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Making Decisions in Chess

How can I find the best move in a position? This is a question that every chess player would like
to have answered. Playing the best move in all positions would make someone invincible. Of
course such a thing is impossible and not even a computer is going to achieve perfection in chess
anytime soon. So, is it a waste of time to look for the best move in every position? My answer is
firmly NO. Certainly you will not find the best move every time, but looking for the best move
involves a particular process that will help you better understand the position. Understanding the
peculiarities of a position will always help you play acceptable moves even if they wont
always be the best. The more often you are able to find and use the best moves, the higher your
chess level will be.

This lesson will teach you an original, but effective method to improve your chess thinking. On
first reading the process may seem complicated, but I promise that all that you need to
understand this method is patience. You dont have to be a chess expert to understand the
following algorithm for making decisions in chess, you just need to think logically. Lets start!

1. Whats the objective of a chess move?

According to our method, every chess move has a quite simple goal. By every move we try to
accumulate a certain advantage for ourselves or to reduce a certain advantage already
accumulated by our opponent. The greater the advantage gained, the better the move.

Is there anything illogical so far? I dont think so.

But what about the so-called waiting move? My answer is: forget about it! You will make no
progress by waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. Such a playing style could sometimes
help you, but most of the time it will negatively affect you.

A players attitude during the game is essential in chess.

Someone who always tries to create problems for his opponent can be a successful player even if
his chess knowledge is limited. On the other hand, someone who waits for an opponents
mistakes and makes waiting moves has no chance to substantially improve his chess skills or

something is normally a certain advantage in your position.

2. What are the advantages in chess?

OK, we agree that it is worth trying to reach an advantage by every move, but what are the
advantages in chess? The first chess player to classify the advantages in chess was Wilhelm
Steinitz who claimed that there are nine advantages: lead in development, mobility of the pieces,

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seizure of the center, the position of the enemy king, weak squares in the opponents position,
superior pawn formation, a pawn majority on the queenside, open files, and the advantage of the
two bishops. Nowadays opinions have shifted slightly and the pawn majority on the queenside
and the two bishops are no longer considered general positional advantages.

The classification of the advantages in chess that I am proposing to you is somewhat different,
but I think it fits better with modern thinking. Look around you and you will see that the value of
any product depends on two things: quantity and quality. Why would chess be any different?

There are two main categories of advantages in chess: quantitative advantage and qualitative
advantage. Consciously or not, we always try to reach at least one of them. All we expect from
you is to do it consciously and logically.

3. The quantitative advantages in chess

The quantitative advantages are the material advantage and the local superiority of forces.

The importance of the material advantage is well-known and its not my intention to describe to
you the importance of being a knight or a pawn up.

The superiority of the forces has a huge importance too. A chess game usually consists of several
local battles. It is always convenient to fight in those local battles by having a superiority of the
forces in that area. But if you wish to have a local superiority of the forces, you must create it
because nobody will do it for you.

Creating a local superiority of the forces is directly correlated with finding the best plan of
play. How? Very simple. When you look for a plan of play you must always ask yourself
Where would it be better to challenge my opponent for a local battle? The logical answer is
something like that: The battle must be on the queenside (or in the center or on the kingside)
because I have (or I can create) there a superiority of forces.

One more example: Lets imagine that, while analyzing a position you discover that your
opponents pieces are gathered on one side and can hardly be transferred to the opposite side.
You immediately start thinking about challenging your opponent to a battle on his weak side.
Whats the next step in your logical thinking process? Of course you will start thinking about
how to bring more pieces there in order to create a local superiority of forces.

So, do you understand how the quantitative advantage of the superiority of forces and making the
plan of play are directly correlated? Im confident you do.

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4. The qualitative advantages in chess

For a spectator who doesnt know the rules of chess, any qualitative advantage is imperceptible.
A qualitative advantage is the result of the dynamics of the pieces during the chess game. To
correctly understand what qualitative advantage is, you must consider the chess pieces as beings.

First I am going to mention the five qualitative advantages and then, we will deal with each and
every one of them.

a. Kings safety
b. The qualitative value of the pieces
c. The qualitative value of the pawn structure
d. Space advantage
e. Seizure of initiative

4.a. Kings safety

There is nothing more important in chess than the kings safety. A moment is enough to forget
about it and for the effect to be fatal.

When you decide the plan of play you must always be careful to have your king well protected.
Moreover, you must try to endanger the position of the opponent king.

4.b. The qualitative value of the pieces

During their first steps of the learning chess, every chess player comes to know that every piece
has a quantitative value: a knight = a bishop ~3 points, a rook ~ 4 -5 points, a queen ~ 9

Lets take a look at diagram 1.

Diagram 1

You dont have to be a chess expert to see there is a difference between the pieces of the two
sides. For instance look at the two knights. While the white knight has a dominant position in the

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center from where it can quickly arrive anywhere on the chessboard, the black knight has a
passive position and can make only one move to a8. Therefore its clear that we cannnot even
compare the two knights.

The same qualitative difference is visible when we compare the bishops and the rooks. Whites
bishop and rook has a higher freedom of movement than those of their black opponent. They
occupy open lines and put pressure over weak points in the opponents position.

In the position in diagram no 1 these qualitative advantages can be immediately converted into
quantitative advantages by playing 1.Kf2 followed by 2.Rg1. A superiority of forces is thus
created on the kingside and Blacks passive pieces cant intervene in time to defend the g6-pawn.

As a rule, the qualitative value of a piece depends on 4 characteristics:

1. The mobility of the piece

2. The positioning of the piece
3. The role played by the piece
4. The stability of the piece

Lets see what each of the terms mentioned above means.

The mobility of a piece represents its capacity to move over a big number of squares and to
move quickly (namely in few moves) anywhere on the chessboard.

Diagram 2

In the diagram 2 we can see how the mobility of a piece can be restrained by both ones own and
an opponents pieces. For instance the mobility of Nh6 is restrained by the white pawns which
control the squares g4 and f5 and the black pieces which occupy the squares f7 and g8.
Comparing the two bishops we observe that the white bishop has mobility superior to that of his
black opponent. The latter has only two move possibilities and it needs many moves to get to the
central area of the board.
Also, Whites rook has a better mobility than Blacks rook.
White has more possibilities to transform his huge qualitative advantage into a quantitative
advantage, for instance 1.Rd7 Rb8 2.Na5.

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Positioning of a piece is also a very important characteristic.

Usually a knight placed in the center of the board controls more squares than a knight placed on
the edge of the board, while the linear pieces (the queen, the rooks and the bishops) have a better
positioning when occupying an open line.

However a linear piece is also very strong in the center, as you can see in diagram 3.

Diagram 3

Better positioning of a piece increases its qualitative value.

In diagram 3 the qualitative advantage is transformed into a quantitative advantage by 1...Qe2.
After the exchange of the queens, Black wins by force the pawn at b3 due to the awful position
of Nb2.

Its important to note that the linear pieces usually have their mobility restrained by their own
pawns placed in their lines of action. This could be observed in all three analyzed examples.

The role played by a piece has a great importance. On a scale sorted from the worst to the best,
there are four main situations:

1. A piece out of play. This is the worst situation and it occurs when a piece is far away
from a local battlefield and it is unable to quickly arrive there.
2. A piece that plays a defensive role, namely a piece whose main task is to protect a
certain objective.
3. A piece that plays an offensive role, namely a piece that attacks an objective in the
opponents field.
4. A piece that simultaneously plays an offensive role and one or more defensive
roles. This is the best case, better than the third one. While defending an objective, a
piece can have a supplementary role as it indirectly helps another piece by freeing it from
its defensive task.

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Diagram 4

In diagram 4 we can notice a clear difference in Whites favor from the role of the pieces
perspective. The battlefield is on the kingside and thus Ra2 and particularly Ba8 are out of play.
Whites pieces play offensive roles and 1.Qh2 immediately decides the game.
We must note the double role played by Bd4 which helps the attack on the kingside and
simultaneously protects the pawn on b2, thereby preventing a black counterattack on the

Stability of a piece becomes an important factor when that piece occupies an important square.
If the piece has no stability on the square where it is positioned, the opponent can easily remove
it, thus decreasing its qualitative value. On the contrary, when a piece is well placed and has
stability (that is, when the opponent cannot remove it from there in good conditions), its
qualitative value increases.

Diagram 5

In diagram 5 the two knights have equivalent positioning in the center of the board. Still, Whites
knight has a superior qualitative value because it has greater stability, while Blacks knight can
be removed from its central position by 1.f4.

I hope you understand how important the qualitative value of the pieces is. Consequently, during
a chess game, we must try to do two things:

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1. Improve the qualitative value of our pieces (by increasing their mobility and placing them
on good squares where they are stable and play offensive roles).
2. Reduce the qualitative value of the opponents pieces (by restricting their mobility, not
allowing them to occupy strong and stable positions, and forcing them to play defensive roles or,
if possible, getting them out of play).

4.c. The qualitative value of the pawn structure

Like the other pieces, pawns have their qualitative value too. You must not treat a pawn as an
individual entity; the pawns act together as a unit. When referring to the qualitative value of the
pawns, we talk about the qualitative value of the pawn structure. Indeed, the qualitative value of
the pawn structure is influenced by the presence of doubled pawns or isolated pawns or islands
of pawns, but your goal is to have a strong pawn formation and not strong individual pawns.

There are dozens of books on the market that treat the qualitative value of pawns, either
analyzing general aspects or focusing on particular pawn structures. Certainly we cannot deal
with such a large subject in two phrases. All I expect from you after this lesson is that you
consider the pawns what they are, namely a unit.

If you see the pawn structure as a unit, you will notice that its qualitative value is influenced by
the same four characteristics mentioned above: mobility, positioning, role and stability. In this
case by good positioning we mean that it has both a healthy pawn structure as well as a pawn
structure that ensures good control of the center.

4.d. Space advantage

By space advantage we mean that one of the two players better controls a certain area of the
chessboard. Normally the space advantage is obtained by advancing the pawns in that area.
Why is the space advantage important? Simply because the space advantage indirectly influences
the qualitative value of the pieces.

Diagram 6

In diagram 6 White has a space advantage on the kingside and can still increase it by f4-f5. The
qualitative value of Whites pieces is better because they have great mobility on the kingside,

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while Blacks pieces are forced to occupy passive positions due to the lack of space. White can
create a superiority of forces on the kingside (i.e. the local area where he has a space advantage)
by Nc3-e2-g3-h5 (or Nc3-e2-f4 after f4-f5 is played), Rf1-f2, Ra1-f1.
So, the main trait of the space advantage is its influence over the qualitative value of the

The space has a small influence over the qualitative value of the pieces when the material on the
board is reduced (after more exchanges of pieces).

Diagram 7

Compare diagram 7 with diagram 6. White has the same space advantage on the kingside, but it
is useless now. Without pieces there is no beneficial influence of the space advantage on the
qualitative value of the pieces.

We will study this spatial advantage more deeply in a special chapter.

4.e. Seizure of initiative

The seizure of initiative, that is the possibility to create immediate threats, is very important as
well. An opponent under pressure must first parry the threats facing him and only then deal with
improving his position. Therefore his alternatives are reduced.

The importance of seizing the initiative is illustrated in the following example.

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Diagram 8
1.? Em.Lasker-Marshall, St.Petersburg 1914

In diagram 8 Black needs only a tempo to solve his opening problems by castling queenside. But
it is Whites turn to move and the former world champion immediately seizes the initiative by
playing 1.Qb5!
The pawns b7 and d5 are simultaneously attacked; therefore Marshall set a cunning trap 1...0-0-0
We must note that 1Qb4 loses in view of 2.Nxd5!
Of course not 2.Nxd5?? Bxd5 3.Qxd5 Qg5! 4.Qxg5 hxg5 and Black wins. Now the new
threat Qxa7 forces Black to weaken his position because after 2Kb8, 3.Nb5 would be
2a6 3.Bxa6! bxa6 4.Qxa6+ Kb8 5.Rd3 with a decisive attack and an eventual win for White.

You can see how Blacks alternatives were limited because White, move by move, created new
strong threats and obliged Black to parry them.

5. Making the plan of play & choosing the best move

If you understand the subjects analyzed above, making a correct plan of play and choosing the
best move in a position will be easier. All you need is to follow an orderly pattern of thinking.

Looking for the best plan of play means searching for the best way to improve your position. It
involves looking for the possibilities to achieve one of the advantages mentioned above or trying
to annihilate these advantages if they belong to your opponent.

Here are some questions you must ask and answer to find the potentially best plans and moves.

Is my king safe? How could I ensure its defense?

Is my opponents king safe? How could I benefit from its weakened position?

Is my opponent threatening to achieve a material advantage?

Can I achieve a material advantage by force?

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Where could I create a superiority of forces in order to challenge a local battle? How
about my opponent?

How could I increase the qualitative value of my pieces and pawn structure?
How could I reduce the qualitative value of my opponents pieces and pawn structure?

Where could I achieve/increase a space advantage? How about my opponent?

How could I use the space advantage I have in order to increase the qualitative value of
my pieces and create a local superiority of forces?
What pieces must I exchange in order to reduce the importance of the space advantage
my opponent has?

Could I create immediate threats or seize a long-term initiative? How about my


By answering such questions you will be able to find the most interesting ideas (plans of play)
that can improve your position as well as some candidate moves in the spirit of the plans you
found. Then, all you need is to do is compare the candidate moves by calculating concrete lines
and assessing the resulting positions. Eureka, the best move is found!

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Immediately after every move by your opponent, you should answer the following two

1) What are your opponents THREATS?

A threat can be:

a mate attack or other threats against the king,
a gain in material,
gaining a very good position for a piece,
getting control of an important square, line, or diagonal, or
any other tactical or strategic advantage that the opponent can gain on the next
Then, you should evaluate which of the threats are real. Not all threats are REAL and
in this regard many chess players often make mistakes. For example, if your opponent is
threatening to gain the bishop-pair, you should evaluate whether this is really negative for
you in the concrete, exact position that you have on the board.
Only real threats should be taken into consideration.

2) What are the CONSEQUENCES of your opponents last move?

Almost every move has a good effect and a collateral effect which may be negative
(chess moves have pluses and minuses). For example, by moving the bishop from c8 to
f5, Black gains control over the the b1-h7 diagonal, BUT at the same time, he looses the
protection of the b7-pawn.
Also, you should always evaluate the consequences of your own moves before playing

The consequences of moves usually have a geometrical nature and they can be:
opening a file or a diagonal,
blocking one piece with another,
weakening a square or a pawn structure,
leaving a piece undefended, and
many others that you will soon learn to notice very clearly.

All our annotated games at ICS include questions and answers about the consequences of
moves at all important moments, showing you again and again how to evaluate them and
also how important this evaluation is in practice.

A strong chess player should be used to evaluating these consequences in a matter of few
seconds or even in fractions of a second. It is something you should train your mind to

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do in order for it to realize these evaluations automatically, and after a while, without you
even being conscious of it. This will be a very big step forward in your chess
improvement and we will insist on this during the year 1 course.

Most of the moves consequences should be kept somewhere in your mind for future
uses. For example, if at the 23rd move, your opponent weakens his kings protection by
moving his knight away from f6, you can use this later when you decide to go for an
attack with Qh5, at the 30th move.

The habit of evaluating the consequences of a move and their recording somewhere in
your mind will help you a lot even in developing your calculation power (and also in
avoiding oversights and blunders!). All elements, such as occupied squares, an open
diagonal, an overloaded piece, a weak square somewhere, a pinned pawn, are very
important during the game of chess and your minds ability to use them will bring you
satisfaction in practical games. In the case of complicated positions (and simpler
positions too), your head wont be spinning anymore, instead the positions resources will
reveal themselves in front of your eyes sooner and simpler.

So, you will be taught how to evaluate the consequences of chess moves as part of all our
annotated games, but first you need to know some important elements:

a) The most important consequences are given by the pawn moves because they
cannot move backwards. The pawns defend two squares (or one square in the case
of the marginal ones) and the move of a pawn will leave two undefended (or even
weak) squares but it will defend two others. Also the pawns can block pieces
behind and can fix the structure in the center for a long time. Pawn moves
generally open files, ranks and diagonals for a long period. Therefore any pawn
move must be very well evaluated.
b) All moves have one common and very important consequence: Time. This is why
all moves should bring you closer to your objective (see to do list). They can be
useful to you and irritating to your opponent. For example, even a move which
improves the position of one of your pieces may be bad, because that move might
eat from the time allocated to a plan, which is more important than the actual
c) Of course, a very important consequence is given by the side where you castle the
king. Castling on a different side from your opponent may completely change the
character of future play. Considering this (as well as point b), it might be good to
delay castling in some situations.
d) When playing a piece, some squares on the board become defended or attacked,
but other squares become unprotected. These changes are a source of many
blunders or oversights during practical chess; by seeing such consequences you
can avoid many errors of your own and benefit from those of your opponent.

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TO DO list

Once every 3-10 moves (this varies a lot according to the positions characteristics), in
the key-positions, you should make a TO DO list. In this list, you should add all you
want to realize in the given position.
Therefore you might add:
finishing development,
occupation of an open file/diagonal,
creating weaknesses in the opponents position,
improving the position of your pieces (one of the most important things to be
taken into consideration)
and so on.

While the first 2 questions (about threats and consequences) should be answered after
every move of your opponent, the TO DO list should be created at some given
moments, when the characteristics of the position have changed or when some of your
to do tasks became completed jobs.

An excellent explanation on what this list is about is given in the following example:


XABCDEFGHY In this position, Whites advantage is clear.

White has conquered the c-file and has an
8q+-tr-+k+( outpost on c5, while Black has a complex of
7tr-+-+p+-' weak squares (a5, b5, c5, c6) immobilizing his
pieces in a passive defense. Even if White is so
6-+Rvlp+pzp& strong on the queenside, there is no possibility
5zpQ+p+-+-% for him to improve his position or to force a
3+N+-zP-+-# However, for an expert eye, the structure in
front of the black king is weak too and White
2-zP-+-zPPzP" (the former World Chess Champion, Petrosian)
will use this weakness to win the game by a
1+-tR-+-mK-! direct attack on king. In order to attack the king
xabcdefghy with major pieces, White needs open files, so
he needs to advance the pawns on that side.
Advancing the pawns on the kingside would weaken the white kings position too,
complicating the position with an unclear outcome. So, Petrosian is making up his TO
DO list:
1) Make the king safe by bringing him to the queenside (a maneuver which is
possible due to the total control of the only open file on the board);
2) Advance the kingside pawns in order to destroy the black kings protections. This
is possible because the black pawns are weak and White will be able to force
exchanges on that side;

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3) Bring the major pieces to their best positions, ready for the decisive transition on
the kingside at the right moment and the final attack.
If you are interested, the game continued: 28. g3 Kg7 29. Kf1 Kg8 30. h4 h5 31. R1c2 Kh7 32. Ke1 Kg8
33. Kd1 Kh7 34. Kc1 Kg8 35. Kb1 Kh7 36. Qe2 Qb7 37. Rc1 Kg7 38. Qb5 Qa8 39. f4 Kh7 40. Qe2 Qb7
41. g4 hxg4 42. Qxg4 Qe7 43. h5 Qf6 44. Ka2 Kg7 45. hxg6 Qxg6 46. Qh4 Be7 47. Qf2 Kf8 48. Nd2 1-0

The TO DO list is another very important element that will help chess players think in
an organized manner, make plans of play, and be consistent in their realization. We will
insist on this TO DO list during our year 1 course and the annotations, questions and
answers of the instructive games will be focus on how and when to create this list.

If you want to improve your chess, you need to start building and using this TO DO list
in every game from now on. It wont be easy to find the right elements to add on this list,
but our training will help you. At the same time as your chess knowledge becomes better
and wider, you will become a better player. However, an unorganized thinking process is
the worst thing that can happen to a player, so endeavor to organize your mind starting
from this moment and you wont find yourself saying Im stuck and I dont know why I
am not improving?!


The Consequences of the moves and the TO DO list are very strongly connected. You
will see that identifying the consequences of your opponents moves can extend your
TO DO list with new elements such as: a newly weakened square may serve one of
your pieces as a good outpost, etc.

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Final Theory

On our way to evaluating a position, a very important element to consider is the safety of
the king. We hope you have studied the assigned annotated games and other theoretical
lessons with examples. Now, it is time to conclude, add some extra observations, and
give the final theory which will help you to make a faster and better assessment of the
safety of the king and how it can be attacked or defended.

First, we need to remember that here we do not discuss typical pawn structures (as Kings
Indian Attack or Defense, positions with isolani pawns, English attack, Keres attack and
other systems), but we consider general aspects and discuss positions that arise often in
practice. We will discus the typical attacks on kings in more detail when we treat the first
typical pawn structures, in a future ICS course. In addition, we do not consider kings
castled on different sides as this is a different chapter of our course, and the essence of
such positions is usually based on: whoever starts the attack first, wins.

The most frequent case is when the kings are castled on the same side, and this is what
we are interested at this moment (kings safety as a criterion of positional evaluation).
When you need to evaluate a position from a strategic point of view to decide about a
move, the kings are usually castled on the same wing.

For clearer explanations, we refer to the attacker as being White and the defender as
being Black. Of course, the roles are simply reversed when Black attacks the white kings


1. Pawn structure: f7, g7, h7

This is the best pawn structure in front of the king. The only
drawback is that the black king has no escape against a mate on +k+(
the back rank. This is why Black plays later h7-h6 or g7-g6. pzpp'
2. Pawn structure f7, g7, h6
The drawbacks of the pawn structure after h7-h6 is played are:
- g6-square is weaker and White can exploit this usually FGHY
when has the control over the a2-g8 diagonal (pinning f7)
- the g7-pawn is overloaded by defending both the h6-pawn
and the f6-square pzp-'
- White can exploit the fact that Black can no longer
advance g7-g6 without weakening the h6-pawn. For
example, a knight on f5 cannot be chased away by g7-g6
(as h6 will be hanging).

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3. Pawn structure f7, g6, h7

The drawbacks of this pawn structure are:
- the weak squares f6 and h6 +k+(
- White can control the g5-square as h7-h6 is rarely
possible or good.
- if Black has no bishop on g7, White threatens mates as +p+&
Qh6 and Ng5 with mate on h7, or mate on g7 or h8 with
the bishop and queen on the long diagonal
- the g6-pawn (even if it looks well defended) can become a
target for White attacks: h2-h4-h5 opening the h-file and,
then, by a piece sacrifice on g6, White can destroy black
kings protection

However, if Black has the g7-bishop and knight on f6, this

structure is quite solid when the kings are castled on the same
side. In this situation, White rarely achieves something by h2-h4-

4. Pawn structure f6(f5), g7, h7 +k+(
The drawbacks of moving the f-pawn are:
- the e6- and g6- squares are weak
- the a2-g8 diagonal is weak zp-+&
- the pawn on f6 occupies the position where the black
knight usually stays
The positions where the f-pawn is pushed are not so common for
Black. We meet this pawn structure more often as White against Pzp-+$
the Kings Indian Defense (closed center), where White advances +P+-#
the f-pawn to prevent f4-f3 and to defend the g2-pawn with a
rook on the second rank. -+PzP"


The success of a wing attack (here on the kingside) is tightly connected with the central
situation. There are 3 major cases:

1. The center is closed (That is, the center is occupied by a chain of pawns which
block each other). Attacks on the wings are usually the only possible strategy, so
almost surely one of the players will attack on the kingside.

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2. The center is under tension (when the fight for the center was not yet decided or
even begun ). In this situation, a wing attack rarely can be successful and many
times can lead to losing the game. The center must be well controlled before
starting an attack.

3. The center is stable, when both players have control over about half of the center
and pawn-advances are less possible (or predictable). In these situations, the re-
arrangement of pieces for an attack against the opponent king can lose the control
over the center . Therefore, they must be very well analyzed beforehand.


The emplacement of the e-pawns, for both White and Black, has a major importance in
assessing the kings safety. There are more typical situations that we discuss here:

1. Black: pawn on e6, White: no pawn on the e-file CDEFGHY

- White controls the e-file and the e5-outpost
- White can usually secure the position of a knight on +-+pzpp'
e5 -+psn-+&
- White puts pressure on the f7- and e6- pawns +-sN-+-%
threatening a sacrifice on f7 LzP-+-+$
- Whites light-square bishop is good on both a2-g8 and
b1-h7 diagonals +-+-+-#
- The black rook should stay on f8 defending the f7- -+QzPPzP"
pawn, in many situations. +-tR-mK-!
- White can use the half-open e-file for a rook lift: Re1- cdefghy

This kind of situation on the e-file is very often met and

it is typical of (but not limited to) the Isolated Pawn.

2. Black: pawn on e6, White: pawn on e5 DEFGHY

- the e5-pawn gives White a local space advantage
- of course, the black knight is no longer on f6 defending nvlpzpp'
the king, the h7-square is especially weak now +p+-+&
- White controls the f6-square which can be important in pzP-+-%
the case of the typical sacrifice: 1.Bxh7+ Kxh7 2.Ng5+ zP-+-+$
Kg6 (and, now, the black king cannot escape on e7
through f6) L+N+-#
- the b1-h7 diagonal is usually controlled by White +-zPPzP"
where he can exert a strong pressure QtR-mK-!
- after the defensive move g7-g6 (often necessary), the defghy
f6-square becomes weak for Black

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- In some situations, White can plan a sacrifice on f6

(Nf3-h2-g4-f6+) and after g7xf6, e5xf6, White can
attack on the g-file
- the rook lift Re1-e3-g3(h3) is possible.

Black can play f7-f5 with one of two CQS:

1. If White takes on f6, Black retakes with the knight
bringing it back on defense and opens the f-file for his
rook; or
2. If White doesnt take on f5, Black blocks Whites
actions on the kingside.
This advance (f7-f5) must be well calculated as after
e5xf6, the e6- and e5- squares might become a problem
for Black.
3. Black: pawn on e6, White: pawn on e4
In this situation, White usually tries to find the best -vlpzpp'
moment to advance the e4-pawn on e5 and start the zppsn-+&
attack. By advancing the pawn, Black usually gains a
strong outpost on d5 for his f6-knight., This advance -+-+-%
requires a good evaluation of the chances of a successful zPP+-+$
Also, the position of the pawns e4 against e6 is typical +-zPPzP"
for the Scheveningen structure of the Sicilian.
4. Black: pawn on e5, White: pawn on e4
- White has no local space advantage -trk+(
- White can use the f5-square for his knight (Nf3-h4-f5 vlpzp-'
or Nc3-e2-g3-f5) especially when Black has already
pushed h7-h6 because g7-g6 to chase the knight away is -sn-zp&
no longer possible (the h6-pawn will be hanging). As a zp-+-%
note: White can provoke h7-h6 by Bg5 beforehand to
start the knights maneuver P+-sN$
- Sometimes White can advance f2-f4 with the threat f4- vL-zP-#
f5 (and, then, even g2-g4-g5) and open the f-file for the
rook. Note: sometimes it may be better for the rook to
wait some moves before activation on another file, to +RmK-!
determine whether the advance of the f-pawn works. efghy

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In this chapter, we present the attacking pieces and their most common ways to attack the
opponent king.

1. The queen

Of course, the queen is the most important piece to use for attacking during the

The best attacking positions for the queen are the kingside squares (any of them where
she can be safe not attacked by opponent pieces).
Other common squares for attack are d3 and b3 usually supported by a bishop on the b1-
h7 or a2-g8 diagonals (creating the well-known queen + bishop battery). An advantage
would be to have the 3rd rank clear, to be able to transfer the queen on a more active
square on the kingside.

2. The kingside rook

If White has not castled yet, he can use this rook directly from h1
in 3 interesting ways:
- h2-h4 supporting the g5-square and any exchange there would
open the h-file for the rook (after h4xg5)
- h2-h4 with the idea Rh1-h3-g3, and
- g2-g4 with idea Rh1-g1 and g4-g5 chasing away the f6-knight
with an attack on the g-file followed, if possible, by a knight
sacrifice on f6 or h2-h4-h5 and g5-g6 destroying black kings

After castling, White can use the rook in attack by the rook-lift Rf1-e1-e3-g3(h3) or, if
the f-pawn is pushed on f4, Rf1-f3-g3(h3).

By advancing the f-pawn (f2-f4 and even f4-f5xe6),

White also intends to add his rook to the battle by
attacking f6 (exchange sacrifices are seriously
threatened: Rf1xNf6) and f7.

3. The queenside rook

Usually neglected, the queenside rook can be very

powerful in attack and rook lifts such as Ra1-d1(c1)-
d3(c3)-g3(h3) give a very strong plus to Whites

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Besides rook-lifts, an important role of the queenside rook is to assure control and
pressure on one of the central files.
While Black will be busy with defensive tasks on the kingside, this rook can exert a lot of
pressure and give Black extra problems on the central files.

4. The light-square bishop

The light-square bishop is one of the main attacking pieces. It usually attacks the black
kings position using the a2-g8 or b1-h7 diagonals. In other fewer cases, the bishop which
was previously fianchettoed can attack on h3 targeting e6.

The bishop collaborates very well with the queen to attack on h7 or f7, or with a knight
on g5 attacking on e6, f7, or h7.

5. The dark-square bishop

In most cases, this bishop attacks the black king indirectly by

attacking its best defender, Nf6, from g5.
In the diagram from above, we can see the collaboration
between the white pieces in attack (1.Bxf6 and 2.Qh7#).

When Black defends his king by playing g7-g6 or when

Black has developed his kingside using the fianchetto
structure, this bishop attacks the dark-squares or exchanges
the opponents dark-square bishop which may end with total
control of these squares in Whites favor.

Another position for the bishop in attack is on b2 when the long diagonal is open.

6. The queenside knight

The queenside knight attacks on 2 common routes: Nb1-d2-f1-

g3(e3)-f5(h5!) or Nb1-c3-e2-g3. When it is possible, usually
after the advance e4-e5 or when Black has no a good control
over the center, the knight can jump in to attack using the
central squares directly.

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7. The kingside knight

Instead of the typical attack Nf3-g5, the kingside knight can also attack from f5 (Nf3-h4-
f5 or Nf3-d4-f5, Ng1-e2-g3-f5), a very strong square for the knight when the black pawn
is not on e6.

Other interesting routes for the knights are:

- Ng1-f3, pawn h2-h3, Nf3-h2-g4 exchanging the f6-knight or with threats like Nf6+
- Ng1-e2-g3(f4)-h5 attacking on g7!


While the safety of the king is a very important element to be considered during the chess
game, it is important to know that an overly defensive strategy for the king is far from
good. A superiority of forces with defensive tasks results in a minority of forces which
can fight for the initiative. So, we will end the kings safety presentation by giving ways
to defend the king, directly or indirectly.

1. Usually, positions where Black has the pawn structure f7, g7, h7 (or h6), with
knight on f6 are not easily broken as long as Black conducts an active strategy on
the center.

2. The fianchetto structure (f7, g6, h7, Bg7) and Nf6 is also usually enough as
long as Black can react in the center.

3. The light-square bishop is a very strong defender when it arrives on the kingside
by Bc8-f5 or Bc8-g4-(h5). The bishop will neutralize the white light-square
bishop or will pin the f3-knight. At the end of its journey, the bishop can go on g6
defending the light-squares around the king and blocking any access tog7.
However, moving the bishop on the kingside may create other problems on the
queensides light-squares.

In not a few cases, Black defends his kingside

at the last moment (when the position already
looks hopeless) by defending the kingside
(especially h7) with moves like: Ba6-d3 or

Also, the bishop on the c8-h3 diagonal

impedes Whites possible rook lifts to the h3-

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4. The dark-square bishop often defends the Nf6 against

Bg5, by not allowing pawn structures to be disturbed
after Bg5xf6, g7xf6.

Also, when White is able to provoke the advancement

of g7-g6, the dark-squares in Blacks camp should have
their defender, the bishop.

Of course, the dark-square bishop plays a very important role in systems based
upon a fianchetto on the kingside when Black tries to protect it from exchanges
for Whites bishop.

A common way to avoid the exchange of bishops is to

play h7-h6 and Kh7 in time, immediately after Whites
Be3 intending Qd2 and Bh6. Of course, the weakening
of pawn structure with h7-h6 is not recommended when
White has castled on the other side.

Another method to avoid the exchange of the

fianchettoed bishop is to move the rook onf8-e and after
Be3(g5)-h6 to respond with the a retreat to Bg7-h8.

5. The kingside rook can be a very important defender for the f7-pawn which
White can attack by means of Ng5 or Ne5, Qh5, B on a2-g8 diagonal or by
opening the f-file. Also, the rook on f8 can support the advance of the f7-pawn on
f5 in some cases.

However, the rook is not always good on f8 because it also

restricts the mobility of the king which could find a safe
place on f8.

In other cases, the f8-square can be better used by a knight.

For example, if White attacks the knight on f6 with e4-e5,
Black can still defend the kingside with Nf6-d7-f8.

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6. The queenside rook can defend the kings

position by two methods:
- defending the 7th rank (usually from a7 or
c7), especially when the f7-pawn has been
pushed forward
- controlling an advanced rank (4th or 5th
ranks) if this is open thereby obstructing the
play of the white pieces

7. The queen is a bad defender especially

when White attacks with more pieces.
However, the queen can end the attack if she
finds a way to exchange the opponent queen.

Another method of defending is by using the

queen indirectly: when White has his pieces
attacking on the kingside, the black queen
can find ways to enter the opponents
unprotected camp. Usually such an entrance
ends badly for the attacking player who has
left undefended and un-coordinated minor
pieces behind.

8. The queenside knight can be used for defense with success as we know that the
knights are excellent defenders. For example, the knight can stay on d7 defending
the f6 knight or come right to the kingside via: Nd7-f8-g6(e6) or Nc6-e7.

However, in many cases, Black can use the queenside knight in active actions on
the queenside (as the black queen), creating unpleasant problems for the
unprotected white camp.

Together with the comments on the given annotated games and the other two theoretical
lessons, you should have all the information necessary to assess the safety of the king
during the middlegame. Moreover, you can gather more information by studying the
typical strategies of attack and defense of typical positions (that we will discuss further in
our course) as well as specifics of the openings you are playing.

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In this introductory lesson, we will discuss:

- the importance of the initial instruction in tactics for the students progress
- the chess board and the importance of board visualization
- the forms of interaction between pieces
- basic information about the importance of interactions

The game of chess is known to consist of two different parts: strategy and tactics, which
are, of course, strongly inter-connected. Some moves can be considered strategic moves
(based on rules, principles, plans etc.) and others are tactical moves (which require a
precise calculation of variations).
Roughly 65% of moves are strategic and the remaining 35% are tactical. Of course, this
ratio varies a lot in every game, according to the opening system, methods of attack and
defense, and the players style.

A players tactical strength depends in large measure on the initial instruction. This
initial instruction plays a very important role in molding the players mind for high
performance in chess.
There is a huge difference between the calculation force of a young grandmaster of 16
years old and a club player with more than 30 years of practice. Where does this
difference come from? It is 1% talent and 99% work, GOOD work that the young player
has done early and that has brought advantages to him! On the other hand, the
experienced club player has accumulated bad habits in his calculation process that keep
him stuck at the same level for a long time.

We begin the instruction with the basic elements (presented in this lesson) as they are of
the greatest importance for your initial training. Then, we will pass on to more and more
complex elements. We will work in order to develop and improve your calculation
power, tactical vision, maximal thinking and many other elements, all part of

The chess game is played with pieces on a chess board. Even if it looks simplistic, these
two elements (BOARD and PIECES) should be known very well by every player who
aspires to a high performance in chess.

The good thing is that most players (even the good tactical players) do not even
know the chess board, nor take into consideration more complex elements such as the
interaction of pieces. This is the good thing for us, but a bad one for them.

Our student has to start his training in the tactics area with these two elements.

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1) The Chess Board

Our student is advised to learn the chess board so well that he should be able to see it in
his mind. He should be able to quickly answer, without looking at the board, to some
questions such as:
- How can a knight from c4 arrive at f6 through d3?
- Say all the routes for a knight to go from d6 to f4 in the minimal number of moves.
- Which are the squares where an h4-bishop can attack a queen on d6?
- Name the diagonals that intersect in c5, f4, h2.
- Name the color of the squares where the b1-h7 diagonal intersects the 4th rank.
.and so on.

At the end of the training, the student should be able to (re-)play a game only by
following/telling the moves (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 etc.) without looking at
the board.

In addition, after looking at a position for about 2-3 minutes, the student should be able to
solve it in his mind.

This kind of training, so-called board visualization, should be taken seriously by any
chess player, no matter his value. It is strongly recommended by strong tacticians like
Kotov, Tal, and great chess teachers as Averbach, Shamkovici, Sveshnikov or Pavlov.
Without a good mental picture of the chess board, the player will face serious problems
when the position on the board becomes more complicated. Also he will probably
become tired when the game lasts for more than 30 moves.

This training will help the player see correctly more moves in advance, clearly see the
resulting positions with his minds eye, observe much easier hidden resources, avoid
blunders and, finally, improve his calculation power.

From the second month of our school training, we will provide a specific program with
exercises and methods especially meant to train this capability. The training will last until
the end of our course, but its final objective will be great for your chess game.
The training will be separated into two levels of difficulty.

2) The Chess Pieces

If the chess board can and should be learned in a shorter period of time, the pieces, with
their interactions, roles, cooperation, methods of play constitute a very large and
important part of chess theory.

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After our lesson on the quantitative value of pieces, you should already know their
correct value during the opening-middlegame and, also, during the endgame. The
aforementioned lesson also showed you the relative value of the pieces when the material
on the board of the two players was not symmetrical.

Interaction between pieces

Another aspect many players do not know is the forms of interaction between pieces. If
you ask somebody about this (even most of your local chess teachers), the answer will be:
1.attack and 2.defense. These answers cover no more than 40% of the cases!

The interaction between pieces has five different
forms: 8r+-trk+-+(
1. sustainment (between allied pieces) 7+-+-+-+-'
2. protection (between allied pieces) 6-+-+-sn-+&
3. limitation (between allied pieces)
4. attack (between opponent pieces) 5+-wq-zp-+-%
5. obstruction (between opponent pieces) 4-+-+P+-+$
We will refer to the position on the right, to 3+-sN-+-+-#
demonstrate these forms. We use a single name, 2-+PzP-zPPzP"
piece, for both pieces and pawns.
W: Kg1, Qd1, Bc1, Nc3; c2, d2, e4, f2, g2, h2 xabcdefghy
B: Ke8, Qc5, Ra8, Rd8, Nf6; e5

1. Sustainment = a piece defends or sustains another allied piece.

Ex a) the white queen defends the c1-bishop and the c2- and d2- pawns;
Ex b) the c3-knight defends the e4-pawn and the d1-queen;
Ex c) the d2-pawn defends the c3-knight.

2. Protection = a piece protects another allied piece by interposing.

Ex a) the white f2-, g2- and h2- pawns protect the white king (the f2-pawn protects the
king from the attack of the black queen on the a7-g1 diagonal);
Ex b) the d1-queen is protected against the attack of the d8-rook by the d2-pawn;
Ex c) the e4-pawn protects the g2-pawn on the a8-h1 diagonal and so on.

3. Limitation = a piece restricts the ray of action of another allied piece.

Ex a) the white pieces limit the queens possible moves to only 6 squares.
Ex b) the black king limits the movement of the d8-rook, so it cannot move on e8, f8, g8,
or h8.
Ex c) the d2-pawn limits the mobility of the c1-bishop.
Ex d) the black e5-pawn limits the mobility of the black queen on the 5th rank to only
three squares.

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4. Attack = a piece attacks an opponent piece.

Ex a) the black d8-rook attacks the d2-pawn
Ex b) the f6-knight attacks the e4-pawn
Ex c) no white piece attacks a black piece

5. Obstruction = a piece limits the movement of an opponent piece.

Ex a) the a8-rook hinders the white c1-bishop from going to a3.
Ex b) the c5-queen pins the f2-pawn which cannot advance.
Ex c) the e4-pawn blocks the black e5-pawn which cannot advance, and vice-versa.
Ex d) the d8-rook constrains the white d2-pawns ability to defend the c3-knight (because
of the unprotected white queen on d1) so, if Black is to move, he can take the knight by
Ex e) the d1-queen limits the mobility of the black knight (by controlling the g4- and h5-

All these interactions between pieces change at every new move on the chess board. The
consequences (CQS) of the moves and their recording in our minds for an immediate or
later usage in the game are essential for our tactical thinking (see the set of exercises
about the CQS of the moves).

Explanations and tips about the forms of piece interactions

The attack

The attack is a very well known form of interaction, so we wont dwell upon it. However,
you should know that the attack can take multiple forms (simple attack, double attack,
triple attack, discovered check, double strike and so on). For less trained students in the
field of tactics, we highly recommend a book with tactical exercises (combinations) in
order to learn and exercise these forms of attack.

The defense (sustainment)

As we just mentioned the attack, we will now address the defense, which is the contrary
form of interaction. This is also very well known, but associated especially with
sustainment (My opponent has attacked my knight with the queen. I will defend my
knight). However, the defense can take more forms and at least one of them is

Without taking into account actions against the attacking piece (such as capture or
pinning), there are four forms of defense against an attack:

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1. the attacked piece moves away

2. the attacked piece is sustained (defended) - sustainment
3. an allied piece protects the attacked piece by interposing - protection
4. the counterattack: an opponent piece is attacked at the next move

Even if some of you might consider this XABCDEFGHY

fragment too basic, its not at all like that!
During a chess game, the players mind has to be 8r+l+-trk+(
prepared to take all the possibilities into account 7zpp+-vl-zpp'
in a fraction of a second. 6-+n+-+-+&
In the position you see at the right, the white 5+-zP-+-+q%
knight is attacked and a normal movement 4QzP-+pzp-+$
away will leave the white king in danger.
The candidate moves that White should take into 2P+-vLPzPLzP"
consideration in this position must include the
counter-attack move: 1.b5! This move is nothing
more than a simple defensive action. xabcdefghy

The protection

The pieces of the same army can protect each other by interposing. Of course, the best
protection is offered by the pawns which are of the lowest value. A protection assured by
pieces (not pawns) is not the best because this form of defense reduces the qualitative
value of the pieces.

The king is the only piece which cannot be sustained (defended) against an attack (check)
and this is why the kings protection (usually assured by the pawns) is very important.
After castling, the king enters a zone where his own pawns are less important in the fight
for the centre and space, so they are usually intact, in their initial position. Who said
chess is not extremely logical?!

In the kings case, the pawns can also limit the monarchs moves. Therefore, when there
are open files and major pieces are threatening to enter the back-rank, the kings pawns
should move (h2-h3 / h7-h6 or g2-g3 / g7-g6) to create a window for the king.

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The limitation

In this position (given in the first set of exercises XHGFEDCBAY

for the consequences of the moves), we were asked
which is the better move for Black: 1Nbd7 or 1R+-mKQvLNtR!
1Nc6. 2zPPzP-+-zPP"
Even if you dont know the best plan for Black in 3-+NzPLzP-+#
this opening system, you should opt for 1Nc6
for the simple reason that the knight doesnt block 4+-+-zP-+-$
(see limitation) the diagonal of the c8-bishop. 5-+-+pzp-+%
Later on, by continuing the game, you will realize
that a good plan is Qd8-c7 and e6-e5 fighting for 6+-snp+-+-&
the center and initiative. You will realize then that 7pzpp+-+pzp'
the knight would be better on c6, than on d7
because your light-square bishop will be free.
While between allied pieces, the sustainment and protection are good types of interaction,
the limitation is a bad one.

We have to observe that the limitation made by a piece is usually temporary (assuming
that piece can move). However, the limitation of the pieces by ones own pawns usually
has a long-term effect. The pawns cannot move back and forth like the pieces, but their
movement implies important consequences that cannot be redressed. Also, the pawns can
be blocked by the opponent pieces and pawns. The most common result is the bad
bishop which is limited by its own pawns that block on the same color as the bishop.

Almost every opening system has specific XHGFEDCBAY

problems regarding the limitation of the pieces.
Black especially has to solve problems in the 1-mKR+Q+NtR!
opening that include the center, space, king safety, 2zPLzPP+-vLP"
and prevention of weaknesses. As a result, a piece 3-zPN+-+P+#
or more will be left suffering, blocked by the
pieces or pawns. After the player has solved the 4+-+-zPP+-$
most important problems and the majority of 5-+p+p+-+%
pieces are well placed, the player (as already
mentioned, usually Black) will try to solve the 6+-snpvlp+-&
problems those limited pieces have, a step called 7pzp-wq-+pzp'
the second opening.
A good example is the Stonewall, where Black xhgfedcbay
has successfully secured the e4-square and also
has some chances for an attack on the kingside. However, as you can see in the diagram
above, the c8-bishop is severely limited by its own pawns. Black cannot hope for success
without developing his queenside bishop and rook, so a second phase of development is

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needed. Black will plan to develop his bishop via c8-d7-e8-h5, or even better on b7 after
moving b7-b6, and c6-c5.

The obstruction

Obstruction of the opponent pieces is a form of interaction between pieces like attack and
defense. Almost everyone uses it at a low value and only intuitively most of the times.
The simplest usage of obstruction is often used in defense, when, for example, one
hampers an opponent piece to keep it from a decisive attacking position.

The obstruction is realized by using our own pieces to attack or control some important
squares where the opponent pieces could move. In this way, we avoid the activation of
opponent pieces, we try to get them out of play or, at least, we block their good
collaboration. In its high level of usage, obstruction is known as prophylaxis.

An important form of obstruction is the blockade: XABCDEFGHY

by blocking one or more of the opponents pawns,
the enemy pieces will be limited (the 3rd form of 8-+rtr-+k+(
interaction) by their own pawns. 7+-+l+-zp-'
In the position from the right, Whites minor
pieces obstruct the opponent pawns ability to 5+-sNp+-+-%
advance by forming a strong blockade. In the 4P+-vL-+-+$
meantime whites a- and b- pawns are free to
advance. The black pawns limit the mobility of the 3+P+-+P+-#
bishop, rooks, and even the knight. The black 2-+-+-+P+"
knights and bishops moves are also restricted by
the white f3-pawn.
The pieces with long rays of action (Queen, Rook XABCDEFGHY
and Bishop) are excellent for obstructing the
opponents pieces. The Queen and the Rook are 8-+ktr-+-+(
strong, major pieces anyway, so lets look at the 7+-+n+-+-'
power of bishops by comparing it with the knights. 6-+p+l+-sN&
The white g3-bishop obstructs the opponent kings 5+-+-+-+-%
moves and mate can follow with the other bishop 4-+-+p+-+$
on a6.
The black e6-bishop cuts off the white knight at 3+n+-+-vL-#
the edge of the board, appropriating all the 2-zP-+-+-zP"
escaping squares.

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In this position, Whites bishop is restricted by the XABCDEFGHY

black pawns. It is as if Black has an extra piece
and could use it to attack on the queenside. 8-+-+-+-+(
The pawns and, therefore, the pawn-moves are of 6-+-zp-+-zp&
primary importance in the play for obstruction
because of their small value against the big value 5+-vlPzp-zp-%
of a piece. Also, pawns play a very important role 4p+-+-+-+$
in limiting the activity of their own pieces (the 3rd
form of interaction). 3zP-+-+PvLP#
These are only some basic examples of the
importance of this interaction form between
pieces, which is not well enough known and used xabcdefghy
by chess players.

Modern strong grandmasters include the obstruction of opponent pieces (together with
the opponents plans and threats) as a priority in their technique of play. The obstruction
of opponents pieces is sometimes preferable (or should be given priority) to the
activation of ones own pieces. If some commercial books talk about secret methods of
play, secrets of soviet chess and other kind of secrets, this play technique can be
categorized as such a secret, if you want to. Of course, the real secret lies only in the
comprehension of a position and this can be learned by studying theory and games, deep
analysis, and practice this is the real secret.

Mastering the technique of obstruction is one of our goals at ICS. You should know now
about the existence of this strategy in its simplest form - hampering the opponents pieces
to keep them from getting active positions.

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