How to Gain an Advantage in Development Using Strategy

Recent research has shown that most intermediate leveled players show little interest in knowing much about the strategy of the game in comparison with knowing about tactics and openings. However in comparison with tactics, strategy is much more complex and consequently is a less investigated section of chess theory.

In general people tend to not be very interested in the study of those things that take a lot of thought, work and time.

Many of these intermediate leveled players don't consider taking the time to study strategy because they don't think the time spent would be as productive as would be to study openings and tactics.

However in test after test it has been shown that many of these players have trouble with even the basics of chess in being able to quickly find, calculate and carry out simple combinations and variations, play elementary endings, are poor at calculating complex variations in their heads and correctly estimate a position and make a plan of the game based on the elements of that position.

The calculation and combinational abilities belong to tactics, whereas the skills of assessing the resulting positions and making an appropriate plan are the essence of strategy that they are lacking knowledge in.

The founder of the scientific approach to chess was the first World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz. One of his main theses of his theory says that the chess player should make a plan of the game taking as a basis the objective estimation of a position.

And the estimation in turn should be based on a number of attributes developed from the experience of many of his games. Steinitz selected some of the attributes more than a century ago.

Most all of them have passed the test of time and were modified by other outstanding chess players of the past and present. Today these attributes are called the elements of chess strategy. How many do you know about?

These elements are:
1. The Center
2. Development and arrangement of your pieces
3. Pawn Structure
4. Strong and Weak Squares and Key Points.
5. Open Lines and Diagonals.
6. Advantage of the Bishop Pair.
7. Position of the King.
8. Advantage in Space

The more your pieces take part in play, the more diverse attacking possibilities you have. Therefore a lead in development is a very significant factor that is especially important in the opening.

There are three main opening principles.

1. Quick mobilization of pieces

2. Fighting for the center

3. A player, who has advantage in development, should strive to open the position.

The old masters were familiar with these rules very Well. Paul Morphy's games provide many excellent examples.

Advantage in Space
Space advantage is a significant factor for the evaluating of a position. If you have extra space, you can harmoniously develop your pieces and easily transfer them form one flank to another. If you have less space, the mobility of your pieces is restricted. The great German player Tarrasch emphasized the importance of a space advantage. He even said that every restricted position might have led to a loss.

! Attack on the Uncastled King
King's positioning is a very significant factor for correct assessment of a situation on the board. Neither material advantage nor positional benefits are important when your king is under a crushing attack. That is why in the opening both sides try to castle as soon as possible. Struggle for the center evolves from the very first moves, and if a player delays castling, his king may turn out to be in danger.

Attack on the king when both opponents castled to the same side.
Attack on the opponent's king is the most aggressive and attractive plan. From the very first moves we keep an eye on the enemy king. Even after the king is castled, this does not guarantee it an absolute safety. The XIX century masters worked out the tactical and strategic methods of organizing an attack on the king in the positions with mutual kingside castings. One of these typical combinational attacks involves bishop sacrifices on h7 and g7.

Attack with pawns and pieces. The pawn storm.
In spite of the fact that both kings are on the same flank, the pawns may be used for an attack on the opponent's king. The pawn advance clears a way for the pieces to the enemy king residence. The obvious drawback of this method is that the attacking player weakens his own king's shelter. So the pawn storm is usually launched in the positions with the closed center which hampers defending player's counterplay against the attacking player's king.

Attack on the Queenside.
Attack on the queenside is not so popular amongst the amateur players as the kingside assault. The fact, however, does not make it less dangerous. As a rule, the queenside attack does not involve brilliant sacrifices because its goal is not the king but some weak pawn, square or open file. Slow maneuvering intended to improve piece positions, accumulation of small advantages and gradual preparation of pawn breakthrough, this is the typical scenario.

Defense and Counterattack.
Defense of difficult or slightly worse positions is one of the most important components of chess skill. A defending player has to be cool-headed and believe in his defensive resources. These resources in chess are very numerous. It is enough to remember a huge number of theoretically drawn positions with material inequality. The more such positions you know, the easier your defense is.

Weak Squares.
The main thesis of Wihelm Steinitz's positional teaching about the necessity of a plan in a chess game has turned into an axiom nowadays. Making a sound plan of a game is based on positional judgement. Where the following characteristics of the position should be taken into account.
1. Pawn structure and weak squares.
2. Open files and diagonals.
3. Center and space.
4. Disposition of pieces.

Let us consider these main elements of chess strategy in consecutive order.

1 Pawn structure and weak squares.

a. Pawn Structure.
While presence of backward, isolated or doubled pawns may turn out to be a serious defect of the position, other conditions being equal, all kinds of weak pawns have a common drawback, they lack pawn support and may turn into a target of the opponent's pieces. Note that not only a pawn itself may be weak, a square in front of it may be weak too, being deprived of a pawn defense.

b. Weak Squares.
A weak square is a square which cannot be controlled by our pawns and pieces, and where an opponent's piece can get established. In the Black camp weak squares are typical around the 5th and 6th rank, and in the White camp, around the 3rd and 4th rank. If a square is weak for the opponent it means that it is strong for our pieces. The weakness of a square is determined by pawn structure, the disposition of pawns, but only to piece activity can one take advantage by using the actions of pieces.

2. Open files and diagonals.
Open files and open diagonals play an important role in the chess struggle. The point is that they are important strategic roads, allowing long-range pieces to get to the opponent's camp. That's why having an open file may become an obvious positional advantage.

3. Center and space.
Central squares are of great importance in chess. Pieces, being located in the center, display the most activity. They can be quickly transferred from the center to either wing. Every chess player during the whole game must remember about the importance of possessing the center of the board. It is possible to capture the center in two ways: a. to create a pawn center b. to create a piece and pawn center.

4. Disposition of pieces.
Positioning of pieces is one of the most important elements in positional evaluation. If a pawn structure determines the general pattern of the position, then disposition of pieces is what fills this pattern with life. It often happens that unsuccessful position of one piece only may ruin the game.

The ability to make a correct decision on what piece needs to be exchanged, and what piece to be kept from exchange is an important criterion of the chess player's strength. The grounds for exchanges may vary. We tend to exchange a strong opponent's piece and our own bad pieces, and vice a versa and versa vicea avoid exchanging our strong pieces. We also avoid simplifications in the cases when the opponent is in strained circumstances and vice a versa, we strive for tem when our pieces are short of space. Exchanges can help with the realization of material or positional advantage, and they are also helpful in the defense (for example, when we strive for a Rook ending which has good drawing prospects) etc.

Isolated Queen's Pawn
One comes across positions with an isolated central pawn very often. They arise from various openings, that's why every chess player should know common principles of playing this typical position. An isolated central pawn has its advantages and disadvantages. A player, who has an isolated pawn, has a space superiority and doesn't have difficulties with development of pieces. With an isolated Queen pawn there are open and half-open files "c" and "e". A fortified piece outpost on the square e5, usually occupied by a knight. These advantages of an isolated pawn are a requisite for an active game in the center and for making an attack on the kingside and they become apparent in the middlegame. An isolated pawn has two major disadvantages. First, it cannot be defended by a pawn, which determines it's chronic weakness. Second, the square in front of it may turn into a wonderful base for the opponent's pieces. These disadvantages are especially apparent with the simplification of the position and transition into an ending.

A Pawn Pair c3 + d4 On The Semi-Open Files.
Imagine that you play with an isolated queen's pawn, your opponent captures your knight on c3 (c6) and you recapture with the b-pawn. A pawn pair c3+d4 (c6+d5) arises. If you would advance your c-pawn to c4 (c5) then the "hanging pawns" structure arises. In other words, the c3+d4 pawn pair is transitional stage from the isolated queen's pawn to the hanging pawns. So this pawn pair inherited to some extent advantages and drawbacks of the IQP. This fact in many respects determines plans of both sides.
White tries to maintain pressure on the kingside making use of the semi-open e-file and the outpost on e5. Another plan involves preparation of c3 c4 advance, which increases this pawn pair's potential energy. Sometimes White develops his initiative on the queenside, pushing his a-pawn and pressurizing along the b-file.
Black's main intention is to keep up the pressure against the pawns on c3 and d4 along the c- and d- files. His dream is a complete blockade of these pawns followed by an attack on the a-pawn. As a rule, transition to an endgame favors Black as this lowers the danger of White's kingside attack.

Hanging Pawns
Positions with hanging pawns are typical and arise from various opening (the Tartakover variation in Queen's gambit, Queen's Indian defense, Nimzoindian defense etc.) Hanging pawns often arise from a pawn pair c3- d4 by moving the c3 pawn to c4. Hanging pawns have advantages and disadvantages. Their disadvantage is that they can not be protected by other pawns and pressure on them along the files "c" and "d" may turn out unpleasant. That's why without pieces to support them they become objects of attack. It can happen in the Middlegame too, but is more characteristic of ending type positions. The strength of hanging pawns is in their control over a complex of important central squares, which determines a space advantage. With their coverage it is possible to prepare active operations on the wings or link one's plans with moving one of the hanging pawns forward. Also, a side, which has hanging pawns, may use the semi-open files "b" and "e" to their advantage.

Nimzowitsch was the first who described the idea of prophylaxis. He gave it the following definition. Taking measures intended to prevent some events, undesirable from a positional viewpoint. Nimzovich emphasized such prophylactic actions as prevention of opponent's liberating moves and "over-protection" of strategically important points.

The Role Of Two Weaknesses.
This rule was formulated by Nimzovich. Two weaknesses, each of those seems to be defensible, are attacked alternately. The attacking playing utilizes his space advantage and better communications. At some moment the defending player cannot follow opponent's quick regrouping and loses the game.

In every position you must be guided by some plan. This makes your play logical, purposeful and grants practical results. Lasker wrote. "a reasonable plan makes us heroes, the absence of a plan makes us faint-hearted fools" He even said, "a bad plan is better than no plan at all" Kotov said "Plan in a chess game is sequence of strategic operations, each of them having its own design and following from position's demands"

Lasker - Capablanca

Training CD's to buy
Chessbase has three Cd's that form a complete course in Strategy.  Prof. A Bartashnikov calls 
it "The basic principles of Chess Strategy". You may be interested in its outline of study. 
Each cd sells for $27.00 

He says that the founder of the scientific approach to chess was the first World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz. One of the main theses of his theory says that the chess player should make a plan of the game taking as a basis the objective estimation of a position. And of the estimation in turn, should be based on a number of attributes developed by experience of many thousands of games. Some of the attributes were selected by Steinitz more than 10,000 centuries ago. Most of them have passed the test of time and were modified by other outstanding chess players of the past and present. Today these attributes are called elements of Chess Strategy. These elements are:

1. The center 2. Development and arrangement of pieces 3. Pawn structure 4. Strong and Weak squares and points. 5. Open lines and diagonals 6. Advantage of the bishop pair 7. Position of the King, This course consists of the following training units: CD One Chess Strategy Vol. 1 Opening Strategy Struggle for the center Fast Development of Pieces Efficient Deployment of Pawns Safety of the King Middlegame Strategy Plan and Positional Evaluation Pawns and Pawn Structure Connected Pawns Backward Pawn Isolated Pawn Doubled Pawns Passed Pawn Pawn Nail Pawn Wedge Pawn Chains Pawn Cover of the King Test yourself

CD Two Chess Strategy Vol. 2 Weak and Strong Squares Weak Square, Weak Point Outpost, Overprotection Open Files and Diagonals Piece Activity Bishop or Knight? Two Bishops Advantage Opposite-Squared Bishops Kinds of Centers Open and Mobile Center Closed Center Fixated Center Isolated Pawn in the Center Hanging Pawns Attack and Defense Attack on the King Attack on the Flank Defense, Counterattack, Prophylaxis Test Yourself

CD Three Chess Strategy Vol. 3 How to exploit an advantage Material Advantage Positional advantage - Space advantage Positional exchange Limiting the possibilities Limiting the mobility of pieces Limiting the mobility of pawns - blockage Positional sacrifice Sacrifice of a pawn Sacrifice of the exchange Sacrifice of a minor piece or rook Sacrifice of the queen Maneuvering in an equal position Initiative Transition to the ending Endgame strategy Activity of the king Role of pawns Principle of two weaknesses Test yourself