23 May 2017

Seeing Patterns

Tal's Winning Chess Combinations (1979) has influenced my perception. Last week, I read the first chapter of this book by Mikhail Tal and Victor Khenkin, which exists under several titles with and without Tal's authorship. This chapter concerns the rook and corridor checkmates and checkmate threats. These corridor vulnerabilities are most often back-rank weaknesses, but there are other corridors, including a position where a rook must be given up to avoid checkmate between two walls of pawns alongside the f-file.

The large number of deflection combinations to threaten checkmate has made me more alert to these possibilities when going through other games. Of course, these ideas are not new to me. I was familiar with the idea even before Lev Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book (1997), which I read fifteen years ago, stimulated my imagination for the maneuvers with this exercise.

White to move

Alburt gives the exercise the title, "Defection Detection". It is number 93 in the book.

This morning, I was reading Baskaran Adhiban's annotations to his draw against Wesley So at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in January when the deflection motif jumped into my perception. After 25.Bxa7, So could have played 25...Rxa7. He did not, playing 25...Bxc3 instead.

What if he had grabbed the bishop?

White to move

Immediately, I saw 26.Qd5+ Kh8 27.Qxe5. However, nothing compels the suicidal 27...Rxe5. So would have had choices: 27...Raa8, 27...Qb6+, and others. In Adhiban's case, his offer of a bishop wins So's bishop, but no more. The game, as he points out, was, "[a]n exciting draw with lots of interesting twists!" (Chess Informant 131, 49).

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