The Triumph of Quality

I think it was R.N. Coles who suggested that we think of chess along four dimensions: material, time, space, and position. Players typically understand them in that order, with position (or what others term the "quality" of your pieces, pawns, and king safety) the hardest to master, just as it was historically the last to emerge. The following game is a great illustration of how an advantage in piece quality (including scope and piece safety) can lead to victory.

Apsenieks - Geza Maroczy [D64]

Folkestone Olympiad (Men)/Folkestone (14.1) 1933

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 Be7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. Bd3

A slight inaccuracy which gives Black a tempo for development. Maroczy notes that superior is 7. Rc1 which practically forces Black to defend the pawn by 7... c6 when White is better after 8. cxd5 (8. Qc2) 8... exd5 9. Bd3.


7... dxc4 8. Bxc4 a6 9. Rc1 c5

"Black has won an important tempo, not having to move this pawn twice" notes Maroczy.


10. O-O b5 11. Be2 Bb7 12. Bxf6?!

Apsenieks appea rs to be seeking an imbalance in order to prevent the position from slipping into symmetrical equality. But the two Bishops in an open position tremendously favor Black. White's best was to seek a stale symmetry where Black's slight initiative would find no targets.

12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. b4 Nce4 14. Nxe4 Bxe4 15. a3=


12... Bxf6 13. dxc5 Nxc5 14. Nxb5!?

It may be that Apesenieks thought this combination, which essentially eliminates the queenside pawns, would secure him a draw for his team.


14... axb5 15. Rxc5 Rxa2 16. Bxb5

An instructive mistake would be 16. Rxb5? Ba6! when there will be essentially a cross-pin on the Bishop at e2 which is overloaded by guarding the diagonal to f1 and the Queen (though 16... Qxd1 also works) when 17. Rb4 (17. Qxd8 Rxd8 18. Bc4 Bxb5 19. Bxa2 Bxf1) 17... Qxd1 18. Bxd1 Bxf1


16... Rxb2

A deceptively simple position, but far from equal. Black'sadvantage has nothing to do with the pawns, which are symmetrical. It is all about his superior pieces (a Rook on the 7th and the two Bishops on their best diagonals) and White's lack of good squares on which to deploy his. At the moment, White's Rook and Bishop are quite insecure.


17. Qc1

"The position begins to be very interesting" notes Maroczy.

a) 17. Qa4? Qb6 18. Rfc1 Be7 19. Rh5 g6


b) 17. Qxd8 Rxd8 18. h3 would have provided some relief by reducing Black's attacking force.

17... Qb6

White's Bishop must retreat, but it has no secure residence.


18. Bd3 Rd8! 19. Ne1

a) The Bishop has no good square to settle on: 19. Bc2?! g6!


b) And White cannot defend it where it stands: 19. Rd1? Rxd3! 20. Rxd3 Rb1 notes Maroczy.

19... g6!

Black takes a moment to create luft for his King. The move is passed to White, who realizes he has absolutely no good way of investing the tempo, which may have been the psychological pressure that led to his mistake...


20. Rc2?

White has problems but there is no clear win as yet after 20. Rc7 when perhaps 20... Ra8!? intending to double the Rooks on the 7th.


20... Rb1! 21. Qd2?

Walking into an unfortunate pin, but the alternatives were not appealing either. White's Queen has too few squares.

a) Relatively best may have been 21. Qa3 Rb3 22. Qa4 Rbxd3 23. Nxd3 Rxd3


b) "White had intended 21. Rc6?! here and saw too late that 21... Bxc6 22. Bxb1 Bb5 wins the Exchange" notes Maroczy.

21... Ba6!

Piling on...


22. Ra2

22. Qe2 Rxe1! 23. Rxe1 Bxd3


22... Rxd3!

"The most forceful..." Also sufficient is 22... Bxd3 23. Nxd3 Rb3 but Maroczy's method eliminates a larger force, leading to a quicker victory.


23. Nxd3 Rxf1+ 24. Kxf1 Qb1+ 25. Ke2

25... Bxd3+ 26. Kf3

"After the -move the King is in danger, and now follows an interesting finish wherein Black demonstrates the powers of the two Bishops," writes Maroczy. No better is 26. Qxd3 Qxa2+.


26... h5 27. Ra4 Qb5 28. Qa5 Qc6+

The Black Queen finds her way to the kingside for the final assault via the diagonals that White cannot secure.


29. e4 Qc1! 30. Ra2

30. e5 Qd1+ 31. Kg3 Bxe5+! 32. Qxe5 Qxa4


30... Bg5 31. Qe5 Qd1+

and mate follows after 32.Kg3 Qg4#.



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Game in PGN