Material, structure and energy

by Jonathan Speelman
6/2/2019 – This week our columnist JON SPEELMAN shares his own agonizing loss from over 40 years ago as a fine example of the "tension between structure and energy". Plus, in this study from GM John Nunn (pictured) it's White to play and draw! | Send in your own games! Jon can always use more material from readers. If your games are selected for the Agony column, not only will you get free detailed commentary of your games by one of chess’s great authors and instructors, and former world no. 4 player, but you also win a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account!

The modern Grand Prix Attack The modern Grand Prix Attack

The Grand Prix Attack is one of White’s most enterprising weapons against the Sicilian Defence, and a favourite among club players and Grandmasters alike. This is an opening that must be treated with both caution and respect. Over the past few years Grandmaster Gawain Jones, arguably the world’s leading expert on the variation, has used the Grand Prix Attack to defeat a number of world class opponents, which demonstrates that underestimating its potential can cause casualties even at the highest level. This DVD will provide you with a comprehensive repertoire that explores all of Black’s ideas against the Grand Prix set up.


Speelman's Agony #99

To begin with today, something a bit different: a study which Grandmaster John Nunn sent me recently in connection with one I've been working on myself. Sadly, it closely (though not exactly) anticipates what I wanted to achieve. The solution is at the end.


Try your moves on the live diagram!

Over the past month, I've been looking at the Bryntse ganbit, a line in which White sacrifices two pieces for a queen and crucially much the better structure. Very unusually for gambit play, he doesn't start with a significant lead in development and Black's most challenging responses try to disrupt White before he can get organized. However, if White succeeds then with well anchored minor pieces and an extra pawn or two then the pieces and rooks may well outperform the queen and rooks since queens are only really effective when they have something to attack and if everything is anchored there isn't anything.

In general when assessing a chess position the main elements are material, structure and energy. In gambit play you sacrifice material and sometimes structure too normally in order to gain a preponderance of energy — a lead in development. While sometimes, conversely you are prepared to lag in development in order to get the better structure putting an obligation on the opponent to “do something” immediately or at least before you can get fully organized and enjoy your positional advantage at your leisure.

K VlahosThe tension between structure and energy persists throughout the game of course and I'm reminded of a slightly agonizing loss of mine way back in Lone Pine 1978 the tournament where I got my final IM norm. I had a suspicion I might have used it here before and indeed when I checked, I had done so in October 2016 but here it is again fairly briefly with the critical position highlighted.

In the second game, Kiriakos Vlahos (pictured), a strong Greek player who lived for years in England and used to play for the King's Head, sent me this a good while ago and with its transformation of energy into a murderous king hunt it seems a good moment to use it.


Click or tap the second game in the list below the board to switch games

King's Indian: A modern approach

Bologan: "If you study this DVD carefully and solve the interactive exercises you will also enrich your chess vocabulary, your King's Indian vocabulary, build up confidence in the King's Indian and your chess and win more games."

Submit your games and win free Premium!

Did you enjoy the column and instructive analysis by GM Jonathan Speelman? Do you wish you could have a world-renowned grandmaster analysing your play? You can!

To submit your games just upload a PGN or ChessBase file (.pgn or .cbv archive), along with your name and e-mail address. Send one success story (Ecstasy) and one loss (Agony).

Tell why you chose them, where or when they were played. Please do include your email address, so Jon can reply, and preferably a photo of yourself for our article.

If your game is selected Jon will contact you personally, and not only will you get free detailed commentary of your games by one of chess’s great authors and instructors, and former world no. 4 player, but you also win a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account!

A three-month Premium subscription to ChessBase Account means you get:

  • Premium access to the Playchess server with ratings, simuls, lectures, and live commentary of top games
  • Access to all Web apps with no restrictions, such as the Cloud database, and more!
  • Full access to the Video archive, which not only includes all the past lectures by Daniel King, Simon Williams and others, but also many full ChessBase products you would normally need to buy in the ChessBase Shop but that you can view for free as a Premium subscriber.

Solution to the study


See also:

Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register