Chunks as Meaningful Entities

With experience, a player will learn to recognize chunks. That in itself is very useful, as for instance it is useful to recognize a good king-safety position from a poor one. However, this is only a tiny part of the action.

A story is told, and everything I know of indicates this is a true story, of the young Akiba Rubinstein who was a mediocre hanger-on at the chess club in Lodz, Poland. At one point, he decided to depart and was not seen or heard from for about 6 months. When he returned to the chess club, he challenged the Champion, Salwe, who was also champion of Poland, to a game. To everyone's surprise he won. Thereafter a match was arranged, and this was drawn. A new match resulted in a decisive victory for Rubinstein. He had leapfrogged from a mediocre player to one of the best players in the world. How could he have done this in such a short time?

In my analysis of the games of my predecessors, I single out the games of Rubinstein as being the first of what I call the Dynamic School of Chess. In the months he was absent from Lodz, Rubinstein had discovered Dynamics. This can be seen in his games, where frequently material is sacrificed for strong positional advantages, and where the pieces specialize in dazzling displays of cooperation.

Rubinstein played rook and pawn endings better than anyone at that time or before him. Rook and pawn endings are generally regarded as the most difficult, as the number of pieces on the board is small, and yet the rooks represent a lot of power. Managing this power well is the hallmark of the master player. Rubinstein was able to win rook and pawn endings by understanding things about the value of rooks occupying attacking positions so as to place the opponent's rooks on defence. For this, it was first necessary to create weak enemy pawns that could not be supported by other enemy pawns.

All this, he did with consummate artistry, winning positions that up to that time would have been considered so drawish, that they would not be worth playing. A wonderful example of his skill at this is shown below.

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Spielmann - Rubinstein

St Petersburg 1909

In this position, material is level and Black even has a pair of doubled pawns. However, he stands much better based upon an understanding of the chunk layout. White's pawns are all isolated, and must be defended by pieces when attacked. The pawns on the kingside can be defended easily as long as the white king stays there. However, there is a chunk of two white queenside pawns that must be defended, and the black rook can attack them both, while the white rook must defend them. Thus, this chunk of 4 pieces speaks to the defensive nature of the white position. Beyond that one cannot tell much. The black king has more possibilities for infiltrating the white position than the white king has for infiltrating the black. The dynamics of these chunks become apparent as we watch the game unfold. However, one thing is clear from the play: one player understands the nature of defensive chunks and the other does not.

4 sba

White would do well to play 4 d5+! <&e5 5 4f3 g5 6 <&e3 4f5 7 sbf3 f6 8 <&e3 g4 9 hxg4+ <&xg4, when his king can head for b3 while Black advances his kingside pawns and the issue is still very much in doubt. To play 4 d5+ would be to remove one of the targets to another square which allows more room for the defence. On the other hand to allow the black king into d5 and c4 seems to be utter folly as White soon is in zugzwang and must lose a pawn. The contents of the Chunk (queenside; W: a3, d4, d3; B: a4) is now quite evident.

It was better to play 5 h4 so as to prevent Black's next move. Play could then continue 5...f6 6 &e2 and White's defensive resources are

much better than those he got in the game.

For the moment Black dare not continue 5...2xd4 6 2xd4+ &xd4, whereupon White's outside passed a3-pawn will be the dominant dynamic factor, and White stands much superior in a pawn ending that will be played on the kingside, while the black king is absent on the queen-side.

Fixing another weakness to be attacked: the h3-pawn.

6 2b3 f6

Now White is in zugzwang, and must give ground. Soon a pawn will be lost.

White is again in zugzwang, and must make an unhappy move, whereupon Black will encroach decisively.

The point of the example is how to take advantage of weaknesses by attacking them, and forcing the opponent to defend them. A defending piece is worth less than an identical attacking piece. Thus, the values of pieces can shift according to their roles in a chunk. At this point White must lose a pawn. 12 &c2 Se2+ 13 Hd2 Sxd2+ 14 <&xd2 <&b3! 15 &e3 <&xa3 16 4f3 <&b3 17 <&g4 <&c4 leads to an easy win for Black. After Black has won the pawn, the rest is a matter of shepherding the advantage to a win.

Another example of dynamic de-cision-making in a rook ending is my game against Estrin in the 5th World Correspondence Championship. Here Black is a pawn ahead, but it is difficult to utilize it. Black's f7-pawn is attacked, and he must decide what to do. If he defends it with ...Sh7, planning to advance the h-pawn, he ruins the dynamics of his

Estrin - Berliner

5th World Correspondence Ch Final, 1965-8

Estrin - Berliner

5th World Correspondence Ch Final, 1965-8

position, as the h-pawn will not get very far, and in the meantime White will attack and exchange the pawns on the queenside, leaving a drawn position. For Black to play ...&e6 to defend his f7-pawn is useless as the king will be harassed by checks starting with ffel-h Black must recognize that his assets consist of passed outside pawns on the king-side, and the fact that the white d3-pawn is only a fixture since it can assume no meaningful role, and will be captured at Black's convenience.

With this understanding, it is clear that in order for Black to win, he must play on the queenside against the seemingly secure pawns there. One should also understand that if play is to be concentrated on the queenside, then the black f- & h-pawns are the outside passed pawns, and only one of them is enough to distract the white king (preferably the h-pawn). With this in mind, the winning plan becomes clear. Black will sacrifice his f7-pawn in order to threaten the white queenside pawns with his rook, thus requiring the white rook to stand guard. Then, he will march his king to the queenside via the centre, gobbling up the d-pawn in the process. Meanwhile, White can only send his king to capture the h-pawn. The game continued:

32 2xf7 2c7!

White dare not now exchange, as the pawn ending is an easy win.

An awful move that voluntarily weakens the queenside, which is just what Black wants to accomplish. White is lost anyway, as is shown by 34 &g3! &d4 35 <&h4 <&xd3 36 &xh5 Sc2! (D) and now:

al) 38b4ïïc3!39 2f2+<à>el!40 2h2 2a3! 41 <à>g5 2a4 42 2b2 £dl and wins.

a2) 38b3!<à>cl!39a42b2!40a5 (otherwise Black plays ...a5) 40...b5 41 a6 b4 42 <à>g4 <à>c2 43 2f7 2xb3 44 2xa7 2a3 45 2b7 b3 46 a7 b2 and wins.

a3) 38 2a3 a5 39 2b3 2c5+ 40 <à>g4 b5 41 4f4 <à>c2 42 <£e4 <à>bl 43 <à>d4 2h5 44 2a3 a4! 45 <à>c3 2h4! wins.

b) 37 2f7 Sc5+ 38 <â>g4 2a5 39 2f3+! <à>d2!! 40 a3 (40 b3 2a3!) 40...<à>c2 41 Sf2+ <à>b3 42 *f4 2b5 ! 43 <à>e4 <à>a2! 44 2f7 a6! 45 2a7 Sa5! 46 2b7 b5 and wins.

The dynamics of attack and defence of the pawns is very intricate, involving changes of venue by the black rook from side attack to frontal and rear, by means of checks, and the infiltration of the black king to either attack the pawns or cramp the white rook.

THE SYSTEM

35 a5 &xd3

No matter how White plays, his pawns are very weak and easily attacked and won.

38 a6 Sc4

39 Sf7 Sxb4

40 Sh7 Sg4+

42 Sxa7 b3

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