CategoriesChess Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #1 – Pins and Skewers

If you’ve read my previous post, then you know that studying tactics is one of the most important things you can do to improve your game. In this series, I’m going to go deeper, define, and give examples of some basic tactics. Before we get into the fun stuff, let me first give some required definitions.

In chess tactics can be defined as short term opportunities where one player makes threats against the opponent.  Pins and skewers, are just two examples of various tactics that are used in a chess game. A pin in chess is when you attack a piece that can not move out the way because it would allow capture of a piece of greater value. There are two types of pins, absolute pins and relative pins. Let’s look at some examples.

This first diagram is an example of an absolute pin. The black knight on c6 is absolutely pinned to the king because the knight cannot move. In chess, it is illegal to move a piece and expose your king to check. Keep in mind that absolute pins are more powerful than relative pins for this very reason, the piece that is pinned is completely stuck!

 

The next diagram is an example of a relative pin. The knight on f3 is pinned to the queen. Unlike the first example, it is possible for the knight on f3 to legally move. Doing so however would be bad since it would lose the queen which is more valuable than the knight.

One thing to remember is that only queens, rooks, and bishops can pin other pieces.

The next tactic we will discuss is the skewer. A skewer is very similar to a pin, however in the case of a skewer the more valuable piece is in front of the piece of equal or lesser value. When the more valuable piece moves, it exposes the less valuable piece to capture. Just like pins there are absolute skewers and relative skewers. Let’s look at some examples.

The following diagram shows an example of two skewers. The white queen is skewering the black king on a5 and black rook on a8. Since the black king is in check it must move out of the way allowing the capture of the rook. Also, the white bishop is skewering the black rook on f6 and the black knight on g7. Since the rook is more valuable than the knight, when it moves it allows capture of the knight. Just like pins, only the straight line pieces, queens, bishops, and rooks can skewer.

 

I hope this post helped you get your feet wet with some basic tactics! In the next post in this series we will discuss double attacks. In the meantime start improving your tactics play by solving some chess puzzles!

CategoriesChess Openings

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!

 

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #7 – Special Pawn Moves

Like I said when I told you how the pieces move, the Pawn is a very tricky piece.  It might be worth the least (only 1 point), but it has the most special rules.  Remember, it moves forward but attacks diagonally.  And it moves only 1 space at a time UNLESS it’s the first time it moves, and then it can chose to move 1 space or 2.  Well, this tiny chess piece is about to get even more complex with it’s two special moves: En Passant, and promotion.

En Passant

En Passant (meaning “in passing”) is a very special move that can be done by Pawns, but only in certain places and situations.  As we discussed before, Pawns move forward (1-2 spaces on their first move and 1 space after that) and attack on the diagonal, as seen here

The special case of En Passant  occurs on the 5th rank for white Pawns, and the 4th rank for black Pawns.  Consider the following diagram:

White Pawns start on the 2nd rank moving toward the 8th rank, and black Pawns start on the 7th rank moving toward the 1st rank (in chess, “rows” are called “ranks” and “columns” are called “files”).  Therefore the pawns at a2 and f7 are in their starting position.  We know this means those 2 Pawns can move either 1 space or 2 spaces on their first move.  Let’s say it’s black’s turn.  He knows that if he moves his f-Pawn to f6, that white’s e-Pawn will take him.  So he decides to move 2 spaces to f5.

BECAUSE WHITE’S E-PAWN IS ON THE 5th RANK, he can take the f-Pawn as if it had moved only one space forward, but taking it “En Passant” or “In Passing”

This can ONLY be done on the 5th rank for white and the 4th rank for black as a special privilege for crossing into enemy territory.  ALSO, it can only be done to a Pawn moving 2 spaces on it’s first move.  If the f-pawn had already moved before the e-Pawn got there, En Passant would be illegal.   So if the position were already like this:

when the e-Pawn got to e5, he cannot take the f-pawn.  Also, if black’s pawn started on f6 and then moved to f5 so you can’t take it, en passant is not allowed.  ONLY on the pawns 1st move is en passant an allowable circumstance.

Pawn Promotion

One final special move for Pawns (see, I told you they were complex little pieces) is promotion.  Because Pawns are so weak (only worth 1 point) and because they have limited movement (only 1 space at a time in a forward direction), it is a great feat for a Pawn to get all the way to the other side of the board (8th rank for white and 1st rank for black).  Because of this, is a brave little Pawn manages to get that far, they are rewarded with a promotion.

A player that manages to get it’s Pawn all the way to the other side of the board may transform that Pawn into any piece they want (most players chose a Queen).

So now you know all the moves of the chess pieces (from this blog and from “All About Pieces” parts 1 and 2) as well as how to win (from “Check, Checkmate, Stalemate”).  Go out and play chess with the confidence that you know the rules of the game!  You may not start winning matches right away, but at least you know what you’re doing.  And you’ll learn even more by bookmarking this blog so you can stay up to date with all future blogs!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #1 – An Introduction to a New Blog Series

Greetings to all my fellow chess players and a big warm “hello” to all the would-be/future chess players of the world who’ve come across this blog.  This will be a new chess blog series titled “Chess Noob”, and it will be geared primarily to beginning/novice players (both adults and children and possibly even parents of new chess players).

So what will a chess blog for novice players entail?  “Chess Noob” will start out simple (the rules of the game, how to play, etc.) and work through everything you need to know to learn the game of chess or (if you already play) how to get better.

WARNING: This blog is not at all geared for intermediate or advanced players, so if you fit in one of those categories you may be very bored…  However, since we’ll be working our way up we may eventually get into the intermediate work.

My goal with this blog is to get someone from the point of going “what’s chess?” to having them play at a level that they can do well in chess tournaments (although this blog alone won’t get you there, you’ll need to actually practice playing as well!)  I won’t be turning anyone into a world champion with these blogs (as I’m nowhere near that advanced myself), but together we’ll coach you into someone that can, at the very least, beat all your friends (unless you’re friends with the Polgar sisters… then you’re on your own!)

I’ll be taking you through everything (literally) from the start.  The first blog after this you see will be to tell you what the game actually is and it’s rules.  After that we’ll talk about the pieces and how they move, a few openings, tactics (starting off simplistic and increasing in difficulty as we go), what to expect at chess tournaments, how ratings work and what they mean, how to help your chess-playing child improve their game while still having fun, and more topics (to be honest, I only know my plans for the first 10 or 12 topics so far… after that I’m going to just wing it).

So please, I invite you, bookmark this blog so you can come back every week to see what’s new to learn and let’s grow together as chess players.  And if there are any topics you want me to cover, feel free to leave a comment telling me!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at [email protected]

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Basic Checkmates

As a beginner it’s important to learn which material imbalances lead to a clear win. In this post I’m going to show two very basic checkmates that every beginning chess player should know. The first is checkmating a lone enemy king with your own king and queen. The first concept to understand is that you cannot checkmate the enemy king in the middle of the board. The king must be driven to the edge of the board. The way you do this is by using your queen to cut off escape squares. Take a look at the graphic below:

In the above diagram, white has two moves that will lock the enemy king on the edge of the board. Do you see what they are? They are Qg7 and Qb7. In this case however Qg7 is superior, can you see why? Once the enemy king is driven to the edge of the board it’s a simple matter of moving your own king to support your queen as she gives checkmate. The final position usually looks like this:

 

Notice how the king is supporting the queen while she is delivering checkmate.

The second basic checkmate a beginner should learn is checkmating a lone king with a king and rook. This checkmate is a little bit harder because it requires the use of temporizing moves. Once again the king must driven to the edge of the board. Let’s take a look at the diagram below where it’s white turns to move:

Notice how if it were black turns to move and our opponent played Ke8 we could play Ra8#. It is however our turn to move. If we play an immediate Kf6 black will escape via Ke8. The key in this position is to make a waiting move. Either Rb7 or Rc7 work fine. Then if black plays Ke8 we checkmate by either Rb8 or Rc8. More likely black will play Kg8, and then the winning sequence is:

1. Rc7 Kg8

2. Kf6 Kh8

3. Kg6 Kg8

4. Rc8#

The final position is in the diagram below.

Although these positions are basic for most chess players, do not underestimate their importance. A good way to practice is to set up the position against a computer and keep practicing until you win every time. Good luck!

CategoriesChess GamesChess MidgameChess PlayersChess Puzzles

How To Improve Your Tactical Vision

It’s been said that chess is 99% tactics. Whether that is true is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, if you fail to see the tactical possibilities on the chess board you will most likely lose the game. The great thing is that studying tactics and combinations is fun! Combinations are a big part of what gives chess its artistic flair. So now that we know tactics are important how do we get better at them? Here I’ll outline a simple but effective plan of study.

1)      Solve Chess Diagrams Every Day. Get a book of chess problems and combinations that is on the market. Practice solving the problems for around 30 minutes a day. Try to work through the problems slowly. Don’t rush; make sure you see why the move you are making wins. Visualize the series of moves to the end, which brings us to…

2)      Work to Improve Your Visualization Skills. Try closing your eyes and visualizing the board. Try mentally dividing the board into parts. Is e4 a white square or a dark square? What about d4? Don’t worry if it’s difficult at first, just keep practicing.

3)      Analyze Your Games. Look for spots where you had trouble and analyze them afterwards. Try to remember how you were thinking at that time. If you made a mistake try to think why you chose that particular move. Did you not see what your opponent was threatening? Were you just so caught up with your own moves that you had a blind spot? These are common errors that chess players make.

4)      Study Games from Great Tactical Players. Pick a player with a highly tactical style, maybe Alexander Alekhine or Gary Kasparov. Play over and study their games.

Try sticking with this study plan long term. Thirty minutes each day is over 180 hours a year you will have spent improving your tactics!