Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The American IM Jeremy_Silman famous for his instructive chessbooks published a few weeks ago at chess.com a nice article about how much fun analyzing a game can be. Some games are filled with subtle maneuvers or insanely wonderful tactics. Others just offer only one special moment. Such moment also occurred in one of my most recent games which I discovered while analyzing the game with my strongest engines. Not only did I never consider the surprising desperado shown by our electronic chessmasters but it took me also some time to fully understand the strength of the idea.

However before I show the critical position, I first need to explain what "Desperado" means. Wikipedia gives several explanations as people seem to use it for different occasions. In this article, a desperado is a piece which can't be saved anymore and decides to sell his live dearly.

Limiting the material losses by grabbing some pieces is probably the most traditional desperado. Less obvious but not necessarily worse is a desperado destroying the pawn-structure of the opponent. A trivial example was already covered in an analyses published in the article lars schandorff. My f4 pawn (technically also a piece) can't be defended properly and is pushed to break the white pawn-structure.

Probably the best hidden desperado is when only a tempo can be won. It doesn't feel natural to spend time playing a desperado which doesn't give anything tangible in the form of material or structure. Such special desperado only can happen when the position fulfills some specific conditions. Without the desperado the opponent can capture by playing an active move. With the desperado the opponent will only be able to capture by misplacing a piece. Besides this misplaced piece can be attacked so another tempo must be spent to defend by the opponent. The recent example from my game played in Open Gent against Ted Barendse, shown below will clarify the theme.
[Event "Open Gent 6de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Barendse, T."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2243"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2k3rr/pp1bn3/2n1p1P1/3pPp1p/q1pP4/P1P1B1P1/2P1NPB1/R1Q2RK1 w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "12"] 19. g7 $1 {(Probably the turning point in the game. I missed this desperado which wins an important tempo.)} (19. Bg5 {(I played this weaker move in the game.)} Nxg6 20. f4 (20. Bf6 Rh7 {(Contrary to the 19.h7 line blacks knight is already at g6 which greatly reduces the effect of Nf4 for white.)}) 20... h4 21. Kf2 hxg3 22. Nxg3 Rh2 {(Black has the initiative and won much later the game.)}) 19... Rxg7 20. Bg5 Rgg8 $5 {(Black has to lose a tempo due to the threat Bf6. Rhg8 is also possible and will most likely transpose.)} 21. Bf6 Rh7 22. Nf4 Qa5 23. Qb2 Ng6 24. Nxg6 Rxg6 {(Stockfish thinks the position is close to equal but Komodo shows a slight advantage for white.)} 0-1
So in the game I missed the desperado which allowed black the active capture with Nxg6 and concur the initiative. The desperado g7 would've allowed me to win an important tempo leading to a much better position than I got in the game.

In my practice I found another 2 examples of this type of desperado. It is probably not a real surprise that both are occurring in the opening-phase. It is just much more likely somebody finds a non-trivial move in the opening as identical positions are popping up more frequently and concrete theoretical knowledge plays a much larger role. The first example is from a line which I discussed already briefly in my article g4 in the najdorf.
[Event "H.V. Alcatel - Agfa Gevaert"] [Date "2002"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Bogaerts, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2277"] [BlackElo "2034"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rn2kb1r/1pq2ppp/p2pbn2/6P1/4Pp2/1NN5/PPP1B2P/R1BQK2R b KQkq - 0 10"] [PlyCount "3"] 10... f3 {(Rarely played but this desperado gets the approval of my best engines.)} (10... Nfd7 {(Marc played this logical move which is also the most popular one.)} 11. Bxf4 Nc6 12. Qd2 Nde5 {(White has already a large advantage and won a bit later the game.)}) 11. Bxf3 Nfd7 {(It is clear that the position with the bishop on f4 instead of f3 is better for white. Probably white can still keep some advantage but the threat of winning a tempo after Ne5 for black makes it definitely a lot harder.)} 1-0
Without the desperado white captures with the active Bxf4. With the desperado, black will win time with Ne5 if white plays the although non forcing move Bxf3. A very similar idea can also be found in a popular sideline of the Spanish which already popped up in my article friends.
[Event "Interclub KBSK - Deurne"] [Date "2005"] [White "Leenhouts, K."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C91"] [WhiteElo "2407"] [BlackElo "2337"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q1rk1/3nbppp/pn1p4/1p5b/3pP1P1/1P3N1P/PBBN1P2/R2QR1K1 b - - 0 18"] [PlyCount "4"] 18... d3 {(This desperado only pops up for the first time in 1990 and is today well known.)} ( 18... Bg6 {(I played this natural move as I was not up to date of the theory. The first 2 games in the megadatabase of which the oldest goes back to 1956 also continue with this move.)} 19. Nxd4 {(White threatens to steamroll with f4 and won easily the game.)}) 19. Bxd3 Bg6 20. Nd4 {(Black will win an extra tempo with Ne5 or Nc5 but even this improvement does not guarantee full equality based on the most recent status of theory.)} 1-0
Without the desperado Koen captured with the active Nxd4 move. With the desperado d3 black can win an important tempo later via Ne5 or Nc5.

All my examples are built around pawns as desperado. Other pieces influence a much larger zone so more likely will play a different type of desperado. Nevertheless I guess a rare desperado for only a tempo probably also exists for bigger pieces. Readers knowing more examples especially with bigger pieces are welcome to react.


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