Baseline Chess, Hedgehog and Magnus Carlsen (1)

by ChessBase
1/13/2014 – The term is borrowed from tennis, where players do their damage mostly from the baseline. In several chess defenses such as the Sicilian, the French, the Caro-Kann, the Pirc or the Modern, the black players are forced to stay within their back rows. But to do it voluntarily as White? Huffington Post columnist GM Lubomir Kavalek shows us examples of how this strategy was employed.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Baseline Chess, Hedgehog and Magnus Carlsen

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

The title of the world champion is a frequent topic of conversations about chess, and bringing in Magnus Carlsen is inevitable these days. But did Carlsen do anything unique to win the title?

The dagger, ending Vishy Anand's hopes, came in Game 9 of the World Championship match in Chennai last year. It sealed Carlsen's victory, although the match officially finished after the next game with the score 6.5-3.5.

Anand (photo above) was a great world champion, having successfully defended the title many times before. Game 9 was his last chance to mount the last offensive and 100 million television viewers in India were watching. Few days earlier their beloved cricket player, Sachin Tendulkar, retired and they wanted Vishy to carry the torch and make a comeback.

But something extraordinary happened during the game. Being pushed back, Carlsen spread all his powerful pieces on the edge of the board and with his kingdom on the baseline, he sent forward a single pawn to do battle. The little foot-soldier won the war against Anand. Carlsen became the ultimate baseliner.

The term is borrowed from tennis and two great tennis players from Sweden come immediately to mind. Björn Borg and Mats Wilander won 18 Grand Slams between them, doing the damage mostly from the baseline. Net-rushers became victims to their precise, penetrating and counterpunching shots.

Björn Borg, one of the tennis greatest players, won eleven Grand Slams.

In chess, it was another Swede, Ulf Andersson, who loved to shuffle his pieces in his own backyard, unwilling to cross the middle of the board, only to lash out when least expected. He sharpened his baseline skills even with the white pieces.

In several chess defenses such as the Sicilian, the French, the Caro-Kann, the Pirc or the Modern, the black players are forced to stay within their back rows. But to do it voluntarily as White?

One of the first great players to sit back as White was the remarkable hypermodernist Richard Reti. In a limited space of the first three rows, Reti invented a marvelous setup. It didn't resemble a warehouse, it was an elegant, almost gallery-like display of his pieces. Sometimes it didn't quite work, but when it did, it was a pleasure to watch. Alexander Alekhine, writing notes in the tournament book New York 1924, was impressed by the following game.

[Event "New York"] [Site "New York"] [Date "1924.03.23"] [Round "6"] [White "Reti, Richard"] [Black "Yates, Frederick"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "lk/ Alexander Alekhine"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3r1k1/pp1q1pp1/2bb1nnp/3pp3/8/1P1PNNP1/PBR1PPBP/Q1R3K1 w - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "1924.03.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "22"] [EventCountry "USA"] {There is a clear elegance in Reti's efficient treatment of his heavy pieces. He put them in one bag on the queenside: the rooks are placed on the open c-file and the battery of queen and bishop is aiming on the central pawn e5. Suddenly, he moves his d-pawn to the fourth rank and the position bursts open in his favor.} 17. d4 $1 {Clarifying the pawn position in the center at the right moment and thereby gaining either d4 oir e5 for his knight. From now on black's game deteriorates rapidly - Alekhine.} e4 (17... exd4 18. Nxd4 { followed by doubling of the white rooks on the d-file, the game could not have been saved for any length of time." - Alekhine} Rxe3 19. fxe3 Qe8 20. Nxc6 $18) 18. Ne5 $1 {Reti's first piece crosses the median with disastrous results for black.} Bxe5 {Clearly forced.} 19. dxe5 Nh7 20. f4 {The control of the black squares and the weakness of the hostile d-pawn are now decisive factors in favor of white. By the subsequent exchange, in conjunction with the tour of the knight to h3, the opponent, of course, makes victory easy. - Alekhine} exf3 21. exf3 Ng5 22. f4 Nh3+ 23. Kh1 d4 24. Bxd4 Rad8 25. Rxc6 $1 bxc6 26. Bxc6 Nf2+ 27. Kg2 Qxd4 28. Qxd4 Rxd4 29. Bxe8 Ne4 30. e6 Rd2+ 31. Kf3 1-0

Bobby Fischer was one player you would not expect to stay back with the white pieces. In 1970 the American grandmaster experimented with the first move 1.b3 and defeated Vladimir Tukmakov, Miroslav Filip and Henrique Mecking. But it was his victory against Ulf Andersson that was the most impressive. It was played around the time of the 1970 Chess Olympiad in Siegen and it was sponsored by the Swedish newspaper Expressen.

[Event "Exhibition Game"] [Site "?"] [Date "1970.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Andersson, Ulf"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "lk"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2qrbk1/1pp3pp/2n1bp2/p2np3/8/PP1PPN2/1BQNBPPP/R4RK1 w - - 0 13"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "1970.09.??"] [EventType "game"] {Fischer has a typical Hedgehog setup with the white pieces. But instead of seeking a counterplay in the center, he finds an amazing way how to attack the black king.} 13. Kh1 $1 Qd7 14. Rg1 Rad8 15. Ne4 {Fischer starts his offensive by leaping out with the knight.} Qf7 16. g4 $1 {Advancing the pawn secures important squares.} g6 17. Rg3 Bg7 (17... Nb6 18. g5 $1) 18. Rag1 Nb6 19. Nc5 Bc8 20. Nh4 Nd7 21. Ne4 Nf8 22. Nf5 $1 {The white knights and rooks are fully engaged. Fischer won in 43 moves.} *

Andersson definitely learned something from the game, but advancing pawns in front of his king was not his style. Perhaps unknowingly, he tapped into the origin of the Hedgehog by placing the battery (Queen and bishop) on the diagonal b1-h7 in our game played in the Spanish town of Montilla.

[Event "Montilla"] [Site "?"] [Date "1974.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Andersson, Ulf"] [Black "Kavalek, Lubomir"] [Result "0-1"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3qr2k/1b1r2bp/1pn2pp1/p1pnp3/8/PP1PPN2/1BBN1PPP/1QR1R1K1 w - - 0 21"] [PlyCount "39"] [EventDate "1974.??.??"] {[%csl Gb1,Gc2] Andersson's pieces are posted on the first three rows, waiting for action. But Black has more space and no apparent weaknesses. The next five moves are also suggested by the computer program Houdini 4 Pro.} 21. h4 {I was not sure Andersson was happy about this move, weakening his kingside.} f5 22. Qa1 Nf6 $5 23. b4 {Diverting the attention from the center.} ({Andersson was not particularly interested in} 23. Nxe5 Nxe5 24. Bxe5 Rxe5 25. Qxe5 Ne4 26. Qf4 Nxd2 27. Rcd1 Bc3 28. Rxd2 Bxd2 29. Qe5+ Kg8 30. Rd1 Re7 31. Qf6 Bb4 (31... Bxe3 32. fxe3 Qd5 33. e4 Qd4+ 34. Qxd4 cxd4 $15) 32. axb4 cxb4 $15) 23... axb4 24. axb4 Nxb4 25. Nxe5 Nxc2 26. Rxc2 {Black's position is more pleasant, but not by much.} Rde7 27. Nxg6+ hxg6 28. Bxf6 Qxd3 29. Rec1 Kh7 $11 30. Nf3 $6 { The faulty knight move swings the pendulum in black's favor.} ({White should have played more aggressively:} 30. Bxg7 Rxg7 31. Qf6 {with equal chances.}) 30... Bxf3 $1 31. gxf3 f4 $1 {The white king is in trouble and in addition black has two connected passed pawns on the queenside.} 32. Bxg7 Rxg7 33. Rc3 Qd8 34. e4 (34. exf4 $5) 34... g5 35. Kf1 $2 {Losing.} (35. hxg5 $1 Qxg5+ 36. Kf1 {was White's only chance to survive.}) 35... g4 $1 ({Breaking through, but } 35... gxh4 36. Ke2 h3 {also wins.}) 36. fxg4 Qxh4 37. f3 Rd8 38. Rd1 Rgd7 { This is sufficient to win. But infiltrating to the second rank and using the skewer was better:} (38... Qh1+ 39. Ke2 Qg2+ 40. Ke1 Rd2 $1 $19 41. Rxd2 Qg1+ { wins.}) ({or immediately} 38... Rd2 $1) 39. Rxd7+ Rxd7 40. Rc1 {(Time W-2:25; B-2:15)} (40. Rc1 Qh1+ 41. Ke2 (41. Kf2 Rd2#) 41... Qg2+ 42. Ke1 Qg1+ 43. Ke2 Qe3+ 44. Kf1 Qxf3+ 45. Kg1 Qxg4+ 46. Kf1 Qf3+ 47. Kg1 Rd6 $1 48. Qa7+ Kh6 {and black mates.}) 0-1

The game was not well known and it didn't find its way into important databases such as the 2014 Mega by ChessBase or into Sergei Shipov's magnificent work on the Hedgehog.

Images by Bill Hook, Anastasiya Karlovich and Wikipedia

– Part two will follow soon –

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register