How to think through this position?

  • #1

    Here is a position I found myself in as white. I had a significant lead and had been playing pretty good. But, suddenly I hit a spot where I just didn't have a plan for the next several moves. I didn't even have a plan for this very move. All I knew is I eventually wanted to launch an attack on the K side.

    I was wondering if anyone wanted to share how they'd think through a position like this and how they'd form a plan. I find myself hitting spots like that in several game where I literally just don't see what to do in the next few immediate moves.

     

     
     
    At the time I thought about advancing the f pawn to help strengthen my center pawns but then decided that would get in the way of my king side attack later.
    I thought about advancing the a pawn just to put some pressure on the queen side.
     
    I also considered Ba3 to put some pressure on the knight. I decided not to do that so I could save the move for pinning the knight after black castled.
     
    Eventually I made the move Ng4. I figured the knight was doing nothing and was in a crappy spot so I brought it to where it could either assist in a king side attack  or move in to the center and assist in the action there.
     
    How do other people think through and develop a plan?
  • #2

    Wait a sec, are you really up a queen or the black queen was forgotten on the diagram? Answer me if you can and I'll tell you what I think is the best plan.

  • #3

    In general: First look at black's position. The knight on b8 is blocked in, the other knight can be defended only by the king, the b and c pawns are a bit awkward. The kingside on the other hand is rather robust.

    Next, look at your own pieces, and think about where they are and what they can do together. Your pieces can't really achieve anything on the kingside; Ng4 or Nf3 helps but then where can the pony go? Lining up queen and light-squared bishop will not help either after ...Nf5. It would take a lot of moves to properly prepare for a kingside assault. On the other hand, queenside the white pieces have interesting possibilities; the dark bishop can take over a good diagonal, the rook can occupy a half-open file, and the light bishop is already hemming in black's knight.

    Finally, if you can't think of what to do, give your opponent something to think over! Play a move that has several threats or possibilities, even if they aren't very promising ones. You can think on your opponent's time, and maybe an advantage will develop. From this, Ba3 strikes me as the most powerful move. This gives black a lot to think about, which is another thing I look for when I am not sure what to do. This is a good diagonal to control. If I am right and a q-side attack is more reasonable, best to have the king stuck in the centre. You could, of course, exchange and deprive the castling option permanently. In short a lot for black to worry about from this move.

    These are the things I look for when I am not sure what to do: How to exploit weaknesses, take advantage of my strengths and put pressure on my opponent.

  • #4
    hui wrote:

    Wait a sec, are you really up a queen or the black queen was forgotten on the diagram? Answer me if you can and I'll tell you what I think is the best plan.


     The diagram is correct, black lost his queen early on in a mistake that made him have to trade it for white's rook.

  • #5
    ivandh wrote:

    In general: First look at black's position. The knight on b8 is blocked in, the other knight can be defended only by the king, the b and c pawns are a bit awkward. The kingside on the other hand is rather robust.

    Next, look at your own pieces, and think about where they are and what they can do together. Your pieces can't really achieve anything on the kingside; Ng4 or Nf3 helps but then where can the pony go? Lining up queen and light-squared bishop will not help either after ...Nf5. It would take a lot of moves to properly prepare for a kingside assault. On the other hand, queenside the white pieces have interesting possibilities; the dark bishop can take over a good diagonal, the rook can occupy a half-open file, and the light bishop is already hemming in black's knight.

    Finally, if you can't think of what to do, give your opponent something to think over! Play a move that has several threats or possibilities, even if they aren't very promising ones. You can think on your opponent's time, and maybe an advantage will develop. From this, Ba3 strikes me as the most powerful move. This gives black a lot to think about, which is another thing I look for when I am not sure what to do. This is a good diagonal to control. If I am right and a q-side attack is more reasonable, best to have the king stuck in the centre. You could, of course, exchange and deprive the castling option permanently. In short a lot for black to worry about from this move.

    These are the things I look for when I am not sure what to do: How to exploit weaknesses, take advantage of my strengths and put pressure on my opponent.


     I hadn't noticed how good Nf5 was at getting in the way of an attack, that does change things. At the same time the queenside look like it could be tricky to get a good attack in.

    I believe chess.com's computer does in fact say Ba3 is the best move here so good call on that.

    So you're approach is that if you're lost just look for the move that is safe but will put some pressure on your opponent. That doesn't sound too bad. I guess at times like this I could look for that and also look for standard setup moves like you said and move the rook to the b file.

    I just seem to hit points in some games where I've had a plan for several moves to come and expected moves from my opponent and then all of a sudden I hit a point where I have no plan and no expected moves from my opponent. Here for example I couldn't tell what black might do next.

  • #6
    ivandh wrote:

    Ba3 strikes me as the most powerful move. 


    I agree.

  • #7

    I would say the way you went on to play this position was quite good in general Smile

    http://www.chess.com/livechess/game.html?id=219477199

    A thought process could go like that, for example:

     

    1) material: counting the pieces, I see that white is up a queen for a rook. When up material, it is usually advisable to just develop your pieces so that they take part in the game, and exchange some pieces. Specifically, when up a queen for some material, it is a good idea to use that for creating an attack.

     

    2) Take care of your pieces:

    * Which pieces of yours need to be developed, which of them need improving most? How could you go about activating them? Where could they go?

    * rook a1, bishop c1 and knight h2 are still badly placed.

    * The rook could use the open a-file, after playing a2-a4 and maybe a4-a5. Alternatively it might wish to go to the kingside, for example with Ke2 and Rg1

    * the bishop could use the open diagonal by going to a3 and looking towards e7. If you do this after having played a2-a4, you will be able to get both things, activity for both your rook and your bishop.

    * the knight h2 does not yet know for sure, he will go towards the king side or maybe try to help in the centre, depending on where the action will be. For example, if white plays a2-a4-a5, and black tries to defend with b6-b5, then c5 and d6 look like very weak squares, and white will love to put the bishop on a3 and the knight (e.g. via h2-f3-d2-e4) to e4 or even to d6.

    * The direction of white's attack will depend on where the black king goes. If black castles short, white may try to attack on the kingside. If black castles long, white may attack on the queenside and maybe in the centre.

     

    3) Putting these thoughts into some kind of move order, I would think that white will probably like to play the following moves next:

    a2-a4

    a4-a5

    maybe already attacking heavily on b6.

    If black somehow finds a way to solidly defend against that, white could go on by playing

    Ba3,

    maybe followed by finding places for rook and knight and queen to go towards the kingside if black has castled short by then.

     

    So basically, I would have done very similar things as you did in your game, I just would have tended to play a2-a4-a5 earlier and to move my knight h2 a bit later.

     

    In your game, the attacking continuation you chose, giving away your pawn c3 but winning on the kingside with nice sacrifices, turned out to be a nice and successful way to win, your tactical skills were good enough to win that kind of battle against your opponent Smile

  • #8
    XxNoWorriesxX wrote:
    At the same time the queenside look like it could be tricky to get a good attack in.

    I don't see a good attack either. But the important thing is that there is fertile ground for an attack there. Just put your pieces in good spots and something will probably materialize.

    XxNoWorriesxX wrote:

    Here for example I couldn't tell what black might do next.


    You have the white pieces and are up the exchange. You get to decide what happens next.

  • #9

    ilmago, thank you for taking the time to post some ways to think through it. After staring at the board for a while, I do like a2-a4 a lot. It brings about some good threats and none of black's responses are very good. It is also nice that it still allows Ba3 as well.

     

    Thanks for looking at the game itself as well. It was far from a perfect game but I did enjoy it.

  • #10

    this one is very simple. white has a winning material advantage. dont try anything fancy, just trade pieces, you will eventually win. playing this position could be a good lesson on how to win a won position.

  • #11

    i was just checking posts. CM ilmago's post is excellent. thumbs up..

  • #12

    Pretty good advice was already given in the posts above. I'd say the most striking feature of the position is that you're ahead in material with no compensation for Black. So you don't have to push it - just try to think safety first, trade material if possible and look for ways to improve your position further. A kingside attack atm makes not much sense as he hasn't even castled there yet. OTOH there's lots of development still to be done for White! For me, priority would be to move the rim knight via g5 to e3 (to not let his knight have a save and active haven on d5 or f5), then there's Ba3, and finally Kd2 with the idea of Rf1 or Rg1 (depending on what he does). As far as pawn breaks go, I would consider f4-f5, but only once the developmental tasks are done.

  • #13

    The dark squares are the key, where black is very weak. Try a bishop on a3, and then Ke2/Rg1 to force Black to move his g-pawn and weaken the f6 square. Then, you can try putting the horse there, which will end the game.

    The knight has another great square, by the way- namely e4. It needs just 3 moves to go there- say via f1 and g3, which also eyes the h5 square.

    In any case, Black's position is unplayable, as he is material down and lacks real counterplay.

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