Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chess V -- pressure

I think that the concept of ’pressure’ might be of help for me to integrate into my thinking when playing chess.

So firstly, what is it? It’s what you put on your opponent when any of your pieces (pawns included) can capture an enemy piece, whether it’s a good or a bad capture. So there is a simple way of measure pressure: just count the number of possible captures. If two pieces can capture the same piece, count it twice. Now, some possible captures may be completely unimportant, and some positions may have fewer but more important captures possible, so the number of possible captures isn’t all that is important, of course.

The more pressure you exert on the enemy, the better. It means more options, more possibilities of there being some good a winning path (more possibilities of some nice tactics). Also, exerting pressure forces the enemy to defend, it ties his pieces up and fixates them. Pressure is good even if there is no immediate tactical gain from it, but eventual tactical gain is often the result of pressure. It’s a positional advantage with a clear connection to tactics. Also, there is, very generally speaking, a somewhat clear plan if you’re the one pressuring while the enemy is defending: add even more pressure, throw in a currently under used piece; place an already active piece even more active. Or move back and forth between targets, because the attacker in these situations is often also the one with spatial advantage, which sometimes mean your more able to switch between targets than the enemy is able to switch his defence.

There is clear connection between pressure and space, but they are not the same. One way of measuring space is to count the number of fields (whether they are occupied by pieces or not!) on the other half of the board that you can either move to or capture (in case of pieces). However, space is more about maneuverability and is far more a positional aspect than pressure, which is more tactical (though not purely so -- it’s in that area between tactics and position.)

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