As an amateur player, I always struggled to comprehend lessons when chess teachers or commentators applied the word "imbalance". And by amateur, I mean I'm still an amateur. You know, who wouldn't want to rock that 767 USCF rating?
What are "imbalances" and why should I care?
One of these teachers always told me that the "imbalances" would play the game for you. As a 767 rated player, you probably already know imbalances weren't in mind in this game three years ago.
Looking at this position two years ago, I would of said White's definitely toasting a space advantage and winning. If I hold on, I win this!
And now? I want to cry myself to sleep.
When I first started chess at the age of 7, I was one of the top players in my city, beating the tournament organizer a couple of times (that was always fun)! Today, I find myself at a standstill with my investment in chess. Struggling to improve from 767, I stopped playing USCF tournaments for a while and chess as a whole.
However, the breakthrough of a chess team at my school has inspired me to come back from my roots and return to the beautiful game. I started reading books, but none of them stuck in my head better than the imbalance books. For the past years of my life, I had been missing a major element of my play.
Wait, so you can't say that "Hey! You're winning by 3 points!" anymore? Well, you can say that the Warriors are gonna blow another 3-1 lead.
I try to be entertaining.
But my point is, as an amateur and representing other amateurs, I feel as if our vision of the chess board is limited to these points. We've always seen these brilliant grandmasters sacrifice after sacrifice win games with these "imbalances". How could we obtain these imbalances?
My fellow reader, if you've gotten this far, they're right in front of you.
Here's the first diagram for simple reference. To me, an imbalance is an advantage each piece of the board has over the opposing pieces. Let's compare white's dark-colored Bishop to black's d5 Knight.
They're both 3 points, right? Well, discard the points for a second. What I see is a white Bishop deprived of its potential, looking like a sitting duck on c3! It's not really eyeing anything except for protecting the pawns. On the other hand, the black d5 Knight presents an octopus-esque grasp for the board, eyeing all the squares that it potential can cover: c7, b6, b4, c3, e3, f4, e7, and f6!
That's 8/8 IGN if we had to review that black Knight. And that bishop? If you actually took the time to count, it would be 3/7 IGN. Man, what a flop.
What can white do to change the flop?
Well, the problem is that many pieces are experience the flop right now. White's h1 Rook is a bystander as is Black's h8 Rook. White's g1 Knight is enjoying the day off. So really, the question is which piece is more essential to improve?
Let's say it's White to Move. What good moves do you see that improve a piece?
6. Nxd5?? wastes a move an already developed Knight (don't move a piece twice). Why use a move on your knight when you can invest in something else?
6. Nf3? develops a knight. Natural, but loses potential play towards the weak f7 square.
6. Bc4! attacks the black Knight and develops the bishop!
6. Qb3!! activates the queen, attacks the knight, and preserves the pawn chain on c3. (if ...Nxc3 then Qxc3, attacking the c5 pawn!)
And this is all from a pretty boring position. Imagine all the imbalances you can find on a more complicated game. They're fun to explore and it's great to find the move that can fulfill a piece's potential
"What if I can't fulfill my piece's potential?"
White's Bishop. Absolutely dreadful. Its pawns are blocking its potential, which is absolutely 0 right now. So, 0/0 IGN huh. What can we do?
We can increase the piece's potential.
c4! activates the bishop and unleashes a laser-like beam onto the black King and its pawns. Man, I wish they made a chess movie.
Actually I don't.
So, what's my point of writing this article?
Once you grasp imbalances, you can truly play the way you want, where you want, when you want, how you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, whatever you want...
Simply, it'll help a lot.