Technical Decision Making in Chess : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“In Technical Decision Making in Chess former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames and positions where one side possesses a structural or material advantage.
This investigation into a top Grandmaster’s technical understanding will illuminate difficult parts of the game that many players find elusive. Concepts like the “Zone of one mistake” are certain to be a revelation to many.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments.”
Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing.
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Technical Decision Making In Chess uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram at the beginning of a chapter has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is about “positions where the main goal is the conversion of a static advantage. (A static or long term advantage can be anything from a weakness to better pieces to an actual material advantage.) The flip side is included in this, meaning when it is the opponent who is trying to convert an advantage and we are trying to resist.”
It is not an endgame primer or manual on basic endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence: the author’s particular favourites are named.
The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding: “I just want to say that any active work with the the engine, where you are probing, analysing, asking questions, examing and so on, is useful. Any passive submission to the engine evaluations is likely to make you a worse player.”
“The key question for us has not been which line wins. but why the line is winning.”
The chapter themes are not the usual themes that are found in other endgame books, for example arranged by material, except for the last chapter on opposite bishop endgames. Boris Gelfand shows the vast majority of the endgames in relation to the whole game including the opening and middlegame transitions. This is the modern way to study endgames and gives a much deeper understanding of chess in general and is the approach of a Grandmaster.
In this chapter, Boris showcases the great endgame skill of Akiba Rubinstein in his famous game versus Richard Reti at Gothenburg 1920. It is black to move in this famous endgame which is included in Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals. Black is clearly better with multiple advantages:
- Better pawn structure on the queen side, the c2 pawn needs constant vigilance. The white a2 is also a significant weakness.
- Better minor piece
- More space
- Better pawn structure on the kingside, the white kingside is full of holes, hence black’s best move given below
30…Bd7! was the strongest move, fixing the white pawns on the dark squares. They are not in danger from the bishop, but they are unable to prevent the black king from penetrating the position, which is the greatest problem for white.
Rubinstein made one bad move in this game: 30…Ke6? 31.g4! Now white can draw with accurate play, but in practice, he missed the drawing ideas.
31…Kd6 32.h3 g6 33.Kd2 Bd7
34.Nf3 Better is 34.Ng2! The idea is simple. White wants to play d3-d4 and Ne3, when he has managed to plug the holes on the light squares on the kingside to a significant degree. 34…d4 is critical, cutting across this idea. 35.cxd4 cxd4 36.c4 dxc3+ 37.Kxc3 This looks to be good for black as he has a potential outside passed pawn on the queenside, but white can apparently hold! 37…g5 38.f5 Bc6 39.Ne3 Bf3 40.d4 Kc6 41.a3 and white draws. This is extremely instructive and should be studied carefully.
The game continued 34…Ke7 Another idea is 34…h6 35.Ke3 g5 and Gelfand shows that white has a lot of fantastic resources to just hold the game. Buy the book to find out how! 35.Ke3 h5
Reti now placed a horridly passive move 36.Nh2? which definitely loses. His last chance was a far sighted pawn sacrifice to draw as follows: 36.Nh4! Kf7 37.gxh5! gxh5 38.f5! Ke7 39.Ng6+ Kd6 40.h4! Bxf5 41.Nf4 Bg4 42.d4! and white has created an effective fortress. Black cannot make progress as he loses a pawn.
36…Kd6 37.Ke2? (37.gxh5 gxh5 38.h4 is tougher, but does not hold. 38…Bh3! The domination theme, a sample line is 39.Nf3 Ke6! 40. Nh2 b5 41.Kf2 Kd6 42.Ke3 a5 43.Nf3 Ke6 44.Nh2 a5 45.Kf2 (45.a3? Kf5 with the idea of b4 creating an outside a-pawn wins quickly) a3! 46.Ke3 Kf5 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke3 d4+ 49.cxd4 Be6 50.Kd2 Bxa2 and black wins as the blockade does not hold.
The game continued 37…d4! Fixing a2 and c2 and widening the bridgehead for the king and bishop. 38.cxd4 cxd4
White lost quickly as follows 39.Kd2 hxg4 40.hxg4 Bc6 41.Ke2 Bd5 42.a3 b5 43.Nf1 a5 44.Nd2
Now black won with the thematic 44…a4! forcing the creation of a passed a-pawn. We all know that knights are very poor at dealing with passed rook pawns. 45.Ne4+(45.Nb1 Kc5 46.c3 Ba2 wins) Bxe4 46.dxe4 b4 47.Kd2 bxa3 48.Kc1 g5 0-1
This ending is worthy of close study, not just to enjoy Rubinstein’s great technique, but also to discover hidden resources in difficult positions.
This chapter is called Turning Points and covers two interesting Gelfand games, one of which he wins and one he loses. As the chapter heading indicates, the key theme is recognising critical points in a game. The section culminates in the analysis of a fascinating same colour bishop endgame from the second game that was holdable by the inferior side.
This is a middlegame position from a Catalan opening. Gelfand comments along the lines of white (Ivanchuk) is a little better with a better bishop and a bit more space. The important factor is that the position is easier to play for white and white risks little by playing on. Black’s main problem is the decision about when to stay passive (waiting) or go active. This general issue is covered more in chapter 3.
It is hard to believe that a player of Ivanchuk’s standard ends up in a losing position after only six more moves!
White played 21.Nel?! (Hoping to get the knight to b4 an apply some pressure. The simple and natural 21.Bd3 was better. After 21…Qd6 white can try 22.Ne5, 21…Qc8 with the idea of a5 and Ba6 exchanging the semi-bad bishop is logical. 22.Qa3 Qf8 23.Qa4 Qc8 24.Kg2 a5 25.Bb5 Ba6 26.Bxa6 Qaa6 27.Ne5 Qc8 28.Qc6 and white is better in the double knight ending.
The game continued 21…Qc8 22.Nc2 Ne4! 23.Nxe4 dxe4
White probably mistakenly thought this pawn structure transformation was in his favour. This is incorrect. The e4-pawn is fixed on the colour of the bishop. However, the e4 pawn gives a space advantage, the d5 square and a pivot for a pawn storm on the king side.
White should probably play 24.a4 then Bd5 25.Qc3 Qxc3 26.bxc3 White is optically better but 26…Bb7! 27.Nb4 Nb8! Black is going to bring his king over and hold. White played 24.Qc3? Qxc3 25.Bxc3 b5! This looks dangerous putting another pawn on the colour of the bishop, but white’s bishop is also hemmed in by black’s pawns and black has a significant space advantage.
This is the crucial turning point of the game. White should have objectively realised that he had gone wrong and looked for way to draw. 26.c4 looks reasonable, but after bxc4 27.Bxc4 Nb6 28.Be2 a5 29.Kf1 Bd5 30.a3 Bc4!? white is a fraction worse. Black has rid himself of the semi-bad bishop and has a space advantage in a knight endgame.
White played 26.a4? (See two diagrams back above, gifting black an outside passed a-pawn) and duly lost. An horrendous positional error from a world class player. Black combined the a-pawn distraction with a general advance on the king side to create entry points for his king.
The aforementioned bishop ending reached this critical position.
White played 44.h4? which loses. 44.Kb6! would have drawn. The analysis is complicated but black’s best try is 44…Ke6 (44…Bd1 also leads to draw by a single tempo) 45.Bg6 Kd6 46.Be4 c5 47.Kb5 Bd5 48.Bxd5 Kxd5 49.Kxa4 h5 50. Kb5 c4 51.Kb6 Ke4 52.Kxb7 Kf3 53.Kc6 Kg2 54.Kc5 Kxh2 55.Kxc4 Kxg3 56.b4 h4 57.b5 h3 58.b6 h2 59.b7 h1=Q 60.b8=Q Qe4+ 61.Kc5 Qxf4 with a theoretical draw but still a practical challenge. The companion volume Decision Making in Major Piece Endings covers this ending.
Chapter 3 covers the important topic of active or passive defence. Gelfand demonstrates this topic with a complex double rook and knight endgame.
Chapter 4 covers the common idea of “A Bad Plan is Better than No Plan”. This is amptly demonstrated in the middlegame between moves 20-30 where planless play by black spoils an equal position resulting in a difficult heavy piece middlegame and an interesting king and pawn ending.
White to move on move 40. What would you play? 40.a4! springs to mind spoiling black’s majority and winning.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, May 2021
- Paperback : 320 pages
- Publisher:Quality Chess UK LLP (28 April 2021)
- Language: English
- Product Dimensions: 17.35 x 1.52 x 24.16 cm
Official web site of Quality Chess