Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Spot the Back Rank Weakness

Even though (if you're at all like me) we still fall prey to "simple" back-rank weakness tactics, I think these tactics are sometimes dismissed as obvious, beginner cheapos. However, these motifs can be quite deeply concealed. The following example from Marshall-Alekhine, NY 1924 caught my attention:

20...h6. Alekhine: "It was surely disagreeable to deprive the Rook of the control of h6, and yet there appeared to be no other way of preparing for Rf6 (20... Rf6 21. Qxe4 Qxe4 22. Nxe4 Rxe4:

23. Rxd5." Of course 23...cxd5?? 24. Rc8+ and back-rank mate to follow. It's not hard to calculate this forcing line, but you'd have to look pretty carefully at the first diagram to see that there was a potential back-rank weakness and that making luft with ...h6 was a good idea. Besides being a good example of calculating a forcing variation, this is also a good example of playing "real chess" a la Heisman: "What can my opponent do after I make the move I want to make?"

To add a dose of humility, I'll conclude with a recent blunder of mine from a blitz game:

I had actually made luft with ...g6 seven moves ago, to hopefully thwart back-rank problems. In time trouble I played 29...Rcc7??, hoping for something like 30.Bxc5?? Rxc5 31.Rxc5 a2 -+.

However, to my opponent's credit, he almost immediately whipped out 30.Bh6! Ke8 31.Ra8+ 1-0.


likesforests said...

Yeah, in the first example back rank weakness wouldn't have been one of first motifs I would consider! Oh well. I suppose one can make 2000 without seeing such brillancies. :)

likesforests said...

Here's another interesting example where the bank rank weakness is not obviously a factor when you begin calculating but it plays a key role if Rxb4.

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chesstiger said...

I dont know when you played g6 in your game but if by then there where only the rooks and the black squared bishops left on the board it should probably have been better to play f6 as airhole for the king.

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Rolling Pawns said...

Excellent example, it is always amazing how far they can see.
As for the the second one, I will always remember the easier one, in one move, since my kid won a tie-break for the first place in the first tournament thanks to it.

Hank said...

I guess instead of:
30.Bh6+! Ke8 31.Ra8+ 1-0

You could have replied to the bishop check by interposing your own bishop:
30.Bh6+! Bg7 31. Rd8+ Re8
32.Rxe8 Kxe8 33. Bxg7 ...
And White has won a bishop and the a-pawn will likely fall. So it's no fun either but it's not mate!

(I'm quite a weak player so I may have missed something major in this analysis....)

-- Hank

Grandpatzer said...

Hank: that would have been a better defense. My recollection at the time was that we were both in time trouble, and I was impressed how quickly they whipped out their 30th move. Incidentally, Fritz prefers the 32.Bxg7+ move order.

Anonymous said...

Of course 32.Bxg7+ is better - how did I miss that? It's the same idea, only reversed, so that White wins the rook instead of the Bishop!
I'm just used to seeing that kind of pattern more frequently with rooks than bishops, so my mind followed the habitual track instead of looking at the position objectively.
That's the kind of thing that gets me in trouble in games... :)

By the way, I wasn't meaning to be critical at all, with my comment. I can totally emphathize, especially when it gets to a time trouble situation!

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

when will there be September posts ?! :)