GW-KW, Point Count Chess Raw Discussion, File #8:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 2)

Game 3, GW-KW v. Fritz 12 (Level 5), for Control of the Center
[June 19th 2011]


RECENT MOVES: 14. bxc4 Bb7

(GW, June 19th) PROPOSED MOVE: 15. a4

Reasoning: With Black's light Bishop have retracted to b7, I get the impression Black intends to advance the a-pawn to a5. While this will form an Advanced Salient (a5,b4,c5), I think it's more likely the a-pawn will take over from the stalled c5-pawn, with Black supporting an a+b pawn advance, down towards our Isolated a-pawn. Black's Queen is already in place to support the b-pawn, while the a8-Rook performs the same role, but for the a-pawn.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) Black also made this move to challenge White on the a8-h1 diagonal, as it is now open after the previous 13...dxc4.

But by doing so, he has given up the initiative to White (we get to do something aggressive if we want rather than just responding to Black's moves - a refreshing change that requires a forcing move of our own to advance our game).

(GW, June 19th) My current thought is, no matter what we do, we cannot prevent 15. ... a5. So, I'm now considering our options ...

  • (GW, June 19th) 15. Nbd2
    I'm conscious our QN is behind in development. Our ideal 15. Nc3 option is prevented by Black's b4-pawn; not so much Ne4, as if it weren't for the pawn, I'd be up for tempting Black into a Knight Exchange: 15. Nc3 Nxc3 16. Qxc3.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) When you say the QN is behind in development, this is a good place to mention another concept.

There are several openings where the best square for a piece can be its original square (the Benko Gambit's QR is one example, and some variations of the Caro-Kann with the Queen Bishop another).

Development NORMALLY means moving a piece off the back rank, but not always. The better definition is to get your pieces to the best squares in the current position. In the current position, up until we moved 11. Rc1, the QN was needed to protect c3. That is not necessarily the case now, as 15. ...Ne4-c3 16. Bxc3 bxc3 17. Rxc3 and Black loses the exchange Knight and Pawn for a Bishop.

The question here is, is the Knight better placed on another square?
  • (GW, June 19th) 15. Nbd2 (Continued ...)
    Instead, what if we aimed to get our QN onto, maybe onto b3, via
    15. Nbd2 ... Black's Ne4 is currently undefended, but also restricting our movements in our own territory (d2, especially).

    Then, if 15. ... Nxd2 16. Nxd2, bringing our remaining Knight across to help defend the current Queenside onslaught, while our Bg2 would be revealed as a Discovered Attack against Nc6, while also staking a claim for the two center squares, e4 & d5.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) Moving a Knight to b3 is a good plan.

If Nb3, then we have our protection back on d4, blockade b4, and gain an attack on c5 which we do not have now. In the event of a5, dxc5 Bxc5 Nxc5 Qxc5 and White controls the center (both Bishops criss-crossing the board unhindered by a pawn), and gains the a1-h8 diagonal attacking the Queen.

The question becomes which Knight to begin with?

In order to have the Discovered Attack, the Nf3 must move. Yet eventually, the Nb1 needs to move. Either would be fine to move to b3. So in light of Black's last move, which would be better?

Black is trying to gain control of the diagonal, and is preparing a5. Nfd2 is the one that not only advances the a8-h1 diagonal control (by uncovering our Bg2), but also forces Black to either exchange or move (because of the Double Attack on e4).

In either scenario, our next moves could be 15. Nfd2 Nxd2 16 Nxd2 followed by Nb3 etc.; or 15. Nfd2 Ne6 16. Nb3 and 17. Nbd2 moving the Knight; or 15. Nfd2 Nc3 16. Nxc3 bxc3 17. Bxc3 with a good game and winning the exchange. So I believe the nod goes to Nfd2.
  • (GW, June 19th) 15. Nbd2 (Continued ...)
    Actually, part of me wouldn't mind if this Exchange went ahead, as we'd remove that meddlesome Ne4, while remaining equality (in terms of material value).

    Mind you, completing the Knight Exchange with the KN would remove one of the defenders of the d4-pawn, leaving it 3x attacked, 2x defended. If said Exchange did go ahead, with the d4-pawn appearing to be the most highly attacked White unit, it may be better to complete the Knight Exchange with our Queen: 15. Nbd2 Nxd2 16. Qxd2, with our Queen then making our d4-pawn 3x attacked, but 4x defended.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) Several things here that need to be commented on.

  1. The final portion of the exchange taking with the Queen is an option, depending on Black's moves.

  2. Moving a Knight to d2 is a forcing move in response to Black's Quiet move; Black will not take on d4. I can say that because if he does, he loses the Knight on e4 (it is Vulnerable), which then our Knight attacks the Bishop on d6 and the pawn on c5 (increase in Mobility).

    Even if it is 3x attacked and 2x defended (Vulnerable), if you are going to be behind in material (here a Knight for a pawn) without compensating advantages after an exchange, Black will not play it. As well, it will open up the a1-h8 diagonal for White's Bishop, allowing a Kingside attack, not something Black needs right now.

  3. Moving 15. Nfd2 then 16. Nb3 protects the d4 pawn (again), followed by Nbd2 now protects the c4 pawn and connects the Rooks. White has improved his position.

  4. This question is showing the dynamics of Center Control verses COA Center Domination. The latter would say that we should not make the move because of 3x v. 2x (a quantitative analysis of d4), while the former says that we should remove the guard on e4 (which guards Center squares), especially since it is a loose piece.

    Removing the guard increases our influence in the Center (a qualitative advantage) with our remaining well positioned pieces. It sees that Black cannot really take on d4 while his Knight is under attack.
  • (GW, June 19th) 15. Nfd2
    I'm not sure about moving this Knight. It's already been placed on one of its optimum squares, whereas our QN is still undeveloped.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) See my comments above (under 15. Nbd2) about development.

One further comment. Our Knight IS on one of the optimum squares, if the battle were on the Kingside. As it is on the Queenside and the Center, the position must dictate where it would be best. If 15. Nfd2, it could go to b3, transferring its strength to a better square to defend d4, as well as the bonus of attacking c5. It would actually gain in influence on b3 over f3.
  • (GW, June 19th) 15. a4
    If Black is planning to march the a- and b-pawns straight down to attack from our 3rd Rank, 15. a4 would do one of two things: it wouldn't prevent the Advanced Salient from forming (a5,b4,c5), but if 15. ... a5, it would stall Black's a- and b-pawns from coming closer, in unison.

    The second potential outcome would be 15. ... bxa3 (capture En Passant). But, to avoid losing our dark Bishop to Black's Queen, we'd have to capture with that Bishop (16. Bxa3) and then hopefully get to develop our QN to c3, then it'd be up to Black whether to go for the Knight Exchange: 16. ... Nxc3 17. Qxc3 and hope we can then bring the dark Bishop back to b2, to form the diagonal Battery with our Queen, X-raying towards g7, as KW pointed out in Diagram 3-4c (on Page 9, but repeated below):
    GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-4c
    Diagram 3-4c (Repeated from Page 9)
    After 13. c4 bxc3 e.p., 14. Nxc3 Nxc3 15. Qxc3
    With our a-pawn gone, our Ra1 would have the benefit of standing on the Half-Open a-file.

    My mind's kind of clicked with the potential of this; I'm racking my brain, but can't spot any potential blunders, which is kind of concerning, because I'm currently very good at walking myself straight into the hangman's noose.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) No hangman's noose for you this time (I guess you'll just have to wait for another turn if you're looking forward to it that much!).

Not bad analysis. The only problem with a4 is that we will turn the initiative back over to Black, as Black then has several options, probably the best being Na5, blockading the a4 pawn from going to a5 (and forcing the Black Queen to move), attacking c4, preventing our Nb3 (the best square on the Queenside to have a Knight due to its attack on c5 and defense of d4, but with no pawn at a2, our Knight moving to b3 would be taken) ...

... and removing one of the obstacles of his own pieces in order to attack the Bishop on g2 with his b7-Bishop (15...Nc6-a5 16. Nf3-d2 Ne4xd2 17. Nb1xd2 Bb7xg2 18. Kg1xg2 - not the position we had hoped for).

While the pawn would do its job of slowing, it would not prevent the Advanced Salient if Black really wants it (as you have mentioned - He could simply move a5 now and get it). After all, it is an Isolated Pawn, and moving it that far away from the second rank means we also have lost the Flexibility to move our QR. It will have to stay on the a file, even though it may be needed in the battle for the center (e.g., moving to b1 or doubling our Rooks on open files that could develop).

One final thing, the battle we need to fight is still in the Center. This move does nothing about the Ne4, nor resolving the pawns on d4 and c5. Flank attacks normally happen when the Center is blockaded with pawns facing one another, like in 2 salient formations. While it is an OK move, I don't think it is our best.

(GW, June 19th) While I've got the benefit of KW's experience, I'm going to propose 15. a4, just to see if I've spotted a way forward, or to get the opportunity to learn from KW, if my proposal is flawed.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 19th) The current position, before our move, is about equal. Black has temporarily turned the initiative over to White, and White should take advantage of it with a FORCING move (taking advantage of the gain of initiative which is part of the basic element of Time), and the move should have something to do with Center Control.

By attacking the Ne4 (now a loose piece and Vulnerable), we force the movement of a key player in the Center off of its (former) Outpost and key square, and it loses its influence over the key squares c5 and c3 in the Large Center, which impact d4.

A Knight move is called for. As 15. Nfd2 does more to gain control by unleashing the g2 Bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal, it is the better Knight to move (gains in Mobility). The Nb1 will move either next move when an exchange takes place, or to d2 after Nb3.

In light of all of the above, I think our best move is 15. Nfd2.


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