Saturday, December 10, 2011

Space and the Attack -

Space and the Attack -


Space and the Attack

What is “space” on a chess board? And why is it so important?

A simple answer to the first question is that space is “control of squares”. So a player with a “space advantage” is one who controls a greater number of squares. This could even be due to a material advantage. After all, if you have more pieces you control more squares. Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, in his famous The Middle Game in Chess, defines material as an element separate from space. But I think it makes more sense to include material within the concept of "space". This also makes more comprehensible situations where the arbitrary material value system does not work. For example, in the typical early middlegame position, three minor pieces will demolish a queen. On the other hand, there are plenty of positions – usually later in the game and with a more open board – where the queen is stronger. This is because in the first instance, where the queen is relatively inactive, the minor pieces control more squares (and will for a long time), thus giving that side the “space advantage”. Thus the idea of "material” is more complicated than just adding up points. It involves feeling how many important squares the respective armies do or will control.

You might also have a space advantage if you have an active bishop against a passive knight on an open board – or the reverse, a strong knight against a bad bishop hemmed in by its own pawns. And of course there is the traditional concept of space - that your pawn structure is far advanced, thus cramping your opponent’s pieces.

Now, why is space important? At first it seems obvious. If one side controls more of the board, the other side’s pieces are cramped and trip over each other. It follows that the side with a space advantage should avoid exchanges. This is the traditional view. However, the modern view is a little different. There are naturally still situations where you want to avoid trading pieces, just as you always avoid trading your opponent’s superfluous or bad pieces. But the modern concept of space is that it has a value of its own, beyond the mere cramping of the opponent’s pieces. Often modern grandmasters actually exchange pieces to emphasize a space advantage, by removing the defender’s most active sources of counterplay. One example of how a space advantage can have a value of its own is the following:

White to move

Clearly Black’s “pieces” are not feeling cramped. Yet White’s space advantage is decisive. As you probably know, he wins by 1.g6 fxg6 2.h6!, leading to a new queen (or 1…hxg6 2.f6!). In this case, White’s space advantage meant that his pawns were more dangerous than Black’s. Here is another example:

Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Toran Albero, Roman
Palma de Mallorca | Round 2| 1967 | ECO: B36 | 1-0

You could hardly say that black’s two rooks and king do not have enough room to move around. Nevertheless, it is clear that it was Black's lack of space which did him in. Simply, as White's control of the board increased, so did his own possibilities, while Black's decreased. It is clear that spatial control has an importance beyond the mere cramping of the opponent’s pieces. After all, it is the control of the squares around the opponent’s king which results in checkmate!

Now let’s move on to the main game. This is my game against GM Alexander Zubarev from a tournament in Rethymno (on the island of Crete) in 2009.

In this game I actually sacrificed a pawn in the opening (“space”) but in return gained the open g-file (also “space”!). In addition, the time gained allowed me to take over space in the center, which eventually led to a sharp attack against the king.

Smith, Bry (2467) vs. Zubarev, Al1 (2548)
Open | Rethymno GRE | Round 4| 14 Jul 2009 | ECO: C41 | 1-0
1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. g4!? Nxg4 6. Rg1 exd4?! ( 6... Ngf6 7. Bc4 h6 8. Be3 c6 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Qd3 Qa5! 11. O-O-O b5 12. Bb3 Ba6 13. Nd2 ) 7. Nxd4 ( 7. Bg5!? f6 8. Nxd4 ) 7... Ngf6 8. Qe2 c6 9. f4 ( 9. Bd2 Qb6 ) ( 9. Bf4 Ne5 10. O-O-O Qc7 ) ( 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 g5 11. Bg3 Ne5 ) 9... Nc5 10. Bd2 Ne6 11. Be3 ( 11. Nxe6 Bxe6 ( 11... fxe6 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Nd5 14. Qh5+ g6 15. Rxg6 ) 12. f5 Bc8! 13. O-O-O Qc7 14. Bf4 Nd7! ) 11... Qc7 12. O-O-O Bd7 13. Qf2 Nc5 14. Qf3 O-O-O 15. b4! Ne6 ( 15... Na6 16. Bxa6 bxa6 17. Nb3 ) 16. Nb3! g6 ( 16... d5 17. f5 Bxb4 18. fxe6 Bxe6 19. exd5 ) 17. f5 ( 17. Bxa7 Bh6 18. Be3 Nh5 19. f5 Bxe3+ 20. Qxe3 gxf5 21. exf5 Nef4 ) 17... gxf5 18. exf5 Ng7 19. Bxa7 d5 ( 19... c5 20. Na5 cxb4 21. Ba6! ) ( 19... Nxf5 20. Bd3 ) ( 19... Bxf5 20. Nd4 ) 20. Bd4 Nge8 21. b5 Bd6 ( 21... c5 22. Nxd5 ) 22. b6 Ba3+ 23. Kb1 Qxh2 24. Nc5 Rg8 ( 24... Bxc5 25. Bxc5 Nd6 26. Rg2 Qe5 27. Bd4 Qe7 28. Re2 Nde4 29. Qf4 Be8 30. Bxf6 ) 25. Rxg8 Nxg8 26. N3a4 Bb4 27. Qb3 Bxf5 28. Rc1 Bxc5 ( 28... Qd2 29. Be3 ) ( 28... Ba5 29. Ba6!! bxa6 ( 29... Nd6 30. Nxb7 Nxb7 31. Nc5 ) 30. b7+ Kc7 31. Nxa6+ ) ( 28... Bd2 29. Ba6!! bxa6 ( 29... Bxc1 30. Bxb7+ Kb8 31. Na6+ Kxb7 32. N4c5+ Ka8 33. b7+ Ka7 34. Nd7+! ) ( 29... Nd6 30. Nxb7 Nxb7 31. Bxb7+ Kxb7 32. Nc5+ Kc8 33. Qa4 ) 30. b7+ Kc7 31. Qb6+ Kd6 32. Qxd8+ ) 29. Nxc5 Nd6 30. Qa4 Nc4 ( 30... Ne4 31. Nxb7 ) 31. Bxc4 dxc4 32. Qa7 Rxd4 ( 32... Qb8 33. Be5! Qxa7 34. bxa7 ) 33. Qxb7+ Kd8 34. Qxf7 Qe5 ( 34... Bxc2+ 35. Ka1 Qe5 36. Qf8+ Qe8 37. Ne6+ Kd7 38. Qxe8+ Kxe8 39. b7 ) 35. Qf8+ Qe8 36. Qxf5 Rd5 37. Nb7+

What kind of game do you think this was – positional or tactical? It had a crazy opening and there were some sacrifices, so you might be inclined to say it was a tactical battle. But I would say it was a more positional game. Most of the time White was trying to exploit the weak squares around the black queenside, to increase the space control there. The game morphed from a traditional space advantage (White occupies four ranks, Black only three) into a less traditional concept of space control, where the kingside has basically disappeared and become irrelevant, and yet that is where the Black pieces were languishing. The game did not hinge so much on some sharp variations (there were not many long variations, and if I have shown some above, they were easily assessed intuitively during the game without calculating). So this is why I see this game as more of a positional game than tactical.

For more material about the nature of Space in chess, you could watch these videos.

No comments:

Post a Comment