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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chess Playing Secrets

THE mental development of the chess player is a gradual struggle from a state of chaos to a clear conception of the game. The period required for such development largely depends upon the special gifts the learner may possess, but in the main the question of methods predominates.

Most beginners do not trouble very much about any particular plan in their study of chess, but as soon as they have learned the moves, rush into the turmoil of practical play. It is self-evident that their prospects undersuch conditions cannot be very bright. The play of a beginner is plan less, because he has too many plans, and the capacity for subordinating all his combinations to one leading idea is non-existent.

Yet it cannot be denied upon investigation that a certain kind of method is to be found in the play of all beginners, and seems to come to them quite naturally. At first the pawns are pushed forward frantically, because there is no appreciation of the power and value of the pieces. Conscious of the inferiority of the pawns, the beginner does not conclude that it must be advantageous to employ the greater power of the pieces, but is chiefly concerned with attacking the opposing pieces with his pawns in the hope of capturing them. His aim is not to develop his own forces, but to weaken those of his opponent. His combinations are made in the hope that his adversary may not see through them, nor does he trouble much about his opponent's intentions. When most of his pawns are gone, then only do his pieces get their chance. He has a great liking for the Queen and the Knight, the former because of her tremendous mobility, the latter on account of his peculiar step, which seems particularly adapted to take the enemy by surprise. When watching beginners you will frequently observe numberless moves by a peripatetic Queen, reckless incursions by a Knight into the enemy's camp, and when the other pieces join in the fray, combination follows combination in bewildering sequence and fantastic chaos. Captures of pieces are planned, mating nets are woven, perhaps with two pieces, against a King's position, where five pieces are available for defense. This unsteadiness in the first childish stages of development makes it very difficult for the beginner to get a general view of the board. Yet the surprises which each move brings afford him great enjoyment.

A few dozen such games are by no means wasted. After certain particular dispositions of pieces have proved his undoing, the beginner will develop the perception of threats. He sees dangers one or two moves ahead, and thereby reaches the second stage in his development.

His combinations will become more and more sound, he will learn to value his forces more correctly, and therefore to husband his pieces and even his pawns with greater care. In this second stage his strength will increase steadily, but, and this is the drawback, only as far as his power of combination is concerned. Unless a player be exceptionally gifted, he will only learn after years of practice, if at all, what may be termed "positional play." For that, it is necessary to know how to open a game so as to lay the foundation for a favorable middle game, and how to treat a middle game, without losing sight of the possibilities of the end-game. It is hopeless to try to memorize the various openings which analysis have proved correct, for this empirical method fails as soon as the opponent swerves from the recognized lines of play. One must learn to recognize the characteristics of sound play. They apply to all and any position, and the underlying principles must be propounded in a manner generally applicable. And this brings me to the substance of my subject, round which I will endeavor to build up a system compatible with common sense and logic.

Before I proceed to develop my theme, I shall set down a number of elementary rules which will facilitate the understanding of such simple combinations as occur at every step in chess.

If we ignore the comparatively small proportion of games in which the mating of the opponent's King is accomplished on a full board, we can describe a normal, average game of chess in the following way. Both sides will employ their available forces more or less advantageously to execute attacking and defensive maneuvers which should gradually lead to exchanges. If one side or the other emerges from the conflict with some material gain, it will generally be possible to force a mate in the endgame, whilst if both sides have succeeded by careful play to preserve equality of material, a draw will generally ensue.

It will be found a little later that a single pawn may suffice, with some few exceptions, to achieve a victory, and we shall adopt the following leading principle for all combinations, viz. loss of material must be avoided, even if only a pawn. It is a good habit to look upon every pawn as a prospective Queen. This has a sobering influence on premature and impetuous plans of attack.

On the other hand, victory is often brought about by a timely sacrifice of material.

But in such cases the sacrificing of material has its compensation in some particular advantage of position. As principles of position are difficult for beginners to grasp, I propose to defer their consideration for the present and to devote my attention first to such combinations as involve questions of material. Let us master a simple device that makes most combinations easy both for attack and defense. It amounts merely to a matter of elementary arithmetic, and if the beginner neglects it, he will soon be at a material disadvantage.
by Zakara Belnoze
About the Author
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