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Chess Analysis: Bogoljubov vs Müller, Triberg 1934


Bogoljubov vs Müller, Triberg 1934

An example of how to evaluate a given position and formulate a plan of attack based on vulnerable squares.  This particular game is quite instructive on the value of timing and position over decided material advantage.  Black seemingly falters by ordering his Rook too far into enemy territory too soon.  The question here is not only placement by also of timing.  Even so, the maneuver by Black to castle Queen side and the resulting capture of a central pawn seems like a good strategy. Even the thirteenth move of the Bishop, Bg4-e6 appears to be a preparatory maneuver on the part of Black’s forces.  However, the Bg4-e6 maneuver is also suggestive that Black’s forces are not nearly as coordinated as what might first appear.  White will interpret the Bg4-e6 maneuver as indecision.

After only twelve moves, Black seems to have control of the board. Admittedly, the situation does not look promising for White. For one thing, the White Queen is under attack. Black also has massed considerably more force in the central region of the board. Already a Rook is in play in a coordinated attack supported by a Queen. Black also has a Knight and a Bishop on the field. Seemingly, from every perspective, Black has the advantage, yet that is not the case.  White is on the verge of unleashing a brutal counter-offensive. Can you spot the weakness in Black’s position?

What might White do in this position?

Let’s take a look. Black is decisively poised for further attacks.  The Pawn on B2 is under attack by a Queen.  The Pawn on E4 is attacked by a Queen, a Rook, and a Knight.  The only defender of Pawn E4, a Knight, is itself under attack; further, should that Knight move, the White Queen herself would be captured.  The Knight is pinned and cannot move.  As for the most powerful segment of the White army, the White Queen, a protected Black Rook is immediately poised for immediate capture of the Queen.  The Black Bishop also bares down on the hapless White position, preventing a Rook from occupying D1, and thereby challenging Black for control of the open central column. At best, it appears that White will be reduced to a passive defense for some time.

However, if we look on a deeper level, we discover at least two  interdependent factors, both of which will influence the strategy of the battle.  Let’s look first at White: two pieces in the center, one a pawn, another a Knight.  The Knight, though is the most forceful, having already positioned itself in enemy territory. As for Black, we have already looked at how his pieces are positioned, but we did not include an analysis of three potentially weak squares.

Because Black has advanced both Queen and Rook immediately near the enemy Pawn flank, both Queen and Rook are vulnerable to a pawn attack on C3.  Another weakness  is the D7 square which is currently under control of the White Knight, thereby limiting the available moves for the Black King, should the King come under attack.  The third weakness in the Black formation, is the  A7-E3 Diagonal.  The A7-E3 Diagonal leads to an unprotected square on the back rank.  If White places a Queen on the A8 square, the battle would be over.

Bogolujobov will use threats of attack in order to compel Black to position Queen and King on squares vulnerable to a Knight fork.  Müller clearly understands part of the strategy, but not all of the underlying threats.   The threats by Bogolujobov, then, will be coordinated toward a deadly knight fork, entrapping both King and Queen. The ensuing battle will become a complete rout.

Threat on A7-E3 Diagonal
Bogolujov will first position his Queen on the important A7-E3 Diagonal.  Since the Queen was under attack by the Black Rook, the maneuver will appear to be a defensive one, but it is not.

13.Qd2-e3; Bg4-e6

The board position seems reasonable without any hint of an immediate threat.  Black moves his hapless Bishop a second time, almost as if there is no underlying strategy.  Bogolujobov will interpret the move of the Bishop as evidence that Müller has yet to see the threat.  All is calm, but a tactical Blitzkrieg is about to be unleashed.

Threat on C3
White immediately begins the attack with the objective of allowing both heavy armoured segments (Queen and Rook) to be attacked by a Pawn phalanx, a pawn fork.  Black sees the danger and responds by retreating the Queen.

14.Nc3-d5; Qb4-c5

This is the wrong strategy, but Black has little choice in the matter. Capturing the Knight on D5 would prove disastrous.  To do so would allow the devastating Pawn fork on C3.  By moving the Queen to C5, Black seemingly reinforces the vulnerable A7-E3 Diagonal as well as protects his Rook.  The battle is now lost.  White now has two Knights, both centrally positioned.  Black’s Queen has been reduced to a passive defensive role and the Black Rook is now pinned.  White has the advantage of position and timing, Black having retreated twice, once with a Bishop, and once with a Queen.

Queen Sacrifice
White attacks the Rook, sacrificing the Queen. The sacrifice compels Black to capture the White Queen. The capture by Black, however, allows both White Knights to begin a penetrating attack against the Black King himself.

15.Qe3xd4!!; Qc5xd4

The attack by the two Knights will be so intense that the Queen will not be able to come to the defense of the King, nor will any other piece, except one lowly pawn. Black has the material advantage, but his superior force will soon be decimated in the ensuing melee.

Coordinated Knight Attack
White immediately unleashes the first Knight attack: Check!  The Black King must move with only two choices available: D8 or B8.  The C7 square is under the control of the other White knight and therefore is not an option for Black.  However, neither the D8 square, or the B8 square represent a defensible position.  If D8, the Black Queen and King are on the same open column, allowing White to bring his Rook into battle.  If B8, the Queen and King will be vulnerable to a vicious Knight fork, and that is exactly the attack White unleashes.

16.Nd5-e7+; Kc8-b8

Decisive Knight Fork
A Black pawn bravely captures the Knight, but in so doing permits yet a second Knight fork. White is taking massive casualties: a Queen, and now a central Knight.


Black resigns, his army and position in shambles. White has two Rooks, one Knight and 7 Pawns with a connected pawn formation on both Queen and King sectors. The Black army has been reduced to a single Rook, a Knight, a Bishop and 5 Pawns, two of which are isolate pawns.

The battle is over. Three strategic squares and a central position Knight ceded the victory to White.

[Event “Triberg -“]
[Site “Triberg -“]
[Date “1934.??.??”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Efim Bogoljubov”]
[Black “Muller”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C68”]
[PlyCount “35”]
[EventDate “1934.??.??”]

{C68: Ruy Lopez: Exchange Variation, sidelines} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {
Standard opening moves for Ruy Lopez} 4. Bxc6 dxc6 {W plays the exhange
version, exchanging a Bishop for Knight, leaving Black with the Bishop pair}
5. Nc3 Bc5 {Blk attacks the KB2 square since the only defender is the King} 6.
d3 Qe7 7. Be3 {W seeks to exchange bishops, thereby canceling the Black
threat.} Nf6 8. Bxc5 Qxc5 {Since Black refused the proffered exchange, W
initiated the bishop exchange. Now, however, Black seemingly stands better
having a Queen replacing the Bishop, and a Knight bearing down on the center.}
9. Qd2 {W defends the weak KB2 square as well as allowing either Queen or King
side castling.} Bg4 {Black develops his Bishop by pinning the Kt, but there is
nothing to pin. This would be an excellent move in most circumstances, but
here the move signals that Black does not have a strategy. White will
immediately attack.} 10. d4 Qb4 11. Nxe5 {Since the Knight was never really
pinned, the Knight now occupies central terrain. Black will need to move his
hapless Bishop yet another time. However, before he does, Black will initiate
an attack on the center by castling Q-side. On first appearances, this
seems like a good move, but what Black ignores is the open A7 -E3 diagonal.
Black thinks he is attacking, but he has created a weakness in his lines.}
O-O-O 12. O-O Rxd4 {W ignores the Black threat and castles, ceding the
central Q-pawn to Black. The weakness, however, is that Black now occupies
a central square with a Rook. White has the advantage in a closed skirmish, having
both knights.} 13. Qe3 Be6 {W occupies the crucial diagonal while attacking
the Rook. Black moves the hapless Bishop yet a second time. The game is
now lost for Black.} 14. Nd5 {The White Knight threatens the Queen, but there is
an additional threat as well: White can next threaten both Queen and Rook by a
pawn fork on C3. If Black merely captures the Knight with either Bishop or
Knight, White will unleash the pawn fork against Queen and Rook.} Qc5 {Black
sees the danger and retreats his Queen, thereby protecting the Rook and the
vulnerable diagonal. The retreat will not work.} 15. Qxd4 $3 {a sacrifice
that destroys the opponent} Qxd4 {Black must recapture, but in so doing he
allows the two centrally positioned Knights to spring into action.} 16. Ne7+ {Black must move his King, but whether Black
moves left or right, the result will be the same. In either case, both
Queen and King will be on a dark square.} Kb8 17. N7xc6+ $1 {a brilliant end} bxc6 {Black must
capture the Knight or lose his Queen.} 18. Nxc6+ {The second Knight now
unleashes its attack, forking both Queen and King. The battle is over.
On the next move the Knight will capture the Queen leaving White with a
decisive advantage both in pieces as well as a pawn advantage. Two Rooks and
a Knight versus a single Rook, Knight, Bishop; 7 pawns versus 5 pawns.} 1-0


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