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Monday, November 7, 2011

Heavy Pieces

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Knights and bishops are normally the most important pieces in the middle game. The reason is simple : Rooks and Queens are more susceptible to incoming fire than minor pieces, Of course there are such things as rook sacrifices, exchange sacrifices, queen sacrifices and so on. But

there are also blunders and trapped pieces (pins, forks and other disasters), Heavy pieces are chivalrous yet fragile species.

The fewer pieces there are on the board the more squares will become available for the heavy pieces and, consequently, their strength increases for every exchange.

This is the theory at least. With plenty of pieces on the board, knights and bishops are capable of hassling the rooks and queens in the way that makes them seek shelter behind pawns and/or other lesser beings. Often the heavy pieces stand with their backs against the wall and show a little muscle while they let the young the restless fight the battle for the centre. When did you last see a combination where only the major pieces remained on the board?  Tactical properties belong to some extent to the minor pieces, while the major pieces come to life only when plentyof blood has already been spilt on the board.

Howerver, there is one situation where heavy pieces come into their being in the middlegame. This is when you have a rook against two pieces, or a queen against three pieces and the minor pieces are poorly co-ordinated.. Tal in particular was great at using the heavy pieces against minor pieces. The following position is probably the most extreme case of positional compensation with a heavy piece.

White is about to regain some material, but hardly enough. And on top of all that, Black effectively has passed pawn on the c-file. But there are other factors which are significant. Black's king is in trouble, the a6-pawn is about to fall and White will have a passed pawn, too. However, without his supreme understanding of the capacities of the heavy pieces Tal would not have gone for this endgame, and the world would have been robbed of a masterpiece. White managed to win after.

30 Qxf8+  Kg5  31  bxc4  bxc4  32  g3  Be4  33  h4+  Kg4  34  Kh2  Bf5  35  Qf6  h6  36  Qe5  Re4  37  Qg7+  Kf3  38  Qc3+  Ne3  39  Kg1  Bg4  40  fxe3  h5  41  Qe1  Rxe3?

Tal writes the following in what Murray Chandler and others have called the best ches book ever : "Fatigued by the foregoing struggle, Panno makes a mistake. 41...Re6 would have drawn quickly since 42 e4 gets nowhere after 42 ...c3. Now white has real winning chances.' the book is, of course, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal. The best is  the endgame university by Mark Dvoretsky,

42 Qf1+ Ke4  43  Qc4+  Kf3  44  Qf1+  Ke4  45  Qxa6  Kd4  46  Qd6+  Kc4  47  a4  Re1+  48  Kf2  Re2+  49 Kf1  Ra2  50  Qa6+  Kd4  51  a5  c4  52  Qb6+  Kd5  53  a6  Ra1+  54 Kf2  c3  55  a7  c2  56  Qb3+  Kd6  57  Qd3+  1-0