I always appeciated the concept of freedom and independence. On a 10 figure double scale with freedom on one side and security on the other side I would have been a 9 from the freedom perspective for the biggest part of my life. My decision to become a chess professional surely was a result of this mindset. Since freedom and flexibility are closely related ideas, it appears logical that I developed a tendency to embrace flexible solutions in chess. Flexibility is a very interesting topic which deserves to be covered in detail. Should I find the time, I will publish something a bit more comprehensive compared to the appetiser I present you now.

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This game was played at the Zonal Tournament which served as a qualification for the knock out world championships in Las Vegas 1999. As fate would have it, I managed to end up on 7th place, which was just about good enough to get the ticket.

[Event “Dresden Zonal Tournament”] [Site “?”] [Date “1998.??.??”] [Round “?”] [White “Soln,P”] [Black “Wahls,M”] [Result “0-1”] [ECO “E11”] [WhiteElo “2350”] [BlackElo “2605”] [PlyCount “128”] [EventDate “1993.??.??”] [SourceTitle “TD 93\08”] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4
e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ {[#] Similar to the Nimzoindian Defence, the Bogoindian is a
flexible opening. Black develops his pieces before determining his pawn
formation.} 4. Bd2 {Now Black has the choice between 4..a5, 4..c5 and the game
continuation, with completely different types of position, respectively.} Qe7
5. g3 Nc6 {Putting pressure on White’s centre pawn has some tactical benefits.
Again, Black can opt for different structures by playing 5..b6.} 6. Bg2 Bxd2+
7. Nbxd2 {[#] White is more or less forced to put his knight on this inferior
location, since after} (7. Qxd2 Ne4 8. Qc2 Qb4+ {Black equalizes easily. White
cannot answer with} 9. Nbd2 $2 {due to the weakness of his d-pawn:} Nxd2 10.
Nxd2 $2 (10. Qxd2 Qxc4 $15) 10… Nxd4 $17) 7… d6 8. O-O a5 $1 {[#] That’s a
prime example for our topic. To appreciate the quality of this move in terms
of flexibility we have to compare it with the more stereotype} (8… O-O {After
} 9. e4 e5 10. d5 Nb8 {White has the choice between 11.Ne1 followed by 12.Nd3,
which can be considered the mainline or the more direct move 12.b4, which is a
good alternative. Hence, by playing 8..a5! instead of 8..0-0, Black limits
White’s options. Note that 8..a5 doesn’t come with any kind of concession,
since it is an integral part of Black’s strategy in any case.}) 9. e4 e5 {
This move is logical by any standard. First of all, there is the need for
staking one’s claim in the centre. Secondly, the pawn structure gets
harmonized with the “bishop situation”. Since all we have left is our
light-squared bishop, we put the pawns on the opposite colour.} 10. d5 {
Of course, taking on e5 would result in a positional desaster due to the
gaping hole on d4.} Nb8 {[#] An instructive position for more than one reason.
Some people might be put off by the fact that Black clearly fell behind in
development by doing funny things as activating his queen at an early stage,
moving his a-pawn and losing time with his queen’s knight. Apparently he
violated many diffrent rules. But here is the thing with generic rules. On the
one hand, they are important, especially for the novice player, since their
generic nature implies the virtue of frequent application. One the other hand,
and that is the downside of generic rules, they are pretty shallow by nature.
They simply don’t take into account the specific characteristics of a position.
Obviously, an open position is different from a semi-open position, leave
alone a closed one. In the case at hand, there simply is no way White can
exploit his lead in developent. Most likely, Black will catch up within the
next couple of moves. Okay, it has been established that desaster is not to
be expected. But still the question remains: Why did Black concede a lead of
developement to his opponent as well as an advantage in space ? Is Bogoindian
an opening for masochists in the end? Well, I definitively wouldn’t say so, at
least I wouldn’t call me one. If we give the position a closer look, we will
spot a couple of sweet things: 1. As mentioned before, the knight on d2 is
poorly placed. 2. More importantly, the pawn structure which was imposed on
White, renders the Bg2 a bad bishop. All of a sudden, the idea that is it
Black who might win the game after employing such an apparantly unpretentious
opening looms at the horizon! Every experienced player can imagine endings in
which White suffers from his bad bishop. Black might exchange his own bishop
against a knight at some stage and suddenly, the topic “good knight versus bad
bishop” is on the table. 3. We should never forget, that space advantage not
only is an asset but can also be an obligation. Weak squares are created in
the wake of grabbing space, which have to be taken care of. I know games,
where a black knight appeared on d4 via a6-c7-b5 (obviously this was prepared
by c6 and cxd5). Should White follow up with f4, his king will be exposed on
the diagonal a7-g1. It is not difficult to imagine a black queen on b6 and a
knight on g4. White would have to be concerned about weak squares on f2, e3
and d3. As you can see, Black managed to create imbalances. By surrendering
certain assets, he acquired assets for himself in different areas, which puts
him in a situation where he is able to define potential winning plans. Even
though Bogoindian is a very solid opening at its foundation, it provides Black
with the opportunity to apply considerable positional pressure.} 11. Ne1 h5 $5
{[#] There we go again! Not only do I violate the rule to develop quickly
another time, I also demonstrate the second aspect of 8..a5! with regard to
flexibility. By refraining from the standard move 8..0-0 I achieved two
different objectives: 1. I prevented White from playing a quick b4 (depriving
my opponent of flexibility) 2. I retained the option of embarking in this
ambitious plan (maintaining flexibility for myself). Actually, I would have a
hard time to come up with another example for this kind of multi-functional
flexibility-related move, without delving deep into my chess knowledge. Is 11..
h5!? better than 11..0-0? Not at all, it is different. It served me well in
the specific tournament situation. Since I needed the full point in order to
maintain my chances for qualifying for the world championships, I opted for
the sharper alternative. Next time I might very well castle in this position.}
12. h3 {Another way to meet the threat of 12..h4 is 13.Nef3 after which the
move 11..h5 might be considered a slight weakness. However, having lead White
astray from pursuing his queenside plans should weigh heavier in case of doubt.
} h4 {By undermining the square f4, Black increases his superiority on the
dark squares. Should White follow up with f4, a nice outpost for Black’s
pieces would be created on e5.} 13. g4 Nfd7 {[#] I am not sure which is the
best move here. 13..Nbd7 has been played more often, but aiming at c5 with
both knights (the other one from a6) is not without charme. At least I stayed
loyal to my philosophy of nondevelopment.} 14. Nd3 {Other moves have been
tried here:} (14. Qe2 Na6 15. Qe3 Nac5 16. b3 Nf8 (16… g6 $5 17. a3 f5 $13)
17. a3 Ng6 18. Rb1 Nf4 19. b4 Nd7 20. Nd3 Nxd3 21. Qxd3 {and now} O-O $11 {
appears sounder than} (21… Nf8 $6 {which was played in Virovlansky,S
(2445)-Bocharov,D (2614) Kazan 2007})) (14. a3 a4 15. Nd3 O-O 16. Qc2 (16. Nb1
Ra5 $1 17. Nc3 Nb6 $11) 16… c5 (16… Ra5 $5 17. Qc3 (17. Nb1 Na6) 17… b6
18. Rae1 g5 $11) 17. Rae1 g5 {The position was more or less drawn, but White
wouldn’t comply with that.} 18. f4 $2 exf4 19. e5 Nxe5 20. Nxe5 dxe5 $17 {
Dziuba,M (2392)-Macieja,B (2536) Zakopane 2000}) 14… Na6 15. b3 (15. a3 {
Now, White will realize the positional desirable thrust b4, but at the
cost of letting Blacl’s knight occupy his dream square:} Nac5 16. Nxc5 Nxc5 17.
b4 axb4 18. axb4 Rxa1 19. Qxa1 Nd3 20. Qa4+ Qd7 21. Qb3 Nf4 22. Ra1 O-O 23. Bf1
g6 24. c5 f5 $13 {Halasz,T (2365)-Anka,E (2450) Budapest 1997}) ({Two years
later, my opponent repeated this line, but again he used it as a draw weapon,
as he did in our game.} 15. Qa4 Nac5 (15… b6 16. a3 Nac5 17. Nxc5 bxc5 18. b4
O-O $11) 16. Nxc5 dxc5 17. Rae1 O-O 18. Qa3 Ra6 19. Qc3 {1/2-1/2 (19) Soln,P
(2382)-Zaja,I (2452) Split 2000}) 15… Nac5 ({Also possible is} 15… Ndc5 16.
Nb2 a4 $5 (16… Bd7 {Hoffmann,M (2440)-Horvath,A (2455) Budapest 1998}) 17.
Qf3 a3 18. Nd3 Nxd3 19. Qxd3 c5 $11 {with an outpost on b4 for the knight and
potential pawn breaks with b5 or f5, in case White doesn’t capture on c6.}) 16.
Nb1 {[#]} (16. Nb2 Nf8 $5 17. a3 Ng6 18. b4 Nd7 19. Nd3 (19. Nb3 axb4 20. axb4
Rxa1 21. Qxa1 Nf4 $13) 19… b6 20. Nb3 Qg5 $13) (16. Nxc5 Nxc5 17. Qc2 O-O 18.
a3 b6 19. b4 Nd7 20. Nb3 Bb7 (20… Re8 21. Rfb1 Nf8 22. bxa5 bxa5 23. c5 Ng6
$13) 21. bxa5 bxa5 22. a4 c5 $11) 16… Nf8 (16… g6 {leads to unclear
complications:} 17. Nc3 f5 18. exf5 (18. f3 $6 Nxd3 19. Qxd3 Nc5 20. Qd2 Bd7
21. Rae1 Rf8 22. exf5 gxf5 23. f4 O-O-O 24. fxe5 dxe5 25. gxf5 Rxf5 26. Rxf5
Bxf5 27. Nb5 Qg7 $15) 18… gxf5 19. f4 Qg7 (19… fxg4 20. Qxg4 Nxd3 21. Qg6+
Kd8 22. Qxd3 exf4 23. Rxf4 Ne5 24. Qf1 Bd7 25. Kh1 b6 $13) (19… e4 20. Nxc5
Nxc5 21. Qd4 O-O $13) 20. Nxc5 Nxc5 21. fxe5 fxg4 22. Kh1 dxe5 23. Qe2 $13) (
16… Nxd3 $5 17. Qxd3 Nf8 18. Nc3 Ng6 19. Ne2 O-O {with a comfortable
position for Black}) 17. Nxc5 dxc5 18. Nc3 Ng6 19. Re1 Ra6 20. f3 O-O {It is
obvious that Black has nothing to fear. There is absolutely no way White can
make progress.} 21. Qd2 Re8 22. a4 {[#] White leaves no doubt that he is
content with a draw and the big difference in playing strength gives him
every right for having this attitude. Also, objectively there is not too much
Black can hope for. He has a slight edge due to the better bishop and the
possession of the only pawn lever in this position: f7-f5. However, even if
Black gets in his pawn thrust, this is not enough to disrupt White’s position.
What I did now was to resort to well know strategy among chess professionals:
fatigue creation. I knew that I would have to play f5 at some stage, but
before doing that I wanted get my opponent tired to some degree. Only if I
would catch him off guard, this operation would stand a chance.} Bd7 23. Re3
Qg5 24. Rae1 Rb6 25. Nb1 Rb4 26. Qc3 Nf4 27. Na3 Ra8 28. Nc2 Rb6 29. Bf1 Rg6
30. Qd2 Rd6 31. Qc3 Rda6 32. Na3 Rg6 33. Nb1 Rb6 34. Nd2 Raa6 35. Nb1 Rb4 36.
Nd2 Rg6 37. Ra1 Rgb6 38. Ree1 Ra6 39. Qe3 Qe7 40. Qc3 Ra8 41. Re3 Ng6 42. Rc1
Rb6 43. Ra1 Qg5 44. Bg2 Rba6 45. Rae1 Re8 46. R3e2 Raa8 47. Re3 Re7 48. Nb1 b6
{The starting signal for my offensive. The a-pawn gets protected so that my
rook can be transferred to the kingside.} 49. Qb2 Rae8 50. Nc3 Nf4 {[#]} 51.
Nd1 $6 {First signs of fatigue. It would have been easier to prepare to
exchange my knight with Ne2.} (51. Qf2 g6 {I wouldn’t have let the exchange of
knights happen. Instead I would have transfered my knight to d6 followed by g6
and f5. But obviously, f4 is the more attractive location.} 52. Ne2 f5 53. exf5
gxf5 54. Nxf4 $11) (51. Ne2 $4 Nxg2 {[%cal Rg5e3]}) 51… g6 52. Qc3 f5 {[#]}
53. exf5 $2 {It is a common fact that doing nothing is more difficult than
being active, since the latter is more in line with the conditio humana. From
an evolutionary point of view, our brains are still on the level of the Stone
Age man. 40,000 years is not a long period in this context, so there is not much
room for a substantial development. Unfortunately, modern life sometimes
requires behaviour which is in stark contrast to our animal instincts. That’s
why people lose money at the stock market or commit certain mistakes in chess.
Up to this point my opponent played very controlled, but the lenght of the
games had finally softened him up. Fighting against your nature requires
energy, but a lot of energy was already spent at this point. If White simply stays put,
there is not much Black can do:} (53. Rf1 Rf7 54. Rf2 {Black’s position might look
threatening to some degree, also taking into account a potential piece
sacrifice on g4. However, I doubt that this can be correct.} (54. exf5 $2 gxf5
55. Rxe5 Rfe7 $19)) 53… gxf5 $17 {[#]} 54. Nf2 (54. Rxe5 $2 Rxe5 55. Rxe5
Ne2+ $19) 54… e4 $1 {Making full use of the now mobile pawns.} 55. Bf1 Ng6 ({
The engines prefer} 55… Nh5 56. Bg2 Rg7 57. Kh1 Rf8 $17) 56. Kh1 Ne5 57. fxe4
$2 (57. Bg2 exf3 58. Bxf3 Qf4 {is also difficult for White. The following
lines consists of many “only moves”:} 59. Rg1 Ng6 60. Rxe7 Rxe7 61. gxf5 Bxf5
62. Ng4 Rf7 63. Ne5 Rf6 64. Nxg6 Rxg6 65. Rxg6+ Bxg6 66. Bg2 Kf7 $17) 57…
fxg4 58. hxg4 Rg7 $19 {[#] All my pieces spring to live.} 59. Bh3 $2 (59. Be2
Rf8 60. Nh3 Qe7 $19) 59… Rf8 60. Qb2 (60. Nd3 Nxg4 $19) 60… Nf3 61. e5 (61.
R1e2 Qf4 62. Nd3 Qg3 $19) 61… Nxe1 62. Rxe1 Qf4 63. Ne4 Bxg4 64. Bg2 Bf3 {[#] } 0-1

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