Assumptions in Chess and how to avoid them

Tue, 2014-10-28 10:52 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "Valencia"]
[Site "Valencia"]
[Date "1475.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "De Castellvi, Francisco"]
[Black "Vinoles, Narcisco"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B01"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "41"]
[EventDate "1475.??.??"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2007.11.25"]

{One of the most common causes of a mistake in chess is when we assume that
either we or the opponent have to make some move, when it turns out that there
is a stronger possibility available. A very common example is when our
opponent makes a move to defend against our threat - then it is easy to
overlook any threats that the 'defensive' move creates if we don't look for
them. The following game has already featured on the blog but I'll show it
again as it's been a while since I went through it.} 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3.
Nc3 Qd8 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 $2 {Here White assumed that he couldn't move the
knight because of the pin, but actually he can to great effect (as he has the
stronger threat of mate!)} 6. h3 $2 (6. Ne5 Bxd1 7. Bxf7#) (6. Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.
Ne5+ {is also pretty good.}) 6... Bxf3 7. Qxf3 {Here Black thought that the
only idea of White's move was to recapture the bishop, but there is also the
threat to the b7-pawn...} e6 $2 8. Qxb7 Nbd7 9. Nb5 Rc8 10. Nxa7 Nb6 11. Nxc8
Nxc8 12. d4 Nd6 13. Bb5+ Nxb5 14. Qxb5+ Nd7 15. d5 exd5 16. Be3 Bd6 17. Rd1 Qf6
18. Rxd5 Qg6 19. Bf4 Bxf4 20. Qxd7+ Kf8 21. Qd8# 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Europe"]
[Site "Europe"]
[Date "1620.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Greco, Gioacchino"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C33"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "35"]
[EventDate "1620.??.??"]
[EventRounds "76"]
[EventCountry "ITA"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2000.11.22"]

{I won't go through this game in detail but I want to illustrate another
common assumption - that the threat of one of the players has to be defended
against. In truth, the threat can sometimes be met with a stronger
counter-threat.} 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 {Threatening ...Qh4, depriving White of
the ability to castle.} 3. Bc4 $5 {But actually the threat can be ignored! A
good example of unforcing thinking.} Qh4+ 4. Kf1 {It turns out that Black will
also lose time as White can play Nf3 with gain of time, and the queen will be
quite offside.} Bc5 5. d4 Bb6 6. Nf3 Qe7 {No, White doesn't have to defend the
e4-pawn...} 7. Bxf4 Qxe4 {Again, White is not forced to defend his f4-bishop...
} 8. Bxf7+ $1 {A nice tactic to regain the pawn, although to be fair
developing with} (8. Qd2 {and Nc3/Re1 was also very strong.}) 8... Kf8 9. Bg3
Nh6 10. Nc3 Qe7 11. Bb3 {Both kings are unable to castle, but White's lead in
development and central control gives him a decisive advantage.} c6 12. Qd3 d5
13. Re1 Qf7 14. Bd6+ Kg8 15. Re7 Qf6 16. Nxd5 Qxd6 17. Nf6+ Kf8 18. Re8# 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.10.27"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Rook Endgame"]
[Black "Don't Assume!"]
[Result "*"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "7k/6p1/5p1p/3Rp3/4P3/3P2P1/5PPK/1r6 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "6"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{Now for a position inspired by one of my recent games, to test how assuming
you are.} 1. f4 {How should Black respond in this position?} Rd1 $1 {Of course,
Black is not forced to trade on f4 and fix White's pawn structure.} 2. fxe5
fxe5 3. Rxe5 Rxd3 {and this endgame is a fairly simple draw - Black will put
his rook behind the passed pawn, activate his king and stop White making
progress by holding the position as it is and attacking the White g-pawns
where appropriate.} * [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Australian Open 2013"]
[Site "Cammeray AUS"]
[Date "2013.01.04"]
[Round "3.15"]
[White "Webster, David"]
[Black "Sukandar, I."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B40"]
[WhiteElo "2017"]
[BlackElo "2362"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "36"]
[EventDate "2013.01.02"]

{Even in innocent-looking positions, we should be concrete in our thinking and
critically question any assumptions we make. Even keeping all your pieces
protected doesn't insure you against tactical problems...} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6
3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Nbd2 Nge7 7. O-O d5 8. Re1 b6 9. c3 O-O 10.
exd5 Nxd5 11. Nc4 Qc7 12. Ng5 h6 13. Ne4 Rd8 14. Qf3 Bb7 15. Rd1 $2 {This move
is already a decisive mistake.} ({After going through the final moves you'll
understand that} 15. Qe2 {is a better square for the queen, although Black
remains for choice after} e5 {; this is basically a Fianchetto KID with
reversed colours. See Karpov-Balashov two games down for a very similar
situation and how to increase your advantage in such positions.}) 15... f5 $1 {
I think White assumed that this move doesn't do anything and forgot to look
one move further.} 16. Ned2 b5 17. Na3 b4 18. cxb4 $2 {It's a very common
assumption that one has to make a recapture, but this isn't checkers. In
White's defence his position was already pretty hopeless.} (18. Nb5 Qe7 19. c4
Nb6 {will lose the b5-knight to ...a6.}) ({Or} 18. Nab1 bxc3) 18... Nd4 {The
queen is trapped (because of 15.Rd1!) so White resigned.} 0-1 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Leuven op"]
[Site "Leuven"]
[Date "2013.11.11"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Wantiez, Fabrice"]
[Black "Daces, Philippe"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B01"]
[WhiteElo "2278"]
[BlackElo "2000"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "16"]
[EventDate "2013.11.08"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "BEL"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2013.11.20"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. d3 Bg4 6. f3 Bd7 7. Bd2 Qb6 {
What move would you play here as White?} 8. f4 {Right, Black is not
threatening to take on b2 as we have Rb1 and Rxb7 to regain the pawn.} Be6
1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Moscow"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1981.04.??"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Karpov, Anatoly"]
[Black "Balashov, Yuri S"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E69"]
[WhiteElo "2690"]
[BlackElo "2600"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "1981.04.08"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[EventCategory "15"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. d4 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. e4
c6 9. h3 Qb6 10. Re1 exd4 11. Nxd4 Re8 12. Na4 Qa5 13. Bf4 Ne5 14. b3 Nfd7 15.
Bd2 Qd8 16. Bc3 Nc5 17. Nb2 {Compare with Webster-Sukandar.} a5 18. a3 Ne6 19.
Nxe6 Bxe6 20. Qc2 f5 21. f4 Nf7 22. Kh2 fxe4 23. Bxe4 Bd7 24. Bg2 Bxc3 25. Qxc3
Qb6 26. Nd3 Bf5 27. Rad1 Bxd3 28. Rxd3 Qf2 29. Rde3 Rxe3 30. Rxe3 Kf8 31. Qd4
Qc2 32. Qb6 Re8 33. Rxe8+ Kxe8 34. Qxb7 c5 35. Qe4+ Qxe4 36. Bxe4 Nh6 37. g4
Ng8 38. g5 Ne7 39. h4 Kf7 40. h5 Kg7 41. Kg3 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.10.27"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Punishing Lazy Thinking"]
[Black "Consider The Options"]
[Result "*"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1bqk2r/pppp1ppp/2n1pn2/8/1bP3P1/2N2N2/PPQPPP1P/R1B1KB1R b KQkq - 0 5"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{Time for another test position. Is taking the g4-pawn a decent idea?} 5...
Nxg4 {Perhaps you rejected this move because White can play Rg1 and after the
knight moves, White will take the g7-pawn. However, such lazy thinking
(without looking at actual moves) tends to lead to oversights...} 6. Rg1 ({It
should be said that} 6. a3 Bxc3 7. Qxc3 O-O 8. Rg1 f5 9. d4 {would give White
some compensation for the pawn in his bishop pair and attacking chances down
the g-file and long diagonal.}) 6... Nge5 $1 {It's not so easy to see this
move, but it leaves Black a pawn up.} 7. Nxe5 Nxe5 8. Rxg7 $2 (8. d4 Ng6 {is
still good for Black mind.}) 8... Ng6 {Now the rook will be lost to ...Bf8,
and Black is winning.} * [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "TCh-BEL 2014-15"]
[Site "Belgium BEL"]
[Date "2014.10.19"]
[Round "2.4"]
[White "Claesen, P."]
[Black "De Strycker, Nathan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A45"]
[WhiteElo "2327"]
[BlackElo "2133"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "43"]
[EventDate "2014.09.28"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "BEL"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.10.20"]
[WhiteTeam "Fontaine 1"]
[BlackTeam "Temse 1"]

{Now let's see a recent game where Black fails to see the opponent's threat
due to losing his sense of danger.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 g6 $6 3. Bxf6 exf6 4. c4
Bg7 5. Nc3 f5 6. e3 O-O 7. g3 d6 8. Bg2 c6 9. Nge2 Nd7 10. O-O Re8 11. b4 {
Black should avoid such positions like the plague as despite having the bishop
pair, his unflexible pawn structure deprives him of having any active play and
White has a very simple plan of advancing his queenside pawns, which the
g2-bishop deftly supports.} Nf6 12. b5 Ne4 13. Qd3 d5 14. bxc6 bxc6 15. cxd5
cxd5 16. Rfc1 Rb8 17. Nf4 Bb7 18. Rab1 {Granted, White is already much better
as he has one more minor piece that can attack d5 and his rooks are the first
to the open queenside files, but missing White's threat here makes things
clearly hopeless. I think Black assumed that the idea of Rab1 was to take the
open file and didn't look around for what new options White may acquire from
this move.} Bh6 $2 {A positionally good move but it fails to meet White's
threat.} 19. Nfxd5 $1 Bxd5 20. Rxb8 Qxb8 21. Nxd5 Rd8 22. Bxe4 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.10.27"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Discovered Attacks"]
[Black "Another Assumption"]
[Result "*"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/1p3p2/q7/5p1n/8/8/1P2PP2/3Q1BK1 w - - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "2"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{An assumption often made at the lower levels of junior and adult tournaments
is that when a piece is moved, one should only look at the new things that
moved piece can do. However, a move of a piece can often discover new options
for other pieces (especially in the opening phase) and if you don't look at
the new moves available to these extra pieces, you can easily lose material by
missing the discovered attack. Let's take the following constructed position
as an example.} 1. e4 {Now most beginners would take the pawn on e4, seeing
the free pawn, and then shake their head after White takes the queen. Slightly
more experienced players might notice the attack on the queen but overlook the
other discovery on the knight, and lose the game. And then there's a third
assumption many players make - that two attacked pieces can't defend each
other at once! Well, we can refute that assumption with} Qg6+ {, and then it
is White who is losing material after ...fxe4!} * [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "TCh-BEL 2014-15"]
[Site "Belgium BEL"]
[Date "2014.09.28"]
[Round "1.8"]
[White "Gryson, W."]
[Black "Le Quang, K."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A41"]
[WhiteElo "2277"]
[BlackElo "2286"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "78"]
[EventDate "2014.09.28"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "BEL"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.10.20"]
[WhiteTeam "KBSK 1"]
[BlackTeam "Fontaine 1"]

{I'll conclude by showing the following recent game, where even some quite
reasonable players (rated in the high 2200s) made a number of incorrect
assumptions. It happens at every level actually, although the top players are
a lot less prone to it.} 1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 g6 3. e4 Bg7 4. Bc4 Nf6 (4... Nd7 $4
5. Bxf7+ {is a schoolboy trap.}) 5. Qe2 O-O 6. Nc3 Bg4 7. e5 dxe5 8. dxe5 Nfd7
9. Bf4 {Not a very precise move as the e5-pawn is actually a target. I think
White assumed he had to respond defensively, when in fact} (9. e6 {was a
better move to trade off the pawn and weaken Black's structure. Actually,
Black is still fine if he resists the automatic urge to capture/recapture with}
Ne5 10. exf7+ Kh8 $1 {, emphasising the pin over material (and the f7-pawn can
be taken at leisure anyhow).}) 9... Bxf3 10. gxf3 e6 {Assuming that e6 is a
threat, but we should check that the threat is real before trying to prevent
it.} (10... Nc6 {was better as} 11. e6 {fails to} Nd4 12. exf7+ Kh8 13. Qd1 Nb6
{and White can't keep f7 defended, which means his position is a wreck.}) 11.
O-O-O Qe7 12. h4 Nc6 {Now White has to find a quite clever idea to keep his
advantage. To his credit he does.} 13. Bg5 Qe8 14. f4 $1 {An assuming player
would say this traps the bishop, but there's more to it...} h6 15. f3 (15. Bf6
$1 Nxf6 16. exf6 Bxf6 {leaves White a pawn down, but if we look one move
further, we'll spot} 17. h5 {with a very strong attack, fueled by the
opposite-coloured bishops. In a practical game, Black's chances of survival
are quite low as he has precious few defenders around his king.}) 15... Ndxe5
$2 {Black assumed that the bishop can't be captured because of the h-file
attack, but actually the lone bishop does a good job of defending the king:} (
15... hxg5 16. hxg5 Qe7 17. Ne4 Rfd8 18. Kb1 a6 19. Qh2 Kf8 20. Qh7 {and only
now should Black play} Ndxe5 $1 21. fxe5 Nxe5 {, taking control of the
position while the h7-queen is completely out of play.}) 16. fxe5 hxg5 17. hxg5
Bxe5 18. Qe3 (18. f4 $1 Bxf4+ 19. Kb1 {followed by Qg4-h4 is just winning for
White; if} Qe7 20. Qf2 Bxg5 21. Qh2 Bh4 22. Rd7 $1 {(a nice example of
unassuming play)} Qg5 23. Rxc7 {is winning for White.}) 18... Qe7 19. f4 Bg7
20. Rh2 Rfd8 21. Rdh1 Qd6 22. Kb1 Qd4 23. Qh3 Kf8 24. Bb3 a5 25. a4 Nb4 26. Qf3
Nd5 27. Bxd5 Rxd5 28. f5 Rxf5 29. Qxb7 Re8 30. Ne4 Kg8 31. Rd2 Qb4 32. Qxb4
axb4 33. Rd7 Rf4 34. Re1 c6 35. Nd6 Rb8 36. b3 Kf8 37. Kc1 Rf2 38. Kd1 Rf3 39.
Ke2 Rf4 {Black must have lost on time as his position is not dead lost yet.
Anyway, I hope my post produces an improvement in your results. As Dato Tan
Chin Nam (former sponsor of the Australian Chess Grand Prix) once said, 'Never
Say I Assume!'.} 1-0 [/pgn]