Guarding the centre is always vital

Chess Checks

Pieces anchored at the centre of the chess board play a pivotal role in the eventual outcome of the game as these central squares are like good vantage points from where they can either assist an attack or blunt out your opponent’s advancing pieces.

In the game below, Black has a knight firmly placed in the centre but suddenly decides to open out at the centre and leaves his knight unguarded. This is enough for White to launch a major offensive and get on the winning side.

White: Vladimir Epishin (2615) – Black: Alexander Shabalov (2535)
 Moscow, 1991
Semi Slav Defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Be2 0–0
Following opening book theory without much fuss
8.0–0 dxc4 9.Bxc4 b5
Black can maintain equality with 9. ..e5  10.Rd1 exd4  11.Nxd4 Qc7
10.Bd3 Bb7 11.a3
White can play 11.Ng5
11. .. Rc8
Previously played was 11...a5 12.e4 e5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.h3 c5 16.Bxb5 Bxc3 17.bxc3 Bxe4 18.Qe2 Qd5 19.f3 Bf5 20.c4
12.Rd1 c5
If 12...a6 13.e4 e5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.Bxb5 Qc7 17.Be2 Bxh2+
13.Nxb5
If 13.dxc5 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Rxc5 15.Bxb5 Nd5
13...Bxf3 14.gxf3 Bb8 15.Qe2
If 15.dxc5 Rxc5 16.Qe2 Nd5
15...Nd5
Black can drive away the knight with 15. ..a6 16.Nc3 cxd4  17.exd4  a5 And if 15...cxd4 16.Nxd4 Qc7 17.f4 e5 18.Nb5
16.f4 cxd4
Black can get his Queen into action with 16. ..Qh4  17.Nc3 Rc7  And if 16...a6 17.Nc3 cxd4 18.Nxd5 exd5 19.Bxa6 is better for White
17.Nxd4

17. .. e5
A big mistake! Black tries to get a break in the centre which helps White.  This move also puts in danger the knight which Black had nicely anchored at the centre. Black should have seriously looked at 17. ..Qb6  18.Qf3 Kh8  19.Be4 And if 17...Qh4 18.Kh1 N7f6 19.Rg1
18.Nf3 Qf6. If 18...exf4 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Rxd5 Kg8 21.Qd1 Rc7 22.exf4 is better for White
19.Ng5. If 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Rxd5 Nb6
19...g6. If 19...h6 20.Nh7 also allows huge advantage for white
20.Ba6 exf4
Black should have saved the knight with  20. ..N5b6  21.Bxc8 Rxc8  22.Qg4 exf4  And if 20...Rc5 21.Ne4
21.Rxd5 Rce8 22.Bd2
Taking time off to get the bishop into play. White had a better move in 22.Nxh7 Kxh7  23.Rxd7 f3
22. ..fxe3. Black can try to get some counter play with 22. ..Qxb2 23.Re1 Nf6
23.fxe3. If 23.Bxe3 Nb6
23...Re5. If 23...Nb6 24.Bc3 And if  23...Qxb2 24.Rf1 Nf6 25.Rb5 with both working well for white
24.e4 Rxd5 25.exd5 Qxb2 26.Rf1 Qxa3 27.Bb5. White could have finished off with 27.Nxf7 Rxf7 28. Kxf7
27. .. Ne5. If 27...Qc5+ 28.Be3 Qxd5 29.Rd1
28.Qe3 Qa2. Black naturally refuses the offer to exchange queens
29.Ne4. White can also play 29.Qh3
29. ..Ng4. If 29...f5 30.Nc3
30.Qe2 Qxd5. If 30...f5 31.Bc4 And if 30...Nxh2 31.Nf6+ Kh8 32.Qe7 also wins for White
31.Qxg4 Qxb5. If 31...f5 32.Bc4 fxg4 33.Bxd5+ Kg7 34.Bc3+ and White wins
32.Nf6+ Kg7
If 32...Kh8 33.Bc3 Qc5+ 34.Bd4
33.Bh6+ and Black resigned for White was threatening checkmate after 33. ..Kh8  34.Bxf8 Bxh2+  35.Kg2 h5  And if 33. ..Kxh6  34.Qh4+

White to play and win
1.Bf4+ gxf4 2.gxf4 checkmate.

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