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  1. 19 May '09 16:03 / 5 edits
    This is an analysis I have already posted once.
    I re-post it, just for tomtom and greenpawn, corrected and with fens (about 30), which will make it much easier to read. It is somewhat long, but please take the time to read it! I would be very happy if you did so; and I think it can help beginners having troubles with positional thought or strategy.

    “Recent threads claimed some positional analysis, which is one of my favourite issues. I was pretty much decided to do something good about this (with my modest capacities).
    In the beginning, my idea was to write a few comments about one of my games, and to post it on Resigning soon topic (equalizing and taking advantage, something like this); but it soon took longer, and ends up with ten pages. So I think it is worth posting it on a new thread.
    My hope is this analysis will help beginners to get an idea of what positional thinking mean. If it gives them a first sense of positions, maybe an “aesthetics” of positions, it will make me very happy. I tried to detail everything to the most simple argument.
    This is also a way for me to advertise for the semi closed openings with white bishop fancietto, wonderful openings, full of possibilities, agressive king attacks and long positional games. In a recent article, the New York Times underlines that Catalan was strongly renewed recently, to the point that players are now trying countergambits... I recommend it then! It is quite complex, there are many different paths, at each step, to the point that the borders of “Catalan” opening are not clear… Whatever, here we won’t care so much about tactical lines; we will focus on the Catalan spirit. And as everyone knows, spirits easily cross borders.

    The game I choose is interesting for getting slowly, in several decisive steps, a strong advantage, in a typical positional style. I think some of the positions look very beautiful, in a positional perspective. Chess Master counts only a few significant mistakes for each of us. So the game is rather clean. I would be interested to have Fritz rates on it, if someone has time to do that. I am myself a limited, young player, so be indulgent with my comments (do not hesitate to be critical!) The somewhat lyrical style is just for fun. Hope you’ll like it. When I claim something is wonderful, of course I do not mean the game is Master-like. Only try to make people appreciate positions.
    I integrated shorbock precious comments. Many thanks to him. I also divided my thread in a few replies. Because one does not give enough space.

    Here is the game.

    1. d4 Ng8f6 2. c4 e6 3. g3

    This situation defines the general strategy of the opening. g3 prepares Bg2; it therefore announces further work on the white diagonal, the famous h1 a8 diagonal; with at first sight, an attack on the queen side (but does not necessarily stick to it). Of course, black will prevent this, and try to set up a counter attack plan at the center, King's side or Queen’s side. Fancietto and attacks on the Queen's side often mean longer, more positional games.

    Now, what do you play?

    My opponent played : 3. ... Bf8b4+

    Black brings his black bishop out. This is one possibility. Other possibilities are...

    Let see some basic openings. This is the most boring part, you can skip it.

    - the obvious d5.

    This one, can be deduced from what I said earlier. This is the Catalan with d5, black does sth with the famous h1 a8 diagonal; this is the most common move.
    You can go to Catalan when coming from declined Queen's Gambit, or Semi-slave and slave openings; or even from the English.
    These transpositions are very interesting. They mean that when you play d4, you have pretty good chance to come back to Catalan, if you want.
    Sometimes though, this leaves the opportunity to your opponent to play the Dutch (f5) since he did not play Nf6. But usually this does not happens.
    So very good, you can play Catalan all the time.

    If he chooses the d5 path, Black will soon or late have to do a strategic choice.
    - Will he take the c4 pawn and accept the Catalan's Gambit? we would go on an open Catalan then: black has one pawn, but this imply some delay in development, and creates weaknesses: Black gives up the center, and White can possibly play e4, e5 for instance. It opens the famous diagonal, and White’s nice white bishop will hit b7 and Ra8.
    - or Black does not accept the Gambit, and the threat is he slowly dies from within, because at a certain point, he cannot make any move.

    - c5 is more counter intuitive! (doesn’t mean bad!)

    Why? Because black cannot anymore play c6. And c6 is part of the famous diagonal. So when doing this, Black just calls for white bishop to attack his/her Queen's side.

    So why c5? (which is normal, correct, very much played move) It attacks d4. and then, it forces White to make choices.
    either White pushes d4 -many players do - but this makes me sad because it kills my famous diagonal (at least temporarily). Or White plays Nf3, and after cxd4 Nxd4 (anti-Benoni variation) we have something very open. and very good for my bishop. usually, after c5 white will soon play d5 to try to fill in the holes he is doing in his/her Queen's side.
    and then black will have the same choice ( as for closed and open Catalan); but white can create an IQP (isolated queen pawn), right on the famous diagonal. the perfect target...

    - And other moves are not very active, except Bb4.
    Let’s back to Bb4.

    What is the idea of Bb4+ ? it looks weird ! Obviously, first idea, it fastens development: you get out one piece and at the same time check my King.
    But is that all? because I will just get one piece out to protect my king, and then I just develop myself also! So what's the point? what advantage do Black get from that move??
    Let us be more precise.
    you force me (since I do not want to move my king) to put a piece ... in d2. very intelligent! Now I can see! two reasons. 1. a piece in d2 is not very well developed; I will probably have to move it once more before it is really efficient. 2. if it is in d2, then d4 is not anymore protected by my queen; and when game will open, I will have to be careful about d4 pawn (a bit, only).
    So Bb4 is a very good move too. this is what Black plays.
    Bogo Indian, according to shorbock.
  2. 19 May '09 16:07
    4. Bc1d2

    Why this ? there are at least two other possible moves at that time!
    Here it's only a matter of taste. I think taste is very important in chess; and nevermind all tactical, logical necessities, you still have taste. here it's taste. Please have good taste; make up your taste, improve it, as much as you can; make it become a style. So that chess is not only intelligent, but becomes beautiful. All great chess players have specific styles no? very important.
    But that you can make different choices doesn’t mean AT ALL that you don’t have to give reasons, for moves of similar value do NOT have the similar effects. Of course! On the contrary, there wouldn’t be style, there would only be better players. Impossible.

    So, what are the two other moves?
    - Cc3.
    this you can play, but you do not feel it. because after black c5, Qa4 and possibly Ne4, it makes a lot on your poor knight. and it is easy for black to play this. So you can play, it is not a mistake; but black have higher success rates with this.
    - Nd2. This is as good as Bd2. But I feel freer with the Bishop on e2, because whenever I feel bad I can exchange with Bb4. and also, I can develop my knight on c3, if necessary. But on the other side, I may loose a Bishop. Anyway, I do not like normal bishops. they are lazy. I don’t care about the supposedly superiority of bishops. This black bishop, I know, in these situations, is usually a bit lazy. So I will keep the knights. Knights are like dancers, dancers of the famous diagonal, coming here and there, in the shadow of the Great White Bishop, like nasty flies suddenly going deep inside the flesh of the enemy.

    4. ... Qd8e7

    Black could also have brought his Bb4 on e7. I can hear you.
    “What?? bringing back stuff in the beginning? why wouldn't he rather play Be7 straight from the beginning in that case ? Black is wasting his time!”
    No he is not. Because, as you know now, the position is not exactly the same : now I have a poor bishop on e2...

    putting the Queen here is the other possibility. it defends the Bishop, and you cannot take it. it develops the Queen; and possibly prepares... for the long castle?

    5. Bf1g2

    Whites set up his major piece. This piece he wants to honor with the fancietto! White’s second king! The center of his board! With that kind of bishop, the center is not d4e4d5e5. it rather is h1g2f3e4d5c6b7a8. Of course! why should the center always be in the same place, in the middle of the board? Good players decide of their center. Decide of your rules, don’t follow them!

    5. ... a5 !?

    pretty unusual ... why not!! it seems that black would like to attack on queen side? I am not sure here, but probably not a good idea to exchange (he would probably take back with the pawn, opening the rook file, and having an annoying pawn in b4, preventing your knight to get out).
    So let him to his own story. at least he has style! and I have no more book to help me... damn, how can I do without cheating? Easy, just make his story to mine…

    6. Ng1f3
    Whites just develop naturally his pieces. One thing to know: the Nf3 in these situations, likes to go on e5, especially when the dxc4 gambit was accepted: from e5, he may be able to take back the pawn. Moreover, he may attack from e5 on c6 (part of the famous diagonal). This can be terrible, when in one move, white bishop and Nf3 attack c6, at the same time. e5 is the royal f3Knight square.
    Ne5 is what we may call a “thematical move”; i.e. a move that is not natural, but still is good in a given situation. Make sure you are fully aware of the implications of thematical moves! These are decisive steps…
    In some situations, Nf3 may prefer going to d2, though; with similar effects (attacking c4, opening the famous diagonal).

    6. ... b6. Now just have a look. What immediately comes to your mind?

    The h1a8 diagonal! We just talked about Ne5, why not now? this would attack Black rook on the famous diagonal. and put the knight in such a way that he cannot play Nc6 to protect his rook (because then, as I just said, my dancer knights will take it.)
    well, I did not play it, because he could simplily play c6. and then he cannot put his knight in a very good place, but he prepares a correct d5.
    So, his move looks kind of weird, but for the moment I just wait and see.
    This, again, is very important: take your time! It is a matter of elegance. Would you eat a T-bone when it's not prepared? Just think inside yourself: hmm, nice, nice. Look at the board as if you were inspired, or as if he just played a astonishingly good move. And laugh inside. You might later realize this was a very good move; but for the moment, you’re allowed to laugh.

    7. O-O
    So I take my time. and just castle... but this is an offensive castling... as shows the next move.

    7. ... Bb4xd2

    and yes! he has to take my poor bishop with his good bishop. and he wastes time, for I will take and develop one piece. whereas Black will not develop anything with this.
    So why does he have to take??
    well if he does not, what happens next? I just remove my bishop in a good place (f4 for instance), and then, with a3, forces him to go back. but he has no good square. He would have to go on d6, which looks awful: it suppresses any counterplay to Black: he cannot play the long expected d5...
    for instance 7. ... 0-0 8. Bf4 Bb7 9. a3 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6.

    and the queen is just in the place it should not be.
  3. 19 May '09 16:09
    8. Nb1xd2
    I take back with the Knight. In the first place it looks weird. Why not with the Queen? The knight is in a bad situation, whereas I could have put it on c3 next move!
    Well, the answer is like having my Queen on c2. and if I take with the Queen now, it will be on d2...

    8. ... Bc8b7
    logical move, following previous b7. Black try to do sth with the famous diagonal.

    9. Qd1c2

    here is the Queen move. Many reasons for Qc2… I like it because it is on the c file, which may be active soon (remember, I am still waiting for d5, possibly cxd5, or dxc4), because it prepares e4 move; and because, potentially, it might threatens h7.

    One general point: as my master told me: always think about your liberation move! the liberation move is THE move you make around the end of the opening, to launch an attack, open game, threaten the opponent.
    generally, when you play d4, liberation move is e4; and reversely.
    So I just think about it.

    9. ... d6?

    Damn! what's wrong with this chess player? does he ever play a piece? has he ever heard about chess?
    oh I know. As usual, when people make mistakes, it is not because they just don't know, it is because they have something else in mind...
    Here it pretty much looks like some West indian variations; and I bet he told himself, why not this way?
    But every situation is singular, and this is not a West Indian. So please, new situations = new solutions. Try to think the difference! Chess is all about understanding differences.

    10. e4

    liberation move! now we go. But please have a look at the situation. Which one do you prefer? easy to say. White is about three tempi ahead. When compared to black, white has one more knight (though not very well located, but still!); one castling more; about one more central pawn, as compared to one useless a5 pawn and three sad little b6, d6 and e6 pawns. I definitely prefer whites.
    Why such a situation? let us try to remember:
    - remember this waste of time with the Black bishop (one move lost)? remember the weird d6 move (one move lost)? and the third one?? Damn! I didn’t mention it. Where is it? Can’t remember. Oh no, it’s just because Whites usually start at chess, so they have one more move. Did you know this?

    10. ...Nb8a6?

    Now he must feel bad. This move is weird. It therefore is a good sign for me, it confirms that my situation is better.
    I could not get the justification for such move, which isolate the Knight (actually for the whole game). Maybe for Nb4? as it forces me to play a3, it gives him one tempo to castle on time. But I think this way he gains one tempo for a worse situation.
    If he’s afraid of d5 after Cc6, why not Cb7. more central. This prepares c5 as much as Ca6 does.

    11. a3

    a3 and h3 moves are not useless moves that you can do when you don't know what to play. They are full, serious moves. Here I protect my Queen and my Queen side from invasion (if I don't, he can play Nb4 for free, gaining a tempo by threatening my Queen).
    Again, be elegant, take your time: liberation movement does not mean you want to go naked and get hurt.

    11. ... c5 ?
    Damn! he goes naked and wants to get hurt! this is an inappropriate liberation move. He is about three moves late, and still wants to take the initiative. This does not make sense. He could at least have castle before this...

    12. e5

    I therefore insist to take the initiative with e5. As it threatens a Knight at the same time, I get it. These pawns moves are very important! Absolutely crucial!
    if you are white, you want to keep the initiative, so try not to close the game. Closing the game means pawns at the center cannot be exchanged anymore. It is generally good for black and bad for white (situation becomes more even). In this situation this is particularly clear. after 12. d5 e5 Whites just loses much of their advantage. After dxc5, game becomes pretty closed too. True there is an open d file; but that's all. c and e files are closed.
    When you’re white, have a good reason when you close the center in the beginning. Don’t if you don’t.

    12. ... Nf6d7
    the only possible move.

    13. exd6

    let's open! Liberation goes on.

    13. ... Qe7xd6
    only move.

    14. d5
    go on! he has not castled yet, and we open, open, open. this is why 12. e5 is better than dxc5. The reward of elegance.
  4. 19 May '09 16:11
    14. ... 0-0-0 !

    Surprising move? Not so much. But excellent! the best move to be done here, I think.

    1. Black definitely has to castle, but the other side is a bad idea. White is ready to attack on the King side after 0-0. As I told before, this is the strength of this general “Catalan” structure: you usually attack on Queen side, but can go quickly to the king. and we find here, the third interest of Queen c2... it threatens mate on h7.
    possible tactical realisations, for instance: 14. ... 0-0; 15. Ng5 Cf6 (prevent mate in h7 16. dxe6 (threatens Bb7) Bxg2 17. exf7+
    or 14. ... 0-0 15. Ng5 g6 (prevent mate in h7) 16. 16. dxe6 (threatens Bb7) Bxg2 17. exf7+
    gain one pawn and destroy black castle.

    Sorry for tactics. I hope I did not make any mistake at that point.

    2. So now, strategical revolution! What should we think about this long castle? first, the game enters a new dimension, opposite castling games are terrible.
    This means White has to adapt its plan! Time to make a strategical evaluation:
    This castling is completely disturbing: How can the Black castle on the Queen's side with my master bishop and my diagonal? How does he even dare?! this is mad.

    Mad? Not so mad, finally: first, because Black also has his bishop on this diagonal.
    Second, and this is the major strength of this castling: the queen's side will not be that easy to attack, because pawns there are pretty solid; my pieces are pretty far, Black’s Na6 will suddenly be more useful (though defensive). So, I would say... interesting! Ingenuous!
    When a significant strategical shift is needed, do it! don't get stick to your old ideas!

    So now, white needs a new plan! Queen's side will be long and hard; it will take a lot of time for me to bring my pieces, especially my knights there... I cannot attack on the Queen’s side right now. I may prepare for it, but not do it now. Anyway, black would obviously break through the center before I get there.
    Hey… here is the new problem! I have to prevent him from getting the center. See my d5 pawn?? if it was not there, he would have a strong, very strong open file, and his bishop will attack mine... terrible.

    My center is not so good: I don't even have a rook! and my Queen is by now somewhat pointless on c2.

    Damn: this castling was a brilliant idea! it almost cancels my advantage. Would black even be winning right now? I have to find a way!

    15. Nd2e4
    Ok, not very surprising: I develop one piece while attacking his/her queen to get a tempo. but see what comes next.

    15. ... Qd6e7

    What should I do now?

    I can open the center, but that would definitely strengthen his position (that I cannot open the center is a sign that I am not in a so good situation) ; I could bring a tower, he will just open the game by himself (exd5).

    Then, what should I do?? What would you do?

    Does that mean I should push the d6 pawn? No no no… though… see where he put his Queen. It seems like a provocation to my d5 pawn. he just says “come!” very provocative, very intelligent; maybe a positional trap in his mind. But should I come? by living his Queen on e7, he even offers me one tempo to do it.

    Of, course, I would pretty much like a pawn in d6! It seems like I won a battle. I would be very proud.
    Though… would I ever be able to defend it? It seems difficult… I couldn't even bring another pawn for help.

    In most situations, pushing too quickly a pawn would not make sense, but here, it's probably not so bad.

    16. d6 ?! Qe7f8

    see how he keeps his queen on the f8 d6 diagonal. It seems that my pawn is the target now.

    17. Rf1d1
    Ok now let's defend the pawn, take the center, everything we planed. Strategies are pretty clear for both of us...

    17. ... Nd7f6?
    he goes on his development, while attacking my pawn and my Knight. This is the beginning of the Knight dance.
    Pretty natural move, and apparently pretty annoying to me. But maybe a mistake.

    What would you play?

    18. Nf3e5

    The only possible move, with a tactical trick! if black takes d6, after everything is exchanged, Knight on e5 takes f7 and makes a fork on rooks and queen.
    Second move of the dance.

    18. ... Nf6d7
    He goes back to d7. I feel pretty good. Like I won a small battle.
    But here, it’s pretty hard to find a path to improve the situation. Should I exchange Knights? sad. I could also go back; but the dance would then be very repetitive, drawish. How can I improve?
    What would you play, again?

  5. 19 May '09 16:13 / 1 edit
    19. f4
    I took me a while, but I was pretty happy to find this simple move. Now, if he takes me, my d6 pawn got a friend in e5; and everything is ok. even more than ok: I have a good passed pawn. So Black cannot take my Knight.

    19. ... f6
    the natural, expected f6... removing my knight from a threatening position (remember the forks?). but what is the difference? The f6 square is not available anymore; he will not put his knight here. See here how difference is important, so subtle, but so significant! These differences that you can see, and that will make the big difference?

    20. Ne5d3:
    see the dance going on. Beautiful, no? We are in a very tense situation: I must defend the d6 pawn. Many small moves, nearly invisible, meaningless; we are not playing chess, we are whispering.

    Let’s make a break and talk about dancing and positional play.
    I want to make here a serious hypothesis on positional games (please give me your opinion on this), that positional games can be divided into two groups actually: in the first group, the two players have coherent bases, frontal oppositions, solid harmonious groups, and they try to make them move to create unbalance. This would be like judo.

    But here, despite it is positional, the situation is completely different. Pieces are also pretty harmonious, but we do not have any solid group in whites; we rather have very long lines (see my rook file, my bishop diagonal), with very fragile, very uncertain connexions, connexions defended from very far away.
    This would be the second way to play positional games: the aerial way, dancing positional games: you throw a few pieces far away, and try to defend them, try to use them as scouts, as spies. Scouts and spies do not break the frontline; they invade the opponent like pouring water.

    Here the pouring water is a Knight dance around a pawn, in the shadow of a mighty bishop. Why not?

    Let’s go on

    20. ...Nd7b8

    Here, Black brings his knight back to attack again d6 pawn. Dance is going on.
    SEE how amazing the situation is: all black pieces are touching the side of the board, except one bishop. But still, White advantage, if any, is very very small; as long as we do not know what happens to that d6 pawn.

    Here I have to confess something. At that moment, I realized the d6 pawn would not last for ever. That was pretty sad, but I chose to sacrifice the scout. Not for nothing, sure, but still, a sacrifice.
    What can the plan be, if I want to keep some advantage? go for the queen side.

    21. b4

    White finally begins the attack of the Queen's side. Actually, this was a bit prepared by the dance. The white dancer was perfidious. White’s knight is on d3 now, on the Queen’s side. Opening the center is not so much a problem since white has a rook. Besides the position of Black pieces; I would say one pawn may be worth the price, especially as taking it will imply additional costs.

    Notice that b4 threatens to open files on black King, but can also lead to b5! trapping the poor Na6. So Black'd better hurry to get the d6 pawn, to avoid this.
    See the subtleties of dancing (and aerial positional games)? Knight dance is slow, as all positional games are, but not repetitive, and full of intensity, the tension of strings. Here, one string is breaking (saving d6 by the center); so we try another way, with other lines.

    22. ... Bb7xe4

    He wants his pawn back!

    other possibility was f5, but not so convincing. threatening White's Knight. White could consider a sacrifice : 23. N xc5, to get two linked passed pawns after 23. ... bxc5 bxc5. or also Ng5 threatening e6 and a fork, and therefore gaining one tempo to save the situation.

    But this move is also terrible for black, it means the end of d6 pawn and Knight dance, but it also means the come back of the famous h1 a8 diagonal, because black has no more white bishop.
    Tragedy on the board.

    22. Bg2xe4
    nothing else to be done.

    22. ... Rd8xd6

    finally, here it is! d6 pawn is dead.

    Unfortunately, its death was costly. The fancietto bishop is going to come back.
  6. 19 May '09 16:13
    23. bxa5
    no more possible trap of Na6. b4 will be used to open lines. taking a or c is the same, if black takes back with b pawn.

    23. ... Rd4.
    but black does not!? the general idea, here, is for him to fasten his development.

    24. Be4h1
    Bishop is threatened, it has to go back. back to h1 leave the possibility of an hypothetical Qg2 move. back to g2 may have left the opportunity of further Bh3.

    24. Qf8d6

    again, black wants to speed up! but this now means he gives up one pawn. Actually, this was pretty useless, I think. Psychology, psychology, I would say: he was fed up to wait in his very little corner (though it may have been better).

    25. axb6
    I just take the pawn; there is no tactical threat at the center, on my Knight or anywhere else.

    26. Rh8d8
    a lot in the center, but unfortunately, not enough.

    26. Nd3f2

    White proposes exchange in the center. He also now threatens h7 with his Queen, and further Qxg7 or Qg8+

    27. Qd6xb6

    Black does not exchange, and prefer to get back, at least, one pawn. (especially as it threatens to come on the famous diagonal in b7).

    27. Rd1xd4 ?

    chessmaster indicates here that Rd1b1 directly would have been much better.

    27. ... Rd8xd4
    taking with the pawn would have closed the column... but Chessmaster thinks it’s better, I guess because it makes a good pawn.

    28. Ra1b1

    Threatens the Queen. Here we are. Black has now a decisive advantage over white. Chessmaster gives around +1.60. This is very surprising, if you consider that material is even. but positional advantage is obvious. it is worth noticing the very bad black Knights (White Knights died, but won the dance, at last), and bad Queen, as compared to the perfection of white lines: white has a rook file; a wonderful h1- a8 diagonal for the bishop and a Queen b1 h7 diagonal.
    What is absolutely striking in this situation is how white pieces can all of them (except the Knight, which has only a defensive role) be at the same time fully defensive and offensive. For instance, the rook attacks the very weak b7 square, while at the same time covering the King. The same can be said of the Queen, defending the rook and attacking h7.
    Victory must be close.

    29. ... Rd4d2
    one final trick from Black.

    29. Qc2xh7
    White avoids trick and uses Queen's full potential.
    positional advantage begins to be converted into material one

    29. ... Rd2b2
    Desperately tries to invade the south west.

    30. Rb1d1
    avoids the exchange, and the invasion; the white rook goes to the next file available.

    31. Qb6b3 ??
    final blunder, when desperately trying to invade.

    31. Qh7g8+

    Black gives up: after the forced Kc7 Qd8+ 1-0

    Conclusion: be sensitive to positional style! of all positional styles, heavy and aerial ones; be sensitive to the smallest variations, differences and improvements; be elegant, take your time. Make your pieces whisper. Some people say they are romantic players, meaning they are offensive, sacrifyish people. But why not to be baroque? Could not the interest be in giving intense, little orientations to the game? See how pieces circulate! And see the power of the bishop! Remember the knights died for it… The souls of the dead Knights still sparkle in the power of the Great mating Bishop!
  7. 19 May '09 16:36
    what a beautiful game, excellent thoughts, im gonna read this again to see if i can absorb the excellence, thanks Macpo, thanks so much.
  8. 19 May '09 16:37 / 1 edit
    don't say that before you read it... ^^
  9. 19 May '09 16:38
    Originally posted by Macpo
    don't say that before you read it... ^^
    i read it twice already
  10. 19 May '09 17:51
    damn! don't be such a fawner... my too weak soul would soon succumb
  11. 19 May '09 18:04
    Originally posted by Macpo
    ***! don't be such a fawner... my too weak soul would soon succumb
    honestly i am no joking, no need of false modesty! after each win you should look to the sky and exclaim in a loud voice, 'I am the chosen one!', that's what I do, after each loss, I blame it on something else, the fates, the gods, actually its the insight into the thought process that's so helpful,