Chess Lessons Exposed: A Tale Of 3 Offside Knights

Chess Lessons Exposed: A Tale Of 3 Offside Knights

IM Silman
Aug 4, 2015, 12:00 AM |
18 | Strategy

This series is about chess lessons and how a chess teacher tries to push key points home.

If you are looking for a chess teacher, don’t grab anyone that comes along! Take your time, take a lesson or two from various teachers so you can get a feel for their different teaching styles, and you’ll eventually find just the right teacher for you.

Remember: if you and the teacher have zero chemistry, then look for another teacher. There is no fault for either side, but a successful teacher-student relationship is all about great communication (on many levels). If that doesn’t exist, both parties need to move on.

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Test 1


5...a6 and 5...Nc6 and 5...Nf6 and 5...d6 are common, but I’ve never seen 5...Nh6 before. What would be your thoughts after seeing 5...Nh6? What are its plusses and minuses?

Test 2

After 5...Nh6 White didn’t play 6.d4. Instead she just developed, which I think would be the choice of many players (masters included):

Now it’s time for your homework. Assess this position, and then assess the positions after both 11.Qxd7 (greed) and 11.Ba3 (weakening d6).


Answer to Test 1

Offside knight one (h6)


An odd-looking move, but “odd” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad.” The fact that a grandmaster played it forces one to give it respect. But how much respect? My thoughts would go like this:

  • Black has to be careful that this knight isn’t stranded on the side. If I were White, I would do my best to keep it there since, while it’s on h6 it won’t be able to work together with the rest of its army.
  • The knight has three possible futures: 1) An eventual ...f7-f5, and if the pawn is captured (exf5) then ...Nxf5 turns the offside knight into a very well-placed piece. 2) ...Ng4, but at the moment that’s ludicrous since the knight would be chased to f6, a square that could have been reached in one move instead of three. 3) ...f7-f6 followed by ...Nf7. That makes sense since the f6-pawn blocks the a1-h8 diagonal while the knight on f7 hits key squares on d6 and e5.
  • It’s now clear that ...Nh6 gives Black some interesting options, so quiet developing moves probably won’t offer White much.

After churning those things in my mind, I would have played: 


Moves like Bc4 or Qc4 with Nd4 following turns e6 into a bullseye target.

Also note that, thanks to the opening of the center, ...f7-f5 also weakens Black’s central pawn structure:


Answer to Test 2


Offside knight two (a6)


Offside knight three (a3)

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