mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: I hope you have enjoyed this difficult, but beautiful example of Karpovian playing
style. Yes, this position comes from a well-known game Karpov-Spassky, played in the
candidates matches in Leningrad, 1974, one year before Karpov became world champion by
I would like to start this Lesson by telling you a few things about Karpov's method of analyzing the position, or at least the method he has presented in his books. He has developed a systematic way of approaching the position analysis, using seven categories: material, immediate threats, king safety, open files & diagonales, pawn structure, center & space, position of the pieces. I think this is a great puzzle to start getting used to this method of analysis!
- Material: It doesn't take a GM to see that there is material equality on the board.
- Immediate threats: Neither side has immediate threats.King safety: This is one important category! Well, what can we say about the white king? That it is pretty well protected, but also that it stays on the open diagonal a7-g1, and even though it is currently controlled by our bishop, we have to be aware of possible checks on this diagonal. The black king, too, stays on an important diagonal: a2-h7. And even though this is not an open diagonal, I am sure he can feel the heat from the white queen...
- Open files & diagonals: There is only one completely open file, 'd', and it is controlled by both sides. White, however, can double his rooks first... Another very important file is of course, the 'f' one, and fortunately, it is under our control. Our queen also adds her contribution by controlling the 'c' file. Black could gain control of the semi-open 'b' file, but that doesn't look very scary. Moving on to ranks, white's rook on d2 is in charge of the 2nd rank, while black's queen is responsible for the 7th rank. Finally, a few very important diagonals: a2-g8 controlled by our queen, a7-g1 and c1-h6 by our bishop, and h4-e1 by the black bishop.
- Pawn structure: White's structure looks definitely better. Nevertheless, we can point out a weak pawn on c2 under attack by the black knight, and an isolated pawn on e4. Black has much more to worry about: the pawn on f7 was left behind and is pinned and under heavy attack. The pawn on c6 is isolated and under attack, and last but not least a weak pawn on a5, which could become a great liability. Also under this category we have to fit strong and weak squares. In this case it looks like white has some weak dark squares on the king side, which is actually matched by black. Black also has most of the dark squares on the queen side weak, with the notable exception of b4 and d4, which are currently his strongest squares.
- Center & space: The center is semi-closed, since only one file is open, and both sides share its control. It is also very hard to decide which side has more space...
- Position of the pieces: There are lots of things that can be said in this category. Let's start with our queen: apart from the fact that she has a very active position, we also have to mention that she is in a fork position with the rook on f1, which means that a knight taking on e3 would be very unpleasant... That is also about the only thing we can say about the rook on f1. If black has a light squared bishop we would have also been obliged to mention the fact that the queen and rook are on the same diagonal, but right now that is secondary...
The rook on d2 is a little more interesting, since it is attacked by black's rook and
only defended by the bishop, which inherently means that we can't move our bishop without
being careful... Our last piece, the knight, is not very active on c3... It can only go to
d1, e2 and b1, and those aren't really great offensive squares either... We might also
observe that the knight is blocking our weakness on c2..
Moving over to black, I think it would be important to notice that black's queen on e7 lies on the same diagonal with the bishop and rook, and also with the knight on b4. Since we do have the dark-squares bishop, this could become important... The rook on a8 is not very active yet, and the rook on d8 is of course chatting with our rook. Also, if taken it would happen with check, plus the fact that it is on the same diagonal with the pawn on a5... The bishop, meanwhile, enjoys the h4 square, while the knight loves its position on b4. And this about concludes the position analysis...
I hope you saw how easy this was. All the things mentioned above can be noticed by a class D player, but they are actually very very important. Most of them might seem like things we notice even without trying, but believe me, we don't... Analyzing the position in this way, in order to get acquainted with its most hidden secrets, is a vital part of finding the right continuation.
Now comes the more difficult part of selecting the things that we want to change. In this case it didn't take Karpov long to realize that most problems are caused by our own knight. The knight itself is wasting its time, but it is also blocking the pawn on c2, and thus allows the black knight to enjoy the active lifestyle on b4. I am sure he also thought of different ideas such as doubling rooks on the d file, or playing 1.Bc5, but he quickly noticed that the 'f' file is more important, because of black's weak pawn on f7. And 1.Bc5 doesn't cause that much trouble after 1...Qb7, either...
So, what does Karpov do? He plays 1.Nb1!
The idea of this move is not very hard to explain. First of all, it opens
the path for the c pawn, thus allowing c2-c3 which will of course chase the black knight,
and weaken black's c6 pawn even more. At the same time, moving the knight opened the
horizon of the queen on c4 a little more, so that the pawn on c2 is now finally defended.
And if the above reasons were not enough, here is one more: the white knight is preparing
a long journey which after d2 will take it to either f3 or b3-c5 or c4, and in any of
those spots it will do definitely more than on c3...
This is definitely the kind of move that has allowed Karpov to reach and maintain his level for so long...