Recently, we published an article written by our Academy Manager, Aggelos Kesaris, about the middlegame strategy and how to break into the opponent’s camp. If you missed it, you can read it here. And he is back again. This time, he has written about why most chess players lose their games, how to avoid mistakes/blunders, space advantage and why it’s important, and much more.
Today, I’d like to analyze the most common thinking error made by the majority of chess players that stops their chess development. Similarly, this is the number one question which we face in the Remote Chess Academy (RCA).
So, the question is – why do you lose chess games? The answer is obvious; you lose your games because you are making mistakes. I’m talking about mistakes or blunders. At some point of the game, you lose your winning advantage or misplace a piece; and after that, you lose the game. Am I right? Don’t worry; this happens to all levels of chess players, amateurs or professionals.
Main Goal of the Lesson: Our goal today is to understand why we lose pieces and learn how to stop making mistakes or blunders.
- You should know how the pieces are moving
- Captures in chess
- The value of the pieces
- The exchange sacrifice
- Know the names of the squares
Before going into the lesson, I’d like to discuss with you one of the biggest secrets which all of the strong and titled players know by heart. As you may know, one life is not enough for chess. I mean there are millions of chess games. You cannot see them all. There are plenty of articles, rules, and videos; so, it’s almost impossible to see them all. There are thousands of tournaments and players who participate on them, so you cannot play with every single of them. Am I right? So, we can conclude that one life is not enough for chess; do you agree?
However, there is no need to see all of the chess videos in order to become a better player. You need to select which one is the best for you. For example, if you play a tournament with the top-ranking players in the world, like Carlsen, Caruana, Kramnik, Aronian, etc.; probably, you will lose one game after the other. On the other hand, if you play chess tournaments with kids, 4-5 years old, probably, you will win all of the games. Thus, you need something which will fit on your current level, am I right?
I’m trying to say that, usually, chess players are accumulating pointless knowledge. I guess that you have been in a similar situation, in which you would have liked to learn an advanced technique in order to win against a stronger player, but you had a lack of basic chess knowledge.
Capture a Piece-Pawn
After you understand how the chess pieces are moving, you can go to the next step, which is to capture the enemy pieces. I hope you like this idea, to capture the enemy pieces, am I right? It’s a great pleasure to put them at the edge of the chess board and organize them nicely. They are your prisoners and your opponent really missed them.
Kids don’t really care if they lose material as long as they continue capturing some pieces; but strong players understand that, if you lose a single pawn, your opponent can win. Let’s take a look at our first example.
Giri Anish (2780) – Eid Fadi (2328) [A04]
World Chess Olympiad 2018 Batumi (1.1), 24.09.2018
In the first diagram, Giri played the move 25.Rb7. With this move, he would like to capture the c7-pawn. Unfortunately, Black cannot defend it with the R8d7 move because White will play Ra7, and he will capture the a6-pawn. Thus, Black tries to exchange rooks with the move 25…Rd1. His plan is to activate his own rook with the goal to capture some pawns.
The game continued: 26.Rxd1 Rxd1 27.Rxc7 Rc1 28.Bb4
The c3-bishop was under attack and, for this reason, White protected it with the Bb4 move. After this last move, White managed to coordinate and over-protect all his queenside structure. Yes, Black will be able to capture the c4-pawn, but White can capture both the c6- and a6-pawns. Thus, Black resigns.
Nepomniachtchi Ian (2768) – Kawuma Patrick (2329) [C11]
World Chess Olympiad 2018 Batumi (1.2), 24.09.2018
The position on the second diagram is complicated because White has a piece, an extra knight, but Black has two extra pawns. Right now, the g5-knight is under attack, so White should do something about that. And in the real game, he did. Nepo found a very cool combination which contains a lot of captures. 26.Ngxe6 fxe6 27.Ng6 Qe8 28.Nxh8
White was able to capture the unprotected rook on the corner of the board and now he has a winning advantage. The game continues: 28…Be7 29.Ra1 [29.Ra1 Qxh8 30.Qxa7+ Kc8 31.Qxe7+- Winning.] 1–0
And White won because he captured a lot of Black’s pieces. Probably to some of you, it’s not totally clear why Black resigned; because Black still had some pieces and he wouldn’t be checkmated. So, we come to the next level of chess understanding: understand the material.
Understand the Material
I hope that you already know the most basic value of the pieces. The pawns = 1, knight = 3, bishop = 3, rook = 6 (or knight + bishop), queen = 9. It’s easy to remember this if you use the multiplication table of 3.
In order to prove to you that the bishop is worth 3 pawns, you can see the position on the diagram above. Neither Black nor White can win because they cannot promote their pawns.
In the above paragraph, I mentioned that your opponent can win if he has one single extra pawn. However, I guess that you are wondering why and how he can do that. He can exchange, trade the equally valued pieces and promote his extra pawn into a new queen. A pawn is worth only 1 point, but if he manages to promote it, then he will have a brand new queen which is worth 9 points!
In order to prove what I’m saying, I’d like to present you a recent game from the World Chess Olympiad. On the diagram position, Black resigns, and you may wonder why. Of course, it may take some time, 2-3 minutes, to try to calculate it by yourself. I strongly suggest you to do it in every given position because it will help you understand the position deeply.
Black can escape the check with his king, but after the very strong e6 break, which is a pawn sacrifice, White can create a passed pawn. I’m talking about the f6-pawn, and after a few moves, he can promote it into a new queen.
Thus, we can conclude that in the above position, White is only a pawn up; but he will promote one of his pawns into a new queen and he will have material advantage.
Put Knowledge into Practice
Here please let me clarify another important topic. Knowledge is not the only thing necessary to be a strong player; it is only a part of it. The second part, which is even more important, is your thinking process. You need to have a clear algorithm, by algorithm I mean a system, which step by step will help you find the right moves. A chess player needs to know how to put his knowledge into practice. You need to understand very well how the pieces are capturing each other and then the material value of every single one of them.
I can reveal to you the first step of this algorithm, which is to ask yourself what your opponent is threatening after his move. Then, I strongly suggest you to study the chess course “The Grandmaster Secrets”, a complete course about the thinking system. In this article, I’m trying to explain you only the first thing regarding the blunders, why this happens very often and provide you with examples in order to avoid blunders in your games.
Understand the Space
The space concept is very important in chess. It is one of the 8 types of intelligence, which is the spatial intelligence. This is the ability to conceptualize, to understand large-scale spatial arrays; for example, an airplane pilot would have lots of it. Similarly, there are more local forms of spatial intelligence; for example, can you park your car or will you crash it?
As a teacher, I need to have a good linguistic intelligence in order to understand the meaning of words and explain them to you simply. Thus, space is a very big and important topic in chess which we need to understand very well.
The first step is to understand the checkmate. OK, probably you may think that this is very obvious, and this topic is only for beginners; but in chess you need to learn things step by step. Checkmate in one move can happen even in the games of the top players.
First of all, you need to understand the space around your king or your enemy’s. In an open position, the king can move, it has the space to move in 8 different squares. Thus, if you like to checkmate it, you need to control these 8 squares around it. In simple words, you need to control the space around it and attack it. In the diagram position, this happened with White’s last move 32.Qh7#.
The next step is to understand the movements of your pieces and how much space they can control. After some practice, you can easily understand your own pieces’ space, but it is difficult to understand your opponent’s activity!
Harikrishna Pentala (2743) – Giron Jorge Ernesto (2303) [C10]
World Chess Olympiad 2018 Batumi (1.1), 24.09.2018
In order to understand the space topic even better, you need to think what your opponent may capture with his pieces. Similarly, you need to understand which squares your pieces are protecting or controlling.
If we take a look at the above position, we can see that the g5-bishop can capture the f6-knight. The c3-knight can capture the d5-pawn. The d3-bishop can move on the b1-h7 diagonal and, more specifically, it can go to e4-square; not right now, but in the future. The e1-rook can capture the e7-bishop and control the e-line; more specifically, it controls the e4-square. The f6-knight is protecting the d5-pawn and controlling the e4-square. The a8-rook is unprotected and the d8-queen is protecting the d5-pawn.
If you understand or observe how the pieces are coordinating each other, then you can understand the tactical background of the given position. The stronger player you are, the faster you can understand this piece connection. White has here a good tactical shot which is 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Be4 Qd6 14.Bxa8
After these forcing moves, we can see that White has material advantage. Pentala won the game afterwards thanks to this advantage because he understood very clearly how the pieces are working with each other and how much space they can control. This helped him gain a space advantage in his game.
In conclusion, I’d like to mention once again the following things:
- Capturing a piece is a very important situation which happens very often in chess games. You need to understand it and use it.
- Don’t accumulate pointless knowledge but apply it in practice. Use your thinking system.
- Understand the material exchanges. It’s easy to calculate the value of the pieces, but it’s important to know when your pawns or pieces are more valuable than your opponent’s.
- Study the course “The Grandmaster Secrets” in order to learn the correct thinking system.
- Understand the space and how the pieces are moving on it.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and you’ve understood all the basics behind the chess pieces’ movements. Of course, a lot of practice is needed in order to master these ideas and put them into practice. I wish you good luck in your games, and please feel free to share this with your friends.