How To Play Multi-Purpose Moves

How To Play Multi-Purpose Moves

| 31 | Other

How to Improve Your Tactics member shivendu2059xyz asked:

I would like to discuss how to get better at tactics. Is solving tons of puzzles the only way to improve?

Mr. shivendu2059xyz:

There are many ways to study tactics, but I have no idea if solving puzzles is best for you or if some specific book is a better option (but how can I pick a book if I don’t know your experience and playing strength?) or if going over the games of famous tacticians is right for you.

I get lots of letters where people say, “How can I get better?” or “Why am I stuck with a 1100 rating?”

Imagine calling your doctor and saying, “Doc, my eye hurts. What’s wrong with me?” 

How in the world would the doctor know without more personal information? Did someone punch you in the eye? Did you stare at a computer for 30 straight hours (leading to eye strain)? Did you see an army of floaters fill your vision (might be a detached retina)? Or…well, you get the idea.

A common query is the “stuck on a rating” curse, and there are myriad different reasons for it. If someone who doesn’t know you and has no knowledge of your game tells you how to improve your rating, he’s guessing. If he’s a good teacher or a very strong player then his guess will be an educated guess, but when you ask untrained players such questions (everyone has an opinion, but wouldn’t you prefer facts and experience rather than opinions?) they usually toss platitudes that may or may not help, and might ruin your game once and for all.

Mr. shivendu2059xyz, though your question would very reasonable IF you gave me proper information, I am frustrated since I can’t help you in a deeper, more useful manner. All I can do is give “educated” platitudes. Since I don’t want to continually repeat the same information, please check out an earlier article that discusses these things: Mailbag: How to Improve Your Game.

In fact, even more relevant to you is my article: Chess Tactics and The Hookah. I think you’ll find this very helpful.

Other “Jeremy is a psychic so I don’t have to give him much information” letters are: member Mwk42: “Why is my blitz rating higher than my regular rating?”

Answer: I don’t know. Perhaps you only play blitz with blind opponents. Perhaps your blitz opponents are hundreds of points below you, more or less assuring that you’ll win most games and gain rating points. Perhaps your opponents are eight years of age or less. Perhaps you make reasonable moves really fast (a good blitz formula). Perhaps you get bored with long games but really love blitz, which means you might concentrate better with fast games. See. I’m left with nothing but guesses.

Here are two more (I won’t give names):

“I’m stuck at 1700. Any suggestions to help me move up?”


“Any suggestions on what book I should pick up for my first tournament?”

To these gentlemen and many others before them: Asking questions like these is a wise thing to do, and I’m honored that you thought I could help you. However, next time please give me as much of your chess info as possible.


Multi-Purpose Moves member Axorcist asked:

I am a fan of your articles. I don't know whether you appreciate suggestions, but I would certainly like to read an article from your hand on the problem of the “multi-purpose move.” Grandmasters seem to be able to solve multiple problems with one move. It’s an art that intrigues me but one that I haven’t mastered. But I would like to learn! 


Mr. Axorcist:

Thanks for asking a question that nobody has asked before!

In master chess, multi-purpose moves are a dime a dozen (some obvious, some more profound). But amateurs also use multi-purpose moves, though they might not be aware of it.

Here is a very basic multi-purpose move: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3

This does no fewer than FOUR things: It develops a piece (of course it takes aim at other squares too, but we’ll focus on the most important goals of Nf3), it challenges the Black c5-pawn’s domination of d4, it puts pressure on e5, and it gets White's king a little bit closer to kingside castling.

A similar multi-purpose move is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3.

White’s 3.Nc3 develops a piece, defends e4, and places pressure on d5. Not bad for one move! 

Here’s a more complex illustration of a multi-purpose move:

As you can see, you don’t want to make one-dimensional moves if you can help it. The more it does, or prepares to do, the better. Explaining your move by saying (in good caveman fashion), “I develop piece!” is not good enough. Why did you develop to that square? What is its purpose? Does it have potential?

Once again, Mher Hovhanisian’s 10.Bg5 is a classic multi-purpose move: develops, creates an immediate threat against d5, pins the f6-knight, and because the pinned knight no longer has control over the e4-square, White can smash the center and put Black through some serious pain by e2-e4.

Multi-purpose moves are everywhere, and are used in defense, attack, positional situations, in the opening, and in the endgame. Let’s look at a simple endgame example.

White’s two pawns up, but Black hopes to put up some resistance since White’s e-pawns are doubled and an eventual g3-g4 would leave White with a rook-pawn. As you know, an endgame might be winning, but sometimes you can’t prove it! White makes things look easy.

White’s first move seems obvious since he would love to trade rooks:

Multi-purpose moves are also seen in tactical situations:

White’s a pawn up and his rook is forking Black’s queen and bishop. However, in return Black’s king is safe (compared to White’s king, which is in the center) and he has a lead in development.

Here’s something to ponder (I mentioned this before but I think it’s worth repeating in a slightly different manner): When you’re thinking of what move to play, be more expansive. Saying, “I am threatening his pawn!” isn’t enough since what happens if he moves the pawn to safety? Does that make your move useless? However, if you threaten the pawn knowing that if he moves it away you’ve gained something else, THEN you’re cooking.

Here’s an example:

Clearly, 1.Bb5 was a very poor move.

 Now let’s make a couple changes:

I hope this helped you understand more about multi-purpose moves.

More from IM Silman
The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

The Downs And Ups Of GM Elmars Zemgalis (Silman's Last Article)

How To Build Winning Chess Positions

How To Build Winning Chess Positions