Variations on an article by Dana Mackenzie (May 2008, CL&R), who was building on precepts espoused by IM Jeremy Silman. Why repeat their efforts? I hope it's not repetition, but offers some additional insights. For starters, I shuffled Dana's acronym because I find KIMPLODES easier to remember, and because ultimately every game revolves around the King...if the King is unsafe, many other factors (particularly Material) lose their importance, so I think that King safety should be considered first.
This is the beginning of a short series in which I offer some clear areas to focus on when analyzing a game, both during play, and afterwards...whether your own games, or those of others.
K - King safety; always a good place to start--he who is mated last, wins first. Huh? Oh, okay, that makes sense...beat the other guy to the punch and bloody up his King, IF it can be done. Otherwise, find something else to do! There are ways to win besides blindly chasing the other player's King.
I - Initiative; one of those "mysterious" concepts, but usually you recognize it when you see it
M - Material; ah, this is easy. Am I ahead or behind in material? The harder question is whether it matters, because sometimes even a Queen doesn't mean anything (simplest example: smothered mate)
P - Pawn structure; start with "Pawn Power in Chess" by Hans Kmoch
L - Lines; files for the Rooks and diagonals for the Bishops, both for the Queen; sometimes it's a rank for the major pieces (Hogs rooting on the 7th comes to mind)
O - Officers; the minor pieces. Who has the better Bishops and Knights. This is frequently tied directly to Pawn Structure and who has better access to Lines and key Squares.
De - Development. At bare minimum, a three part question. The first, and simplest, is who has more pieces developed. The second asks whether the pieces are developed harmoniously, i.e., they support a plan of action. The third asks whether one side has a lead in development in a particular sector. That is, does one side have more pieces available for activity on one side of the board, and the opponent can't muster up good defenses?
S - Squares/Space. This gets back to Pawn Structure, but shifts the focus a bit, and is more complex in some sense. Oversimplified, extra space offers that side more maneuver room for pieces. However, hedgehog defenses prove that sometimes the pieces of the side with less space have tremendous latent energy, just waiting to explode if the side with more space lets up for an instant.
Now for a classic example, "A Night at the Opera" served up by Paul Morphy. He demonstrates why Development and Initiative can rule the day, overwhelming material. This game demonstrates why I place King safety at the top of the analysis tree--if your King is unsafe (meaning the other player has credible threats), nothing else matters. Morphy uses Development to pursue an Initiative. His Officers rapidly become better than their counterparts, and Morphy conquers all the important Lines. Then he understands that material doesn't matter if the King is unsafe and you can sacrifice happily, which is why I used a lower case "m" for material.
Subsequent blogs will go through each of the steps in the KIMPLODES analysis process one at a time, primarily with examples from games.