Problems vs Potential

Very often in chess, a positional evaluation can be a simple matter of ‘Problems vs Potential’ (or, to invent a maxim, the ‘2 P’s’).

“What potential does my position have for me?” vs “What problems is my opponent posing me?”

Of course, chess is a game of two sides, so we not only have to ask this from our own perspective, but also from that of our opponent, thus:

“What potential does my opponent have?” vs “What problems am I posing / can I pose?”

Sometimes, the answers to these questions alone can be decisive — whoever makes the opponent react first often has the advantage. Of course, it is important to note that there is such a thing as ‘prophylaxis’ in chess, where one can answer a threat from the opponent with a constructive move to their own position, sometimes even a counter-threat. Games in which one is presented with lots of those are good games, and it is important to make the distinction between prophylaxis and pure reaction, where a player must take time out from their own intentions in order to deal with threats from the opponent.

One such example is the following game, between Anna Muzychuk and Yifan Hou. It was played during the recent 2014 Women’s Grand Prix, in Lopota, Georgia. As you will notice, I have not annotated the opening (which is a Sicilian Defence of course), but I advise the reader to play through the moves prior to my annotations beginning at move 13. In doing so, try to answer for yourself how White’s opening play opened the door for her opponent.

John Lee Shaw