Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Four Knights' Game

The Four Knights' Game, as the name suggests, is characterized by the early deployment of knights on both sides of the board. Here, we have a game that also emphasizes the importance of having two bishops working side by side against the enemy King. Few forces in chess are more powerful than two smoothly coordinating Bishops.

Some players think that a Bishop is just equivalent to a Knight. Maybe. But two Bishops are much more powerful than two Knights working in tandem. Here is a game that illustrates that principle.

Warsaw, 1917

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Nc3, Nf6
4. Bb5, Nd4!

In the event of 5. Nxe5 in reply to his last move, Black would continue 5. ......Qe7, 6. f4 Nxb5, 7. Nxb5 d6 with a good game.

5. Bc4, Bc5
6. Nxe5, Qe7!

A tricky move. If White plays 7. Bxf7 he will come out with a piece down after 7. .....Kd8. And on 7. Nxf7 d5!, 8. Nxh8 dxc4 Black will eventually confiscate the wayward Knight.

7. Nd3 ? .....

White condemns the Knight to uselessness and also blocks his Queen Pawn, and consequently the development of his Queen Bishop. Surely 7. Nf3 was in order.

7. .....d5!

After 8. Nxc5 dxc4! White's advanced Knight would be in a bad way.

8. Nxd5, Qxe4+
9. Ne3, Bd6
10. 0-0, b5!

In return for his sacrificed Pawn Black is achieving a magnificent development. The energetic text move prepares for .... Bb7.

11. Bb3, Bb7
12. Ne1, Qh4!

By threatening mate at h2 Black forces a weakening of White's kingside pawn structure. This enhances the long-range striking power of the Black Bishops.

13. g3, Qh3
14. c3 ......

14. ...... h5!

The coming devastation at h file must be decisive.

15. cxd4, h4!

Black threatens hxg3 with immediate disaster for White. White can try to avoid this by putting up a defense along the second rank. but even this is doomed to failure. For example: 16. f3 hxg3, 17. Qe2 gxh2, 18. Kh1 Nh5!,  19. Nf5+ Kf8, 20. Rf2 Re8,  21. Qf1 Rxe1, 22. Qxe1 Qxf3!, 23. Rxf3 Bxf3 mate.

16. Qe2, Qxh2+

White resigns, for after 17. Kxh2 hxg3 dbl ch, 18. Kg1 Rh1 mate. Note the artful way in which Black combined the power of both Bishops to control the board diagonals.

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