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On patterns and formations in chess

6/27/2007 – Are there certain formations that always work in chess? Like the Yugoslav Attack against the Sicilian Dragon? Or the Grand Prix against the Najdorf? And do they work in principle or only against weaker players? In his Thursday night lecture our Playchess trainer Dennis Monokroussos shows us what happens when the you try them against the greatest player of all time.
 

Dennis Monokroussos writes:

When I’ve talked about our game with non-chess players, sometimes they’ll ask me what formations are best. For those of us who know the game, this may sound like a naïve question – there is no set formation we can use, because it depends on what our opponent does. Yet there may be more to it than this quick dismissal might suggest. For beginners, there’s that old standby, what we might call the Scholar’s Mate Attack, going for mate on f7. Moving up a few notches in sophistication, White can often make 20 moves or more mindlessly against the Sicilian Dragon, play h4-h5, sac, sac and mate! (At least that’s what Fischer claimed 30 years ago. Dragon players might tell their own story about …Rxc3, sac, sac and mate right back.) And there are other formula approaches too.

One we’ll take a look at in this week’s show is also a White option, and like the Yugoslav Attack against the Dragon it’s used against a kingside fianchetto. The plan includes the moves Qd1-e1-h4, Bc1-h6, Ng5, f2-f4-f5 and hopes to culminate with something like 1.Bxg7 Kxg7 2.fxg6 hxg6 3.Rxf6 exf6 4.Qxh7#. It occurs in the Grand Prix Attack, in the 6.f4 line against the Najdorf (when Black follows up with …g6), in the Austrian Attack against the Pirc and elsewhere. It can be devastating, as I know from both sides of the board (mostly the white side, happily), and even very strong GMs can fall prey to this attack (as we’ll see).

But having given the non-chess player his due, and having acknowledged that there’s more to his question than our initial reaction might allow, there’s something to be said for our initial trepidation, too. A one-size-fits-all attacking approach might work against weaker players, but thoughtful, experienced opponents will see the big punch coming a mile away and take suitable precautions. And this leads us to our game of the week, a short, bloody battle between Alexei Fedorov, a strong and very aggressive grandmaster from Belarus, and one Garry Kasparov, almost indisputably the greatest player of all time. In their game from the Corus 2001 tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Fedorov decided to go head-hunting on the white side of a Closed Sicilian, constructing the aforementioned kingside pileup while neglecting just about everything else.

Fedorov has mauled many strong GMs in his career, and many lesser players might panic in the face of this all-out assault. Not Kasparov, however. The “boss” understood exactly how dangerous White’s attack was, knew how much time he’d have to make things happen elsewhere, and with extreme efficiency took advantage of the sectors his opponent had neglected. The game concluded quickly – as Fedorov had probably intended – and with a mating attack – again as Fedorov had intended. The only problem was that it was Fedorov’s king that was getting mated.

The game offers a fine model of an efficient, well-planned counterattack from Black’s point of view, and also a model of what not to do when attacking. Both aspects are extremely useful to reflect on, and the specific knowledge the game provides about the attacking formation with Qh4, Bh6 etc. is also valuable. With Kasparov as our model, how can we pass up this week’s show? If you agree, and I hope you do, then please join me this Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET. See you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 11:00h Sydney (on Friday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

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