Underestimating Your Position: The Greater of Sins

Underestimating Your Position: The Greater of Sins

Feb 4, 2016, 7:04 AM |

Following my loss on the White side of a King's Indian Defence, I annotated my game in the following post.




This game highlighted to me the need to improve my defence. I wasn't happy how I easily folded from a worse position.

I subsequently submitted the game to GM Bojkov for review. He brought to my attention a number of deficiencies in my play, particularly my negative attitude in underestimating my position. He notes that Bent Larson once said it is a worse sin to underestimate one's position, than to overestimate it.


More than anything, his suggestions highlight to me my lack of dynamic understanding. I can recognise static features such as pawn structure, weak/strong squares and structural/static qualities far easier than piece activity.

Lesson One: Passive Opponent Pieces


In the above position I played the automatic 26. Rc1. I never considered "activating my pieces and driving Black's backwards (towards passivity) with 26. b5 ab 27. Bb4 Qg7 28. ab Rxa1 29. Qxa1

In the arising position, White threatens to penetrate to a8, with ideas of Bc5 and b6. Compare the two forces. It's such areas of dynamic asessment that I need to improve.

Lesson 2: Open up the Position to make your pieces active


As White, I played 32. Nd5 believing that after 32. .... Nxd5 Rxd5 I improve my Rook (though it has no entry squares). I fail to realise that I'm easing my opponent's defensive task by exchanging pieces.


Instead I fail to recognise the need to open the position to make my Bishop more active and target e5. To that end 32. f4! ef 33. Ng4 Ne8 34. e5 Bxe5 35. Nxe5 fxe5 36. Bxe5+ Kf7 is just the dream position for White with Bishop on active diagonal and King exposed versus passive Knight.



These position aren't difficult to calculate, but for me it's recognising how to increase the scope of my pieces ... by changing the static features.

 Lesson 3: Underestimating the Strengths of Your Position


In this position I feared my opponent's control of the c-file and dangerous Bishop on the long diagonal. I didn't even consider any pluses I had, such as a more exposed Black King and potential penetration on the 8th or 7th rank. This is not being objective on my part, but believing in ghosts.


To that end, I didn't consider 39. bxa6 bxa6 40. Ba5 (threatening Rd8) Rc1 41. Qa3 Bf1+ 42. Kg3


Here it is Black that is busted, with Rd8 and Qe7 as deadly threats. Again, not difficult to calculate, but to even appreciate such possibilities is the biggest leap.

Lesson 4: Why Should I be worse?

In the above position I rejected 41. Qxb5 as I thought Black's King would easily collect the b-pawn


With similar logic, I rejected 42. Qd5 to go into an endgame because Black's King is more active.

Instead, I should ask myself "Why should i be worse". My Bishop can cut off Black's King's entry and my pawns or on the light squares. It already shows my state of mind the fear of ghosts I have.

Lesson 5: Piece Activity is the Most Important Defensive tool


I asked GM Bojkov how I can improve my defensive. Above all, it's recognising which pieces I want active. Here I played 50. Bg5 which sums up my lack of appreciating that it is not my Bishop I want active, but my Queen. I kept thinking that my Queen was resigned to defence of the first rank. But instead I can play 50. Qe2 to make threats with Bb2 or Qc2. 


Playing passively is one of the worst sins I commit in endgame play. I must reinforce that in general I must firstly activate pieces, then the King and then improve pawns.

This game has really shown me my lack of piece activity as a core to playing.