A Foundation for Beginners Fifty Five

This week, we will take the concept of thinking three moves ahead and apply it to our original tactical position. We will spread this out over the next few weeks. The process is simple, at least on paper: Come up with three candidate move choices (three possible moves you can make) as White. You’ll go through each of the three candidate moves and come up with Black’s best response to that move and lastly, your best response to Black’s move. When considering Black’s best response, act as if you are playing the Black side of the board. Don’t come up with a move that allows you to execute a tactic easily. Come up with a move for Black that ruins your plans as White. Make sure to come up with three candidate moves for Black as well.

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. Remember, you’re playing White in this game.

The first step is to look at the position, including every piece belonging to both Black and White, and then start considering possible moves. Since the White King is exposed, you’ll need to look for threats the Black pieces can make against your King. Those threats will come in the form of a check and may attack two or more of your pieces (the King included) at the same time (the idea behind most tactics). This is the first step. Do not start coming up with moves until you do a threat assessment for your King. Start with the Black pieces closest to you and work your way towards Black’s starting rank. The first Black piece to look at is the Knight on b4.

The Black Knight could move to c2 and fork White’s King and Queen. The fork is a new tactic we have not discussed yet. In a fork, one piece (or pawn) attacks two or more pieces simultaneously. Fortunately for White, the Rook on h2 protects the c2 square. However, imagine what would happen if you didn’t look at the Black pieces carefully, just making the first move that came to mind. You might move the h2 Rook to a square that didn’t allow it to cover or protect the c2 square. Black would take advantage of the situation and use the Knight on b4 to fork the White King and Queen.

Looking next at Black’s Bishop on e5, you’ll notice that it’s attack your Rook on h2! If I were playing this position as White, I’d quickly realize that Black’s two minor pieces, the Knight and Bishop, are poised to do some damage to my position. I’d make a mental note that the White Rook on h2 is probably going to be the piece I move somewhere along the second rank, since it needs to guard c2. However, I certainly wouldn’t ignore the rest of Black’s pieces. Black’s Queen could move to d6, doubling up with the Black Bishop to attack the White Rook on h2. Black’s Rook could also move to c8 to defend Black’s Knight should the Knight move to c2 to fork White’s King and Queen. The idea to take away from this is to look at all your opponent’s first pieces and make a threat assessment before thinking about your moves. There are a few more threats that I’ll leave for you to find (we’ll look at them next week).

Now that you’ve done a threat assessment, it is time to start thinking about candidate moves. In this week’s article, we’ll look at one candidate move and start to work through Black’s responses to that move. Over the next few weeks, we’ll finish the process. Since, as White, you have major pieces to work with (Queen and Rook), you have to consider any exchanges of material carefully. Why? Because Black has two minor pieces that are worth less than your major pieces.

The biggest obstacle facing beginners is choosing a move, let alone three. In this position, we already know that the White Rook on h2 needs to avoid being captured by Black’s Bishop while protecting the c2 square from Black’s Knight. Therefore, any move you consider other than one involving the White h2 Rook, needs to be forcing. Forcing moves are moves that force your opponent to do something they don’t want to do! How about 1. Rh6+?

A check is a forceful move and beginners love to check their opponent’s King. However, you need to consider your opponent’s best response to that, move two in our thinking ahead of three moves strategy. This is where beginners have a problem. They see the check and know that Black has to respond to the check. Dealing with the check means that White doesn’t have to worry about the Black Bishop capturing the Rook on h2 or the Black Knight moving to c2 and forking the White King and Queen. You have to dig deeper as White and look at the board as if you were playing Black in this game. Rather than move the King out of check, Black blocks the check with 1…Bd6. The Bishop is protected by the Black Queen on f8.

White would now have a problem: The Rook that covered the c2 square is no longer able to protect the c2 square! I mention this because there is an idea Grandmaster Maurice Ashley introduced in one of his videos, “the square left behind.” In White’s case, the square left behind is c2. The theory behind this idea is that when you move a pawn or piece, you need to consider the squares that pawn or piece defended prior to moving. I’m going to end here because I don’t want to pile too much on your plate to mentally digest. Next week, we’ll go through two more candidate moves and Black’s responses. On the following week, we’ll examine White’s responses to Black’s possible moves (White’s third move).

If this seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry. With practice, this entire process will become much easier, almost second nature. Like any skill, you master it through study, practice and time. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

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Hugh Patterson

Author: Hugh Patterson

Prior to teaching chess, Hugh Patterson was a professional guitarist for nearly three decades, playing in a number of well known San Francisco bands including KGB, The Offs, No Alternative, The Swinging Possums and The Watchmen. After recording a number of albums and CDs he retired from music to teach chess. He currently teaches ten chess classes a week through Academic Chess. He also created and runs a chess program for at-risk teenagers incarcerated in juvenile correctional facilities. In addition to writing a weekly column for The Chess Improver, Hugh also writes a weekly blog for the United States Chess League team, The Seattle Sluggers. He teaches chess privately as well, giving instruction to many well known musicians who are only now discovering the joys of chess. Hugh is an Correspondence Chess player with the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation). He studied chemistry in college but has worked in fields ranging from Investment Banking and commodities trading to Plastics design and fabrication. However, Hugh prefers chess to all else (except Mrs. Patterson and his beloved dog and cat). View all posts by Hugh Patterson

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