The (Oft Butchered) Art of Exchanging
One reason why chess is such a hard game to master is that aspiring student constantly needs to learn things and then unlearn them over and over. What I mean is that the beginner should be concentrating on not blundering their pieces and taking the free pieces they are offered.
After a certain amount of time, the beginner becomes adept at noticing every time they can take an opponent's piece and are great at not letting their opponent take their own pieces. This is a great step in the right direction! Unfortunately, you should soon realize that just because you can take a certain piece, doesn't mean you should. Conversely, exchanging of even pieces often leads to an advantage to your opponent!
Let's take a look of a few examples of exchanges gone badly:
In the above puzzle, find the sequence of moves that Paul Morphy made in order to force his opponents to exchange pieces to their own detriment.
The rest of this very famous game went:
So if that 4. Bxf6 was so bad in the last example, why did Karpov play it against Browne in a similar position?
The key word is similar position. See the below example as to why this was a brilliant exchange by Karpov.
The moral of the story is to always ask yourself (in your head, you don't want to be caught talking to yourself outload and kicked out of the tournament!) how does this exchange help my position? If the answer is that there isn't a way that it helps your position then it is probably bad and worse yet, helping your opponent's position!
Let's take a look at some more examples from my game I played last Friday.
In the above diagram, White just played 6. a3, should Black play 6...Bxc3+? Why or why not?
White to move and gain a positional advantage.
Try to "guess" Black's next few moves and take advantage of White's exchanges to make Black's position superior.
Black used his positional trumps to gain an enormous attack. Can you find the forced mate that I missed in the game?!