A step by step method to analysis: Part 1

Apr 16, 2018, 9:55 AM |

    This series of posts hopes to offer novices a guide to a better thinking process.

     I will show you a novice game and how we can analyze the position.



Black just pushed the pawn from d5 to d4.

First try to determine his goals, either short term or long term.

5 are the common reasons that make a player advance a pawn:

a) It opens a dangerous diagonal.

b) It opens a dangerous file 

c) It opens a critical square 

d) It creates weaknesses or

e)It creates the option of more pawn advances.


All these are obviously "attacking" reasons.There are another 5 "defensive" reasons.

a) It blocks a dangerous diagonal

b) It blocks a dangerous file

c) It blocks a dangerous square

d) It prevents weaknesses or

e) It prevents the option of more pawn advances.

     All these seem like a lot for now but trust me, if you practice doing this you will eventually do it without much thinking.The point is not to be easy. The point is to be able to fully understand the difficulty.That is the only way to overcome it. 


In our example 12...d4 is not the answer to White's activity, it's rather the start of Black's active operations on the center.

    Once the pawn advances the first you want to find is the bishop that is liberated from this pawn move.Why the bishop first?Because diagonals are the one thing that often novices neglect and the second most important reason of blunders(the first is knight forks).So take a look at Bb7.The diagonal has opened and it can target g2.Not so relevant now but a later threat on g2 might appear.You have to keep that in mind.

   Second, is the file.If Black is allowed to play dxe3 then Bd3 is exposed. It is important to know your undefended pieces and prevent tactical threats before they appear.Usually, that is the key that will allow you not to lose from cheap tactical threats and blunders.

    To fully understand Black's threat we must play a random white move and allow him to exchange on e3 and open d-file.



So White loses a piece.There is a direct tactical threat that needs to be dealt with.


The third I need to examine is if the move creates some sort of outpost(a weakness for Black's pieces).There are 2 ways for Black to create weaknesses. One is if he is allowed to exchange on e3, then f2xe3 "breaks" white's k-side pawns in 2 islands and seriously weakens his pawn structure.The second is if white exchanges on d4 then Black might recapture with the knight and you don't want a strong Black knight placed on d4.That leads to my first candidate line.



The above position is equal so I have my first valid option(12.exd4).


The next thing to consider is what are the possible advances that 11...d4 enables.

d4 becomes a passed pawn and if Black is allowed to further advance it then it might become dangerous.It would be the best not to allow it to advance unless you plan to attack it.

    With all these things taken into consideration, it's time to determine our candidate moves.All our candidate moves must include a direct or indirect protection of Bd3 since that is the exposed piece after 11...d4.


a)12.exd4 (the obvious)

b)12.Qe2 (protects Bd3)

c)12.Qc2 (protects Bd3)

d)12.Bc2 (removes Bd3 from the exposed square)

e)12.Bb1(removes Bd3 from the exposed square)

f)12.Be2(removes Bd3 from the exposed square)

g)12.e4 (indirectly protects Bd3 by blocking the position)


One small word of advice.Always start from the obvious and the simple.Even if you reject it , it reveals things that you need to know about the position.Sometimes the simple move can't be avoided, it can only be postponed and that means you don't really have much to think.

    I wouldn't choose 12.e4 since it blocks the position too much(unless I was forced to).I would recommend against playing too blocked positions unless you are experienced in planning and analysis.Blocked positions demand long-term planning and maneuvers.You can't master that without mastering the simpler and more obvious plans of open or semi-open positions.


The retreats of the bishop, allowing the pawn to further advance, must be examined carefully.One of them is a blunder.



But what about 12.Bc2?



White lost a move, Black advanced his pawn but how will he protect it against Ne1?He can't but that is a common mistake novices do.They examine what they hope and not their opponent's best move.Black is not forced to advance the pawn at once.He can prepare the advance and in this case, Bc2 might find itself exposed again!


Now d3 is a threat and White seems to be in trouble.

   You realize (I think) that the pawn must remain blocked and all bishop moves must be rejected. That limits our candidate moves to only 3.

   In the 2 queen moves, Black can do the same.Prepare the opening of d-file.


Black will follow with Rd8 and the threat of opening d-file will be constant. Yes, white can defend. For example 14.Rfe1 allows Rxe3 after ...dxe3 but the more you allow your opponent to target your pieces the more the chances that you will blunder something increase. 


   Black now threatens ...Ng4 attacking the defender of Bd3 and that means that probably h3 becomes necessary(instead of the wrong g3).It is quite clear that Bd3 becomes a constant source of problems once d-file opens.

    12.exd4 is clearly the move that denies Black all his play on d-file and secures that Bd3 is going to be well placed there in the near future. As long as White understands the importance of keeping d4 blocked, d-file will never become an issue.

   Now a lot of you might say: "But that was easy, I would play 12.exd4 without even thinking".Yes,   I'm sure a lot of you would be able to find the move but how many of you would be able to reject the other candidate moves with reasonable arguments? The problem is not finding the move, the problem is understanding it. Beginner's luck doesn't last forever and eventually, only your thinking and your ability to reject the wrong moves will help you find the correct ones!

    Some of you will find all this very difficult. Yes, it looks very difficult.It was very difficult for me too when a good coach explained it.As everything in life, it needs practice until it becomes an instinctive reaction.When? I don't know. It depends on how hard you try. Chess needs hard work.

     Of course, the game is far from over and when you play chess is like fighting the Lernean Hydra.There are 3 new heads(problems) for every one you smash. If you want to be Hercules, you want "Iolaus"(practice) with you, you can't do it alone!Play long time control games, analyze the positions as thorough as possible during and after the game and determine your mistakes.And if possible study annotated games and  Hydra(analysis) will be a walk in the park.