chess thinking Posts

Chess Basic Tactics Series #8 – Final Thoughts and Motivating Words

During the last few weeks we have been learning basic tactics. In this post I’m going to change the pace a bit and write a few words on topics that I believe are overlooked in competitive activities.

Besides chess I have several other hobbies. Many of these are hobbies that I have dedicated myself to for many years. Over the years I’ve noticed that the things that hold people back from improving are almost always the same no matter what the activity.

First and foremost many people underestimate the time required to become proficient. They’ll take up chess, play for a few months, realize it’s difficult, and then quit. It’s important to realize that there is a direct correlation between time invested and skill level. I’m sure if there were studies done, we would find that most grandmasters have studied more than masters, who have studied more than experts etc. etc.

The second thing that holds many people back is the failure to practice correctly. The way to improve your skill level is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are forced to adapt. You must increase the difficulty level and push yourself. If you are studying a tactical problem and the answer doesn’t come to you study it further. The corrolary to this to get out of your comfort zone and practice playing positions that you are uncomfortable with. For example, if you primarily play 1. e4, try playing 1. d4 for several games. We must work on our weaknesses if we want to be complete. This is true in chess or anything else.

The fear of losing is also something that can hold someone back. My answer to this is to lose your ego. Even the best players in the world lose sometimes. What separates people is the ability to come back and keep fighting.

The last thing I want to say is that it’s you and only you who can determine your potential. For someone who really wants to do something there’s nothing holding them back. A lot of people want certain things, but they aren’t willing to change or put in the hard work to get there. When you feel like quitting say to yourself; I have to keep going no matter what. Chess history is filled with games where a player turned around a losing position to win or draw. History is filled with examples of people coming back from extremely difficult situations and succeeding. Use these examples as inspiration, and remember, never stop, just keep going.

 

Chess Basic Tactics Series # 7 – Practice Puzzles

Well, I hope you all had a great Christmas! and now that it is over and we move towards the new year I thought we could look at something else.  We covered a lot of material in the previous six posts. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to practice. The first five are relatively simple to get you warmed up, the last five are more challenging. Also, I will not be stating which tactic is involved in each. Solving them is going to take some concentration and time. Try to give yourself 5-10 minutes for each puzzle, and make a note of the tactical theme that is used. The first move of each solution is provided at the bottom of the page. Some puzzles have one move answers while others require you to calculate variations. I will leave the calculation of variations as an exercise for the player.

Black to move

 White to move

White to move

Black to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

Black to move

Answers:

1)  Bg4 (skewer)

2)  Rxe6 (pin)

3) Ne7+(fork)

4) Bd4(fork)

5) e5(pawn fork)

6) Nf7+

7)  Re8+(decoy)

8)  Qxf7+

9) Qxh7+

10) Qf3+

Chess Basic Tactics Series #5 – Clearance and Interference

In my opinion these two tactics are overlooked and not studied in enough detail. Imagine that you’re in the middle of a tough chess match. You notice that you can make a strong capture or check, unfortunately however one of your own pieces is in the way. That’s where a clearance sacrifice comes into play. We sacrifice one of our own pieces to clear a square, rank, or diagonal. Here two examples.

If whites rook were not in the way he could play 1. Qg7#. So how can white clear his rook out of the way? He can simply move it, but that would give black time to defend. There is one move however that leads to blacks defeat quite quickly. That move is 1. Rh7+. No matter how black captures, white plays Qg7#. A common theme in clearance sacrifices is to move the obstructing piece out of the way with check. Since our opponent must deal with the checking move it allows us to accomplish our goal. In the next diagram we can see an example by the great player Mikhail Tal.

It’s unfortunate for white that his queen is on the e6 square. If she weren’t there then white could play the knight fork Ne6+(remember forks?) Is there a solution to this problem? Tal thought there was and found 1. Qxf5! White captures the knight and clears the square at the same time. After this move black resigned.

Interference is a tactic where we disrupt the harmony of the enemy forces. Here is the classic example of interference from a brilliancy prize game.

White has some bank rank threats. Unfortunately blacks rook seems to be defending the bank rank fine. Richard Reti found a way to breakthrough with 1. Bf7+ Kh8 2. Be8!! There is no defense to the threat. Notice how whites bishop interferes with blacks bank rank defense. Interference tactics are somewhat rare, but they do happen. Interference can really be likened to the opposite of a clearance sacrifice. We put one of our pieces in harms way to accomplish a certain goal.

Chess Basic Tactics Series #2 – Discovered Attacks/Checks

In chess the discovered attack is one of the most important tactics. When we first begin playing chess we learn about simple threats. We attack one of our opponents pieces, and they defend. With a discovered attack we are creating two threats at one time. Since our opponent cannot defend against two attacks at the same time, we gain a material advantage. In a discovered attack a queen, rook, or bishop is positioned behind another piece. When that piece moves, it unleashes an attack. Let’s look at some examples to clarify.

In the above diagram it’s white’s turn to move. Notice how if white moves the bishop on e2, the white rook will attack blacks queen. There are a few moves at white’s disposal here, can you spot what the best one might be? Here the best move is Bg5! With this move white simultaneously attacks blacks queen and rook. Black has no choice but to lose material. Let’s keep studying this tactic because it’s incredibly important.

Here it’s blacks turn to move. White has just played dxc5 which was a major oversight. Here black plays 1. …Bxh2+! and white immediately resigned. Since white is forced to deal with the check, black will then play Qxd3 winning whites queen. Notice how in both of the above cases the bishop moved and created a powerful threat. Because of this, the piece that it uncovered was free to capture the enemy piece. When the piece that moves is able to check the enemy king, the discovered attack is even more powerful.

The most powerful form of discovered attack is the double check. This is extremely strong because it checks the enemy king with two pieces. When a king is in double check it is forced to move, as there is no other way to get out of check. Let’s see what this looks like in practice.

Here it’s white’s turn to move. We can see that the knight on e4 has several squares where it can move, unleashing the rook to give check. In this case however white can give double check by moving his knight to either f6 or d6. Here white plays 1. Nf6++ and gives double check and mate. Can you see why this move is superior to Nd6?

I hope you enjoyed this post! In the next part of our series we will discuss double attacks and forks.

 

 

 

 

 

Chess Noob #13- Assume Your Opponent is Better Than You

I was originally going to write this article telling you that when you play chess with someone, you should behave as if you were playing chess with yourself.  Then I realized this might not work out so well, because when we play chess with ourselves (where we’re playing both sides of the board), we sometimes go in knowing which side of the board we want to win as, and so we may make moves for the other side not as strong as they could be.

So, let’s scrap that idea entirely.  INSTEAD, let’s say that when you play chess with someone, assume they are better than you.  This will make you think long and hard about making a move “because if they do this, I’ve got them!” and realize “Oh, but if they do this instead, I’m dead!”  Many people call this “hope chess”, making moves in the hopes that your opponent will make the wrong move that will allow your grand plan to come true!

Do not play hope chess!  Assume your opponent is better than you, and that they will therefore see at a glance exactly what your plan is!

So, if they always know what your plan is and how to stop it, how can you ever really make a plan?

Keep searching the board until you can come up with a plan that forces your opponent to make certain moves! If you’re coming at them in such a way that they literally HAVE to make the moves you want, then they’ll never get to make the moves THEY want!

So how do you do this?  Certainly it can’t be done on every single move, but every once in a while you’ll be able to find the right combination.   After all, you’re ASSUMING your opponent is better than you… that doesn’t mean they actually ARE!  Everyone makes mistakes in the game of chess.  Look for those errors and figure out ways to take advantage.

But don’t make a move because you expect your opponent to make a mistake or think they might (or HOPE they might).

But what about traps?

A trap is a trap because your opponent doesn’t see what they’re walking into.  Piece sacrifices (which we’ll get into soon enough) are a form of trap that in some cases are too sweet to miss up… unless your opponent knows that trap too!  Which again, you should assume they do.

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