Jan 4, 2015, 3:18 PM |

“Playing well requires study – period. There are more or less sophisticated ways to play the game, and those unwilling to face up to the REALITY of CHESS KNOWLEDGE will be consigned forever to be ineffective, ignorant underachievers”DAVID SHENK

Yep! That’s me. By this time I had hoped to be well above the 1600+ Class B Tournament Player threshold. No dice. Hard fought games on INSTANTCHESS with well schooled, quick-thinking, and very aggressive competition has brought me back down to the “reality” Mr. Shenk spoke of:  I have managed to lose over 50% of the games I’ve played on INSTANTCHESS so far.

“Shoot! It’s a struggle to keep my rating above 1500.”

GOAL: Advanced – Chess Expert with a provisional rating above 2000. “Knows openings and endgames, understands strategy and tactics, and has played in at least one tournament of five games.”

That’s not going to happen for me this year. But if you think you can do better and decide to test your own playing strength/skills on INSTANTCHESS, be sure to tell the webmaster that W.S. Duncan-Binns sent you a recommendation so I can get more free games!

OPENINGS: With help from my long overdue borrowed copy of THE OXFORD COMPANION TO CHESS, I am continuing to gain mastery over the most common opening lines of play. But, and until all these diverse openings are deeply ingrained into my blood-clotted and burnt-out brain, I will have to make do with the simple “4-Keys To Open The Game” from International Master/Arbiter Eric Schiller, et al:

  • Seize the center of the chessboard.
  • Castle your king to safety.
  • Connect the rooks on the back-rank.
  • Develop rooks to useful positions or open files.

GM Reuben Fine goes further with “10-Rules Of Openings”:

  1. Open with either e-pawn or d-pawn.
  2. Develop pieces with threats.
  3. Develop knights before bishops.
  4. Pick the most suitable square for a piece and develop it there once and for all; e.g. Nc3, Nf3 and Bc4, Bc5 (white) or Nc6, Nf6 and Bc5, Bf5 (black).
  5. Make just one or two pawn moves.
  6. Don’t bring the queen out too early.
  7. Castle kingside as soon as possible.
  8. Play to get control of the center; e.g. Rd1 and Re1 (white) or Rd8 and Re8 (black).
  9. Always try to maintain one pawn in the center.
  10. Only play gambits with a good plan or effective strategy in mind:  (a) Secure a tangible advantage in development; (b) Deflect the enemy queen; (c) Prevent or delay enemy from castling; (d) Build up a strong attack.

In “Chess BOOTCAMP” (the beginning of everyone’s playing career) it’s always a good idea to play openings by the Oxford Book. But here’s food for thought:  “You have to know all the rules first before you can break them.” To paraphrase Pablo Picasso further, “Rules? They’re all good.”


MIDDLEGAME“Play it like a magician!” This phase is said to be all about the tactics. How come? Because the OXFORD COMPANION TO CHESS says so:

TACTICS, the art of conducting the game, the means by which strategic plans are carried out. Tactics are most evident in a combination and when dealing with immediate threats, but most and perhaps all moves have a tactical ingredient, usually the preparation or prevention of threats. Chess has been described as a strategic game that is 99% tactical, another way of saying that no move should be made without consideration of its tactical consequences. Tactics cannot be learned by rote: they vary from game to game, even when the same strategic plan is used. A beginner should play as many different opponents as possible and analyze for himself the games played by masters, thus becoming familiar with a wide range of tactical ideas.

“4-Keys To Tactical Thinking”:

  1. Capture-Checks.
  2. Captures and Checks.
  3. Threats.
  4. Improvements.

Tactical Concepts:

  1. Pins
  2. Forks
  3. Skewers or X-Rays
  4. Discovered Attacks
  5. Discovered Checks
  6. Windmill
  7. Deflections and Decoys
  8. Overload and Overwork
  9. Zugzwang

MIDDLEGAME Rules: (a) Attack only if you have control of the center; (b) It’s best to meet an attack on the flank with action in the center; (c) A rapid deployment of pieces to one area of the chessboard may be decisive if the defender cannot respond just as rapidly; (d) Exchanging pieces eases the burden of defense; (e) Always attack in the area where more space is controlled.

  • Queens belong in front of bishops and/or behind rooks during an attack.
  • Activate one rook by sacrificing a pawn, if necessary.
  • Position rooks behind, beside, and very seldom in front of passed pawns.
  • Knights on the rim of the chessboard are grim because they control fewer squares.
  • Bishops of opposite color favor the attacker.
  • An enemy rook on the 7th-rank is extremely difficult to defend against.
  • Knights are excellent attackers from their outposts while bishops do better in open games.
  • Invade only if you can support your pieces.
  • Do not lock bishops behind pawns.
  • Look for and prevent freeing moves.
  • Connected hanging pawns are supposed to be effective against rooks when they’re both passed, so advance them in duos.
  • Occupy holes with bishops and blockade passed pawns with knights.
  • When in possession of a material advantage, steer toward the ENDGAME by way of simplification:  Exchange pieces if you have more pawns than pieces, and exchange pawns if you have more pieces than pawns; win material when offered without risk or sacrifice; without becoming too passive, avoid exchanging additional material when behind in points.

“4-Keys To Strategic Planning”:

STRATEGY, the planning and conduct of the long-term objectives in a game. Moves directed primarily towards this end are commonly referred to as positional play, as distinct from combinative play (tactics). In its widest sense, however, strategy embraces all that happens on the board:  tactics should accord with strategic ends, and in carrying out a long-term plan a player should examine his moves to determine whether they are tactically feasible. “Strategy”, wrote 1935-37 World Chess Champion Max Euwe, “is a case of thinking, tactics one of seeing.” The thinking is modified move by move as the position changes and, contrary to popular belief, masters do not make preconceived plans that unfold as the game proceeds from start to finish.

The Elemental Rules Of Pawn-Walls And Pawn-Structures:  (a) Backward; (b) Doubled; (c) Weak or Strong Triangle; (d) Hole; (e)  Isolated d-pawn; (f) Hanging; (g) Passed. Pawn chains can consistently “morph” into one or more of these forms: Wedges, Stonewalls and/or Straight chains.

  • Try to keep your pawn-structure intact.
  • Keep pawns mobile and in pawn-duos.
  • Use the lever tactic to pry locked pawns free.
  • Keep your isolated pawns mobile.
  • Create, protect, and push your passed pawns on to promotion.
  • Attack backward pawns with heavy pieces.
  • Exchange doubled pawns.
  • Attack a pawn chain at its base.
  • A hanging pawn should be induced to move so that the resultant backward pawn can be attacked.
  • Avoid any and all pawn weaknesses; and, if possible, try to use one pawn to restrain two enemy pawns.
  • Always advance the candidate pawn facing no opponent on a half-open file.
  • Occupy the queening square with a rook when defending against both an enemy pawn and rook tandem.
  • Harass the enemy king with your rook at every opportunity.
  • A king and rook-pawn ending is usually a draw.

ENDGAME“The overall basic objective is to achieve an elementary win with a pawn promotion to queen.” Finally, the phase of the game where we are ordered to become androids. “Play the ENDGAME like a machine!”


Checkmates against a lone enemy king:  (a) King & Queen in 10-moves; (b) King & Rook in 16-moves; (c) King & Two Bishops in 18-moves; (d) King, Bishop & Knight combination requires over 30-moves.


“4-Keys To The ENDGAME”:

  1. Profit when you exchange.
  2. Use the power of the king by bringing him to the center of the chessboard where the action is.
  3. Eliminate the enemy’s last pawn.
  4. When desperate, go for the draw or stalemate.

“A chess game is a work of art between two minds, which need to balance two sometimes disparate goals:  To win, and to produce beauty.” -VASILY SMYSLOV