For the amateur player, piece placement is one of the most important areas to improve but it is rarely talked about. We have to get it out of our head that our pieces are battering rams that we use to storm the opponent’s king position. More commonly, pieces should be placed and left on squares where they radiate power and limit their opponent’s mobility.
Below is a game I played on Lichess with my friend, Fritz. I’ve shared several of our games in previous blog posts. Fritz is an attacking player that throws all his pieces at his opponent, usually early on. Here, he overextends himself and falls for a tactic that leaves him a pawn down. Beating a player of his caliber requires careful calculation and above all, superior piece placement.
Piece placement, featuring the knight
Knight placement. It is rare when one piece plays a dominant role in a game of chess. In this game, the d5 knight plays offense and defense. Knights are designed to occupy outposts, usually with pawns, where they overlook the enemy position and limit the opponents mobility. But there are times when a knight lands on a square where it cannot be dislodged. Look at this position:
From d5, the knight covers the f6 pawn, prevents the enemy king from coming to the center and acts as a blockade for Black’s d6 pawn. The key point to remember is that well-placed pieces do not need to be moved. In this position, the knight plays such a crucial role, White should mobilize his other pieces around the knight to expand on the queenside and create chaos for his opponents pieces.
Let the pawns roll. Early in the game, Black blundered away his f-pawn leaving White with two connected passed pawns. Transitioning from the middlegame to the ending is an important skill for the amateur player to master. Here, the theme is to march these pawns down the board and create havoc for Black. That is what happened. The knight on d5, the bishop on c1 and the rooks behind the pawns all work together. Black got smothered and had to sacrifice his rook only to resign a few moves later.
Always improve your pieces. All pieces play a supporting role in a chess game – some more than others. Even the King played a role in this game. It made its way up the board from g2 to e4 where it played a part in protecting the d5 knight. If you’re not sure what move to play, ask yourself: Can I improve the scope of my pieces? Where can strategic piece placement help me improve my position?
Reviewing your games using Chessbase and a computer engine like Stockfish is important to help you improve. A chess engine will always show you the best moves but it can’t teach the art of piece placement. At Better Chess, we stress the importance of quality moves that includes superior piece placement. It isn’t just a matter of trading off your pieces and forcing checkmate to the enemy king. Your pieces need to find the right squares from where they can exert their influence. Play over any master-level game. Look where their pieces wind up. Usually, they all find a unified purpose and their best squares.
So, the next time you lose a game, look at the placement of your pieces. Are they on their best squares? Do they work in harmony towards an end goal? If the answer is no, you need to work on your piece placement!
How many games have you lost with many of your pieces not participating in the attack? Please share below.