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 12th-14th 2011]



(GW, June 12th) PROPOSED MOVE: 11. Rd1

Reasoning: As KW said when deciding our 10th Move, it's probably wiser to regain the overprotection of our d4-pawn, followed by 12. Nd2 and 13. Rac1, respectively ... well, depending on what Fritz does between now and then.

I did consider one other move, but suddenly saw a potentially nasty outcome for us ...

  • 11. Na3
    Instantly provides another unit to help contest c4 as well as attacking Black's b5-pawn while also connecting our two (White) Rooks. I am aware that a3 isn't the QN's most effective square for developing to ...

    NO, WRONG MOVE!! Black's light Bishop is already X-Raying through the b5-pawn, to our Queen, along the a6-f1 diagonal. Black could then play 11. ... b4, for a Discovered Attack, right? We'd be forced to move our Queen back down to the first Rank, disconnecting our two Rooks AND losing our QN to 12. ... bxa3. We'll NOT play 11. Na3.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 12th) OK, my mind is going through so many possible combinations in the future that I thought it is time for a diagram.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-2
Diagram 3-2
This may help both of us in the next few moves to see what is (and can be) happening. While this may not be the most complicated position I have ever been in, it has a lot of tactical challenges. At the same time, we must remember our strategic objectives.

The battles right now are being fought over d4 and c4, and soon b4. Black is trying to choke our options to zero. Until this battle is fought, Center Control is still up in the air. Black occupies d5 and e4, White occupies and controls d4 and e5.

Until the pawns have spoken, the game is in tension. This is a good position to learn which Rook to move where. We are definitely out of the opening and into the middlegame.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-2
Diagram 3-2
Let's start again with YELLOW going from left to right.

This is one of those positions that Fritz plays really well (tactical). So Black has moved from c8 to a6 (Yellow squares). He has found the best location for his "problem" Bishop. Now he may be giving US problems with that!

The one downside with this move is he has blocked his a pawn from being able to advance, locking it in as backward. His threat, as GW mentioned, is an "X-ray" attack upon his moving b5-b4, as the Queen must move, losing the Rook. So our Rook must move immediately, then the Queen (we are doing it this way, in a sense like "castling by hand", except with the Queen and not the King, as we want the KR on the Queenside, with the Queen to the right in support).

The b5 pawn can move to b4, and can then take c2-c4 "en passant". Black's Queen, if needed, can move to a5 to support the pawn advance to b4 (and then c3). The Nc6 can defend b4 and attack c4, and I just noticed, can move to a5 to support the defense of c4 (not on diagram) or attack b3.

The c5 pawn can move to c4, attacking b3. The Ne4 can move to c3 after RQ1, forking the Queen and Knight. At the present time, the Bishop can take it, but if b4, then it becomes a very dangerous move, as there is an Outpost, especially if White's QN has moved to d2 or a3. Alternately, if White moves Nbd2, Black can take Nxd2 or Nc3.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-2
Diagram 3-2
The BLUE move is the one recommended by GW. It is a good move and is a prime Candidate Move. The plan here has been described in previous moves. It defends d2 in case of an exchange there (and on d2 it protects the Bishop on b2 if we move c4), and provides overprotection for d4.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-2
Diagram 3-2
Now let's look at the RED moves. This is all about how to coordinate our pieces and pawns to optimal spots. This is one area that requires careful thought.

As I looked at the board, there was one other prime Candidate Move, shown just to the left of the blue arrow, representing moving Rfc1.

Why would we do that? Well, two reasons:
  • One, to give immediate support to the thrust c2-c4 and ...
  • Two, to allow the Ra1 to stay on that square (as opposed to the current plan, where it would go to c1), as it may be needed there. That's because White has an alternate plan to attacking the Black phalanx different than c4.
Let me explain this alternate plan, starting from the left of the board:
  1. Upon Black moving b5-b4 (which I think Black will do next move), we move our Queen (probably to e1), and then (at the right time) move a3.

    Black is not defending this square, and if bxa3, then Bxa3 (or even Rxa3, planning to double our Rooks on the a file), pinning the c5 pawn (otherwise upon c4 or cxd4, we take on d6 and our Knight can go to e5 - taking absolute control of this square - in support of c4), and gaining a Half-Open a file upon which Black has a Backward Pawn on the a file.

    Later we could move c4. I like this plan as it gets the Bb2 off the b file and its potential demise from the Black Queen, and removing the necessity of defending the Bishop with Queen or KR.

  2. If Black does not take on a3, White takes axb4 cxb4 (if Nxb4, c4 obtaining our objective, which means a Rook on c1 would be better in this scenario - supporting the c4 pawn, and the Queen should be on d1 supporting b3 and d4).

  3. If Black does not move b4, White has at least one other plan, a3 Na5, then b4 attacking c5 and the Na5.

    Upon Black then moving Nc4 (he would not move Nb3, as the c2 pawn would still be there), if we have a Knight on d2, we would take with that Knight, doubling the pawns on the c file(in this scenario, it would be better to have the Queen on e1 supporting the b4 square). We would have to be careful that the QB is protected, however.
So as you can see, if we move Rc1, Black in all likelihood will move b4, so that the Queen is attacked and forced to move, and upon c4, Black could take en passant. Otherwise, White will occupy c4 and have 3 defenders v. 3 attackers. This would give White the option of moving Qe1 or Qd1, depending on the plan. This move (Rc1) would virtually force Black into this scenario (moving b5-b4).

If we move Rd1, we would only move the Queen to e1 if b4, as we want to protect the b2 Bishop as long as we can. We would go with one of the two Qe1 scenarios. The Rd1 would overprotect d4, and provide extra protection on d2 if Black exchanges Knights there.

As far as the KN is concerned, it could move to e5 (or even d2, keeping the Nb1 to protect it AND c3, forcing an exchange with Black's e4 Knight).

Depending on the moves beyond the range of my crystal ball, we may want to move the Bg2 back to f1 to challenge c4 and the Ba6.

So now, with all that, I would like your opinion (my eyes are bleary with all the variations): Do you think we should still move Rd1, or would Rc1 be better, given the above? Every once in a while, I may turn it back over to you, as now:
  • Which will provide better Control of the Center in the long run? Which provides better coordination of the pieces?
This is one of those positions that can chew up a lot of time on the clock at tournaments (my clock would have run out by now). I think this move will decide our fate in this game, so I need an extra pair of eyes. Am I missing something obvious?

I lean slightly to Rfc1, as that gives us more options with the Queen (although we probably would have to decide what to do with her next move anyway because of b4 being the most likely move).

But Rd1 allows a defender for both d2 and d4 after the Queen is forced to move. The Ra1 could then stay where it is, or move to c1 (or even b1 to protect the Bishop). So I would be OK either way. It just changes how we play.

(GW, June 14th) I'm glad I proposed 11. Rd1, because I'd likely not have received this insight from KW (the benefit of having a more experienced, stronger chess player to help guide a beginner through learning how to better read and analysis positions, especially as threats and opportunities can fluctuate significantly from move to move).

Okay, my opinion, in light of what KW's just said ... I'll start with a further look at the d4-pawn, which had been my original proposal.

Here's the current position, after 10. Qe2 Ba6:

At the moment, this pawn is 3x defended, 2x attacked by Black units (unless you count X-ray attacks, like the one by Black's Queen, through the c5-pawn, in which case it'd be 3:3?). For now, let's just stick with 3:2 in White's favor. In that case, we could afford not to defend the d4-pawn a 4th time, with 11. Rd1 and so free up the KR to move elsewhere (i.e. 11. Rc1).

Noting the red arrows pointing to the potential push of the a-pawn, to a3 or a4, the QR would then be adequately placed on its original a1 square. That'd certainly save us a move (remembering that Rac1 was considered, to support the c2-c4 pawn advance).

Let's say we play 11. Rc1.

With the X-ray attack, towards White's Queen, primed to become a Discovered Attack, it seem less likely Black would play 11. ... c4, as not only would it get in the way of that potential attack on Qd2, it would give Black a very Bad light Bishop.

Looking at the position from Black's perspective, the b4 square is already 2x defended, with zero White unit applying any pressure whatsoever. Playing 11. ... b4 would only serve to add a third defensive unit - Black's Queen - and that's ON TOP OF the Discovered Attack in-waiting, via the a6-Bishop down to Qd2.

I can't see Black playing 11. ... Na5, as that removes one of Black's only two units attacking White's d4-pawn.

Nor do I see Black's QR moving to support Black's Queen (11. ... Rb8), as it's already in place to support a potential advance of Black's a-pawn.

I wonder whether Black might Castle Kingside (11. Rc1 0-0), to connect the Rooks and putting the King to one side. But, that might let us off the hook and allow use to regroup better around the Queenside of the board ...

Nah, on second thoughts, Black's King isn't under any pressure and there's no imminent need to strengthen the QR with its KR counterpart. With us having had to move our Queen twice, Black has the initiative (right?) and would probably want to keep turning the screw until ready to let rip against our Queenside position.

I think it could be 11. Rc1 b4 12. Qe1 (we'd have to move the Queen, as the Discovered Attack would have been triggered, coming from Ba6. We'd not move Qd1, as our d4-pawn is still good for back-up, while we don't have anything guarding a5, which our Queen would do from e1). So, then what from Black?

GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-3a
Diagram 3-3a
11. Rc1 b4 12. Qe1
What next for Black?
Surely not 12. ... Nc3, as I've manually gone through that with Fritz (Engine off, as I want to use my own observations, not rely on computer help): 13. Nxc4 bxc4 14. Bxc3 (Diagram 3-3b, below) and we'd remain with good Pawn Structure and a pawn ahead.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-3b
Diagram 3-3b
Surely not 12. ... Nc3
13. Nxc4 bxc4 14. Bxc3
And, if Black goes for the 4th Rank phalanx with 12. ... c4, could we get away with something like 13. a3 bxa3 14. Bxa3 Bxa3 15. Rxa3 (Diagram 3-3c, below), to leave our QR adding a second unit of protection for our b3-pawn.
GW-KW v. Fritz 12, Level 5, Diagram 3-3c
Diagram 3-3c
If 12. ... c4
13. a3 bxa3 14. Bxa3 Bxa3 15. Rxa3
So, I think we're both edging towards 11. Rc1, with me having changed my mind (from my original 11. Rd1 proposal).

I must confess, this analysis took the best part of 2-3 hours, over a two day period (just in case any other beginner reading this thinks I - a beginner also - took one look at KW's analysis and immediately followed up with my opinion ... Nope; I've got a lot of sharpening of my chess-brain to do).

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 14th) OK, you've helped to convince me. Rc1 is what I propose.


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