Okay. So in my other chess articles, you have learned/will learn about important features in chess strategy, a topic that is certainly important.
Central control, superior development, greater space, outpost pieces, etc. are all good things; little space, a bad bishop, and weak pawns are bad things.
When your opponent has an isolated pawn, it isn’t just a pawn-it is a plan. You try to give it to your opponent, and avoid it. The same holds true for everything else in chess strategy. These aren’t just abstract strategies; these are all plans, that you try to give yourself and prevent your opponent from gaining.
We all know the saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned”. The same applies here: a minus point for your opponent is practically a plus point for yourself.
The more you play, the more these factors will become your second nature; indeed, with practice and review, you will stop making strategic blunders. You will have more ideas for plans; you will be able to easily evaluate any position, and decide what your plan should be. Not only do you know if you are ahead or behind, you know by how much, and most importantly, you know why you are ahead.
If you are Winning by a Large Margin:
If you have several strategic advantages or are up a pawn, you are winning. In expert games, these advantages are decisive; in intermediate games, you have to work hard for the win. If you are winning:
- First, make sure that your king is safe. A massive material advantage doesn’t matter if you are being checkmated! Furthermore, when you are ahead, your opponent becomes desperate, and they don’t mind throwing pieces at you.
- Define the position. Try to magnify your advantages, and your opponent’s disadvantages. If they have a crippling space disadvantage, and can’t do anything, rearrange your pieces, and make your position even better!
- Try to exchange pieces, but be smart about this: if you are up two pawns in the opening, you can’t blindly exchange pieces left and right, as there is a whole game left for yout o play.
- If you are several pieces ahead, you can sacrifice one of them in order to facilitate exchanges; however, don’t sacrifice all your pieces, because you’ll have nothing left!
- Move slowly! Just because you’re ahead doesn’t mean you can blindly rush forward without thinking.
If you are Losing Badly:
- Never resign, unless you’re resigning your driver’s license (in which case it’s a good idea).
- Take a few deep breaths; if you’re in a tournament, calm your nerves and walk around for a minute or two. There is still plenty of game left to play.
- You have nothing to lose! Worse comes to worst, you lose the game that you were going to lose anyway! Try your hardest; it is okay to take some risks, and even occasionally play “hope chess”.
- Try complicating the situations and creating tactical opportunities for yourself.
- For you to win, your opponent probably needs to blunder. Try to rattle your opponent by any means possible: start moving quickly, or think for a really long time to tire your opponent. However, still remain a courteous opponent.
- Give your opponent as many opportunities as possible to make a blunder.
In A Closer Game:
Experts who are up a pawn and possess one or two advantageous strategical factors will probably coast to victory; for intermediates, however, the task is more difficult.
If you are winning:
- Follow the old advice (protect king, evade traps, accentuate advantages, etc.)
- At all costs, strengthen your strategic advantages and solidify your position.
- This will take a while. Try to preserve your advantages until the end game.
- When pieces have been exchanged, advance your pawns to gain a passed pawn.
- Plan for the ending! Try to make your extra pawn into a central pawn, not a rook pawn. Also, keep more than one pawn island, because a king and lone pawn v. king usually draws, whereas the same situation with another pawn island usually wins.
- Exchange with prudence..
- If your opponent avoids exchanging, that’s okay; for example, if he doesn’t want to trade rooks, you’ll grab an open file. Thus, make it worth his while to trade: most opponents will try avoiding exchanges, so give them a good reason to accept the exchange.
- If you have a better strategic, it is difficult to map a specific course. For instance: you have better development, central control, an open file, and your opponent is cramped. You have four strategic factors in your favor; the win should be there, but it’s hard to find. If so, try to further cramp your opponent or to convert your dynamic advantage into a static advantage or a pawn.
If you are losing:
- Realize that even if you play on a grandmaster level, you will most likely still lose.
- Rely on the human factor. If he is timid, attack him. Again, you have nothing to lose.
- Try negating your opponent’s strategic advantages; avoid exchanges. In short, do everything specified in the previous section.
Converting one advantage to another:
Often, you should be able to convert one type of advantage to the other. Let’s say I have a lead in development. That advantage should go away after a few moves. If I want to preserve that lead, I might, for example, trade a knight for a bishop, that way securing myself the bishop pair. In this way, you can turn minute advantages into more lasting advantages.
Focus on the outstanding feature of the position. If your opponent has an isolated pawn, as mentioned, focus your entire game around that pawn.. If you have a protected passed pawn, shoot for the end game.
The famed Capablanca once carried a single strategic advantage-his opponent had a bad bishop-all the way to the endgame and won, after 67 moves!
However, here is a shorter, easier-to-understand game:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Qe2 d6 7. c3 Bd7 (Black’s development seems rather passive) 8. d4 O-O 9. Bc2 Qe8 10. h3 Rd8 (honestly, I have no clue what Black thinks he is doing) 11. Re1 Kh8 (really?) 12. Nbd2 Ng8 (?) 13. Nf1 Bf6 14. Qd1 Nce7 15. Ne3 c5
Black hasn’t granted White anything in the center, but he is still open to a little something.
16. Ng4 Bxg4 17. hxg4
The position hasn’t changed much, other than White gaining two positive strategic factors: 1. the bishop pair/bishop for knight; 2. Open h-file.
17…Nc6 18. d5 Nb8 19. g3 Qd7 20. g5 Be7 21. Nh4 g6 22. Kg2 f6 23. Rh1! (offering the pawn) Kg7 (declining)
- Material is even, but White has the bishop pair;
- White has greater space, and the center, due to Black’s lackluster play;
- White’s king is secure, where as Black’s king is starting to feel the heat
- White has the half-open h-file. White now has a lead of four points, sufficient to produce a win.
The win is there, but you must see it!
24. Nf5+! gxf5
Black can’t play 24…Kh8 25. Rxh7+ Kxh7 26. Qh1+, with mate in two moves.
25. Rxh7+ Kxh7 26. Qh5+ Nh6 27. Qxh6+ Kg8 28. Qg6+ Kh8 29. Be3 Resigns
And there you have it. Based on tactical considerations, White wins. By focusing on the position itself, you can win pretty easily!!