It Happened In 1997

The FoulA sharp report erupts as two pieces of hardened plastic clash together. A dull thud follows as one body disappears into another. One man grunts at the impact. The other grimaces and a forced scream escapes from his lips. The shrill sound of a whistle cuts through the air before the heaping mass even hits the turf. A player with a navy blue jersey then gets up, brushes off the front of his white nylon shorts with both hands—and walks away. Yellow jerseys crowd around another man who is laying face down on the short-cut green grass—slowly rocking side-to-side. A figure dressed in a tight black shirt and shorts runs up and comes to an abrupt stop in front of the group. With his right arm straight and rigid by his side, this man raises his left one toward the goal of the French team.

See What Is There

The players quickly disperse and the man on the ground has vanished in their midst. A ball is rolled to the spot where he fell. There waiting, is a short athletic man with a shaved head. Sky blue shorts complement his yellow jersey which says CARLOS on the back. He bends over and spins the black and white leather ball between his open hands. Just ten steps in front of him, four men are being directed into position by yells from the goalkeeper. Standing in the goal with half of his face obscured by the left post, he gripped the smooth white pole with one glove covered hand as he was rapidly waving the other to his right.

Thirty-five meters from the goal—with the ball perched on the ground—the Brazilian known as Roberto Carlos straightens up with a focused look in his eyes. The four men in front of him are standing shoulder to shoulder; and to their right, in front of his net— the goalkeeper. He was leaning forward, with knees bent and his padded gloves turned outward at chest level. Roberto backs up, stopping when he crosses the midfield line.

The stadium on the outskirts of Paris has a large crowd on hand, the air is thick and a haze hangs over the field. The smell of burnt gunpowder lingers from flares lit in earlier celebrations, but at the moment only an occasional murmur is heard. The fans look at each other—one is shaking his head, another shrugs his shoulders, and a third looks to the scoreboard. The referee blows his whistle, and Carlos explodes off of the midfield line. He reaches the ball in a dead sprint and with a mighty heave of his left leg the ball is launched like a missile to the outside of the four man wall. Watch Roberto Carlos FreekickIt is more than a meter clear of the left goal post as it passes them, when all of a sudden it starts bending back towards the net. It glances off of the post and into the goal just as the keeper is starting to stand up from his crouched position.

Make It So

Roberto Carlos found the tiniest weakness in the French defense and capitalized on it for his team. The goal keeper stood centered in his goal, depending on the four man wall to obstruct the path to the goal. Unfortunately this also blocked his view of the ball long enough to render him irrelevant. This combined with the imagination and accuracy of a soccer legend and master, resulted in one of the greatest goals in the recorded history of the sport.

The situation also occurs on the chessboard in several different ways. From the perspective of the player defending a position, it is easy to convince one-self that all the angles are covered. But it is often the very coverage set in place that constitutes the weakness. A pawn protecting two pieces that are both under attack, a knight that will be pinned—to blocking for the King—following an exchange on the same line; and too many pieces of high value guarding minor pieces and pawns.

However, the weaknesses of a position are of little consequence if the attacker does not have the ability to sniff them out and exploit them for his own benefit. Strategy and tactics are two of the weak areas for beginner and medium chess players. One tool that can help with this is looking at your opponent’s position as is, and then determining where you would place your pieces to win the game. When you do this, mentally superimpose all the pieces necessary to the right spots. Now that you know what it will take, you can figure out your strategy to reach the intended goal. The tactics will supplement whatever strategy you choose. In rare occasions you may sacrifice material, but most of the time your objective is to find ways to misdirect your opponent while furthering your own plan.

Fabien Bartez

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