Dreams: The Secret Formula For Chess Success, Part 5

Dreams: The Secret Formula For Chess Success, Part 5

| 12 | Strategy

What in the world is a chess dream? And how can such a thing help your game?

This series is all about dreams (okay, it’s also about imbalances and patterns), and it’s presented in a question-and-answer format. Some of the positions will be hard to deconstruct, some will be very basic, but all of them should prove instructive once you do your best to solve the puzzles and then carefully read the prose in the answers.

Chess dreams: No, we’re not talking about a chess dream where you’re the only one on Earth that has solved the game, thereby making you invincible. The chess dream I’m talking about is:

A) You break down the nuts and bolts of the position (imbalances, dynamics, tactics, pawn structures, etc.) as best you can (more concepts than moves!).

B) Then you imagine (Dream!) the ideal position based on your earlier breakdown. No move-by-move, “I go there and he goes there” analysis!

C) That’s enough, but if you wish to go a bit deeper down that rabbit hole, then look for a sequence of moves that actually makes (or at least aims at making) your dream come true.

Here’s another way of looking at chess dreams: reverse engineering!

In a way, high-level chess demands a certain skill in reverse engineering. You first note the weaknesses in the enemy camp, or (based on familiar patterns) you see (dream) the kind of position that you would like to have, and then you work backward to find a way to create it.


Keep in mind that a chess dream can’t be pie in the sky! It has to conform to the position’s needs. That means your dream might only create equality, or something better or worse (depends on the state of your position when you started your dream). All in all though, the dream will lead you to the right path, and give you all that the position can give.



If you were Black, how would you try and win this position?


This was a must-win situation for Kosteniuk, who lost her first game against Harika.


Kosteniuk via wikipedia

She had managed to get full equality as Black, but a draw would be the same as a loss. White has more space and a solid position, so the question is, “how does one try to win this position?”

Making threats like 12...Ng4 13.Bd4 or 12...Rh5 13.Bf3 Re5 14.Bg2 or 12...Bg4 13.f3 are all acts of desperation –- just moves that don’t build anything. And the quiet 12...Re8, which is probably the most accurate move, hardly makes Black think, “I’m going to win this!”

The only way Black can really go about beating a strong opponent in a position (and situation) like this is to calmly prep to create the classic weaknesses/strategies this kind of structure often faces. Little things, like increasing pressure against e4, keeping an eye on the c4-pawn (which in many cases can also turn into a target), fighting to gain permanent ownership of the c5-square (all the better if the b3-square also falls into Black’s hands), being aware (thanks to your powerful g7-bishop) of tactical chances down the a1-h8 diagonal, and (a subtle but deadly dream!) do your best to leap on any opportunity to create a superior minor piece (usually a great knight vs. White’s poor light-squared bishop).

Here are three positions (two very basic, and one actual game) that Black was almost certainly (in a general manner) dreaming of:

The Black knight owns a host of juicy squares while the b2-pawn is a fixed target (...Nd3 is a threat), and the pawns on e4 and c4 can also come under pressure.

A nightmare for White. His bishop is nothing more than a tall pawn, while Black owns all the dark-squares.

The wrath of the g7-bishop is gloriously demonstrated in the following classic game, which is in live puzzle form.

Let’s return to our main game and see how Kosteniuk evened the score.

By knowing these kinds of patterns, Black (in a nanosecond) dreams/imagines all of these scenarios and the various ways to make them happen. And with this in mind, Black’s first move makes a lot of sense.


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