SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Having the initiative is the backbone of all attacking play. The ability to create threats, to oblige the opponent to defend is the fundamental stepping stone to dominating the game. Often it is not as simple as that, as the opponent also gets in some shots and forces YOU to walk a tight rope.
The following examples all come from games played this past week. In each case it is the struggle for the initiative that is the decisive play.
From the 3rd Batavia-Grolsch tourney played in Amsterdam recently. Position after White’s 26th move (26.g3, preventing mate).
White is a pawn up but has little to be happy about since Black has the initiative. The open g and f files, the lined-up Queen and Bishop battery and the e and h pawns as levers are Black’s principal assets here. In the meantime, White has no way to counter attack and must defend passively.
This pawn sacrifice forces the Bishop to move, clearing the way for the Black Rook on g8 to increase its influence.
27. Bxh5 Rxg3!!
Immediately decisive! The Queen and Bishop battery can not be held back much longer. The Rook must be taken
White resigns. Mate can only be delayed at great cost. After 29.Qe2 Qxh3-ch 30. Kg1 Rg8-ch
there can be no doubt!
From the same event in Amsterdam. The position after 24 moves. Both sides are working to open up the position of the Kings and in positions like this the initiative is God. For the moment the Black King is secure on a8, but White finds a clever blow that ruffles Black’s feathers…
White strives to open up the h1-a8 diagonal and he is willing to spare no cost to achieve this. Black must take the Knight, and which ever way he does so makes little difference with respect to White’s next move.
25…Nxc6 26.Rxc6!! h3!
Clearly Black can not take the Rook on c6 because of mate! Black’s last move is a clever shot to neutralize the White Bishop. Unfortunately for Black, White has a way to keep his Bishop in play
27.Bh1! Bc5!? 28. Rc7! h2-ch 29.Kf1
Black is desperate! He tries one more clever idea before throwing in the towel…
29…Rd5!? 30. Rxb7!!
Not falling for Black’s trap: 30.BxR?? h1-(Q)-ch!
Now Black can resign! He plays one more move
30…Nxf2 31. Rb8-ch! It is forced mate!
From the women’s Gran Prix tournament in Doha, Qatar (taking place as I write). The position after 19 moves. White is a pawn up , but with Kings castled on opposite sides of the board it is of little value in the course of the game. Once more, the initiative is everything. Black’s counter attack on the Queenside is clearly far ahead of anything that White has on the other side of the board.
Black intends to simply play …a4 and take twice on b3. White can not stop this. If now 20.Bxf6 Nxf6 21.Nd5!? trying to distract Black’s attention 21…Nxd5! 22.Qxd5 Qa6! and Black has made progress. Therefore, White decides to bet everything on the Kingside counterattack…
21.Bxf6 Bxf6! even stronger than taking with the Knight 22.g5
White would gain nothing last move with 22.Qxd6 Nb6!
22…axb3! 23.cxb3 cxb3 !
If now White takes with the Knight then 24…Nc5!
follows (the reason why Black took back on f6 with his Bishop!
A desperate attempt to keep the a-file closed. But this does not deter Black’s attack
White is hoping that he can get in a move to proceed with his own attack over on the Kingside, but Black just keeps creating more threats…
Now White can not take on f6 because of 26…Nc4
(threatening mate on a3 as well as the Queen). 26.Qxb2
is only for masochists. So White tries the hold on another (futile) way…
26.Qe2!? Nxa4! 27.Nd5 Qb3!
White resigns. It will be mate in just a few more moves. An excellently played attack!