Chess Strategy and Chess Tactics in a nutshell: A beginner’s game plan – Part 2

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You learned about chess strategy and chess tactics during the opening phase in Beginner’ chess game plan Part 1. Now we continue with such ideas for middle and end games.

Middle Game : where you win or lose (or settle for a draw)

You have completed your preparations in the opening phase and now you are ready to take the battle to the opponent. In this phase, though the undercurrent of strategy still flows, you depend on your combinatory skills or chess tactics to get the upper hand. Unless you are going for simplification by exchanging pawns and pieces, the positions are often fairly complex. But you will not get deterred by the complexities if you try to take a holistic view of the situation. To best manage the position, you can use the favorite jargon of managers viz. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. In particular, try to see the positional imbalances Which will guide you to use the best course of action.

Such imbalances come from situations like:

  • pawn majority on one side
  • weaknesses in pawn structures like pawn islands, isolated pawns, doubled pawns
  • strong passed pawns
  • pawn structure allowing a Bishop free movement (strong Bishop) or blocking it (weak bishop)
  • pawns in locked positions (make Knights play better than Bishops)
  • relative values of Knights and Bishops (from above considerations)
  • Bishops against Knights (single or pair or combination)
  • open or semi-open ranks, files and diagonals and who has control on these
  • inequalities in pawns and pieces
  • position of the Kings (castled vs. uncastled, castled on opposite sides)
  • mobility of pieces

You will use tactics and combinations to:

  • build up on your advantages to gain more space and control

  • utilize opportunities for attacking/capturing pawns/pieces or gain in exchange

  • attack opponent King’s position
  • examine the possibility of successful sacrifice or exchange sacrifice to demolish opponent’s resistance
  • identify weaknesses in opponent’s positions (like overloaded piece, most important defensive piece, positional holes, pinned pieces etc.) and selectively target them
  • utilize these tactics to obtain checkmate or material gains that will help in the endgame
  • snatch a draw by repetition of moves if in a defensive situation

End Game : the last resort to win or lose (or settle for a draw)

As told earlier, this phase may not come if a result has been possible during the middle game itself. But if that has not happened, you will most likely be looking at a board from which majority of the pieces and pawns have been removed and for the first time, the King may have some say!

Here, both strategy and tactics go hand in hand. If you think you have what it needs, your main aim is delivering a checkmate. But if your opponent has the upper hand, your aim will be to salvage a draw. Accordingly, your intermediate targets may be:

  • making enough gains in terms of pieces/pawns to force opponent to surrender
  • achieving the above through pawn promotion if direct material gain is not possible
  • snatching a draw by stalemate/perpetual check if in a defensive situation

The tactics you can seek to employ in all phases (but especially in middle game) to achieve your aims:

  • pawn storming
  • achieving pawn majority, particularly on the more active side
  • creating a protected passed pawn
  • creating a blockade
  • creating overload on an important defensive piece
  • identifying and eliminating key defensive piece
  • creating your force majority on a target square or reducing opponent’s forces defending the square
  • use of pins
  • use of skewers
  • use of fork
  • creating and maintaining tension
  • check
  • double check (by employing discovered move)
  • double attack (by employing discovered move)
  • simple sacrifice (of a pawn or piece) to gain tempo or attack
  • exchange sacrifice (giving away more material than received in exchange) with same idea
  • simplification through a series of exchanges to enhance some advantage you may be holding or to blunt an opponent’s attack or to make a complex position more clear
  • traps (not for trap’s sake which often misfires, but only if it fits into your strategy)
  • gaining opposition
  • creating zugzwang (‘compulsion to move’) where the opponent’s best option would be ‘not to move’ if it were possible, as any move that is made becomes self-defeating