Grandmaster Tips: A lesser-known defense


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Normally when defending unfavourable positions we tend to calculate a lot. This is normal and necessary, as in this way we make sure we don’t lose by force.

However, often thinking in schemes can also help the defense.

By schemes, I mean understanding where the pieces should be, on which squares they will have the highest impact on the position.

Compared to calculation, this is more general thinking, more abstract. I would like to give an example of how thinking in schemes helped the defending side.

The position is from a game between two World Champions:

It looks like a long and arduous defence is in sight for Anand (Black), especially against such a technical monster like Carlsen. But in fact the position is an easy draw.

Anand understood where his pieces should be. The dark-squared bishop will occupy the long diagonal and the knight will drop back to d6.

The key piece is the knight – from d6 it controls the light squares, so it will need help from the pawns to control the dark squares (in case the dark-squared bishops are exchanged).

Hence, pawns on f6, e5 and b6, together with a knight on d6 build an impregnable fortress! White cannot approach it as all the squares are controlled. This is particularly striking if you take the dark-squared bishops off the board.

You can check the remaining of the game Carlsen-Anand from Dortmund 2007 to see how Carlsen couldn’t do anything. In fact, he ended up taking the knight on d6 and agreeing to a draw in a position with opposite-coloured bishops.

In conclusion:

When defending, first and foremost you should make sure you’re not losing by force. But then try to understand where your pieces will feel best. They will thank you for it with doing a good job.

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