Winning by better understanding imbalances between material, space and time
When you first learn chess, you are focused on taking pieces. You roam the board as a Pacman and count whether you are ahead of behind. You learn the different value of the pieces. The standard values for the pieces are: queen 9 points, rook 5 points, bishop and knight 3 points and pawns 1 point. Of course, the valuation of pieces depends on the specific position on the board. For instance, the bishop pair is often worth ½ pawn more than a knight and a bishop.
The ultimate objective in chess is not to win material but to mate the king. Pieces are most valuable if they control more space. A ‘good’ bishop can be radiating and control long diagonals or be ‘bad’, be hemmed in and looking at its own pawns. A ‘stable’ knight on the 6th row of the opponent is called an octopus, attacking 8 squares. A knight on the ‘rim’ is called ‘dim’ because of its limited scope.
In order to attack and mate the enemy king we need a sequence of moves. One half move is called a tempo and several moves tempi. An advantage in development means that you are moves ahead and are ahead in ‘time’ (temps = time in French).
When learning an opening and in preparing against an opponent you can get an advantage by having a better understanding of the relative value of material, space and time in a certain position. I will illustrate this by the game between Donna Schut and Nazi Paikidze, played at the European Youth Championships. IM Nazi Paikidze won 12 medals at European Youth Chess Championship, World Youth and Junior Chess Championship, including 6 gold medals, and was the women’s 2016 US champion. She won the European Youth Chess Championship four times: in Budva 2003 (Under-10 girls' category), Herceg Novi 2005 (U-12 girls), Šibenik 2007 (U-14 girls), and Herceg Novi 2008 (U-16 girls).
Donna Schut - Nazi Paikidze
- e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 The Panov-variation. 4… Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Bb4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qc2 Nc6 9. a3 Ba5 10. Bd3 A pawn sacrifice 10… Nxc3 11. bxc3 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Qxd4
Position after 12… Qxd4
Black wins a pawn with her queen. White’s compensation will be based on more space, a lead in development (time) and creating an unsafe black king.
- Bb5+ Kf8 (13...Bd7 14. O-O Qd5 (14... Qxc3 15. Bxd7+ Kxd7 16. Qa4+ Ke7 17. Bg5+ f6 18. Rac1 Qe5 19. Bf4 Qf5 20. Bd2 $18) 15. c4 Qf5 16. Bxd7+ Kxd7 17. Qb3 b6 18. Rd1+ Ke7
- a4 Rhd8 20. Ba3+ Kf6 21. Bd6 g5 22. Qb2+ Kg6 23. Ra3 e5) 14. O-O Qxc3
Black wins a second pawn but gets even further behind in development
15.Qe2 White does not want to exchange her queen as she needs her queen for her attack.
Position after 15… f6
15… f6? After this logical move black is already lost! (Nazi’s idea was probably to protect pawn g7 against the attack Bb2 and create a safer place for her king. It fails because of a queen and king chase.)
(Necessary was 15... a6 16. Bd3 Qxa1 17. Bb2 Qxf1+ 18. Kxf1 f6)
- Be3 Qe5 17.Rac1 Kf7 18. Rc5 Qd6 19. Rd1 Qe7 20. Rc4 a6 21. Bc5 Qc7 22. Bd6 Qd8 23. Bc7? (A slip by white. Better 23.Bb4 and white wins) 23... Qf8 (Black would have been back in the game after 23... Bxc7 24. Rxd8 Bxd8 25. Qc2 axb5 26. Rxc8 Rxc8 27.Qxc8) 24. Bxa5 axb5 25. Rc7+ Kg8 26. Qxb5 h6 27. Bb4 1-0
Black is a rook up (material) but had to resign. She will lose her queen and will be mated soon.
The final position.
Black played 8 queen moves out of a total of 27 moves: Qd8xd4-Qxc3-Qe5-Qd6-Qe7-Qc7-Qd8-Qf8
The queen, with a value of 9 points, is an easy target when it is brought into play early in the game.
The rooks on a8 and h8 and the bishop on c8 have not been developed yet. White on the other hand has all its pieces developed and is attacking black’s king and queen.