chess openings Posts

Chess Noob #16 – The Pin

 

“The pin” is one of the most powerful tactics you can have in your arsenal of attacks.  No, I’m not talking about putting anyone’s shoulders on the ground and there are no 3-counts.  Think of chess more as a war game than anything else… and “the pin” is when you’re attacking so heavily that a piece is “pinned down” and literally cannot move.

Pins can be performed on any piece, making it immobile out of the fear of having the king (or queen, or other higher cost piece) getting captured.  It’s a very simple tactic, but a very strong one at the same time.

One of the most usual pins you’ll see is a bishop pinning a Knight.  It happens very frequently in games, and in many openings you’ll see a position that looks something like this:

The knight can’t move because black would be putting himself in check by doing so.  A normal response would be to push the A-pawn to cause the bishop to retreat.  White can of course (and often does) take the knight forcing black to double up his pawns in the c-file, but not always.

You’ll also, a lot of time, see a similar bishop-to-knight pin where the bishop will capture the queen if the knight is moved.  This can be seen here:

The Bishop, however is not the only piece that can create pins.  Here are a few other powerful pin examples:

Here, white has black’s knight at F7 pinned… HOWEVER, black has a much more powerful pin.  Black is checking white with the Knight at F2.  White would LIKE to take the knight with his Rook, but the Rook is pinned in place by black’s Queen!

And can you see in this one that Black’s Queen is a gonner no matter what Black does?

In these examples, the pin was due to a check that would occur if the piece moved.  That’s not always the case.  In this next example, a lesser piece is pinned because a more powerful piece would be taken, making the pinned piece an easy target:

Black would LIKE to either take the pawn at f4 or push to e4 to make White’s Knight retreat.  If he does either of these moves, however, he will lose his Rook!

Pinning a piece down for threat of either a check or winning a larger piece is a good way to make your opponent’s troops immobile and in many cases win material.  Be on the lookout for pin opportunities for both sides of the board.  Yes, you want to try to pin down your opponent’s pieces, but remember, they want the same thing!


Opening Tips For Beginning Chess Players

For many beginners, the opening stage of the game can be intimidating. What pieces do you move? What should be your plan? There is also confusion because there are so many openings and variations to study. Opening study is important, but not nearly as important as many beginners think. Nonetheless, it is important to understand the basics of opening play. Let’s face it if you can’t start a game, how do you expect to win one! Here are some opening principles for beginning chess players. Keep in mind that these are general rules; of course there are exceptions.

1) Start the game with either 1. e4 or 1. d4. These are the most popular opening moves for a reason. It’s not enough to just play these moves, you have to understand why you are playing these moves. 1.e4 or 1. d4 immediately fight for central control.  1. e4 also opens the diagonals for the white queen on d1 and the white bishop on f1. The move 1. d4 has similar goals by controlling the center and opening up a key diagonal.

2) Move each piece only once in the opening. In chess there is a concept of time or tempo. If you move a piece more than once you are losing time that could be used to develop other pieces.

3) Fight for control of the center. The four central squares e4, e5, d4, and d5 are the most important squares on the board. The reason is that when most pieces are placed on one of these squares they control the most territory on the board.

4) Don’t bring out the queen too early. Since the queen is your most valuable piece, if you move her too early your opponent can gain time by attacking her. Although there are famous openings where this principle is violated(i.e. The Scandanavian Defense), it is a wise rule to follow for beginning players.

5) In general develop knights before bishops. The reason for this is that the best squares for the knights in the opening are usually f3,c3,f6,or c6. A knight placed on one of these squares controls the important central square. The best squares for your bishops are dependent on what is happening in the opening, and that may take a few moves to unfold.

We hope these guidelines help you in your opening play!

 

Chess Noob #10 – How the Rules of Chess Have Changed

Josh from New Jersey asked me “Why is it that Pawns are allowed to move 2 spaces in the beginning?”

This is a great question on the history of chess, and so rather than writing a mini-blog to answer that question alone, I thought I’d go over several rules of chess that have changed over the centuries.  Some of these changes include how various pieces move, the appearance of the chess board, and how to win a chess game.

Pawn Movement

Originally, Pawns could only move forward one space at a time on every turn.  Around the 1500’s, it was decided that the game of chess needed to be sped up and made more exciting.  One of the things done to accomplish this was to allow the Pawn the option of moving up to 2 spaces on it’s first turn and therefore adding variety to the game (would the pawn move just one space or 2) and new strategies.  When it became apparent that a player could use this rule to avoid capture (by moving the Pawn 2 spaces instead of 1 space in which it might get captured by a Pawn on the 5th rank), the rule for En Passant was added.

Pawn Promotion

Originally, Pawns did not promote when they reached the 8th rank, there merely could not move any more during the game.  It wasn’t until the middle ages that it was decided to allow Pawns to be promoted to other pieces if they made it all the way across the board, but they could only turn into a Queen (which, at that time, was the weakest piece in the game).  In the late 1400’s, when the Queen became a much more powerful piece, players were given the option of promoting their Pawns to any other piece.  In the 1700’s, it was ruled that a Pawn could only be promoted to a piece that had already been captured (essentially putting a fallen piece piece back on the board in the Pawn’s place).  This changed again in the 1800’s to it’s current form where a Pawn, when reaching the other side of the board, can be promoted to any piece, even one that has not been captured (essentially allowing a player to have multiple Queens on the board).

Bishops

Bishops have always been able to move diagonally.  However to start with, a Bishop could only move up to 2 spaces at a time.  Modern day chess has the Bishop moving diagonally as many spaces as it likes.

Queens

The Queen was originally the weakest piece on the board!  The very first time it was moved it could be moved in any direction up to 2 spaces, but for every move after that it could only move diagonally 1 space at a time!  It wasn’t until the late 1400’s that the Queen was increased to it’s current powerful status as a piece that can move any direction as many spaces as it likes.

Stalemate

Stalemate has changed often throughout the history of chess.  Up until the 15th century, a Stalemate was considered a win for the person that could force one to happen.  Then, until the 16th century, it was considered an “inferior win”… it would still count as a win for the person who caused the Stalemate to happen, but in a tournament with money prizes they’d only be eligible for half the winnings.  For a while (and in certain countries) a Stalemate was not allowed.  If a player made a move that caused a Stalemate to occur, they were forced to take the move back and make a new move instead.  In the 19th century, it was declared that a Stalemate should be treated as a draw, although to this day there are still many chess experts who believe it should once again be considered a win for whomever can force the stalemate to happen.

Checkmate

Up until the 1300’s, there were 3 ways to win a chess game: 1) Checkmate your opponent, 2) your opponent resigns, 3) capture all of your opponent’s pieces (minus the King).  In the 1300’s, it was declared that taking all your opponent’s pieces no longer counted as a win, you had to Checkmate them.

Threefold Repetition

The threefold repetition rule (if the same position is repeated on 3 consecutive turns, the game is a draw) did not come about until the 1880’s.

The 50-move Rule

The 50-move Rule (if 50 moves are made without capturing any pieces or moving any pawns, the game is a draw) was introduced in 1561 by Ruy Lopez.  In the 1600’s, Pietro Carrera said it should be 24 moves.  In the 1800’s, Bourdonnais said it should be 60.  For a while it was decided that all winnable endgames could be won in 50 moves or less, but then in the 20th century there were a few exceptions found.  Because of these exceptions, for a while, it was declared you could have up to 100 moves in certain endgame situations.  In 1989 that number was reduced to 75 moves, and in 2001 it was changed to 50 moves for all endgames, no matter the position.

Time Control

The first use of time control for games (which we’ll talk about in the next blog) was not introduced until the mid-1800’s.

White moves first

The rule that white moves first was not introduced until 1889.

My how things change!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at flannelmann@yahoo.com