Merry-Go-Round à la Capa
To play winning chess, one needs to start fostering harmony among their men. Who better can show us this than the great Meastro. So let’s take a look at one of his games to see how chess harmony and general principles of warfare (see boxing analogy) work together.
Jose Raul Calablanca – David Janowski
New York 1918
(You may use the game replayer below) 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.Bd3 dxc4? 8.Nxc4 O-O 9.O-O c5 10.Rc1 b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.Rfd1
White has allocated his troops quickly and efficiently. White’s distribution of forces makes Black already feel pressure, especially from the white rooks looking threatening. With his next move, we assume, he hoped, by trading bishops, to move his queen away from the dangerous d-file (we see how mental perception of a disadvantage – lagging in development – and things possibly going bad, provokes reaction).
Seemingly the logical freeing course, but Black is up for an unpleasant surprise.
Remember the sequence from How to Achieve Harmony? (1) our distribution of force with application of movement and surprise in order to get the adversary out of balance, (2) their reaction causes unfavorable dislocation of troops creating weaknesses and possibly revealing the Line of Least Resistance to us.
In fact, genesis of movement and maneuver is to circumvent the enemy’s strength to strike at a weakness. It relies on speed and surprise for without either we cannot (3) concentrate strength against enemy weakness. This task requires the ability to identify and exploit such weakness. And Capa, of course, was absolutely up to that task of figuring it out real quick.
What others could not find in a month’s study, he saw at a glance. – Reuben Fine
Now let’s see, in Capa’s own words, what weakness he had visualized as he was making his next move
“In order to drive the Bishop to c6 where it will be in the line of White’s Rook. Later on it will be seen how this little advantage now acquired is largely the cause of Black’s defeat.”
This may have also been a surprise (an important element of warfare) for Black. Psychologically, it can impact the course of battle — every time we haven’t seen a move coming, we may find ourselves at a certain disadvantage.
13… Bc6 14.Ne4
Another provocation: the knight has positioned itself in the middle with a harmonizing effect: supporting the g5-bishop and adding pressure to c5.
A violent attempt to get himself out of an already uncomfortable situation.
Black probably knew that this would weaken his position (and it soon really leads to a disaster), but he didn’t see any other way of “freeing” from feeling positional pressure; it may have been motivated by the consideration that after 14…Bxg5 15.Nfxg5 h6 16.Nf3 Qe7 17.dxc5 Black has a strategically lost game.
15.Bxe7 Qxe7 16.Ned2
Back to its original point of departure, but “there is now a hole at e5 and the knight threatens to go there via c4, which influences Black’s next move,” Capablanca.
Physical dislocation of the opponent forces to get them out of balance is the aim of strategy: we use petty tactics (13.Nd6 etc.) and maneuver the opponent into a position where his defenses can be penetrated.
But not only physical dislocation is affecting the course of battle. It is also psychological dislocation (its dual partner) that is always present in any conflict.
Janowski saw the white knight coming to e5 – very unpleasant indeed; naturally, Black feared to leave the strong e5-point to the opponent. From this sprang Black player’s psychological dislocation. It’s an animalistic instinct, we don’t like to be locked into a place; when feeling this sense of passivity, the sense of being trapped, there’s a strong urge to do something and break out free.
That may explain Black’s response:
“It is a case of now or never, but the cure is worse than the disease,” Fred Reinfeld.
The decisive positional mistake. The important a2-g8 diagonal opens up and the black knight loses its support in the center — the merry-go-round maneuver served its purpose by having created the weak central point d5.
16…Bb7 switching to a passive defense may have been preferable, but again, when feeling threatened we tend to react violently.
17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Qxe5 19.Nf3
This is annoying – setting in motion again, this time counter-clockwise.
“Black considered this move a long time. Had he retreated the Queen to any other place, then 20.Bc4 combined in some cases with e3-e4 would have yielded White at least a pawn. This game is remarkable because it would be hard to say which move lost the game, though it is probably 16…e5 or 14…f5, and most likely the former,” Capablanca
A winning double attack on c6 and f5. At last the remarkable wanderings of the knight come to an end, but White has now a clear win in sight as Black is forced to take the knight leaving him in an inferior position (the d5-weakness).
Black forces have been dislocated, the a2-g8 diagonal and the fatal pin play the key part in the following play. We know that the pinned piece tends to be vulnerable and now this is a point toward which White wants to concentrate superior force — our strength against their weakness!
There was nothing better as White threatened that pin again 22.Bc4.
22.Bc4+ Kh8 23.Re6 d3
The game is hopeless for Black.
24.Rxd3 Qc5 25.Rd4 b5
“This only makes matters worse, but the fact is that Black, besides being a pawn behind, has the inferior position as well,” Capa.
Away from where the action is: compare four well coordinated white pieces opposed by a lonely queen; Black’s troops are utterly discoordinated – what a contrast, typical in Capa’s games.
27.Bc4 Nb4 28.Qh5
Harmonious White forces are creeping toward an abandoned monarch while his troops are afar, just watching.
White threatened 29.Rh4.
“Black resigned, for if 30…Kxg7 31.Qg5+ Kh8 32.Rxd8 and mate follows unless Black gives up the Knight. This is one of those very neat games, very simple in appearance, but very difficult in reality, and only the expert can fully enjoy it. There is no wasted effort, and every move seems to fit in naturally with the previous one and the next,” Capa.
Capa ended the game with the neat tactical shot. Once again we are reminded that tactical possibilities can’t be created without solid strategy and team effort of all men. You can study all tactics of this world, but without strategy and harmonious piece cooperation you will rarely get into position to make use of it.
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