Wednesday, August 31, 2016

X-ray attacks

Last year I wrote on my blog that computers achieve autonomy in defining opening-theory but at chess-compositions they remained till recently invisible.  Dr Mohammed Azlan Iqbal is a pioneer whom wrote a program able to autonomously create chess-compositions. The artistic element is considered by many the last bastion of chess in which computers won't equal for a long time humans. So it wasn't a real surprise that his work got a lot of critics and many made firewood of his program. On Chessbase the author tried to defend his brainchild by stating that not the same criteria were used of beauty as is the case in the world of compositions but the damage was already done. Although I think the program is pretty clever and has potential, there is little chance that we get still new releases with improvements.

It does't mean that engines are useless for composers. As well for verification as for the creation of the problems/ compositions they often play an important role. Sometimes even in such magnitude that people are questioning the added value of the composer to the work of the computers. Compositions with 6-7 pieces can all be found in the lomonosov 7 men tablebases so some don't consider them anymore as unique.

Engines also show us regularly some amazing ideas. How often we think that we played a good game but at home we are still surprised by incredible turns which the computer can calculate in a nano-second. Maybe the loyal reader still remembers my article interferences with a fantastic piece-sacrifice from my practice. This time I want to show some amazing ideas based on x-ray attacks which I met (relatively) recently. Just for information I give you a description of an x-ray attack. An x-ray attack is a tactic in which 2 pieces of the opponent are positioned on 1 line. If you attack 1 piece, and this piece moves, then on that same line there is still the second piece. In some way you can look through the first piece to the second piece. Therefore we call it an x-ray attack.

In the step-method students are often training x-ray attacks but that doesn't mean that experienced players won't miss one, at contrary. Also with this theme there are many levels of complexity. Lets have a look at the example below. It is a variation of a game played in the 2015 club-championship of Deurne which didn't pop up during the game but was important for the evaluation of the position.

A second example which I should not omit is the fantastic 12. Qg3 played at the rapid-tie-brake of the quarter-finales of the Fide World Cup at Baku, Azerbaijan. The Chinese prodigy Wei Yi used only a few seconds for this move but I am convinced that he knew about this possibility in advance thanks to the great book  Move First Think Later. A short review of this book I gave on my blog see I knew it.

It is hard to find a more beautiful example with the x-ray attack but a few months ago the Russian top-grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi hit the jackpot. There exist many games in which a bishop is sacrificed at h7 but then the pawn is already at h4. Here it even works by playing h4 later.

Not only did Ian tell later on twitter that this was for him one of the most beautiful and unique ideas he ever played but also that it wasn't something he discovered himself.

Engines are by many players cursed because they destroy chess. On the other hand we must admit that they also allow us to discover a lot of beauty even if the engines aren't programmed for that purpose. Surely when dealing with x-ray attacks, an engine doesn't suffer from certain visual barriers. Do you still know unique examples of your own practice or of professionals then I invite you to share them below in a reaction.