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KIMPLODES: Officers--Part VII of IX, A Way to Analyze Games

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 (Bishops) and key Squares (Knights).

A simple system for evaluating each element of KIMPLODES

This week the O-factor: Officers.

Officers: basic building blocks.

Hear ye, hear ye, here are nostrums/rules/inherently flawed belief systems that one should memorize, and then forgetWink...they are useful up to a point, it's just that every concept listed has exceptions...and I won't be talking about those exceptions as this is a blog, not a novel.

Knights like:

  1. Early development
  2. Closed positions
  3. Endgames with the pawns on one side
  4. Pairing with a Queen in the endgame
  5. ForksInnocent 
  6. Outposts
  7. Blockading passed pawns (and attacking any pawns that defend the passer)
Bishops like:
  1. Action from a distance
  2. Open positions
  3. Endgames with pawns on both sides
  4. The Bishop pair versus a Bishop and Knight or two Knights
  5. Pins
  6. Long, lovely diagonals, unopposed by pawns
  7. Enemy pawns trapped on the Bishop's color in an endgame
Officers in the middle game

 To the games! After all, this is a discussion of how to analyze the value of Officers, not a treatise on all the tricks and vagaries of minor piece play.


In this first game, Black gains the Bishop pair by move 9, and the O-factor can fairly be assessed as =/+. The Bishop pair will confer a lasting edge in this position that is relatively open, with pawns on both sides of the board. White's Knights have no outposts currently or in the future to counteract the long-range power of the Black Officers. On his 13th move, White is so fearful of pressure against his isolated (and doubled) d-pawn on  d5 that he relinquishes his remaining Bishop for Black's other Knight. Now the O-factor has clearly swung to -+, and considering that Black's only weakness is the backwards e7 pawn, White will be hard-pressed to hold this game. Basically, Black can calmly play for a win by swapping major pieces. With 17 Qa4? White makes all Black's wishes come true. Black either trades all the major pieces, or one Rook per side remains on the board, but in that case Black is granted control of the open c-file--the only open file (L-factor is already -+ due to the Bishops, it would only be magnified if Black controlled the only major file.) After 22 Nd2?, Bxd4 the Knight on a4 is completely dominated, with no safe square on the board. Admittedly, White did everything he could to make this easy, but this happens more frequently than would might want to acknowledge. As a winning technique, this is like free money.

In this second game the O-factor slightly favors Black after move 14 Bg5?!, as the White Bishop on c2 has no influence, and both of Black's Knights are better than their counterparts--White's 14th allowed Black to improve the position of his c5 Knight with tempo. On move 15 Black trades his strong Knight on e6 for the pinning Bishop on g5, eliminating White's best piece and gaining the Bishop pair. O-factor -/+. By move 17, Black's O-factor advantage has grown to -+, as White has a Knight buried on h1, the White Bishop on c2 still has no useful role, and Black's Knight on h5 is ready to jump to the powerful square f4, often a precursor to powerful attacks against the King. Black's 19 ... Bg4 prepares to trade O-factor for either Pawn structure advantages, or even win a piece since the threat is 20 ... Bxf3; 21 gxf3, Qg5+ and White has to play 22 Ng3, hxg3, giving up a piece to prevent mate...at least, for a while. The mounting pressure was too much for White, and after 20 Nd2??, Ne2+ White resigned, as the Queen must give herself up, since the White King has no flight squares.

 Officers in the ending


Needless to say, I believe this particular postion offers lessons in many aspects of KIMPLODES. It offers clear cut instances of L-factor and O-factor, demonstrating how a Bishop's long-range power can corral many a Knight. Here's a more difficult example from a tournament game I drew.


For a complete analysis of this game see my blog How to Draw a Won Game (ugh!), posted Feb 26, 2012. Here I'll simply focus on the role of the Officers in the endgame, and how White, in my opinion, gradually allowed the advantage of his Officers to erode, slowly letting Black take control of the game until the point where the game offered more than adequate opportunities to win...sadly, I choked in the clutch, and had to accept a draw. As we begin our examination of the game, White's Officers are swirling around Black's King, and I elected to return the exchange in return for a bit of peace and mind, knowing that along the way I would be rewarded with a pawn for my trouble. In post-game analysis, Fritz disagreed with my decision, I disagree with Fritz' analysis, as a practical matter. Over the next 10-15 moves White retained a very strong O-factor of +/-, verging on +-, but there was just no way to translate that strong advantage into other gains. Then White first allowed the trade of Rooks, inadvertently allowing Black's King safety factor to improve significantly, and later traded a pair of Bishops, so that an endgame resulted with a B+4P on the White side, and Kt+5 pawns on the Black side, but no targets for the Bishop to be found, so its role was restricted to hindering the advance of Black's pawns, or possibly supporting the advance of a passed pawn on the Q-side if White were able to take advantage of a 2-1 Q-side majority.
A Jan 25, 2013 Tata Steel game was played today (i.e., the day I posted this blog) that shows even top players can be crushed if they mishandle their officers. This is a clinical dissection of Black's game as he burdens himself with a bad Bishop, and White then bends all his energies towards making that Bishop as bad as possible. This starts by placing some of White's pawns on the same color as Black's bad Bishop to keep it trapped on its side of the board, then luring Black's pawns forward via threats that can only be answered with a pawn move, but those pawn moves place Black's pawns on the same color squares as his poor Bishop. Eventually the poor Officer is nearly entombed, and then the malaise even extends to Black's Knight, which spends the latter portion of the game sitting on a square from where it exerts no influence and Black waits for his execution. White commences the execution smoothly with a standard sacrifice that will provide him with unstoppable passed pawns on the Q-side, and Black resigns rather than suffer further ignominy.
Next week
DEvelopment - who gets their pieces out the fastest and most effectively



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