Interpretation of chess moves

Some time ago, we published an article about stress during a chess game and lots more. It was prepared by Srikanth, a professional chess player and a friend of the RCA Academy Manager. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Today, I’d like to publish another article for you prepared by Srikanth. It is called “Interpretation of chess moves”. So, let’s go! :)
Interpretation of chess moves

“I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose” – Charlie Chaplin

“All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth” – Friedrich Nietszche

There is a certain ambiguity in the word “power” used in the aforesaid quote; it has value in that particular viewpoint of the great German philosopher but gets blurred when extrapolated to other subjects. But there lies great value in the concluding expression “not truth”, for generally it is assumed that we are searching for truth in whatever we do; still, where there is subjectivity, truth is rendered a far-fetched ideal.

Therefore, interpretation of chess moves cannot be done with certainty to find the truth, as the game itself is not an act of seeking perfection; perhaps it is only exploring the limits of the human mind and thinking.
Illusion in chessHence, as that great man Charlie Chaplin said, it does not require any additional interpretation beyond what the creators of a game have to say. But in the absence of revelation of what’s in their minds, interpretation becomes imperative in this beautiful game of chess, in order to find out “why”. Not so much to educate the uninitiated, but more to entertain, for a game of chess is a celebration!

As a prelude, let me commence this article with an all too well known position which was recently refreshed in the chess public’s mind with the release of the movie “Pawn Sacrifice“!

Boris Spassky – R.J. Fischer
WC, 1972
Boris Spassky vs Bobby Fischer
White to play

Fischer has just played 29…Bxh2?? – a famous position and infamous beginner’s blunder!

CHOD Alexander wrote: “Most blunders are either the result of time pressure, failure to observe some not quite obvious resource or of some kind of momentary mental black-out leading, for example, to playing two moves in the wrong order.

Fischer comes under none of these headings; under no time pressure, in a very simple position, he adopts a beginner’s plan which loses a piece in an absolutely standard way with which any club player of moderate strength is completely familiar. Until Fischer tells us how it happened, I don’t think anyone will explain it”.
Boris Spassky vs Bobby FischerOf course, a move as radical as this cannot explain itself – nor it is possible to interpret.

But in this current series of articles, where some of the games are from the recently concluded World Rapid Chess, we have at least one explanation for the inappropriate choice of move (I wish to use this expression often instead of mistake) – time. And if we are lucky, we shall ‘discover’ more!

What I’ve tried to do is find a pair for each game, to make it more meaningful.

Daniil Dubov – Vishy Anand
World Rapid, 2015
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play

The two “ii-ed” Daniil has just given check – 27.Ng6+, dropping his knight on those weak light squares in Black’s camp. Vishy’s king has three squares, one of which is inappropriate, 27…Kg7?

And this is it! If not for anything else, it allowed White a clear plan of action, with the knight enjoying its leaps in the opponent’s camp … four times out of the next five moves!

Why Kg7 and why not Ke8 or Kf7? Is it because they too are light squares, a consideration that outweighed the sortie by White’s knight into opposition territory to create a ruckus!?

Whether Ke8 or Kf7 would have held the position is not certain, but it would definitely have been a lengthy process for White to press home his edge. First of all, he has the necessity of securing his knight on that fine outpost – it’s not every day that it gets to reach and implant itself that far into the enemy camp – so as to relieve his queen and bishop from the task of defending the g6 square it occupies!

I am rather more interested in the creation of that weak square.
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play

White has just played 16.g4?! which would be considered blasphemous in the classical school! Disgusting as it may look, it still has a ‘threat’ and, in a limited timeframe, may even look real and perhaps unduly magnified!


Vishy would never even have imagined this move in normal time control and would have played a move like, say 16…Bc7! – a central action that is the classical retort to a premature wing overture. Who said a central action means only a pawn push: in the absence of a central pawn thrust, a move that destabilizes the opponent’s center is also a counter to a premature wing thrust!

The move 16.g4 weakened the light diagonal and its occupants – the knights on f3 and e4 – whose assistance in the kingside attack was envisaged by White. And the move 16.Bc7 aims at a knight jump to e5, undermining the f3-knight and putting his light-squared bishop on c6 to exploit the weakness created by the move g4.

Further to this, White even managed to exchange Black’s light-squared bishop which would have helped defend the light squares… leading to the following position (based on what we saw above); and the end came quicker after Anand allowed28.Ne7.
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play
For those who haven’t seen the finish, here it is…

28…Qh8 29.Nc8! Bc7 30.Na7 Kf7 31.Qd4 Qf8
Interpretation of chess moves
White to play

32.Nc8 Qe8 33.Qe4 Qg8 34.Qd4 Qe8 35.Nd6 Bd6 36.Qd6 Qe7 37.Qd4 Qc7
Interpretation of chess moves
White to play

38.Qe4 Qc1+ 39.Kg2 Qb2 40.Qh7+ Kf8 41.Bg6 Qb6 42.Qh6+ 1-0

Let’s continue with this article.

Chess is similar to a real battlefield:

  • you need to take care of your terrain – creating no weakness or at least covering it with the help of your pieces at appropriate times
  • you need to create weaknesses or instigate the opponent to commit one, and attack it relentlessly
  • you need to deploy forces in doing the above and, at times, give up material as part of your plan
  • you need to be very careful with the deployment of your pieces, pawns in particular, as they have lot of limitations imposed on them!
Chess BattlesWe shall come to the aspect of transactions in chess, which is the pivotal factor in determining the course of struggle, in a separate series of articles.

Now consider the following position:

Vishy Anand – Salem A.R. Saleh
World Rapid, 2015
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play

If it was lack of control over the light squares that brought about Vishy’s downfall in the previous game, it is control over the light squares that has salvaged the game for him here!

In the above position, Black appears to be on the brink of getting decimated on the kingside. He needs to do something urgently on the other side (as you cannot do much to prevent or stall such an avalanche of pawns and any move of the pawns in front of the king will precipitate matters immediately!) to divert White’s attention and prevent him from carrying out his plan of ripping apart  the king’s cover.

Time: on occasions, this becomes the single factor that will decide the issue. And even if you do not always pay heed to it consciously, it is one of the three fundamental forces of chess, viz. time, space, and material in that order (though I considerpsychology as the fourth and most important force, or even a dimension, which plays a major role in particular after one becomes a master!)


A typical Sicilian motif! Black throws caution to the wind on this side of the board, where Vishy has his king. A threat at all costs is the motto! The move played threatens a simple 26…bxa2 and therefore…
Interpretation of chess moves
White to play
26.axb3 Nb4

There is no immediate threat; but who can withstand a knight sitting on that square and targeting c2 which shields the monarch? It has to be disturbed…

27.Nd3 – can you fault this human move, which does what we said above and defends the pawn on f5 at one stroke!? Yet…

27…a4!! This romantic move finds fault with 27.Nd3?!
Interpretation of chess moves
White to play

The drowning man clutches at the last straw. And as it is right to offer a ‘salam’ to Salem for spotting this fine move, we have no right to find fault with White for not spotting this one and, therefore, the need to have found a better alternative to 27.Nd3. Here lies the beauty of this game!

Black’s job is over after spotting this fine move which restores equilibrium; but White’s challenge begins and the key lies in not slipping off while tightrope walking – which Vishy does to perfection. In the reminder of this game, he finds the only move on every occasion in a time skirmish!

28.Nxb4 Rxb4 29.bxa4 Rxa4 30.b3!!
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play

When the game was going on live, many eyes would have popped out of their sockets at seeing the “blunder” this move represented – allowing Black’s rook into a2 and the queen to c3 with a near mate! Yet for Vishy the magician, these are just a stroll in the park!

From now on, every Black move comes with the threat of mate and every White move thwarts it!!

30.Ra2 31.Kb1 Qc3 32.Kxa2 Bxf5 33.Bg2! Bxc2 34.Rb1 Rb8 35.Qf3!!
Interpretation of chess moves
Black to play

Certainly not the easiest move to find over the board! Vishy is a great conjurer and it’s on his radar first that such moves appear as a blip!

35…Qd2 36.Ka3! Qb4 37.Ka2 Qd2 38.Ka3 Bxb1 39.Rxb1 Qa5+ 40.Kb2 Qd2 41.Ka3 Qa5+ ½ ½

You can check all the complete games here.

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