24 March 2014

Hidden Threats

Taking issue with Emanuel Lasker's assertion that combinations are rare, Yasser Seirawan asserts:
Combinations of some sort can be found in the majority of master games, sometimes in the moves actually played and often in the variations hidden behind those moves.
Yasser Seirawan, with Jeremy Silman, Winning Chess Tactics (2003), 5.
Seirawan's assertion may be illustrated in a position from last year's European Individual Championship. Erwin L'Ami, playing the Black side of a French Tarrasch where queens were exchanged early, stepped his king towards the middle. This move seems to have left a pawn undefended, but it is well protected by a threatened combination.

White to move
After 21...Kf7

Had White taken the h-pawn, Black would have responded with 22...g6. The effort to rescue the trapped bishop with 23.Nf4 leads to a double attack. 23...Kg7 attacks the knight with a discovery while the king threatens the bishop directly. After 24.Nxg6 Rfe8, Black gains the bishop for two pawns and there remains the additional latent threat of Nxd4 followed by Ne2+ forking king and rook.

Hence, White's best choice after 23...Kg7 seems to be 24.Rxc6 Rxc6, and then 25.Nxg6 Rfc8 26.Ne7 Kxh7.

White to move

After the White knight captures one of the rooks, Black will have a bishop and pawn for three pawns--a clear advantage. Wisely, Pawel Jaracz played 22.Rfd1 and the game was eventually drawn after many moves.

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