Thursday, May 26, 2011

Creative Thinking

Submitted by WGM Natalia_Pogonina on
Chess theory is based on general principles, regularities, notions. They help us improve our chess understanding and become better players. However, following general principles religiously, without taking into account the features of each particular position, can be harmful. Apart from logic, chess has a different side, which seems to be irrational at first glance, but also has its ground. I mean moves that don’t fit the conventional rules. For example, a knight willingly gets placed on the rim of the board, the king – stuck in the middle of the board in the middlegame, an untypical sacrifice occurs, etc. Feeling when to follow rules, and when to break them, makes a master.
Dr. Tarrasch received a letter from an angry reader who claimed that “you wrote that we should place rooks behind passed pawns in the endgame. I followed your stupid advice and lost!”. In his next column Tarrasch commented on this ironically: “Here is the new rule. You should always place your rook behind passed pawns in the endgame, except for the situations when it doesn’t make sense”.
A typical example of a non-standard method of thinking is making an intermediate move instead of a recapture or moving a piece away. For instance, first give a check, and only then recapture. This trick is often missed by one or both of the players since it seems to break the standard pattern of calculating lines. The main ideas behind intermediate moves are: improve the position of one’s pieces, gain a tempo, put an end to your opponent’s combination. Intermediate moves are especially dangerous in long forced lines since it’s very easy to miss them when calculating a few moves ahead. Therefore, you should always stay alert when pondering seemingly forced lines. Ask yourself: is it really so? Or are any deviations possible?
A fresh example from the Candidates Matches:

Another type of unconventional moves is the so-called “irrational” moves; moves that contradict the general principles. To find such moves one should understand the position deeply and be able to take an unbiased look at it. Planning and prophylactic thinking may come to one’s aid here. If you study carefully the position, your ideas and your opponent’s plans, you are more likely to spot something new.
One more example of non-standard moves is sacrifices that lead to material imbalances. We have discussed these in previous articles at If your thinking is rigid (e.g. based on conventional value of the pieces), you are likely to miss such opportunities.
To sum it all up, rules (principles, regularities, etc.) have two roles. On the one hand, they help us find plans and moves. If you have a certain level & experience in chess, you can save time and make a standard move quickly. On the other hand, if you adhere to stereotypes, you might miss lots of valuable chances. Your task is to get a deep understanding of the current position, while keeping in mind that time is limited. This will help you find unexpected and very strong moves, as well as eventually win the game.
One of the ways of extending your notion of how one can play chess is to study games of creative chess players who like to improvise, e.g. Aronian or Morozevich. Don’t forget to solve chess compositions and play training games in non-standard positions (those can be found in special books or software). The less dogmatic and more creative your chess thinking is, the higher the chances of finding the right approach to the position and surprising your opponent.
The following game of mine was played vs WGM Inna Gaponenko at the recent Russian Team Chess Championship:

Gaponenko, I. (2435) vs. Pogonina, N. (2446)
12th TCh-RUS Women | Olginka RUS | Round 4| 19 Apr 2011 | ECO: C50 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 Bxd4 6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. f4 d6 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. Bg5 Qe7 10. Na3 Be6 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. c3 Nc6 ( 12... Bxc4 13. Nxc4 Ne6 14. b4 Nf4 15. Kh1 ) 13. Qf3 Bxc4 ( 13... Qc5+ 14. Qf2 ( 14. Rf2 O-O-O ( 14... Bxc4 15. b4 ) 15. b4 ( 15. Bxe6+ fxe6 16. Qxf6?? Rhf8 17. Qxe6+ ( 17. Qh4 Rd2 18. Raf1 Rfxf2 ) 17... Kb8 ) ) 14... Qxf2+ 15. Rxf2 f5 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. exf5 Rf8 18. Raf1 ) 14. Nxc4 Qc5+ ( 14... f5 15. exf5 Qc5+ 16. Ne3 O-O-O 17. f6 Rd2 ( 17... h5 18. Rad1 Kb8 ) 18. Rf2 Rhd8 19. Re1 Kb8 20. Qf5 ) 15. Ne3 O-O-O? ( 15... f5 ) 16. Qf2? ( 16. Rae1 Rd6 17. Qg4+ Kb8 18. Rxf6 Rxf6 19. Qg7 ) 16... Ne7 17. Ng4 ( 17. Rae1 Rd6 18. Ng4 Qxf2+ 19. Rxf2 Ng8 20. Ref1 Kd7 21. Nxf6+ Nxf6 22. Rxf6 Rxf6 23. Rxf6 Ke7 ) 17... Qxf2+ 18. Rxf2 Ng6? ( 18... h5 19. Nxf6 Ng6 ) 19. g3? ( 19. Nh6 Rhe8 ( 19... Rd7 20. g3! Rhd8 21. Raf1 Rd2 22. Nxf7 R8d7 23. Rxd2 Rxd2 24. Rxf6 Rxb2 25. h4 ) 20. g3! ( 20. Rxf6 Rd2 21. Rf2 Rxf2 22. Kxf2 Rd8 ) 20... Re6 21. Raf1 ( 21. Nxf7 Rd3 22. Raf1 Rb6 23. Nh6 ) 21... Ra6 22. a3 Rb6 23. Nxf7 Rd3 24. Nh6 ) 19... h5 20. Nxf6 h4 21. Raf1 hxg3 22. hxg3 Rd3 23. Kg2 c6 24. Rf3? ( 24. Ng4 Nf4+ 25. gxf4 Rg8 26. fxe5 Rxg4+ 27. Kh2 Rxe4 28. Rxf7 Rxe5 29. R1f2 ) ( 24. Rf5 Rd2+ 25. R1f2 Rxf2+ 26. Rxf2 Kd8 27. Ng4 Ke7 28. c4 b6 29. b4 Rd8 30. Nh6 f6 31. c5 bxc5 32. bxc5 Nh8 33. Ng4 ( 33. Rb2 Ke6 34. Kf3 Rd3+ 35. Ke2 Rd7 ) 33... Nf7 34. Nxf6 a5 35. g4 Ng5 ) 24... Rxf3 25. Rxf3 Kd8 26. Ng4 Ke7 27. Rf2 Ke6 28. Rf6+ Ke7 29. Rf2 Ke6 30. Rf6+ Ke7
After mixing up moves in the opening, I still got a double-edged position. Instead of playing f5 at the right moment, I played a standard move 0-0-0 and could have fallen into a worse position. At move 19 I chose the wrong move order, but Inna returned the favor and captured on f6. Meanwhile, after Nh6 she would have got a better position. Later on she also had chances to fight for an advantage, but missed them, and the game ended in a draw.

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