Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Positional elements and what to do

It is not entirely obvious what various positional elements mean in terms of actions. Not to be me anyway. It is quite possible to be able to assess a position, see who's got the space, the well places pieces and so on, yet not know what to do, neither in terms of goals nor next move. (And I'm not speaking of breakthrough positions... in an general, positional way you do know what to do in those, achieving the breakthrough.)

One of my goals, one that I think is of crucial importance in playing chess, is to always have some grasp of what to do in position. So when I blitz, as I think I've explained, I'm always on the lookout for positions in which I'm clueless, and after the game I think about what I should have done (in terms of positional goals, usually not specific moves). I also think about what my opponent does, especially in cases when my opponent is in a position that I don't know what I would have done in. More than once I've learned something about what to do just by observing what they did, and their ensuing success.

This and tactics is the way to improve, I think.

Much of this is tightly related to things I've already written about, but it's not exactly the same.

Here's a list of very general plans and goals related to a certain positional elements: (in all cases it is also desirable to prevent the opponent from achieving these things, but I write primarily from the perspective of what to do yourself with your position).

Opening: develop pieces, control center

Endgame: promote pawns

Weak (enemy) pawns: attack it

Weak (enemy) square: put a piece on it.

Pawn majority: push them forward

Space advantage generally: use it to manoeuvre pieces (attacking something, I suppose.)

Space advantage on kings side (normal castling): attack the king (if enough pieces left)

Badly placed piece: activate it

(I'm not too happy with these examples, there should be more tricky ones. Maybe I'll add to the list as soon as I've come up with more.)

The general point is to always to able to translate static qualities into what it means in terms of action. Needless to say, most positions have several of these at once, and just because you have a badly placed pieces doesn't mean your immediate goal should be to activate it. Maybe something else more important at that moment. Still, when you see that piece your mind should automatically make the connection that it would be nice to have it more active. That's an obvious example, but it's not always that obvious. We all have 'blind spots', and for me one particular blind spot is pawn majority. I've been in blitzes not knowing what to do and afterward found it obvious that I should have pushed those pawns. The solution is to keep repeating that connection until I see it without effort.

"Every is implies an ought" (Ayn Rand)

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