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La mia analisi: Il materiale











La lezione del GM Schwartzman Sometimes, the easiest looking combination can have a few tricks up its sleeve, and this puzzle is a perfect example of that.  I have said many many times that combinations rarely happen out of the blue.  Almost always they have a very good justification in the characteristics of the position.  It is the disadvantages in our opponent's pawn or piece structure that create the conditions allowing the combos, and that draw our attention to them in the first place.  So, generally, if we discover those disadvantages, we should have absolutely no trouble finding the combinations, right?
Well, not exactly!  You see, sometimes certain disadvantages in our opponent's position can allow not just one combination, but a few.  And sometimes, one combo is more hidden than others.  And, ... sometimes, when we see the first combo, we might not even search for the others, especially, if we didn't take enough time to calculate the first one that well...
I hope you already know what I am driving at.  In the position above, there is very little doubt that white's position is superior.  He has the pair of bishops, better placed pieces, and the 'e' file.  What more could he ask for?  Well, how about some material?  The fact is that the position is still equal from a material point of view, and transforming our positional advantage into a material advantage should be one of white's primary concerns.
The good news is that this concern doesn't seem very hard to solve.  Black has a two very important weaknesses, which anyone should be able to see immediately.  First of all, there is the knight on d5, which would look really good if there was a pawn on c6 to support it.  But since there isn't, the knight is very vulnerable, not only because it is threatened by the white bishop on c4, but also because the f7 pawn happens to be on f6, and since the king hasn't budged, the logical conclusion is that ... the knight is pinned. 
Secondly, we have a fact that might look a little less important: the black pawn on c7 happens to find itself on the diagonal controlled by the white bishop and queen duo.   The reason I said this looks less important, is that it certainly seems like there are sufficient pieces defending the pawn: rook, queen, knight - black doesn't even have that many more pieces on the entire board.  But, here is another good example of false appearance: despite the fact that so many black pieces are defending the pawn, reality is that the knight is pinned, so it doesn't count, and the queen, while she does count, she also has to take care of the defense of the knight, so she can only count for one of the defenses.
So, what I am trying to say is that the black pawn on c7 is not sufficiently defended, so we can simply take it with 1.Bc7

Our intuition proves right when doing the actual calculation: after both 1...Qc7 2.Bd5 or 1...Rc7 2.Bd5 (2...Qd5 3.Qc7)  white recovers the sacrificed bishop, and ends up a pawn up in a very nice position.
So, it would be pretty easy to pride ourselves for finding 1.Bc7 and playing it rather quickly.  But, there is always a but...  We should have spotted a little problem with 1.Bc7, which should have caused us to spend  a little more time making sure it worse.  You see, the bishop can not be taken right away, as we just saw, but there is the little point about the other bishop on c4 being undefended as well, and about the two bishops being on the same file.  Does that seem a little bothersome?  Well, it should!
If black tries to take advantage of this situation with the nice 1...Rf7, white is suddenly forced to take the knight with 2.Bd5 and after 2...Qd5 he has to retreat his bishop, probably to 3.Bd6.  Well, white has not lost a bishop, and he is a pawn up.  Unfortunately, there is one more little point that should not be overlooked: the pawn on a2 is also undefended, it is black's move, and the queen on d5 has direct lane towards a2.  After 3...Qa2 it is definitely an equal material position again, and as a matter of fact, after the loss of the bishop pair, white's position looks less good than before the whole combo.
So, after this short presentation does anyone still think that 1.Bc7 is a good idea?  Maybe so, but you will certainly change your view once you see white's best first move: 1.Bd6!

This is indeed a nifty little move, and a well-deserved "nice job"  for those who found it.  The thing is that the knight on d5 is still the one causing all the trouble for black, but it's not the pawn on c7 who's the other culprit - it is the pawn on b7! 
But, first things first: what the bishop on d6 does, is cause a breakdown in communication between the black queen and knight, causing the latter to be completely undefended.  Taking the white bishop with the pawn is not really an option because after 1...cd6 2.Bd5 Kh8 3.Be6 black will lose more than just a pawn.
If, on the other hand, he plays 1...Qd6, white has a pretty easy game after 2.Qd6 cd6 3.Bd5 Kh8 4.Bb7

As if winning a pawn wasn't good enough, we actually managed to completely destroy black's pawn structure, and transform the position into a very easy to win endgame.  Of course, black's attempt to recapture a pawn with 4...Rb8 is quickly met by 5.Re7, insuring white's superiority until the end of the game...
So, is 1.Bd6 pretty good or not?  It certainly is, and Grandmaster Kotronias knew how to take advantage nicely of it!