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  1. 09 Apr '09 10:18 / 3 edits
    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, it will make me very happy.
    I also think one of the greatest problem of analysis, in general, is that is does not explain things in details; it focuses too much on a few points, taking everything else for granted; and I can remember that was very boring, when I began chess. So here, 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 to Resigning soon!

    The game I choose is pretty interesting for getting slowly and in various decisive steps a strong advantage, in a typical positional style. Chess Master counts only a few major mistakes for each of us. So the game is rather clean. I am myself a limited, young player, so be indulgent with my comments (but do not hesitate to be critical!) The somewhat lyrical style is just for fun. Hope you’ll like it.
    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. I apologize for the previous, uncomplete version.

    If someone could help me, I would like to insert a few fen in my tutorial at key points, but I don't know how to (when I paste from "getting pgn" it only gives me one position...)

    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. Of course, black will prevent this, and try to set up a counter attack plan at the center or King's side. Fancietto and attacks on the Queen's side often mean longer, more positional games.

    3. ... Bf8b4+
    Black brings his black bishop out.

    This is one possibility. Other possibilities are...

    Let see some basic openings.

    obvious one: 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 much more counter intuitive! Why? Because black cannot anymore play c6. and guess what: 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? 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...

    - other moves are not very active, except Bb4.
    What is the idea of Bb4+?? sounds weird too! Obviously, first idea, it fastens development: you get out one piece and at the same time check my King. but obviously, it is not a real threat, just a way to get time.
    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 you I 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.

    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.
    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.
    the other move is: Nd2. This is as good as Bd2. But I feel more free with the Bishop 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. This black bishop, I know, in these situations, is usually a bit lazy. So I will keep the knights. I love them, they are like dancers, dancers of the famous diagonal, coming here and there, like nasty flies, and suddenly going deep inside the opponent structure.

    4. ... Qd8e7
    he/she could also have brought his Bb4 on e7. What?? bringing back stuff in the beginning? why wouldn't he/she rather play Be7? he is wasting his time!
    No he is not. Because, as you know now, it is not exactly the same position: 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.

    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?

    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.
    In some situations, Nf3 may prefer going to d2; with similar effects (attacking c4, opening the famous diagonal).

    6. ... b6

    Here, an immediate thought: look at the 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, this looks weird, but for the moment I just look.
    This, again, is very important: take your time! It is a matter of elegance. Would you go on the meat when it's not even prepared? Just think inside yourself: hmm, nice, nice. Look lik...
  2. 09 Apr '09 10:25 / 1 edit
    Look like you are inspired or like he just played a surprisingly good move.

    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. because I will take developing 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, and then, with a3, forces him to go back. but he has no more good space. He would have to go on d6, which looks awful, because it suppress any counterplay to Black: he cannot play the long expected d5...
    for instance 7. ... 0-0 8. Bf4 Bd6 9.Bxd6 Qxd6.
    and the queen is just in the place it should not be.

    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. 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 situation= 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 tempo 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 did not mention it. Oh no, it is just because White usually start at chess, so that 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 is going 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 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!
    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.

    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.
  3. 09 Apr '09 10:27
    14. ... 0-0-0 !

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

    Black definitely has to castle, but the other side is a bad idea. White is ready to attack on the King after 0-0. As I told before, this is the strength of this general 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. This is so unreadable. I hope I did not make any mistake at that point.

    So now, strategical revolution! What should we think about this long castle? first, the game enters a new dimension, opposite castling games are terrible. for they are pretty violent.
    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.
    But not so much, 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, the Na6 will suddenly be more useful (though defensive). So, finally, I would say... interesting...
    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 Knights there... I cannot attack on the Queen’s side right now. I may prepare for it, but not do it now.
    Black will obviously break through the center before I get there. Actually, 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 very good: I don't even have a rook! and my Queen is by now pretty 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 makes him become stronger (and this 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).

    Does that mean I should push the d6 pawn? See where he put his Queen. it seems like a provocation to my d5 pawn. he just says, come! very intelligent. But should I come? by living his Queen on e7,he offers me one tempo to do it, because he thinks this would be a mistake.

    I think personally, that a pawn in d6 would be very nice! I would be very proud. but it is very unlikely that I can ever defend it! 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.

    17. Rf1d1
    Ok now let's defend the pawn, take the center, everything that we planed. Our strategies are pretty clear for each 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 a mistake probably.

    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. but it’s here 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?
  4. 09 Apr '09 10:28
    19. f4
    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. We are in a very tense situation: I must defend the d6 pawn. This is all the meaning of the dance.

    Let’s make a break and talk about dancing and positional play.
    I want to make here a very serious, new hypothesis on positional games (please give me your opinion on this): that positional attacks 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 desequilibrium. This would be like judo.

    here it is completely different, you have to feel this. because pieces also are 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 connexions, very uncertain, defended from very very far away. This is the second way to play positional games, the aerial way, dancing : you throw a few pieces far away, and try to defend them, to use them, to bring all other pieces with these first scouts. So not breaking the frontline, but rather invading the opponent.

    Here it’s a Knight dance, around a pawn. Why not?

    Let’s go on

    20. ...Nd7b8

    here, Black brings his knight back to attack again d6 pawn. Dance goes 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.
    We have to confess something: d6 pawn will not last for ever. So let's say that we do not need anymore, and go for the queen side.

    21. b4

    White finally begins the attack of the Queen's side. Actually, white prepared this a bit: given the general position of Black pieces, one pawn may be worth the price. and you see now that opening the center is not so much a problem: we have a rook, black's queen is on c file. and we can push b4 thanks to Knight on d3.
    b4 threatens to open files on black King, but it also threatens 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. here, one string is breaking (saving d6 by the center); so we try another way, with other lines.

    22. ... Bb7xe4

    He wants his/her 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.
  5. 09 Apr '09 10:30
    22. Bg2xe4
    nothing else to be done.

    22. ... Rd8xd6

    finally, here it is! d6 pawn is dead. Unfortunately, its death costs a lot.

    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 to fasten black 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. It is due to black psychology I would say: he was fed up to wait in his very little little corner (though it would have been better to have waited).

    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...

    28. Ra1b1
    threatens the Queen. Here we are. Black has now a decisive advantage over white.
    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 rook attack 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.

    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; and 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
    See how pieces circulate!

    This analysis is probably not very deep, but it enables me to show the interest, and the meaning of positional play in general, and of the in particular

    1. being careful in not wasting time in the beginning; wasting time means most of the time very concrete mistakes. Follow simple, clear strategical stakes. (here the white bishop on the famous diagonal)
    2. be capable to identify changes and to propose new strategies if necessary (here after 0-0-0);
    3. this does not mean you forget everything: here, White comes back to the white bishop after many moves. It only means you are capable to change from one to another to create weaknesses.
    4. and above all, be sensitive to positional style! of all positional styles, heavy and aerial ones; be sensitive to the smallest variations, differences and improvements; be elegant enough to take your time. Some people say they are romantic in chess, meaning they are offensive, sacrifyish people; why not to be baroque? could not the interest be in giving intense, little orientations to the game? always repeating, but making it always different? Making Knights dancing?

    I hope this will convince a few people!
  6. 09 Apr '09 13:17 / 1 edit
    an amazing post, i have not worked my way through all the annotations, nor do i understand everything, but believe it or not i was really hoping for a post like this to come along, so far i like it! thanks so much!
  7. 09 Apr '09 14:08
    Originally posted by Macpo
    A great post with a huge amount of effort put into it. Thanks for writing this. I'm sure many players will find it very instructive if they are willing to spend the time going over it. I found many of your thoughts during the game to be rather interesting.
  8. 10 Apr '09 06:16
    Thanks! though I am afraid it is too long, and people will never read it before it get lost in old threads...
  9. 10 Apr '09 07:01
    It's very useful - thanks. It might be long but it's a very quick way to get an idea of how to play or play against the Catalan.