Chess Evaluation And Strategy – Plan for Success!

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Chess evaluation and strategy will help you avoid failure. They work together to bring you victory in chess.

You must learn how to correctly evaluate chess positions to formulate a strategy.

Evaluating the position during the game will inform your chess strategy.

Knowing your chess opening strategy is important. What happens if your opponent takes you down a lesser-known path? 

This is when you need to employ sound chess evaluation to determine a successful strategy.

Watch this video by GM Damian Lemos to get a better perspective on the subject of chess evaluation:

A Good Plan Relies on Good Evaluation

Being able to correctly evaluate a position in chess requires practice and an understanding of chess.

There are several elements of the position you must consider. These include:

  • Material balance – who is ahead in material?
  • Pawn structure – how many pawn islands are there? Are there weak squares around the king?.
  • King safety in the middlegame and king activity in the endgame – has your opponent advanced the pawns in front of his castled king? Is a king trapped in the center?
  • Piece activity – are the pieces able to maneuver easily? Can they help defend the king?
  • Prophylaxis – why did my opponent make that last move? How can I restrain his plans?

Taking all these factors into consideration will help you decide who has the better position.

If you have a better position you can prepare to launch an attack.

Evaluate the Static and Dynamic Elements

However, there is still more to consider when evaluating a chess position. These are the static and dynamic elements of the position.

Static elements are:

  • weak pawn structures,
  • pieces blocked out of the game,
  • the type of position – is it closed or open?

Dynamic elements include:

  • a lead in development, 
  • a lack of defenders around the king,
  • and control of an open file.

The initiative is a very important dynamic advantage to have and is worth sacrificing a pawn to achieve.

A dynamic advantage is not as permanent as a static advantage. An example of a static weakness is pawn islands. Doubled-pawns are a dynamic weakness if there is the chance of exchanging them.

Evaluating a position is essential to identifying targets of attack.

Consider Both the Material and Relative Value of the Pieces

All of us start playing chess by learning the point value of the pieces. One point for a pawn, 3 for a knight, etc. If we want to become better, we need to practice evaluating the relative value of pieces too.

“Knights are stronger in closed positions and bishops thrive in open positions.”

A dark-squared bishop developed on g7 can be very strong along the h8-a1 diagonal. However, its relative value is lower if there are pawns on e5 and d4. These pawns reduce the range of the bishop.

Similarly, if white develops his bishop to g2, black will sometimes place his pawns on c6, and d5. This reduces the attacking potential of the bishop.

Bobby Fischer described it very well, “The bishop bites on granite.”

Here is a great game by Tigran Petrosian showing how to blunt the attack of the bishop.

Despite the bishop and knight being valued at 3 points each, it’s accepted knights are stronger in closed positions and bishops thrive in open positions.

The nature of the position always affects the relative value of these minor pieces.

Remember, “If one piece is bad, everything is bad.” Siegbert Tarrasch.

Choosing a Chess Strategy

When deciding on your chess opening repertoire, the middlegame strategy is of vital importance. If you dislike symmetrical pawn structures, then it’s best to avoid playing the exchange variation.

Chess opening strategy helps you reach a position in the middlegame that you understand better or at least as well as your opponent.

This guides your piece placement, exchanges, and pawn moves. If you are playing with an isolated queen’s pawn, a good strategy is to use a bishop and queen battery to attack h7.

Lubomir Kavalek – Craig William Pritchett, 1-0

Here is a very instructive game that shows how to change your strategy throughout the game. Notice how the white pawn on a3 protects the bishop from attack with …Nb4 and gives the bishop access to a2.

White starts his attack with the bishop on b1 and queen on d3 and after inducing the weakening …g6, changes his strategy.

Also note how white changes from an isolated queen pawn to a hanging pawn position on move 20.

You don’t need to re-evaluate your strategy after every move. It’s a good idea to check:

  • when there is an exchange that impacts the material balance
  • or a change in the pawn structure.

One question to ask throughout the game is, “Why did my opponent make that last move?” This will give you an idea of his plans and if you need to change your strategy.

Don’t rush to interfere with your opponent’s plan if it’s unsound. Let him gain space on the queenside if it means he is moving defenders away from his king, which would make your attack more powerful.

A simple, effective strategy to improve your position is to find which of your pieces could be brought to a better square.

Even if you have no immediate threat, centralizing pieces will almost always improve their position.

Pawns Are Essential to a Successful Strategy

The pawn structure determines if a position is open, closed, or semi-closed. Choose a closed position if you prefer a more positional game or your opponent has the bishop pair.

Pawn breaks are one of the most essential aspects of an opening. When you play the French Defense, for example, it’s imperative to know your two main pawn breaks are …c5 and …f6.

A pawn break will free up space for you to develop your pieces and help you gain the initiative.

Pawn advances can drive away key defenders or force your opponent to place his piece on a bad square.

Final Words About Chess Evaluation and Strategy

There is no substitute for practice when learning how to evaluate a position and decide upon the correct plan.

In this “Evaluation and Strategy” training course, GM Damian Lemos will introduce you to the strategies used by some of the strongest players to have ever played chess.

Look for positions you enjoy playing and pause the video to see how the pieces are placed. As you progress through the course, try to spot patterns that repeat themselves.

Paying careful attention to the explanations GM Lemos gives will improve your ability to evaluate a position. You will also gain a deeper understanding of the possible strategies available in the position.

The ability to correctly evaluate a position is an invaluable skill to develop and will make you a much stronger player.

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