Threats, Agendas, Demands, and Safety
This is the first article featuring my newly created format. It addresses several problems, a couple of which were:
* Doing one game a week means those sending in games must wait a long, long time to see their name in lights.
* The articles go over interesting and not so interesting stuff.
* The articles tend to be too long for quite a few readers.
From now on I will take instructive moments from chess.com readers and highlight those key points. The fluff is gone, the articles are shorter, and pure instruction is all that remains.
Please continue to send in your games and comments (I’ll pick the salient features, so send the complete game!). Since I’ll often find quite a few instructive moments in one game, you might well find your name appearing in several different articles! Finally, let me know if you like this new format! Thanks for all your support, and enjoy!
In our first example, White has a small problem: How can he deal with black's threatened ...Nb4? First, let's see how the actual game went:
Neither side took control of the game, and both players were slaves to every phantom threat that came to their attention. Now let's see how White should have handled the ...Nb4 monster:
The lesson here is crystal clear: If you stop imagined threats, you’re on the improvement train to nowhere. Before treating an enemy threat with respect, make sure it’s the real deal (usually you’ll find that it isn’t).
MAKING DEMANDS FROM YOUR MOVES
The following position begs a question: Should White play f2-f3 or exf5?
Whatever the ultimate assessment of 15.exf5 might be (and Black was better in our diagramed position), the philosophy behind the move is critical: if you’re thinking of a move and can’t tell the onlookers what it would do for you, then why would you play that move? Play moves that improve the position of your pieces, turn them active, give you a target (black’s pawn on e5 might become weak), and hand you a useful central square. Something! Anything! As long as your move has such positive aspirations, then you can be happy with the way you look at chess in general.
PATZER SEES CHECK, PATZER GIVES CHECK
White has just moved his Bishop from f1 to b5, giving check. Black had this to say about his opponent’s choice: “I thought White would wait for me to play …Nc6 to nullify my tempo, but this move makes things a lot easier for me. White’s g2-pawn is now hanging which puts pressure on his actions. If White were to take my Bishop I could develop my Knight and relieve my Queen of her duty to protect f6. If not, I can take on b5 and still play …Nc6 with gain of tempo. In any case White loses his Bishop pair.”
I am giving this position and black’s comment for two reasons: 1) Black’s rating is 1489, and he deserves applause for what he wrote. Everything he said is dead on. 2) The old adage, “Patzer sees check, patzer gives check” is still very important! So many amateurs feel safe when they check their opponent, but that very check is often a serious mistake that merely forces the opponent to improve his position, while doing very little for the checker.
PUSHING YOUR OWN AGENDA
In the diagram, is 12.Rc1 a good move? If yes, why? If no, why not?
12.Rc1 is a poor move. It allows White to move his light-squared Bishop back to b1 without blocking the Rook if Black plays …Nb4, but who cares (white’s Bishop isn’t doing anything on that diagonal anyway)? And it also stops Black from doubling white’s pawns with a future …Bxc3 once the f6-Knight moves (even if White allowed it, would Black be willing to give up his dark-squared Bishop?). However, did you notice that both “points” were defensive? Instead of pushing a particular agenda and trying to get something going, White pitters about and doesn’t create a plan nor make use of one.
Far more dynamic was 12.h3 telling Black to take on f3 and give White the two Bishops. If Black declines by 12…Bf5 then 13.Bxf5 Qxf5 14.Re7 and white’s position is clearly better.
LESSONS FROM THESE EXAMPLES
* If you stop imagined threats, you’re on the improvement train to nowhere. Before treating an enemy threat with respect, make sure it’s the real deal (usually you’ll find that it isn’t).
* Make demands from each and every move you play! If you’re thinking of a move and can’t tell the onlookers what it would do for you, then why would you play that move? Play moves that improve the position of your pieces, turn them active, give you a target (black’s pawn on e5 might become weak), and hand you a useful central square. Again: if you can’t sing praises for the move you’re about to play, then why in the hell would you play it?
* So many amateur’s feel safe when they check their opponent, but that very check is often a serious mistake that merely forces the opponent to improve his position, while doing very little for the checker. NEVER check just to check! Check if you feel it meets the overall demands of the position.
* In every game, you should have an agenda. Are you going after space? Trying to create a hole for your Knight? Seeking a kingside attack? There are so many different types of agendas, yet players often make moves that don’t serve any of them. Remember: every move you make must serve some particular agenda, AND your whole army should (ultimately) be working together to make that agenda rule supreme.
HOW TO PRESENT A GAME FOR CONSIDERATION
If you want me to look over your game, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I need your thoughts about what went right and/or wrong, your name (real or chess.com handle), your OPPONENT’S name (real or chess.com handle), both player's ratings, where the game was played, and date. If you don’t give me this information, I won’t use your game! BTW: I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to give me their opponent’s name. This is very strange! Showing the names of both players is the way chess games are presented in databases, books, magazines… everywhere! Permission from the opponent isn’t necessary. If permission was necessary, everyone who ever lost a game wouldn’t allow their name to be on it!