Keeping it simple is the best way

Chess Checks
Last Updated 24 September 2016, 19:01 IST

It is always sensible to force the exchange of pieces when you have an extra pawn or piece rather than try to finish the game with some fireworks, searching for a spectacular check-mate. However on the other hand it is better to complicate the position if you have a pawn or piece less or even an inferior-looking position.

In the game which follows, White wins an exchange and has an advantageous position. White then forces the exchange of queens and makes the winning moves appear simple after that.

White: Judit Polgar (2540) – Black: Alexander Khalifman (2640)
Gorica Portoroz, 1991

French Defence

 1.e4 e6. The French Defence which is a semi-closed defence
 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7
The more popular continuation is 4. …Nf6  or 4. ..Nc6
 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7
If 6...Bxe4 7.Bxe4 c6 8.0–0 Nf6 9.Bd3 Nbd7 10.c4 Be7 11.Bf4 0–0 12.Bc2 Qa5 13.Qd3 Qh5?! 14.Rfe1 Rad8 15.h3 Rfe8 16.Ne5 was played in a previous game
 7.Qe2 Ngf6 8.Ng3
White can play 8.Nxf6+ Nxf6 9.c3
If 8. ..Bxf3  9.Qxf3 c5  10.dxc5
 9.Bd2. White could have castled here
 9. ..Bxf3
If 9...0–0 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.dxe5 Nd7 12.0–0–0 Nc5 13.Bf4 Qe8 14.Nh5 f5 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.Nxf6+ Rxf6 17.Be5
 10.Qxf3 c5 11.dxc5 0–0
If 11...Nxc5 12.Bb5+ Nfd7 13.b4 a6 14.Be2 Na4 15.Qxb7 with advantage for White And if  11...Bxc5 12.0–0–0 0–0 13.Bc3
12.b4. White decides to support the pawn. If 12.0–0–0 Ne5
 12...a5 13.bxa5 Nxc5 14.0–0
White decides to castle
 14. ..Nxd3 15.cxd3 Qd7 16.Rab1 Nd5 17.a4 Qxa4
If 17...Rfc8 18.Rb5 Rc2 19.Be1
18.Rxb7 Bd8
Retreating to target the ‘a’ pawn which does not look like a good idea. Better appears 18. ..Qa2 or18...Qc2
 19.Nh5 Bxa5
If 19...g6 20.Bh6 Qc6 21.Rfb1
A simple check-mating trap
20. ..Bc3 21.Qg3
White’s pieces have now started swarming around the Black king
 21. ..g6
If 21...Qa1 22.h3
 22.Bxf8 Rxf8 23.Rb8 Qa7
Once again not exactly the right move! White should have played 23...Bb4 24.d4 Rxb8 25.Qxb8+ Bf8 26.Ng3 Qxd4
Doubling rooks! White can also exchange rooks here
24. ..h6 25.Rxf8+ Kxf8 26.Qd6+ Kg8

Diagram 1

With an exchange up, White forces the exchange of queens
27. ..Qxb8 28.Rxb8+ Kh7 29.Ng3 g5 30.Ne2 Be5 31.Re8 Kg6 32.h3 Nf6 33.Rc8 Nd5 34.Kf1 Kf5 35.Rf8 Kg6 36.Ke1
White can also play 36.g3
 36...h5 37.Kd2 g4
Here 37. ..f5 appears better
 38.h4 Nf4
Still 38. ..f5 is better
 39.d4 Bc7 40.Nxf4+ Bxf4+ 41.Kd3 Bd6 42.Rg8+ Kh7 43.Rg5 Kh6 44.g3
Fixing the pawns!
 44. ..Be7 45.Rb5 Kg6 46.Ke4
The White king is strong at the centre
 46. ..Bf6 47.Rb6 Kg7
The winning plan is: 48.Rd6 Kg6 49.Rd7 Kg7 50.d5 ed5 51.Rd5 Kg6 52.Rd6 Kg7 53.Kf5 Be7 54.Rd5 Bf6 55.Rd7 zugzwang.Or 49.Rc6 Kg7 50.d5 ed5 51.Kd5 Ba1 52. Ke4 Bb2 53.Kf5 Bd4 54.Kg5 Bf2 55.Rc3 wins too (as analysed by Polgar)
 48.d5 exd5+ 49.Kxd5 Bc3 50.Ke4 Be1

Diagram 2

 Black to play and check-mate
 ... Rh1+ 2.Bxh1
If 2.Kxh1 Qh2 check-mate
 2...Qh2+ 3.Kf1 Qxf2#

(Published 24 September 2016, 19:01 IST)

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