Category Archives: Articles

Maroczy Bound

Chess players easily remember ideas and patterns taken from millions of games. — Vishwanathan Anand, lecturing on the role of memory in Chess at Accenture, June 12, 2012

The way we chessplayers generally teach openings is rather strange. The need for the beginner to  be aware of move-order traps leads us to present the openings as individual tracks whose identity is derived from the initial sequence of moves, whereas these tracks converge on positions whose significance to our understanding is greater than the significance of the move order that leads to them.

Some apply the term tabiya (“tableau”) used in Arabic chess manuscripts from the 11th century to these significant positions.

There are tabiyas that can be reached from either the Ruy Lopez or the Rossolimo Sicilian. There are many paths to the swath of tabiyas around the Neo-Grünfeld (D70-79) and the White fianchetto King’s Indian (E62, E64, &c.)

The Marozcy bind is perhaps the most central tabiya of the Chess opening. It can be reached quite reasonably from 1. e4, 1.d4, 1. c4, 1. Nf3 and rather more fancifully from other first moves.

It can also be reached with colors reversed, as in my game from the Denver Chess Club this week (below) which secured me 3rd place in this month’s DCC Tuesday Night tournament.

Incidentally, if you have not watched Anand’s excellent and entertaining lecture, it’s here.

Jacques Delaguerre

Share

Norway Chess 2015: Mistakes

Congratulations to Topalov for winning Norway Chess 2015, so far the worst ever tournament for Carlsen. In this tournament we’ve seen some mistakes which are generally not seen in top rated tournaments. Though in chess no one can win, one can only lose! Here is a list of some of them from the tournament.

(1) Hammer,J (2677) – Carlsen,M (2876)
Round 9

White has an advantageous position but it’s far from over for Black. Though Carlsen made it very simple for Hammer:

32…Rxb3??

Disastrous, but 32…Nc6 is also losing 33.Rxb7 Rxb3 34.Rxb3 Bxb3 35.Rf6.

33.Rd1

Threatening checkmate.

33…Nc6 34.Rdd7

The game is over. Carlsen resigned.

1–0

(2) Anand,V (2804) – Hammer,J (2677)
Round 8

White’s last move was Qe2. White is a pawn up but it is far from the over as opposite colour bishops are on the board.

33…g6?

This sort of mistake is normally seen at club level! It gives two extra pawns to Anand.

34.Bxg6 Qxg6 35.Qxe5+

A simple double attack.

35…Kg8 36.Qxc5

White is 3 pawn up. Black resigned.

1–0

(3) Carlsen,M (2876) – Aronian,L (2780)
Round 8


36.Rc2??

White was pressing before this move, but he had less than 2 minutes left to play next 5 moves. 36.Nh4 Qxf2 37.Rg3 was winning for White.

36…Qa1??

A Blunder. After 36…Qb8! and Black would have had a fantastic game.

37.g4 Qf1 38.Ne1

Perhaps he missed this one. If 38.Nh4 than Rd1 and now Black is winning

38…Nh5 39.gxf5 exf5 40.Qc4

Black resigned.

1–0

(4) Aronian,Levon (2780) – Caruana,Fabiano (2805)
Round 5

50.Kxa5 Kd2?

Here Black missed a drawing opportunity, which was very hard to find but you can expect such a move from super GMs! Black can hold the game with 50…Nd5!!, the idea being to dominate White’s knight. If White then chooses to sacrifice the knight (which is his best try) then f7 can hold the game: 51.b4 Ke2 52.Ng2 Kf3 53.Nh4+ Kg4 54.Ng2 Kf3 55.b5 Kxg2 56.b6 Nxb6 57.Kxb6 and Black has a bishop’s pawn and White’s king is too far away, so this is a draw.

After 50…Kd2 White won very convincingly.

1–0

(5) Hammer,Jon Ludvig (2677) – Topalov,Veselin (2798)
Round 5


First try to find the saving move for White

74.Kc6??

A big blunder. Instead, Hammer could have saved the game with f5.

74…Ke6

White resigned.

0–1

(6) Nakamura,Hikaru (2802) – Caruana,Fabiano (2805)
Round 3


The position looks equal on the board.

40…g5??

The simplest move to draw was 40… h5. But the text move allows White to take very active position with his rook via h file.

41.hxg5 hxg5 42.Rh1

White went on win as follows:

42…Ra7 43.Rh7 f4 44.gxf4 gxf4 45.e4! a4 46.bxa4+ Rxa4 47.Rxf7 Ra3+ 48.Kd2 Ra2+ 49.Ke1 Ra3 50.Ke2 Ra2+ 51.Kf3 Rd2 52.Rd7 Kc6 53.Rd5 Kb6 54.e5 Kc6 55.Rd8 Kc7 56.Rd6

1–0

(7) Carlsen,M (2876) – Topalov,V (2798) [D43]
Round 1


60.Qg5+

White already has a winning position.

60…Kf7

And White lost on time! Carlsen had the impression that he would have an extra 15 minutes, but it was just an illusion.

0–1

Ashvin Chauhan

Share

Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 3

So, going into Round 4 I was on 2½/3 with the black pieces against one of the stronger players in my section. My opponent gave me the opportunity to try out a line recommended by Keene and Botterill in their book on the Modern Defence. The game would, like my first round game, eventually reach an ending with rook and 4 pawns against rook and 3 pawns on the same side.

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. f4 c6

Not so fashionable these days when a6, under the influence of Tiger Hillarp Persson, is often preferred. Keene and Botterill recommended a6 against an early Be3, but a6 in this position was relegated to their final chapter on the Avant Garde.

5. Nf3 Bg4
6. Be3 Qb6
7. Qd2 Bxf3
8. gxf3 Nd7
9. O-O-O Qa5

So far both players are following the book. Keene and Botterill gave three variations here, f5!?, Kb1 (the move almost always played today) and Bc4, my opponent’s choice.

10. Bc4 b5
11. Bb3 Nb6
12. Nb1

Rather craven. Keene and Botterill quoted a 1971 game between Adorjan and Jansa in which f5 was played. Qd3 and Kb1 have also been tried here.

12… Qxd2+
13. Nxd2 d5
14. c3 Nf6
15. Bc2 Nfd7

Not a very impressive choice. 15… Bh6 to pin the f-pawn, possibly followed by a later Nh5 (a sort of left-handed Nimzo-Indian plan) would have been more to the point.

16. b3 e6
17. h4 f5
18. Rdg1 Nf6?

Simply leaving a pawn en prise. I should have played Kf7 instead.

19. exf5 exf5
20. Bxf5 Kf7
21. Bd3 Bh6
22. Nf1 Nh5
23. f5 Bxe3+
24. Nxe3 Nf4
25. Kd2 Nxd3
26. Kxd3 Nd7
27. Rh2 Rhg8
28. Rhg2 Nf6
29. fxg6+ Rxg6
30. Rxg6 hxg6
31. Ng4 Nxg4
32. fxg4

Reaching a rook ending where White has a good extra pawn and every expectation of winning.

32… Rh8
33. Rh1 Re8
34. h5 gxh5
35. gxh5 Kg7
36. h6+ Kh7
37. Rh5 Re6
38. Re5

At this point both players had to calculate the pawn ending after the rook exchange. I guess we both just assumed it was an easy win for White. White is indeed winning quite easily, but he’ll have to negotiate a queen ending to score the full point.

38… Rxe5 39. dxe5 Kxh6 40. Kd4 Kg6 41. Kc5 Kf5 42. Kd6 b4 43. c4 d4 44. e6 d3 45. e7 d2 46. e8=Q d1=Q+ 47. Kxc6 and White should win.

Instead I preferred to keep the rooks on the board, heading for rook and 4 against rook and 3, although, with the black king badly placed, White should still win.

38… Rxh6

Reaching the first time control.

39. Re7+ Kg8
40. Rxa7 Rh3+
41. Kc2 Rh2+
42. Kb1 Kf8
43. a4 bxa4
44. bxa4 Ke8
45. Rc7 Rh6
46. Kb2 Kd8
47. Rg7 c5

Losing another pawn, but there was nothing any better.

48. Rg5 Rh2+
49. Ka3 cxd4
50. Rxd5+ Kc7

At this point time was called at the end of the first session. White had to decide which way to capture on d4. Every Russian schoolboy (or girl) knows that rook, a and c pawns against rook is very often a draw, and the tablebases confirm that is indeed the case here. Taking with the pawn should win, though. The difference becomes clear later on.

51. cxd4 Kc6
52. Rc5+ Kd6
53. Kb3 Rh1
54. a5 Rb1+
55. Kc4 Rc1+

The second time control.

56. Kb5 Rb1+
57. Ka6 Rb4
58. Rb5 Rxd4

White has followed a winning plan, giving up his d-pawn, and now, because Black’s pieces are further away, White can promote his a-pawn.

59. Ka7?

But instead White makes an inexplicable error. He was winning easily with either Kb6 or Kb7, but now the black king can get close enough to draw.

59… Kc6
60. Rb7 Rd8
61. a6 Rh8
62. Rb8 Rh7+

Another sealed move after time was called at the end of the second session (which must have been a short session after dinner). I guess we continued the following morning.

63. Ka8 Rg7
64. Rh8 Kb6
65. Rh6+ Kc7
66. Ka7 Rg8
67. Rf6 Rh8
68. Rf1

At this point the tablebases tell me Black has five moves which draw: Kc6, Rc8, Rh4, Rh3 and Rh2. It’s interesting to see why other moves lose. Fortunately for me I managed to find one of the drawing options.

68… Kc6
69. Rc1+ Kb5
70. Rc7 Rh6

The only move to draw.

1/2-1/2

I’d scored 1½ points from two rook endings in which I could easily have scored only ½. I was starting to agree with Ken Norman that endings were far from boring, and that playing them well reaps its reward.

Richard James

Share

The King’s Gambit

There was a time, not so long ago, when chess was played in a daring and romantic way. During the 19th Century, Gambits were King and swashbuckling sacrifices were the order of the day! One opening, the King’s Gambit, was commonly played and led to some of the most exciting chess games of this period. I teach it to my students because many good lessons can be found within this opening. So let’s travel back in time, to a world in which chess players didn’t depend on computers to aid them in their positional decision making. This was a era when a game of chess was truly a battle of two minds, a form of mental Kung Fu if you will!

For those of you who are new to the game, let me start by defining a gambit. When employing a gambit, one player (usually white) will offer a pawn (or even two) during the opening in exchange for a positional advantage. This means that the player giving up the pawn will not get material back. Instead, our Gambiteer (as gambit players are called) will gain an advantage in position, such as the ability to get all of his or her minor pieces into the game quickly due to a lack of pawns blocking in those pieces. An advantage in position during the game’s opening gives the player with the advantage greater opportunities such as the ability to launch a strong attack or gain greater control of the board. More opportunities for one player means fewer opportunities for the other player. Greater opportunities lead to winning games!

The King’s Gambit starts with the moves 1. e4…e5 followed by 2. f4. White’s second move is the gambit. Why would White simply offer up the f pawn, one of the three pawns that form a wall in front of the King when castling short (King-side Castling)? Well, if black plays 2…exf4, then white has two pawns on central files, the d and e file, while black has only has one pawn on a central file, the d pawn. White therefore has a two to one pawn majority in the center. This would give white an advantage when it comes to controlling the center during the opening. However, if white plays 3. d4, Black would provide a nasty response in the form of 3…Qh4+, a check that has some weight to it because of the black pawn on f4! This consequence of an early d pawn push helps to teach students to build up a position slowly and carefully!

Beginners who are taught to gain control of the board’s center quickly during the opening, often prematurely push the white d pawn to d4, thinking that two pawns on central squares are better than one pawn on a central square. Combine this with the discovered attack by the c1 Bishop on the black pawn on f4 and you can see why the novice player might opt for this often disastrous move. The correct move for beginners is 3.Nf3. Moving the Knight to f3 stops the black Queen from checking on h4, keeps her from loitering on g5 and puts pressure on d4 and e5. Once the white Knight is placed on f3, the Black pawn on f4 is locked in place and a later pawn push can be made, d2-d4. The immediate lesson here is that you have to build up a position carefully, considering your opponent’s best response. Black has been known to play 3…g5, using the g pawn to protect the f4 pawn. Already, black’s King-side pawn structure is messy. Here, further development by white is in order, such as 4.Bc4. Black might counter with 4…g4, attacking the Knight on f3. At this point, I’ll ask my students to suggest two possible moves. One move that is suggested more often than not is 5.Ne5 which moves the Knight out of danger and allows it to attack the black g4 pawn. It seems reasonable, the Knight going from being attacked by a pawn to attacking that very same pawn. When I suggest castling, many students will cry out in horror that I’m about to give up my well placed Knight! The problem with 5.Ne5 is 5…Qh4+, which checks the white King. Let’s not forget that the black Queen has a few useful pawns to aid her in this attack! Beginners have the bad habit of not considering what their opponent’s best response is to the move they’re about to make. This example of black’s Queen check on h4 (after 5.Ne5) helps reinforce the idea of considering how your opponent might respond to your potential move. To help teach this idea regarding your opponent’s best response, only after they understand the basic moves of the King’s Gambit, I have them switch sides back and forth during this opening. So, after move two for black, 2…exf4, the student playing the white pieces trades places with the student playing the black pieces. They continue to do so throughout the next ten moves.

This brings us to another key point of the lesson, giving up material in exchange for a strong attack. To the beginner, it appears as if castling King-side loses the Knight on f3 because they’re not looking ahead. They see a minor piece about to be captured by a lowly pawn. Beginners tend only to see only a single move ahead. By this, I mean that they see the g4 pawn attacking the Knight and, if the Knight doesn’t move, it will be captured. They’re not seeing that if (after white castles) the black pawn on g4 takes the Knight (5…gxf3), the white Queen can capture that pawn and suddenly, the Bishop on c4, the Rook on f1 and the Queen on f3 are all aimed at Black’s weak f7 square. Of course, there is still a black pawn on f4 standing in the way of checkmate but that little pawn is undefended! This is a very clear example of giving up material in exchange for attacking chances. White has a strong potential attack with only a pawn standing in the way of checkmate.

Of course, in the above example, it’s black to move, so the black Queen can move to f6 to stop the potential checkmate. However, black is on the defensive and has to play carefully to avoid checkmate. There are a few moves that black can make to stop white’s mating attempt, so I’ll ask my students to find them.

I have young students who interpret my enthusiasm for this swashbuckling opening as a guaranteed way to win the game as white. This means that they think playing black against the King’s Gambit means a painful loss. We have to remember that these are very young players who are new to the game and see things in a very black and white manner (pun intended). To cure them of this way of thinking, the first full King’s Gambit game I show is one in which Boris Spassky, as black, pummels his opponent who plays the gambit against him. I show them this game, which I’ve posted below, to warn them of the dangers of thinking a specific opening is a sure thing. It helps to demonstrate the folly of not using sound principles, such as building up a position before launching an attack. It also goes to show that employing a gambit doesn’t guarantee success. Of course, playing a gambit against the likes of Boris Spassky, a tactical genius, may not be the brightest of ideas. Enjoy!

Hugh Patterson

Share

Good Luck Chuck Leached This Chess Game from Me

My opponent in this chess game is Charlie K. Leach. He signed every card and letter that he sent to me during our two correspondence chess games with “Good Luck! Chuck”, so I started calling him “Good Luck Chuck” after the movie that starred Jessica Alba. He didn’t get joke at first, but he did after I explained it to him.

Charlie has a brother named Jeff who has the same birthday as I do, but he is five years older than I am.

Charlie played an odd variation as White against the Sicilian Defense and he moved one of his bishops three times in the opening. However, I got too fancy for my own good and I blundered on move number 14. The move before was a bad idea for Black. From move number 15 on I was losing.

I was down a Knight and I was hoping for a draw if I could get all of the White pawns off the board without losing any more of my material. I failed to do that and I resigned on move number 50.

This event was a trophy quad that I won and this chess game was my only loss. I finished this section with three wins, one loss, and two draws giving me a final score of 4 – 2. I finished a full point ahead of the second place finisher.

 

Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Mike Serovey

Share

Even Monkeys Fall From Trees

Saru mo ki kara ochiru (“Even monkeys fall from trees”) – Japanese proverb

After last week’s loss at the Denver Chess Club, I consoled myself by watching FIDE Men’s #31 Ian Nepomniachtchi obtain and lose a terrible position. Take a look at the game after Nepo’s 18 … Rf6, knight astray, progressive leucopenia, and the two mighty White bishops. Even monkeys fall from trees!

Then the weekend had a surprise in store. Four players ahead of me in qualification for the Colorado team in our match with New Mexico unexpectedly declined and I went to Raton, NM to represent our state on board A, where I contributed two drawn rook endings to our team win.

Finally Tuesday night I was back in form with the following win in a rook ending to my first Black 1.e4 e5 game in four years. Black to move …

Jacques Delaguerre

Share

Teaching Kids: Checkmate In Two

Learning checkmate in two is perhaps the most important step towards developing your fundamental calculation skills. Yusupov used this as a tool to improve the skill of calculating short variations in one of his books. There are various ways of teaching this to kids but what I am going to discuss is a multipurpose technique that is very effective.

I normally introduce this to kids once they show great accuracy in doing checkmate in one. I show them patterns first and explain fundamental ideas behind those patterns. It is advisable that you start with just a few pieces on the board first.

For example you can use checkmate with king and queen against king. If I am not missing anything, there are five ways to checkmate with these pieces:

The next task is to explain the basic idea behind this theme. In this case you can’t afford to allow the opponent’s king to leave the edge of the board (a-file,h-file, 1st rank and last rank) after which the rest is just matter of practicing it. Here is one example:

Here Black king will try to leave border line by moving to d7 so our first task is to prevent that. You can do it with Qd4, Qd2 or Qc7 (Qd6 is stalemate), so the king will be forced to move on f8 then Qd8 is checkmate.

Coaches have to find/compose lots of puzzles on separate themes. And yes repetition is the key thing as kids tend to forget patterns if they don’t practice them a lot.

You can add more pieces in order to increase the difficulty level but the basic ideas remain unchanged.

Ashvin Chauhan

Share

Passed Pawns Again

One passed pawn in the endgame can be stronger than two passed pawns.

In this week’s problem, White has a very good passed pawn on the 6th rank. The Black King is also trapped in the corner. White can use these two advantages to win the game, despite being material down.

How does White to move win the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1 Qxd6 cxd6 2 b4 Kf8 3 b5 Ke8 4 b6 Kd8 5 a6 and wins.

Steven Carr

Share

Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 2

I left you last time after the first round of the 1974 Paignton Challengers A Tournament.

In round 2 I had the black pieces against a friend and clubmate, Geoff Davies, and was content with a short draw in a position in which I might well have played on. If you read my column two weeks ago you’ll realise that I’m still more than happy to take a short draw with black against friends. Perhaps this is one reason why I never made much progress as a serious competitive player.

So onto round 3, where I had white against a lower graded opponent.

In those days I liked to play against big centres with black, choosing the Modern Defence, and with big centres with white, hence my choice of the Four Pawns Attack against my opponent’s King’s Indian Defence. I’d learned this from the Batsford book on the King’s Indian by Barden, Hartston and Keene.

Here’s what happened.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nc3 Bg7
4. e4 d6
5. f4 O-O
6. Nf3 c5
7. d5

Main line 4PA theory so far. Now Black usually plays 7… e6 (b5 is an interesting alternative) when after 8. Be2 exd5 White has to choose which way to recapture. At the time I favoured taking with the e-pawn, which, to be honest, is not a very good move. Despite a couple of rather horrible losses I generally scored well with it because my opponents weren’t familiar with the position and chose incorrect plans.

7… Nh5

German writers would remark that this move was “nicht stellungsgemäß” (my favourite word at the time) – not appropriate to the position. In lines where Black plays e5 rather than c5 he’s going to move his knight from f6, often to h5, and play the f5 pawn break. But, confused by White’s opening, he plays an inappropriate move and constantly refuses to avail himself of the e6 break. If you don’t play your pawn breaks in cramped positions you’ll end up getting squashed.

8. Bd3 Na6
9. O-O Bd7
10. Be3 Nc7
11. a4 a6
12. a5 Nf6
13. h3 Qc8
14. e5 Nfe8
15. Ne4

So far so good, but Stockfish prefers the immediate Qe1 here.

15… Rb8
16. Qe1 b5

Finally Black plays a pawn break.

17. axb6 Rxb6
18. Bc1

It’s fairly natural to defend the pawn, but Stockfish again prefers Qh4.

18… Bf5
19. g4 Bxg4

I’ve speculated in a previous article that, at this sort of level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than are won by sound sacrifices. It’s understandable that Black, not liking his position very much, lashes out in this way. Stockfish considers 19… Bxe4 20. Qxe4 e6 a much better defence.

20. hxg4 Qxg4+
21. Qg3 Qxg3+
22. Nxg3 f5
23. Ne2 Na8
24. Rb1 Nec7
25. Bd2 Rfb8
26. Bc3 R6b7
27. Bc2 Nb6
28. b3 Nbxd5

Black decides to sacrifice another piece for a couple of pawns. By this time I’d have been wishing I knew how to mate with a bishop and knight.

29. cxd5 Nxd5
30. Kf2 Nb4
31. Bxb4 Rxb4
32. Rfe1 Bh6
33. Kg3 Bf8
34. e6

Good enough, although the pawn might become a target here. Better was exd6 followed by Nc3 and Nd5, playing for an attack on the black king.

34… Bg7
35. Rh1 Bf6
36. Kf2 d5
37. Rhg1 R8b6
38. Bxf5 Kh8

Reaching the time control. (In Round 2 and subsequent rounds we were playing 38 moves in 2¼ hours.) Now it’s easy: I can return one of my extra pieces for a mating attack on the g and h files. He might have tried Rxb3 instead.

39. Bxg6 hxg6
40. Rxg6 Kh7
41. f5

Retreating the rook to g4, g3 or g2 was slightly more efficient.

41… Bh4+
42. Nxh4 Rxh4
43. Kg3 Rh6
44. Rxh6+ Kxh6
45. Nc3

The sealed move. He could have resigned here and saved us both the trouble of resuming.

45… c4
46. Nxd5 Rxb3+
47. Rxb3 cxb3
48. f6 exf6
49. e7 b2
50. Nc3 Black resigned

So, 2½/3 and things were looking good. Tune in again for next week’s exciting episode.

Richard James

Share

True Freedom

Novice chess players often consider a piece to have complete freedom if it has some mobility. Mobility is a piece’s ability to move to or control an optimal number of squares. Obviously, a piece does have some form of freedom if it can control a large number of squares from its position on the board. The piece is free to move to those squares if need be. However, this freedom is only partial if the piece in question is tied down to the defense of another piece (or pawn). True freedom means not being tied down to a defensive role but rather, being able to move around without weakening the position.

To determine how much true freedom a piece has, we have to ask ourselves two questions. First, how many squares does that piece control? The greater the number, the more freedom it has. We examine this freedom in terms of mobility. A Bishop that can move to ten squares has greater mobility than a Bishop that can only move to two squares. The next question, a critical one that beginners often fail to ask, is whether or not the piece in question is defending another piece or pawn? If a piece has to play a defensive role, it isn’t truly free because moving it might allow the opposition to capture the previously defended piece. This could lead to a weakened position and eventually a lost game.

The Bishop that controls ten squares has far less freedom if it’s tied down defending another piece that is helping to maintain a position’s strength. If our Bishop moves, the defended piece might no longer be defended which means it can be captured. If it’s captured the position might be severely weakened to the point of no return. On the other hand, our Bishop that has far less mobility (two squares) can freely move to either of those squares without incurring a weakness on the position. Eventually, it can become more active. This is where pawns come into play so to speak!

One of the reasons pawns make great defenders for our pieces is because they have the lowest relative value so most players won’t trade a minor piece for a pawn unless doing so strengthens their position. By strengthening the position, I mean that the player trading down (minor piece for pawn) will either open up the position for an attack or deliver checkmate. Using pawns for defense duties allows your pieces true freedom since they’re not tied down to the defense of their fellow pieces. True freedom means having the ability to move around with no strings attached.

Of course, we have to assign some of our pieces defensive duties. You can’t get through a game of chess without a bit of defensive play. Even the most aggressive players find themselves in positions that require defensive measures. However, we need to carefully consider how we set up our defenses. This is where good pawn play comes into the mix. My students will often ask me why one player in a game made, what looks like to the beginner, a random pawn move. In actuality, that seemingly strange looking pawn move is made to defend a specific square from opposition occupation. The pawn defends a specific square so a piece doesn’t have to. Defending a square with pawn will make your opponent think twice before trading down. Again, employing the pawn as a defender leaves your pieces truly free. Mobility is unhampered!

We should always think of our pieces in terms of being passive and active. Passive pieces have little mobility, are tied down to defensive duties or both. Active pieces have unbridled mobility, free of any defensive duties. As we play through the opening, middle and endgame, we should always consider these two ideas when contemplating a move.

Gaining true freedom for our pieces is a strategic goal. When I teach strategic ideas, I teach them as long term goals, goals that we achieve over time. Beginners often think that once they get a piece to an active square, one that gives that piece decent mobility, the piece’s position cannot be improved upon. They fail to continue that piece’s development. A piece’s ability to increase in activity or mobility can always be improved upon. Just because you move your four minor pieces to active squares during the opening doesn’t mean they’re on their most active squares. From move to move, the game’s position changes and with those positional changes come opportunities to further increase a piece’s activity. However, if you suddenly have to employ that piece in the defense of another, you’re decreasing it’s activity.

If you have to suddenly use an active piece for the defense of another piece, see if you can move a pawn to take over that piece’s guard duties. Pieces that are truly free can become fierce attackers when the opportunity arises. As I mentioned earlier, positions change from one move to the next. A seemingly strong position can quickly fall apart. The player with the more mobile pieces and well placed pawns has a much greater chance of equalizing the suddenly weakened position than the player whose pieces are tied down to defensive duties. Strategy means always thinking ahead. Strategic thinking means playing your opening to set up your middle game and playing your middle game with an eye towards the endgame.

When you consider a move that gives a piece freedom, ask yourself if that piece is truly free or is it actually tied down. Pieces that are truly free have unhampered mobility which allows them to go on the offensive (attacking the opposition) rather than the defensive, babysitting fellow pieces. Make moves that develop pieces actively or increase mobility and always look to increase activity with subsequent moves. Strong activity and true freedom are created over time, not instantly. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week.

Hugh Patterson

Share