Friday, 21 September 2012

Paradoxical moves - by Junior Tay

20 years ago, just before I had to enlist for National Service, I joined other Queenstown CC Chess Club members on a chess tour to KL to play friendly matches against a few chess clubs. I recall we did pretty well. During the trip, naturally, we had the time to blitz with our team mates. During a blitz session with FM Alphonsus Chia, he made a remark which I found pretty strange at that time - " keep playing the 'standard' moves" - with reference to the way I develop my pieces or prepare an attack. It took me quite a while to realise that by always playing such moves, it create a certain predictability and allows the opponent to react easily as the first thing he would anticipate or calculate are the natural moves. Of course, in most cases, there's nothing wrong with those standard ideas - Rooks to open files, lock the centre before you prepare an attack on the flank etc." However, that one remark changed the way I looked at chess, in a sense. Nevertheless, the alternative idea to the natural move must not be an inferior continuation or it's just hustling to win quickly when one already has a decent position.  Henceforth, I always keep a lookout for such 'arcane' moves. I would like to present to you 3 such paradoxical examples in local chess praxis where "unnatural moves" are played to secure an advantage or unsettle the opponents.

A) The mysterious Rook move.

In the following training game, Weiliang sacrificed a pawn in an attempt to stem the White initiative. While deliberating whether I should take the proferred pawn, I recalled the previous training game in which I was one pawn up but he played the endgame so well that I could not make use of my material advantage. Hence, I began a search for alternative ideas and my 'mysterious Rook move' worked as time trouble forced him into clarifying matters in my favour!

For a clearer explanation of what the concept of the mysterious Rook move is, please check out GM Dejan Bojkov's blog.

B) Jam em' and charge em'.

When I saw the following game by your resident blogmaster IM Goh Wei Ming, it struck me that he was defying the standard chess conventions. He first advanced pawns in the sector where he was supposedly  weaker (the Queenside where Black had a Rook trained on a half open c-file.Then when the opponent tried to use his Rook to put pressure on Wei Ming's King, he then advanced the pawns in front of the King to push Black off the board.. However, I think he was guided more by concrete needs in the position than trying to 'play punk'.As IM Wily Hendriks in his marvellous book  'Move First, Think Later' (New In Chess 2012) put it aptly, "If you cling on to the generalities, you lose sight of the concrete" (Hendriks, pg 10). .

C) The 'unnecessary' Exchange sacrifice.

During my active years of chess playing, one contemporary I like to watch is FM Mark Ong Chong Ghee. His games are rife with exchange sacrifices and sometimes he employ ideas that are quite spectacular and daunting to face. Wei Ming had said that Chong Ghee would make a tough opponent for him because the latter will never let him settle down in the game -by keeping the game complicated and tactical. One motif  I noticed he employs is sometimes when he has created a weakness in the opponent's position, he does not hit on the weakness immediately as the opponents would expect, by say, piling Rooks behind the weak pawn. He will aim for something else and then say 10 moves later, the weakness is still there for him to hit. However, the examples I watched are from blitz games he play so it's hard to reconstruct those themes for you. His 'unnecessary' Exchange sacrifices, however, have been used with success, for example in the Asian Team Championships against FM Eddy Levi and IM Tu Hoang Thai. I used the term 'unnecessary' because in the positions where he played the exchange sacrifice, he could still carry on playing normal moves and press on. The following exchange sacrifice earned him a point en-route to an equal 1st placing in the 2003 Cairnhill Open.

I hope showing these examples won't spoil your chess though...or maybe I'm just trying to con you into playing crap...


  1. interesting sir... those exchange sac on e3 is SUPERB... the aim of this sac is to damage the opponent's structure and generate threats against the king... before enemy rooks can be activate.... defending against this sac often difficult...

  2. Yes, it is an excellent exchange sacrifice indeed. When I asked Mark about it, his reply was that half the time, his 'brain is wired like that' hence these sort of moves are natural to him. However, he added that had he seen the natural (and safer) continuations first, he would have played them, saving himself a lot of stress and time.