Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chess, achieving a breakthrough

Time to write more about those frustration positions when you've placed your pieces optimally but don't see a breakthrough. Getting to these positions is easier than knowing how to continue, at least for me. It seems in these positions as if every move just makes your position worse!

Anyway, I think the solution is to examine how the masters handle these positions, and then try to generalize. Why generalize? Well, it's kind of pointless just knowing what move to play in this or that position, because you will never run into exactly that position. What you need to know is what *type* of move to look for in what *type* of position. All the positions I have in mind are of a certain type (before-the-breakthrough positions), but I'm guessing a further classification can be made, into sub-types.

I already have these three general 'solutions', but I need more understanding of each (and maybe find more):

1. Tactics (non-sacrificial). Sometimes a breakthrough can be achieved by simply finding some tactics. Not necessarily tactics to get a mate or even gaining material, just getting the desired breakthrough and a nice attack of some sort.

2. A sacrifice. A *real* sacrifice where you get your breakthrough at the price of losing some material you can't forcibly get back as far as you can see (if you *can* get the material back forcibly, it falls under non-sacrifical tactics.)

3. Starting some activity at some other part of the board (like pushing a pawn with the idea of opening a new line, even though your rooks are already well-placed), knowing that you got the better mobility and that the enemy's pieces are tied up in defence. You will be able to more swiftly move some pieces over to this new target than he will be able to defend it.

Yesterday's 'today's puzzle' at was a position from a very nice game (simul!) by Capablanca, and at one point this game had one of those 'before-the-breakthrough'-positions: (Btw, this isn't the position featured in the puzzle, but it is in my opinion the most interesting position in the game.)

Capablanca - T A Carter

White to move!

Here is the complete game. The breakthrough starts at move 21.



Wahrheit said...

Good example. A weakness of my play is the hesitancy to make the breakthrough move when it involves material sacrifice and I can't calculate it all the way to the end. I do fairly well at your "solution 1" but not so well at 2 and 3.

I think a lot of mid-level players probably have this problem, actually.

XY said...

I also think it's a common problem, although I didn't realize that until recently.

I'm hoping to improve my ability to do sacrificial breakthroughs (and live to blog about it), but also to find other ways to deal with superior-but-stuck positions. And studying and blogging about that will give me a good reason to post more of those nice looking diagrams one can create at

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