Last week, we worked through the beginning of a student game, played between two eight year old’s with roughly eight weeks of chess instruction each. I was going to show you the rest of the game this week, but decided to hold off until next week because I want to cover an important middle-game idea, reducing pressure within your position. This idea or concept can be employed to avoid falling victim to a game changing or winning attack by your opponent before that attack even has a chance to start. Let’s look at this idea now, and finish our student game next week.
Normally, I wouldn’t hold off on presenting a game in progress. However, the idea of reducing pressure within your position can make such a difference that it merits an entire article, especially considering that this idea plays a major factor in the outcome of the game we started playing through last week. We’ll start this week’s lesson by defining the term “position” as it applies to chess.
Simply put, a position (in chess) is the arrangement of both players pawns and pieces on the chessboard during any given point in the game. It’s the interrelationship between both players forces (pawns and pieces), and warrants absolute consideration every time a move is made (by either player). A position changes with every single move made within a game. The player that can analyze a given position in greater detail than their opponent tends to win their games (unless they blunder). For beginners, the analysis of a position, or positional analysis as it’s called, appears to be a daunting task at best. Beginners see a position as a blur of pawns and pieces that are chaotically strewn about the board. In the beginner’s eyes, there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the events taking place within a position. While stronger players can look at a position and clearly see advantages and disadvantages for both players, not to mention being able to determine the next few moves made by themselves and their opponent, beginners become hopelessly lost. The beginner doesn’t have a solid starting point for analyzing a position. Therefore, I’ll give any beginners reading this a starting point.
As a beginner, don’t worry about trying to think many moves ahead. Start by being able to look at the position before you to determine how your opponent’s pawns and pieces are interacting with your pawns and pieces and vice versa. Doing this is easier than you might think. Every time your opponent makes a move, starting on move one, look at the pawn or piece that just moved and determine whether or not it is attacking any pawns or pieces belonging to you. Then look at all of your opponent’s other pawns and pieces and see if they are attacking any material belonging to you. Often, when a pawn or piece moves, it frees a piece, allowing that piece to attack one of your pawns or pieces. This is why you have to look at every pawn or piece that didn’t move when your opponent moves a specific pawn or piece. If you find one of your pawns or pieces under attack, determine whether or not you can defend the attacked material. If you cannot safely defend your attacked material, consider moving that material. Now that we’ve covered the basic idea behind positional analysis, let’s look at reducing pressure within a position.
Reducing pressure within a position is just that! Every chess player finds themselves in a position where a portion of their opponent’s material has crossed the board’s central ranks (the fourth and fifth) and is heading towards their King. For beginners, this problem seems unsolvable. Trying to count attackers versus defenders when there are multiple points of attack is too difficult for the novice player. However, there’s another way to deal with this situation, reducing the overall pressure.
We know that you want to have more attackers than defenders when attacking, and more defenders than attackers when defending. Most of the attacks you defend against or attacks you create will require that the pawns and pieces participating in the attack or defense are working together with one another. We call this pawn and piece coordination. Often, if you disrupt the coordination between attackers, the attack will not have the desired effect, causing your opponent to not follow through with it. The key to reducing the pressure within a position is the art of trading material in a timely manner.
Before you just start trading one piece for another, you have to consider the value of the material involved in the trade. If your opponent has three potential attackers in a given position that are made up of a Knight, a Bishop and Rook and you have a Bishop, a Rook and a Queen, you don’t want to start your trade of material by trading your Queen for your opponent’s Knight! You want to trade your Bishop for your opponent’s Knight. The idea here is to evenly trade (Knight for Bishop, Rooks for Rook or Queen for Queen) material until your opponent no longer has enough material left to deliver the winning attack. The best way to avoid this type of position, one in which you’re under pressure, is to do some preventative work before the position gets out of hand.
What do I mean by preventative work? Remember what I said about looking at every move your opponent makes and then looking at all of your opponent’s pawns and pieces for possible enemy attacks? If you do this after every move made by your opponent, you’ll avoid a fair share of positional pressure. However, you’ll still find yourself in such situations because there’s sometimes no way to avoid them, especially when facing a stronger player. In such cases, you should consider trying to exchange material if you notice that your opponent has multiple pawns or pieces working together on your side of the board. The idea here is to reduce the pressure before it grows too great. Just keep your eyes open to each change in the position after each move made by both players and you’ll avoid a lot of problems.
When facing a multiple pawn/piece attack, try to trade material to reduce the number of attackers. Consider this option before you start trying to match attackers with defenders. This may mean trading material of greater value for material of lesser value. Would you rather be mated or lose some material? If you keep a watchful eye on the position after each move and partake in trades when your opponent starts building up a presence on your side of the board, you’ll avoid many potential attacks.
Next week, we’ll see these ideas in action in the continuation of our beginner’s game. Think about the ideas or concepts I presented today when you play through the game below. The reason I post a game to play through each week is to get you to put what you learn into practice. If you want to get good at chess, you not only have to play often but you have to work through the games of stronger players, studying their moves and figuring out why those moves were made. See you next week!