Tempo...I've been playing chess off and on for a long time, though I've never really studied it till recently. Tempo - I've been hearing a lot about it - What is it? How is it used? How does it benefit your play?

I'd appreciate any help provided.

Tempo refers to a "turn" or single movement in chess. When a player could have achieved the same result in one fewer movements, they effectively "gain a tempo" and conversely when taking one more move than necessary they "lose a tempo". Forcing an opponent to expend moves (often in defense) they would not have done is also considered a "gain in tempo" for the player, because his opponent effectively wasted a move [taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo (chess)].

To phrase it a little differently, tempo is basically you making a move which improves your position, while at the same time forcing your opponent to make a defensive move he doesn't want to make, but has to.  So the end result being that you improved your position and perhaps set some sort of plan in motion, while your opponent had to waste a move to defend his position and not really achieve any progress. The most simple example of tempo is checking your opponent's king forcing him to defend, and thus you basically "gained a move" with thempo, so on the next move you can now continue to improve your position, while your opponent was forced to waste a move defending.


Here's a good example from one of my own games (I play black):


The reason black is up a piece in that game is that white failed to play 5. bxc3. So, what does that have to do with tempo?
Loomis wrote: The reason black is up a piece in that game is that white failed to play 5. bxc3. So, what does that have to do with tempo?

 Yes, but you gotta remember that this was a game between two low rated players, so mistakes were made. In the specific move you described there was indeed no tempo, just a blunder by white, but on 1. ... Qa5+ for example there is tempo, since white had to retrieve his Knight. Had I made some other move white would have played 2. Nxc6 and then the exchange would have been in his favor, especially after 2. ... bxc6 3. Nc7+ winning my rook. No need to be condescending just becuse you're a high rated player.

I'm not being condescending, I think it was a legitimate question. I felt that your example didn't really answer the original poster's question. I think it would have been better if you had commented individual moves, pointing out your understanding of tempo on each one rather than just making a statement at the end ("I'm up in material... thanks to tempo") that isn't really accurate.
simply put look for advantage of time and placement. If your opponent has first move, they have tempo, equalize... If you see a chance to force your opponent, he must make an extra move to remain equal, you have tempo
Whoever has tempo wins: if White has the next move, White wins; if it's Black, then he wins.  It's the opposite of zugzwang where the one with the move loses.  This is just an extreme example.

Tempo is the reason why White has an advantage from the start of the game , because he moved first . Losing a tempo means giving up that advantage . Moving the same piece twice for no reason losses a tempo . Repeated losses of tempo usually lead to a bad position which lead to a loss


White's advantage of first move is actually HALF a tempo.  If he can make threats and gain space, he might expand his edge to a full tempo, at which point he must have the slightly better position.

A player "gains a tempo" whenever he can make a useful move which makes a threat or otherwise forces a reply which is purely reactionary.  After 1 e4 d5  2 exd5 Qxd5  3 Nc3, for example, White has gained a tempo because Black must move his Queen again, and White will be free to make another useful move.

The old "Pawn = 3 tempi" logic remains accurate, but was intended as a measure of gambit play in the opening.  But it is like converting matter into energy, if the energy cannot be used it dissipates and disappears.  Meanwhile, the opponent still has the pawn we sacrificed . . .


My first "coach" (quite informal, a better player who was willing to work with me sometimes) told me to figure tempi only by what is ON the board - any pieces exchanged off are irrelevant; their moves are gone forever. 

Only pawns on the c - f files advanced to the 4th (5th for Black) rank count as a tempo.  Any B, N, or Q off the back rank (and still on the board) counts as a tempo.  Knights on the 4th or 5th rank count as TWO tempi.  Castling is one, and so is a Rook on an open or half-open file (even if he didn't have to move to get there!).  If you're considering a line and the opponent has an edge of +2 or better in tempi, look for something else.


Losing a tempo is like giving your opponent a free turn.  As a ridiculous example, Suppose the first 3 moves go like this:  1.Nh3 e5 2.Ng5 Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6 .  After 3 moves White is on a square he could have gone to on his first move, whereas Black has actually made 3 developing moves.  It's the same as if White made his first move as 1.Nf3 and then said "OK, go ahead and make three moves in a row before I move again."

That's why bringing a Queen out early can often be detrimental-- while the Queen is dodging attacks and not accomplishing anything as she runs around for cover, the skillful attacker will be using developing moves to make the attacks, and essentially getting free turns to put his pieces onto good squares.