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Learning to play chess is easy, but mastering chess is much more challenging. Learning how to win in chess is easy, but applying it at the board is more complex.
Once you have learned the rules of winning in chess, the next step is applying them on the chess board. In a typical chess game, a lot is going on, and remembering everything you learned about the three phases can get overwhelming.
You want a KISS (Keep It Simple) approach to help you focus on what it takes to win the game.
When it comes to keeping it simple and easy there is nobody better than the GingerGM to help you.
Three Vital Keys to Winning in Chess
At its most basic, winning chess comes down to three things:
- Push ahead with your plan to attack your opponent’s king or pieces.
- Restrain your opponent from implementing their plan.
- Bring all your pieces into the game.
Even if you enjoy playing positional chess, there comes the point in every chess game when you need to attack. Unless you create a threat, you will not win.
The person sitting opposite you is obviously doing their best to win the game by attacking you. Winning in chess means stopping their attacking plans so that you have time to attack them.
Yes, there are some games you might win without using all your forces, but you will find these games become scarcer in chess as you start playing stronger opponents. Using all your resources is essential in chess, much as in life.
You Must Target Weaknesses With Your Attack
Winning in chess is about focusing your attacks on your opponent’s weaknesses.
One of the greatest attacking players of all time was Paul Morphy. His game against Jules Arnous de Riviere is an excellent example of how to attack the Two Knights Defense.
When you start studying an opening, pay attention to both sides good and bad pieces. For example, in the French Defense, the Black bishop on c8 often takes time to enter the game, while White’s light-squared bishop is an excellent attacker on the d3 square.
Winning in chess requires knowing your typical attacking plans. The bishop on d3 attacks h7, but it also supports the f4-f5 advance. Be sure to learn all the different attacking strategies in your chosen opening.
Always try to understand why pieces are labeled “good” and “bad” because it gives you insights into your attacking options. The Black bishop in the French Defense is blocked by the pawn on e6, while the White bishop on d3 can support the f4-f5 advance.
In the Caro-Kann Defense, the bishop on c8 is not blocked by a pawn on e6 and often develops to f5. However, there is a price to pay for this easy development, and it can result in a weak square around the king.
This is a position that frequently occurs in the Caro-Kann Defense Classical variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5). The advanced pawn on h5 assists White in controlling the g6-square.
The White queen, knights, and bishop are all on the kingside, so it makes sense for White to consider attacking this area of the board. The kingside attack is helped by the weakening pawn move …h6, which gives White’s bishop a target.
White usually places a knight on e5, where it attacks the f7-pawn and supports the knight with Re1. The rook on e1 can apply pressure to a black bishop on e7 and make Nf5 a dangerous attacking option.
The Black king will likely get exposed after White sacrifices a piece on f7 or e6. Do not be shy to play Rxe6 if you are White in such a position if you get the chance!
When sacrificing a piece, always try to draw your opponent’s king forward where the follow-up can happen with tempo!
An excellent example of this would be 1.Nxf7 Kxf7 2.Qg6+ and after 2…Kg8, you want to play 3.Bxh6 gaining a tempo by threatening checkmate on g7.
Joachim Solberg made use of a knight sacrifice on f7 and the advanced h-pawn to deliver a crushing attack against the Black king.
Solberg, Joachim – Arndt, Uwe, 2016.7.28, 1-0, Xtracon Chess Open 2016 Round 7.61, Helsingor DEN
Be Alert to Your Opponent’s Plans
A friend ceases to be a friend when they sit opposite you at the chess board. The person sitting opposite you is trying to launch their devastating attack against your king and pieces.
Do not relax your guard at any time during the chess game. Winning in chess means constantly asking yourself, “Why did my opponent make their last move? What would they play if it was their turn to move again?”
Even if the answer is obvious, you must keep asking and answering these questions.
By asking these questions for obvious moves like 1.e4 and 2.Nf3, you cultivate the habit of asking these questions throughout the game.
When we look for candidate moves in our position, we often start with forcing moves – checks, captures, and threats. Do the same when trying to discover the reason behind your opponent’s last move.
Begin by checking on your king’s safety because even if you are not in check, your king might have lost access to an escape square.
During a game, you might not fear Re8+ because you have …Kh7, but if your opponent plays Bd3, Re8 might threaten a checkmate. If you asked, “What would my opponent play now if it was their turn to move now?” you would spot the threat and might counter with …g6 or …f5 blocking the bishop’s control of h7.
A good time to reevaluate the position is when the pawn structure changes. You do not need to spend much time evaluating the position, but it helps stop you from rushing ahead and serves as a reminder to consider what your opponent intends.
We often find our pieces defended by pawns, so a change in the pawn structure usually happens when an exchange occurs.
Before exchanging a piece, stop to double-check if the exchange favors you or your opponent.
The right exchanges will make winning in chess much easier.
If you have paid attention to the ideas behind your opponent’s moves, the exchange will most likely favor you, or you would have taken steps to prevent it from happening.
It is helpful to remind yourself that captures and recaptures are not mandatory in chess!
Frank Kroeze was aware of this and paid attention to what his opponent wanted while playing the Caro-Kann Defense. Thanks to his awareness of what his opponent wanted, Kroeze could defend successfully and earn a draw.
Harmen Jonkman – Frank M Kroeze, 2006.03.25, ½-½, NED-chT 0506 Round 8, Netherlands
Winning in Chess Involves Using All your Pieces
Always look to improve any of your pieces that are not playing an active role. An active role does not require constantly playing an attacking role.
A piece can play an active role in defense.
Active pieces control crucial squares, have good mobility, and can remain active for a long time. They are a crucial part of winning in chess.
The best active pieces exert pressure on your opponent’s position for an extended period and are hard for your opponent to attack.
For example, your knight might look active after Nc5 because it places pressure on b7 and c7, but it doesn’t help if the knight can get driven back after …b6 or exchanged.
Always try to place your long-range pieces on diagonals or files where they can exert pressure on your opponent’s position. A rook on h1 attacking h7 or supporting the queen on h5 is usually safe from attack.
Fianchettoed bishops are excellent for applying pressure along the long diagonals because they are usually far from your opponent’s pieces.
When you notice that one of your opponent’s pieces is poorly placed, it is an excellent strategy to begin play on the other side of the board.
Look at the following position that frequently occurs in the Caro-Kann Classical variation.
A typical move by white is c4 with a discovered attack on the Black queen. Black can retreat the queen to a6, which puts pressure on c4 or retreat to c7.
In the previous game, Frank Kroeze chose to retreat the queen to c7, where it aids in defending the kingside along the seventh rank. In another game, Evgeny Shaposhnikov decided to play …Qa6, leaving the queen far from the kingside.
Konstantin Landa took advantage of the poorly placed queen to launch a winning attack on the kingside. The attack included sacrificing three pieces.
Poorly placed pieces usually make winning in chess unachievable.
Landa, Konstantin – Shaposhnikov, Evgeny, 2005.04.21, 1-0, RUS-chT Round 3, Sochi
Winning in chess is about cultivating the proper habits and focusing on the essentials. Learning how to attack and prevent your opponents’ attacks will help you up your game to the next level.
Improving your game will happen even faster if you get into the habit of using all your pieces to attack and defend.
The best part is you only need to remember three simple steps – look for weaknesses to attack, stop your opponent’s plans, and make sure all your pieces are in play.
Do not rush to complicate things when it comes to winning in chess.
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