qxh4 19. Bf2 Qf6 20. Rfd1 b6 21. Qa3 e6 22. Rd2 Be8 23. e5 Qf5 24. Rxd8 Qxb1+ 25. Kh2 Rf8 26. Ng3 Bxe5 27. Qxa7 Qb4 28. Kg1 Qb1+ 29. Kh2 Qb4 30. Kg1 Bf6 31. Rd1 Ba4 32. Rf1 Bc6 33. Qxb6 Qxb6 34. Bxb6 Ra8 35. Rf2 Bd5 36. Ne4 Be5 37. Re2 Bxa2 38. Ng5 Bd6 39. Kf2 Bc4 40. Rd2 Be7 41. Be3 Bd5 42. Rc2 h6 43. Ne4 Bxe4 44. fxe4 h5 45. Rc7 Bf6 46. Rc6 Ra2+ 47. Kf3 Ra3 48. Ke2 Kf7 49. Rc7+ Ke8 50. Rh7 Rb3 51. Ra7 Rb2+ 52. Kf3 g5 53. e5 g4+ 54. Ke4 Rb4+ 55. Kd3 Bd8 56. Ra8 Kd7 57. g3 Bc7 58. Bd4 Kc6 59. Bc3 Rb8 60. Ra6+ Rb6 61. Ra8 Rb5 62. Ke4 Rb3 63. Bd4 Bb8 64. Ra6+ Kd7 65. Ra8 Rb1 66. Bf2 Rb4+ 67. Bd4 Bc7 68. Kd3 Rb8 69. Ra7 Rb5 70. Kc4 Ra5 71. Rb7 Kc6 72. Rb3 Bxe5 73. Rb6+ Kd7 74. Bxe5 Rxe5 75. Kd4 Ra5 76. Ke4 Ke7 77. Rb8 Ra3 78. Rh8 Rxg3 79. Rxh5 Ra3 80. Kf4 Ra4+ 81. Kg3 Kd6 82. Rh8 Kd5 83. Rd8+ Ke5 84. Rb8 Rd4 85. Ra8 Re4 86. Ra5+ Kf6 87. Ra8 e5 88. Rf8+ Ke6 89. Re8+ Kd5 90. Rd8+ Kc4 91. Ra8 Kd5 92. Rd8+ Kc5 93. Rc8+ Kd4 94. Ra8 Rf4 95. Re8 Ke4 96. Rg8 Rf3+ 97. Kxg4 Rf1 98. Kh3 Ke3 99. Kg2 Ra1 100. Rg3+ Ke2 101. Rg4 Ke3 102. Rg3+ Kd2 103. Rg4 Re1 104. Ra4 e4 105. Ra2+ Ke3 106. Ra3+ Kf4 107. Kf2 Rb1 108. Ke2 Rb2+ 109. Ke1 Ke5 110. Ra4 Kf5 111. Ra8 Kf4 112. Ra3 Rh2 113. Kf1 Rd2 114. Ke1 Rd3 115. Rxd3 exd3 116. Kd2 Ke4 117. Kd1 Ke3 118. Ke1 d2+ 119. Kd1 Kd3 ½-½

After 22 Rd2 this position was reached:

Because of the poor move, 21 Qa3, played by Karjakin, MVL has an obvious advantage. Black has a couple of FORCING moves.

The most forcing is 22…Bf8, the move I decided upon. Also possible is 22…Bh6. These are the kinds of moves one would probably play in a game with less time. After the game I went to ChessBomb, ( finding 22…Bf8 is the first choice. The second choice, 22…Rdf8, was a move I had not considered. According to the Fish there is not much difference between the two moves. The third choice is 22…Bh6. The move chosen by MVL, 22…Be8, is the fourth choice of the clanking digital monster.

I continue to be amazed at how often top GMs reject playing the most forcing move. Sometimes it seems they see the move, but reject it for some reason because it is too obvious. Maybe the award winning book by IM John Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch, has had a profound influence upon the best current human players.

The book illustrates how modern players reject convention to “break the rules” of Chess. The clanking digital monsters continually point out how often the best move is the the one that follows the rules.

The next position is after 69th move played by black:

Karjakin plays the most forcing move,

70 Kc4. Unfortunately it is also a losing move. It is not always appropriate to play the most forcing move. Stockfish gives 70 Bc3; Ra3; & Ra8 as the best moves, with each leaving black with an advantage of about one and a quarter points.

The last position was reached after white played 80 Kf4:

MVL did NOT follow the cardinal rule of “passed pawns MUST be pushed.” Instead he played the most “forcing” move 80…Ra4+. This “forced” white to move his King. Karjakin moved to the g3 square, blocking the pawn. Go figure…

The Escape Artist

The Legendary Georgia Ironman and I had time last night for a brief discussion of the chess action happening this weekend. One of the topics discussed was the fact that the human World Champion played the Bishop’s Opening proper yesterday against Fabiano Caruano. As regular readers know, the BO, “The truth– as it was known in those far-off days,” according to Savielly Tartakower, has been one of my favorite openings ever since reading his quote in “500 Hundred Master games of Chess.” (see the book in GM Bryan Smith’s excellent article Magnus played the opening horribly, and lost. GM Yasser Seirawan questioned the moves of the World Human Champion, especially the move 11 Bg3. I questioned 13 h3, which allowed the Bishop to take the Knight, forcing White to capture with the f-pawn, disrupting the pawn structure in a horrible way. It is obvious things have gone terribly wrong after 14 fxg3. When Magnus played the move Qd8, after 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3, against Caruano at the Olympiad, I mentioned to Tim that players would now start playing the move, long discredited since Bobby Fischer beat Karl Robatsch in 20 moves at the Olympiad in Varna in 1962 and William Addison in 24 moves at the Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca in 1970, since Magnus had won the game. I also brought up the fact that before the HWC played the move, I had mentioned the possibility of purchasing the book, “The 3…Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong” by Daniel Lowinger and Karsten Müller, which brought ridicule from the Ironman. Last night I wondered aloud if players would now begin to play the BO because Magnus had played it. Before the Ironman could respond, I added, “Probably not since he lost.” Tim said, “The opening did not let Magnus down, Magnus let the opening down.”
One of the great things about chess is that a lesser player can question the moves of the great players. We may not often be right, but like that blind squirrel, we will occasionally find an acorn. Back in the day “BC” (before computers), we had to try and figure it out for ourselves. If a GM played a move, we accepted it as gospel. Today we turn on our “engine” and the “truth” is right in front of us. In a way this is a wonderful thing in that we now know if our move is better than the human World Champion. On the other hand, we now know that even the best human player is, well, human, and we humans make mistakes. As the Discman said, back in the day Grandmasters were “Gods.” Which makes me think of the famous speech by JFK in which he said, “…and we are all mortal.”

Schmuggy sent me an email last night after his game with Damir Studen, which I opened after noon:
Kevin Schmuggerow
Today at 1:09 AM
I had this one Michael, let it get away….
> e4 d5 ed Qd5 Nc3 Qa5 d4 c6 Bc4 Nf6 Ne2 g6 Bf4 Nd7 Qd2 Nb6 Bb3 Nbd4 Be5 Nc3 Nc3 Bg7 OOO OO h4 h5 f3 Ne8 Qg5 e6 Rhe1 Kh7 Qe7 Kg8 g4 Be5 Re5 Qc7 Qg5 Kg7 gh5 Rh8 Qg2 Rh6 Rg5 Qf4+ Kb1 Qh4 hg6 Rg6 Ne4 Rg5 Ng5 Kf6 f4 Nd6 Qf3 Qh6 Rh8 a5 a4 Ra6 Qc3 Ke7 Qc5 Bd7….Ne4 wins!! Mate in 7 (I played Rb8 and eventually got my rook trapped)

Looks strange without the numbers, does it not? Thinking the game would most likely have to be transcribed, I decided to hold off on going to the US Masters website until later. Fortunately, the whole game was provided. I broke out my trusty small wooden board and pieces and played over the game. Here are my thoughts…

Kevin Schmuggerow (1971) vs Damir Studen (2264)
USM Rd 3
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 c6 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. Nge2 g6 7. Bf4 Nbd7 8. Qd2 Nb6 9. Bb3 Nbd5 10. Be5 Nxc3 11. Nxc3 Bg7 12. O-O-O O-O 13. h4 h5 14. f3 Ne8 15. Qg5 e6 16. Rhe1 Kh7 17. Qe7 Kg8 18. g4 Bxe5 19. Rxe5 Qc7 20. Qg5 Kg7 21. gxh5 Rh8 22. Qg2 Rh6 23. Rg5 Qf4 24. Kb1 Qxh4 25. hxg6 Rxg6 26. Ne4 Rxg5 27. Nxg5 Kf6 28. f4 Nd6 29. Qf3 Qh6 30. Rh1 Qg6 31. Rh8 a5 32. a4 Ra6 33. Qc3 Ke7 34. Qc5 Bd7 35. Rb8 Qf5 36. Qe5 f6 37. Qxf5 exf5 38. Nh7 Bc8 39. c4 Be6 40. d5 cxd5 41. c5 Ne4 42. Rxb7 Bd7 43. c6 Rxc6 44. Nf8 Nc5 45. Ng6 Kd6 46. Rb5 Ra6 47. Bc2 Bxb5 48. axb5 Rb6 0-1

Wow, Damir was sooooooo busted! Poor Schmuggy…This game reminds me of many I played. If only IM Charles Hertan’s award winning book, “Forcing Moves” had been published in the 1970’s… Two things kept me from becoming a stronger player, one is not winning enough “won” games. The other will be discussed in a future post.
Damir’s 14th move looks weak. After 15 Qg5, white is all over him. After the obligatory 15…e6 Schmuggy played 16 Rhe1. I have to question this move. I mean, White is attacking the Kingside and threatening to open up the castled King position, so why move the Rook? I sat looking at this position quite a while…Obviously 16 g4 must be considered, but I wonder if this is one of those positions where a world class player would simply make a move like 16 Kb1? Then the thought hit me that Schmuggy could have played maybe 16 a3, but I like Kb1 better, but what do I know? One thing I have always taught my students is to count the total number of points one has in a sector, especially when one is on the attack. As it now stands White has a Queen, Rook, and Bishop, or 17 points, on the Kingside. Black has only a Rook, Bishop, and Knight, or 11 points. If White were to play 16 Ne4 he would have an additional 3 points, for a total of 20 points, versus 11. That is a huge disparity. And since Black has been forced to weaken himself with his last move, the Knight move takes advantage of the weakened dark squares. 16 Ne4 would be my move. Black would then be in “deep do.”
Schmuggy is right, 35 Ne4 brings the house down. It wins because it is a FORCING MOVE. The knight on d6 is PINNED. Another thing all chess teachers say is, “Pin to win.”

After going over the game I first went to the Chess Base database ( and 365chess ( to check out the opening. What I found was that Damir’s 7…Nbd7 is a TN. All games show 7…Bg7. Since the Scandinavian is Damir’s main (only?) defense to 1 e4 it is difficult to believe he came up with this move over the board. I must assume it was “home cooking.” It often happens that one can be burned while cooking at home.
Next it was put it into my now antiquated Houdini. I am sure you will do the same because that is what is done these daze. Some even put it into the machine before looking at it and thinking for themselves. Where is the fun in that? I find it shameful. After analyzing the game, my Houdini said, “The player with the Black pieces was the real Houdini in this game!”
What? Your computer program does not talk to you?

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes