Chess Strategy : The Thinking Process
Before I begin this blog, I would like to clear all doubts regarding Amateur Chronicles. This series is related to problems faced by amateurs, and It is relevant to post only those problems that are common for everyone. Also, I've decided to wait till my friend @chesster3145, another Top Blogger, is finished with 'Concrete Problems', so that I do not interfere with his ideas. Anyway, coming back to our blog, this blog marks the beginning of a new series - 'Chess Strategy'.
If you are a beginner, this is not the right time to read this blog. It would be more better for you to practice tactics. But as we reach the intermediate level, it is important to realize that chess is more than just Tactics. Tactics are very important part of a game, as they result in immediate material gains or any other advantage, but if the tactics must work, our pieces must be well co-ordinated, we must not have weaknesses i.e good pawn structure, our king must be safe and our opponents ideas must be stopped. All these point to the basic foundation of playing chess - Strategy.
It is said that 'Chess is 90% Tactics'. Though tactics are important, I'd rather say 'Chess is 90% Strategy'. This is because Strategy is a vast subject and even masters are not perfect at it. To be a good player, You must have a good Thinking Process. A good thinking process involves evaluation, planning, selecting candidate moves, calculation, and only then, you go on, make your move, and stop your clock.
By Evaluating a position, you get an idea about the position. An idea, that leads you to a plan and helps you in selecting the candidate moves. By asking yourself these simple questions, you can get a good idea of the position.
1. What is the material balance?
2. Are there any threats?
3. Are both the Kings safe?
4. What are the weak squares and pawns?
5. Where are the open files and diagonals?
6. Who has more space?
7. Who has better control over the centre?
8. Which is the worst piece for me and my opponent?
9. Whose pieces are more active?
If you are able to give yourself a satisfactory answer to all these questions, then you will be able to evaluate a position successfully. Evaluation is one of the basic fundamentals of Chess Strategy. We will discuss more about it in my upcoming blogs.
Once you have evaluated the position, you must make a plan. Garry Kasparov said "A Bad Plan is better than No Plan". Let us take the help of a game to understand how planning is done.
White to Play
White center pawns are pointing to the Queenside and his bishop also aims in that direction. This suggests white should look for queenside play.
Neither player has any aggressively posted pieces on the kingside. There are also no weaknesses on either side to attack, this tells us that kingside attacks shouldnt be considered for either side.
Both sides have solid central positions, so active play there is doubtful.
White's bishop, which happens to be a 'Good Bishop' since his central pawns are on the opposite color and thus dont block it, is less active than black's counterpart.
What can be done to activate white's bishop?
Neither side has any clear weaknesses to attack. This is the key idea in the position! How can white create targets in the enemy camp?
White should be asking himself the following questions 1) How can I make my bishop stronger? 2) How can I get both of my rooks in the game? 3) How can I initiate queenside play? 4) How can I create weakness in blacks queenside fortess? 5) How can i get my knights into the action?
Answer: 1. a4!
The only correct decision. Suddenly White is challenging Black for queenside space. He is hitting the black b-pawn and by doing so, turns his bishop into an active piece. Also the rook on a1, which seemed so useless a moment ago, shows that it is beautifully placed on its original square.
The position and the analysis are taken from one of Jeremy Silman's books. I hope that you understand how simple planning can be
You have made a plan and all is going well. Now, it is time to make the move or is it? At this stage, many players play the first move that comes to their mind. It might not be a losing move, or even a good move, but there might be a better move than that! You must make a list of all the moves that fit your plan. These are known as Candidate Moves. How else would you find the best move if you played the first move that comes to your mind instead of having a bunch of moves to analyze?
Calculation and Analysis
Once you've made a list of the Candidate Moves, you have to analyze each move and calculate all the possible variations by anticipating your opponents moves. This is the toughest part of finding the best move and this is what distinguishes Masters from Advanced players.This is a topic that can't be explained in a few sentences and might even need more than a blog! @Aknight2love was the person who brought my attention to this topic and I really thank him for that. Kotov's Think like a Grandmaster
explains this topic very well.
So Friends, That's all I wanted to make you aware of in this blog. Before we go, I would like to let you know that there is major topic that I haven't covered in this blog as it needs a separate blog or more! Any guesses? Well, post them in the comments. Good bye and take care.