Chess Thoughts

Chess Thoughts

Apr 13, 2008, 6:00 AM |
general/thought process:

if you see a good move, look for a better one - you are trying to find the best one.

in real chess you make sure you can meet all of your opponents threats before he makes them; otherwise, it is hope chess.

*hope chess is not when you make a threat and you hope your opponent does not see it.
hope chess is when you make a move, wait for what your opponent does, and then hope you can meet his threats.

players that play hope chess will never get very good because some threats cannot be met.

always assume your opponent will make his best move.

never make a bad move and hope your opponent will make a worse one.

but...when your opponent makes a move you have to assume it might be a mistake.

so check to see if your opponents previous move is safe, whether it no longer guards a piece, etc.

if you play a bad move and hope your opponent plays a worse one, that is not hope chess - that is bad (or hopeful) chess!

*playing chess is primarily a series of puzzles, move after move, where you have to take your time and solve the puzzle: what is the best move?

the primary goal of most moves is to make the best move you can find, given the time constraints.

the final, main part of a good thought process is proving that the move you think you are going to make results in a better position (assuming opponents best play) than any other candidate move does!

write your move down before you make it and then take a fresh look around to look for the most obvious errors. this is called a sanity check.

pace yourself to use almost all your time every game. - this is an underrated and very important skill!

a major time management goal is to identify critical moves and allocate more time to these.

it only takes one bad move to lose a game. so be careful on every move!

one move is only better than another if, considering your opponents best replies, it leads to a position that is better than the position to which the other move leads.

never play a bad move fast! (unless you are in time trouble)

in general, the more tactical the position, the more critical it is, the more precise analysis is required, and slow play is required. alternately, the less tactics in a position, the less critical it likely is, the more general principles can be used, and you can play relatively quickly.

your judgement wont improve in 10 minutes but your analysis should, so save your time for critical/tactical moves.

general/other: *the most important principle in chess is safety; second is activity; everything else on the board is relatively unimportant. (but thought process, time management, and learning/prioritizing general principles complete the big 5 and are also important.)

dont worry about winning or losing - worry about taking your time to find your best move every move.

if you are losing and no longer are going to try to make your best move every move, resign and do something better with your time, like going over your game with your opponent or a good player.

the a-file is always on whites left - the first rank is always in front of white.

*time management is an important skill in chess; having 15 minutes left when your opponent has 5 (in a sudden death time control without time delay) is worth about 200 ratings points!

in slow over-the-board play you should keep score until you have five minutes left with the one exception: if your opponent has much less than five minutes left and you are losing badly.

it is a good idea to write down how much time you (and your opponent) has left after every move.

if you are watching a game, do a good imitation of a wall. - dont interfere with a game no matter what (unless you see one of the players cheating away from the board, such as using a computer; that you should report to the tournament director).

in the opening a player should play like a book, in the middle like a magician, and in the ending like a machine.

*in a swiss tournament the most important rounds are the first and the last.

if you can capture with more than one pawn, usually capture toward the center. this is especially true if the capture was on a knight (b or g) file.

there are only three times you should make a threat:

when your opponent meets the threat (which he almost always will), the result is that your threatening move does more for you than his defending move does for him (i.e., the threat and reply is a net positive, or at least even, result for you. otherwise you are making a bad gamble your opponent will not make his best move.), or

when the threat cannot be met, or

when you are losing badly; in this case you need to give your opponent opportunities to make key decisions so he might blunder and let you back in the game.

i dont worry about winning - i worry about finding the best move and let the result take care of itself.

a knight on the rim? your future is dim (or grim!)

you would not give up the bishop pair for nothing any more than you would give up a queen for nothing.

trade off your bad pieces/pawns for your opponents good pieces/pawns.

if it wins, do it! dont worry about all the other guidelines on this page. you can make a complete mess of your position if you checkmate first or get up enough material.

never save time on your clock for playing lost positions! - use your time wisely while you still have a chance - dont play too fast.

donald byrne rule: if you see what looks like a mate, but instead you can easily win a lot of material, just take the material and mate later.

middlegames where each side has an opposite colored bishop are more likely won; endgames with opposite colored bishops are difficult to win, even if you are ahead a pawn - or even possibly two.

the weaker you are, the more learning general principles and general information is helpful. the stronger you are, the more learning specific information, like how to play specific openings, endings, and pawn structures, comes into play.

any class player will make great strides if he realizes that the control of individual squares is as important as any other strategy in the game.- im jeremy silman in the amateurs mind

i know how to play when i am losing badly - i just take all my pieces and throw them at my opponents king. if it doesnt work, i was lost anyway and if it does i can win! - nm rich pariseau

the best way to play for a draw is to play for a win and if it doesnt work, maybe you can settle for a draw!

loose pieces drop off (lpdo) = nunns dictum

three pieces are a mate! (meaning if you have three unopposed pieces around the opponents king that is usually enough to checkmate him).

a bishop is good behind its own pawns if they are mobile. if those pawns are fixed, then it may be a bad bishop. (but remember subas bad bishops guard good pawns!)

when (re-)capturing when ahead, if possible, take with a piece which offers further trades.

the more open the position, the more that time-dependent guidelines are important. for example, knight on the rim hurts more in open positions since the time it takes for the knight to re-position itself is more critical than in less open positions.

never take the queens knight (b-) pawn with the queen. but this mostly applies in openings when the queen can either be trapped or it takes too much time to extricate it.

at the start of a game a tempo is worth about 1/3-1/2 a pawn. later it can be worth much more.

*the more symmetric a position is, the more a material advantage is meaningful. corollary: the more you are behind, the more asymmetric (both in terms of pawns and type of material imbalance) you want it to be. if you are behind, it is better not to have a subset of your opponents material, but rather an imbalance (better to be down the exchange than two pawns, etc.). if you are ahead, better to be up a superset of your opponents material than be ahead on some type of imbalance.

if you dont know what to do, identify your worst piece and find a way to make it better.

if you can trap your opponents king in the middle of the board with queens still on the board and a relatively open position, that is worth, on the average, about 2 pawns. (alburt)

never play a bad move quickly (unless you are time trouble); it is one thing to think about a move and mis-analyze or misevaluate but to play one quickly is just nonsensical.

just because a cute move is possible doesnt make it good!

if you cant find a plan, find your worst piece and make it better. alternatively, ...find your opponents worst piece and keep it bad. often a great plan is just to make your worst piece better.

if you dont know what to do, dont push a pawn! alternatively, if you think that doing nothing is a good plan, it is probably not a good idea to move a pawn (because pawn moves create weaknesses and cannot be taken back).

the lesser the value of a piece, the more likely that it can happily perform guard duties to guard another piece. valuable pieces should not be used to guard less valuable pieces over many moves - a waste of material.

when you are ahead and you exchange pieces, it is not always the value of the pieces which is important; it is the position left on the board and how easy it is to win. when ahead, you can often give back part - or even all - of the material if what is remaining is an easy (or easier) win.

a win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror. - steinitz

tactics flow from superior positions.

with ratings under 1900 uscf, the better the analyst, the better the player. other skills such as opening knowledge or understanding positional nuances are basically not large factors.

if you can play well in critical positions it is not so important how well you play otherwise (until you get really good!)

the duller the position, the more meaning a material advantage is; the more wild the position, the less material is valued.

if you find a move that does at least four good things, do it! (george kane)

in general, guarding something is not desirable since this ties down pieces (which have better things to do), may require additional guarding later, and may lead to the removal of the guard tactic. however, guarding with pawns is often ok since they often have nothing better to do than to guard something.

dont beat yourself! make it so others have to beat you! for example, dont get into unnecessary time trouble or dont give your opponent free pieces.

when you are the higher rated player you can often count on your lower rated opponent for helping you with bad ideas. so sometimes doing nothing may spur him on! (but in your analysis dont assume he will make bad moves - that is something completely different).

when there is only one open or semi-open file for your army and it is an open file, then if you have two rooks, almost always double rooks on that file

whenever possible, capture so that you get more pawns in the center (this is a very underrated and overlooked principle). so you dont just capture toward the center when you have two possible pawn captures, you often capture with a pawn toward the center when you can capture with a piece.

if you only have one bishop left, then:

1) if there opposing bishops of opposite colors and these are the only two pieces (non-pawns) left on the board, then put your pawns on the same color as your bishop. (i.e., this case is bishops of opposite colors, no other non-pawns except kings)

2) in all other cases (more than one piece left on each side; only pieces left are bishops of the same color, etc.), then put your pawns on the opposite color as your bishop.