Thursday, December 15, 2011

Passive Pawn Moves Permit A Killer King Hunt

In 2003 Jim Loy published a nice collection of ten King Hunt games. You may want to check out his chess website pages. Here is Jim Loy's definition of a King Hunt:

"The process of chasing your opponent's King from a square where he is protected to a square where he is vulnerable is called a "king hunt." The King can be chased perhaps two or three squares or to the other side of the board. He may even be chased out to the center of the board, then back to his original 'safe' square, where he is no longer safe. The easiest king hunt to calculate is where you keep checking the King until he is checkmated."

The same year Jim Loy published this (although he notes that he wrote it originally in 1970), I played a game with a King Hunt at Borders bookstore in Orlando, Florida. My opponent was Steve Thompson. I think I met Steve again at another place and time, but in case it was not the same guy, I will not use that story at this time.

Steve is a mid-level club player who usually plays better than this game might imply. Here he makes four passive pawn moves in his first 10 moves. Why do chess players push a pawn just one square in the opening when it can go two squares? Sometimes advancing a pawn only one square is necessary, especially as Black.

Usually pushing a pawn just one square in the first 10 moves as White is a sign of passive play. It invites Black to take over the initiative. An exception might be 4.f3 in the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit or 3.c3 in the Smith Morra Sicilian Defence, but in both those instances, the pawn is immediately attacking a center pawn. Grandmasters do play an occasional pawn one square early as White, but it is preparation for later aggression, such as 9.h3 in the Closed Ruy Lopez or 5.e3 in the Semi-Slav Defence.

In a chess opening White has by virtue of the first move an obvious advantage in speed of development and in space on the board. When he wastes times pushing a pawn just one square, it gains minimal space and fails to develop a piece. Today's game begins as a Nimzowitsch Defence which is a Queens Knight Defence against 1.e4. Note that Black gains an advantage by quickly developing his pieces. The winner of a chess game is almost always the first player to develop all four minor pieces.

Thompson-Sawyer,Orlando,FL, 10.07.2003 begins 1.e4 Nc6 2.a3?! The first passive pawn move. Why? This move is not a blunder per se, but it has to be dubious. In the race to develop pieces, this move does nothing. 2...Nf6 3.d3 [The second passive pawn move. 3.Nc3 d5=] 3...d5 [I wanted to directly attack and threaten the e4 pawn. 3...e5 is very fine.] 4.d4? [White changes his mind from his original plan, but this just drops a pawn. This would have been great on move 1 or 2. Better is 4.exd5 Nxd5=] 4...dxe4 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.c3? The third passive pawn move. Development with Ne2 or Be3 seems more natural. 7...e5 Directly attack White's center again. 8.Be3 exd4!? [8...Nd5!-+ might be the strongest move.] 9.cxd4 Be7 10.h3 The fourth passive pawn move. A knight should be developed. 10...0-0 11.Ne2 Nd5 12.Bd2? [12.Nbc3 or 12.0-0] 12...Bg5 [12...e3 13.Bxe3 Nxe3 14.fxe3 Bh4+ is also great for Black.] 13.Be3? Bxe3 14.fxe3 Nxe3 Attacking the queen. 15.Qb3 Nxg2+ It is hard to believe that the White king, who has not moved, will capture the Black bishop on c6 in six moves. 16.Kd2? [Hoping to connect the rooks. 16.Kd1 Qf6 17.Nbc3 Qf3-+] 16...Qg5+ 17.Kc3 Qe3+ Black will pick up the knight on e2. White decides he does not want that to be check, so... 18.Kb4 a5+ 19.Kc5 [19.Kc4 drags the game out only one more move. 19...Bd5+ 20.Kxd5 Qxb3+ 21.Kc5 Ne3 22.Nbc3 Qb6#] 19...Qxb3 20.Nec3 b6+ [I missed the fastest mate. 20...Qb6+ 21.Kc4 Ne3#] 21.Kxc6 Qc4+ The Black rooks will mate the White king very quickly. 0-1

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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