Beyond Material – Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces

Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606

From the publisher:

“Improve your ability to take calculated risks! In order to win a game of chess you very often have to sacrifice material. Gathering the courage to do so while accurately assessing the potential benefits is a real challenge. The big question is always: what’s my compensation? Generations of chess players grew up with the idea that a sacrifice was correct if the material was swiftly returned, with interest.

Almost by reflex, they spent lots of time counting, quantifying the static value of their pieces. But is that really the best way to determine the correctness of a sacrifice? In this book, Grandmaster Davorin Kuljasevic teaches you how to look beyond the material balance when you evaluate positions.

With loads of instructive examples he shows how the actual value of your pieces fluctuates during the game, depending on many non-material factors. Some of those factors are space-related, such as mobility, harmony, outposts, structures, files and diagonals. Other factors are related to time, and to the way the moves unfold: tempo, initiative, a threat, an attack. Modern chess players need to be able to suppress their need for immediate gratification.

In order to gain the upper hand you often have to live with uncertain compensation. With many fascinating examples, Kuljasevic teaches you the essential skill of taking calculated risks. After studying Beyond Material, winning games by sacrificing material will become second nature to you.”

“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”

GM Davorin Kuljasevic
GM Davorin Kuljasevic

This entertaining book is subdivided into seven chapters:

  • Chapter 1 – Attachment to material
  • Chapter 2 – Relative value of material
  • Chapter 3 – Time beats material
  • Chapter 4 – Space beats material
  • Chapter 5 – Psychology of non-materialism
  • Chapter 6 – Is it good to be greedy in chess?
  • Chapter 7 – Solutions

Each of the chapters 1 to 6 begin with an introductory section which sets the scene for the chapter: sometimes an historical angle is given or a famous player’s contribution to chess understanding is referenced or some short pithy pieces of advice are given.

The examples chosen by the author are generally from top players’ games and usually begin from a critical middlegame position. However complete games are shown where the opening is relevant to the theme. A few endgame positions are demonstrated.

Each chapter has a conclusion with a set of handy bullet points summarising some main ideas of the chapter.

Chapters 2 through to 6 have ten testing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are well worth tacking and definitely add to the book’s didactic value.

Chapter 7 gives the solutions to the exercises.

Chapter 1  Attachment to Material

Chapter 1 begins with a sage quote: “You will become a strong player once you learn how to properly sacrifice a pawn.”

One of the first examples in the chapter shows an interesting rook and pawn ending:

Alexandra Kosteniuk-Hou Yifan Nalchik Wch 2008 (6) Move 49
Alexandra Kosteniuk-Hou Yifan Wch 2008 (6) Move 48

White is three pawns up in this rook endgame. However, after 48..Rd8! it becomes clear that black’s single passed pawn is much more dangerous than white’s four passed pawns. White’s pieces are also poorly placed.

49.Rg5+ (49.a4?? trying to get white’s pawns going loses: 49…e3 50.Rg7 Kf6! 51.Rg4 e2 52.Re4 Rd1+ winning the rook and the game as white’s four pawns are no match for the rook.)

49…Kf6 50.Rc5 e3 51.Rc2 White has managed to stop the pawn but both his pieces are passive. Black advances the king to aid the pawn.

51…Kf5 52.a4 Ke4  53.Rc4+ (53. a5?? is foolish: 51…Kf3 52. a6 e2 winning) 53…Kd3 54.Rc3+ White just about grovels a draw with side checks Ke4 55.Rc4+ Kd3 56.Rc3+ Ke4 57.Rc4+ Kd3 drawn

Here is an amusing but instructive example:

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Move 29
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Move 29

White has just played 29.a6 threatening to promote the a-pawn. Black replied 29…Ra2?  (To round up the terrifying a-pawn) 30.Ra1 Rc3+ 31. 30.Rxc3 Rxa1 32.Kxd2 Rxa6 33.Ke3 draw agreed

However, black failed to realise how poorly placed the white king is and missed a brilliant win.

29…Bf4!! 30.a7 Rxf2 31.a8Q+ Kg7 White is up a queen for a bishop and pawn, but white’s king is trapped in a mating net. Black is threatening mate with Rbe2 followed by Re3# and white’s three major pieces cannot do muchabout it.

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 32
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 32

White can try:

A) 32. Qc8 preparing to defend the third rank 32…Rxg2 33.Qh3 Rxh2 34.Qf3 Rbf2 and white’s queen is trapped. Best is 35.Qxf2 Rxf2 when black has a winning endgame with B+3P for a rook. 35.Qg4 is met by 35…h5! and white’s  queen cannot defend the f3 and h3 squares anymore.

B) 32.Kc3 Rfc2+ 33.Kd3 Re2 threatening Re3# 34. Kc3 Be5+ 35.Kd3 Bd4 with 36…Re3# to follow

C) 32.Qa5 Rbe2 33.Re1 Rd2+ 34.Kc3 (34,Qxd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kc3 Rxg2 black has a winning ending) 34…Rc2+ 35.Kb3 Rb2+ 36.Ka4 (36.Kc3 Bd2+ 37.Kxb2 Bxa5+ followed by 38…Bxe1 wins) 36…Bd2! winning

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 37
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 37

Chapter 2 – Relative Value Of Material

Here is an interesting game illustrating the chapter’s theme well.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 21
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 21

White is clearly better here with more active pieces; black’s Bc6 is particularly bad. Black is solid and white is yet to break through.

21.Bxf6!! Bb6?! Winning the queen but not best. 21…Bxf6 is better. 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation Move 23
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation Move 23

White has a knight and pawn for the exchange, black has a terrible bishop, lots of weak pawns and an exposed king. However, white’s king is not totally secure.

23…Bd7! Giving up a pawn to improve the bishop and the queen 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Bxd5 Qb6+ 26.Nd4 Qg6 27,Qf4 Ra6 white is slightly better but black should hold with care.

22. Bxg7 Bxd4+ 23.Bxd4 White has just two pieces and a pawn for the queen but his pieces coordinate brilliantly, black has a terrible bishop and black’s kingside is fractured.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 23
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 23

23…h6 Stopping 24.Rg5+ but creating another target

23,,,Kf8 24.Ne3 Ra2 25.Rg5! Rxe2 26.Bc5+ Ke8 27.Rg8+ Kd7 28.Bh3+ Kc7 29.Rf8!  with a crushing attack

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 2 Move 29
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 2 Move 29

24.Rf6 Ra2 25.Rxh6 f6 26.Ne3

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 26
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 26

26…Rd2?

Better was 26…Rxe2 27.Rg6+ Kh7 28.Rxf6 Qa8! 29.Bf1 Rd2 30.Nf5 Rxd4 31.Nxd4 Be8 Black  has far better chances to draw here as white’s king is more exposed than in the game. White is better but the reviewer doubts whether white can win.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 3 Move 32
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 3 Move 32

27.Nf5 Rxd4 28.Nxd4 +- Black has no counterplay

28…Qe7 29.Kf2 Bb7 30,Bh3! Qc7 31.Be6+ Kf8

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 32
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 32

White finds an elegant tactical way to win the game

32.Rg6! Qh7 (32…Qxc3 33.Nf5! mating) 33.Rg8+ Ke7 34.Rg7+ Qxg7 35.Nf5+ Kxe6 36.Nxg7+  Ke5 37.Ke3 Bc8 38.Nh5 d4+ 39.cxd4+ Kd5 40.Nf6+ Kc4 41.d5 1-0

Chapter 3 – Time Beats Material

Here is an entertaining king hunt.

Yi – Bruzon
Danzhou 2015

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.Be2 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Be7 9.f4 d6 10.Kh1 0-0 11.Qe1 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Qg3 Bb7 14.a3 Rad8 15.Rae1 Rd7 16.Bd3 Qd8

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 17
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 17

This is a Scheveningen Sicilian with black’s rook slightly misplaced on d7.

17.Qh3 g6?! (Perhaps 17…Ne8 was less weakening, Stockfish suggests17…Re8, white is still better in both cases) 18.f5! Opening up the f-file 18…e5 19.Be3 Re8  (19…d5? fails tactically 20.exd5 Nxd5 21.Nxd5 Rxd5 22.Be4 Rd7 23.Bxb7 Rxb7 24.f6! Bxf6 25.Qf3  winning) 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.Nd5! Nxd5 (21…Bxd5 22.exd5 gives white a massive kingside attack: 22…Rb7 23.Qf3 Kg7 24.g4! Rf8 25.h4)

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 22
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 22

22.Rxf7!! Kxf7 (22…Nf6 23.Qe6! Kh8 24.Bg5 crushes) 23.Qh7+ Ke6 24.exd5+ Kxd5 25.Be4+! Kxe4

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 26
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 26

26.Qf7! (Threatening 27.Qf3#) Bf6 27.Bd2+ Kd4 28.Be3+ Ke4

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 29
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 29

29.Qb3!! Kf5 30.Rf1+ Kg4 31.Qd3! (Threatening 32.Qxg6+ and 32.Qe2+)

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 31
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 31

31…Bxg2+

31…Kh5 32.Qd1+ Kh4 33.Rf3!! closing the net around the doomed black monarch

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Variation Move 33
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Variation Move 33

32.Kxg2 Qa8+ 33.Kg1 Bg5 34.Qe2+ Kh4 35.Bf2+ Kh3 Amusing as black is threatening mate

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 36
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 36

36.Be1! 1-0 36…Qa7+ 37.Kh1 Qb7+ 38.Rf3+ Kg4 39.Qg2+ Kh5 30.Rh3+ Bh4 31.Rxh4#

Chapter 4 Space Beats Material 

Oleg Korneev – David Recuero Guerra
Spanish Championship Linares 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nd6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c3 0-0 9.Qc2 g6 10.Re1 c6 11.Bf4 Re8 12.Nbd2 Nd7 13.Nf1 Nf8 14.Ng3 Ne6 15.Bh6 Ng7 16.Qd2 Ngf5 17.Bf4 Nxg3 18.hxg3 Bg4 19.Ne5 Bf5 20.Bxf5 Nxf5 21.g4 Ng7 22.g5 Ne6 23.Ng4 Kf8

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 24
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 24

A tense middlegame from Petrov’s Defence is shown in the diagram. White’s next move removes one of black’s best pieces, secures a strong outpost on e5 and exposes black’s king somewhat.

24.Rxe6! fxe6 25.Re1 Bd6 26.Re3 (26.Be5 is also possible) Bxf4 27.Rf3 Ke7 28.Rxf4 Rf8 29.Rf6! Using the dark square outpost (29…Rxf6 30.gxf6+ the threats of Qd2-Qh6, Ng4-Ne5 and f6-f7 are too much to deal with)

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 29
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 29

Qd6 30.Ne5?! (30.Qe3 is better with a big advantage) 30…Ke8? (30…Rxf6! had to be played, 31.gxf6+ Kxf6 32.Qf4+ Kg7 33.Qf7+ Kh8 34.Qxb7 Qb8! 35.Qxc6 Qe8! and black may hold on )31.Qf4 Qe7 32.Ng4 Kd7 33.Ne5+ Ke8 34.Ng4?! (Queenside expansion with b4 followed by a4 was called for) Kd7 35.Qe3 Rae8 36.Ne5+ Kc8 37.Qf4 Qd6 38.a4! with the simple idea of a5 and a6

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 38
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 38

a6 (Now b6 is weakened) 39.a5 Qe7 40.b3! (Planning c4 and c5 to create a d6 outpost) Qd6 41.Kh2 Rd8 42.g3 Rde8 43.Kg1 Qe7?!

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 44
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 44

44.c4 dxc4 (44…Qd6 45. c5 Qe7 46.Nf7! followed by Nd6+ winning) 45.Nxc4 (The weakness on b6 is fatal) e5 46.dxe5 Kb8 47.e6+ Qc7 48.Rxf8 1-0

The key themes from this game are space and the weak colour complex in black’s position.

Chapter 5 Psychology of non-materialism

This is really good game which is a famous clash. Paul Keres had to win this game, hence his choice of an ultra sharp variation.

Paul Keres – Boris Spassky
Candidates Riga (10) 1965

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4  A good choice for a must win game c5 6.d5 0-0 7.Nf3 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.cxd5 b5!? Very aggressive: Spassky goes for a slugfest.

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 10
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 10

10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Ng4 12.Bf4 Nd7 13.e6 fxe6 (13…Nde5 is a safer option, but Spassky wants a fight) 14.dxe6 Rxf4! (14…Nb6 leads to a slight edge for white)

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 15
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 15

15.Qd5 (The point of the piece sacrifice) Kh8!  (15…Bb7 is playable as well) 16.Qxa8 Nb6

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 17
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 17

17.Qxa7 (17.Qb8 is probably better, 17…Ne3! 18.Rd1! unclear 18…Qe7 19.Rd2 Nxg2+ 20.Kf2 b4 and the game is wide open) Bxe6 18.0-0 Ne3

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 19
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 19

19.Rf2? (Best is 19.Bxb5 Nxf1 20.Rxf1 Rf7 when black has lots of play for a mere pawn) b4 20.Nb5 (20.Na4 or 20.Nd1 are still better for black) Rf7 21.Qa5 Qb8! (21…Bxb2 is also good)

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 22
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 22

22.Re1 Bd5 (Also good is 22…Ng4 23.Bf1 Bd5! 24.Rfe2 Rf8 and black has a decent attack) 23.Bf1 Nxf1 24.Rfxf1 Nc4 25.Qa6 Rf6 White’s queen is misplaced, tied to defending the knight 26.Qa4 Nxb2

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 27
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 27

27.Qc2? (Just blundering a piece,  27.Qa5 had to be played, after 27…Nd3 28. Re3 c4 29.Nc7 Bg8 black is clearly better) Qxb5 28.Re7 Nd3 29.Qe2 c4 30.Re8+ Rf8 31.Rxf8+ Bxf8 32.Ng5 Bc5+ 33.Kh1 Qd7 34.Qd2 Qe7 35.Nf3 Qe3 0-1

Chapter 6 Is It Good To Be Greedy In Chess?

The author generously gives a couple of his own games where early pawn hunting with the queen  lead to disaster. Here is one example of greed punished.

Kozul – Kuljasevic
Rijeka 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Be2 (Black was out of theory here and after 40 minutes of thought tried an attractive looking move)

Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 9
Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 9

Bb4+?  (Black thought erroneously that 10.Kf1 was forced, 9…Qa5+ 10.Nd2 Ba6 11.0-0 c5 looks ok) 10.Nd2 Qxg2?? (10…Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Qxg2 12.0-0-0 wins a pawn but white has obvious compensation) 11.Bf3 Bxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Qxf2+

Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 13
Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 13

13.Kc3! (13.Kc1? allows the queen to escape via f1 after black plays c6 & Ba6) c6 14.h4 1-0 The queen is trapped after 15.Rh2

In summary, this is a good book which demonstrates important themes in chess with some entertaining and instructive middlegames. It is aimed at 140+ players.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th July 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • Publisher:New In chess (30 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056918605
  • ISBN-13:978-9056918606
  • Product Dimensions: ‎ 16.94 x 2.13 x 23.57 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
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