10 Tips to Improve Your Positional PlayMay 4, 2019 2023-07-01 20:39
10 Tips to Improve Your Positional Play
10 Tips to Improve Your Positional Play
Positional play is an essential aspect of chess that requires a deep understanding of the game’s strategic elements. It involves maneuvering your pieces to control key squares and restrict your opponent’s options. The ability to improve your positional play is critical for players of all levels, whether you are a beginner or an experienced player. In this article, we’ll explore five tips that can help you improve your positional play and gain an edge over your opponents.
In order to find the best moves, you should have a plan; however, how can you start planning if you don’t know the best positions for your pieces?
1. Study Quality Games
Strong Grandmasters already know how to handle their pieces, how to put them in the best position in the chess boards and how to give them more life. By studying their games, you can recognize the motives, and then, you can incorporate their successful strategy in your own games.
I recommend you not to see the very tactical battles, but more quiet games. Here I’d like to recommend you some players like Karpov and Anand.
Black to Play
In the above position, it’s Black’s turn. What will you do here as Black?
As you can see, the center is blocked and the other pieces are not conflicting each other, so there is no possibility to make a tactical trick. In such cases, you need to think in a positional way and put your pieces in the best positions.
The best place for the rooks is the open files. You can see how Karpov manages to control that open d-file with his heavy pieces.
2. Typical Pawn Structures
When you understand the basic tactics, then you should move forward to more advanced themes. One of them is the typical pawn structures. Yes, there are plenty of typical pawn structures in which you should have the same plans.
One of the most typical plans is the pawn majority. By this term, I mean to have more pawns than your opponent on one side of the board.
As you can see in the above position, White has a pawn majority on the kingside because he has four pawns there against the three of Black’s. When you have a pawn majority, you need to exchange some pieces over that side of the board, and then, try to push them forward.
3. Control the Center of the Board
Controlling the center of the board is one of the most important principles of chess strategy. The central squares –d4, d5, e4, and e5– are the most strategically important squares on the board. By controlling these squares with your pawns and pieces, you can limit your opponent’s options, gain space, and create a more effective position.
Why Is the Center so Important?
The center of the board is strategically significant for a number of reasons. First, controlling the center allows you to dominate more space on the board. This can help you limit your opponent’s mobility and create more options for yourself.
Second, controlling the center allows your pieces to move more freely and coordinate better. By placing your pieces on central squares, you can create more effective attacks and defenses. This is because your pieces can move in any direction and can influence a larger area of the board.
Third, controlling the center can help you launch an attack on your opponent’s position. If you have control of the center, you can use your pieces to create threats and put pressure on your opponent.
4. Develop Your Pieces to Control the Center
Developing your pieces actively is a key strategy in chess. This involves moving your pieces to squares where they can influence the game and contribute to your overall strategy. Here are some tips to help you develop your pieces actively and create a stronger position:
- Develop Your Knights Early: Knights are particularly effective in the opening stages of the game, as they can jump over other pieces and control key squares. Try to develop your knights to squares where they can influence the center of the board and put pressure on your opponent.
- Connect Your Rooks: Your rooks are most effective when they are connected and can support each other. Try to move your rooks to open files where they can control important areas of the board and support your other pieces.
- Don’t Move the Same Piece Twice: It’s generally not a good idea to move the same piece twice in the opening stages of the game, unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is because you want to develop as many pieces as possible and control as much space as you can.
- Control the Center: As discussed in my previous article, controlling the center of the board is essential to developing your pieces actively. Try to occupy the central squares with your pawns and move your pieces to squares where they can influence the center of the board.
- Coordinate Your Pieces: Your pieces are most effective when they work together. Try to coordinate your pieces so that they support each other and can launch effective attacks on your opponent’s position.
5. Control Key Squares
In chess, controlling key squares on the board can give you a significant advantage. Key squares are the squares that are important for controlling the board and launching attacks. By controlling these squares, you can limit your opponent’s options and create opportunities for your own pieces. Here are some tips on how to control key squares in chess:
- Occupy the Center: The center of the board is the most important area in the game. By occupying the central squares with your pawns and pieces, you can control key squares and limit your opponent’s options.
- Use Your Pawns to Control Space: Pawns can be used to control important squares and limit your opponent’s options. By creating pawn chains and advancing them, you can gain control of key squares and create opportunities for your pieces.
- Put Pressure on Your Opponent’s Pieces: By attacking your opponent’s pieces, you can force them to move and create weaknesses in their position. This can give you opportunities to control key squares and launch attacks.
- Coordinate Your Pieces: Your pieces are most effective when they work together. By coordinating your pieces, you can control key squares and create threats that your opponent must respond to.
- Watch out for Weak Squares: Weak squares are squares that are not well-defended and can be easily attacked. By identifying weak squares in your opponent’s position, you can create threats and force your opponent to defend them.
6. Avoid Creating Weak Pawns
In chess, pawns are the smallest pieces, but they can play a big role in the game. A weak pawn is a pawn that is isolated, doubled, or backward, making it vulnerable to attack. Weak pawns can be a serious weakness in your position, as they can become targets for your opponent’s pieces and limit the mobility of your own pieces. Here are some tips on how to avoid weak pawns:
- Think Carefully Before Making Pawn Moves: Pawns are not very mobile, so once you’ve made a pawn move, it’s difficult to undo it. Before making a pawn move, think about the consequences and whether it will leave any weak pawns in your position.
- Avoid Pawn Islands: A pawn island is a group of pawns that are not connected by other pawns. This can make them vulnerable to attack and limit the mobility of your pieces. Try to keep your pawns connected to avoid creating pawn islands.
- Protect Your Pawns: When your pawns are under attack, it’s important to defend them. This can be done by moving other pieces to block the attack, or by capturing the attacking piece.
- Use Your Pawns to Control Key Squares: Pawns can be used to control important squares on the board. By controlling key squares, you can limit your opponent’s options and make it more difficult for them to create weak pawns in your position.
- Be Careful When Trading Pawns: Trading pawns can be a good way to simplify the position and gain space, but it can also create weak pawns in your position. Before trading pawns, consider the consequences and whether it will leave any weak pawns in your position.
7. Analyze with Your Opponent
I suggest that you play long games in chess tournaments. These will help you think deeply in the positions and understand better your opening systems.
After the game, analyzing it with your opponent sure helps a lot. You can ask politely to see the game. It doesn’t matter if you lose or win. He/she can tell you briefly about their thoughts. During the game, both players, you and your opponent, have more positional ideas and you may discuss them. It would be great if your opponent is much higher rated than you.
8. Create a Plan
Finally, creating a plan is essential for improving your positional play. A plan is a set of goals and strategies that you can use to achieve your objectives. By creating a plan, you can focus your attention on specific areas of the board and make more informed decisions.
When creating a plan, try to think about your opponent’s weaknesses and how you can exploit them. Consider your own strengths and how you can use them to gain an advantage. By creating a plan, you can improve your decision-making and create a more solid position.
In conclusion, positional play is a critical element of chess that requires a deep understanding of the game’s strategic elements. By controlling the center, developing your pieces actively, avoiding weak pawns, controlling key squares, and creating a plan, you can improve your positional play and gain an edge over your opponents. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to becoming a stronger and more successful chess player.
9. Switch Off the Engine
Everyone has a computer these days. I guess that you have a desktop or probably a mobile or a tablet. I’m not sure if you have one of them or all of them, but I’m sure that most of you are using computers/engines in order to analyze your games.
This is okay; however, before feeding the game onto your computer, you should think by yourself. Computers cannot help you find positional moves because they are mostly playing tactically.
10. Find the Critical Moments
Every game has some critical moments. By this term, I mean the positions in which you have a lot of good options. For example, it doesn’t matter if you start the game with 1.e4 or 1.d4. Every chess player in the world can start with one of these two.
White to Play
In the above position, it’s White’s turn, and you can see a critical moment. White has a lot of moves available here; for example, he can move the bishop or the knight. Similarly, he may not move the bishop because the f4-pawn is pinned and the f5-rook is unprotected.
In the game, I managed to find the best move in the position, Kh1, which solved the tactical problem with Rg5+. Similarly, my last move, Kh1, has the plan of playing Rg1 and attack the unprotected g6-knight.
You can find these games below. I hope these tips will help you improve your game and your analytical skills. Good luck!
Improving your positional play in chess is crucial for players of all levels. By studying quality games, understanding typical pawn structures, controlling the center of the board, developing your pieces actively, controlling key squares, avoiding weak pawns, analyzing games with your opponent, creating a plan, and relying on your own thinking rather than computer engines, you can enhance your positional understanding and gain an advantage over your opponents.