Travail Pursuit #4: Thoughts on castling

We’re back in puzzle mode for today’s archive excerpt. Take a look at the position below and have a think about this question.
Shapland ParsonsIt’s White to move. Should he:

a.) castle queen’s side at once
b.) castle queen’s side but make some preparatory move/moves first
c.) not castle queen’s side under any circumstances

The answer is given in the game viewer below.

The decision a chess player makes about whether, when and where to castle is probably one of the most important strategic decisions they’ll make during the course of a game. It’s a move that has a significant influence on the course each individual game takes for both players. Should you commit yourself early; wait to see what your opponent does and act accordingly; or even keep your king in the centre? Whatever you decide you can be sure that your decision will have far reaching consequences. Of course the opening choice you make also has an impact on this decision and if you are properly familiar with the ideas you should have a pretty good idea of when and where to castle.

But castling is not just an important strategic moment in a game of chess. It can also be a tactical opportunity. If you’ve got a good idea where your opponent is going to castle you can sometimes prepare to try and take advantage of that. Occasionally we are guilty of castling because it’s ‘natural’ or strategically desirable and as a result we overlook it is tactically disastrous. Today’s game (played on yesterday’s date in 2010) is a perfect case in point. It’s absolutely natural and strategically desirable for White to castle queen’s side immediately in the position above. But just look what happened when I castled lazily without thinking about how my opponent might respond.

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5 Responses to “Travail Pursuit #4: Thoughts on castling”

  1. Martin Carpenter

    Apr 20. 2014

    Yikes. Hard to imagine that sort of dramatic demolition lurking in the position :)

    Is there really any reason to be aiming for o-o-o at all as white here? You’ve got a fairly safe extra pawn, and o-o helps keep the rest of the position super boring.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dave

    Apr 20. 2014

    That’s a very interesting point Martin. One of the reason’s I love chess so much is because everyone can view and interpret a position in a slightly different way. You are absolutely right to say that White could play it safe, try to keep his pawn and castle short. No reason not to. It’s not my style but it’s totally valid and one if the reasons I gave the multiple choice question the options I did. I wanted to see how others approached the decision.
    The irony is that, as a sometime Dragon player myself, if I’d been Black I think I’d have at least considered Nxe4 myself as it’s a thematic idea. Why then did I not consider it a threat with White?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Andy Bak

    May 02. 2014

    Immediately looking at the position, I thought that castling queenside looked extremely risky, but this comes after many games playing Open Sicilians with both colours.

    White hasn’t got any attack going and White is providing Black a free hand to infiltrate and get his Dragon bishop active.

    Having said that, Matthew really played the attack well and didn’t allow you much chance to defend!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Matthew Parosns

    May 13. 2014

    Interesting game that one. Forgot abot this game really.

    One of those games where i dont think the moves were too hard to find, once you see the first in the line.

    Its a good ‘find the winning move’ position, and i think most players would find ne4 there.

    Does make me realise though that david has played very differently against me with white since this game!

    Reply to this comment

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    […] Travail Pursuit #4: Thoughts on castling Yorkshire Chess We’re back in puzzle mode for today’s archive excerpt. Take a look at the position below and have a think about this question. It’s White to move. … […]

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