We’ve spent the last few months examining how you should go about selecting a move and some basic tactical ideas. While I didn’t introduce you to every tactic you need to know, rest assured that you’ll meet those other tactics in upcoming articles. The ground we covered may have seemed vast, however, you can use the ideas we covered during any phase of the game. It is well worth learning and committing them to memory! These concepts hold true for the opening, middle and endgame phases! Today we’ll take our position and play through a move choice for Black. We’ll look at White next week. Our overall goal is to combine the concepts we’ve studied to ensure making good moves when we play!
Set up the following position on the chessboard: Set up the Black Queen on f8, a Black Rook on a8, a Black Bishop on e5, a Black Knight on b4 and the Black King on a6. Set up the White King on e1, the White Queen on e3, a White Rook on h2 and a White Rook on h1. Let’s start by looking at a possible move for Black. Make sure sit as if you were playing the Black pieces.
I advise my students to first examine any enemy pawns and/or pieces that are on their side of the board. Look at them closely, following each pawn and piece’s line of attack to determine whether those pawns and pieces are attacking any material belonging to you. In our position, White’s pieces are on White’s half of the board so they are slightly less dangerous than if they were on Black’s side of the board. Look at any White pawns and/or pieces that are off of their starting squares and actually in the game. In our position, White has their Queen on e3, a Rook on h2 and a Rook on h1. One of the biggest mistakes that beginners make is not fully examining their opponent’s material and any threats that material makes. Therefore, before considering a move, take a look at the squares your opponents pawns and pieces are attacking or controlling. Look at every square! Do not skip this step in the process!
The White Queen on e3 attacks along the entire 3rd rank. The Queen also attacks along the e file. Playing Black, you should notice that your Bishop on e5 is in the line of fire and undefended. Make sure to look at the diagonals the White Queen attacks or controls, the g1-a7 and c1-h6 diagonals. Both those diagonals are clear of Black pawns and pieces. Repeat this process for the two White Rooks. While the two White Rooks are not attacking any of Black’s pieces, note that the Rook on h2 has complete control of the 2nd rank and the h file. Now, look at the Black pieces and note which squares they’re attacking or controlling. Start with the pieces closest to White’s King. The Black on Knight on b4 is the first piece to look at. Black’s Knight attacks or controls d3, c2 and a2. Many beginners who have just learned a few tactics such as the fork would see a King and Queen fork on c2 and blindly play Nc2+ without thought. They would then lose their Knight after Rxc2. This is why you have to look at your opponent’s material first before thinking about a move. While the Black Knight fork doesn’t work now, it might later. Let’s move onto the Black Bishop. Black’s Bishop is attacking or controlling two diagonals, the h2-b7 and the a1-h8 diagonals. However, most beginners will notice that the Black Bishop is attacking the White Rook on h2 and immediately consider that move.
Do not jump on the first move you see. You have to carefully examine the entire position before thinking about possible moves. Black’s Queen controls the f file and part of the 8th rank. The Black Rook controls a small portion of the 8th rank and one square on the a file. Only now that you’ve examined the entire position can you start considering moves.
One move that stands out and has been played in this position by my students is 1…Bxh2. This trades a three point Bishop for a five point Rook which is a good trade for Black! In my beginner’s classes, this is the most popular move cbhosen. However, I still have my students try to find at least two other possible moves. Remember, the more moves you consider, the deeper within the position you are looking. I leave those other candidate moves for you to find. Where my students fail after the capture is in the follow up to this move. Follow up? Yes, Black can do more after White captures the Black Bishop. Remember learning about the pin?
After White Captures back with 2. Rxh2, Black has a powerful retort, 2…Re8, pinning the White Queen to the King, forcing an exchange that favors Black. Now, this is ideal but can you be sure that White will take the Black Bishop in the first place? Many beginner suffer from wishful thinking, assuming their opponent will make some dreadful move that allows the beginner to get away with their poorly thought out move choice! Your opponent is trying to win as well so don’t assume he or she will make the moves you want them to! In our position, Black being able to pin the White Queen to it’s King depends on what White does after Black captures the White Rook on h2. What if White doesn’t capture Black’s Bishop? What could White do? There may or may not be a better move for White. In any case, you need to look at White’s option’s first, thinking three moves ahead – your move, your opponent’s move, and your response to that opposition move.
White could play 2. Qe2+ which might lead to 2…Ka5, then 3. Rxh2. The point is you have to consider your opponent’s reactions (counter moves) seriously when determining a candidate move. The more time you put into thinking about a move, the better that move will be. Just don’t forget to use the game’s principles as a guide! Of course, in this example position, if it is Black’s turn to move, Black has it good. What if it was White to move? You always have to think about your opponent’s options and spend just as much time looking at those options as you do looking at your own options.
Next week, we’ll end this part of the series with White to move in the above position. You’ll see that things change drastically when White gets to strike first. You’ll see week that Black’s simple combination of moves that wins material (today’s article) never gets a chance to see the light of day! Whose turn it is can determine the outcome of the game and we’ll see that when we look at White having the first move in this position! You can put everything we’ve covered over the last few months into a simple idea: The more you carefully look at a position, through the eyes of both players, the better move choices you’ll make. Of course, positional analysis requires doing a lot of work involving many individual steps. However, the more you practice those steps, the easier it gets! Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!
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