Category Archives: Chess Basics

Chess tactics: Which masters to study?

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There is no doubt about the necessity to become familiar with the elements of a combination which we understand as chess tactics. In the article gameplan part2, we have listed the elements for you to find examples on each item and study those thoroughly to build up your repertoire. However good you may be in chess strategy and planning your game, you need to employ tactics to give effect to those.

So the question in any beginner’s mind will be: how do I learn to use chess tactics? My answer will be: after you know the elements, study the games of chess masters who excel in combinational play and chess tactics. That is why we have already shown you many such games where the tactics reigned supreme. There are quite a good number of articles at this site and trying to put a link to all those will clutter up this article. You have to search those out through the site map.

The next question obviously is: which masters to study? There are hundreds of Grandmasters and International masters, past and present, and it is true that all of them deploy chess tactics in their games. If you have to study all those, when will you get the time to use those in your play? That is why we need to be selective and choose games from players who excelled in the area of chess tactics and complex combinations. Different people have their own favorites but I am quite sure that some of the names we suggest will occur in every such list! Their names are given in chronological order

Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879)

No one has ever played chess like Adolph Anderssen, nor won as much fame and glory for his charismatic style. Anderssen’s hallmark is the direct (and often spectacular!) Kingside attack.

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941)

The main contestants of his time like Tarrasch and Janowski complained that they could not understand his play and implied that Lasker’s success was due to dubious tricks. Fact is, Lasker was much ahead of his time in his style of play, which found acceptance with later generation of players.

Frank J. Marshall (1877-1944)

He earned a lot of brilliancy prizes by virtue of his daring gambits and sacrificial play. One of his moves is held as one of the top three best moves ever played on a chessboard! Though spectators enjoyed his slash-bang techniques, purists held that some of his moves produced results by virtue of their shock value and not because of deeply calculated combinations. That may be the reason why he never became a world champion but managed to defeat all top players of his time.

Rudolf Spielman (1883-1942)

He was a master of attack with beautiful ideas and brilliant daring play full of sacrifices.

Alexandre Alekhine (1892-1946)

He is one of the greats among world champions and was at home in different styles of play. He was a master of complex positions and well-calculated combinations. Many of his games are still analyzed and experts have not reached a common verdict because of the complexities involved.

Mikhail Tal (1936-1992)

He is one player who probably earned the maximum admiration from the contemporary greats in chess. Tal used some self-derogatory comments about his own play by saying that there were two kinds of sacrifices – the sound ones and those used by him! Botvinnik, a world champion, said that it was not possible to tackle Tal if his pieces were mobile and active with some space and that is why he used to play close positions against Tal. He went on to say that if Tal could have some self-control, it would be impossible to play against him. A player of the stature of Kramnik went so far as to say that analyzing Tal’s game was like discussing what God looked like! When you play through his games, you will wonder if those bolts from the blue were results of intuition or pre-calculated combinations!

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008)

He was a chess genius and many experts believe that had he not gone into self-exile, he could have been the undisputed top player in chess history! He has produced many beautiful games with a long combination the results of which were not easy to see even by top masters. Boris Spassky who played Fischer in the famous championship match commented that playing Fischer was not a question of your win or loss, it was a question of your survival!

Garry Kasparov (1963- )

Another chess genius and holds the highest ELO rating among chess Grandmasters. He is also a versatile player and can play well-calculated combinations.

Alexei Shirov (1972- )

Among the mew generation players, he is noted for his attacking style and creating complications that remind one of Tal, not surprisingly, because he studied under Tal.

Now you know the names of some of the chess masters who have consistently produced great combinations in their plays. But many of them have played hundreds of games, so which ones to study? Go for their best games, some compiled by other chess authors or chess masters and some by the players themselves. These books generally include about 50 to 100 of the best games in their career and studying those few is not a very massive task! Keep a note of the basic principles that have been applied or violated in these games (many brilliancies arose to exploit mistakes by the opponents). These types of controlled study will not only help you to improve your play, but will also provide enjoyment for many years to come!

Chess Strategy: The basic rules of deployment – Part 2

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continued from Chess Strategy Guide Part 1

In this second part of a two-part series, we consider the minor pieces and pawns.

Piece Opening Middle-Game End-Game
Bishop * Develop early
* Try not to block your pawns
* Preferred squares:
d2, e3, f4 or b2 (fianchetto) for QB
e2, d3, c4 or g2 (fianchetto) for KB
g5 for QB and b5 for KB (only if pinning enemy Knight, but use caution)
* Each Bishop can cover only half the squares, so they work best as a pair
* They also work best from a distance and on relatively open board
* Try to occupy long open diagonals
* Avoid obstructing them with your own pawns
* They are very effective in creating pins, particularly on Knights
* They can be used effectively for sacrificial attacks to break open enemy castle
* In Bishop and Pawn endings, if you and your opponent hold bishops of opposite color, draw is the most likely result even with a difference of one or two pawns
* With disadvantageous pawn position, try to retain opposite colored bishop
* With better pawn position, retain bishop of same color
* Bishop of same color as the queening square for your pawn is a great advantage
* Try to keep your pawns such that your Bishop movement is not obstructed
* Bishops work better than Knight if you have pawn groups on both sides of the board
Knight * Develop early
* Preferred squares:
c3 and f3 are best
d2 and e2 can do provided Bishops are not locked
* Edge of board are normally bad positions for Knight
* They are most effective in crowded positions
* They are good defensive pieces for your castle
* They are deadly in creating fork on major enemy pieces as they remain out of sight of those pieces
* They can also be used for sacrificial attack to open up enemy positions
When used in conjunction, they work best operating from opposite colored squares
* Knights are slow-moving and hence become inferior to Bishop
* They are better only when pawns are grouped at one side of the board
Pawn * Think carefully before pushing any pawn (they cannot backtrack!)
* Try to stick to d,e, c and f pawns (to rank 3 or 4) except f3 (exposes King and takes away the best square for KN)
* b2 and g2 only if you prefer fianchettoed Bishop
* They are battering rams creating space for your pieces to move in
* They are very effective when supported by pieces in both attack and defense
* Try for strong formations and avoid weak ones
Each pawn is a potential Queen, so a pawn majority becomes very strong feature when other pieces are exchanged
* Analyze pawn positions to plan end-game strategy
* They are the prime factors in this phase
* Rook pawn is most difficult to promote, so exchange pawns with this in mind
* With only Kings on board, pawns at two sides are more advantageous compared to pawns grouped in the middle
* Plan pawn exchanges depending on your minor pieces (Bishop or Knight) in line with what was said for Bishop and Knight
* Since two knights or a single Bishop cannot deliver mate, keep the possibility of sacrifice of such pieces by both sides to remove pawns
* When moving pawns, consider the one farthest from enemy King
* Keep in mind that a pawn sacrifice to push enemy King outside ‘the Square’ for a distant pawn will help its promotion

Chess Strategy: The basic rules of deployment – Part 1

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This article is a ready reckoner type of guide for beginners, in line with the prevalent mode of capsule information sought by people in these days of everything ‘fast’ – fast track, fast food, fast lifestyle, fast ….

But at the same time, some saner heads have started questioning this style and warning about the damages wrought on our health and spirits by such ‘fastness’. So a warning will also be appropriate for the capsule package on chess strategies, though it is not likely to cause as much damage! Some general rules apply in every walk of life and helps us to tackle problems more readily provided that we are aware of possible exceptions to every rule and try to understand when the situation needs us to break the rules!

Now that we have suitably cautioned you lest you come back with basketful of rotten tomatoes after losing your game in two moves (it is possible, you know! Just play 1. f4 e6 2. g4 Qh4#)! With all that off our mind, we are giving you a table of chess pieces vis-a-vis their suggested deployment during the three main phases of a chess game.

This first part of a two-part series deals with the King and the heavy pieces.

Piece Opening Middle-Game End-Game
King * Keep well-guarded
* Castle early
* K-side castle preferred, if on Q-side – QRP remains weak
* Keep guarding inside castle
* When castle loses importance (most pieces off board), move to second rank and centralize (in preparation for end-game)
* With most pieces removed, it now holds the power and helps in attack
* But avoid premature advance when several enemy pieces are still on board
* Keep it close to support your pawns if advancing for promotion
* Keep it close to enemy pawns if defending and trying to stop their promotion
* Relative positions of your King and enemy King is very important for action plan
* Keep in mind the principles of ‘opposition’ and ‘the Square’ for pawn promotion
Queen * Try not to go beyond third rank * Move freely based on need
* Look for opportunity to pick up pawns safely
* Leave alone pawns that will take it away from action area
* Watch out for risk of getting hemmed in when taking pawns
* Be alert against pins and Knight fork
* Its power increases when other enemy pieces are gone
* It can be used to mop up pawns
* Even in an apparent losing situation, it can salvage draw by perpetual check
Rook * Try to link them up (it is one aim of castling)
* Keep them on back rank
* Occupy open/semi-open files
* They work best from a distance
* Try to double them on an open file
* Try to occupy the seventh rank, where doubled rooks can play havoc with enemy
* Otherwise keep them on first two ranks as they are vulnerable to Bishops
* Look for back rank attack on enemy King
* The seventh rank is still strong if enemy King is on eighth rank
* They are effective in restricting enemy King’s movement
* They can be used to mop up pawns
* They can protect your advancing pawns
* Try to retain them if you have inferior pawns as they can help to salvage a draw
* With fairly open board, they can be used for perpetual checks

continued to Chess Strategy Guide Part 2

Chess Trivia: The best pawn move for opening?

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Beginners often ask about what opening move is best! It is like asking which of your legs should be put forward first when you start a walk! But from general principle of controlling the center, you should choose one of the four central pawns namely KP, QP, KBP, and QBP. Your choice depends on the style of play you like (more strategic or more tactical), the types of openings that go with it and so the first pawn move that is required by that opening theory! But since transposition is possible quite often, the first pawn move need not be a rigid requirement even for the opening strategy adopted by you.

In this respect, you may like to know opinions of some of the past masters. Emanuel Lasker, a world champion and one of the greatest chess players of all time, in talking about common sense in chess forbade using any opening move other than d4 and e4!

It seems that Paul Morphy, another all-time great and a chess genius, never used d4. On the other hand, Gruenfeld who was a GM and authority on opening play, used e4 only once in his tournament career (against Mark Taimanov in 1950 and lost the game)! When asked about the reason for not using e4, he stated that he never made a mistake in the opening! Probably once was enough!

Two plays to enhance your chess endgame ideas

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We have discussed endgame ideas and endgame tactics in earlier articles but those mostly covered the theory aspect of utilizing your pieces and pawns in an effective manner. You have also seen two chess game positions from actual play that explained how you need to think to some depth to convert your slight advantages into a winning position.

When you have a better position in an endgame, all you need is to apply the techniques you have learned to get the win you deserve. But in positions which look nearly equal, you have to proceed differently.

You should first identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of your and your opponent’s position, and try to see the lines that look promising. Then select the best line and this is where you need your calculating skills. These skills will develop through practice and such practice is best possible by analyzing endgame positions from master plays.

Study how the win was achieved, but do not stop there. Check if the losing side had some option that could save the game for him. Check through drawn games and see if either of the players missed some line that could change the result in his/her favor. Such efforts on your part will hone your skills in deep calculations. With practice, you will not find it such a daunting task, particularly as there will not be many pieces on board and only few lines will be worth pursuing.

In this article, we will see two end game positions that demonstrate both offensive and defensive tactics – for forcing a win from near equal position or snatching a draw from a situation all but lost!

endgame attack tactics

You can see that White has a better material position because of two Rooks and three pawns against Rook and Knight with two pawns for Black. It is White’s move now, but all Black needs to win is a single move of Qg2+ and so White cannot afford to waste any move!

White noted that the Black Queen had the Knight to support it but the Knight at the moment was pinned. Black King and Queen were in one line and so the Queen could possibly be ‘skewered’ if the Knight support could be removed! Black’s second move shows that he understood the danger but could not do anything against White’s brilliant sacrifices!

This is how White realized his aim:

1. Rxh7+ Kxh7
2. Qe7+ Kg6
3. Rg8+ Kf5
4. Rxg5+ Resigns


Black cannot avoid losing the Queen. If 4… Kxg5 5. Qg7+ and depending on Black King’s move to h5 or f5, White uses Qh7+ or Qd7+ to capture Black Queen. If 4… fxg5 5. Qd7+ does the same.

You see that after all, there are really not so many options to consider in many positions if you can read the situation and the calculations also are not very difficult always!

endgame defense tactics

Here Black is decidedly in an inferior position with a Rook and Pawn against White’s Rook and three Pawns, one of which is a passed pawn and only a short way from being promoted. White’s Rook is in the ideal position of standing behind the passed pawn and also protecting against a back row check by Black Rook. All that is necessary for White to win is to keep pushing the NP to the eighth rank. Or is it?

Black depended on White’s ‘natural’ move to take a last chance for salvaging the game! This is how it went:

1. Re3
2. b6 Re1+
3. Rxe1 Stalemate


If White were not so confident of his win and tried to understand Black’s move, he would have played Kf1 and that would foil Black’s ploy! This shows that you can never afford to disregard anything that may be happening on the board.

In Two more plays to enhance your chess endgame ideas, we will examine more ideas in chess endgames.