Switching the Attack

All our games so far have been selected (after a study of many thousands) to exemplify types of strategy which can be classified with the greatest possible clarity. But it must be admitted that these games, though of great didactic value, are not altogether typical of the rough-and-tumble of practical play, where all too often one's opponent anticipates and frustrates one's deep-laid plans.

All down the years the technique of chess has been advancing and the percentage of draws increasing, so that nowadays even the moderate player is by no means easy to beat. The most successful masters are those whose approach to strategy is subtle rather than hide-bound; they contrive to defeat even strong opponents by superior flexibility and the readiness to switch objectives the moment opportunity offers on any part of the board. In his book Chess Fundamentals Capablanca said 'at times the way to win consists in attacking first on one side, then, granted greater mobility of the pieces, to transfer the attack quickly from one side to the other, breaking through before your opponent has been able to bring up sufficient forces to withstand the attack'. This principle he applied with relentless subtlety even in simple endgame positions. His mastery is beautifully shown in the following exhibition game, played against Molina and Ruiz in consultation.

Consultation Game, Buenos Aires, 1914 White: Capablanca Black: Allies King9s Gambit Declined

1 P-KB4

Transposition makes nonsense of the overdone nomenclature of the K-side openings. This one has already been Bird's Opening, the From Gambit and the King's Gambit in successive moves and is now the normal King's Gambit Declined.

A forthright simplicity always characterised Capablanca's style. His priority here, taking precedence even over the completion of his development, is to destroy Black's strongest minor piece—the Bishop which prevents White from castling K side.

The advance of a pawn to the fifth rank usually indicates the taking of some strategic decision, and the present move is no exception. It not only cramps Black's game but commits White quite clearly to K-side storming operations. Black's immediate reaction now should be to prepare ..., P-Q4, breaking the grip, but this freeing move is never achieved. Another desirable scheme for Black would be to expand rapidly on the Q side and obtain counter-threats there. In fact Capablanca dominates the play, keeping the

4 Kt-B3 Kt-QB3

5 Kt-QR4

6 B-Kt5

7 KtxB

B-Kt3 B-Q2

RPxKt KKt-K2 O-O

allies fully occupied in meeting his continual tactical threats. The present one is 11 P-B6.

10 ...


11 B-B4 ch


12 P-QR3


13 B-K6


14 Q-Kl


15 Q-R4


16 B-R2


17 P-B4


18 P-KKt4

The storm gathers. This pawn threatens to push on to the sixth rank, wrecking the black King's shelter.

19 B-Q2 P-QKt4

20 P-Kt5


K-side attack in full swing

21 KtxKtP

22 R-B3

23 KtxP!


Capablanca resorts to violence. A piece for two pawns, coupled with exposure of the enemy King, is often a winning transaction. Study of the present position, however, fails to reveal any forced mate or even any promising King-hunt.

Capablanca was not in the habit of playing speculative or superficial sacrifices, and we have to conclude that his intended winning procedure is something beyond the ordinary. It may be too much to infer that he saw the game right through to its end at this point; what he did see was that in order to avoid being mated Black would have to bring all his pieces into a tight knot around his King, so that they would seriously impede one another. His intuition alone was then probably enough to tell him that his superior mobility would enable him to create some unanswerable diversion. His intuition—if it was no more than that—is vindicated on the 30th move.

25 BxP R-B2

As the white Bishops are stronger than the black Rooks, the allies would be glad enough to cede the exchange. After all, they are a piece up.

26 K-Rl

White, however, is less interested in winning the exchange than in bringing his last reserve piece into the attack.

And Black, having exactly the same idea, clears the second rank for his Queen's Rook to join the defence.

28 R-KKtl R-B3

29 B~Kt5 QR-KB2

All these manoeuvres have emphasised amusingly the impossibility of laying down an absolute scale of values for the pieces. Capablanca and his opponents are evidently agreed—at least for the time being—that the exchange of a white Bishop for a black Rook would only help Black.

But now Black is approaching the state of affairs known as Zugzwang: he has hardly a piece which can move without immediate disaster. On the other hand, the white pieces seem to be fully deployed in attack, and it is difficult to think of any regrouping which will force the position.

Capablanca has an ace up his sleeve

The white pieces, all of which are focused on the black King, have one forgotten and unsuspectedly powerful ally —the QRP! After 31 P-R4 a passed pawn must come into being on the far left, and its advance will create a deadly extra threat, which will be one too many for Black's fully occupied defenders.

31 P-R4 PxP

32 PxP Q-Kl

34 P-R6 Kt-Kt5

And now, though still a piece down, White can afford to go in for liquidation on the grand scale, leaving his passed pawn to win the game.

35 QBxR KtxB

36 BxPch! RxB

37 RxR KxR

39 QxP

Black resigned after a few more moves. Capablanca did not record the finish, which, after the elegance of the game so far, probably offended his aesthetic susceptibilities. Black cannot possibly cope with all the threats: any move of the attacked Knight allows 40 Q-B6 mate, and the attempt to save it by 39 ..., Q-K2 leads only to 40 Q x Q, Kt xQ; 41 P-R7, with a new Queen for White.

We continue with another fine game, showing this switching technique in reverse. Capablanca began with what threatened to be a mating attack and then won by creating a passed pawn on the opposite wing. Reshevsky begins with a Q-side attack which attracts all Black's defenders to that side of the board, whereupon he suddenly transfers his attention to the empty K side and forces a mating attack. The opposition here was formidable, being the Yugoslav grandmaster Gligoric, himself a candidate for the World Championship.

1st Game, Match, New York, 1952 White: Reshevsky Black: Gligoric Queen's Pawn, King 9s Indian Defence

So far we have the same moves as in Game 9. But knowledge of the King's Indian had grown tremendously in the twenty years between these two games.

At this point White can steer various ways. By exchanging pawns he would give Black an easy game. By 7 P-Q5, closing the centre, he would produce a game of manoeuvre, probably attacking on the Q side while Black gains ground on the K side. Reshevsky's move is neutral, reserving all the

2 P-QB4 P-KKt3

3 Kt-QB3 B-Kt2

5 Kt-B3


options and leaving Black to do the exchanging if he wishes.

Now Black threatens to play 10 ..P xP and make use of the K file.

10 P-Q5

So Reshevsky pushes on. Again Black can exchange a pair of pawns, but in this case White will make good use of the QB file. Gligoric decides to close the centre completely and see how White proposes to break through. He is treated to a convincing demonstration.

In a closed game between top-grade players the manoeuvring may look mysterious, if not downright senseless. This return of the Rook to its former square foreshadows expansion by ..., P-B4 after ..Kt-Kl. The Rook was useless on K1 once White played P-Q5. Similarly, White played 6 B-K2 in order to get castled but after 8 R-Kl returned the Bishop to its home square to unmask the Rook's action on the K file, the Bishop itself being well placed at B1 both for defence and for supporting Q-side pawn advances.

12 P-KKt3 Kt-Kl

13 P~QKt4 Q-K2

If 13 ..., P-B4 really was his intention, he now thinks better of it—probably in view of the reply 14 Kt-KKt5.

16 Kt-KR4 Kt-Kl

It looks very much as though Gligoric has decided that there is nothing positive to be done for the moment. He

White's scheme is emerging: all four Bishops are to come oif; then the QKt file is to be opened and occupied.

Black's options are being whittled away. When White plays PxP presently, Black will be unable to keep the QKt file half-closed by recapturing with the QP, for this would be met by P-Q6. All strategy rests on a basis of tactics. Reshevsky's games give the impression of grand strategy, yet Reuben Fine, his great rival in the 1930s, has described him as the tactician par excellence.

18 B-Kt5

19 B-R6

20 B-R3

B-B3 B~KKt2

21 BxB

22 Q-Q2

R-Kl KxB

23 BxB

24 PxP

25 R-Kt2

26 Kt-R4

27 KR-Ktl

28 K-Kt2

29 Q-R5

Kt-Bl KRxB KtPxP Kt-Q2



P-KR3 Kt-Kt3

All eyes on the Q side

With this move White is quietly preparing his change of front, for in addition to its two obvious points—rescuing the Queen and holding the QRP—it slyly pins the KP and threatens a powerful K-side blow by P-B4!

And now the two-pronged attack becomes really menacing. The QKtP was not yet capturable, for if 32 RxP, RxR; 33 RxR, Black would continue 33 .KtxP!, winning the exchange. But this insidious little Queen move definitely threatens the QKtP, because 34 ..., Kt x P would now be met by 35 QxKt, attacking the Rook. Simultaneously it threatens the KRP, and Gligoric is in a quandary. If he defends by 32 ..K~Kt2, his QKtP will fall and Reshevsky will probably occupy first the QKt file and then the seventh rank. He tries, therefore, for some compensation.

33 QxP Kt-Kl

Quite suddenly White is going all out for a mating attack.

A promising reply for Black now appears to be 35 ..., PxP—until one sees the devastating continuation 36 R X BP!!, which forces mate whether Black accepts the Rook or not.

End of quick-change act

Only seven moves ago all White's heavy pieces were battering the Q side. Now they are trebled against the King, and Black will never be able to muster his defenders in time.

This superficially brilliant sacrifice which forces the final entry probably needed very little calculation. The real work was done in the masterly strategy of the previous dozen moves.

After a few checks Black resigned in face of the inevitable mate—a conclusion which even ten moves ago would have been totally unexpected by the casual reader.

For another superb example of the sudden switching of the attack from one extreme of the board to the other see Game 34.

With these last two games we have come a long way from the unsophisticated slugging of Chapters 1 and 2. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we have hardly done more than skim the surface of an unfathomable subject. Good advice for any beginner is to cultivate the habit of considering not merely what the next move will achieve but also

38 KtxP!


39 Q-R6

PxKt what it may legitimately be hoped to accomplish in the next six or ten moves, or even twenty.

The best advice of all, however, is to go to the inexhaustible source of ideas—recorded master play. Ever since the habit of recording games established itself firmly in the 1830s and 1840s at least 90 per cent of all serious play, in match or tournament, has found its way into print. To find one's way back through the giants of today, through Botvinnik to Euwe, Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker, Steinitz, Anderssen, Morphy, Labourdonnais and all their great contemporaries, is a complete chess education. More than that, it is an adventure of the spirit, such as one man may find in Rembrandt, another in Mozart, and another in Keats.

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