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The Independent Culture
COMBINATIONAL play is, in my opinion, grossly overrated. Newspaper columnists and chess-magazine editors encourage their readers to seek winning moves in every diagram position, yet in the harsh reality of competitive play most combinations do not work, and if even they do, they risk taking a player out of the shallow end of calm positional play into the hazardous depths of trap-infested waters.

White: Guillermo Rey

Black: Julian Hodgson

San Francisco 1998

1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Bg4

This is as good a way as any to get an opponent out of the books.

3.c4 Nd7 4.e4 e5 5.Be2 Be7 6.Nc3 Bxf3 7.Bxf3 exd4 8.Qxd4 Bf6 9.Qd2 Ne7

All the central black squares beckon Black's knights, but he runs the risk of being squashed if White can engineer the moves b3 (or even b4), Bb2, f3 (or f4) and Nd5.

10.0-0 0-0 11.b3 Nc5 12.Bb2 a5 13.Re1 Re8 14.Be2 Nc6 15.f3 Bg5

Black lures the f-pawn forward to renew his pressure against e4.

16.f4 Bf6 17.Bd1 a4 18.Rb1 axb3 19.axb3 Nb4 20.Bc2 Bd4+ 21.Kh1 Qh4 22.Re2 Nxc2 23.Qxc2 Re6

23...Qxf4 would have been met by Nd5.


The combination begins.

24...Bxb2 25.Nxc7!? Bd4 26.Nxa8 Qxf4 27.Qd2 Qe5 28.Rd1 Rh6 29.h3 Nxe4 (see diagram)

White's combination has won him the exchange, but taken him well out of mental paddling depth. Now he has three options (always at least one too many): Qxd4, Rxe4 or Qe1? Which one should he choose?


30.Qxd4 Ng3+ would have left Black a pawn ahead, but 30.Rxe4! Qxe4 31.Qxd4 Rxh3+ 32.Kg1 leaves White on top. Now White hopes for 30...Ng3+ 31.Qxg3 Qxg3 32.Re8 mate, but Black has better.

30...f5! 31.Rd3

Stops Ng3+ but allows something else.

31...Nf2+! 32.Qxf2 Bxf2 33.Rxe5 dxe5

White can now still fight with 34.Rd8+, but instead goes after a pawn.

34.Rf3? Bd4 35.Rxf5 Rc6! White resigned.

His knight is doomed after Rc8.