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Friday, February 21, 2014

Rooks and Minor Pieces

     Tahl decisively won his first match for the world championship with a score of 12.5 – 8.5. In my opinion these two matches were the most exciting I have ever witnessed because it was a clash of styles. The matches paired the strategist Botvinnik against the tactician Tahl. The truth is though that, as world champion caliber players, they were both good at all phases of the game and they bashed away at each other with all the weapons available regardless of their preferred style. Botvinnik played tactical chess when needed and Tahl played positional chess and endings when he had to.
     As you know, I have posted in the past that I have a healthy distrust of engines when evaluating positions with unbalanced material so found this position quite interesting.
     Generally speaking, if you have two minor pieces the essential elements are 1) coordinate your pieces against the Rook and 2) security. When playing with minor pieces against a Rook it is always good policy to pay particular attention to the general security of your position.
     Remember that the Rook is adept at picking off stray Pawns but in the absence of targets it loses a lot of its strength. By the way, this also applies to playing assorted minor pieces against a Queen. The Rook usually comes into its own in the ending and its value increases relative to the other pieces so that winning with two minor pieces against a Rook is often much harder than it would be in the middlegame.
     In the position below, Botvinnik has just made an oversight where he traded two N’s for a R and got into an ending that is an exception to the rule. The resulting ending illustrates the necessity of coordinating the minor pieces which Tahl did extremely well. Botvinnik’s Rook was unable to offer any resistance.

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