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…” (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/never-underestimate-the-basics/)

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, (https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-Karjakin_Sergey-Vachier_Lagrave_Maxime) 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…

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FM Kazim Gulamali vs GM Alex Shabalov

Some have asked why I do not annotate games. Each time I think of something the Discman wrote in an email, “Now any schmo with a smartphone can figure out the best move.” I figure most readers have access to a strong program and would refute most of the analysis of this schmo. In an email exchange with the Frisco Kid he wondered if he and Kazim Gulamali could have been GM’s now if they had had the right life experiences at the proper time, mentioning the work of Dean Keith Simonton, recommending I read anything I can find. I replied, “I often wondered out loud at the House of Pain what kinda player Kazim woulda turned out to be if he had been trained by IM Boris Kogan.” Kazim and his father, Mumtaz Yusef, were regulars at the House of Pain. Saturday nights meant Kung Pow Wow for Mumtaz and less spicy fare for the rest of the House. Mumtaz helped keep the House from going hungry. Kazim was called the “Little Grandmaster” for a reason. He understood chess on a different level even when young, and we all knew it. Kazim was always a gentleman, even when still considered a child. He was an adult as a player long before society considered him an adult.
This is the game score of Kazim’s game with GM Shabalov. I urge you to go over the game without a program and then return to the notes, kept while the game was ongoing and cleaned up a little for publication

FM Kazim Gulamali vs GM Alexander Shabalov
2014 World Open Rd 6
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2 Rc8 7.O-O a6 8.a3 Nge7 9.Bd3 Ng6 10.g3 f6 11.Re1 Be7 12.Qc2 Kf7 13.Qe2 Rf8 14.h4 Kg8 15.h5 Nh8 16.Bf4 cxd4 17.cxd4 fxe5 18.dxe5 Be8 19.h6 g5 20.Nxg5 Bxg5 21.Qg4 Nf7 22.Qxe6 Nd4 23.Qg4 Nxh6 0-1

I questioned 9 Bd3. My thinking was that if a student showed this game I would tell him the move violates the principle of moving the same piece again before development is complete. The move 9 dxc5 suggests itself. If then 9…Ng6 10 b4 would follow.
When Kazim played 12 Qc2 I thought back to a conversation I had with IM Boris Kogan after showing him a game of mine that began 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 Bd3 cxd4 6 0-0. In that game I had a chance to capture exf6 but eschewed the move. Black was able to move his pawn to f5 on the next move, leaving me with a lonesome pawn on e5, while the Black position was rock solid. In my game Black would have had to take on f6 with the g-pawn, leaving the Black King, “Drafty,” according to Boris. Although not the same exact position I cannot help wondering if Kazim should play 12 exf6.
With the above in mind, I wondered why Shabba did not play 12…f5.
I was flummoxed after Kazim played 13 Qe2. I realize that after IM John Watson published his stupendous, and award winning, book, “Rules? What rules?” (The name is actually, “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy” and it was a classic when it was published), every player is trying to find the exception to the rule, and Black just moved his King, so maybe the Queen move is called for, but I would still take the pawn, playing exf6, because if I do not Black can play 13…cxd4 14 cxd4 fxe5 15 dxe5 and White has that lonesome e-pawn. So naturally Shabalov plays 13…Rf8. Hey, he’s the GM!
14 h4 is aggressive and it is a natural move with the Knight on g6, but I am playing exf6. In lieu of 16 Bf4 I am still playing pawn take pawn.
22 Qxe6 Oh no, Mr. Bill! This position is reminisce of some of the positions I had when taking my first chess steps. The attack would be raging but when I needed more troops they would be, like Union General George McClellan’s, languishing in the rear. At the Battle of Shapsburg in 1862, the bloodiest day of the War For Southern Independence, “McClellan refusing to act even though he had two full corps that had not seen action.” (From “The Grand Design,” by Donald Stoker) The move has got to be 22 Nbd2, with Nf3 threatened. I rejected taking the pawn because in many games I have seen things turn out badly when the attacker settled for only a lowly pawn. It may not be correct to take a pawn like that even if you put the King in check. This gives Black a move, whereas developing the Knight gives Black something to worry about. I am reminded of the book by FM Charley Hertan, “Forcing Moves.” White needs to force his opponent to react, not allow him to act.
Today it would be said that Kazim “Went down over three pawns,” when he played QxP. Back in my day one of the Road Warriors would have said, “He let go of the rope.” In showing one of his games, LM Brian McCarthy said, after making a dubious move, “I let a hand slip offa the rope here, but he allowed me to grab hold again with this move, and after his next questionable move I hit him with this move and now I was climbing again!” Translate that to today’s computer speak and it just does not have the same ring.
After checking the opening with the Chessbase database and 365Chess.com I, too, allowed a program to do its thing. I am happy to report the machine proved that Boris knew what he was talking about. If I understood this particular kind of position better than the combatants it is only because of the fact that when Hulk Kogan talked, I listened.
Kazim had what we call a Dierks Bentley, “What Was I Thinking” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMQxLyGyT-s) moment when he played QxP. We have all had a “Dierks” moment. I sure would have liked to have seen the game that would have followed the Knight move that, as the Legendary Georgia Ironman is so fond of saying, “Connects the Rooks!”