One of the most important skills in chess is the ability to transform one type of advantage into another. The great champions can effortlessly convert an initiative into an attack, an attack into a material gain, and move into an endgame where the material advantage can be exploited smoothly.
From our own games, we know that this is not as simple as it looks. We can easily miss the right moment to make the transformation, and so create unnecessary difficulties for ourselves.
In this wide-ranging text, experienced trainer Drazen Marovic discusses all aspects of chess transformations, enabling us to sense when they are necessary, and to decide how to bring them about. This understanding will also help us to frustrate our opponents' plans, and put up a resilient defence in difficult positions.
Drazen Marovic is a grandmaster from Croatia, who has won medals as both player and trainer for various national teams. His pupils include Bojan Kurajica, World Under-20 Champion in 1965, and Al Modiahki of Qatar, the first Arabian grandmaster. Marovic has a wealth of experience as a writer, editor and television commentator on chess. He was the trainer of the Croatian national team during a period in the 1990s when it achieved a number of successes in top-level contests. This is his fourth book for Gambit. His previous books discussed various aspects of pawn play and positional chess, and have been warmly received by the chess-playing public.
In writing this book, my intention was to throw more light on the essence of the game of chess, its never-ending changing of values, the unceasing metamorphosis of the three elements it consists of - material, space and time.
We speak of pawns and pieces as material, space is outlined by the chess-board and time is manifested as a lead in development and initiative. I wanted to round off what I wrote in my earlier books published by Gambit. Understanding Pawn Play in Chess discussed elementary pawn-structures, Dynamic Pawn Play in Chess dealt with the centre and its subtle relation with pawn-formations, while Secrets of Positional Chess focused on the strength and weakness of pieces and space. Analysing these fundamental elements which make up the game of chess helped us to sharpen our awareness of those "deep connections between the quality of chess space, the pieces acting in it, and time, which binds the board and chessmen into one inseparable whole". This book examines their interrelations, the constant change to which they are subject, and their constant transformations.
Although pawns and pieces by their very existence remind us continuously of their face value, their only real value stems from what they can actually do on the chess-board. We can speak of their statistical or nominal value, but only in action, in a very concrete position, a very concrete relation of pieces and very concrete space, do pieces acquire their real values.
Their essential property is their unceasing changeability. Here I must remind you of the fact that material is a potential energy of chess. When sacrificed, it either wins material or it generates an initiative, leading to various forms of superiority. The same relations of instability govern the initiative and space advantage. Depending on one another, they grow and weaken, drawing strength from one another. Seizing space and developing an initiative often go hand in hand. The conquered territory strengthens the power exerted by the units in action. The pieces are more powerful when they have more space in which to manoeuvre and their active possibilities multiply until a new metamorphosis occurs, when the initiative either wins outright or is transformed back into material or some other type of superiority. The cycle of transformations ends only when one of the fundamental elements acquires an overwhelming superiority. Practically, metamorphoses end when the game ends.
We shall devote our attention to these themes in a series of relevant positions. As usual in my texts, a wide selection of games, covering more than a century, follows my own experience in teaching chess. Lecturing on various subjects to various age groups in different countries, I taught others, but I also learnt. As far as the selection of material goes, I learnt one thing in particular: different generations perceive a selection of games from their own angle. What is dull and worn out for older generations is often a revelation for young people and vice versa: armed with numerous magazines, computer screens, Informators and kindred literature they often find the games played in our time to be overpublicized. Naturally, a couple of overfamiliar games in dozens is very likely, whatever an author's choice might be - unless one is ready to limit the selection to second-rate examples never published before, which I am not. Besides, the thing that matters is not the age of an illustrative example, but whether it fits the subject and corroborates an opinion, especially if the context is new or the angle of observation changed (even slightly). What also matters is the clarity of such examples. Unfortunately, the mania of rapid tournaments, followed by the progressive reduction of time allotted for the game, takes its toll on the quality of modern competitions. Unless we are discussing hectically and thoroughly explored opening paths, there is less and less to choose from; relevant games for many subjects of general theory are becoming more and more scarce.
Supported by a number of opportunists or short-sighted youngsters in the ranks of professional players, who are ready to cut the branch on which they themselves are sitting for some temporary comforts or unfounded ambitions, our wise leadership say that shortening the time-limit is the best way to win our place on the almighty TV screens. They forget that the fascination with the game is still alive after many centuries not because players used to play blitz, but owing to the high-quality games of classical chess and particularly to the world championship cycle they have been destroying with the zeal which only crass ignorance and poor, provincial mentality can nourish. They are trying to convince us that playing rapidly and using hands more than the brain really matters and makes chess competitive in the big family of sports. However, there is a little problem the wise gentlemen have never thought about. If we ever get the 'desired' place (which, by the way, is a foolish hope indeed!), due to the gradual but obvious decline in the quality of modern rapid competitions, continuing in this direction in a not so distant future we shall have nothing to show to the TV public, no magazines will be worth editing and no books worth publishing. Today we are still fortunate; we can still enjoy the old and the new and we should not miss the chance, even if a couple of examples happen to be well-known and perhaps somewhat irritating. That said, I leave the reader to a selected experience of long, rich decades.
List of Content
Part 1: Material and Time
007 1 Material and Time: Introduction
010 2 Pseudo-Sacrifices
030 3 Sacrificial Risks: Zwischenzug
036 4 Sacrificial Risks: Counter-Sacrifice
043 5 Sacrificial Risks: Simplification
061 6 Real Sacrifices
130 7 Lead in Development
Part 2: Space and Time
142 8 Space and Time
197 9 Overextension
206 Index of Players
208 Index of Composers