Focal Points

A square or a pawn can become such a critical point of focus that the outcome of the game is determined largely from the build up of force around this square. Isolated Queen’s Pawns are an example. Sometimes the IQP itself is the focal point. In other games, it is the square in front of the IQP as the opponent attempts to blockade the IQP.

Below is a recent game of mine. My opponent had an IQP. I focused as much force as I could on the IQP, adding piece after piece to the attack.

Improving chess players need to learn to recognize critical moments in their chess games. This is the title of an excellent book by Paata Gaprindashvili. It’s a book I strongly recommend for all improving chess players rated ELO 1400 and above. As the title suggests, it’s a book on identifying those moments in a chess game when the course is altered. My opponent missed the importance of maintaining focus on his IQP when he moved the queen away from direct supervision of the pawn.

The e5 pawn became a focal point in a rapid game I played yesterday. I plunked my queen in front of the pawn on e4 and we both fought briefly over it.

In this case, it was my turn to lose focus and throw away a decisive advantage by winning the e5 pawn outright. My opponent returned the favor by offering to exchange queens. A couple of moves later, I blundered again by not immediately seizing the seventh rank. Typical of games among us improvers, this one alternated blunders and weak moves by both players. The only consolation for me was the fact that my blunders did not completely reverse the outcome of the game. They instead gave my opponent more of a chance than was deserved.

Glenn Mitchell