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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: Sometimes the Color-Complex Is Worth More Than Material

2020-02-14 00:43:39
Sometimes the Color-Complex Is Worth More Than Material

It is safe to say that most solid chess players know that weaknesses can be more important than material. What they don’t always know is when one is more important than the other. What about not even current weaknesses, but potential ones? Can they massively influence a chess game? These are highly positional ideas that grandmasters understand and so should we!

One place I see this concept of potential weaknesses overlooked often is whenever we discuss the “Bishop Pair.” For those who don’t know: the Bishop Pair, in chess, is when one side has both of their Bishops and their opponent does not. Computers and grandmasters alike estimate that the Bishop Pair is usually worth about half of a pawn. This means that if material is even, but you have the Bishop Pair: then you may be winning! Obviously, this estimate doesn’t address every unique instance. For example, Bishops tend to be better in open positions than closed ones: a Bishop Pair here may be worth more than half of a pawn. However, what even makes the Bishop Pair worth anything in the first place?

There is no such thing as a “Knight Pair” valued, so what makes Bishops different from Knights and other chess pieces? The answer is of course that the other chess pieces can play on either color square. The Bishops are limited to staying on the color-complex they begin the game on. Think of it this way: all chess pieces (“pieces” do not count chess pawns) can control any square on the chess board – except for Bishops, they can only control half of the squares. Together the Bishop Pair can control every square, but alone: they can only control the squares under their dominion. Why does this matter? Chess pieces are for attacking, defending, exploiting, sacrificing, decoying, overloading and the list goes on. A lot of high-level chess is about keeping your options open and flexible. It is about not committing yourself to certain plans (that may tip your opponent earlier than you would prefer) and about countering the opponent’s potential counterplay. You can’t do this efficiently if half of the board in untouchable by your lack of Bishop(s).

Perhaps the most important realization in this article is that whenever you lose your dark-squared Bishop, you just lost potential influence over the dark squares. Whenever you lose your light-squared Bishop, you just lost potential influence over the light squares. This fact shouldn’t be exaggerated in importance (many times it is fine to exchange a Bishop for an opponent’s Knight or something else), but too often the positive and negative effects are not considered enough. Our game to follow this time was played by Gennady Borisovich Sosonko as the Black pieces against Peter Ostermeyer as the White pieces. This game was played in March of 1975 at the FRG-ch International. The 2400+ rated player Gennady Borisovich Sosonko is the player we will follow; he clearly understood the power of the color-complex and based on when his opponent resigned, it is clear that Peter Ostermeyer understood this concept too.

The game begins with the Sicilian Defense. This opening is highly theoretical and renowned for its deep theory. It is one of the most studied openings in all of chess with some lines in opening books reaching past move 30: that is 60+ ply of opening theory! 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Many famous chess players have begun their games with this opening and Bobby Fischer was one of them when he swept the United States chess scene. Usually Black plays the Knight to f6 next with the sole idea of virtually forcing White to play the Knight to c3. There is nothing wrong with playing another way, but by provoking White into playing Nc3, Black avoids White from playing c4 at some point and getting a Maróczy Bind setup. The Maróczy Bind is credited to Hungarian grandmaster Géza Maróczy; its first recorded game was played in 1904.

Nf6 5. Nc3 Again, Nc3 was provoked to avoid facing c4 from White.

g6 Entering the well-known Dragon Variation with this move of course.

6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 Now we have the start of the Belezky Line as 7. f3 enters the realm of the aggressive Yugoslav Attack.

8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O Nxd4 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. g4 Would you be shocked to hear that we are still in opening theory? It is true. The Rauzer Variation is what we are in now. Confused with all of the name changes and transposition possibilities yet? It was long lines of opening theory like this that prompted Bobby Fischer to invent his own chess variant. “Chess 960”, or “Fischer Random” as it is sometimes called, is a chess variant where the pieces are randomly given starting positions (with certain starting requirements). There are 960 mathematical starting positions possible (which is where the “Chess 960” name comes from) with the desired effect of making opening theory non-existent.

Rfc8 13. h4 Qa5 14. a3 Rab8 15. h5 b5 16. h6 Bh8 Now we reach a critical point in the game because White decides to exchange a Bishop for the Knight on f6. In my opinion, White destroys their slight edge with this move. The game has been highly theoretical and roughly even so far (with perhaps White being slightly preferred), but now the mistake of giving up a Bishop for little compensation takes effect.

17. Bxf6? Bxf6 After this trade of pieces, Black not only has the long diagonal from h8, but also White has lost a crucial defender of the dark-squares. As we will soon see, White will be helpless to defend against Black’s coming attack. Notice that there are not even any game-losing current weaknesses that White has, but it is the potential for them coming up where White can’t do anything other than wait for them to appear. Perhaps 17. Ne2 was a better move for White, but it is what it is. The next several moves highlight Black’s constant positional threats and advantage that White must try to prepare for.

18. Nd5 b4 19. axb4 Qa4 20. b5 Bxd5 21. exd5 a6 0-1
Why did White resign many inexperienced chess players wonder? In fact, they were even up a pawn! The answer: Sometimes the color-complex is worth more than material. White is positionally lost because they have no adequate defense against the coming attack on their King. The dark-squares in particular are targets … and the open file aimed at the King … and the Queens still on the board and … well you get the overwhelming idea. Material isn’t everything in chess and what good is material if you can’t save your own King? Remember to be mindful of the important factors which others commonly misevaluate, like color-complex potential, and you are halfway to playing like a 2400+ player!
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