Tag Archives: chess strategies

Chess Tactics: Relevance of all-round play in chess

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The game of chess calls for shrewd analytical skills of positions coupled with calculations to gain control over the game. It is essential that good positional play should be entwined with calculations of moves and deployment of effective tactics assessing the overall position in the board. Having good control over the board positionally will not guarantee you any success over the opponent as long as you do not entwine the tactics effectively to gain control over the board. It is in this context that one should strive to be a good allround player instead of concentrating either only on his tactical skills or in positional factors.

In the following example, you will notice that having good positions will not lead to success as one silly error caused without giving importance to the opponent’s pieces, and due to paucity of time, ended up in losing the game from the winning position.

This is the position after 27 moves. It is the turn of the white to move now.

Position 1
White is a good player in positional chess and now, a cursory look at the board indicates that white has an extra pawn than black.  The game proceeded as follows :

28.    Rc1       h6
29.    Rc8+    Kh7
30.    Rc4       Qe5
31.    Rf4        Qc4

White, using his skills on positional chess has been making satisfactory progress.  The position after 31 moves is given hereunder:

Position 2
Not only is the white rook at f4 supporting the pawn at f2, the queen in b3 is threatening the black pawns at e6 and f7 and blocking their movement.

32.    Kh2    …..            Another good move from White in an attempt to develop his pawns with King’s assistance.

32.    …..        Kg7
33.    Rg4+    Kh7
34.    Rf4        Kg7
35.    Qb4       Qc2
36.    Kg2       e5
37.    Rg4+    …….            This is a wrong move from White that has exposed the pawn at f2.

37.    ……        Kg6            Black tries to capitalize on the wrong move by White.   He could have moved the King to h7 but instead preferred this move.

38.    Qxb6+    …….            White continues to attack with fervor considering the fact that time is running out, and Black tried to confuse the confused white by moving the king to the “f” file.

38.    …….    Kh5

This is the position at the board at the end of 38 moves.

3rd Position
39.    e4+    ……            This is the blunder on the part of White.  He did not assess the winning position correctly and out of confusion and time constraint, deprived himself of a winning move in Kh3 and by calling check on Black, exposed the white rook at g4, and literally threw the game.

39.    ……    Kxg4
40.    Qe3    Rd3
41.    Qxh6    Rxg3            After this White resigned accepting defeat.

This is a clear example of how confusion caused by the opponent and paucity of time can change the whole advantage into a loss.

For any aspiring chess player to grow up the ladder and achieve success, he or she should develop as a complete player having allround skills and not relying on any particular skill as positional play or tactical player.  Positional analysis and calculation of the moves and counter moves are very essential for the deployment of a good successful chess strategy or an effective chess tactics.

Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 2

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In Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1, we looked at two popular KP openings to understand how those resolved the tussle between White and Black for control of the center. Here we take a similar look at a common QP opening to realize the chess tactics involved in this case.

Nimzo-Indian Defense
The classical theories on the strategy of chess openings, as formulated by the first undisputed World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900), was further refined by Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934). These stressed the importance of center control by occupation or by direct application of pressure on those squares by using pawns, developing pieces to support that control, and playing to obstruct opponent’s plans in this regard.

It was Aaron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) who challenged these conventional and fairly universal ideas with his own in My System, which was probably the most widely read book on chess theories. His system found expression in several openings that bear his name, and Nimzo-Indian Defense happens to be the most important among his hypermodern theories and very widely used in master games till today. It appears that the defense was first played in a Rubinstein-Alekhine game at Leningrad in 1914 (won by Black in 28 moves).

What is significant in this opening is that Black does not commit any pawn structure at the start, thus retaining considerable flexibility. Black exerts control on the center indirectly from a distance by use of his pieces and also undermining the influence of enemy pieces on the center.

Let us see how all this is accomplished.

 

nimzo-indian1
1. d4 Nf6   White wants to control the central square e5 and semi-central c5. Black applies pressure on d5 and e4 by the Knight (a direct control would need Black to play d5, which normally leads to Queen’s Gambit opening).
 
nimzo-indian2
2. c4 e6   White now counters Black’s pressure on d5 by his pawn move and Black uses his KP to strengthen his hold on d5.
 
nimzo-indian3
3. Nc3 Bb4   White develops his QN, adding to the pressure on d5 by his QBP and exerting a measure of control on e4. Black again goes the indirect route to nullify the influence of White QN on d5 and e4 by pinning it. Black also creates the possibility of exchanging his KB with White’s QN, surrendering the advantage of Bishop pair to create a liability of doubled pawn for White on c-file.
 

 

In this defense, Black generally puts his QB in fianchetto by playing b6 and Bb7, applying the Bishop’s influence on the long diagonal including the center squares d5 and e4 in harmony with his KN.

If Black exchanges his KB with White’s QN, his strategy will be to close the center to minimize White’s advantage of Bishop pair. You know that an open game gives a great advantage to player having two Bishops and obviously White’s strategy will be to go for such a game.

At this stage, 4. e3, a quiet looking move, is considered to be White’s most potent weapon against Nimzo-Indian Defense. 4. Qc2 (with the idea to retain Bishop pair without doubling of pawn) and 4. a3 (a venturesome continuation and forcing Black’s hand to play 4. … Be7 or 4. … Bxc3) are also playable. Kasparov used 4. Nf3 (a kind of wait-and-watch move) to considerable success against Karpov in their championship match.

To remain within the ambit of our article, we will consider the normal variation only.

 

4. e3 0-0   White consolidates his QP and goes for development by opening a line for his KB.
 
nimzo-indian4
5. Bd3 d5   White is building up his pressure on e4 and will aim to place his KP there. Black continues with his center control by advancing QP.
 
nimzoindian5
6. Nf3 c5   White KN increases his control on e5, but Black undermines the pressure by threatening White’s QP with his QBP.
 
7. 0-0   White has completed his initial development and in case of doubled pawn due to Black exchanging Bishop with Knight, White can hope to undo it if Black takes his QP. Otherwise White can capture with his Knight to position it centrally. Black does not have any problem in completing his development and his share of center offers many chances of counterplay.

 

In Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 3, we will see how the another important QP opening viz. Queen’s Gambit Declined goes about the struggle for the center.

Chess Opening: Control of Center – Part 1

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The theory behind all chess openings is to control the center comprising the squares d4, e4, d5 and e5, and the development of pieces that goes with it. Control of the center by one player helps him to position his pieces more effectively while thwarting the development of opponent’s pieces. You can easily imagine that such a control with its associated benefits can facilitate your win to a great extent.

This control can be achieved in three ways:

  • Firstly, by occupying those squares with your pawns and pieces.
  • Secondly, allowing your opponent to occupy the center and then attacking and undermining the position.
  • Lastly, exerting control from a distance by means of pieces like Knights and Bishops without directly occupying those center squares.

This control of a square is also known as ‘applying pressure’ on the square by threatening to capture any enemy pawn or piece that may venture to occupy the square.

In Chess Openings: the most popular ones, we tried to show you the most common first moves at the start of a chess game. But you must have noticed that the baker’s dozen of most popular types can ultimately lead to hundreds of different openings, going by the ECO codes that incorporate those opening moves. If you examine any of these openings through the moves that follow, the theme of center control will become apparent by the use of one of the three opening tactics described above.

To see how the different chess openings aim to achieve center control and their pros and cons, let us check four types which are related to the most frequent first moves described in Chess Openings: the most popular ones. Incidentally, two of these openings start with pushing the KP (1. e4) and the other two with QP (1. d4), so a fair representation is made!

We will examine with reference to the following openings:

1. e4-c5 (Sicilian Defense)
2. e4-e5 (Ruy Lopez)
3. d4-Nf6 (Nimzo-Indian Defense)
4. d4-d5 (QGD or Queen’s Gambit Declined)

However, since Ruy Lopez has been discussed earlier in Chess Opening basics: Ruy Lopez, we will examine the other three in this and the next article.

Sicilian Defense:
It has become the most popular choice at master level as it eminently suits a fighting player with Black pieces. As can be seen from the number of ECO codes, there are many variations possible, but here we will consider the Najdorf variation which has become very popular with players like Fischer and Kasparov going for it in a big way.

sicilian1
1. e4 c5   White wants to control the central square d5. Black in turn applies pressure on d4 against advance of White’s QP.
 
sicilian2
2. Nf3 d6   White creates his own pressure on d4 and also on e5. Black’s pawn move opposes this pressure on e5. Here, Black could also play Nc6 which would counter the White KN’s influence. Retaining a control on d5 is a key theme for Black in Sicilian defense in order to free his position by moving his QP to d5.
 
3. d4 cxd4   White does not want to lose initiative, so goes ahead with his QP advance and Black immediately captures the pawn to deny White the hold on the center squares.
 
sicilian3
4. Nxd4 Nf6   White recaptures and positions his KN on a center square. White gets control of half-open d-file while Black gets half-open c-file as also a pawn majority at center. Black now develops his KN threatening White’s KP and exerting pressure on d5.
 
sicilian4
5. Nc3   White counters Black’s plans by bringing out his QN which gives support to his e4 pawn and bolsters his hold on d5.
 
sicilian5
5. a6  

 

For the first time, Black seems to have deviated from the struggle for the center through this defining move for Najdorf variation of Sicilian Defense. What is the idea behind this apparent deviation?

By this move, Black denies b5 square to White‘s Knights and KB. It also prepares for Black’s pawn move to b5 to start a Queenside action and positioning his QB to b7 from where it can bring pressure on d5 square and White’s e4 pawn.

After this, White may generally choose from the sharpest line with 6. Bg5 to quieter, positional games with 6. Be2, and others lying in between like 6. Be3, 6. f3, and 6. Bc4. But further analysis of all those moves will take us into a full discussion of Sicilian Defense, which was not the idea behind this article. We only wanted to show how any opening theory tries to achieve center control and if you understand the means and follow the principles, you will be in the right lines without a need to memorize too many moves!

In next two parts of Chess Opening: Control of Center, we will see how this is achieved in two popular QP openings viz. Nimzo-Indian Defense and Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Middle game tactics: Dilemma over the choice of rooks to move

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One of the important set of pieces with unique advantages of moving forward and backward only on verticals and horizontals and not otherwise is the rooks. The importance of the rooks can be assessed by the fact that the value of two rooks is more than the value of the Queen. No other combination of the major and minor pieces gives a value more than the value of the queen in the game of chess. The rooks are basically stationed at the flanks at the start of the game. As part of the opening strategy, it is imperative that the players try to bring these two rooks into play by preferring to castle and prepare the rooks for further development.

At the start of a typical middle game stage, one could invariably find both the rooks occupying the back ranks while all other minor pieces leave that first rank and take interesting positions in the other ranks. Most of the time even the Queen moves out of the back rank, but the rooks will be stationed there before preparing for the development.

It is imperative that which of the two rooks should be moved as part of the development or defence should be correctly assessed, based on the evaluation of the position of the board, and a wise decision is taken. The choice of the wrong rook for movement will not only complicate the position, it might give away the advantage to the opponent to pounce on the weakness.

To emphasize this important fact, let us look at a part of the game played in German Bundesliga by two grandmasters, where a wrong decision by white has forced him to part with the control over the board and ultimately after great defending and futile attacking, had to settle for a draw.

This is the position of the game after 15 moves, and it is the turn of the White to make a move.

picta1

(White to move)

A cursory look at the position indicates that both the players have developed their pieces fairly well, and are in the midst of an intriguing middle game. It is obvious that White would want to move his rook to the e1 square to share the advantage of the open e file. Here comes the dilemma as to which of the two rooks – rook at c1 or the rook at f1 – that should be moved to the e1 square – is the problem.

The merits of moving the rook at f1 to e1 include – having two rooks at each side – queenside and the kingside – and exercising control over the “c” file and the “e” file. On the contrary, moving the rook at c1 to e1 means the rook at f1 is blocked.

White decided to go ahead with the second option of moving the rook at c1 to e1.

The moves are as follows:

16. Rce1 Qd6
17. Re3 …. White anticipated that an exchange of Rooks as:

1. ….. Rxe3

2. fxe3 ….. would strengthen his position with the Rook at f1

17. …. Bg7 Black did not accept the invitation for exchange

The game continued further and after another 30 moves or more, both the players agreed for a draw.

This is a nice example, which emphasizes that every move, especially the wrong ones such as this one by white, should be judged on its merits.

Chess tactics : Simple tips to master tactics and strategies

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Chess is also referred to as a War game. The names of the pieces such as King, Queen, Bishops, Knights, Rooks and Pawns symbolically refer to a battlefield with you being the commander-in-chief of the pieces directing what must be done to say checkmate and win over the opposition King.

One should understand the various chess tactics and chess strategies in the pursuit of winning over the opposition. Any attempt to play the game without any tactics and strategies in place would be foolish and the opponent will have an opportunity to say checkmate against you.

Let us understand what tactics and strategies mean in the game of chess? Does the two mean one and the same? The answer is NO. Tactics and strategies are not one and the same.

Strategies may be the broader goals or major goals planned as part of the game. For example, it is obvious that checkmating the opponent is the broader strategy, and the most important one. Developing the minor pieces and controlling the centre might be one major strategy.

Tactics, on the other hand, can be defined as a series of moves, ranging from two moves to five moves at the maximum, aimed at achieving the broader strategy of say, controlling the centre game.

Let me put it in this way to make you understand the importance of tactics and strategies in the game of chess by an example.

You are playing a game of chess and your strategy or goal is to say checkmate to the opponent and win the game.

For example, assume that you are a sculptor carving stones and making beautiful sculptures. The materials required for making a sculpture include the big stone, chisel and hammer. Using the chisel and the hammer, you carve the stone to make a beautiful sculpture. If you use the hammer with force, then the stone may break out. Using the chisel and hammer in a nice way, you make the sculpture look beautiful.

Now, imagine the stone to be the game, and the sculpture or beautiful image to be the victory for you or the broader strategy, then the chisel and hammer are the tactics.

In a nutshell, a series of tactics leads towards a broader strategy and the ultimate victory.

One can employ a number of different tactics to achieve a specific strategy. It depends on the intuition of the player and what he thinks would be the best move in the circumstances. Of course, there are some general tactics such as pin, fork, discovered checks etc, which can be effectively employed to achieve a specific goal.

As chess is a thinking game, the opponent will also have similar ideas as what you think and then he or she may try to thwart your ideas. You may have to think differently as part of tactics.

Tactics might include offering a piece for sacrifice in an attempt to distract the opponent. Tactics might also include moving a piece in the queenside to divert the attention of the opponent while your idea is to develop pieces along the kingside. As part of tactics, you need to make some unusual moves, which conceal the motive and distract the opponent, that need to be taken to achieve the broader strategy.