If you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks you may have missed the big chess news that the 2016 Candidiates Tournament, to find a challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, has finished and Sergey Karjakin from Russia will be the challenger.

Karjakin vs Caruana

Karjakin vs Caruana

It was a very exciting tournament with former World Champion Vishy Anand at one stage looking like he may get through again but with one round to play youth had hit the lead with Caruana and Karjakin tied for first place with Karjakin holding the advantage on count-back.  Caruana, playing Black, had to win his last round game against his rival to advance to the title match and they reached the position below.

The position looks pretty even … if anything I would prefer to be Black because of his centre control and better control of the dark squares … but chess is a game of ideas and here Karjakin came up with a great idea.  It does not win the game but it does unbalance the game and give his opponent a chance to go wrong.  This is a skill that many players do not understand.  In a chess tournament you are not playing a computer, you are playing a human and humans make mistakes if given the chance.  Sometimes you can do this by just marking time in an even position and your opponent (thinking that he has to attack) does something, overreaches and you win.  Of course at Candidates level the players are perfectly capable of sitting tight, particularly if all they need is a draw, but like most champion chess players Karjakin is not afraid and backs himself with a very bold idea even though all he needs is a draw.

Let’s see if you can come up with the same plan.  I’ll give you some hints.  First look for weaknesses in your opponent’s position … like b4, d6 and h5.  Can you build up on these weaknesses?   Can you activate your pieces?  Can you give your opponent an unclear choice of a number of replies so that he may go wrong?  What did White play in the position below?

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