Introduction

How many moves ahead can you see? This question is frequently put to chessmasters. R6ti's famous reply 'Usually not one!' is often regarded as a witticism, but after a little thought about the complex structure of chess one may perhaps conclude that he was speaking something alarmingly near to literal truth.

Suppose, for example, that at a certain stage in a game you have a choice of four feasible moves and that to each of (hose your opponent has four feasible replies. This already j'.ivcs sixteen positions to be visualised when it is your turn l<> move again. If, for the sake of argument, you then have lour continuations in each position and your opponent ajĀ»ain has four replies to each, there are over 250 hypothetical positions involved in the problem of seeing a mere two moves ahead; a similar choice at your third move would bring up the thousand.

Of course, the expert thins out this multiplicity of positions enormously by instantly rejecting the majority of them as unplayable and most of the rest as undesirable. Nevertheless, he is left with a formidable profusion of possibilitiesā€”and for this we may be thankful, since it means not only that chess is humanly inexhaustible but also that it can never even remotely approach monotony. Even (ieopatra's infinite variety, which custom could not stale, yields place to the perennial newness of chess.

Admittedly, there are positions where sequences of moves are forced, particularly in mating combinations and in some endgames. But the fact that once in a while a player may truthfully claim to have seen a dozen or so moves ahead does not invalidate the answer to our first question. How many moves ahead can you see? Very, very few!

How many moves ahead do you look? This is an entirely different question, and the whole subject matter of this book is involved in it. The complete beginner, having learnt the moves, conducts his first few games one move at a time and with no aim beyond attacking an enemy piece or, better still, giving check. Very quickly he learns to improve on this, acquiring an eye for forks and pins, and various two-move and three-move strategems to bring about the opponent's downfall. This is the stage of tactics, and every player has to equip himself as thoroughly as possible in this field.

It may be a new idea to many learners, however, that the thought processes of the chessmaster are concerned only in a minor way with these tactical devices. They are second nature to him. He gives them no more thought than the expert pianist gives to his fingering or the accomplished writer to the analysis of his sentences. They are only the vehicle of his ideas. What, then, are the ideas themselves? To give, on an elementary level, some answers to that question, illustrating them from the play of the masters, is the aim of this little book.

Though impenetrable complexity nearly always makes it out of the question to analyse in detail a dozen moves ahead at the chessboard, it is perfectly feasible to look a dozen moves ahead and visualise the kind of position one is aiming for, the kind of pawn structure one can try to build, the kind of advantages one may seek to acquire, and the kind of difficulties one may create for the opponent. This is strategy. The idea of taking control of a certain file, for example, doubling one's Rooks on it and then penetrating to the seventh rank, is a strategic aim which may take many moves to accomplish, with numerous tactical hurdles to be sur mounted en route. It may even prove in the end to be impossible, but the opponent, in preventing it, may have to create a weakness elsewhere which will then provide a new strategic target.

As an example of strategic thinking by a grandmaster consider the diagrammed position, which arose after Black's 34th move in the game Alekhine-Chajes, Carlsbad, 1923. Alekhine was not only a great player (World Champion 1927-35 and again from 1937 to his death in 1946) but also a very lucid writer. We summarise his thought processes at 1 his stage from his own explanation given in his book My Best Games of Chess, 1908-1923.

Material is equal. First he observes that he cannot get a nwiting attack by doubling or even trebling his heavy pieces on (he KR file at present, for Black's defensive resources are adequate. He therefore decides to bring his King towards i he ccntre of the board with the strategic threat of exchanging oil the Queens and Rooks on the KR file and then winning the endgame by penetrating into Black's game with his King via QR5. Black, no doubt, will react by ivntralising his King also. Alekhine then proposed to decoy (he remaining pieces one by one away from the K side by means of tactical threats. (To anyone not possessed of the icchnique of an Alekhine this part of the plan would be much more easily said than done!) Finally, when the black

How should White proceed?

pieces were well away on the Q side, he would exchange Queens and invade with his Rooks, the KR file being after all the avenue to victory.

The actual moves needed to carry out this plan were probably only sketchily fol^seen by Alekhine, but the measure of his success may be judged from the second diagram...

All aims accomplished

.. . which shows the same game twenty-six moves later. All the strategic aims have been fully achieved and Black is helpless. He was, in fact, faced with mate four moves later.

After which profound and perhaps rather daunting example we had better go back and begin at the beginning.

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