Last week I wrote about Cyrus Lakdawala’s new book, which provides an aggressive repertoire based on the solid move 1 d4. This week I focus on what might be termed a companion volume by the experienced chess coach grandmaster Neil McDonald, Coach Yourself (Everyman Chess), which aims to provide a training programme for those who wish to seriously improve their results. McDonald’s book is packed with essential tips on teaching yourself to calculate, honing your feel for the initiative, and practising planning. It is thoroughly recommended for club players or anyone who has decided that it is time to put up a fight against the chess app on their phone. The following game is an excellent illustration of how to seize the initiative by opening lines of attack.
Malakhov-Predojevic: Croatian League 2017; Queen’s Pawn Game
1 Nf3 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 d4 b6 5 b3 Bb7 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 0-0 Bd6 8 Bb2 0-0 9 Nbd2 Ne4 10 cxd5 exd5 11 Ne5 Qe7 12 f4 Nxd2 13 Qxd2 Nf6 14 Qe2 Ne4 15 Bxe4 dxe4 16 f5 Qg5 (see diagram 1) Malakhov has to decide how to build up his initiative. The advanced pawn on f5 and aggressively placed knight would indicate a kingside attack as the best plan. However, upon 17 f6 g6! (not 17 … gxf6? 18 Nd7 and Black’s kingside is compromised), it is difficult to see how White can make any progress. The pawn on f6 looks impressive but there is no follow-up. Malakhov found an enterprising rook lift. 17 Rf4 f6 Perhaps Black should try the radical 17 … h5 to stop White’s next. 18 Rg4 Qh6 19 Rg3 Completing an elegant manoeuvre to get the white rook into the forefront of the attack. 19 … fxe5 19 … Bd5 20 Rh3 Qg5 21 Rh5 traps the black queen. Predojevic must have missed or underestimated this threat in his earlier calculations. Since 19 … Bxe5 20 dxe5 gives White a huge attack, Black has no choice but to accept the piece offer. 20 dxe5 As compensation for the piece White has mobile centre pawns which abet a huge attack on the black king. 20 … Bc5 21 f6 Bd5 Such is the irrelevance of Black’s dark-squared bishop it almost feels like a position with opposite-coloured bishops in which White’s monster on b2 is battling the bishop on d5. 22 b4 Black’s bishop is enticed to the vulnerable b4-square. 22 … Bxb4 23 Rxg7+ Kh8 24 e6 Bd6 (see diagram 2) 25 Rg3 Blocking the attack on h2. After 25 Rg4? it is Black who wins with 25 … Qxh2+ 26 Kf1 Be5!! 25 … Rxf6 If instead 25 … Bxg3 26 f7+ Qg7 27 Bxg7+ Kxg7, the simple 28 hxg3 is good enough, but 28 Rf1! is much stronger, intending 29 Qb2+ Kg6 30 Qf6+ with a quick mate. After 28 … Be5 29 Qg4+ Kh8 30 Qf5 Bg7 31 Qxd5 White wins very easily. Don’t be in a hurry to grab material. You can save a lot of time and effort if you find the most precise way to finish off a game — though if you see a fairly comfortably winning move, don’t try to be a perfectionist in time trouble. That is usually asking for trouble. 26 Qh5 Black resigns 26 … Qxh5 27 Bxf6 is mate.