Understanding before Moving 38: The Critical Move (1)

by ChessBase
8/1/2021 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 38th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman takes a look at critical moves. | Photo: Tommy Grooten

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Many chess players often wonder after a game how well they played. Nowadays we can analyze our games with engines that are stronger than the World Champion. However, the programs are sometimes ruthless in their judgments. But should club players be so harsh on themselves? I think not.

I think one should compare one's performance to your usual level of play that very often is also roughly the level of your opponent. For professionals, it's a bit different, as they want to get the  most out of the position.

In this context I came across the concept of "the  critical move" in several books. There are always moves that strong players play quickly, but at certain moments in the game it might be crucial to find the very best move.

Long ago, I was going through an analysis by Dutch GM Jan Timman, in which he spoke of "the essence of a position". But to understand the essence of a position, you must sometimes analyze deeply before the truth unfolds to you. Those are the critical moments when you have to find the right idea to disrupt the opponent's game and the right plan for you.

In the following position, which is from a game between Timman and Kasparov, played in Tilburg 1981, Black has sacrificed an exchange for which he has a beautiful knight on c5 and a protected passed pawn on b4. But with his next move, the Dutch Grandmaster takes a surprising shot at Black's position. How should White proceed?


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