Learn chess with Pete
Lesson 7 – Positional Chess Introduction
A lot of chess is about pattern recognition. Just by looking at a position, and without analysing at all, experienced players can immediately see the most promising lines of attack, or areas of weakness in both their own and their opponent’s position. The better the player, the more pronounced this ability is. It is interesting to watch a number of players of different strengths analysing a position together. I have often seen a couple of ordinary players like me (but not me because I find analysis boring) analysing a position together. A strong player walks up and just glances at the position and says “Why don’t you just do this?” - and immediately the whole game is seen in a different light.
There is a number of different rules of thumb to help the mere mortal. I will tell you about some of these, but beware of treating them as absolute hard and fast rules. As with the value of the pieces, the value of these rules varies according to the overall state of the game. There are players who treat these rules as if they were Holy Writ, and as a result play predictable and stodgy chess, with many draws. There are also probably other players like me who deliberately break as many of these rules as possible because they don’t like rules per se.
So here are (some) of the rules. See the examples (from the main index) for further clarification:
1. Doubled or isolated pawns are bad.
2. Doubled isolated pawns are very bad.
This is because they can’t support each other. Pawns on adjacent files can obviously support each other.
1. Knights should not be in a corner.
2. Knights should not be at the edge of the board.
This is because a Knight has only two possible moves in a corner, or four at the edge of the board. Elsewhere it has eight.
1. Bishops are best on a long diagonal (a1-h8 or h8-a1).
I’m a bit more dubious about this rule. Bishops on a long diagonal most often occur when a player fianchettoes his bishop (e.g. b3, Bb2), and there is no doubt that these Bishops can be very troublesome to deal with. However, if we apply the same logic as with a Knight – to do with the number of moves available – we see a different story. A bishop on b2 has only 9 potential squares to move to, whereas a Bishop on c4, which is not on a long diagonal, has 11.
1. Rooks are good on open files.
2. Rooks are good on half-open files.
3. Doubled Rooks are good.
4. Rooks on the seventh rank are good.
5. Doubled Rooks on the seventh rank are very good.
1 and 2 are because the rooks can penetrate into the opponent’s position. Number 3 is obviously because the power is doubled. Number 4 is because the enemy king is usually on the eighth rank, and can thus be prevented from being influential in the endgame.
The only rule I can think of about queens is not to bring them out too early. This is because the Queen can get chased around by all other pieces, because it is not worth swapping her for any other single piece.
1. Keep them protected early on, preferably by castling.
2. Get them to the centre of the board in the endgame. This one very much depends on the particular position, but is quite a good idea if you can’t think of anything else to do.