The Art of Moving Very Slowly

.skeletons_monkeys

When you need to win against a Stone Wall.

1. f4 

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An unusual first move which I’ve picked up lately.

They call it the ‘Polar Bear’ system.

e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. g3 f5

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With this move, Black is in the stonewall. Which could turn into a double stonewall, if I follow suit.

4. Bg2 

Fianchettoing the bishop, which doesn’t look promising. Black has a brick wall on d5.

Nf6 5. 0-0 Bc5+

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Now black is cheekily inviting d4, forcing the game into double stonewall territory because he probably likes slow positions. If I don’t comply, then the move Ng4 is very annoying.

6. d4

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I went along with his plan.

Bb6

Black keeps the bishop along this sensitive diagonal. This makes me slightly concerned about my King. On the other hand, black has lost control over a3-f8, which forms the basis of my next plan.

7. e3

Before doing anything else, d4 must be fortified against any tactics against my King.

0-0 8. b3

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Magnus Carlsen, who is an expert in boring positions, has tried this move in the Stonewall. It’s effective because Black has vacated the diagonal leading to the rook. White (me) can gain a tempo using Ba3, but not Bb2 (which looks good but is completely useless).

Ne4

A thematic calvary outpost in the Stonewall, Black’s knight is supported by two pawns and cannot be driven back.

9. Ba3 Re8

And now White gains a little bit of time by harassing the Black rook.

10. c4

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This pawn break is important to avoid a completely drawn position. Black will, of course, avoid capturing on c4. It will weaken the support of his knight, and lengthen the scope of my bishop.

Meanwhile, I will avoid capturing on d5 – if he recaptures with the e-pawn, Black will have slightly liberated his bad light square bishop.

c6

Black completes the Stonewall formation. Due to my time-gaining bishop move, I have a slight lead in development. His queenside has not developed yet.

11. Nbd2

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The Black knight cannot be left uncontested for too long.

Bc7

He’s preparing to challenge my bishop with Bd6. But that’s an awful lot of bishop moves – Bd4, Bb6, Bc7, Bd6 – surely, there’s a better use of time. The bishop can actually just go to d6 straight out of the opening. Definitely time wasted.

12. Ne5

Since this is a doubled stonewall, I can do whatever Black does. He puts a knight on e4, I can put a knight on e5.

Bd6 13. Bxd6 Qxd6

Black now completes his Long Bishop March, and I chop it off straightaway.

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14. Nxe4 fxe4

I also chop off his knight on e4, because why the hell not?

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The result is doubled pawns for Black, a slight weakness in the pawn structure.

Double pawns are bad because they get in the way of each other. They are the equivalent of klutzes in the chess world.

15. c5

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As mentioned earlier, it would be a mistake for me to capture on d5. So there’s only one way to go, which is forwards. Gaining space. And time, by harassing Black’s queen.

Qe7

The Black queen drops back, and his queenside still hasn’t moved yet.

16. b4

So invest my time to gain even more space.

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The position is not winning for White, but it is certainly full of small advantages.

  • Harmonious pawn structure
  • Good bishop
  • Space
  • Black has doubled pawns
  • b5 pawn break

Nd7

Black challenges my e5 knight.

17. Nxd7 Bxd7

I accept the trade immediately. Otherwise Black might give me doubled pawns.

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Now Black’s only minor piece is a bad bishop. Having a bishop on the same color as the pawns is bad because they will stumble over each other.

18. Qe2

Connecting the rooks and preparing the logical b5 advance.

Rf8 19. a4 a6

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Black just doesn’t have space to do anything. He has to wait for me to play b5.

20. Rfb1

So I don’t rush into b5. Two rooks on the queenside first.

Rab8

Compared to my rook, his is pretty sad. There’s no life behind the b7 pawn.

21. Bf1

Now involving my bishop as well. It wasn’t doing much on g2.

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g6 22. Qg2 

In case of hostilities on b5, I don’t want my queen on the direct line of fire.

h5

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Now Black is advancing on the kingside. Could be annoying.

23. h4

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Putting a stop to any potential g5‘s and h4‘s. The Black advance is completely halted.

Kg7

He is moving his king now.

24. Kh2

So I move my king, too. This new villa is a bit more secluded and it protects g3.

Ra8

I think Black has officially run out of ideas at this point. He’s just waiting for my move now.

25. Rb2

So I take the time to double my rooks…

Qd8 26. Rba2

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I’m not really sure if my rooks are better placed on the b-file or the a-file. I chose the a-file because Black is there.

And I am finally ready for b5. After much preparation.

b6

What is this? Black tries to ruin my invasion by advancing his own b-pawn first.

27. cxb6 Qxb6

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After chopping off his b-pawn, Black has a backward c-pawn. In compensation he has some frontal pressure against b4.

28. Qd2 Rfb8 29. Rb1

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My b-pawn is secure for now.

Ra7

Black has finally found a plan. Ganging up on my pawn!

30. Qc3

This introduces the idea of Qc5 in some lines. Might be a useful queen outpost.

Rab7

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Now all of Black’s pieces are pointed at my b-pawn. Question. Should I play Rb2, following suit?

31. a5!

Of course not.

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It’s better to gain even more space with a5. This also breaks Black’s formation since he has run out of squares to put the queen on.

Qa7 32. Rb2 

And only now, the doubling of rooks.

Kf7

Black seems to be rushing his king towards the center. I have no idea why.

33. Qd2

*boring*

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After much consideration, the original plan of Qc5 has been abandoned. I don’t think White gains enough to justify that manouvre.

Ke7

And the Black King has reached the center. Hooray!

Nope it doesn’t affect the evaluation of the position whatsoever. I am not even sure it does anything.

34. Qe2

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With Black’s army on the queenside, he can’t respond quickly to an attack on the other side of the board. Well my move is multi purpose

  • It ties Black even further by forcing Ra8 to defend the a-pawn
  • After Ra8 Black’s strength on the b-file is reduced.
  • It supports the pawn break on the kingside, g4

Ra8 35. g4 hxg4 36. Qxg4

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At long last a breakthrough is in sight. It didn’t come from b5 after all, but on the kingside instead.

  • Black has an isolated g-pawn.
  • It can be frontally attacked by rooks.

Rg8

He rushes a rook over to the defence.

37. Qg5+ Kf7

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The queen is pretty strong on g5. Black has no dark squared bishop to chase it away.

38. Kg3

This seems to be a missed opportunity. Better is Rg2, establishing a battery on the g-file.

In the game I was concerned about my h-pawn and trying to play solidly. It’s still good.

Rbb8

Black’s stumbling rooks are trying to get to the kingside to defend against the incoming invasion.

39. Be2

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But the attacking forces are in no hurry whatsoever. The bishop is leisurely relocating, putting itself on this diagonal so that it can prevent potential rook outpost on h5.

Rh8

Black still moves a rook to the h-file. Although thanks to my preemptive measures, the pawn is already well-defended.

40. Rh1

Now the pawn is fortified even further so it may become a battering ram with h5.

Rbg8

Now both Black rooks are on the kingside.

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41. Kf2

Before undertaking offensive measures, I take the time to secure my King by moving it away from the action. It won’t be good if my King gets caught in the crossfire.

I have a lot of time.

Bc8

Now Black fortifies his a-pawn, freeing his queen to come to the kingside.

42. Qe5

Centralizing my queen, before commencing with the invasion.

Qe7

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Black challenges my h-pawn. Now in my heart I know I should play h5, and I even calculated the attack for some time. In the end I decided to continue the theme of just playing solidly.

43. Qg5

Going back to g4. Offering a queen trade.

Qxg5

Black accepts.

44. fxg5

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So the queens have come off.

The f-file is open.

I still have more space, and a good bishop.

Re8

Black prepares the pawn break, e5, which will finally eliminate his doubled pawns.

45. Kg3

And my king vacates the f-file because it’s better to get some rooks there.

e5 46. Rf1+ Kg7 47. dxe5 Rxe5 48. Rf6

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It has taken forever but I’ve finally gotten inside the black position! My rook is firmly entrenched on the sixth rank, menacing all of Black’s pawns.

Re6

This lets go of Black’s a-pawn, but it was a goner. If he had tried defending with Bb7, then White has a strong bishop sacrifice with Bxa6. For example, Bb7 49. Bxa6! Bxa6 50. Rxc6 Bb5 51. Rc7+ Kg8 52. a6

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Once my bishop is sacrificed to get Black’s queenside pawns, I would have connected passed pawns ready to promote.

But even stronger still is just Bb7 49. Bg4 Re7 (Black stops Bd7) 50 Rbf2, with completely dominant rooks. Be6 will follow, and then Black will totally collapse after Rf7+.

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49. Rxe6 Bxe6 50. Bxa6

Sadly for Black, his bishop was deflected from the defence of his a-pawn. I’ve finally won somethinga pawn. It should be enough to seal the game.

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And it only took fifty moves!

Rb8 51. Be2 Bd7 52. a6 

Passed pawns must be pushed!

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Ra8

He tries to physically blockade the a-pawn.

53. Ra2

He’s no longer threatening my b-pawn so my rook can swing into attack mode.

Ra7

Physically stopping my a-pawn from moving.

54. Kf4 Kf7 55. Ke5 Ke7

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My king is now in a dominant position.

56. Bf1

Once again, very patient.

Before I commit to an attacking move like h5, I want my rook to be able to swing to the kingside if necessary.

Bc8

Black now commits two units to attack my a-pawn. But the problem with this move – he forgot about my pawn break from thirty moves ago.

57. b5!

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The b5 advance is finally made under very advantageous circumstances.

Black is allowed to dissolve his backward c-pawn, but then his d-pawn will become weak. If he doesn’t trade, then my connected passed pawns will become an even bigger nightmare.

cxb5 58. Bxb5

Of course I don’t take the d-pawn immediately. Black has the skewer Be6+

Be6

Black protects his weak d-pawn.

59. Rc2

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Getting out of the way of Black’s bishop.

Also preparing the rook for invasion via the c-file.

Bd7

Black offers the bishop trade. To dissolve his bad bishop.

60. Bxd7 Rxd7 

I accept. That seems simplest.

61. Rc6

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I’m back on the sixth rank! And threatening Black’s pawns.

Kf7

Black defends his isolated g-pawn.

His last chance at doing something was to lash out with d4. It doesn’t work – the pawn is too slow. After d4, Rxg6 wins. Lets consider the complicated win:

d4 62. Rxg6 dxe3 63. Rg7+ Ke8 64. Rxd7 

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Black’s e-pawn will promote. But White’s a-pawn will promote with check. e2 65. a7 e1Q 66. a8Q+ Kxd7

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White’s space advantage seals the game. 67. Qb7+ Kd8 68. Ke6  Qxh4 69. Qb8#

62. Rf6+ 

Back to the game. Black’s king is driven to the kingside, far away from my promoting a-pawn.

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Kg7 63. Rb6

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Black’s king is too far away to stop the a-pawn now.

Kf8 64. Rb8+ Ke7 65. Rb7

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And the pin knocks out Black’s last piece.

Kd8

He tries to make a run for it.

66. Rxd7+ 

Nope.

Kxd7 67. a7 Kc7 68. a8Q 

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The game is over. I have an extra queen. Black continued a few more moves before resigning.

Kb6 69. Qxd5 Kc7 70. Ke6 Kb6 71. Kd6 Ka7 72. Kc7 1-0

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How to survive with a knife in your heart

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Occasionally you are just minding your own business when suddenly someone stabs you in the heart. What do you do?

1. d4 Ng6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 c5 6. 0-0

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I was Black in this completely unremarkable opening. Not seeing anything, I played Nc6.

Nc6?

The d5 square is unprotected.

7. d5

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Now staring at the impudent pawn.

White gains space, blocks my bishop, and forces my knight to move all at once. it is no exaggeration to say that White has a definite edge already. He’s in the heart of my position.

exd5 8. cxd5 Nb4

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I thought I was clever – an exchange of pawns to isolate the heart stabber, then three pieces to gang up on it.

9. d6

White shatters the illusion. He sinks the knife even deeper.

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g6

I really need to get back to development but that’s not so simple with a knife sticking out of my chest. This slow bishop fianchetto is the only way.

10. a3 Nc6

Well at least my knight can still go home.

11. Nc3 Bg7 12. Bg5 h6 

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The computer doesn’t like Bg5. It recommends e4, followed by e5, which will hurt as painfully as a second knife in the heart.

13. Bxf6 Qxf6

He just let the bishop pair go! I remember quite a few games where I was under pressure but the bishop pair gave me hope. The whole thing is a swindle – knights are good at tactics (forks), so attacking players sometimes get a powerful , knight in a powerful position and it looks better than a bishop. Bishops can’t even access half the colors of the board. They are too religious to explore the other side.

Well mathematically speaking, a bishop is a little better. A knight in the best position can only control a maximum of 8 squares, whereas a bishop can go up to fourteen. The longer the game goes, the more likely the bishop will control better squares than the knight.

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 14. Nd5

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Well of course White had something dastardly in mind when he gave up his bishop pair. Nothing’s free – his price is a fork on c7, punishing me for being so slow in development, and winning a rook.

Qxb2

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How important is this pawn? White didn’t defend it at all – he believed that winning the rook is enough.

Well sometimes, a minor piece can outplay a rook. But this situation always involves the minor having some extra pawns, so I’m diligent to collect.

15. Nc7+ Kf8 16. Nxa8 Bxa8 

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Okay, exchange down. Not able to castle. Knife in my heart. Possible danger on the light squares.

And yet, I have the tactic of Qxa1 supported by my bishop, winning back the exchange and White’s gains will be all for naught. The bishop is already doing something!

17. Rb1

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This looks active and gets out of the way of the killer bishop. But lets another pawn go.

Qxa3 

Thank you very much, i’ll be needing this.

18. Nd2 Kg8 

My limp king slowly hobbles to safety on h7. No castling so this is the long route.

19. Nc4 Qc3

He is harassing my queen now. How rude!

20. Rc1 Qf6

And he did it again! i pulled my queen towards relative safety.

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21. Ne3 Kh7 

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My king reaches safe harbor, and the black army, as if by dark magic, is now stronger than White. It’s become clear that White’s rook is not enough – I have good, healthy pawns in compensation. In fact the d6 pawn now looks weak. I can cut off its supply route with Nd4, and maybe even manouvre my rook in – Re8 Re6.

Nothing has been gained from White’s superiority in the opening. I have the higher ground.

22. Qf4

White abandons d6. He concentrates on proving my weakness on the light squares.

Qxd6

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Removing the knife. Man, I gotten lots of pawns.

23. Rd1 Qc7

White is still not done with harassing my queen.

24. Nd5 Qc8

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Visually White’s pieces look good. He’s got a good knight, a good bishop, a good queen. Good rooks too.

But what is not seen – is that he has already lost three pawns. And this could prove fatal in the endgame.

25. Qa4

White attacks my pawn on f7. A victory on f7 is usually good for the White pieces.

Qd8

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But not always. This time it’s a trap – Qxf7 Rf8 wins the queen.

Since I don’t have to protect the f-pawn, I just make sure White can’t bring his knight to f6. That’s the purpose behind my queen move.

26. Be4 

Centralizing the bishop.

Rf8

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I’m still busy with defensive work – now the pawn is protected for real.

There is a lot of sting in White’s formation. He’s keeping pressure on a lot of my pawns and I have to make sure they don’t just start dropping off.

27. Ne3 Nd4 

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Now I’ve got a really strong knight and it can’t be challenged. Also thinking of an exchange of light square bishops, which would solve my defence issues.

28. Bd3

White doesn’t want to exchange the light square bishops. Trying to keep more play in the position I guess – the endgame is hopeless. However, his abdication now leaves me with strength on the light squares.

In fact, I am looking at White’s king now and wondering how I can get a queen to g2.

Ne6

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It’s my turn to harass the White queen.

29. Qd6

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Now this is annoying. If a pawn was strong on d6, imagine how dangerous a queen would be. White is potentially bringing three pieces against my d-pawn.

Bd4

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The bishop cuts off support from the rook. I also have something else in mind.

30. Bb5

White is threatening to take on d7, when he would reduce the deficit. But it didn’t work for America and it won’t work here.

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Bxe3! 31. fxe3

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This inflicts serious damage to White’s pawn structure. Since these are king’s pawns, it also raises king safety issues.

Qg5

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The threat is Qxe3 with check. The d-pawn is sacrificed in the attack.

32. Rc3

White doesn’t dare touch my d-pawn. Good thing he didn’t, too – Qxe3+ followed by Nd4 is deadly.

Instead he protects his weak e-pawn.

Qg4

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Now my queen is inching closer towards the planned checkmate on g2. There are three possible routes – Qh3 or Qe4, followed by Qg2#, or Qxe2, followed by Qg2#. The second route is only possible if White takes my d-pawn using the bishop.

White is having a nightmare on the light squares. He can stop one angle of attack but not all of them.

33. Rf1 

This doesn’t help. Instinct told White to rush a rook to aid his king, but a better defence could be made if White went alone with Kf2.

Qe4

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This is not a drill. It’s not a tactic. It’s not a clever move.

It’s a checkmate in one.

34. Rf3 

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Well he wants to physically stop the mate, even if that means giving up the rook.

White is now willing, to return the exchange – when the endgame is surely lost due to his pawns deficit.

Qb1+ 35. Kf2

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Well I don’t have to take his rook. He’s got a loose bishop, and I’ll rather have that instead.

Qxb5

Two minors for the rook now!

36. Rf6

This move didn’t happen in the game, but what happened in the game was  Qxd7, which blunders away the queen. We will proceed with computer analysis now.

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This is the only safe square for the rook after he foolishly blocked its path with Kf2 earlier.

White is threatening Rxd6 undermining my rook on f8. This will give him one of his pieces back.

Kg7 37. Qe5

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Now Rxd6 is threatened – with discovered check. So i can’t play fxe6.

d6

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And the mosquito seals the game! After White swats away the nuisance d-pawn, I will win an entire rook for free.

This seals the game.

So yes, positions where your opponent has a “knife in your heart” can be survived after all. It can get scary, but it’s not the end of the world.

GeoChess

The GeoBoard captures chess so that it can be visually understood:

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GeoChess – visual look at chess positional principles
  1. The center is the most important. The further away from the center, the less important (smaller) it is.
  2. The purple half is the queenside. Playing on the queenside is strategic, long-term, positional.
  3. The orange half is the kingside. Playing on the kingside is tactical attacks with the intent to deliver a knock out blow.
  4. The fenced region is the frontline. It marks the territory of one side.
  5. The red square is weakness.

Using chess notation, the geoboard looks like this:

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Just like monopoly, chess in abstract is a battle is over valuable squares. A square can be valuable because it is big, or alternatively, because it is weak. What both players want, is to control the big squares and punish on the weak squares. In defence, they try to retake lost squares, and block threats on the weak squares.

A bigger army usually wins, but only because it has additional firepower to contest valuable squares. If this is somehow not possible, the smaller army can actually triumph. This is the basis of every correctly played sacrifice. It is also how an outnumbered side can magically come back from behind.

The kingside is where the king usually is. This is why it logically becomes the scene for a king hunt. A kinghunt is an attack intended to deliver checkmate. With checkmate as it’s ultimate aim, the attacker will still be on alert for opportunities to gain squares or win material.

The queenside has no king, so mating attacks don’t make sense. Instead play is purely about gaining squares. At times material is won during a queenside attack. More commonly, it’s about queening pawns to create a huge firepower advantage, to win.

That’s all for today.

Liberals are always right

Liberals are always right, because the point of liberalism is an improvement from the present. While conservatives fight for the past, liberals fight for the future. Therefore being liberal is common sense. Being anything else will only put you on the wrong side of history.

Conservatives never win, they can only delay change. Change is inevitable. Liberals will succeed and then the success becomes old enough to be “tradition”. The next generation of conservatives will defend this “tradition” that they fought so hard to prevent originally. They will claim it as part of the heritage that needs to be preserved.

By then the liberals will be fighting for something else. Because liberals always try to improve the situation. And there’s always something to improve.

And conservatives, once again, will be there to fight the liberals. The cycle repeats forever.

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Tiger scales the Wall

Nychos-SF-Day3

I had a very very exciting game. My opponent played the Stonewall Attack!

1. d4 Nf5 2. e3 d5 3. f4

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This is the classical Stonewall Attack! If you remember an earlier post of mine, I recommended playing the Stonewall versus the Caro-Kahn. So today the situation is reversed…my opponent is playing the dangerous tower rushing system, and I have to defend against it!

Nbd7

Not a normal move. Normal moves will run straight into the brick wall. But this is the start of an anti-stonewall strategy.

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4. Nf3

And if you remember my previous game, this knight will eventually go to e5.

Nb6

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It’s strange to move a piece twice in the opening. But I have the time. The Stonewall, as its name suggests, is a slow system. The knight was blocking my bishop.

5. Bd3

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This is White’s classic good bishop in the Stonewall. It has excellent diagonals, lots of scope, a perfect complement to all the wall-pawns sitting on dark squares. White also has a bad bishop, which is hemmed in by all of those dark squared pawns. The bad bishop is in fact worse than my version of the Stonewall. White has that pawn on e3.

In other words, White’s bad bishop is really really bad. This is something to bear in mind for later.

Bg4

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An annoying pin to buy some time. White’s knight is delayed from its planned trip to e5.

6. 0-0 

White gets on with castling, activating the rook for his eventual attack.

Nc8! 

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Three moves! Something is cooking!

7. Nbd2

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The Stonewall is an ultra-solid defensive setup with only one weak point in its armor. It’s the e4 square, and all of Black’s strategy is built around winning it.

e4 is strategically important. Once a knight lands on it, it oversees the entire White camp. White will be unable to slowly build up his attack because the spoiler knight will interrupt everything. Whats more a knight on e4 can never be kicked by a pawn!

Nd6!

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Which is why I bring…two knights. The battle of e4 has begun.

8. a3 c6 9. c3 e6

White’s opening is finished and he would like to get on with an attack on the kingside. The way to do so is Ne5, which is good for White for all the reasons that Ne4 is good for Black. Unfortunately my bishop is pinning that knight.

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10. Qc2

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So he moves his queen out of the way. Now Ne5 is on the cards.

Be7

Black is one move away from castling and finishing the opening as well.

11. Ne5

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But White has begun his attack, a formidable knight on e5 and a battery along the light squares. My bishop is threatened.

Bf5

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This is not a retreat, but the bishop makes a stand against White’s light square battery.

12. Ndf3

And now White reinforces his strong outermost point on e5.

Bxd3 13. Qxd3

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The bishops have come off, robbing White of his “good” bishop and leaving him with the “bad” one. But more immediately, White has a lost a piece that can potentially fight on e4.

Nfe4

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So the occupation begins. Black is still uncastled but e4 is won. The victory over this central point will continue to trouble White for the rest of the game.

14. Nd2

White’s knight drops back, and it’s not enough, but he will protest.

f6

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Now I force his other knight to retreat from e5.

15. Ng4 h5 16. Nf2 f5

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White’s knight has been consistently driven back and I’ve gained space on the kingside. Still not castled but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. My king is pretty safe where it is.

17. Nf3

He tries to use the other knight to get back to e5.

Rg8

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A key moment. I’ve decided I don’t want to castle any more.

Having gained space, I’ve decided to launch a counter-attack down the kingside. The stonewall pawn on f4 will be used as a lever to the g-file, then its onwards to the White king!

18. Ne5

White has, with some difficulty, reinstalled a knight on e5. Will it do anything?

g5 19. fxg5 Bxg5

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The g-file is open. The e-pawn looks vulnerable. I have good attacking prospects.

20. Qe2

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It’s not all roses. White finds my h-pawn weak.

Nf6

I’m forced to drop back from e4 to hold my h-pawn for a moment.

21. c4

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White’s pawn breaks formation to launch a counter-counter-attack on my queenside.

Qe7

Preparing to swing my queen to the g-file.

22. cxd5 exd5 23. Nfd3

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So it’s a tense position. Lots of skirmishing, with neither side able to find a breakthrough.

0-0-0

I decide to castle on the queenside

24. Nb4 Qg7

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White’s knights are putting a lot of pressure on c6. I’m preparing the powerful bishop break, Bxe3+

25. Bd2

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Unfortunately White’s bad bishop has only one square open to it.

And it happens to be within striking distance of Ne4.

Nfe4!

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Sacrificing the h-pawn. It doesn’t matter anymore, Bxe3+ followed by Qxg2# is mate.

26. Rac1

White correctly ignores my h-pawn. He gets on with his own attack on c6.

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There’s an awful lot of tension around my king now. Maybe I should consider king safety?

Nxd2

Scrap that. I’m faster, and I will draw first blood.

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27. Kh1

White dare not take my troublesome knight. If he did, then Bxe3+ is gonna win his king, or queen. So he moves his King to the corner instead, for extra safety, and just to get out of the way of Bxe3+.

Nxf1

So my merry knight continues its rampage and claims r rook.

28. Nexc6

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But it’s White’s turn now. I am two pieces up but that won’t matter if my King doesn’t survive the next moves.

bxc6 is a clear mistake because the White queen could come in with Qa6+. But if I don’t do anything, White also has a variety of discovered checks at his disposal.

Nc4

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So ima gum things up. My knight on c4 blocks the vision of White’s queen and rook. To let me get on with my own attack.

29. Ne5

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Without the option of Qa6+ leaving a knight on c6 isn’t so hot. The white knight goes back to his base on e5, challenging my c4 defender and leaving it pinned to my King.

Not to worry, I wasn’t planning to move it anyway.

Nxe3

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My other knight gets out of trouble and munches a valuable pawn. White’s “stone” wall is nothing but rocks now. There is only one pawn left from the initial formation (c3, d4, e3, f4). And now that I’m on e3, White looks to be facing a killing blow on the g-file.

30. b3

Pinned to my king, my valiant defending knight is 100% a goner.

Oh well, I’m up on material so I can give some back.

Bf4

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it has taken awhile but my queen-rook battery is finally ready for g-file action.

31. bxc4 dxc4 32. Nxc4

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Not a moment too soon, either! White has vanquished the blockade on c4 and he’s ready to unleash a variety of checks against my King.

Qxg2+ 

The g2 pawn falls, and the queens come off.

33. Qxg2 Nxg2

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With no queens on the board, my chances of getting mated have drastically reduced. White can check me a bit but I expect to survive it.

I’m a rook up.

34. Rc2! 

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This is quite clever. Checks dont work (White’s rook is hanging), so White tries to drive my knight away from g2.

My knight on g2 is currently protecting the bishop, so I’m not in the mood to move it. Who knows what disasters await me if I have a loose piece and there are two enemy knights on the board?

Rxd4!

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The downside of White’s clever move – he left his back rank unprotected. If he takes my knight, then Rd1# is checkmate. If he does nothing, I’m fully prepared to give some material back with Rxc4, leaving me still one piece up in a winning endgame.

When you have a lot of extra men, you have some lee way with tactics.

35. Na5+ 

White uses his check.

Kb8?

Diving behind the pawns is natural, but this lets White off a bit. If I had played Kd7 instead the game would be over – White has no more checks, and no way to stop the back rank mate.

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36. Nbc6+ 

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A sacrificial fork that picks up my rook, but brings the game closer to the endgame. The less pieces are left on the board, the more overwhelming my extra piece will be.

bxc6 37. Nxc6+ Kb7 38. Nxd4 Ne3 39. Rb2+ Ka8

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A lot of wood has come off the board, and now the only way White can win is if he somehow arranges Nc7 (my bishop is currently watching that square). He tries to make it happen.

40. Ne6

If my bishop steps off the wrong diagonal, then Nc7# will follow. This is my last chance to make a mistake.

Rb8!

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Not today! I play the absolute strongest move in the position.

Remember White’s weak back rank? It’s still weak which makes this move so powerful.

White can’t avoid the rook trade. If he steps aside, then Rb1# is checkmate. If he takes my unprotected bishop, then I play Rxb2, taking his rook. So the trade is on. White resigned here rather than play a hopeless endgame with a knight vs knight + bishop, and he has two pawns but I have three.

So today we have a Stonewall Attack, beaten by using knights on e4. The knights on e4 can be a powerful weapon against the Stone Wall.

Drunk vs Tarrasque

Tarrasque

The tarrasque is a gigantic lizard-like creature which exists only to eat, kill, and destroy. In most campaign settings, only one tarrasque is said to exist on each world. The tarrasque has a low intelligence and cannot speak. It is neutrally aligned, for despite its violent and savage nature, it lacks the mental capacity to choose between good and evil.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2

Here we have the Tarrasque variation of the French Opening.

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The tarrasque knight – camped on d2 – gives White a lot of flexibility. He delays the advance of his e-pawn to e5, doesn’t block the option of c3, and waits for Black to make his move. The kind of opening that positional players enjoy; lots of movement, lots of manouvering, and patient, patient, play to get an advantage.

But White’s strategy does not consider that Black might be slightly drunk.

Nf6

Provoking the advance of White’s e-pawn. Black has something in mind.

4. e5 Nfd7

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Here Black has a “tarrasque” of his own – the knight on d7. The position looks positively advantageous for White, he has a big space advantage. But where one side sees an advantage the other side sees an opportunity. White’s ambitiously advanced pawn is within striking range of “our” tarrasque. Whereas our own timid e-pawn is safely tucked at the back.

5. Bd3

Now White is asking for it, because this bishop is too beautifully placed.

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c5

The classic counterattack.

6. c3

And White calmly defends.

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Nc6

“We need more teeth” – cheesily uttered in Jurrasic World.

Black is putting a lot of pressure on d4 and there might even be a queen on b6 soon.

7. Ne2

And White is, supremely determined to hold the line.

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second Tarrasque knight – unusually moved to e2, avoiding the routine trip to f3. Just like the first knight, White doesn’t block his f-pawn. He wants to start a very big pawn chain franchise.

f6

Black is now attacking a second target. This time, the head of the pawn chain.

8. f4

So White defends, and calmly asks, Where is your God now?

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Look at all the space he’s got. A fully defended pawn chain, a strongly placed light squared bishop. In fact, White is already anticipating future growth. He will accept trades on e5 and d5, then shuffle his tarrasques to strategic squares. And then squash Black with the monsters he created.

This is White’s dream position: cxd4 9. cxd4 Be7 10. 0-0 0-0 11. Nc3 fxe5 12. fxe5 b6 13. Nf3 Bb7

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In this position, which didn’t happen in the game, White has all the trump cards. His pieces are well placed, there is no attack on his pawns. Black’s kingside is under pressure, black’s pieces lack scope. All this is the result of White’s early space advantage. The tarrasque is ready to step out of his lair, and stomp on the world.

cxd4 9. cxd4

The first set of trades go strictly according to plan. White has broken the siege on d4.

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fxe5 10. fxe5

But the second set of trades is happening too soon. What is Black playing at?

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By failing to insert Be7 first, is Black forfeiting the right to castle? The open f-file means that White can 0-0 first, which will then prevent Black from doing the same.

Well there’s a good explanation for it. Black is drunk. And in a state of inebriation, the next move to play is…

Nxd4!

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Bring it on we’re not afraid of losing our knight for a measly pawn! Never mind that a pawn is worth one whereas a knight is worth three. Right now we can even count up to potato. This tarrasque is not going to develop.

11. Nxd4

White is forced to accept the gift. And the point is revealed – White’s knight has been distracted from the defence of g3.

Why the hell is g3 important? Black hasn’t even attacked it the whole game! Well because…

Qh4+

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Oh crud.

12. g3

White would have preferred his knight to go to g3. Pawn on g3 weakens the kingside, and oops. One tarrasque knight is loitering in a danger zone.

Qxd4

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Snapped up by the queen. And now, it is Black who has the advantage, simply being one pawn up and no pieces down and White’s king safety has been blown to bits.

13. Nf3 

White uses his second Tarrasque to evict the queen. Cute.

Bb4+

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I’m not going home! The party has just started…

Get me another.

14. Bd2

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White shields the check. But he missed something…

Qxd3

Splat.

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White’s well positioned light square bishop never realizes his dream of storming the Black castle. Because he got mugged by an angry drunk clutching a beer bottle and sent to the ER but died before the doctors got to him because Obamacare.

15. Bxb4

White retains piece balance by capturing the recklessly aggressive Black one. Now things don’t look so bad. Sure White’s a piece down. But surely Black will do a queen trade now. White has still got his space advantage, Black has some dark square weaknesses. Not too shabby for the loss of a pawn, if White can get back to his deeply positional game.

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Qe4+

Not so fast, Black replies.

I still have to send some drunk texts to an ex.

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16. Kf2 

To White’s horror, his king has been forced to take a walk, naked.

Qxb4

While the well-laid plans of exploiting Black’s dark square weaknesses evaporate, because White’s dark square bishop is dead.

17. Ng5

White tries using a more reliable steed, the Tarrasque knight. It attacks Black’s e6 pawn.

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But this leaves open the king, who is still naked.

0-0+

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Black castles as part of a vicious attacking move. White has no time to do something like Nxe6, or Qh5.

18. Kg2 Rf5

Not bothering to defend the e6 pawn. Instead it is truth or dare and White is dared to take it.

19. Nxe6

The tarrasque takes the bait. A living engine of death and destruction, but severely lacking in intelligence.

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Qe4+

The tarrasque was holding e4 just a moment ago, but it is now distracted. This lets Black re-enter with the queen like a meteorite.

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20. Kg1

Unfortunately, White traded away the f-pawn long ago, in pursuit of some grand strategic plan. He could really use an f-pawn now. It would have given his King some cover.

But a storm is coming Master Wayne.

Qe3+ 21. Kg2 Rf2+ 22. Kh3 Qh6+ 

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Remarkably, Black has made eight queen moves in this game!

23. Kg4

This is the White King’s only square.

Nxe5#

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The final move of the game. Black eliminates the space advantage White has tried so hard to build throughout this game. As for the tarrasque – we’re leaving it alone.

In the 4th edition version of the game, the tarrasque cannot be killed; reducing it to 0 hit points causes it to burrow into the core of the earth to slumber for a time (instead of killing it). The only monsters that are more feared in combat are deities, the largest and oldest dragons, certain powerful outsiders (such as demon lords) and epic monsters.

The story of a wall

Tower rush is one of the fun ways of playing Age of Empires. The principles behind it can also be found in chess.

1. e4 c6

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It can often be hard to find active options against the Caro-Kahn. Black’s first move is the first in a series of ultra defensive moves. By the time Black is done, he often has a rock solid position. The Caro-Kahn is the turtle of the chess world – neither fast, nor deadly, but trying to live up to hundred years old.

Mainstream options do not give White the fun he deserves. The situation therefore calls for the long-term siege of the Stonewall Attack.

 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 

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We are still in well trodden territory, but the exchange of pawns is theoretically better for Black. White exchanges a valuable center pawn for a flank pawn; it’s not an equal trade. But oh well we want our tower rush do we?

4. Ne5!

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The siege begins! The knight is leading the very early charge by moving a second time in the opening. Already it is eyeing Black’s sensitive f7 square. Moving so quickly also prevents Black from ruining the strategy via Bg4.

White will soon reinforce the front knight with Tower Defences.

Nc6 5. f4 Bf5 6. d4 Nf6 7. c3 e6

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There now exists – a Stone Wall – built of pawns, stretching across the length of the board. The Wall is shaped like an inverted-V, so that each pawn in front is supported by another pawn at the back. The base of the pawn chain is hidden at the back and thus difficult for Black to reach. The front-most knight is doubly supported by two pawns.

Black has played normal moves. Just developing pieces to their most natural squares.

8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3

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The first casualty on the wall is Black’s light square bishop. It is well placed but there is simply no place to run. But doesn’t Black always trades this bishop in the Caro Kahn anyway? True. But he will eventually miss his Guardian of the Light Squares.

From safety behind the wall, White has placed a Trebutchet to attack Black’s castle in the future. This innocent looking queen has not-so-innocent thoughts on h7.

Be7 10. 0-0 0-0 

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The opening phase is over. White has everything necessary for a successful tower rush.

  1. Wall is solid – check.
  2. Artillery pointed at enemy gates – check.
  3. Room for expanding the wall – check.
  4. Weak squares secured – not finished

There exists a knight outpost for the enemy on e4. It is, in many ways, a mirror for our own outpost on e5…except that Black does not have a second supporting pawn like we do.

11. Nd2 Rc8 

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In view of this, we watch that square. Now Ne4 only loses a pawn.

Notice we don’t have a pawn on e3. A pawn on e3 is seen in the “authentic” Stonewall Attack, which begins with 1. d4 instead of our 1. e4. Having no pawn on e3 is a blessing. Such a pawn has been known to get in the way of White’s dark square bishop, slowing our attack down. In our improved variation it is All Systems Go.

12. g4

It is time to add new bricks to our wall. The g-pawn gains space on the kingside and also prepares to drive away a Black Knight.

a6 13. g5 Nd7

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The Black Knight retreats – the space he used to operate in has been taken over by an Enemy Turret.

14. Rf3 b5 15. Rh3

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There is nothing going on in Black’s side of the board. He is finding our Wall too solid to breach. In fact he isn’t even attacking it. It just seems like a waste of time.

On our side, White has a rook in position for a Light Square checkmate within one move. Black must defend.

g6

Black stops the attack by blunting White’s long range cannons at the cost of creating new square weaknesses.

16. Rh6

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Now White’s rook becomes the newest brick in the wall – right in front of Black’s castle gate. Black’s door cannot even open anymore. There is a tower / battering ram outside.

Re8 17. Qh3

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Now the pressure on h7 is immense.

Black chooses a fighting defence but perhaps he should have tried reinforcing his door with Nf8.

Bf8 

This lets the invaders through.

18. Rxh7 Bg7

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Black has lost his door but created a new defensive line on the dark squares.

19. Ng4

Our front knight is no match for Black’s new Dragon that has taken residence on g7. We must retreat to the safety of our own lines.

Na5

Fortunately, Black is doing nothing but shuffling his pieces around, because he can’t find anything worth attacking. Our walls are too strong.

20. Nf3 Nc6 21. Be3 

Since Black is giving us the time, we shall bring additional pieces into the game.

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f5?

Black panics because he is seeing our huge army gather up behind the Wall. He launches the first attempt to break the wall, but it lacks support.

22. gxf6 Nxf6 23. Ne5?? 

I missed the fact that my rook on h7 was hanging. Fortunately my opponent missed it too.

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Instead of Ne5, I should have gone for Black’s king by Rxg7 – an exchange sacrifice to slay Black’s Dragon. Play would continue, 23. Rxg7+ Kxg7 24. Qh6+ Kf7 25. Nfe5+ Nxe5 26. Nxe5+ Ke7 27. Qg7+ Kd6 28. Nf7+, and we would take the opponent’s queen.

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Nh5 

Letting me off the hook.

24. Nxg6

The last of Black’s castle-pawns have fallen…at the cost of a rook exchange sacrifice. Black has a material advantage now but this won’t save his life.

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Kxh7 25. Qxh5+ Kg8

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It looks as if Black can die in so many ways. But the lone dragon on g7, which is now a hero, is holding black’s entire defence single-handedly.

26. f5

A pawn is sacrificed to open up additional lines to the Black King, more accurately, to the Black dragon bishop on g7. There is no thought about defence anymore. It is entirely attack.

Qd7

Black defends his dragon on g7. He does not dare touch the sacrificed f-pawn, because White’s attack develops too fast after that.

27. f6 Qf7

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Black is even willing to give up his dragon bishop now. The situation is truly dire for the Black King.

28. Rf1!?

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White refuses to so cheaply slay the heroic defender of the Black King. The dragon deserves a more noble death.

Rf8

I don’t even know what to say about this move. Black is willing to try anything, even offering his material back to gain extra life.

Note that fxg7 would be a major blunder now because Black has Qxf1#, his first (and sole) actual threat in the game.

29. Rf2!

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Don’t kill the dragon! Don’t kill the rook! Instead White plays a defensive move, sliding a cannon into a better protected square.

The attack can worry about itself later.

Qd7

Black’s queen flees her king, because gxf6 is too brutal to even think about. Black can’t even.

30. Nh6+!?

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And White still refuses to slay the Dragon on g7. It would open up the wall, giving Black some relief by exchanging a pair of rooks off. White will keep the attack going and continue hiding his attackers behind the wall.

Black’s dragon is instead given a more honorable exit. It can trade with White’s knight exacting value for value and White will pay the full price.

Bxh6

Black’s dragon takes the generous pension plan. There was nothing better, because after Kh7 31. Nf7+ Kg8 32. fxg7 White will finally kill the Dragon, but with a pawn instead.

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In this variation, White’s new knight on f7 is taking the role of “wall” to prevent the exchange of rooks. Checkmate on h8 will follow shortly.

31. Bxh6

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The dragon is dead. Silence fills the chessboard.

Rf7

No longer safe on the dark squares, Black switches to a light square defence. His hope is to place a rook on h7 but that never happens.

32. Bg7!

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It is now White who owns a bishop on g7!  It is supported by the pawn, which has still not moved away from f6. White’s wall has, at last, expanded to the very edge of the board. The Black King is completely trapped by towers now and there is no way to wriggle out.

Rxg7

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Black gives up a rook by his own accord (which White refused to take). There is no other move; everything else leads to Qh8# instant loss.

33. Qh8+

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A useful check to interrupt Black’s coordination of pieces. If fxg7 then Black can recapture with his queen.

Once again it pays to remain in formation and avoid major alterations to the shape of the wall.

Kf7

The Black King’s only square. Now the fleeing king blocks his line of sight over g7.

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34. Qxg7+

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The unmoving Tower Pawn on f6 has nonetheless influenced much in the game. It first compelled Black’s queen to flee her Master’s defence; then it compelled Black’s Dragon to accept early retirement. Now its last act is to aid in the capture of the g7 rook with check.

Ke8

Black’s King has only one square to go to. In poetic justice, this is also the King’s start square in the game.

35. Qf8#

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And here’s the mate. This is the story of a wall.

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