This week, we are finally going to work further through the student game we started playing roughly three weeks ago. I want you to consider everything we discussed in our examination of the middle-game and some of its principles. Don’t worry if you don’t remember everything discussed because I’ll go over the key points you need to take in. Remember that this is a game played between two children who have a basic working knowledge of the games principles. Let’s get right down to business.
We’ll start on move nine for White since we covered the first eight moves in a previous article. Here’s the game up to and including move seventeen (the final moves of the game will be presented next week.
Let’s examine the position at move nine. You should always do some basic positional analysis before making any move. I say “basic” because beginners do not have the skill set (yet) necessary to do deep analysis. The ability to do deep analysis comes only after having gained some experience playing (many years of playing). On move eight, White played 8. e5, pushing the e pawn further up the board. White knows that the Knight on f3 protects the White pawn so there is one defender to Black’s one attacker, the pawn on d6. When moving a pawn or piece to a square controlled by your opponent, calculate attackers and defenders first. Black plays 8…Bb7. Why not capture the White pawn with 8. dxe5? Because after White captures back with 9. Nxe5, White has a Knight on a possible centralized outpost. An outpost is a square that a piece can occupy without having to worry about a pawn pushing it away (is e5 really a possible outpost?). Knight’s love outposts! Black’s eighth move does put the c8 Bishop on the long diagonal, but it doesn’t make up for all those pawn moves early in the game. White’s ninth move, 9. Re1 does two excellent things: First, it adds another defender to White’s e5 pawn. Second, it puts the Rook on a centralized file, something you should do when given the chance, especially early in the game.
A good rule of thumb, regarding Rooks, is to activate them early in the game. This doesn’t mean dragging them out directly into the action. This means clearing pieces off of their starting squares and castling so that the Rooks can freely move along their starting rank. Once you do this, you can them move your Rooks to squares (along their starting rank) that allow them to control open or partially open files (files with few pawns or pieces on them).
Black plays 9…b4, attacking White’s Knight on c3. Pawns are excellent at pushing pieces off of key squares because of their low relative value. However, there’s an old adage I use, “don’t make a move unless it helps your game.” This means don’t make a move that helps your opponent. Does Black’s ninth move help White? Yes and no. White moves his c3 Knight by playing 10. Ne4 and, while this appears to put the White Knight on an outpost square, Black’s response, 10…d5 forces the White Knight to move again. Remember, if you keep moving the same piece over and over again, you’re wasting time or tempo, something you don’t want to do! A big problem with Black’s pawn move is that it leaves the b4 pawn exposed and eventually in need of protection. White then plays 11. Nc5.
Black responds with 11…Ne4. Black’s idea is that if White trades the Bishop on d3 for the Black Knight on e4, Black captures back with dxe4 and White’s f3 Knight is under attack. Sadly, Black wasn’t looking at the entire board. When you prepare to make any move, look at all of your opponent’s pawns and pieces to see if any of them are attacking your pawns and pieces. Black should have seen that White’s Knight on c5 is attacking an undefended Black Bishop on b7. White plays 12. Nxb7, winning a piece. Black tries to go after the White Knight with 12…Qc7. White simply moves the Knight back to c5 with 13. Nc5. However, it’s now White who isn’t carefully looking at the board because Black plays 13…Nxc5, capturing the hanging White Knight. There’s a lot of this in the games of beginners! Always look at your opponent’s pawns and pieces first to see if they are threatening any of your material.
White now sacrifices his Bishop with 14. Bxh7+. Beginners often think this is a bad move for White because a minor piece worth three points is trading itself for a one point pawn. However, the pay off is that it opens a line to Black’s King. The question is, can White keep the attack up and actually get something out of the sacrifice? Black captures back with the King, 14…Kxh7. White Checks again with 15. Ng5+ and Black simply captures back with 15…Bxg5. On move sixteen, White plays 16, Bxg5 and Black plays 16…Nbd7. White plays 17. Qh5+. Now, White is starting a mating attack. Black plays 17…Kg8. We’ll finish the game next week.
At this point in the game, Black will need to get his remaining forces over to the King-side to repel White’s growing attack. Of course, White still has to get more of his pieces to Black’s King-side to create a successful mating attack. Can Black get his forces to the King-side first? We’ll find out next week!
Black’s first moves in this game were passive at best. When starting the opening phase of the game, you need to go for the center, specifically center squares on your opponent’s side of the board. Doing so slows your opponent down and time or tempo are crucial. You cannot waste time. You must use the principles discussed in past articles to create attacks that work. Just thrusting pawns and pieces onto the board serves no purpose, although I suspect it helps your opponent win the game. Speaking of games, here’s one to enjoy until next week!