The Initiative in Chess

Feb 6, 2010, 3:51 AM |

I asked once a stronger player than me, what in his opinion would be the main factor of games on his level. His answer surprised me a little bit: "Well", he said, " I think it is the attempt to get the initiative!"

So what does "initiative" in chess mean? GM Jussupow has called it in an article a dynamical advantage in an undecided phase of the game . Or more practically: "It is the ability to create threats and force the other side to react!"

So it may be very nice to create threatening moves and force your opponent to react. But such an initiative will normally not continue for the rest of the game. The initiative will end sooner or later! Therefore it is important, that you use such an initiative to get a more specific advantage for it: Material, a mate attack , a better pawn structure, an open file ...etc. An initiative without such a concrete result is like fireworks on Sylvester. It is nice  looking at it, but without effect for your the new year.

In the following game of two old masters you will see, that first white started a short, "dubious" initiative. At the end of the initiative he had won a pawn. But two moves later black started a new initiative. It was a long persisting initiative, which at its end lead to a clear material advantage and an better endgame. Remarkable  is, that black resisted for some moves to win back the pawn. He insisted in going on with his initiative

1. A short white initiative


2. A strong black initiative