White to move
White to move
Black to move
White to move
Black's issue: His last move likely should have been Ne4, rather than 0-0, the safety of the King was not of immediate importance. Black is too far behind in development, not to mention the fact that he has moved his f pawn. FM Mike Klein once told me when I was a kid that I could not move my f pawn without his written permission. I assumed that my opponent had not gotten this permission, so I looked to capitalize on the abnormal opening choice. If I do nothing in this position, Ne4 or d6 will be played and Black will have a fine position.
Answer: 1.d5! Though this pawn move is one which I am wary to make, I saw that I would have ample protection for the pawn and that my opponents pieces would be cramped. In fact, Black has a very difficult time finding a good move in the position- dxe6 is always in the air, and the d7-e6-f5 chain all of a sudden susceptible to attack. My opponent overreacted in the position, and played 1...Ne4- which simply drops a pawn after 2.Nxe4 xe4 3. Ne1 and I converted the material advantage.
Black's issue: Way too many pawn moves for way too little development. My opponent has not castled, and isn't even prepared to do so. His control of the center looks daunting, but this is temporary. Even with all of Blacks pieces out and his King castled, the pawn advance d5 can be weak in these types of positions, so I knew I had the advantage.
Answer: 1.d4! Perhaps the best part of this move is the concrete follow-up. After 1...Be7 2. dxc5 bxc5 my opponent already has hanging pawns, and does not have the development to make them an advantage instead of a weakness 3.Ne5 0-0 4.Qb3 And Black has no way to defend both the threats of Qxb7 and Nxd5 4...Qb6 5. Nxd5 Nxd5 6.Bxd5 Qxb3 7.Bxb3.
Whites Issue: He has pinned this knight too early, the pawn on e4 can now be put under immediate pressure. It is unclear in this position if g5 is where the bishop belongs, and White should have considered moving his light squared bishop before declaring which square was best for the dark squared bishop. The movement of the light squared bishop also allows the king to castle, which as we will see- can be quite helpful in this position.
Answer: 1...Bb4! Black should not be scared of the following line, which occurred in one of the two games I have had from this position 2. Nxc6 bxc6 3.e5 Qa5 4.exf6 is met by 4...Qxg5 5.fxg7 Qxg7 where Black has substantial pressure, and the development of the light squared bishop will now be awkward due to the looming Qxg2 threat. If white plays a normal developing move such as 2.Be2, we can capture on c3 and play Qa5 anyway- yet again with a substantial advantage due to White's doubled isolated pawns and misplaced dark squared bishop.
Black's issue: He has played a stonewall dutch, but has put his bishop on b4. All of black's pawn moves have placed the pawns on light squares, so he cannot afford to play the move Bxc3 as the dark squares will become incredibly weak. In fact, some of White's ideas in this position often revolve around trying to get rid of the dark squared bishop, and it seems that my opponent might do so without me even asking!
Answer: 1.cxd5! Typically, cxd5 is not a good move in the stonewall dutch as the opening of the c-file is advantageous for Black, but in this position, 1...cxd5 is not playable due to 2.Qa4+ Nc6 3. Nxc6 Bxc3+ 4.bxc3 bxc6 5.Qxc6+ Where I will have gained a pawn. My opponent was forced to play 1...exd5 allowing for minority attack ideas and a rather strong knight on e5, all because of the misplaced bishop on b4.
Note that if any of these puzzles were for the other side to move, the puzzle would also be applicable. My opponents had issues in their position that could easily be fixed, so time was of the essence. Be sure not to spend too much time focusing on the opening, but be aware of your opponents dubious moves and look to capitalize on them- don't just blindly arrange your pieces.
NM Mark Biernacki