Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Strategy for 1.d4 - Queens Pawn Openings

OK - so where do we start with chess strategy?  I have been chatting to fellow players of varying strength about their beliefs regarding stratgies for Queen's pawn openings.  Here is a viewpoint held by a colleague rated around 1500 ELO on this subject: 

"The general principle of Queens Pawn openings is really easy! That is why I want to know Sicilian ones(I hoping it easy too).  You simply take as many pawns away from in-front of the King as possible. You must ensure your King’s Rook has unhindered access to the H file. You simply chuck as many of your pieces at the king as you can. Knights first. Bishops are used to deliver the mate – so you can't sac more than one of those! If your opponent masses their pieces(non-pawns) one side of the board then attack the other side. The opponent will be caught with his pieces unable to respond in time." 

This viewpoint, although worthy of much discussion no doubt, is a valid viewpoint!!

In the following game, a Kings Indian Defense, he proves this strategy to be the correct one against a particular setup from Black ...

1.d4 g6
2.e4 Bg7
3.c4 d6
4.Nf3 Nf6
5.Nc3 O-O
6.Bd3 Re8
7.h4 h5
8.Qc2 c6
9.e5 Ng4
10.Bxg6 fxg6
11.Qxg6 dxe5
12.Ng5 Rf8
This game is so short that it almost qualifies as a chess miniature .. !  Interestingly, the subject arose regarding what exactly the opening was ... It is easy for some players to become confused with exactly which type of setup this is.  For example, is it a Pirc or a KID? - they both look similar!

Steve, a colleague rated approximately 1800 tackles the above viewpoint armed with his extensive knowledge of the finer points of the game ..... He also provides some counterplay for Black:

"There's a pawn on c4 so it is a King’s Indian.  Difference between Pirc and KID is that in the Pirc, the pawn stays on c2 and knight goes to c3 straightaway.  This means that white does not claim as much space as in KID lines, but does get an extra development tempo as he has not “wasted” a move in c2-c4.  Hope that’s useful.

Still a pawn on e7 so can’t play Re7 to defend the mate I’m afraid.

I think black’s problems stemmed from not challenging the centre, which you have to do in King’s Indian.  As a sample line, for e.g.  6. Bd3 c5!  (Hitting the centre and blunting and immediate king-side attack ideas.  As an aside, 6...Nc6 is also playable and leads to mainline Panno variation) 7. d5 Bg4 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Nbd7 10. Qd1!  and white retains a very slight advantage due to the d5 pawn wedge.

Was a nice bishop sac though.  I would have been interested to see what would have happened after 12...exd4 rather than 12.  Rf8??? (which takes away the escape square and makes the mate on h7 possible).  E.g (and this is all in my head so apologies if the analysis turns out to be dubious). 12...exd4 13. Qf7+ Kh8 14. Qxh5+ Kg8 15. Nce4 Ne5 16. f4 Nd3+ (that’s about as far as I can get without a board but it’s still a very interesting fight). Perhaps something to look at later on."

So now we have some fighting talk from the Black camp ... This is just one small example of a simple strategy and a possible way of countering it - neither viewpoint is necessarily right or wrong - but as chess players it is up to us to challenge and disprove the beliefs of others!

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Welcome to the Chess Strategist Blog!

Welcome to the Chess Strategist blog - for those chess players who would prefer to concentrate on improving their strategic thinking in chess! Strategy is an element of chess that cannot be ignored. It is of equal importance to chess tactics for reasons that without sound chess strategy, concrete chess tactics cannot be employed ... !

Many players ask: "What is the difference between chess strategy and chess tactics?"
Indeed, if you look up the word strategy in a thesaurus, the chances are that it will return the word 'tactics' in the definition!

Let me try and explain. Chess Strategy: is concerned with the long-term goal that arises from a position at any point in time during a chess game. Chess Tactics: are concerned with the short-term gains that can be made to achieve the long-term goal hence the link between strategy and tactics.

For example, a long term strategy might be to:
1) Aim pieces at the castled king's position in order to achieve a checkmate by overwhelming piece majority.
2) Dominate the center, steamroller through and queen a pawn.
3) Attack on the queenside with minority attack.

A short-term tactic might well concern:
1) Winning one of your opponents pieces or pawns around the king to bring about this afforementioned majority.
2) Clearing the pawns around the king to expose the king to dangerous, game winning checks wherupon checkmate can be forced (a clearance mate).
3) Taking advantage of a situation when for instance your opponent makes a mistake or oversight when trying to defend against your strategy. You might in this case be able to win pawns and / or pieces. This is the time to use the tactics.

'Tactical gains' can be brought about by use of a 'tactical combination'. This is a series of moves that involves losing material in the short-term to gain more material or advantage in the long-term. However, without the use of the correct strategy in any given position the tactics may never arise. It is important to note that during a game of chess the long-term strategy can frequently change depending on what the position is telling you! Warning: It is dangerous to stick to the same single strategy regardless of what your opponent does!

Normally as an amateur chess player you will find that you possess either better tactical ability or better strategical awareness, not normally both of these in abundance. If you do possess both skills then you are very lucky and you will probably go on to become a very strong player!

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