wpe1E1.jpg (7343 bytes)Swamp 9:
Think Like A Swampmeister

Alex Bourke, author and publisher of books like Vegetarian London, returns with the latest in his popular series of how to brighten up the London Chess League like Boris Johnson does politics. And this time you can join in!

Swamp 1Swamp2, Swamp3, Swamp4, Swamp5, Swamp6, Swamp7, Swamp8

With the end of the slow chess season giving way to a summer of coffee house and online chess, starting with the Kings Head annual Rapidplay tournament, it’s time to reset the old chess brain. With 5 or 20 minutes for all our moves, we cannot analyse every variation. Positional intuition becomes paramount, whether throwing everything and the kitchen sink into an attack, or hustling our way out of a grim position that would be totally lost under slow-play conditions. It’s time to think, play and plan like a Swampmeister!

Alex Bourke - Quah Fu Yong, Imperial College
London League Jan 2015

Now try to guess White’s moves, starting with move 1.

By the end of the game, you’ll have a feel for what in artificial intelligence is called heuristic cutoff, knowing when to stop calculating lines and go with your swampsitional evaluation or gut feel. Let’s get started.

And there will be marks, so keep a tally and at the end you'll know just how swampy is your chess! So guess move one and then scroll down.











1.e4 1 point. The most aggressive move. Also score 1 point for 1.b4. No points for 1.d4 unless you intend to follow up with 2.e4. Score 2 points if you open 1.g4, swamp chess on speed. Deduct 1 point for insipid nonsense like 1.c4 or 1.Nf3, handing the swampnitiative to Black on a plate, see Swamp6.

stop and think of the next move!









1 point. Natural seizing of space and opening lines. Also 1 point for 2.c4. No points for 1.d3 or 2.Nf3, playing safe is not an option.


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1 point. Anything else like 3.Nc3 is playing straight into his book, apart from 3.f3 (also 1 point).


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3 points. The obvious move for a Swampmeister. Black is about to play e6 and c5 to create an ultra-boring French type position and kill us down the c-file. As in the Najdorf Sicilian, White must drive home his space advantage and development at every move. 4.h4 would be blocked by 4. … h5.


stop and think of the next move!









1 point. Forced. It’s too early to be giving up whole pieces. For the moment.


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1 point. You should be getting the idea by now. A Swampmeister likes to develop pawns with tempo.


For the stronger 6. … h5 see Swamp7, Clash of the Swampmeisters.

stop and think of the next move!








1 point. Continue dominating the opponent. Score 2 bonus points if you saw that this sets up the next White move.


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5 points. This smashes White’s K-side with a bind and prepares a later piece invasion. The Bf8 wil be trapped along with the Rh8. After 8 moves we may not have moved any pieces, but we already dominate the board and, unless someone played the Latvian Gambit tonight, already have the most interesting game in the room. Score just one point for f4 or Bd3, when … e6 will seriously slow your attack. Swampmeister tip number 1: A Swampmeister plays the most aggressive move, before the opponent pre-empts it.


stop and think of the next move!








2 points. Maximise Black’s light square weakness. Add 5 points if you are already thinking about White’s 18th move. ( I’ll remind you of that when we get there.)


stop and think of the next move!






1 point. … Nd7 is a natural Caro-Kann move and then it’s Qg6 mate. Make him uneasy. Also this discourages freeing counter-sacs like … g6 or … g5.


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2 points. Preventing … Qg3+ and supporting something at f4.


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1 point. Keep your nerve. Black’s queen will be a target.

... Qxe5

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1 point. It’s too early to allow Qxb2, though a Swampmeister doesn’t shy away from saccing pieces to lure a queen well away from her king.


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1 point. Bloomin’ obvious really, continuing aggressive development. Black’s going to castle long, so let’s point something at his Q-side.


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1 point. Castling long is standard for a Swampmeister. Black is barely started on his development and his K-side can’t move. In many coiled spring openings, Black smashes open the centre and attempts to at least equalize with … d5 or … e5.


stop and think of the next move!


Steady, steady. It’s time to plan like a Swampmeister. Black is threatening to free his game. But for the moment we have all our pieces in play. If ever there was a moment to throw a grenade into his position, this is it. Kasparov says that it's ok to give up pieces as long as you have more pieces around the enemy king than he does, and can keep feeding more pieces into the meat grinder. So, how to drive forward into Black's position and maintain the initiative? Take a moment and consider White's options.






10 points. This, this is how we play swamp chess. It is also the first move a Swampmeister would consider. Opening the e-file while the Black king is still on it, hemmed in by pieces, is too tasty to pass up. Add 3 more points if you’re already thinking about a later Nxd5 and playing for mate.


stop and think of the next move!








1 point.

After 17. … Kd8 or Be7 or Ne7 Black did not like the look of moves like Ncxd5 and Ng6. I could spend time calculating these lines, but I don’t need to, because he didn’t play them. Plus White has a simpler, safe way to get back a piece anyway.

... Ne5

stop and think of the next move!









2 points. Add 2 bonus points if you saw the “windmill” 18. … Rh7 19.Nxf8 Rh8 20.Ng6. Add 5 bonus points if you were thinking about playing Nf4-g6-f8-g6 back at move 12.Ne2.

Instead 18. Ncxd5 O-O-O! is definitely worth considering in normal chess if you have plenty of time. 19.Nxf6 Rxd3 and then we need to consider 20.Nxd3, 20.Rxd3, 20.cxd3, 20.Rxe5 and 20.Nxg8, to most of which Black has at least two replies. On the other hand, if you know that the ending of rook and two minor pieces vs two rooks and minor piece is often drawn, you could save yourself the effort and just maintain the bind and the attack with simple lines. However nice it might have been to stick it in a computer afterwards and smugly publish a page of analysis to justify your move with hindsight. And what if he plays 18.Nxd5 Qg5.

Swampmeister tip number 2: Swampmeisters do love complexity, but not the risk of unnecessary complexity that might give the enemy a swindle if we miss something. Obviously if your name is Shirov, Garry or Fritz, ignore the last few sentences, as what we call chaos, you call home.


stop and think of the next move!









3 points. 3 points. Preserving the dynamic knight, the bind and the initiative, and removing Black’s best piece. After 19.Rxe5 O-O-O Black is wriggling out of it.


Black has returned the minor piece, retained his king’s rook and got his king out of the centre. But White still dominates with full development, well placed pieces and a safe king. Keep piling it on or see it slip away.

stop and think of the next move!











2 points. Swampmeister tip number 3: The right to attack belongs only to that side which has a positional advantage, and this is not only a right, but also a duty, otherwise there is the risk of losing the advantage. The attack is to be directed against the weakest spot in the opposing position.” (Steinitz) The attack now moves to the queenside.


stop and think of the next move!







To avoid any awkward checks on the c1-h6 diagonal. There might be better moves, but the position has radically altered and I wanted a few minutes to think on his time while he’s still tied up. Swampmeister tip number 4: Don’t play forcing moves when the opponent has a lot to think about, keep him calculating to gain time. The clock is the 17th piece, if you can think on your opponent’s time, you reduce your chances of blundering whilst increasing his.


stop and think of the next move!








2 points. Take 3 points if you saw it last move. As well as restraining c5, this opens lines for rook lifts along the third rank.


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2 points. Threatening Nd7+ forking K and Q. Never miss a threat, because in the third hour of the game, he might.


24.Qxc5 Rhe8

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6 points. A Swampmeister never fails to consider a check or a sacrifice. Those kingside pawns are irrelevant when there’s a chance to pile everything onto the back rank. With the time control approaching on move 30, it’s all or nothing.


26.Rxe8 Qxf3

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2 points. 27.Qg1 would be way too wimpy. Just where does White think a passed pawn is coming from, even if he could get some heavy pieces off in a quickplay finish? Black carries on gobbling pawns for what he hopes is a winning endgame.


stop and think of the next move!









3 points. Maximum aggression. Again this is the first move a Swampmeister would look at and needs no explanation. Pile it on.


stop and think of the next move!














2 points. When leaning over the board looking for the kill on the back rank, it’s easy to forget our own first rank and get counterswamped there. Nil points for even thinking about saving the h-pawn.


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2 points.


The time control, now we have a 20 minute quickplay finish.


31.Ka2 Qxc2

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3 points, and 2 more points if you spotted that after 32. … Qc4+ 33.Kb1 Qd3+ 34.Ka1! Qd1+ 35.Ka2 Black is out of checks. 2 more bonus points if you found 34.Ka1! back on move 30. I hadn’t





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1 point.34.Qd8+ Ka6 35.Qh4 c5 does not help White. Add another point if you planned to follow 34.Qb4+ Ka6 with 35.Rc7 and then either 35. ... b5 36.Qd4 or 35. ... b6 36.a4-a5. But not 36.Qe7 Qc4+.


Black resigns.

Which is generous of him given that there are still chances of perpetual. He’s either a broken man or has lost the connection to his inner Swampmeister.

Now add up your score.

Less than 20 For heaven’s sake! Have you considered dominoes? Either grow a pair or else buy a book on the English Opening and have a nice, safe, tedious life of draws and grinding endgames. Do you really want to spend every weekend working on adjournments?

20-39 Apprentice Swampmeister You have a natural inclination for swashbuckling chess that is crying out to be developed. Start to train like a Swampmeister and up your ability to spot the sneakiest, swamptastickiest moves. Develop your swampbinational vision by reading a book on combinations, doing the daily puzzle on chess.com and watching the accompanying explanatory video. Join the Facebook page Chess Puzzle of the Day.

40-59 Candidate Swampmeister You have a solid understanding of the elements of combinations. Now you just need to perfect your ability to always think like a Swampmeister. Read chapter 6. How to trap Heffalumps in Chess For Tigers by Simon Webb, where in Browne-Taha, Skopje Olympiad 1972, a top GM gets mashed in a king hunt by an unknown Iraqi player who always plays the most aggressive, swampiest move. Stay up stupidly late playing lots of online 5-minute chess to get out of the habit of thinking too much and develop your swamp reflexes. Read Dismantling the Sicilian by GM Jesus de la Villa to expand your repertoire of brutal attacking techniques in the swampiest of openings.

60-78 Swampmeister! Congratulations. I look forward to seeing your games on here. Because no serious chess magazine will touch them.

I’ll see you at chess.com with the handle khswampy. Happy swamping!