A Few Things to Ponder

| 5 | For Beginners

Strength and Weakness with respect to Pieces


Question 1)  By what system should we measure the Strength of a Piece?

Answer:  The Strength of a piece lies in the number of positions/Pieces it is attacking i.e. being aimed at. Hence strength is found in a Pieces Path of Attack.


Question 2) by what system should we measure a Pieces Weakness?

Answer:  The Weakness of a Piece – when being itself attacked – is the
Position it is currently placed.  Hence in moving from that Position – and this is not true for Pawns (because they can only move forward) – the Piece also moves out of the line of sight and *in doing so has that same position covered  on which it was previously being Attacked.


It’s a bit like this…If a soldier on the Battlefield is about to have a crossbow pointed at them, they are thus in the path of Attack of their opponent.  It may thus be necessary for the Soldier to do one of two things – take evasive action or rush at his enemy (provided his enemy is in range with both time and distance) and get to where his enemy is weak – his position, thus neutralizing the threat.


Chess of course works slightly differently because compettitor's moves are necessarily unsimultaneous.  Nevertheless in taking in the above concept, don’t be confused with how to punish a Piece; because in fact you most often have to punish a piece by *restricting it’s advancing movement rather than Punishing it by direct Attack.  In fact, by firstly restricting its movement it is much easier to pick it off at your leisure afterward.


Another concept which may be thus born out of the above concept is this…If a piece arrives first to line up a path of Attack; it effectively owns that path of attack.  The piece arriving second must employ further strategy to line up second - and then it still may not have opportunity to fire the first shot - i.e. take first.


Thus for example, two advancing Pawns placed next to each other have already “conquered” the four squares directly in front of them.  It is then simply a technicality to add support to them when or if required.


Take First to Cheat; Take Back to Hold


In equalizing for the loss of a piece your opponent’s move will quite often be completely or partially predictable based on their desire to equalize materially and or neutralize the effect of future exploitation and capture of other surrounding pieces.  Predictability is most often the greater part of your advantage at this time (the lesser part - apart from the often great advantage of placing your opponent in Check - usually being that, after the completion of your move, your opponent is yet left in a position of disadvantage with respect to their "Material" until the action of taking back is complete) as it allows you to remain a step (i.e.  a move) ahead in setting up for your next tactic. 


Now, if your opponent does not take back - you may be down on some predictability (or is that strategy?) - but you will effictively be ahead in Material. Hence taking first is rather like “Cheating” in that you have either cheated your opponent a move or you have cheated him a piece.


However - and I've learned this from experience in playing over 5,000 games - what if your opponent does not take back but instead attacks you - maybe your Queen (or even worse, your King) - from a different direction/region of the board as to what you were expecting?  The answer is - and this usually goes for scenarios other than when you have been outplayed by an unexpected check (though after playing 5,000 games I must say that checks are becoming much less unexpected now) - you are either down by a little strategy as a result of a poorly planned assault or your opponent has made either a piecewise or strategic error which you must now capitalize on.  In such a scenario take a while to examine all the following mechanics of your response and take the entire board into account. 


Here's a tip:  If your opponent attacks your Queen (or some other piece) in order to steal back the initiative in revenge for your cheating manoever, see if you can gain an advantage by responding likewise  - or even better - check him at the expense of another of your pieces; you see your opponent can only take one piece from you per move.  After he takes whichever piece he chooses you may simply withdraw the other (or attack him with it again) - the result being that your opponent is now even further behind in strategy and/or material.


On the other hand, you may be better off by taking back so as to more or less hold your position and thus retain the required presence necessary at the time to keep the initiative.  This often happens when your opponent would otherwise be at a loss to allow further build-up of pressure whereas you would not be as greatly advantaged in “Cheating” as you would in maintaing some kind of presence.  NB:  It is only possible to take back if you have at least one extra piece than your opponent has aimed at the particular square under consideration; cheating is otherwise the better  option by far or you will finfd yourself a piece down at the end of that series of exchanges.


You may say that the two concepts  - taking first or taking back - are somewhat complementary and this is quite often the case, especially for the more advanced players’ games.  This is due to much more astute forethought and experience in preventing more or less unequally balanced game scenarios.


Strength and Weakness Revisited


You must avoid your opponent’s Strengths and exploit his Weakness:

Example1)  If in a fight I grabbed you by the Jugular with both hands, this leaves me with no hands to defend my nether region.  I don’t have to ask then what you would do with your knee – and where my hands would go once the knee was employed.


Example 2)  Alexander The Great as a very successful campaigner was renowned for avoiding Strength and Attacking Weakness.  He would employ a large portion of force to attack a single flank.  Once succeeding to rout this flank, his enemy would rush to the aid of the routed flank leaving behind all the offensive capability necessary to retain the centre of the Battlefield.  With virtually zero losses so far Alexander would then turn most of his attention to the opposite flank which was already in considerable disorder due to the enemy’s previous unsuccessful attempt at damage control and rout it as well.  By this time it was almost expected that the enemy would surrender - and the victors had not even looked like playing off against the strength of their opponent which lay in forcing control at or near the centre of the battlefield.


Aside:  Are you advising to attack the flanks in the initial stages of the game?  Answer: Not necessarily - however I wolud like to bring your attention to an interesting game which I lost as a result of a "Flank Assault" in which I lazily paid little attention in the middle stages, allowing my opponent the build-up of force.  Here's how it went... 




It is the same with Chess.  When moving Strength to another area it is inevitably reduced in the initial area…this is indeed something to ponder throughout the game; and hence instead of bold, open maneuvers which will leave you vulnerable in areas the force was initially used to control, it is often better to employ small adjustments, compact defense and focused attacks.


This also means don’t set up too elaborate an attack or strategy rather like a boxer winding up for a huge crushing blow…by the time it was supposed to connect he will already be brought to his knees as punishment for opening up his defense.  Rather play from move to move.  You must know what your opponent has in fact done  - as opposed to what you were expecting - and take this into consideration before employing any further strategy.  But this of course does not mean don’t contemplate what your opponent will do next – or even what you would like to do next.


The Pieces


Pawns are the Soul of the Game

If a book could be written about each Piece, a library could be written about Pawns.  .  They even each have their own personality (based on their respective starting positions).  They block, advance menacingly, don’t mind being sacrificed, hold down the fort, stand in your opponent’s psychology as an unstoppable wall/blockade that keeps advancing and cannot go backwards, provide support, occupy territory,  have many combinations and ultimately will run home to call Mama to the battlefront if sufficiently nurtured.  Some Players regard them as topography and this is by no means frowned upon.  I advise players to treat them like gold, think of them economically and use them as currency.  So have a little cry when you lose one, ok?! 


In looking after these little dudes what is generally desired in effective strategy is to make an effort to keep them no more than one per file i.e. where possible try to keep them in order – or rather “connected”.  This will increase your overall mobility as well as spread your offensive capabilities.  On the other hand, it can be an advantage to have three per two adjacent files i.e. fit three in two files and advance them strategically down the board.  Such an arrangement above your opponent’s King will put the chill up his spine.


It may also be desirable towards the middle game to make about three or four arrangements out of them, keeping in mind all your Mobility and control such that it will be as though the Pawns, in simply occupying territory are casting a spell on your opposition preventing his advance.


Here’s a tip…have your Pawns occupying much of the territory your sacrificed Bishop previously controlled.


Tip 2:  This is by no means an exhaustive description of the little heroes except to say they are the best piece on the board.


Knights – the Cavalry Commandos

Nothing blocks them!  The can attack numerous pieces simultaneously and cause the enemy to scatter, be eaten (captured rather), or precipitate change to your advantage in planning their attack sufficiently well.  Hence you may say they have a certain ability to break the game open.  They are useful at any time and have many (sometimes baffling) combinations.  They may not be the best defenders but they are brilliant in assault.  They can cover every square on the battlefield and jump through or over obstacles, but they nevertheless have an arch nemesis which has the ability to hold them at bay when the game is in open play…


Bishop – Sniper and King’s Defender

You may use them to lie in wait for a passing Knight or control a penetrating line into your opponent’s defenses otherwise held tight.  They can be sacrificial in nature but if you retain two at the end of the game your opponent must do whatever you say – that meaning it is possible to checkmate with two bishops though this requires experience (in fact I have an exhaustive book on endings which also shows it is possible to force a checkmate with a Knight-Bishop combination).


Two Bishops controlling adjacent lines is very scary for your opponent – especially when aimed at or near the King.  They are not particularly vulnerable to capture especially if tucked away amongst a bunch of infantrymen.  They are also perfect for shepherding (i.e. preventing the advance of ) your opponent’s Pawns.


Apart from the above, Bishop’s have another important quality…They have the ability to walk around Kings, thus temporarily nullifying the effect of attack – i.e. check - by a mobile Castle.  Kings also don’t mind walking around Bishops and feel sufficiently “adorned of clothing” (oops!, I actually meant a lot less “Naked”) in their presence.


Castles – The Clumsy Heroes

Be precise with this Piece and NEVER expose him in the initial stages of the Battle or he will make a beautiful barn sized target for your opponent…You see they don’t move very well amongst much “Material” so you need to be utmostly precise with their placement.  In open space however (i.e. at or towards the end-game), they may spell doomsday for your opponent – especially if you are a castle up.  You see if at the end of the game it’s just two Kings and a Castle, the King who owns the Castle wins easily by force of checkmate (though if it is you who owns the Castle, be sure to avoid Stalemate).


On the other hand, if you find you are a castle down at any point in the game you had better grasp your opponent’s strategy by the jugular and commence strangulation procedures almost immediately.  In such an event, you will not be able to afford as long and protracted a battle as your opponent so utilize the element of surprise.  Guerilla tactics are good in such a situation.  In fact if you are found to be a piece down at any point in the game you need to speed up your strategy a little, as according to Sun Tzsu, “Speed is a Substitute for resources”.  Now you can substitute by blocking and cramping your opponent’s pieces thus using his own pieces against him but in addition you can also pull out the fastest piece on the board – your Queen.


Your Devastating(ly beautiful) and All Menacing Wife – The Queen

Well you chose a warlord didn’t you?!  Yes she beats you up in bed and makes you...(I forgot the rest).


Actually some many decades ago, when the rules to the game were still in their developmental stages and White didn’t necessarily start, the Queen was much more humble and could only move one square at a time, so was kept close to the King in order to block any attack (Coward!).  Going back even further, the Castles could only move one square at a time and the bishops three (the knight’s moves have never changed).


Anyway, they sped up the Bishops and decided to do the same with the Castles.  It was long proposed to speed up the Queen as well but there was a problem with that scenario.  White had an overwhelming advantage over Black, so the Castling maneuver was invented in order that Black overcome the distinct disadvantage resulting in speeding up the Queen.  Hence one should always commence a game with Castling in mind (which is not the same as saying Castling is absolutely necessary).  It so happens that Black still suffers from a slight disadvantage but with a half-decent strategy may be able to force a Draw or draw his opponent into a trap and thus pave the way for a win.


As far as strategy concerning Her Majesty, some like to move her all about as she eats her way through the little dudes and other Material.  These Players can be scary if they know how to use her effectively and do not abandon her amongst their opponent's little dudes or walk her into a trap.  Some like to place her in a region where she has Supreme control.  Such strategy can be devastating to your opponent’s mobility.  Some like to use her as like the final piece to a jigsaw puzzle – very sneaky.  Still others like to keep her aimed firmly up the centre of the Battlefield where she is quickest and most brutal.


In any case, there usually comes a time in the duration of the Battle where one opponent offers her up for sacrifice and the other chooses either to reluctantly kiss her goodbye or decline his opponent’s bribe.  In the author’s experience it often does not hurt to kiss her goodbye given the scenario that you really must – but it will be as though the battle starts all over again as if from scratch.  From here the stakes increase and the day will see a riveting pawn race to the end.  On the other hand, avoid your opponent's bribe in offering up his "Wife" in order to equalize but use your wits from here on.  Your opponent may  suddenly have become jealous of your more powerful position.


Your Majesty the King

Although speed and virility are not your strong points you nevertheless make up for the lack of such qualities by your cowardice – sorry, that would be your wits.  The point being that it is vital you remain safe from exploitation and attack.  However, the King must fight too especially during the closing stages of the Battle.  This is when he comes out of his hidey-hole and engages with the fight – he must or he will lose.  It also may not hurt to move the King around in earlier stages of the game i.e after castling.  Such use of strategy may buy you an extra move and force your opponent to readjust his line/path of attack.  NB: Usually it is better to move to avoid check rather than move out of check.


One final tip for the beginner…MAKE SURE you open up an escape hatch above you amongst your little defender dudes before committing your Clumsy Heroes to the fray…This move may save your head towards the end of the day!.

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