Holiday Invitational Round#3 – A return to form

improving your chess


Improving your chess means controlling your nerves and staying calm under pressure. Game three saw me regaining some of the composure I had lost during game two. Similar to game one, I would be trying to play my usual King’s Indian Attack. I was determined to focus on positional play – grabbing space, occupying squares and dominating the board. For the most part, that is exactly what happened. Chessmaster weakened the light-squares around its king and I was able to infiltrate. It tried to find a tactic or two to confuse me but I continued to bear down and won the game.

Winning this game leveled the match at 1.5 points each. It was a great confidence booster especially playing with the white pieces. My game is improving. I didn’t hang a piece or fall for a cheapo. So, all things considered I was able to comfortably contain and beat a personality that is rated 2030.

Improving your chess can be frustrating

Analyzing your chess games is the most important step you can take towards improving your chess. Most of us know this. But it’s a lot harder to look at our wins than our losses. The reason for this is obvious. We think to ourselves, “I won, so is there really anything I need to look at?” The answer is yes. The motivation to look at wins is not as strong when you crush your opponent but it’s important to overcome your elation and focus on what you could have done better. Let’s take a look.

Paul H. – Chessmaster XI (Turk)
Queen’s Fianchetto Defense [B00]
Bellevue, WA
Holiday Invitational Round#3

Post-game analysis

When to switch plans. Amateur players have a tough time switching their strategic plan. In my case, if I attack on one side of the board, it’s very hard to redeploy my forces to the other side. In this game, I had crushing attack against the Black king. It wasn’t a forced mate though. I had to reposition my queen, trade down pieces and win an ending where I was a full piece up. Learn to change your plans. Sometimes your opponent puts up a heroic defense. That usually means they are susceptible somewhere else. Look for other weaknesses and adjust your attack accordingly.

Square control to the rescue. I’ve written dozens of articles emphasizing the importance of square control in chess. In this game, I listened to my own advice. The key to victory was control of the light-squares. If you look at the game, Black’s problems started early right after he captured my knight with 11…Bxf3. The aftermath of this exchange led to crippling light-square weaknesses that gave me a permanent advantage for the rest of the game.

When you play a chess game, look for weak squares whether they be files, diagonals or a combination of both. Then see if you can navigate your pieces to those squares and begin exerting pressure against your opponent.

Endings matter. Many players shy away from endgame study because they would rather focus on winning in the middlegame. A win is a win though. If you’re serious about winning, you need to be willing to trade off pieces and head into an endgame.

Improving your chess means taking endgames seriously. If you don’t own a book on chess endings I would suggest: 100 Endgame You Must Know. It’s a great reference which covers all the major endings you are likely to see. I highly recommend it.

Understanding phases of the game. The opening, middlegame and endgame are the three phases of a chess game. You should not look at each phases independently – they are interconnected. One phases transitions to the next. Playing well in the opening sets you up for a comfortable advantage in the middlegame. Once you assert your control in the middlegame it may be necessary to trade down material to enter an endgame.

The takeaway here is that you should always be looking to see how an advantage in one phase of the game can lead to a win in the next phase. Pawn advancement is a good example of this. Strong players advance their pawns in the middlegame so they are closer to queening. Why? Because in an ending, they know this will give them an advantage.

Improving your chess starts with an understanding of the three phases of chess and how they can work together to help you win your game.

Holiday Invitational Round#3 - A return to form

Do you have a story to tell on improving your chess? Did it involves square control? Please share below.