Hedgehog Decision

Kramnik-Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2008. Position after 16.Rook-ac1.
Black to move.
Black has to make an important decision about which direction he should take.
Line 1) He can play 17…Queen-a8 and follow-up with a minority attack with …b5.
White to move.
For example, 17.King-g1 b5 18.Knight-f3 b-captures-c4 19.Rook-captures-c4 d5 20.Knight-c5 Rook-d8 21.Rook-cc1 Knight-f6 Ø. We reach the following position:
White to move.
Line 2) He can play 17…Knight-c7 which protects the e6-pawn and therefore prepares …f5.
White to move.
For example, 17.Knight-f3 f5 18.Knight-c3 g5 19.Queen-d2 g4 20.Knight-e1 Bishop-g5 21.e3. We reach the following position:
Black to play.
Which direction is superior, Line 1 or Line 2?

Line 1

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s a6-pawn is isolated
  • black’s queen is badly placed
  • black’s bishop is good
  • white’s pawns are better
  • white’s pieces are better

Flexibility

  • black’s central pawns are immobilized

Mobility

  • black has misplaced his queen
  • black has hurt his pawn structure
  • white's pieces have improved

Line 2

Black to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s c7-knight is badly placed
  • black’s king is slightly exposed
  • black’s d6-pawn is backward
  • black has space in the center and on the kingside
  • white’s pieces are passive
  • white’s king is slightly exposed

Flexibility

  • black has two duos
  • his knights can be maneuvered to e4 and f3

Mobility

  • black has increased his space and damaged white’s pieces
Line 2 is the better direction.
Black to move.

Shabalov-Shirov Gambit Decision

Carlsen-Anand, Linares 2009. Position after 11.h3.
Black to move.
Black has to make an important decision about which direction he should take.
Line 1) He can play 11…Bishop-d7 and follow up with castling queenside.
White to move.
For example, 12.Bishop-g2 Queen-h5 13.e4 d-captures-e4 14.Rook-g5 Queen-h4 15.Knight-captures-e4 Knight-captures-e4 16.Queen-e4-check Queen-captures-e4-check 17.Bishop-captures-e4 O-O-O. We reach the following position:
White to move.
Line 2) He can play 11…Queen-f5 which threatens the white queen and aims to quell white’s activity by going into an endgame.
White to move.
For example, 12.Queen-captures-f5 e-captures-f5 13.c-captures-d5 c-captures-d5 14. Knight-b5 Bishop-b4-check 15.Bishop-d2 Bishop-captures-d2-check 16.King-captures-d2 King-e7. We reach the following position:
White to play.
Which direction is superior, Line 1 or Line 2?

Line 1

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s d7-bishop is bad
  • black’s pawns are better
  • white’s d4-pawn is underprotected

Mobility

  • black has less space
  • black's pieces are more coordinated
  • black's pawn structure remains good

Line 2

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s bishop is bad
  • back’s f-pawns are shielded doubled isolated
  • white’s pieces are better
  • white’s bishop is good

Mobility

  • black has hurt his pawn structure
  • black's king is safe and active
  • black has space
Line 1 is the better direction.
White to move.

Offbeat Moscow Decision

Carlsen-Topalov, Sofia 2009. Position after 14.Bishop-d3.
Black to move.
Black has to make an important decision about which direction he should take.
Line 1) He can play 14…Rook-b8 and follow up with …c5, trying to rid himself of the backward c6-pawn and open lines on the queenside as quickly as possible.
White to move.
For example, 15.Bishop-e4 c5 16.Knight-captures-b5 Bishop-a6 17.a4 c-captures-d4. We reach the following position:
White to move.
Line 2) He can play 14…Bishop-b7 and continue with schematic development before creating any committal pawn duels.
White to move.
For example, 15.Bishop-e4 Rook-fd8 16.Rook-ac1 Rook-ab8 17.Rook-fd1 a6 18.h4. We reach the following position:
Black to move.
Which direction is superior, Line 1 or Line 2?

Line 1

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • black has the bishop pair in an open position
  • black's pieces are more active
  • white has a material advantage

Mobility

  • black's pieces are much more active
  • white has a material advantage

Line 2

Black to move.

Vulnerability

  • white's pieces are better
  • white has a space advantage
  • black has the bishop pair in a closed position
  • black has a backward pawn on c6
  • white has a backward pawn on d4

Flexibility

  • white has potential duel on h5

Mobility

  • black has improved his pieces
  • white continues to have a space advantage
Line 1 is the better direction.
White to move.

A good threat?

Petrosian-Portisch, Palma de Mallorca 2009. Position after 21.Rook-captures-c1.
Black to move.
Black has to make an important decision about which direction he should take.
Line 1) He can play 21…Queen-e7 and follow up with …Qb4, shuffling the queen back and forth.
White to move.
For example, 22.Rook-c3 Queen-b4. We reach the following position:
White to move.
Line 2) He can play 21…Queen-f4 and continue with schematic development before creating any committal pawn duels.
White to move.
For example, 22.g-captures-f4 Knight-captures-f4-check 23.King-g3 Knight-captures-d3 24.Rook-c3 Knight-b4 25.a3 Knight-a6 24.b4. We reach the following position:
Black to move.
Which direction is superior, Line 1 or Line 2?

Line 1

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • white controls the c-file
  • white has a pseudo-outpost on e5

Mobility

  • black remains passive
  • white cannot make progress easily

Line 2

Black to move.

Vulnerability

  • white controls the c-file
  • white’s king is stronger than black’s
  • white has a pseudo-outpost on e5
  • white’s pieces are much better
  • black has a material advantage
  • black's a6-knight is badly placed

Flexibility

  • white can occupy the pseudo-outpost with his king or knight
  • white’s king can attack all three of black’s pawn islands

Mobility

  • black has won material but he is extremely passive and suffers from severe impotency
Line 1 is the better direction.
White to move.

Tarrasch French Decision

Karpov-Uhlmann, Madrid 1973. Position after 12.Bishop-e2.
Black to move.
Black has to make an important decision about which direction he should take.
Line 1) He can play 12…Bishop-h5 and follow up with …Bg6 after white plays Nd4 to keep his light-squared bishop.
White to move.
For example, 13.Rook-e1 Queen-b6 14.Knight-fd4 Bishop-g6 15.c3 Rook-fe8 16.Bishop-f1. We reach the following position:
White to move.
Line 2) He can play 12…Rook-e8 and continue development and when white plays Nd4 he can exchange his light-squared bishop for white’s light-squared bishop.
White to move.
For example, 13.Rook-e1 Queen-b6 14.Knight-fd4 Bishop-captures-e2 15.Rook-captures-e2 Bishop-e5. We reach the following position:
Black to move.
Which direction is superior, Line 1 or Line 2?

Line 1

White to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s d5-pawn is isolated
  • black’s g6-bishop is bad
  • black’s pieces are slightly better
  • white’s structure is better

Flexibility

  • white welcomes an endgame

Mobility

  • black has improved his pieces

Line 2

Black to move.

Vulnerability

  • black’s d5-pawn is isolated
  • black’s pieces are better
  • white’s structure is better

Flexibility

  • white welcomes an endgame

Mobility

  • black has improved his pieces
  • black has gotten rid of his bad bishop
Line 2 is the better direction.
White to move.