Tag Archives: activity

Piece activity

Piece activity is a positional aspect of major importance in a game. Hugh Patterson has written a very nice article about it back in 2014. You can review it HERE Our chess app also covers it extensively in level 5, lessons 10-14 by looking at how the activity of each piece influences the outcome of the game. One of my latest online games proved to be a good example in that direction. Here is the beginning of it (turn based, 3 days per move), leading up to an important junction in the game:


Black’s last move is definitely out of the ordinary; when something like this happens, it is a good idea to stop, take a deep breath and analyse the position to the best of your abilities. It is easy to see white cannot capture the rook because it would lose its queen. This is the starting point for your analysis:

  • Material is equal
  • Both sides are castled and so far the White king is in more danger because of Ne5 and Rf3 being in close vicinity
  • There are no other attackers on the White castle
  • There are not a lot of defenders of the White castle either
  • If White does not pay attention, a move such as Qd8-d7 could increase the number of attackers and apply pressure

OK, so the conclusion is White must do something to improve the defense of its castle and its piece positioning. Looking at the piece positioning we see:

  • Rf1 and Be3 are in decent position with no better options for the moment
  • Rc1 could be placed better, but doing that won’t help with defending the castle
  • Qd2 could move and have Rf3 in danger of being captured; however a simple look at 18. Qe2 Qd7 19. gxf3?? Qxh3 (see last part of the game below) gives black a winning position
  • Nc3 is capable to get involved and in 2 moves (Nc3-e4-g5) it can spring into action, defending both the f3-square and h3-pawn

On the Black side we have:

  • Qd8 needs at least one move (Qd8-d7) to get into the action
  • Bg7 is very nicely placed, but there are no targets along the a1-h8 diagonal
  • Ra8 is completely out of the game and does not count
  • Ne5 and Rf3 are active but if White chooses the right plan, both could be chased away by pawns

Let’s see how the game continued:

Conclusion: piece activity must be monitored closely at all times. That starts with your own pieces and continues with the opposing ones. At the beginning it could feel like extra burden when the amount of time is so scarce (today’s time controls are a lot less of what they used to be); however if you stick with it, you will get better and realize it helps with planning and decision making. Your games will flow nicely and the moments of blank stares with no ideas in mind will be drastically reduced. Hope you will start looking at it!

Valer Eugen Demian

Activity Versus Material

“Help your pieces so they can help you”
Paul Morphy

This past week one of my level 2 students played the following game over the internet as part of his weekly assignment. He was supposed to practice the Bishop’s Opening if facing 1… e5 and he did do his best. The game does not look like much; still I believe its value can be found a bit deeper under the surface. My student, like many other players out there, has a tough time resisting material grabbing. We all have to fight this urge to grab free stuff, so let’s not be too hard on him or them. The difference is once you go through a few disasters because of that, you learn to stay away from it.

Chess today is focused on active play and initiative. This can be worth as much as a pawn or two, depending on circumstances. Everyone can read about a piece in the center, a Rook on an open file and even more advanced concepts like under promotion or such; however it is very hard to keep in mind something as hard to grasp as those 2 concepts. I grab a piece, I can see it and feel it. What does the active play give me to help me win the game? You don’t really see those pawn(s) it is worth. It takes time and practice to seek playing like this and become confident doing it. Please go over the game and annotations:

I hope this example will count as practice instead of a few of your own games. I know people say we learn from own experiences and have also done it as well, regardless of what my parents and teachers told me; however I am happy to say age makes us wiser and I have improved the percentage of times when I actually learned from others’ mistakes. It saves a ton of time and pain, believe me. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian