Delaying The Castle

Hey guys. Some time ago Goran talked me into writing some stuff for his blog and frankly speaking I’m quite thankful to him that he did! Some of you might know me from WCN, others might know me from Chessbase, most of you probably never heard about me 🙂 In any case, this column isn’t about me, it’s about improving your understanding of chess and providing you some tools to do that!

I keep saying all the time that in order to become a decent player all you have to do is to learn basic strategic rules and to follow them (not a very easy task by itself!), however if you want to become a really good player it’s not enough just to follow the rules – it’s even more important to know how to break them at the right moment!

This statement is especially true at the era of “computer chess” when most top players have adapted a very concrete approach to the game, based mostly on a very deep calculation rather than on a pure positional play. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling to neglect learning of basic chess strategy, it’s an absolutely vital part of chess education, but you have to remain open-minded and remember that none of strategic rules stands above the Game…

One of the cornerstones of chess strategy is a fast development of the pieces and a quick castle – in most cases, it’s highly recommended (I’d even say necessary) to accomplish the development of the pieces and put a king in the safe place before starting any active operations. There are countless examples of severe punishment in case one of the sides had left his king in the center for the middlegame. However, under right circumstances, delaying castle and starting an active piece play could be very rewarding. The next game perfectly illustrates what I mean…Enjoy it!

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 0-0?!

Very risky move allowing white to start an attack right away. More solid is 5…d6.

6.e5 Ne8

This move is a bit passive. Leaving the center unchallenged for just one move gives white a chance to launch a dangerous kingside attack. On the other hand 6…Ng4 is met with 7.Ng5! Nxe5 8.f4, all of a sudden black knight is trapped in the middle of the board! 8…f6 9.Nxh7 Kxh7 10.fxe5 fxe5 11.Bd3 with fantastic attacking chances.


Intending to open up an h-file as quickly as possible. Black pieces are very passively placed so starting an active play on the kingside is perfectly justified.

7…d6 8.e6!?

Typical sacrifice for this kind of positions. White’s idea is to weaken square g6, which could be crucial after h5. Immediate 8.h5!? was deserving attention.

8…fxe6 9.h5 gxh5

This move isn’t as bad as it might look. A capture on d5 is defnitely an option, but white queen plays quite important role in the attack in that case. If 9…exd5 10.hxg6 hxg6 11.Qxd5+ e6 12.Qe4 [12.Qd3 Rf5 13.Nh4 Nc6 (13…Rh5? 14.Qxg6+-) 14.Nxf5 gxf5 15.Bh6± Yermolinsky – Khmelnitsky, Modesto 1995] 12…Rf5 13.Qg4 Bxc3+ 14.bxc3 Qf6 15.Bd3 white had strong initiative in Svidler – Malakhov, Elista 1997.


Thus far white tried only 10.Ng5, but move in the game is even more dangerous for black. 10.Ng5 exd5 11.Nxh7 Kxh7 12.Qxh5+ Kg8 13.Qh7+ Kf7 14.Bd3 Rg8 15.Nxd5 e6 16.Qh5+ Kf8 was unclear in De Vreugt – Malakhov, Lausanne 2000


This move doesn’t look good. By taking the pawn on e6 black allows his opponent to achieve pretty much anything he was hoping for. More in the spirit of the position is 10…Nf6 11.Ng5 [11.Bc4 Nc6 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.Qxd5 Qe8 14.c3 Rf6 unclear] 11…d5 with complicated struggle.

11.Ng5 Bf5?

If black’s previous move was inaccuracy, this one is decisive mistake after which nothing can save black against white’s attack over an h-file. It was necessary to play 11…Qd7 12.Qxh5 Nf6 13.Qh4 Bf5 14.Be3 Nc6 15.0-0-0 even though white has more than sufficient compensation for a pawn as black king is very vulnerable.

12.Bc4+ e6 13.Nxe6 Bxe6 14.Bxe6+ Kh8 15.Qxh5


More persistent was 15…Bxc3+!? letting the queen to protect a pawn on h7. 16.bxc3 Qe7 17.Be3 Nf6 18.Qh3 Nc6± but it would be pretty tough for black to deal with g4-g5-g6 anyways.

16.Qh3 Nbd7 17.Be3 Re8 18.0-0-0+-

White has finally accomplished development. Black is helpless against Bf5 followed by g4-g5.

18…Nf8 19.Bf5 b5 20.g4 b4 21.Na4 Rxe3 22.fxe3 Qe8 23.g5 Ng4 24.Qxg4 Qxa4 25.Bxh7! Very powerful performance by talented Russian grandmaster who died in the car accidence a couple of months ago. 1-0