09 May 2007

Unbalanced Material

From time to time, I still like to play over games on a real chess board. Analysis is easier using software, but there is something more satisfying about touching real pieces and moving them on a real board. One of my habits is to pair the Black and White pieces as they come off the board; i.e. I keep the Queens together, or a pair of Rooks together, or whatever. The pieces that can't be paired I keep in a separate group. I often count the unpaired pieces and the number gives me an idea of the degree of material imbalance on the board. Of course, the same thing can be done by counting the pieces remaining on the board, but my method is a little faster.

The next game in Smyslov's Sparklers is a good example. In the diagrammed position, White has an extra Rook and two Bishops (three pieces), while Black has an extra Queen and three Pawns (four pieces). This makes a total of seven unpaired pieces, which is about as high as the number ever gets in a real game.

Smyslov played 23.Bd2, leaving the b-Pawn en prise and letting the material imbalance increase to nine pieces.

Radio Match 1945
Reshevsky, Samuel

Smyslov, Vasily
(After 22...Qd4-e5(xP))
[FEN "r5k1/2p3pp/p7/1p1pq3/8/5PpB/PP4P1/R1B2R1K w - - 0 23"]

Reshevsky played 23...Qxb2. Both Smyslov (SMY) and Kasparov (KAS) had a comment on the position, which arises from what is called the 'Long Variation' of the Open Lopez.

SMY: 'A very interesting position has arisen: in exchange for the Bishops and Rook, Black has a Queen and will quickly get an avalanche of Pawns on the Queenside.Who has the better chances in the sharp struggle about to commence? This question awaits a conclusive answer in further analysis. In [Boleslavsky - Botvinnik, Sverdlovsk 1943], Botvinnik continued 23...c5 24.Rae1 Qxb2 25.Bf4 d4 26.Bxg3 d3 with a complicated game. Evidently White's attacking possibilities are more real than the dangerous threat of the advance of Black's passed Pawns. However, Reshevsky chooses another continuation.'
KAS: 'Alas, I have the feeling that this variation is avoided by both sides nowadays. Instinctively it seems to me that White should be better, although the computer confers a gigantic advantage on Black. In general, the situation is unclear, but playing White is more interesting: there is the possibility of attacking! The source game Boleslavsky - Ragozin (Moscow 1942) went [I'm omitting side variations- MW] 23...c5 24.Rae1 Qxb2 25.Bf4, and after 25...Qf6? 26.Bxg3 d4 27.Re6 Qg5 28.Kh2 c4 29.f4!, the f-Pawn broke through Black's defenses. It is better to play 25...d4 26.Bxg3 d3 27.Be5 Qxa2 28.Bd6 Qb2 29.Be6+ Kh8 30.Be5 (Boleslavsky - Botvinnik, Sverdlovsk 1943) and here 30...Qc2! 31.Rc1 Qe2 32.Rce1 Qc2 would have equalized. Instead of this Botvinnik played 30...Qd2 and came under a terrible attack.' Kasparov analyzed this to move 61!

After 24.Bf4 c5 (Both SMY & KAS considered 24...d4 to be better.) 25.Be6+ Kh8 26.Bxd5, Reshevsky resigned on the 41st move. If I have time I'll follow up Kasparov's comment that 'I have the feeling that this variation is avoided by both sides nowadays.' What was the latest OTB game? Correspondence game?

To play through the complete game see...

Vasily Smyslov vs Samuel Reshevsky, M:URS-USA, Moscow 1945

...on Chessgames.com.

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