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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: Using The Attack Like Taimanov

2021-03-01 09:42:05
Using The Attack Like Taimanov

The game under review, this time is from the 1957 team match game between two countries. Mark E. Taimanov is playing the White pieces for the USSR (Russia) and Nikola Karaklaich is playing the Black pieces for Yugoslavia. We got an instructional game from this encounter, but what else would we expect from two strong chess players for their era? Taimanov was one of the leading Soviet chess players at the time and was a part of the top 20 chess players in the world from 1946 to 1971.

Without further ado, let us dive into what this game offers.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. d4 c6 After some drama about which opening will arise out of this move order, we come to a solid opening known as the Semi-Slav Defense. The Semi-Slav Defense is primarily characterized by the “pawn triangle” on c6, d5 and e6. The Normal Slav Defense avoids playing …e6 in this triangle and typically develops the c8 Bishop first. The mainline of the Slav Defense places the c8 Bishop on f5, but …Bg4 is sometimes played.

5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd2 O-O This is the Mainline Semi-Slav Defense: Stoltz Variation reached through transposition. The common move order is:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd2 when 7…O-O is by far Black’s best scoring line. According to my database, 7…a6 or 7…dxc4 are sometimes played, but White has a dangerously good record with these moves. 7…O-O simply looks most logical to castle early and continue piece development out of the opening stage of the chess game.

8. O-O-O Ng4 I personally think White castling Queenside is interesting here, but I deem it too committal for right now - it is too early to signal which way we are castling when we have flexible options. I like 8. Bd3!? or 8. Bd2!? because it develops and gives the illusion of White preparing to castle Kingside. Even if White had Queenside castling planned prior, I prefer to wait and see how the opponent reacts; castling too early to the Queenside may allow the opponent to immediately begin pawn storming that flank. I like 8. O-O-O but would have likely played 8. Bd3!? before castling (Kingside or Queenside). Of course, I am no Taimanov.

8…Ng4 looks like solid pressure on f2, but perhaps exploitative to White castling Queenside when they did would be 8…c5! or 8…b5! with the idea of opening up lines of attack at White’s Queenside castled King.

9. Be1 f5 The Bishop retreat to e1 is practically forced, since there appears to be no satisfactory alternative to defend against the …Nxf2 fork. The real significance here is the move 9…f5 though. It is a risky play to employ a stonewall formation here. It is risky because g2-g4 is a thematic pawn lever against the stonewall setup and opposite side castling also provokes g2-g4. It is usually not best to provoke your opponent into good moves. From a positional standpoint, 9…f5 is risky, if not a small positional oversight.

10. h3 Nh6 11. Be2 The threat is g2-g4 coming.

Nf6 12. Ne5 Nf7 Black’s 12…Nf7 move is logical; not only because it gets the Knight into play from the edge of the chess board, but also because Black would enjoy exchanging a passive Knight for White’s active Knight on the e5 outpost.

13. f4 Ne4 With 13. f4, White goes for a counter-stonewall and soon has in mind g2-g4 and the Kingside pawns get rolling. There is much less danger in advancing White’s Kingside pawns due to the fact that White is castled Queenside. Naturally, advancing the Kingside pawns takes a lot more care if the King is on that flank, but right now: White can safely advance these ranger pawns with gusto.

As for Black, I consider 13…Ne4 playable, but 13…dxc4 might be slightly better because it realizes the stonewall formation collapsing and tries to get something from the position. One sample continuation would be:

13…dxc4 14. Bxc4 Nd5

13…dxc4 is not the most natural move to find in this position though. Black’s pawns on d5 and f5 are the pillars of this solid formation, so it isn’t natural to give up the d5 pawn to capture on c4. I don’t like Black maintaining the stonewall pawn formation here because of the danger of g2-g4 and initiating a pawn storm.

14. Nxe4 dxe4? In Kmoch’s book, Pawn Power in Chess: Kmoch, gives 14…dxe4 a question mark and follows with good analysis. They declare this, “The regular way of entering the second stage of the Stonewall, which in this case is a major evil. Instead, Black must anticipate the lever attack…[g4 by means of 14…fxe4].”

15. g4! This idea was in the air for a while, but just as strong now.

Bd7 16. c5 Bxe5 17. dxe5 Qe7 17. dxe5 is the best way to capture because it opens the d-file for the White Rook on d1 and the Queen must move again to unpin itself on the d-file.

18. Rg1 b6 The White pieces have so many winning moves to choose from here. 18. Bc4 puts strong pressure at the Kingside via the a2-g8 diagonal. 18. gxf5 rips open the g-file for attack and the chosen 18. Rg1 is also strong by threatening to open the g-file with an ideally placed Rook.

Some of the toughest decisions in chess are deciding on a move when several options all appear similarly good (or similarly bad).

19. Bc3 g6 20. Bc4 Qc5 Now White soon sets up a clever trap.

21. Qe2!? b5 It almost looks like the pressure on the c4 Bishop is overwhelming 22. Bb3? b4! and the c3 Bishop is pinned to the c1 King by Black’s Queen. However…

22. gxf5! Completely ignoring the fact that the c4 Bishop is attacked!

Qxc4 Of course, Black takes the Bishop and also seeks to exchange Queens and minimize the attacking pressure. White sacrificing a Bishop means they would be three points down in an endgame, so of course White must have something else in mind instead of exchanging Queens (which would be a mistake).

23. Qh5! That is the point of the Bishop sacrifice. The g6 pawn is pinned and White has enormous attacking pressure. 23.Qxc4 (although an objectively fine move) would be a mistake because it gives up on how strong the game text with 23. Qh5! is. Trading down by exchanging Queens might run something like this:

23. Qxc4 bxc4 24. Rxd7 and White has regained material equality. White would still be better with attacking prospects on the Kingside, but the game text is much more convincing.

Nh8?! Not best defense, but the appeal of reinforcing g6 is on the correct line of thought because it correctly anticipates Rxg6 charging forth.

Black does not have many defensive options available, but perhaps 23…exf5 holds on a little longer. The problem with 23…exf5 is that 24. Rxg6+! crashes through with a sacrifice. That attack might continue:

24…Kh8 25. e6+ Qxc3+ (only defensive try since losing the Queen is preferable to an immediate checkmate) 26. bxc3 Bxe7 and White has mate in 9 by toughest defense, according to my engine, beginning with 27. Qh4 and the threat of Qf6 for checkmate right away or a devastating check that leads to checkmate eventually.

24. fxg6 hxg6 Returning to the game text, probably Karaklaich foresaw some of this danger and reinforced g6 with Knight to h8 on move 23. As we shall see, Rxg6+ still charges into the pawn shelter for Black’s King.

25. Rxg6+ Nxg6 26. Qxg6 Kh8 27. Qh5+ 1-0 Black resigns because the threat of 28. Rg1# is unavoidable. The reason that the White Queen moved back diagonally for a check on h5, instead of on h6, is because the Queen on h5 controls the f7 escape square Black’s King could have used to try and flee to the Queenside.

None of this spectacular finish would have been possible if White didn’t choose to sacrifice the c4 Bishop with 22. gxf5! in the game. If we wish to attack like Taimanov did in this game, then we must search for active ways to keep the initiative and the attack; we must constantly look for ways to get our pieces active (like 23. Qh5!) and be open-minded to not being as materialistic. Material means nothing if we can successfully checkmate the enemy King.
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