It was the perfect setting for a showdown between two of the most combative players of the 1990s and 2000s: a thematic tournament stipulating every game begin with an Open Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 and, after 2…Nc6, 2…d6, or 2…e6, 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4).
Polgar chose a Paulsen Sicilian, where black places pawns on a6, d6, and e6, and develops the queen knight to c6. Shirov, not surprisingly, decided to tackle it with an early g4 and f4.
This was risky, because it exposed the white king, who had not castled to safety. Decisions like these can create brilliancies — for the player or their opponent!
The Hungarian prodigy was up to the task. One of the first females to earn the Grandmaster title (1991), Judit Polgar broke Bobby Fischer’s record (from 1958!) as youngest GM ever. She is universally recognized as the greatest female player in chess history.
When black answers 1.e4 with the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6), things can get weird in a hurry. Defenses like the French can become complex and tactical, but in a “standard” way.
Pirc Defense players fight for more wins, and are willing to risk more losses in the process. Don’t expect a lot of draws! Garry Kasparov’s immortal victory against Veselin Topalov in Wijk aan Zee 1999 also occurred in the Pirc.
The Pirc is somewhat reminiscent of the Sicilian Dragon or Alekhine’s Defense in the e4-universe, and the Modern Benoni in the d4-universe.
I would not have chosen such a risky line against Dragoljub Velimirovic, one of the most imaginative attackers in history! The uncompromising Velimirovic Attack in the Classical Sicilian is named after him.
Dragoljub Velimirovic (1942-2014) in 1966. Photo: Eric Koch/ANeFo
Velimirovic chose the space-gaining Austrian Attack (4.f4), and followed up with the dynamic 6.e5.
Rajkovic initially met this aggression in kind, setting up counterplay in the center. His 8th move was questionable, but probably ok.
He was undone by hesitating after white’s stunning 10th move and struggled for the remainder of the game. A great example of winning by creating more powerful threats than your opponent can muster!
There are some lovely variations in the comments. Please click through them and enjoy!
In contrast, this was the only game the young Francisco Vallejo-Pons won in the 2004 Melody Amber rapid, but what a victory it was! White’s king gets caught in a hurricane in a theoretical mainline of the Najdorf English Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3).
With competing opposite-side castling attacks, Svidler decides to fight off black’s attack before launching an offensive of his own.
He never got the chance. How did Vallejo-Pons respond to 25.Ka1?
Pawns are line-opening tools in opposite-side castling attacks
This and other model attacking games are not about finding one or two strong moves. Playing with the initiative means controlling the flow of the game and not letting the opponent breathe. Concentrating on this will transform your play.
“Tactics flow from a superior position.” — Bobby Fischer
Remember: the open or closed nature of the center usually determines how fast or slow you can play! Don’t get caught off-guard.
The chess tactics in Anand — Lautier arise out of a wild struggle where calculation will decide the day. To find the possibilities, we need to look for checks, captures, and threats … and use our imagination. Don’t reject “strange” or “crazy” moves at first sight, because they just might work!
Black has play of his own, which in some ways makes things easier. White knows that if he doesn’t act urgently, the game will turn against him.
What did the future World Champion play, in what would become one of his most famous victories?
Don’t let your guard down…and never assume all the chess tactics in a position have evaporated! A weaker player facing a stronger one might score a knockout because the higher-rated player doesn’t take the opponent seriously enough.
Remember: a player rated 200 points higher than his opponent should statistically score 75% — great, but nowhere near a certainty! Sit there and calculate as best you can, whether you are the favorite or the underdog.
Chess tactics software has experienced a boom in the past 10-15 years, and many good products have hit the market in that time. First appearing on CD and DVD, this material can now be purchased via download. There are many online tactics trainers to choose from as well.
Which chess tactics software should I choose?
It doesn’t really matter which product you choose; pick one you like that presents a challenge.
Convekta chess tactics software
A popular recommendation is the free Chess Tempo, but I have never liked the look or functionality. Another possibility is chess.com, which I currently use and think is worthwhile, but far from perfect, and you need to pay to get access to more than about 10 puzzles per day.
I raised my rating from 1850 to 2000 over 10 months in 2008. The two main things I did were work seriously on my openings, and solve 40-100 tactics puzzles each day using Convekta’sChess Combinations Encyclopedia and CT-Art 3.0. I absolutely adore these two tactics suites…maybe I should go through them again?
Remember: You are training to find tactics in real games!
Some players solve tactics purely for enjoyment; others want to improve their results in blitz (5-minute or less) or bullet (1-minute) games. Still, I assume most players who spend a lot of time solving tactics want to see results in their over-the-board tournament games.
At minimum, you have 30 minutes of thinking time for each game. There’s no need to bash out an answer for a tactics problem, or worse, a guess. Don’t worry about training for time scrambles; focus your training on the meat of the game.
I admit it’s tempting to play the first answer that catches your eye; I’ve done it more than I would care to admit! This is why I still recommend students use physical books to solve puzzles, even in this day and age — it’s not just nostalgia.
Instead, take your time and calculate! I can’t stress this enough. Some tactics programs give you more or less points depending on how quickly you solve the puzzle. Ignore this! Force yourself to see future moves, not just guess them or hope your moves work.
Hard work pays off
If you normally struggle with calculation, prepare to miss a lot of moves — for you and your “opponent!” If you keep at it, I promise you will improve.
Also, don’t focus on doing as many tactics as you can; do as many as you can while giving 100%.
You will quickly notice your play in longer games (say 15-minute) become much stronger. This is another reason, by the way, why you should give up blitz if you really want to improve your tournament results!
The back-rank checkmate tactic that occurred in this game is my favorite, and I’ve shown it to students for years. It’s the greatest back rank tactic I’ve ever seen, and one of the greatest tactics of any kind.
If you haven’t been looking for checks, captures, and threats before when playing chess, try it. I guarantee it will transform your play, and your results. This is how you can apply the chess middlegame tactics you have hopefully been practicing!
1b is intended for players rated 900 to 1500. In my experience, this range is accurate; students reach that level when they finish the book. It’s important to work on other things, but nothing is possible in chess without tactics.
There are six positions on almost every page, same as the first volume. Diagrams are just the right size — huge diagrams mean a much larger book, and tiny diagrams are hard to see.
You need to find 2-3 move sequences to win material, make a draw, or figure out “How to Proceed?” The last 300+ puzzles don’t give you any clues — just like in a real game!
A lot of tactics books teach patterns; this book will improve the way you see chess.
Your analytical skills will be stronger by the time you finish the book, and your endgame play will also improve. The many endgame positions in books 1a and 1b set them apart from other tactics collections.
The cover art and illustrations show the book was intended for kids, but adults wanting to improve should not be put off by that.
This book has stood the test of time, and there’s no need to search for a flashy alternative.
I should also mention: there is a lime green-colored Chess School 1 which contains Chess School 1a and 1b in one hardcover volume! It’s hard to find, so buy it if you can find it! Not to mention, it’s cheaper than buying 1a and 1b separately.