Have you ever stopped and asked yourself in which positions you feel comfortable? I know that for a long time I did not.
It is all too easy to get carried away with your repertoire, you choose to play the King’s Indian because you have seen a few beautiful games ending in some spectacular mating attacks. Or you go for the Marshall Attack because you get to attack. The variations are so exciting and they require memorization and understanding so the whole effort goes in that direction.
Weakness is probably the most important part of the chess game. Most of the ideas that can surface in a position are usually based on some kind of weakness. Whether it is a pawn, a square or a whole bunch of squares, weaknesses are something we try our best to provoke in our opponent’s position and then exploit at the maximum.
This is one of the most problematic aspects of learning when it comes to playing good chess. If the acquisition of tactical skills is more or less straight-forward: just solve an infinite number of tactical puzzles and you will be fine, the study of positional chess and improving your understanding is less concrete. I will write here about what worked for me. There are probably other ways to achieve a high level of understanding and positional play, especially involving modern technology, but it is always best to talk about something that is personal and actually worked in practice.
Who doesn’t like a good, successful attack?
It is probably every chess player’s dream – to crush their opponent with a well-conducted attack and crown it with a beautiful sacrifice. There are many players who like to attack and it is something we see often especially at the club level.
Attacks are started in most of the games, whether they work or not. We often see “aggressive” pawn moves that aim to build an attack, but which, for the experienced eye, are moves that create unnecessary weaknesses in the position.
In chess, the King is the one piece we try to protect almost throughout the whole game. We castle, we put it into safety and try to weaken it as little as possible, but can it actually help win the game? For most of you, it’s common knowledge that the monarch is a key piece in the endgame. The more centralized, the better.
An active king can, in certain positions, even compensate for a missing pawn.
One of the first things we learn about in chess is the value of the pieces. We start off with the points-value of the pieces and favorable combinations between them. Later on, we understand that this value is only relative and there is much more to chess than some simple rules.
We learn that when we talk about the value of a certain piece we have to take into consideration factors like the pawn structure, piece activity, coordination between pieces and so on.
We have been talking a lot about attacking and finding active ideas in your games, but very little about how to defend and put up a good resistance when under pressure. Many players train their tactical skills, but very few know that defense can be trained in a similar way. Perhaps this is the reason why many players are very good in attack, but their position tends to tumble down rather quickly when they find themselves under pressure.
A very important feature of the position and one that we should pay special attention to during every game we play is the pawn structure and the changes that it might suffer throughout the game, as your plans should also change with it.
The study of the most important pawn formations will not only help you find the best plans during your game with ease, but you will also be able to choose correctly the type of position you want to achieve in relation to the pieces you have on the board.
Having active, well-coordinated pieces is all a chess player can dream about. It is one of the most important principles that you have to keep in mind during the game. Always improve your pieces and look for the most active squares they can occupy. Treat your pieces well and they will help you deliver the blow in the decisive moments. You will see how everything connects and every piece will have its specific and important role.
Pawn breaks are powerful tools that can change completely the character of a position. Generally, they are known to be freeing moves that help improve our position and are meant to create problems in our opponent’s – weaknesses, dangerous open files, etc. In positions with the isolated queen’s pawn specifically, the typical break that we learn from the very beginning is the advance of the central pawn.