Strategizing: Perpetually 1600~?
I want to present some of my games today, because they're both very important to me--and it may not seem obvious, at a glance, what is significant about these games. The first one I'm presenting marks the very first time I've ever legitimately strategized in chess. I evaluated the board, came up with a coherent plan of attack, and then every move I made afterward was aimed directly at that strategic objective.
Let's see if you come up with the same strategy as I did.
Looking at the position, did you come up with a strategy? Did you come up with a comprehensive plan of attack, a solid way to move forward? When I evaluated the position, I said to myself, "Self, that e5 square looks really fucking important... We should keep that under our control."
Whether that's a good plan or bad strategy is irrelevant for our discussion. No doubt, some grandmaster could come in here (as Fritz did to me the day after playing this game) and inform me that there are way better things I could be doing with my valuable pieces and limited resources. Instead, I chose to devote pretty much everything to acquiring e5 and "going from there." Admittedly, that's not much of a long-term plan. What would I do after taking e5? I honestly didn't know. I was just so amazed that I had at all.
...Revealing beyond any doubt what I am planning.
Why 6...Nh6? Because the last thing I wanted was to seal off my Bishop from its coverage of e5, but I wanted to get my Knight out there so that it could go to g4. In this way, my strategy was two-fold: secure e5 and plant a Knight on g4. This move pretty blatantly gives away both plans.
I'll be honest with you, 8.h4? blew my mind when it was played. I still see no positional benefit, when 8.c4 or 8.b3 would have had longer-reaching consequences. All 8.h4 accomplished was allowing a piece to sit at g5 without facing immediate capture. But it still wasn't productive, as we'll see, because White was never able to make anything happen at g5.
...and so it begins.
White has an uncomfortable position here, though certainly nothing that Fritz couldn't blast through. Indeed, Fritz had a lot of negative things to say about my moves in this game, so I thought, "I'll show it!" and returned to 6...Nh6 and tried to play out the strategy against Stockfish in the Fritz UI. I was massacred. C'est la vie.
12.Qe2? Not only does this not do anything about the pin, it also leaves White without any way to prevent the fork (which, granted, was unstoppably at this point anyway) (barring something I'm not seeing). Actually, looks like 12.Be2 would have nipped the fork in the bud, though White still lost a minor piece.
White is in really bad shape here, and it all began with my controlling the e5 square.
It's not a very elegant checkmate, I'll give you that. But a win is a win.
And thus ends the first time I ever strategized in a game of chess. It went well, even if the strategy wasn't good (it probably wasn't), even if it kinda relied on my opponent making blunders (8.h4, 12.Qe2), even if I did miss a mate or two, and even if I did execute it poorly.
It's a learning process, very much so, and I will never forget the first time I actually strategized during a game. It wasn't about simply making the best move/counter-move available. It was about making the move that was directed at securing my goal.
Now, let's move on to a game that is fresher in my memory, because it just wrapped up about half an hour ago:
The first dozen or so moves, I had no real strategy. However, after the moves:
...I saw the obvious problem. Black could Nxe4! and relieve the pin on his Queen by forcing me to capture at d8. Luckily, it seems that Black didn't notice this.
...12.Bd3 was specfically to keep his Knight off e4. I actually wanted to make the move several moves earlier, but I had bigger things to deal with and just had to hope that my opponent didn't notice the threat before I could deal with it.
At this point, I honestly said to myself, "Self,... Fritz would push that pawn. You know Fritz would push that pawn."
So I replied, "I know. I'm gonna push that pawn."
And that was the strategy. After 14...c5, my strategy was to push my pawn to the back rank. This causes a great deal of pressure for the opponent. For one, it's a threat that must be dealt with it. This often requires multiple pieces, because the person with the pushed pawn is unlikely to give it up easily. Here, I was ready and able to throw two rooks, a queen, and two bishops at getting that pawn where it needed to be. Luckily, it wasn't necessary.
16...Bg4 is actually good for me, because it's one less defender in my pawn's way! And that Bishop is easy to deal with. 17.h3 Bh5 18.g4 Bg6... But first I had to plug that hole and throw another defender at the pawn.
I honestly don't like to exclamation my own moves, but damn--the difference between a passed pawn on the 5th rank and a passed pawn on the 6th rank are almost night and day. A pawn on the sixth rank is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Because that means the pawn has to be dealt with two ranks ago, and if there are two pieces within capture range of the pawn, then it's over--the pawn will promote, unless the opponent can delay the pawn's progress while also moving those pieces out of the pawn's capture range.
In looking now, I'm not convinced that 20.g4 was necessary. In fact, it doesn't look at all necessary. For some reason, at the time, I thought that it was.
Black simply lacked the pieces to threaten the passed pawn.
Well, there was the Knight, but, honestly, who didn't see Bxf6 coming?
I can't fault the strange move Qxf6, because, at a glance, gxf6 doesn't look any better after...
The rest of that game was just me trying to trade off pieces until we reached the endgame, where my decisive advantage in material would win. Then 32.Qxe4 happened, and the game was pretty much over for Black.
And one last game that I'm not going to analyze, but it is humorous.
Chess is a game that combines strategy with tactics, and until this point in my chess career I've totally neglected the strategic side because I didn't really grasp it. I did, but I didn't know how to apply it. Or something. I don't know. It's hard to explain. But it begins with looking at the board and developing a sound plan, and then taking steps to make that plan real. I imagine a grandmaster could come up with much better plans in these games and put them to use much better, but, again, that's not the point--yet.
It's also worth noting that this is still one thing that computers can't do. Computers are incapable of strategizing because they don't play that kind of chess. While their processing power, flawless nature, and programming allow them to play chess "by the numbers" better than the average human can strategize, there's still Kasparov... drawing Fritz X.
**Please excuse the typos. I'm perfectly fluent and literate, but my good keyboard has dead batteries, so I'm using this piece of shit stock Dell keyboard that came as the primary HID for the first sundial.