“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
Playing correspondence chess with the help of engines is hard. It gets harder and harder as the engines improve. You can ask what is the pleasure of getting into it? Probably each one of us playing it has their own reason. Mine is to challenge myself to do better and understand how chess is evolving. Alphazero has changed the whole approach to correspondence chess in particular and chess in general. Where is this going? I am curious.
The opening is an even playing field most of the time. You need to know your openings quite well, or follow well established players. That puts you in the position to stand a chance in the middle game. Here is the position I got out of the opening in one of my latest games. It was while I represented the World Zone in a friendly match versus Zone 1 (Europe) still being played
Black’s last move was 15… Bb7-c8 accompanied by a draw offer. The question was what should I do? There were some sample games to rely on, but this was early in the game and Black could play good or better than in those games. You can see the possible next sequence where both sides get double pawns along the f-file. Would this be in my favour or not? I decided that messing up Black’s pawn structure in front of the castle should count for something.
What could Black do meantime? The most probable idea could be to use the pawn majority on the queen side. Now first and foremost that would not put my king in danger; secondly I could do something about slowing Black down. I looked at a few possible continuations and decided I could play on without much risk. The game went on:
At this point the question was how to start the attack on the castle. It had to be done in such a way that it tied down Black to defend it, followed by a threat in the center. Of course losing the a5-pawn had to be considered. I looked into it and figured out it would take black too long to do anything with it. Also I had to make sure I did not give Black enough time to improve the position of its pieces and start some exchanges:
With the most important Black pieces tied up defending their king, the center was under the control of the White rooks and bishop. The lack in coordination of the Black pieces is striking. There was absolutely nothing Black could do but watch the inevitable happening. It is highly rewarding to be on the White side of this and highly painful to be on the Black side of it:
This game could provide an answer on what I get sometimes out of the correspondence chess games. It is a good game. The main challenge is to be able to play more of these. In the same time it raises an interesting question about the line played by Black. Could we consider it busted and in White’s favour? Probably more testing is necessary. If you wish to test it, here is the complete game below. I would be happy to hear it worked for you too: