mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: According to my experience, and that of many of my students, one of the most difficult
situations in chess deals with choosing the right plan. How often do we encounter a
situation where in a fairly normal position, without many clear cut objectives, we have to
find the right plan, and put it into practice? Choosing the right plan isn't easy,
because it rarely looks like the right plan to start with. It is only later that we
realize if the plan was indeed the right one.
Of course, the key to choosing the right strategic plan is a deep analysis of the position, which is what I would like to start with for the position at hand. Just looking at the position, we should be able to tell that white is better. This is actually one of those curious assessments, when if we are asked why white is better, it might take us a while to find the answer. The truth is that he "looks" better. Dwelling into the position further, however, does provide an insight into white's superiority.
The first noticeable fact should be the placement of the pieces. Black's knight on h6 is very passive, and even the bishop on g4 doesn't do much besides threatening our knight. Our knights, on the other hand, seem well placed, and while they can't go to too many places right now, they exert enough control in the center to play a significant role.
The rook on f1 is comparatively strong with the black 'd' rook, as they both benefit from nice, semi-open files. Interestingly enough, it is the white queen that enjoys a really nice position. Now, I know many of you will find this last statement puzzling. How in the world can a queen on e1 be a good queen? After all, it even interrupts the flow between the two rooks, which according to one of the most basic principles in chess, should be left open. Well, understanding why the queen is strategically well placed has a lot to do with understanding the entire character of the position.
You see, all the differences between black and white that I mentioned above are not really enough to warrant the kind of advantage that white seems to enjoy. It is actually the pawn structure that does that! Granted, both sides have doubled pawns. But that would be a very superficial statement. It is where those doubled pawns are, that makes all the difference!
Well, one could easily fall in the trap here of considering black's doubled 'c' pawns better than white's doubled 'e' pawns, according to the valid argument that the e3 pawn is fairly weak, while none of the black pawns are that weak. However, one has to look from a slightly different perspective to understand the real difference: white's doubled pawns are in the center, and have the potential to support a breakthrough in that area, while black's queenside pawns are hopelessly tied to the defense of the king.
And it is actually this last statement that should point us to the key that unlocks the correct assessment of the position! The main difference between white's and black's setup lies in the position of the kings and their exposure to the attack. As it is often the case in positions with kings on opposite sides, attack potential should be one of the primary concerns in analyzing the position.
In this case, neither side has initiated any aggressive moves, which makes both kings look really safe. But this is a very deceiving picture. As a matter of fact, a superficial analysis could be very misleading in the sense that since black has more pawns on the queen side as defenders, black's king is even safer than his white counterpart. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
The fact is that the pawn storms that you usually see employed in king attacks are almost never used with the goal of checkmating the king. The only reason pawns are sent forward is to open the lines that the heavy artillery needs in order to go in and do all the damage. And how do you open files? Only by trading with the opposite pawns. In our position, does black look like he has much chance to do that on the king side? Not really. You see, white's pawns on g2 and h2 have never moved, so in order to open the 'g' or 'h' file, black would have to send his pawns very far, and waste a lot of time. Not to mention that the position of his own pieces is hindering this action.
White, meanwhile, is in a much more fortunate situation. There are not one, but two black pawns who have left their initial position: a6 and c6. This should immediately attract white's attention to the wonderful square that he has at his disposal in order to cause a file to open in that area: b5! Of course, it didn't take Capablanca very long to realize this, as his next move eloquently proved it: 1.Rb1!
A simple little move, which really doesn't look that hard to find.
But of course, it is not the move that matters, but the plan that the great Capa is
preparing to put into practice!
He realized that thanks to the pawn structure, he can start an attack on the black king much sooner than black could respond on the king side. After just three more moves - b4, a4, b5 - black will be faced with the tough decision of which file to allow to open. Further, it certainly looks like the pawn on c6 is going to be shaken up, which implicitly means that the knight on c3 will finally gain access to d5 and suddenly become quite a force, that black will have to contend with.
As to the queen, this shows how well she is placed on e1. She has a great view on the queen side, with the chance to go as far as a5 if the position requires it, and the 'a' file opens, even partially. At the same time though, she keeps an eye on the king side, making sure that if black does indeed try something on the king side, there are enough defensive forces to quell any attack.
The next few moves proved how good Capablanca's plan choice really was. Black realized the avalanche of pawns coming on the queen side, and decided to use the time in-between to transfer his knight from h6 to the defense of the king. For this purpose he played 1...f6 2.b4 Nf7 3.a4
The threat that was only a fantasy a few moves ago is suddenly reality,
and black doesn't have to many responses to it. For instance, after a move like
3...Be6, white can play 4.b5 and the position after the possible line 4...cb5 5.ab5 a5
6.b6 speaks for itself.
Black chose to play 3...Bf3 instead, hoping to trade some more potential attackers, as well as force white's 'f' rook away from the king side. But after 4.Rf3 his decision to defend with 4...b6 sealed his fate. Just take a look at the position after 5.b5 cb5 6.ab5 a5 7.Nd5 Qc5 8.c4
Black has indeed managed to maintain the queen side fairly closed, but at what a cost... The white knight on d5 is as strong a knight as you will ever see, while the e3 pawn is showing how important it really is. It is this pawn that, after all the necessary preparations, will allow white to push the 'd' pawn, and then the 'c' pawn managing to then completely break up the last of black's defenders. It was just a matter of correct technique on the part of Capablanca to transform this advantage into a victory...