Chess: Increasing Small Advantages

Given that in-person chess has effectively ceased this year due to COVID-19, my “fire” for chess has waned. Still, notice how the amazing chess artist Mikhail Tal turns a small advantage into a great attack. Observe this position. What do you notice about it?

Notice that black has a tremendous space advantage. Look at white’s pieces–most of them on the back rank! As a result, they are uncoordinated. They can’t help each other. How does Tal press his advantage? If he waits too long, white will slowly uncoil his pieces.

13…e4 He pushes his pawn! At first glance, many chessplayers would discount this move because you notice that you lose this pawn. But Tal gets compensation through pressure on the e2 square. 14.dxe4 d3 15.Ne3 Bxe2 16.Qa4 Ng4 17.Ndf1 Bf6 18.Ra2 Bc3 19.Bd2 Qd4

Notice how black has pushed white’s best piece, his queen, away from the action, and crammed his pieces down white’s center. 20.axb4 Bxd2 21.Rxd2 axb4 22.Qb3 Ra1 23.Rxa1 Qxa1 24.Nxg4 Nd4 25.Qb2 Nf3+ 26.Kh1 Qe1 27.Ne3 Qxf2 0-1 White gave up here. His rook is under attack by black’s knight, and he has no safe squares. If Bxf3, black plays Bxf3, checkmate.

This is how many chessplayers win games: they slowly and steadily pinpoint a small advantage and press that advantage until it yields a great advantage!