Chess Patterns Are For Everyone

Chess Patterns Are For Everyone

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I always mention the importance of patterns in chess.

Unfortunately, many laugh at the thought, others prefer to ignore a reality (patterns) that demands hard work for those who dream of being a master, and some view patterns as nothing more than a boondoggle.

Yet, the more patterns you absorb, the stronger you’ll get. It’s a fact, it’s truth, and it should be on every player’s agenda. Indeed, almost all chess players have picked up various patterns, even if they aren’t aware of it.

For example, let’s take a look at the good old smothered mate pattern:



Yep, this is a pattern. Patterns come in juicy tactic, high-in-protein positional, vitamin-rich dynamic, and other flavors too.

Here’s a positional pattern:

Knowing this basic pawn structure pattern allowed Black to ignore 1.Ne5, while White, thanks to the pattern, wouldn’t play 1.Ne5 if his life depended on it.

Now let’s check out a huge upset, with Penrose beating a prime Mikhail Tal:

Note how White gave the e4-pawn extra protection. Now it’s defended by both knights and White’s light-squared bishop. This was done since White knew that Black would eventually play ...c5-c5 followed by ...Nc5 when some serious pressure would be applied to the e4-pawn.

Patterns like ...c4-c5 followed by ...Nc5 are must know knowledge if you want to play either side of the Benoni. And, of course, White should expect Black to play ...b7-b5 too since it turns Black’s queenside pawn majority into a dynamic roller that, with ...b5-b4, will kick the c3-knight away from the defense of e4 while also opening up the a1-h8 diagonal for Black’s dark-squared bishop. All typical patterns in the Benoni.

A VERY useful pattern!

Next, check this out (another Benoni):


Recently I visited a tournament in Tokyo (the Japanese Chess Championship).

A young lady named Natsumi Fukuya, one of the ladies on the Japanese Olympiad women’s team, wanted to show me a game she played last year. Here it is:


Shades of Spassky-Fischer! I didn’t trust this move when I first saw it, but the fact that Miss Fukuya was well acquainted with the Spassky-Fischer game (above) and remembered this pattern was, in my mind, quite impressive!

However, in the Fischer game White had to give up his light-squared bishop if he wanted to chop on h5, while here it’s a pure knight trade.

Nevertheless, 12...Nh5 shows courage and a desire to create chaos and tactical possibilities. And, since Black is a very dynamic player, this knight move fits beautifully with her style.

A fun game where Miss Fukuya showed enormous courage, creativity, and a wonderful will to win. Alas, sometimes the cards don’t fall in your favor.

Final Thoughts:

  • In chess, patterns are everything.
  • Play openings that suit your style. 
  • If you can lead a position into tactical chaos or a calm positional game, always choose the position that’s right for your style.
  • If you feel the board needs you to play a certain move (in other words, it’s the most logical move on the board), don’t let fear talk you out of it. Instead say, “I can make this work!” and then use everything in your chess arsenal to prove it. Of course, sometimes it won’t work and you will have to (after much soul searching) accept it. But in many cases if the move you want is the move that makes the most sense, it WILL work. 
  • Please keep in mind that there is a HUGE difference in saying you want some fantasy to work compared to you wanting the move that the position wants to work.
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