Deadly Women (with Matt Fullerty)


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ronan Bennett and Daniel King on chess: how to find the best square for a threatened piece

Ronan Bennett, Daniel King
Tuesday September 15 2009
The Guardian
We thought that with our latest relocation it was time to reintroduce ourselves and to remind readers that this is a different kind of chess column. We don't bring you the latest tournaments (the internet does that a lot better), or annotate games by the greats (better left to anthologies and magazines). Instead, we try to provide the enthusiast and the club player, those for whom chess is a hobby rather than a profession, with useful advice and exercises in the form of a "master-student" dialogue between an average player (RB) and a grandmaster (DK).

Some of the positions we look at involve fairly high levels of chess understanding, but we also like to explore the kind of things ordinary players might encounter. Today's position falls into the latter category, and kicks off a series of columns themed around the question of finding the best square for a threatened piece. So where should the queen move to?

RB This looks rash, but since the queen is out we might as well go for it: 1 Qxc5. I'm expecting either 1...Nxe4 or 1...e6.

DK If you play the queen out so early, you are either very good or very bad. It's a beginner's ploy, vainly hoping for a quick checkmate. But if your opponent has an ounce of nous, the queen will be beaten back and you will have merely lost time. Ronan decides that he may as well grab a pawn, but Black recaptures, 1?Nxe4, and attacks the queen again. If 2 Qe3, Black plays 2?d5, staking a claim in the centre, and already has the more promising position.

However, if one is very careful, it is possible to play so outlandishly. The rising American star Hikaru Nakamura has made a speciality out of this shock tactic. Instead of taking the pawn, he has tried 1 Qh4. Now it is harder for Black to push the queen around, and if he castles on the kingside, the king could come directly under fire. But perhaps one needs to have the talent of a prodigy to make this work. The old rule of developing knights and bishops before anything else should still apply to most of us.

-- Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009

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