Getting and holding the initiative in chess is what every player strives for. It means you are dictating the pace of the game and causing your opponent to respond to your threats and not the other way around. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my games lately. I tend to build and a sizeable advantage and then let it slip away. Here is a histogram from one of my games.
Note the steep incline and then decline of my advantage.
I think a lot of this stems from overconfidence. When I have a winning attack I feel my opponent is helpless to stop me. It hurts to admit this but I know it’s true. In order to work improve in chess, I have to be objective. My opponent wants to win the game just as much as I do – he isn’t going to give up just because he is in a worse position. As International Master Jon Schroer once told me, “Chess is a struggle.”
This next game is a perfect example. The game starts off as a typical King’s Indian Attack, where I get an overwhelming advantage and watch as it fades away. I played this game on my Millennium Eone chessboard. Let’s take a look.
Losing the Initiative in Chess
Square control first. When in doubt, control squares. Trade pieces when you have to, but make sure you have your pieces on good squares that limit your opponent’s activity. My knights were dominating but I was more worried about mating the enemy king than I was about controlling the space around the king.
Consider the ending. Once the pieces got traded off, I confess I was saddened by what I thought was only a slightly better position for me. I need greater awareness in transitioning middlegames to an ending. Instead, I was dumbfounded and legitimately confused of the position I entered in to. The initiative in chess must continue all the way to the ending.
I didn’t mention that I missed a couple of tactics during the game. While this is true, the bigger problem was my lack of positional understanding. My pieces were swarming the enemy king. Tactics here were all about securing a positionally crushing advantage – something I never considered. Because I spend so much time on lichess, I always associate a tactical problem leads to the win of a piece or a mating attack. That is not always true. Due to the closed nature of this game, I completely missed Bd5 because I couldn’t see the immediate mating sequence. That’s because there wasn’t one. Tactical moves can help to create positional opportunities and cannot be overlooked! Keeping the initiative in chess involves a combination of tactical and positional moves as one often feeds the other.
Have you had problems keeping the initiative in chess games? Please share your experiences below!