Longren-silman Santa Barbara 1989


1200 & 900: "The Queen is attacked and we both like


The first deviation from the Steinitz game! So far the kids have played very well.


1200 & 900: "Now our Queen is indirectly attacked."


900: "I like ...Bf5! with the idea of ...Be4."

1200: "I like ...Be6 to recapture with the Bishop and threaten the a-pawn."

900 got her way on this one. Note how they are unconsciously trying to make their Bishops better than the Knight, though 1 would have been even happier if they had verbalized it for me.


1200 & 900: "We both want to go ...Be4. If he goes Nxd8 then ...Bxf3 wins for us. It looks like White blundered!"

A very interesting moment, and one that demonstrates how many types of blunders are created. The attack on d8 made them focus their attention to that square. Thus the other threat, that of Ne7+, was completely missed. How does a player avoid this pitfall? One way is to write your move down first and then ask yourself, "After we play 6...Be4, can he take anything (yes, the Rook on d8 is hanging!)...does he have any checks?"

At this point you would notice Ne7+ and, if such a move were really a threat, you would erase your move and look for something else.

1200 & 900: "We didn't see this but it's still okay."

I like the fact that they didn't panic. Many older players would lose their composure when this oversight hit them in the face.

8.Nxd5 Bxf3

9-Rxf3 Rxd5

The game was stopped. The kids did excellently!

The previous example showed us how important it is to deprive enemy Knights of advanced support points. It also showed us how a fixation on one threat or square can lead to an unfortunate oversight.

I should point out that any kind of fixation in chess is bad since it blinds you to other possibilities. No rule is correct all the time! For example, what if you have to make the following decision: You have two Bishops versus a Bishop and Knight. Should you take a square away from a Knight but close the position as you do so, or should you open the position and leave the Knight on its post?

The following position shows us such a quandary.



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Longren-Silman, Santa Barbara 1989. Black to play.

Black has the two Bishops and there is little doubt concerning the strength of the one on a8 which, combining with the Queen on the a8-hl diagonal, creates mating threats against the White King. Unfortunately, the White Knight is blocking this line on e4 and the only way to chase it away is by ...f7-f5. Is this the right idea for Black? The answer is a resounding no! This pawn advance does chase the Knight away but it leaves Black with a backward pawn on e6 and a permanently weakened square on e5 (which White could eventually reach by Nd2, Rf2, Nf3 and Ne5).

Another reason to avoid ...f5 is that it makes the central situation stiff; it would be very difficult to open things up, and Black does want to open the position up since that would benefit his two Bishops.

After considerable thought, Black resisted the temptation to play the inflexible .. .f7-f5 and instead played directly to rip open the middle of the board.

Now White cannot prevent the center-rending ...e6-e5.

2.h4 e5

3.dxe5 fxe5

4.h5 Rd3

The game is already decided. The opening of the center has led to the activation of both Black Bishops and the Rooks. It is true that the White Knight is still on e4, but the fact that it is stuck there and needs constant defense ties down all the White forces and gives Black a free hand everywhere else.


Trying to draw the Black Queen off the a8-hl diagonal.

6.axb5 Qe6!

Heading for the kingside. Now ...Qg4 is a threat.

7.Nf2 Qd5

8.hxg6+ Kg8

9.Ne4 exf4

10.Bxf4 Qh5+

11.Kgl Qxg6

The combined action of the mighty Black Bishops and Rooks, plus the shaky state of the White King, make the result a foregone conclusion.

12.Qa2 Bd5

Black knows that the game is won so he defends his weak spots in an unhurried manner.

13.Qc2 Rf8!

This was the only Black piece that was not helping out. Now the threat is .. .Rxf4.

14.Qcl Bxc3!

Drawing the Knight away from its defensive location on e4. White resigned since 15.Rfl hangs the Knight on e4 and 15.Nxc3 Rxg3+ l6.Kfl Rgl+ 17.Kf2 Qg3 is mate.

Would an amateur be tempted by ...f7-f5 (from diagram 19 and 20)? I thought he might, especially if he recalled my insisting that you must chase enemy Knights from advanced support points. Let's see what transpired when I handed the ball to a 1700 student.

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Silman-1700. Black to play.

1700: "White has chances on the kingside since his Queen, Knight and Bishop are all pointing towards the Black King. White's King is exposed but well protected since the Queen and Rook defend the g2-square.

"What would Black's fantasy position be? He would like to make the Rook on el move off the first rank and mate on hi with his Queen via .. .Qhl mate. Black would also like to get rid of his dark-squared Bishop and create weaknesses on that color complex. In terms of space, White is ahead. Since it is Black to move, how can he achieve his fantasy mate? At the moment, White's Bishop is better than Black's on g7—no doubt about it."

What to make of this? He did not go into detail about Bishop versus Knight and instead raved about a possible kingside attack for White (though he never told us how White was supposed to make this attack a reality) and a possible mate on hi for Black (I suppose he sees both sides mating each other on the kingside!). He finally decided to chase the Knight away, but his reason for doing so had little to do with Steinitz's laws (take away advanced support points from enemy Knights) and more to do with a vision of a quick mate.

The question must be asked: will White allow such a mate on the light-squares? Can Black force it? Naturally, White will do everything in his power to prevent this one move knockout. 1700 must make the following adjustments in his thinking processes if he wants to improve his playing strength:

>• Always expect the opponent to see your threat(s).

>• Always expect him to make the best move! When you find yourself crossing your fingers and hoping that he won't see it, you are making a big mental mistake and are embracing very bad mental habits.

>- Playing for a tactical shot (.. .Qhl mate or .. .Qg2 mate) is fine if you can force it. If not, take your time, keep your eyes on the tactics, get the rest of your army into the battle, and pay lots of attention to the positional features on the board! You're never going to go anywhere if you can't blend positional and tactical considerations together.


1700: "So I have forced the Knight back but now I must make an enemy Rook give up control of g2 or hi since the White Queen is no longer defending g2. Unfortunately, I can't find a way to get his Rooks to move. If I could make his Knight move to fl, it's still mate (via .. .Qhl). How can I accomplish this? How about 2...Bxd4 3.cxd4 and now 3.. .Rxd4 or 3 • c3. Both give play but I can't see a clear continuation. It's interesting, though. I need to find some plan if there is no mate. I'll sacrifice with ...e5 "

Lusting after a quick, violent conclusion (even though his two Bishops give Black a long-range plus), Black finally throws himself over a cliff. Why the hurry? Why the need to give up material? What is this guy doing?


1700: "My idea is now to play ...Re7, ...Bxe5 and ...Rxe5. Then, if he takes my Rook on e5, it will be mate on g2."

Still living in the world of "He won't see it." I have tried hard to break 1700 of this habit but he clutches to it like life itself. By beating lots of lower rated players in this manner, he's convinced himself that he's doing something profound. That's why I recommend seeking players who are better than you. Yes, you might lose lots of games, but you will certainly get stronger and learn lots about chess that those weaker victims would never be able to show you.


1700: "This allows me to continue with my idea after 4.. .Bxe5 5.dxe5 Rxe5 and he can't take due to .. .Qhl mate. Wait a moment! Aren't I down a Bishop if he doesn't take? My Rook does get to d3 with pressure for the piece so it deserves consideration. Let's calculate: 4...Bxe5 5.dxe5 Rxe5 and now he just moves his Rook and I lose—it doesn't work. I don't see how I can get his Rooks out of the way. I can also consider a different idea, namely 4...h5 and 5...Bh6. However, it's very slow since his Knight will come to f3 and block everything. I can't mate him! White is well protected here. I think that White had the better position all along; there is no question about it. I gave up a pawn to try to rip open the middle and fight it out but it was all in vain."

Notice that when reality hit him he began to blame the position. His problem is that he wants instant gratification. Trying to make use of one's advantages in a slow, controlled manner is an alien concept to him. He only speaks of kingside attacks and mate.

At this point I stopped the game in disgust.

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