One of my favorite jazz artists, Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” In chess, it is quite common for the more confident player to add complications to the position in order to allow him/her more opportunities to prove superior skill. In general, this is a good strategy and oftentimes the resulting victories are praised by chess aficionados. Of course, another result is also quite possible.
In the 2017 FIDE World Cup match between Bu Xiangzhi and World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Magnus’ over complicated style with the white pieces was dealt a devastating blow by Bu’s straight forward approach as black. Magnus chose a slow developing line of the Giuoco Piano which included several slow pawn moves and piece redeployments. Bu Xiangzhi on the other hand played a fairly straight forward opening with only one cryptic move (9… Rab8.) The result of the game clearly demonstrated the dangers of being too fancy as Magnus’ 11. h3 was severely punished by a common bishop sacrifice and a very creative early advancement of the h-pawn.
As a fan of Magnus Carlsen this game was painful to watch. As a chess educator, this game is a golden opportunity to demonstrate important lessons. For this reason I am sharing my lesson plans on this game. Try pairing the moves with Charles Mingus’ “Music Written for Monterey.”