Ignore/Address The Threat!
What I've noticed, over my many years of teaching, is that depending on how a student address their opponent's threats is a very good indicator of their "playing strength".
- Beginners (ratings below 1200): tend to miss their opponent's intentions completely, and a majority of their losses are due to some tactical blow their opponent uncorks on them.
- Intermediate Players (ratings 1200-1800): Probably from the years of missing their opponent's threats, they respond passively and eventually only react to what their opponent is threatening. Eventually after the opponent gets no push back they crash through with a winning advantage; sometimes the intermediate player loses without making a single threat of their own!
- Advanced Players (1800+) Now feeling the sting of playing too passively, these players underestimate their opponent's intentions. Advanced players usually don't fall for simple tactical blows anymore, but they may let their opponent play a freeing move that they otherwise could have prevented.
The Ideal Player:
- First looks if they have a forced mating attack. The keyword is forced. This means checks and/or checkmates.
- If there is no mating attack, then the ideal player looks what his opponent is threatening. File this knowledge away in your brain and go on to step 3.
- BEFORE thinking about how to stop the opponent's threat, the ideal player will think about what they'd like to play if their opponent was not threatening anything.
- After you've decided what you'd like to play, you look to see if you can ignore the threat you've found in step 2. Examples of ignoring the threat are, making a better threat yourself (attacking a better piece, a check or checkmate threat, etc.)
- If you cannot ignore the threat, then you need to address but in a way that still helps your position. This is important or else you fall into the playing too passively trap (see intermediate players).
Below I'd like to share a game that illustrates these ideas. Later I'll supply puzzles to test your skills at ignoring/addressing the threat. Enjoy!
Try to find the threats and a move that successfully ignores the threats or addresses the threat while doing "something good" for your position