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Tactics from Robert Byrne's Games - Part I

User Rating: / 3
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
by GM Kevin Spraggett
Warning: his
blog is amazing, but some of the content is parental advisory

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Today I begin a small series of daily blog articles on examples of the kind of tactics that one can find in Robert's games.  Curiously, Byrne's classical style of play was not conducive to tactical explosions. Instead, what one finds are numerous examples of well played, text-book-quality attacking games that do not have the need for such brutal finishes.

Though he preferred to attack when he could, Robert's attacks were more often based on disciplined method: built up with Capablanca-like manoeuvring and then  executed with Botvinnik-like logic .  As such, the student can learn a great deal by playing over Byrne's games.

Tactical play arises in the games of Byrne--it seems to me-- more often by accident than by design.  Almost as though they come as a surprise as well as an annoyance at the same time!  Perhaps this explains why there are as many examples on record of Byrne being the victim of tactical combinations as the contrary.  One needs only remember the brilliancy prize game with Bobby Fischer from the US championship in 1963...

This is not to say that Byrne could not be as flashy a tactician as, say for example, Tal, (see this game for example) and he could certainly keep up with any grandmaster in terms of calculation and accuracy.  But what I want to convey is that for Byrne a well played game did not need to get into messy tactics.  If for Tal tactical combinations were as natural as a baby's smile, they were not for Byrne.  Tactical combinations were at times a bit foreign to his way of seeing the game of chess...and they involved more work   and needed to be learned...


"The hardest facet of chess to grasp, not only for the beginner but also for the master, is combinations. Unlike strategy, which is describable in terms of abstract principles, combinations do not generally appear in repeatable patterns.

It is quite true that developing an eye for combinations is as much a visual matter as learning the moves of the pieces. Combinations are complex sequences of elementary tactics, often branching out in many directions. Because they are so concrete, so germane to the specific positions in which they occur, they must be learned by example."

Example 1

Byrne, R - Bachmann, Helsinki, 1952
White to play and win (answers at bottom)

A typical example on the theme of the over-worked piece.  The Rook on c6-seems well defended but this is not true: the pawn on b7 mostly serves to prevent the Rook from penetrating on b8.  And the Queen on e7 must both guard b7 and the pawn on g5.  Something must give...this is an excellent example of pure calculation.

Example 2

Byrne, R - Ault, R, New York, 1959
White to play and win (answers at bottom)

Once more the theme of the overworked piece. The Queen must guard the pawn on e5 as well as the Bishop on d8.

Example 3

Byrne, R - Taimanov, Leningrad Interzonal, 1973
White to play and win (answers at bottom)

From the Leningrad Interzonal,1973, where Byrne first qualified for the Candidates.  Here the theme is family fork:  the Black Queen and Rook on b8 are a Knight's fork away...

A more complicated combination

Example 4

Benko - Byrne, R, San Juan, 1965

Benko was always a difficult opponent.  Byrne has been slowly outplayed and finds himself in a critical position.  If he now moves his Knight to a5 (32...Na5) then White wins with 33.Bd5! with many threats.  For example, 33...Bc6  34.Qxa5!!.
Probably best is 32...Qh4!?, hoping for 33.Rxb7?  Rxg2! or 33.Bxb7? RxB!.  In that case, Benko should play 33.Qd2!, when Black has no good move and must shed a pawn or two...with correct play White must win.
Therefore Byrne decides to play all or nothing:  he sets up a diabolical trap, but unfortunately it is  something that Benko sees thru:


Offering the Knight on b7 as bait.  Should White not take it (33.Rg1 or 33.Qd2) then 33...Nd8! and Black is better off than in the previous note.  HOWEVER, Benko decides to fall into Byrne's trap...


Now if 34.RxR? then 34...Bc6+ and Black wins!

34.Rg1! Bc6+!

The whole point of Byrne's play! If now 35.Nf3? Rb1!! and Black wins


Crossing Byrne's plans and the refutation to his diabolical trap!
35...Bxe4+ 36.Nf3  1-0. 

Now 36...Rb1 is met simply with 37.RxR and the Knight on f3 is defended by the Queen!  




Byrne R--Bachmann P:  38.Rxb7!! Qxb7 39.Qxg5+ Rg7 ( 39...Kf8 40.Qd8+ Kg7 41.Qf6+ Kg8 42.Qg6+ Kh8 ) 40.Qd8+ Kf7 41.Rh6! etc.  etc


Byrne RAult,R:    30.RxB!  1-0  After 30QxR  31.Qxe5 is lethal


Byrne RTaimanov,M:    26.Nc5!! winning material in every variation.  Black could find nothing better than 26PxN  27.Rd7! (the point) 27QxR  28.RxQ  but the position is a simple technical win for White.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 April 2013 )
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