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Understand The Position 5: “Get Further by Going Slower.”

GM Ján Markoš | May 17, 2011 – 11:44No Comment | 760 views
Understand The Position 5: “Get Further by Going Slower.”

“Develop a new piece in each move!” “Don’t lose time if you don’t want to be checkmated very quickly!” “Time is worth gold in the opening!” How many times we heard such advices during a training? Of course, our coaches thought that well: who “scuffles” a beginning of the game and leaves the opponent ahead in development, will suffer in the middle game. Time is really worth gold in the opening.

Translated by: D. Turcer

Even relatively strong players, however, tend to generalize this knowledge to the whole game and they get the impression that chess is like a race where the point is which side is faster or the first in realization of its plan. This generalization is a huge mistake, though.

Chess is not the same as F1 racing. Magnus Carlsen is not Mika Häkkinen. Although it is necessary to play fast in some positions, there are also the other ones where it is correct to play slowly and patiently. Fast play is rather harmful in many positions. It is very important that the player learn to distinguish which is the “fast”, and vice versa which is the “slow” position. A tendency to play “slow” position fast, or vice versa “fast” position slowly has usually disastrous consequences.

For the position in the following example it seems like a chess time completely stopped:

The following two diagrams come from the game McShane – Short, London 2009. White is to move in both cases. Please try to compare them and estimate how many moves difference is between them. Three? Six?

In fact, there was thirty (!) moves played between these two positions. How is it possible, that these two strong grandmasters value the time so little that during a thirty moves period they completely failed to creatively improve their position?

The answer, of course, reads: There was nothing happening on the board just because both players are strong grandmasters. The point is: the position of the first diagram has a blocked character and the pieces are not in a direct contact. In order to change the nature of the position, it is necessary to make a breakthrough i.e. the pawns’ advance. It is important, however, that one side cannot afford to move with the pawns. Black has two double pawns in his structure and this formation is very sensitive to pawn advance. Usually, each advance of a double pawn creates some weakness. Thus, Black cannot open the position, he can only wait for what White will think up. Short knows that and he, therefore, waits.

On the contrary, White is able to open the position (h3-h4 breakthrough, maybe also b2-b3). However, he is not in a hurry at all and he is maneuvering with his pieces back and forth. This procrastination is twofold: firstly, it allows to choose the most appropriate moment for a breakthrough, secondly, it is very uncomfortable for the opponent from the psychological point of view. McShane won the game in 163th move.

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