Beginner Level: Reading and Writing: Application example
When starting with chess, there's this idea that the game is composed of isolated movements. "If I play this, he replies with that", "with this move I defeat anyone!".
Truth is chess is more about developing plans, composed of pieces (and pawns) in certain squares and using the movements to place them right where they belong.
As discussed in other articles, such plans work on achieving an harmonious and coordinated disposition of the pieces (and pawns), to work against the opponent's forces, or to defend from the opponent's plans and threats.
Now, even knowing what tools you need to read and write in the position, there's the question of how to start searching for the more appropriate squares for the pieces and pawns.
The short answer: Wherever, as a coordinated group, they develop threats that are more difficult to defend against. The constraint for this comes from the availability of resources (material, time and space), and these resources can be modified by developing threats (piece activity). If the original idea (plan) proves (by analysis) to be short of the necessary resources, you lower your ambitions and work on something within your resources capacities.
As a side note, sometimes you read GMs' comments about taking risks or not; they're speaking about playing on the limit of what seems to be possible with the resources at hand, or going beyond them. ex–World Champion, GM G. Kasparov expressed it this way: "Ultimately, what separates a winner from a loser, at the Grandmaster level, is the willingness to do the unthinkable. A brilliant strategy is, certainly, a matter of intelligence, but intelligence without audaciousness is not enough. Given the opportunity, I must have the guts to explode the game, to upend my opponent's thinking and, in so doing, unnerve him. So it is in business: One does not succeed by sticking to convention. When your opponent can easily anticipate every move you make, your strategy deteriorates and becomes commoditized. " That said, you still need to know how to find those limits: Learn to walk before running.
Let's continue with the example.
This is one of those "simple" positions (White to play) that occur with more frequency than checkmate attacks with sacrifices. It's nice to know tactics, but is also important to know how to read and write in "simple" positions.
It isn't rare that, when sending the forces ahead into the opponent's position, he may obtain counterplay by returning the visit. This happens often when there are few pieces left on the board. The sound strategy, in such cases, is to develop plans that not only activate our forces, but also deny the necessary squares for the opponent's pieces to become active.
Back to the diagram, –first– we look for the squares where our pieces will do more harm. The situation of the B and R makes us think of h8: Without the "h" pawn, 1.Rh8 mate would follow. This brings up two ideas: (1) To clear the "h" file with 1.h4, 2.h5, 3.hxg6, 4.Rh8+ and 5.Rxa8 or 5.Rh7+ and 6.Rxb7, or; (2) 1.Re1, 2.Re3, 3.Rh3 and 4.Rh8 mate, and maybe to play Bb2–f6 in between, to lock the f7 pawn in place and secure the checkmate net.
Now, we have two plans at hand and need to calculate. Not doing it is the same as crossing the highway with the eyes wide shut. The same applies to using intuition or general principles; you use them when you lack the time to calculate, or you're very sleepy.
Then, let's see the first plan:
The examined lines show that the plan based on opening the "h" file is impracticable. Black gets activity faster than White; even the second plan is slower if White plays it straight, as it involves more tempos than Black's Ra8–e8–e2.
Then, we begin analyzing White trying to achieve his plan, but this time also including movements to prevent Black's activity:
And we got an improved plan for White, which seems to be working fine. Now, which are the squares White uses in this plan?: f6 and e7. Is there a Black piece that can control both, fast enough?:
Yup, endings and "simple" positions often have tactics... that you need to discover and calculate, if you want to solve the position. However, once you understand the nature of the threats –for both sides!– and the position's inner logic, tactics are just natural and you see everything there's to see.