Marin on Tromso R7 – Through Steinitz' glasses

8/10/2014 – You have probably heard of Wilhelm Steinitz' abstract theories on static and dynamic elements of a position. They were considered naive and dogmatic by some, but when our star commentator Mihail Marin looked at two crucial games from round seven in Tromsø through Steinitz' glasses he was surprised to notice how simple and logical things suddenly became! Learn and enjoy.

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Marin on Tromsø – round seven selection

The correct (balanced, well-timed) use of the static and dynamic elements of the position has preocupied theoreticians and practicians alike ever since the publiction of Wilhelm Steinitz' abstract theories in his Chess Instructor. Steinitz was held by many successors as naive and dogmatic, which is partly true. But I have taken the liberty of looking at two crucial games of today through Steinitz' glasses and was surprised to notice how simple and logical things suddenly became!

The main focus will be on the closely related notions of initiative and advance in development. Steinitz did not believe too much in either of them, being more preocupied by the strategic elements, but he gave quite a few reasonable evaluations about situations involving the "volatile" elements, as he liked describing the advance in development and initiative. Alejandro Ramirez has already annotated the game Dominguez-Leinier, which would have been a good candidate for today's selection. Black greately relied on the static elements (such as the blockade on dark squares), underestimating the dynamic potential of White's better developed army. But although Alejandro' excelent work has deprived me of the pleasure of annotating such a beautiful game, I hope you will enjoy the two games below to no lesser extent.

Levon Aronian vs Peter Leko

The world's number two player: Levon Aronian from Armenia

[Event "41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 Open"] [Site "Tromsø"] [Date "2014.08.09"] [Round "7"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Leko, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2740"] [Annotator "Marin, Mihail"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [WhiteTeam "Armenia"] [BlackTeam "Hungary"] [WhiteTeamCountry "ARM"] [BlackTeamCountry "HUN"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 {This whole series of moves played at lightning speed was interrupted by Aronian's one-minute thought on the next one.} 5. Bg5 {In principle, the most aggressive move, but it does not disclose anything yet. According to both players' mood we could get the dynamic and strategically complex Cambridge Springs variation, the irrational Botvinnik or anti Moscow systems, but also the somewhat dull Exchange variation or (as outfashioned this might be) the Capablanca system.} h6 {With his move, Leko passes to his opponent the responsability of choosing the character of the game.} 6. Bxf6 {Aronian is not keen to check his opponent's preparation in the ultra-sharp anti Moscow variation and settles for a positional battle with some light initiative for White.} Qxf6 7. Qb3 Nd7 8. e4 dxe4 9. Nxe4 Qf4 10. Bd3 Be7 {[#]} 11. Bc2 $5 {If we except game played in 1928, this is a novelty. However, the bishop retreat is not really unusual for this line and play will eventually transpose to previous games.} ({The curious thing is that Leko thought for almost half an hour before answering, which makes me think that against the usual} 11. O-O {he did not intend to get castled, but rather tried} e5 $5) 11... O-O ({After White has cleared the third rank,} 11... e5 $2 {would run into} 12. g3 {winning the e5-pawn.}) 12. O-O Rd8 {Leko had another long thought on this natural move - a quarter of an hour. He must have felt uncomfrotable in a position he possibly did not study at home. Otherwise it is not practical to spend so much time on moves on natural moves which could be played without thinking.} ({The more natural move order is} 12... b6 13. Rfe1 Bb7 {leaving for later the decision about how to develop rooks.}) 13. Rad1 b6 14. Rfe1 Bb7 {[#]White has completed his development harmoniously and can safely claim to have stepped into the middlegame. Black still needs to open the long diagonal for his b7-bishop and find some way of putting to work his queen's rook. If he achieves that under favourable circumstances, his position will be pleasant, due to his bishops' pair. I assume that this is the kind of position making Steinitz state that the advance in development has a volatile character. The first official World Champion would surely like playing with black, due to his lack of weaknesses and potentially strong bishops. And indeed, it is not easy for White to strengthen his position in the near future. His mobilisation is so good, his pieces are so well placed that it almost looks as if he was... in Zugzwang!} 15. h4 $5 {Fortunately, White has pawn moves available, so he does not need to worsen the position of any of his pieces. Which makes me think of a somewhat naive Steinitzian advice to keep most of the pawns back, so as to have reserve tempi in the pawn ending! With his move, Aronian seems to be admitting that he cannot prevent the opening of the centre, but he uses the available time for putting pressure on the kingside. In certain cases, h4-h5 combined with Qd3 would be killing.} Qc7 $6 { This passive move is hard to understand, especially that Leko spent almost 15 minutes on it!} ({Black should not have delayed the two developing moves mentioned above:} 15... c5 16. d5 exd5 17. cxd5 Rac8 $5 {Threatening ...c5-c4, which would prevent White from setting the dangerous battery along the b1-h7 diagonal and cuase the hite queen some problems of mobility.} 18. Bb1 $5 c4 19. Qc2 Nf8 {and Black would be doing fine.}) 16. Qe3 {Quite logical: White takes the offered space.} c5 17. d5 exd5 18. cxd5 {[#]Aronian spent on this natural move more than ten minutes. He must have considered the knight retreats to g3 and c3, coming to the conclusion that it is too early to define his intentions regarding the knight. White has an active position, but needs to play with precision. If his initiative vanishes, he could even get some problems, due to his} Nf8 $6 {Played almost without thinking, this will lead to a passive position.} ({Black would have had better chances to hold the position with} 18... Bd6 {True, White's intrusion along the e-file looks threatening:} 19. Nxd6 Qxd6 20. Qe7 Qxe7 21. Rxe7 {but after} Kf8 22. d6 Bxf3 23. gxf3 Nf6 { things would not be entirely clear. Black threatens to simplify with ...Rd7, while after} 24. Rc7 Ne8 25. Rc6 {he would have the strong defensive move} g6 $1 {Preparing ...Rd7 without fearing Bf5 and clearing the g7-square for the knight.} 26. d7 Ng7 {With his king close to the main theater of action, Black has good chances to hold.}) 19. Ng3 {Gaining a tempo for the defence of the d5-pawn and preparing for establishing the kingside domination with h4-h5 and Nf5.} Bf6 20. Be4 $1 {The b2-pawn is not important, it is the central passed pawn that counts.} Re8 ({Leko hesitated for 17 minutes before declining the sacrfice. If} 20... Bxb2 21. Qb3 Bf6 22. d6 Qd7 23. Bf5 Qc6 24. Ne4 {White has strong pressure.}) 21. d6 Qd7 22. Qd2 {[#]Since the dark-squared bishop cannot attack the passed pawn any more, the fight has become rather one-sided. White can increase his pressure at no risk. By now, even Wilhelm Steinitz would have to admit that, according to his own criteria, White has managed to convert his advance in development and initiative into something more palpable, more stable.} Ne6 23. Bxb7 Qxb7 24. Nf5 Red8 25. Re3 {Just one of the possible ways of activating White's position.} ({Strategically,} 25. h5 {looks quite appealing.}) 25... h5 {This natural move fails to consolidate the kingside. The weakening of the g5-square will have more serious effects than it may seem at first sight.} 26. Qe2 b5 (26... Nf4 {does not achieve much after} 27. Qc4 Ne6 28. Rde1) 27. Ng5 $1 {The start of the final attack.} Nf4 ({Black had no favourable way of taking the pawn, for instance} 27... Nxg5 28. hxg5 Bxg5 29. Qxh5 {(threatening Rh3)} Bxe3 30. Ne7+) 28. Qf1 c4 29. g3 Nd3 {The last hope. Would the outpost on d3 be able to bring in some relief?} 30. Rdxd3 $1 {Not really! Aronian played this exchange sacrifice (truly in the spirit of the former World Champion Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian) after just one minute. The knight was the only good thing in Black's position. After its disppearance, Black will not be able to cope with the kingside threats and with the passed pawn at the same time.} cxd3 31. Qxd3 Bxg5 {Black has to eliminate this knight. } ({For instance,} 31... Rd7 32. Ne7+ {leads to mate.}) 32. hxg5 {Threatening Qd4 or Qc3.} g6 33. Ne7+ Kh7 {[#]} 34. Rf3 $5 {A good practical decision, based on a correct evaluation of the ensuing ending. As postulated by Steinitz, one form of advantage can be transformedinto some other form if the objective (abstract) evaluation does not change. From a killing attack to a won ending, I have heardso many times that this is the most technical approach. There are many other ways to win, though.} (34. Re6 $5 {is an elegant attacking move}) ({ but the most natural continuation would be} 34. Qd4 b4 35. Qf6 Rf8 36. Nf5 $1 gxf5 37. Re7 Qd5 38. Qh6+ Kg8 39. g6 {with inevitable mate.}) 34... Qxe7 35. dxe7 Rxd3 36. Rxd3 Re8 37. Rd7 a5 38. Kg2 Kg7 39. Kh3 $1 {It is important to activate the king before Black gets to attack the e7-pawn.} f5 {There is no other way of freeing the king.} 40. gxf6+ Kxf6 41. Kh4 {[#]} a4 ({Taking the pawn would lead to a lost pawn ending:} 41... Rxe7 42. Rxe7 Kxe7 43. Kg5 Kf7 44. f4 Kg7 45. f5 gxf5 46. Kxf5 Kh6 47. Kf6 {wins.}) 42. a3 Kf7 43. f4 Kf6 44. Rb7 Ra8 45. Rb6+ $1 {An accurate way of simplifying to a technical ending.} Kxe7 46. Rxg6 Rd8 47. Rg5 b4 48. Ra5 Rd2 49. Rxa4 bxa3 50. Rxa3 {With two extra pawns White would have no problem winning.} 1-0

Former World Championship challenger Peter Leko

David Navara vs Alexander Grischuk

David Navara contemplating is eighth move against Alexander Grischuk

[Event "41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 Open"] [Site "Tromsø¸"] [Date "2014.08.09"] [Round "7"] [White "Navara, David"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2716"] [BlackElo "2795"] [Annotator "Marin, Mihail"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [WhiteTeam "Czech Republic"] [BlackTeam "Russia"] [WhiteTeamCountry "CZE"] [BlackTeamCountry "RUS"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 {One of Fischer's old favourite, which became rather fashionable lately. In this game it will transpose to the Scheweningen Keres Attack.} e6 7. g4 h6 8. Bg2 Be7 9. Be3 Nc6 10. f4 {[#]Even though the Sicilian was not too well defined in Steinitz' times, I believe that the first World Champion would have liked Black's position. No weaknesses, quite a flexible structure, lots of spare tempi with the pawns, etc. At the same time, he would consider hite's position over-expanded and thus exposed to be ruined.} Nd7 {The latest trend. Blck prepares a check on f2, aimming to exchange the dark-squared bishops.} ({The old line goes} 10... Qc7 11. Qe2 {followed by the long castle.}) 11. O-O $5 { White gives up his initial plans of castling long, relying on the fact that his attack could be strong anyway. Besides, Black willl most likely have to spend another tempo on retutning ith the knight to f6.} ({Black had a comfortable game after} 11. Qd2 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 e5 13. fxe5 Bh4+ 14. Bf2 Nxe5 { Anand-Mamedyarov, Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates, 2014}) 11... Nxd4 12. Qxd4 O-O 13. Qd2 {A new move, taking the queen out of the range of the black pawns (... e6-e5 and ...dxe5).} ({After} 13. Ne2 {Black could complete his development without loss of time:} b5 14. Ng3 Bb7 {Shirov-Sutovsky, Poikovsky 2014}) 13... Rb8 ({Unlike in the aforementioned game, advancing the b-pawn at once could cause some problems.} 13... b5 14. e5 d5 {True, Black's position does not look that bad, but when playing the Sicilian one rarely is keen to trapnspose to French structures!}) 14. Rad1 {It is curious that Navara spent 20 minutes on this most natural move, completing White's mobilisation. By contrast, he will carry out the sacrifice on move 20 (a very cimmittal decision) after only six minutes. I guess that each player has his own perception bout what is obvious and what requires checking.} b5 15. Ne2 {After having induced the relative loss of time ...Ra8-b8, Navara returns to Shirov's plan of transferring the knight to the kingside.} Qc7 16. f5 {A typical attacking move in the Sicilian, putting pressure on the e6-square and, to a certain extent, along the f-file. Due to the relative eakness of the h6-square, it is important that the last move also clears the c1-h6 diagonal.} Nf6 {Grischuk decides to return with his knight to a previous location in order to secure his position against threats like f5-f6 or Ne2-f4.} 17. Ng3 Re8 $1 {A strong prophylctic move, clearing the f8-square for the bishop.} ({The generally desirable} 17... Bb7 {would run into } 18. Bxh6 gxh6 19. Qxh6 {with a dangerous attack.}) 18. Bd4 {Navara plyed this after 25 minutes.} ({He might have checked for a while the consequences of } 18. Bxh6 gxh6 19. Qxh6 {Unfortunately,} Nh7 20. f6 Bf8 {takes full advantage of the merits of ... Rf8-e8 by defending g7. Wherever the queen retreats, Black could continue with ...Qc5+ most probably followed by the queen transfer to e5.}) 18... e5 {Another typical move, parrying some light threts and preparing the counterplay based on ...d6-d5.} ({White would retain some light intiative after} 18... Bb7 19. fxe6 fxe6 20. g5 hxg5 21. Qxg5 {although Black should be OK.}) 19. Be3 {[#]} Bb7 {Playing a bit with fire.} ({Had he understood how dangerous Navara's sacrifice relly was, Grischuk might have prevented it with} 19... Kh7 {As pointed out by Steinitz, the king can be a useful defensive piece. In other words, His Majesty is grown up enough to take care of His Royal self. In order to start an attack before Black gets to play . ..Bb7 and ...d6-d5, White needs to defend the g4-pawn in order to allow h3-h4 followed by g5. He was two ways of doing that.} 20. Qe2 (20. Bf3 {would make the bishop vulnerable:} Bb7 21. h4 d5 22. g5 dxe4 23. gxf6 exf3 24. fxe7 Qxe7 { with great compensation for the piece.}) 20... Qc4 21. Rd3 Bb7 22. b3 Qc7 23. h4 d5 24. exd5 e4 {Black has stared his conterplay in the centre just when White was preparing to deliver the deadly g4-g5. The position is complicated but fairly balanced.}) 20. Bxh6 $1 {As mentioned above, Navara did not need too much time to decide himself upon this half positional, half attacking move. } ({Attacking with neutral moves would hand in the initiative to Black, for instance} 20. Qe2 {(preparing h3-h4)} d5 21. exd5 Rbd8 {with great play for Black. Actually, it is not surprising that Navara did not hesitate too much to embark a sacrificial attack based on his intuition. He was fully mobilised and, just for an instant, he had a small advance in development. As stated by Steinitz, the player with an advantage should attack at once, under the threat of losing his superiority or even getting the worse of it.}) 20... gxh6 $6 { After this slightly cooperative move played instantly, White's attack will develop by itself.} ({It would have made sense starting the central counterplay:} 20... d5 {If} 21. Bxg7 $6 Kxg7 22. Qg5+ Kh8 23. Qh6+ Nh7 {Black would be two tempi up with respect with a similar line involving ...d6-d5 below.}) 21. Qxh6 Nh7 {There was no time already for counterplay in the centre or on the queenside.} ({For instance:} 21... d5 22. g5 Nxe4 23. Bxe4 { (threatening Nh5)} Bf8 24. Qh4 dxe4 25. Nh5 Bc5+ 26. Kh2 {with decisive threats.}) ({Or if} 21... Qxc2 22. g5 Nxe4 23. g6 Nf6 24. Bxb7 Rxb7 25. Nh5 Qc5+ 26. Rf2) 22. f6 Bf8 23. Qh5 {[#]White threatens to increase his kingside domination with g5, h4, Nf5. Actually, Black's extra piece does not make itself felt because two of his pieces are imobile.} Qc5+ {With the pawn on e6, this would exchange queens, which explains why Navara did not sacrifice the bishop on the fist given opportunity. Grischuk must have put some hopes in the ueen's transfer to the kingside, but this manoeuvre will fil to save the game.} 24. Kh2 Qe3 25. h4 Qh6 26. Qxh6 Bxh6 27. g5 {The queens are off, but the threats stay on!} Bf8 {There was no favourable way of returning the piece, for instance} (27... Bxg5 28. hxg5 Nxg5 29. Nf5 Nxe4 30. Rd3 {ith a decisive attack.}) ({Or} 27... Nxg5 28. Nf5) 28. g6 $1 {The best way to maintain the initiative.} Bh6 $2 {Probably missing the mating pattern examined below.} ({A better way to lear matters on the kingside was} 28... Rec8 {(taking the rook out of the range of the f6-pawn and threatening ,,,fxg6)} 29. gxh7+ Kxh7 30. Rf2 b4 31. Nf5 {White has an extra pawn, exerts strong pressure on d6 and has the unpleasant threat Ne7 in reserve.}) 29. Nf5 Bf4+ {[#]} 30. Rxf4 $1 Nxf6 ({ The point is that} 30... exf4 31. Nh6+ {leads to mate after 32.g5, herever the king goes.}) 31. gxf7+ Kxf7 32. Nxd6+ {The rest is relatively simple. White will simplify to an ending with two extra pawns.} Ke7 33. Nxe8 exf4 34. Nxf6 Kxf6 35. Rd6+ Ke5 36. Rb6 f3 37. Bxf3 Rf8 38. Kg3 Bxe4 39. Bxe4 Kxe4 40. Re6+ Kd5 1-0

World number four Alexander Grischuk at the Olympiad in Tromsø

Photos by Pascal Simon and André Schulz

About the author: Mihail Marin

Born in 1965, GM Mihail Marin has several times been Romanian champion and first made the leap over the Elo barrier of 2600 in 2001. Marin possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster – he is able to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine. Marin has written some books which have earned the highest of praise, among which are "Secrets of Chess Defence" and "Learn from the Legends". He Marin lives in Bucharest and is married to women's International Master Luiza Marin.

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Niima Niima 8/11/2014 01:55
ChessBase team: your PGN links to the above-mentioned games do not seem to work.
dunican dunican 8/10/2014 06:22
If I'm not wrong, the memorial plaque in the picture is on the building of David Navara's alma mater in Prague. It's near the place Steinitz was born.