Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sixty-Four Squares Of Possibility: Magic From A Master

     I haven’t done any chess commentary since Eternity Road, and I’m aware that the fraction of my readership that’s interested in such material probably isn’t enormous. However, the following game, in which world champion Alexander Alekhine (White) faced Indian giant Mir Sultan Khan (Black), has me so mesmerized that I can’t resist the impulse.

     Girls, hold on to your boyfriends.

     This is a fairly common position early in a Caro-Kann Defense, Panov Attack Variation. White has opened the center rather than play against the more usual, cramped but solid position Black attains in a “closed” Caro-Kann. But with Black’s next move the game leaves normal channels.

     Alekhine is taking a chance here, delaying castling and offering Sultan Khan the opportunity to damage White’s Kingside pawn structure. However, it tempts Sultan Khan into an unsound sacrifice of one of his Queenside pawns. What follows is a beautiful lesson in the escalation of threats.

     It looks here as if Black has gained positionally, as White cannot immediately castle and the diagonal of his Queen Bishop is blocked. Alekhine’s reaction is unusual, and unusually effective.

     White appears to be offering the pawn back to Black...but Black dare not accept the offer: if 17... Qxb3; 18 Qxb3, Bxb3; 16 Rfb1, Bc5; 17 Rb6 and White’s lead in development will either gain him back the pawn or cripple Black’s further mobilization.

     This begins an intricate Knight maneuver that has the effect of tying Black into knots.

     Look at the way White’s Knight, Queen, and c-Rook control the squares between Black’s King and Queen. You can sense the invasion that’s coming.

     Black’s King Bishop, the only piece capable of preventing this incursion or dispatching the outpost Knight, has proved impotent and is now firmly pinned down. Now Black is lost...but without having made a definite mistake about which I can say, “This is where he lost the game.”

     Black’s position is untenable. Further loss of material is now inevitable. No wonder Alexander Alekhine was regarded as a supernatural force.

     Applause to Mato Jelic, whose analysis of this game got me to pondering it myself.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, applause to Mato... very few equal his craftsmanship in analysis and commenting a game for instruction.

    I suppose I'm not surprised you are also a chess player. I taught my brother to play in 1960. I quit playing after he had beat me unmercifully twenty games in a row. He went on to become a great player in postal chess. I liked to watch him as he went through his postcards answering the plays. He never needed a board.

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