In their heart of hearts, even the most sophisticated players would prefer to execute a rattling good attack leading to a scintillating checkmate. Leave aside all those Magnus Carlsen-like positional grinds, the subtle art of the endgame and the nuances of some fiendish mainline Sicilian labyrinth with a new silicon-crunched twist at move 33 or so - because, after all, Nigel Short had it right when he told us to ignore about all of this, with his assertion “Forget it, Checkmate ends the game.”
And with this in mind, I was recently reacquainting myself with a golden oldie but excellent work from the legendary Dutch GM and author Jan Timman, namely his 2006 tome On the Attack: The Art of Attacking Chess According to the Modern Masters, where he forensically - and somewhat entertainingly and instructively - analyses the attacking style of 11 modern masters in the era before the rise of Carlsen, with a kaleidoscope of attacking gems ranging in style from Anand and Karpov to Shirov and Kasparov, and found a common thread in their play:
“Interestingly, while there are differences between the players’ styles,” Timman writes, "when it comes to ‘hitting home,’ there are more similarities than differences between them. The reason for this is precisely because they all know very well how to meet the demands of the position.”
And in today’s digital era with the Internet providing almost blanket coverage and availability of top chess tournaments, we can see many examples as Timman notes of one player ‘hitting home’ with the attack because they know the demands needed in a certain position.
And an ‘On the Attack’ brevity features in today's game, played in mid-April in a very strong Russian tournament, that was perhaps overlooked amongst the wash of all the top-class action over the summer.
GM Alexei Bezgodov - GM Igor Lysyj
Sergievskiy Memorial Rapid, (3)
French Defence, Burn Variation
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 The Burn variation, named after the English ‘Bulldog’ master Amos Burn (1848-1925) - one of the world's leading players towards the end of the 19th century - is supposedly one of Black's most solid variations, yet paradoxically it offers White the chance to go on the attack with auto-pilot. 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Qd2 b6 Black has to proceed with caution, as 8...Nd7 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Bd3 b6 11.Neg5 h6 12.Bh7+ Kh8 13.Be4 hxg5 14.g4! led to disaster in a famous and very instructive Judit Polgar attacking game. 9.0-0-0 Bb7 10.Bd3 Nd7 11.h4 Be7 12.Qf4 Qb8? The latest wrinkle, Black having previously tried 12...c5!? 13.dxc5 Qb8!? with some success with his active pieces and bishop-pair giving excellent compensation for the pawn. Unfortunately for the normally reliable Lysyj, his opponent finds a complete refutation over the board. 13.Neg5 Nf6 14.Ne5 c5 15.Rh3! (See Diagram) Not looking for any niceties nor positional squeezes, White cuts directly to the chase - and the chase being his opponent's king! 15...cxd4 16.Rg3! Qc7 With so many attacking pieces swarming around his king, Black is already in dire straits, for example, 16...h6 17.Bh7+!! Kh8 18.Re1! Qe8 19.Ngxf7+ Rxf7 (19...Kxh7 20.Rxg7+!!) 20.Bg6! with resignation not far off now. 17.Kb1! In the heat of the battle, White is careful to take this time-out with his safety-first move and not to rush into it, and perhaps falling for 17.Nxh7 Nxh7 18.Qh6 Bg5+! where White's attack backfires dramatically. However, that said, White did have the strong option of 17.Bxh7+! Nxh7 18.Ngxf7 with the huge and threat of 19.Nh6+ Kh8 Ng6 checkmate! 17...Rac8 18.Nxh7! Nxh7 19.Qh6! 1-0