Thursday, October 3, 2013

The art of successful defense: Part 4

In the process of defending one should also strive for active defense-- that is, creating new threats against the attacker in the process of defending. In this way the attacker will be given the additional burden of having to meet with these new threats should his attack fail, such that he does not have the time to regroup his forces and launch a second attack.

And thus, I introduce the final topic of this series that covers the broad aspect of active defense:

Defense by counterattack

You've just beaten off an enemy assault. But you are not content with a draw; you want a win. Plus, your opponent still has considerable strength and is threatening to renew his offensive. You don't want to go through the hassle of having to defend a second time... so you strike him first!

We start simple:

Checkerboard 5 vs Checkerboard 6
Black Knights Internal Tournament 2013 (Modified)
White to move

In the above position, White has managed to utilize a blockade of the h-pawns to slow down Black's attack...for now. However, Black still has considerable forces which he can use to organize a second offensive along the kingside-- for example, by grouping his major pieces along the f and g files before breaking into the position with a possible knight sac on g3.

White thus sees that he has to deny Black of the time needed to regroup his pieces. To do this, he must create threats of his own on the opposite wing...

1. a5

And now Black suddenly finds that he has to contend with the threats towards his queenside castled position! The threat of 2. Bc6 followed by a breaking through of the b-file forces Black to postpone his attack in order to meet with White's counterattack.

...

When deciding whether to employ a direct, prophylactic defence or to launch a counterattack, one should first take a look at the nature of the position, mainly the scale of the attacker's commitment to his assault. Launching a counterattack too late may not give the defender enough time to save the game, while launching it too early may lead to the potential of backfiring.

The following game is a good illustration to the relationship between the scale of the attacker's commitment, and the method of defence employed:

Source Unknown
Position after 1. Re3

With his last move White intends to lift the rook onto g3 or h3 for an attack along the kingside. However, such rook sorties do not indicate serious commitment for the attacker; at this stage, the rook can still retreat to the 1st rank if the attack does not succeed.

Black has an open c-file at his disposal which he can use to launch a counterattack-- however, White is not yet fully committed to the assault, so he can quickly retreat his troops to organize an effective defence should the counterattack arise. Hence, Black decides that the conditions are not yet favourable for a counter-thrust, and decides to employ a passive prophylactic defence for now.

1... c6 2. Rg3 Kh8

A prophylactic move against 3. Bh6

3. Be3 Be4

By exchanging light-squared bishops, Black hopes to slow down White's attack and at the same time clear the squares on the c-file for a counterattack later on.

4. Rh3 Qd5 5. f3!?

White makes a dangerous commitment to his plans-- if the attack fails, White's rook will be unable to retreat without significant loss in tempo.

5... Bxd3 6. Qxd3 (D)


6... Bd6?

Up till now Black had been cautious in employing a passive defence against White's threats, at the same time keeping his trump cards (the c-file and the d5 outpost) in reserve. Now, however, he wrongly decides that the time is ripe for a counterattack and makes a careless move. All White now has to do will be to play 7. Bg5! and Black has to give up a piece to avoid being mated on h7. But fortunately for Black...

7. Bf4?

And White throws away his chances of achieving a quick victory! After this text move, Black reasserts his advantage and continues on with his plans:

7...g6 8. g4

Black was threatening 8... Nh5. With his last move White has already committed himself fully to the offensive; but Black now seizes the chance and his counterattack grows in strength:

10. Bg5 Bxe5 11. dxe5 Ng8 12. Rg3 (D)


White finally admits that his attack is not successful, and makes some attempt to defend against Black's threats on the second rank. If 12. Bf6+ then 12... Nxf6 13. exf6 Qc5 and Black stands better.

12... Rc2 13. Rg2 Rxg2+ 14. Kxg2 Rc2+ 15. Kg3 Kg7! 16. Bf4 h6 17. h4 h5! 18. gxh5

Otherwise Black will open up the kingside with 18... hxg5

18... Ne7 19. Qb3

19. h6+ is tempting, but will not work because of 19... Kh7

19... Nf5+ 20. Kg4 Rc4 21. Re1 (D)


There is no apparent defence to Black's counterattack now. If 21. Rd1, then White loses even faster after 21... Qxd1! 22. Qxd1 Ne3+

21... Rxf4+ 22. Kxf4 Qd4+ 23. Re4 Qf2 24. Kg5 Qd2+ 25. Rf4 Qd8+ 26. Kg4 Qxh4# 0-1

Position after 26... Qxh4#

As quoted by Vladimir Vuković: "If one leaves aside Black's unpunished mistake on the sixth move, then the whole course of the game is a good illustration of the relationship between the scale of the attacker's commitment and the method of defence employed. In the first phase White is not heavily committed by his rook's excursion and Black carries out a cautious direct defense without compromising his king position. He also maintains his hold on the c-file and the centre and eliminates one enemy unit-- the light-squared bishop."

"With f3 and g4 White has already taken on greater obligations and so the time is ripe for indirect defence by means of an action along the c-file. As soon as another unit is eliminated (the knight on e5) it is all over with White's attack, whereas the counterattack grows from move to move, with the lack of communication between the white rooks as the main cause of White's misfortune."


And with that, I close my series of articles on the art of successful defence. I hope this has helped you in better understanding and perfecting the various defensive techniques which you will encounter in tournament play.

Links:
Part 1: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-art-of-successful-defence-part-1.html
Part 2: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-art-of-successful-defence-part-2.html
Part 3: http://nushsblackknights.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-art-of-successful-defense-part-3.html

Sources:
"Art of Attack in Chess" by Vladimir Vuković

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