Sunday, May 31, 2009

Black Blunders in the Blackmar

by Niels Jørgen Jensen

Over the years Niels Jørgen Jensen, of Copenhagen, contributed many articles and games to BDG World. Here is his first article we published, from the January/February issue of our third year, 1985.
We all know that if we let our opponent face a BDG we are more likely to finish him off quickly and brutally than if we play another opening, say the Queen's Gambit. Why is that so? What is it in the BDG that literally provokes our opponent to commit blunders? Well, to a certain extent it can be explained.

If we accept the fact that blunders do not appear totally haphazardly, it becomes clear that the answer must be closely connected to psychology. Chess is a mental struggle, and so chess blunders must be looked upon as psychological phenomena. Let us take a look at various categories of black faults and try to explain them. First, a game as study material:

Niels Jørgen Jensen - Steen Lynesskjold
Team Match, 1984
BDG (from Caro-Kann)

1.d4 d5 2.e4 Here my opponent sighed, "Blackmar-Diemer," thought for about five minutes, shook his head determinedly and played: 2...c6 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.f3 And now he realized that he had been fooled. Ten minutes thought. 5...exf3 6.Nxf3


6...e6 [Some people just don't play the obvious: 6...Bf5 ] 7.0-0 b5 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.Qe1


Preparing for Qg3 or Qh4. I wouldn't develop my Bc1 until Black had had his chance to misplace his Bf8. 9...Be7 10.Ng5 b4 11.Nce4 a5 12.Nxf7 Kxf7 13.Ng5+ Ke8 14.Qxe6 Rf8 15.Nxh7 1-0


As you will admit, Black defended poorly. However, he is no weak player, and his weak moves do not occur incidentally but--as we shall see--can be psychologically explained.

In his excellent book, Psychology in Chess, the Russian GM Krogius distinguishes between three different types of blunders, which are all present in the above game:

1. The forward image occurs when the player transfers positions reached in his calculations or moves which have not yet been played to the actual position on the board. As Krogius expresses it: “The future possibilities become an obsession and are treated as real factors in the assessment of the current position.” Thus the player in whom a forward image has arisen tends to exaggerate threats. In the game above, the move 6…e6? is the result of such a forward image. Black knows that the BDG is a very sharp opening, he may fear a Bxf7+, and in his imagination he already sees an overwhelming attack with Ng5+ and Qf3--moves which in his mind are accepted as real. Perhaps he also sees the "ghosts" 6…Bg4? 7.Ne5 or 6…Bf5 7.0-0 followed by Ng5/Nxf7/Rxf5. At any rate, he decides on the "safe" 6…e6?, preventing the impossible sacrifice on f7. If you search your BDG literature (Freidl II, e.g.), you will find several similar moves, indicating that we are dealing with a common psychological pattern.

2. The retained image is the opposite of the forward image. Whereas the forward image leads to exaggerations of future possibilities, the retained image tends to narrow down the perception of the chess player, who plans his moves from a starting point which has become static, thus repressing the dynamic aspects of the position.
I think Krogius's retained image should be divided into two distinct subcategories:
a) Positions or possibilities previous in the game still influence the player's perception of the actual position on the board. After my game with Lynesskjold, he told me that he had not seen the possibility of 12.Nxf7 at all, a statement which at first seems amazing--after all Nxf7 is probably the most evident move in the entire game, so how could he miss it? The answer is really simple: once he had seen the possibility of a sacrifice on f7 (namely Bxf7), he had prevented it by 6 … e6. Furthermore, with 7 … b5 he had driven away the Bishop from the diagonal, so from moves 7 -12 in his mind a sacrifice on f7 was impossible. The board had changed, but the idea that a sacrifice had been prevented remained. As Krogius expresses it: “In this way the past continues its activity into the present to the extent of edging out reality.”
b) Elements in the position on the board become static and are transferred in an unaltered form to future lines reached in calculation. An example of this kind of retained image is found in the following game:
Jan Sandahl – Emborg
Denmark, 1984
Lemberger Counter Gambit

1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nxe4 Qxd4 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Qb6 7.0-0 Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nd4 10.Qh5 Bd6 11.Be3

11...Qc6? 12.Bxd4 exd4 13.Bb5 1-0

The blunder 11 … Qc6? can only be explained by the second type of the retained image: the e5-pawn firmly separates the Qh5 from the crucial square b5 and blocks Black's imagination of the possibilities after a possible removal of the pawn.

3. Krogius's third category of faults arises from the recalled inert image. This image may arise when a player, trying to carry out a plan, fails to realize that the position on the board might have changed in a way which was not foreseen. The player fails to notice the dynamic powers of the position. Again as a first example my game above; after having played 6 … e6, Black must find another way to develop his Bc8, and as he finds 0-0 too dangerous before the Bd3 has been exchanged, he plans to play b4/a5/Ba6, but as he finally reaches the point where he is ready to play Ba6, the position has changed and is already lost for him.

As Krogius points out, the inert image often arises when a player is satisfied with his position and thinks that the game is already won for him. Probably this is the reason why the inert image is a very common cause for Black blunders against the BDG: one pawn up, Black often mechanically tries to exchange pieces, underestimating the dynamic power of the White position. Another example:

Erich Müller - N. J. Jensen
Correspondence, 1984/85
BDG, Euwe Defense

1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 e6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.Qd2 h6 9.Bf4 Nb4 


If this is not correct, then the frequently played 8.a3 is a waste of time. Now the first exchange costs Black a tempo. 10.0-0 Nxd3 11.cxd3 c6 12.Ne4


and now Black felt that he only had to exchange a few more pieces before winning the ending with his extra pawn, his better pawn structure, and his pair of Bishops, so he played 12...Nd5? which of course is met by 13.Ne5 Now, 13 ... Nxf4 14.Qxf4 would be suicide, and the only move preventing an immediate disaster is the sad retreat 13...Nf6 but after 14.Qf2 White has a tremendous position.

Now we have examined some types of blunders, but we still have to explain why these blunders should be provoked by the BDG more than by most other openings. The answer to that, I think, is closely connected to the question: what makes some players better than others? One answer could be (Hartston / Wasen: The Psychology of Chess, p.55): "The skill of a master is assumed to be basically one of 'pattern recognition'" (rather than a skill of calculating many moves ahead/njj). The consequences of this are met in the highly recommended book, Chess for Tigers, by Simon Webb, where the author advises (p. 40) how one should play against "Heffalurnps" (very strong players): "Randomize! … so if you see a line which is difficult to judge, give it a try." (i.e., positions. where your opponent. cannot see any "normal" patterns/njj). "The sorts of positions which are particularly difficult to judge are those with a material imbalance, such as queen for two rooks, two minor pieces for a rook, the exchange for a pawn or two." In this category would also belong positions with initiative for a pawn, a strong attack for a piece, etc.--in short, the BDG!

One more thing pulls in this same direction: as pointed out by Tarrasch, who was a doctor as well as a chess master, an unforeseen sacrifice tends to arouse a state of shock in the opponent, disturbing his ability for calm and correct calculation. This state of shock, which might arise even when the gambit pawn is offered, then increases the possibility of the fault-provoking images dealt with above, since the ability of the player to overcome the gap between the position on the board and the one reached in calculation is reduced radically when he cannot recognize his usual patterns. Accordingly, the White chances will increase, simply because sacrifices on f7, Canal mates, etc., are standard patterns of every BDG player.

So--should the BDG not be "correct" (and I believe it is!), I think that any lack of "correctness" is more than offset by the psychological advantages it gives its supporters. I am sure you agree with the German player who called the BDG “Panneverdächtig” --blunder provoking.

Play through and download PGN games here.