Sunday, February 6, 2011

Automatic Moves

We've all done it from time to time, we make automatic moves on what we think are forced moves.

This is a game I had just a few minutes ago. When I ran it through Fritz, imagine my surprise.

White had recaptured the pawn on c4 with 22. dxc4. What should Black play?

22.... Nxb4 looks nice. Winning a pawn and gaining a tempo due to the discovered attack on White's queen.

Can you find a better plan?

Be warned, the calculation of the correct line is not easy as there are 2 important variations you have to consider that runs up till 6 ply deep. Remember tactics predominate nearly everything in chess.

Now what if I were to tell you there is a way to win at least a piece?

That got your interest hasn't it?

If you need to, stop now before looking at the answer below:

Ready? The winning move.

22.... Nd4!!
The White Queen is forced to move and there are 2 important variations:

Let's take a) 23. Qd1 or any other Queen move except 23. Qe3 - I'll explain later

Now comes the shocker 23....e5!!

a1) If the bishop moves away say 24. Bd2, then 24... Qh3 is decisive threatening mate on g2.
25. f3 (forced) Qxg3+
26. Kh1 Nxf3 and Black's attack crashes through and White must give up material to stave off mate.

a2) If the bishop takes with 24. Bxe5 then 24... Nf3+
25. Kg2 Nxe5+ wins the bishop

Now we go back to the other continuation
b) 23. Qe3 now e5 doesn't work but....

23... g5!! is a killer

Obviously the pawn cannot be taken as 24. hxg5 hxg5 with mate on Rh1#

24. Bxg5 is no solution because of Knight fork after 24.... hxg5 with 25... Nf3+ to follow.

That just leaves

24. Be5 Nf3+
25. Kg2 Nxe5+ winning the bishop

For all purposes, there is a stronger move in the earlier variation but given the practicalities of play, winning the bishop is fairly decisive.


  1. ..Nxb4 looked great at first. I didn't supect anything until you said there was a better plan. Then it took about 2-3 minutes to spot the ..Nd4 plan and verify it.

    The ..Nd4 plan looks strong in it's own right, as ..g5 doesn't look strictly necessary as the Nc2 fork picking up an exchange also looks good enough.

  2. blogeurix: Thank you!

    LinuxGuy: I didn't suspect anything either because the Knight capture looked the easiest thing in the world and seemed "most natural" until you see the Nd4 idea.

    The axiom,"When you see a good move, look for a better move" still holds true. :)