I See Dead Pieces...

  • GM Gserper
  • | Mar 18, 2012

Do you remember this memorable line from the 1999 blockbuster "The Sixth Sense":

Cole Sear (played by Haley Joel Osment) says: I see dead people...  They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead!

Sometimes, when you look at some chess positions, you immediately see dead pieces, but they just don't know yet that they are dead!

Let's take a look at the next iconic game of the great Capablanca. White just played the most natural move 10.Nd5 trying to capitalize on the pin. Capablanca's comment: "White falls into a trap which can be explained only by his lack of experience!"



 Capablanca evaluates the resulting position after his strong maneuver this way: Now White is practically down a Bishop, so Black starts his attack on the Queen's Side.  The result of such an attack on the Queen's side is pretty obvious - Black should win easily with his extra Bishop.

Indeed the rest of the game is simple, at least for Capablanca. But look at the next diagram and you'll see a dead Bg3, except it doesn't know yet that it is dead!



The only thing you should remember if you'll try to trap your opponent's Bishop the same way (by playing g2-g4 or g7-g5) is that in many cases the sacrifice on the g4 (g5) square can be very painful.  For example see the game Salwe-Chigorin that I analyzed here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/two-faces-of-a-pin
In Capablanca's game White couldn't take advantage of Black's g7-g5 move and that's why Capablanca's idea was so strong.
Here is how modern Grandmaster's create 'dead pieces' for their opponents:
In the next game Black had not just one but two 'dead pieces". It is funny that at the moment of resignation Black had an extra pawn. But of course he was completely paralyzed and helpless against the coming attack on the King's Side (starting with g3-g4 move for example).
But you shouldn't think that once you "see dead pieces", the rest is simple.  In the next game it took me almost 60 moves to convert my positional advantage. Still despite her stubborn defense, the US Women Champion was unable to revive her dead Bb8.
  In this long game I succeeded to implement the Capablanca's idea: when you have trapped your opponent's piece on one side of the board, open up the position on the opposite side of the board.  At the end Anna was forced to give up her Bb8 to prevent me from moving my King to her camp  through the King's Side. 
In conclusion I hope you will treat your pieces better than the Deep Blue computer (who self trapped his Rook and the Bishop).  And if you managed to successfully lock your opponent's pieces, then follow the Capablanca's method to convert your advantage.
Good luck!


  • 4 days ago


    Very useful.

  • 2 months ago


    superb, really helps. But would it be a good idea to try and trade pieces on the other side of the board from the traped piece.

  • 3 years ago


    here it is, caught two dead pieces


  • 4 years ago


    TQ SIR...

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  • 4 years ago


    Very well written article - the bishop in Capa's game is not even worth a pawn! It just keeps getting in everyone's way.

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  • 4 years ago


    congratulations on a supremely macabre title. when will "murder" make its appearance?

  • 4 years ago


    Nice article.

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  • 4 years ago


    What An article! Capablenca's ideas are quite good and very strong.

  • 4 years ago


    I am awesome. Cool

  • 4 years ago


    I've always evaluated my position by comparing the number active pieces to number of inactive pieces !

  • 4 years ago


    it's worth remembering. once a piece is that pinned down it's as good as taken, but it can't be held of by protecting it. In the case of things like queens, this is much harder, but much more rewarding, because if you give somebody a free turn with a queen that can't avoid being taken, they usually attack the first piece they can.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice,fun and instructive article. Good luck to you too.

  • 4 years ago


    Awesome serper keep it up.

  • 4 years ago


    i would remember this whenever i play

  • 4 years ago


    Superb article, Love the heading and the reference too :)

  • 4 years ago


    Nigel Short - Vladimir Kramnik, London Chess Classic 2011 is another example.

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