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Friday, September 28, 2012

Difficult Position

I enjoyed GM Andy Soltis’ book, The Inner Game of Chess, How To Calculate And Win, a lot.  I’m not sure I learned anything, but I enjoyed playing over the positions.  Like all books published more than a few years ago, The Inner Game was published in 1994, a lot of the material was not checked with engines which means when tactics are being discussed, there will inevitably be errors.  However, just because an engine finds a resource the annotator may have missed, that doesn’t take away from the game.

The very first position in the book was from a game played in the 1993 championship of The Netherlands between GMs Jeroen Piket and Gennadi Sosonko.  Of the starting position Soltis wrote, “An amateur looking at this position will recognize the basic elements: White is attacking on the K-side, Black on the Q-side.  There are potentially weak white Ps at f3 and d5 and blacxk ones at e7 and h7.  White would love to occupy the holes at c6 and e6.  Black is looking forward to the endgame where his two Bs and outside passed P (…h5!) will be trumps.”
Soltis points out there is a lot to notice here, adding that the master sees more than the amateur and recognizes an idea for White…an attack on h7.  One method is 1.Rh3 and 2.Rdh1, but that would involve a sacrifice of White’s d-Pawn which Soltis says is unclear.  Soltis then adds, “He also sees another method of exploiting that idea and quickly calculates the basic winning line.”  I am disregarding a couple of obvious typos in the book here.
Curiously, none of the engines I checked the position with suggested 1.Rxh7.  They saw 1.Qe4 as slightly favoring White and any R moves, including the sacrifice, as drawing.
It’s a good thing engines weren’t involved in this game or we would have been deprived of Piket’s sacrifice.  Even if Sosonko’s play could have been improved upon, that doesn’t take anything away from the R sac.  Soltis’ analysis of the position was superficial, but you will almost always find a lot of holes in published analysis, especially if the games were played in the pre-strong engine days.  Piket’s sacrifice also makes the point that OTB and CC chess simply aren’t the same and GMs find resources that, even if they aren’t completely sound, make for interesting chess.
Before looking at the analysis, you might what to set up the position and record your own analysis because the position is in the section of the book on calculating.  Or you could let an engine analyze for a lot longer on a more powerful computer and find even more hidden resources for both sides; I don’t know, but it is an interesting position to study because there is a lot to calculate.

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