Tag Archives: chess game analysis

Middle game tactics: Identifying your weakest piece is essential

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In the game of chess, the most interesting and intriguing part is the middle game, in which both the players vie for positional control and shrewd tactics to gain an upper hand over the opponent. Typically, it is that part of the game where all the major and minor pieces are in the process of being deployed and or stationed in interesting squares as part of the attack and / or defense. The middle game also gains importance in that it is the stage where utmost calculation and concentration is required, and any wrong move or not a correct move might lead to losing control or giving an edge to the opponent.

In such cases, it might quite often happen that you might be caught in a dilemma as to which piece to move or how to go forward in the execution of tactics. This is possible, especially when most of your pieces are in favorable positions and having a tight leash on the opponent’s pieces while at the same time safeguarding your King and other pieces. It is in such times that the technique or trick of identifying your weakest piece among the active pieces comes to your assistance.

Let us try to explore this simple concept of identifying the weakest piece with the help of an interesting game played between two grandmasters in a European team Championship during 1999.

The position of the board after 20 moves by White is given below. It is the turn of black to move.


(Black to move)

A cursory look at the position of black’s pieces reveal that its major and minor pieces are fairly developed and exerting pressure on White. Also, there is not much scope for the black pawns to make any move that might turn out to be advantageous. He is presently caught in a dilemma as how to go forward with his next move. What is the option available to him now.

A second look of the major and minor pieces is warranted before any meaningful outcome regarding his next move. The light-squared bishop is acting as a pin for the White queen and making White’s Knight immovable without the White queen being moved to safety. The black knight at g4, having effective control over the f6 and h6 squares is taking care of the safety of the kingside. The two rooks are fairly centralized and the rook at e8 is providing additional support to the Queen at e7. This analysis reveals that the dark-squared black bishop is the one that can be considered for the next move. Zeroing on the dark-squared bishop also reveals that, but for its occupation of the d6 square, the rook at d8 might have captured the white pawn on d4. A critical analysis of this type will provide instant clues to make the most effective move. Also, the white king at g1 provides the clue that the diagonal a7-g1 might be explored for the dark-squared bishop, if he switches the angle. Black did the same and the game followed as follows:

20. ,,,, Bb8
21. Rad1 Ba7 White tried to protect the d4 pawn with additional support, but the damage had already been done and White might have to lose his pawn in d file.
22. d5 …. His futile attempt to protect his pawn in d file was thwarted.
22. …. cxd5
23. Nxd5 Rxd5
24. Rxd5 Bxe4
25. Bxe4 Qxe4
26. Qxe4 Rxe4
27. Rd8+ Kh7
28. Rd7 Re2

White’s desperate attempts to salvage his pawn in d file or counterattack the Black king in anticipation o any mistake from Black proved futile, and Black, having deployed the idea of identifying the weakest link in an attack, emerged winner in this game.

This game highlights the fact that in addition to execution of shrewd tactics, one needs to be aware of the positional strengths and weaknesses of every piece in the board and make the optimal move at the appropriate time to gain control over the board and the opponent.

Middle game tactics: Moving the worst piece first is a good idea

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The Middle game part in the game of chess is the place where most of the tactics are tried and effectively deployed. This is so because, it is in this stage that the major and minor pieces of both the players would be battling for control over the squares. As you might be aware, tactics are a series of less than three moves at a stretch aimed at a positional advantage and/or thwarting the plans of the opponent. In most of the cases, the tactical moves planned by a player might not fully materialize due to the defensive moves or counter attacking moves of the opponent. So, there would be a series of tactics that might be required to be calculated and assessed by the player before effectively deploying it into action.

It is quite possible in such occasions that one gets caught in a dilemma as to which piece to move or how to initiate a tactical ploy to gain advantage over the opponent. It is in this context that assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the major and minor pieces at work in the board should be assessed, and the least effective piece in the board should be considered as the starting point of a tactical ploy. The process of identifying the weak piece is not a one-time affair in the game. The positions keep changing quite frequently and it is essential that the idea of identifying the relative weakness in the pieces is constantly reviewed and tactics are planned accordingly so that one can have an edge over the opponent.

Let us try to explore this concept a little deeper with the help of a game played in 1995 between two grandmasters, and see how the concept works out.

The position of the game after 26 moves by White is given hereunder, and it is the turn of Black to make a move.


A casual look at the board reveals that the Black has two bishops as against one of White. White, however, has an additional Knight and also one extra pawn. Despite a pawn down, black has a good position on the board, and a fair chance for launching the attack. The light squared bishop is threatening the white knight at a3, and at the same time providing cover for the pawn at f3. Now the dilemma is which is the piece to be moved. It is evident that the rook at f8 is not so effective, and there is not much room for moving any of the pawns.

The game continued as follows with the black preferring to move his weak rook at f8.

26. …. Rg8
27. Rg1 …. Sensing the ploy that blacks light squared bishop might threaten the white king with a check on g2, the rock has been moved for additional cover.
27. …. Rxg1
28. Kxg1 …. Black preferred to exchange his rook

The position in the board after White’s 28th move is given below:


As has been stated earlier, it is not necessary that the idea of identifying the worst piece should be a one-time affair. It has to be looked for constantly to have better control over the overall board and also an edge over the opponent. Now, we need to once again identify the weak piece or the piece that can be ideally considered for the next move. The light-squared bishop is exerting pressure on the White King restricting his move to only two of the four possible moves, and the dark-squared bishop is protecting the pawn at f3. It is obvious that the queen should be the one to be moved.

A deep look at the squares reveals that the white square d3 is unprotected. This would be better for the black queen to land in to exert more pressure on the white king. Black decides to execute the plan as follows:

28. …. Qg6+
29. Kh1 Qd3 Mission completed for black
30. Be1 …. White tries to activate his Knight at a3 to c2.

The position after 30 moves of white is given below:


It is the turn of Black to move now. What should he move now? Again the process of identifying the weak piece or ineffective piece needs to be carried out.

It is clear that after White moved his dark-squared bishop from d2 to e1, the threat for the black pawn at f3 is eliminated, and there is no need for the dark-squared bishop at d6 to provide cover for the f3 pawn. As such, the weak piece or ineffective piece now turns out to be the dark-squared bishop.

30. …. Be7
31. Nc2 Bh4
32. Nb4 Qd1

The game is almost over for White. The decision to move the dark-squared bishop from d6 to e7 and then follow it with a move to h4 (Bh4) is too good for white to handle, and as such lost the initiative. The end game is more of a formality now, with black firmly in control.

Analysis of the positions and the relative strengths and weaknesses should precede any tactical ploys, and this game is a best example for this useful trick, which might turn out to be so handy in the middle game.